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Interview with Author Briana Lawrence

Interview with Author BrianaLawrence
Today, I bringyou another online interview. I interviewed Briana Lawrence, author of Treatme Kindly. As you may know, I was Briana’s editor, and I loved this book. Asan editor, you know the book is good when you STOP editing and just startreading to see what happens. With this book, I had to force myself to edit,instead of just getting lost in the story. After I began reading Briana’s book,I was shocked to learn that this was her first published novel, as she is one ofthe most talented authors with whom I have ever worked. With that being said, Iam thrilled to be able to present this interview on my blog. Being Briana’seditor, I had the privilege to get to know her a little, and she is outgoing,humble, and incredibly thoughtful. I’ve told friends of mine to buy her book,add her on facebook, and send her an email because even though she is a newauthor now, I’m pretty confident that she will be famous one day. She is thattalented. With that being said, here’s my interview. I hope you enjoy it.
1.  How long have you beenwriting?
I always tell people that I’ve been writing since I wasnine years old. I have two clear memories about writing back. When I was infourth grade, we were told to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. Iwrote down “WRITTER,” and the class laughed at me because I couldn’t spell“writer.” The second memory I have is of creating pop-up books with farmanimals. I don’t quite remember what the stories were about, but I remembermaking the pop-up books out of construction paper and crayons and glue. My dadprobably still has them. This is why I always say that I’ve been writing since Iwas nine.
2.  Whatinspires you to write?
Pretty much everything! I get all sorts of ideas from allsorts of places. It could be from driving around and eating ice cream whilelooking at fancy houses. I’ll look at a house and say, “Oh wow this is the kindof house that my character would’ve grew up in.” Or, I’ll see a person with acool haircut and be like, “Oh wow see that’s the haircut I want my character tohave.” It comes from watching things on T.V., or playing a new video game, ortalking with family and friends. All sorts of things inspire me and make theirway into my stories. 
The biggest inspiration, however, is my older brother whopassed away when I was thirteen. I looked up to him so much, and I always wantedto do well for him. I always wonder if he’d be proud of what I’m doing and I’dlike to think that he is. 
 
3.  Describeyour writing process.
There’s a process? I’m kidding. I know there’s a process,but I just never seem to keep on track with mine. When I have a story idea, Ialways write up an outline. I map out chapters and character descriptions andthings, and have a clear picture as to what I want to happen in the story.However, my stories never seem to follow the outline! For example, I had anoutline for my book, “Treat Me Kindly.” Did I end up following the outline? Yesand no. In the beginning, Alex wasn’t a detective at all! I changed it when hecame in during the second chapter. I also changed when he was introduced;originally, he was in the first chapter. So that differed from the outline.However, I always knew how I wanted Matthew’s relationship to be with hisfather, which stayed true to the outline.
Some strange quirks with my process: I cannot write in quiet. I’m not surewhy. However, it can’t be too noisy either. I can’t go to a Panera or somethingand write, not unless if I have headphones so that I’m in control of the noise.I write best to music or even to the T.V. being on, but it has to be somethingI’ve watched before because if it’s something new, I want to stop and payattention. 
I also always have someone read over the story before Ieven think about submitting it somewhere. This usually ends up being my partneror my mother, who will make suggestions and edits. I swear, they are the bestmuses! They have the best ideas that always seem to take my stories to places Inever even considered going. My partner is the reason why the antagonist of“Treat Me Kindly” formed in such a unique manner! That was her idea, and mymother is the reason why Alex is his age, and why he’s somewhat sarcastic and isthe “seasoned” detective. After they read something I’ve written, I always goback and reread it one more time before I send it off. 
 
4.  Do youthink that writing is an inherent talent- or is it a craft that can belearned?
I think it’s a mix of both. I think the creativity andthe imagination need to be there. However, I think there are plenty of thingsyou can learn in the classroom. My writing techniques have changed so much overthe years thanks to writing classes in college and professors who pushed me towrite in ways that were unique. They guided me in the right direction with allof those assignments and meetings in their offices. And the red pen. Oh, so muchred pen used on my works! 
Sure, I’ve always been a creative person, but the whole,“Hook them with the first sentence,” “Showing versus telling,” and things likethat came from writing classes. I can tell you the shirt I’m wearing is striped,but thanks to those professors, I know how to “show” you the colors of thosestripes, and not just use “red” “yellow” “green” and “brown,” but maybe “thecolor of freshly crushed cherries” for the shade of red it is. Those classroomassignments helped hone my craft, and so did those hours of writing fan fiction.College was full of writing classes and fan fiction about Gundam Wing pilots. Ifound any excuse I could to write and used it as a way to practice. 
 
5.  What doyou do in your spare time?
Oh god I am such a nerd! I watch anime. I play videogames. I go to anime conventions. I cosplay. I woodburn. I paint. I collectfigurines of all sorts of characters, from comic book to video game to anime toDisney to fairies. I also collect stuffed animals. I have since I was a kid. Forsome reason, I always wanted a new stuffed puppy, kitty, or panda—or whateveranimal I thought was cute. 
You can see this geekiness in my writing because therealways seems to be a geek in my stories. I’ve been immersed in this geeky worldsince I was about six. At six, I discovered “Super Mario Brothers.” At 10, Idiscovered “Vampire Hunter D” and “Dragonball.” Seriously, my idea of a goodtime is ordering pizza, watching anime, or trying to level up in an RPG or beatthe crap out of someone in a fighting game.   
 
6.  Forreaders who are not familiar with your book, tell us a little aboutit.
"Treat Me Kindly" is a supernatural murder mystery thattakes place in current times. Mild mannered Matthew Sharpton is having the worstexistence possible. He lives in his parents' basement after his fiancée upgradedto a better man. To make his father happy, he goes to a charity auction hostedby the company for which the old man works. While there, he ends up bidding on abeautiful bird and taking it home. It's here that he discovers that this isn'tan ordinary bird. The bird has the ability to turn just as human as Matthewdoes—minus the thinning hair. The woman is more than happy to belong to Matthewas long as he does one simple thing. "Treat Me Kindly," she says. 
Meanwhile, Alex Sampson is a detective assigned to a casewhere Frank Marko, an ex-rock star, has been found dead in his home. The onlyevidence is a small butterfly that was found by the body. The strange thingabout the butterfly is that it's an extinct species. After some investigating,Alex discovers that the butterfly came from the same charity auction thatMatthew attended. The auction whispers promises of "rare" and "exotic" animalsunlike any other. Those words ring true in a deadly manner as more people in thecity are killed in bizarre ways.
Once Alex discovers the truth about the animals, he’sstuck in a sort of moral dilemma. On the one hand, killing is absolutely wrong.On the other hand, the animals only kill if they aren’t treated well. Is itwrong to defend yourself if someone is mistreating you? The animals are morethan happy to belong to a person, but if they’re being hurt or abused, shouldn’tthey be able to fight back?
 
7.  Animalsare a big part of your novel. Are you an animal lover? Do you have anypets?
I am a huge animal lover! Currently, I have three cats.The oldest is Puppet, who is about two years old, and my partner and I recentlytook in two kittens: Carter and Clayton. We’ve always had cats, and beforePuppet and the two kittens, there was Isis and Loki. We tend to get pets fromthe Humane Society, except for Carter and Clayton, who we got from a friend whofound kitties in her yard. Fortunately, Puppet gets along with Carter andClayton and even bathes them. Someday, I would love to have a dog. I grew upwith them—particularly big ones (Great Danes and then later a Boxer). I need amuch bigger house for a dog, though. I would also love a red panda, ha ha!They’re so cute! I’m kidding. I wouldn’t keep one as I pet, but they’re myfavorite animal at the zoo.
The funny part about the book is that I quickly discovered that there are animals that I don’t like. Snakes creep me out so muchin real life. I also don’t do well with insects, especially spiders. I amdefinitely the, “Honey, there’s a spider—kill it-kill it!” wife.
 
8.  For thoseof us who have read and loved the book, can you give us a little hint? Willthere be a sequel?
Definitely! Thanks to, again, my mother and partner forgiving me ideas. I have an outline written up for it already, so I know what Iwant to do with the plot. I know that I really want to go into the world wherethe animals originated. “Treat Me Kindly” currently teases at it, but I want togo deep into their world. I have really lush, beautiful images in my head. Atsome point, I’d like to be well off enough that I could take trips to differentlocations for inspiration.    
 
9.  DamnationBooks published your book, which is a small publisher. Have you enjoyed theprocess with DB?
I have. They seemed to understand that I was new at thisand still learning the ropes, but they were patient and have a great team ofpeople. I feel like they really want this book to sell, that they’re in mycorner rooting for me. We’re sort of here for each other, you know? Theywouldn’t have picked up the book if they didn’t think it was a good story, and Iwouldn’t have gone with them if I didn’t think that they had my best interestsin mind. I’m learning a lot about the publishing world, about how the work isn’tover once the book is published. Now, it’s time to get it out there, and they’reworking hard for me, and I’m working hard, too.  
 
10.  Whatadvice do you have for new, unpublishedwriters?
Never stop trying. I’m not going to lie, and I’m notgoing to sugarcoat it. Writing is hard. Those people who say things like “it’snot a real job” or “all you have to do is this, this, and this,” are completelywrong. The creative field is one of the hardest things you can plunge into, andit’s risky as all hell. There’s no guarantee that your book will sell, there’sno guarantee that people will like it, and there’s not even a guarantee thatit’ll be picked up right away. It’s also hard to entertain people. It’s hard togage what a crowd will like because people’s tastes are constantly changing.It’s difficult, and it always will be. Despite all of this, I say to never stoptrying. When you have that story idea in your head, when you have thosecharacters and those universes swimming through your head, you absolutelyhave to get them out there, be it writing, art, or whatever. You don’twant them to stay trapped in your mind, you want everyone to enjoy them and lovethem as much as you do. So I say go for it!
I was scared to jump into this field despite my parentstelling me to do it, especially my mother. She believed in me so much, but I wasscared to do it. My father is an artist but ended up working at the Post Officefor most of his life, so he always tells me not to waste my talent. Instead oflistening to them, after college, I worked retail for six years and told myselfI’d be manager at GameStop and have my own store someday. However, towards theend of those years, I was so unhappy. But it was a guaranteed paycheck, aguaranteed way to pay my bills. People would say, “You should be lucky you havea job,” and I would agree. The economy is bad, right? It would be crazy to gointo such an unpredictable field. But writing makes me happy; it always has, soI had to try. And let me tell you, I didn’t make it at first. I have therejection emails to prove it. I even had cases of almost making it, ofplaces that wanted to read more and then decided, “No... Sorry.” And it’sfrustrating, and it hurts, because you put so much into your writing. This isyour work, your creativity. These are your characters, and you’re attached tothem, so when someone says, “No,” it’s as if they’re putting down yourchildren.  
Let yourself feel bad about it for a day. Feel sad orangry. Do NOT respond to the email on that first day, and don’t send the storyout to other places on that first day. That first day of rejection is your sadday. Do something that makes you feel better. My fix was chicken nuggets fromMcDonalds and driving around with my partner. We would do that, and talk, andspend time together, and then I would go to bed feeling better then wake up witha clear head. Then, I’d go at it again. 
There is someone out there who will appreciate yourstory; you just have to find that person. You might not think that there is, butthere is. However, do NOT jump into the first place that says yes. Do yourresearch. Look them up. Make sure they have your best interests in mind. Thisgoes for big publishers, small ones, or self-publishers. Do your research onthem. Look before you leap. Writing itself is a big enough leap. The last thingyou want to do is to go with someone who is going to mistreat you and yourstory.
 
11.  Whatuniversal messages would you like to convey with yourstories?
I actually didn’t think I had any! The stories ratherended up having them on their own. When I finished writing it and looked at itagain, I had this moment of, “Wow... there’s some meaning here!” “Treat MeKindly” is literally about that: treating people kindly, no matter what theirbackground is. Animal, human, male, female—treat others with respect, andthey’ll do the same for you. I think since I have such a diverse background, Ifeel that this message is extremely important. Race, Gender, Sexual Preference,Weight, the fact that I prefer video games to partying, I know I’m differentfrom the norm in about five million and three ways. I just want to be treatedwith respect. I’m not here to hurt anyone; I’m just living my life. I just wantto be able to be with who I want to be with, and do what I want to do. I thinkthat makes its way into my stories somehow, even when I don’t realize it. 
Just because someone isn’t the same as you doesn’t meanyou get to treat them like crap. Also, even if you are “above” someone thatdoesn’t give you the right to hurt them. In the book, just because these animalsbelong to these characters doesn’t mean they should sit there and be hurt bythem. And these animals take a lot of crap, too, because, “they’re my master,and I have to.” But everyone has a breaking point, and if you do decide to pushtoo far, that thing you’re hurting will bare fangs—human oranimal.
 
12.  I’veasked about a sequel to Treat me Kindly, but are you working on any otherprojects?
Always! Let’s see, currently my partner and I have ajoint story being published. We plan to make it a series. The overall series is“The Hunters,” and the first book is, “The Hunters: Seeking the Storyteller.”It’s being published by Alpha Wolf Publishing. This series isn’t as dark as“Treat Me Kindly,” at least the first book isn’t. Who knows what’ll happen inthe future? In this series of books, there are a group of humans called“Hunters” who work to keep our world safe from demons. Demons come from anotherworld, think of those monsters our parents assure us aren’t hiding in ourcloset. Alix DeBenit is one of these Hunters, and he takes his job veryseriously because his family was killed by an inhuman fire years ago. However,when one of the demons he captures tells him about a creature called “TheStoryteller,” Alix starts changing his tune. 
The Storyteller is a creature that is said to live in alarge library. Inside that library are books on every single being in our world,the demon world, and everything else that lies between. The Storyteller can readeach person’s life like a book and change anyone’s story, even if the event hasalready happened. This can give Alix the chance to get back what he has lost.However, in order to even get close to the Storyteller, he has to learn how towork with the demon he has captured along with the others he ends up runninginto because of it. To top it all off, the Storyteller has been captured by anextremely powerful demon that has plans that could put both worlds indanger.
Another project I have going on is a book called “DoubleHue.” It’s a gay romance novel with a supernatural murder mystery twist (thisseems to be a trend with my writing). It takes place in the modern day TwinCities of Minnesota. I don’t have a publisher yet, but I have been sending itplaces. I’m currently working to promote my current book so I haven’t sent thisone out as much as I should. Sadly, I’ve gotten two rejections, but I’m going tokeep pushing. I do plan to send it to Damnation Books’ romance line though; Ithink the occasional horror twist might fit with their site. In this story,Gable Peterson gets an unwelcome visit from detective Maurice Ashford. Mauricetells him that his boyfriend, Avery Blair, has been found dead. Gable falls intoa deep depression and goes to sleep, dreaming of a time when Avery was stillalive. Much to Gable’s surprise, when he wakes up, he’s gone back to thebeginning of the week, and Avery is, in fact, stillalive.
As the story progresses, Gable has to try to getaccustomed to this strange ability. He has to go back in time while trying tostop Avery from being killed. Each time he goes back, he gets another piece ofthe puzzle, coming one-step closer to figuring out what it is that kills Avery.It turns out to be a serial kill that targets gay men, defacing their bodieswith derogatory words. The twist is that along with the bad words, there aresmall compliments written, as if the killer is apologizing for his actions.Gable has to try to outsmart a killer, but things take a turn when he ends upbeing the killer’s next target.
These are the two main projects I have, but I have awhite board filled with ideas. I also have half-written things that I may get tofinishing. The two things I just talked about, however, are actually finished. Ishould also mention that I had a short story featured in a gay romanceanthology. Dreamspinner Press had an anthology called, “Make a Play,” which wasall about gay romance and sports. My story, “Press START to Play,” focused onvideo games. I want to try to write more things for their anthologies, if I havetime.
 
13.  How canwe keep up with you? Website? Facebook Page?
There’s a couple of differentways!
TheHunters: Seeking the Storyteller Tumblr: http://huntersseries.tumblr.com/
 
14.  Wherecan we buy your book?
Again, there’s a couple of different ways! These linksshould be for both physical and eBook copies of thebook.
Thank you for the interview:)
 
15. Asyou may know, 'civil rights' is my platform, and I’m very passionate about it.You are a gay, black, woman, so that's a triple whammy, and let's face it, thereare some cruel people out there. Can you share with your readers your thoughtson discrimination and how you handle adversity regarding thisissue?
 Thebest part about all of this is that my partner is a white girl, so I guess I'mall about making things difficult! I've discovered that no matter how hardthings seem to be, there's always someone on your side, especially these days.There are so many projects and groups that are here for us now, and that'swonderful. I've been one of those lucky people who hasn't been discriminatedagainst that much. There are things that come up that upset me, like the factthat it has taken so long to have the option to marry my partner, who I've beenwith for 11 years, but overall, no one has really messed with me. Sure I've hadthe dumb," Dur, girls don't play video games," or, "You don't look like alesbian," and things like that, but I haven't had a terribly hard life. I'mlucky to have parents that let me be who I wanted to be. I grew up differentfrom the kids around me. In high school, I was all about "Dragonball Z" and theinternet instead of school dances and things of that nature. Yet somehow, I hadfriends who were completely different from me but who still treated me withrespect. My best friend was the exact opposite of me (and still is, even now),but she and her family treated me like a sister. They didn't mind that I stayedup at their house playing "Resident Evil 2" or that my Saturday mornings werefor cartoons.    
The sad thing I learned, however, is that there really isdiscrimination everywhere. I've been lucky, as I've said, but I've seen allsorts of discrimination that makes absolutely no sense to me. There'sdiscrimination in the geek community, which I always felt was a safe go-to placeto be yourself, but I've seen black girls get hate for dressing up as certaincharacters, or overweight girls being told not to dress as certain characterswhile skinny girls get called "attention whores" for wearing certain outfits. 
Outside that circle, I've seen gay, black people getweird looks because, you know, how can you be both? Do they even exist unless ifthey're incredibly flamboyant? I've seen women hate on other women, or blackpeople hate on other black people, and it's just sad to me. I've also seengroups not welcome the majority. "You're white—what do you know about mystruggle?” Yes, it's true, there are struggles for black people, gay people,women, and all sorts of people. But that doesn't mean that you should excludesomeone because you think they won't get it. In the end, EVERYONE has their ownstruggles. That white person you're shunning may have had a terrible life, for avariety of reasons. How can a group who is judged for being differentdiscriminate against someone for being different? 
In the end, I learned that, as people, we all have ourbattles. I try not to focus on the hardships and focus on the good. It has takenseveral years to get to the point where I can consider marrying my partner. Wasit frustrating? Yes. But I didn't let it stop me from being happy with her. Westill have our house, our cats, our geeky things, our friends, our crafts, ourwriting, our family—we have so many good things that I don't have time to thinkabout the bad. I once told someone that I could be really bitter. I could be angryabout many things. But why? Why do that when I have so many positives right now?I've published a book. I've published a short story. I'm going to conventionsand crafting and having fun. I have a house and a car. I have cats. I have afamily that accepts me and great friends. I've gone to L.A., to Florida, toVegas, to London. I certainly haven't forgotten the struggles in my life, but Iwant to live the best life I can to show the meaning behind those struggles. Myancestors fought for me to have this happiness, and I'm going to enjoyit.
My advice on discrimination is that yes, it's there, andit's terrible, but try and find the positives in your life. If you don't haveany, then find a group, online or offline, be it a support group or even a groupthat likes the T.V. show you do. There is something out there for you, somethingpositive for you to turn to. Find it and have fun with it. The struggle andfight will always be there, has always been there, and it's important to standup for what you believe in, but it's equally important to enjoy the life youhave.   
 
16.Thoughthere are gay characters in 'Treat me Kindly,' you don't target gay and lesbianreaders as your primary audience. In fact, it's a book that anyone would like.For example, you and I are completely different. You're black- I'm white. You'regay-I'm straight. You are a self-proclaimed nerd who watches anime, reads, comicbooks, etc. I wouldn't recognize an anime character if she slapped me in myface. Smile emoticon The point is, you appeal to a large audience, and yourwriting is so good that it is a stand-alone piece that surpasses culturalstereotypes. That's a very difficult task for an author to achieve. Can youspeak about that a little? Can you give advice to other authors who are tryingto appeal to a large audience- instead of targeting a small, individualisticgroup?
Ha ha ha! I wasn't even trying to do that. I was just writing. Mymind works really weird when I'm writing. Originally, there were more gaycharacters, even Alex was into guys in the beginning of writing this book. Then,as I wrote, I was like, "Alex is definitely straight, but he's comfortable withpicking on Nicholas.” His sister, I see her as an older, pretty lesbian womanwho knows what she wants. There's also the fact that Alex has no romance in thisbook. At first he did, but then it felt too forced so I took it out with someeditorial guidance. He's the main character, but he hooks up with no one, whichI was a bit worried about, but then I realized that he has so much going on thatthe last thing he needs is romance.    
Nicholas was gay right from the start. I wanted to have him andMyles, and I wanted them to have a good relationship. There's a fewrelationships in the book that aren't happy, but I wanted theirs to be happybecause I didn't want them to be some tragic gay couple. I've read a lot ofmanga (Japanese comic books) where the gay couple is tragic, or struggles, orhas this hardship. I didn't want that. I just wanted them to be normal andhappy. Not every gay couple you see has some terrible back-story, and not all ofus were discriminated against, or confused, nor are we all so extremelyflamboyant that you can tell by looking at us that we're gay. 
Also, while I was writing, the black characters just kind of justappeared. Suddenly, Cassandra was black, and so were her masters. Suddenly,there was a black old cop towards the end of the book. Then I realized that Iwanted a diverse cast of characters, where, some of the black characters eventalk differently from one another. Actually, so does Frank Marko, and he'swhite. There's a small nod to something I do. Tamera goes from proper dialect tomore slangy dialect when she's around her husband. This is something I actuallydo in real life. Not intentionally, it just happens when I go back home toChicago sometimes or if I'm around certain family members. Suddenly, I'm dropping letters when I talk!  
I always want to try to write something for everyone. The currentproject I have that I'm trying to get published, "Double Hue," is primarily gayromance, but it's also a supernatural murder mystery. It's a couple that I wanteveryone to relate to, even if they're gay. The situation they go through wouldbe hard for any couple, gay or straight. The labels don't matter. You want themto make it through the crap they're going through as you're reading (at leastthat's the feeling I hope I'm conveying)  The joint story with my partnerhas a diverse cast, too. There's white characters, black characters, one of themain women is a lesbian. I just think it's more realistic like this. People aredifferent. Not everyone is white, or straight, or attractive. I mean some of thecharacters in my book are super attractive, but others aren't. Alex is a bitpudgy and out of shape because he’s a detective. He has terrible hours and liveson cheap food and beer. He's not going to be super fit and gorgeous even if he'smy main character. Claude is good looking, but he's a jackass, so when Nicholassees him, he's not attracted to him anymore because he's a terrible person. Ithink we all know someone like that, right?  
I think it's important to create realistic characters, people youwould see on a normal basis in your life. I think that reads better to anaudience. You might not read gay romance, but you read supernatural stories.Nicholas and Myles are a gay couple in my book, but the book isn't about theirgay romance. I wanted them to be seen as individuals, not just, "that gay couplein that book.” I think that's important in a book. You want your characters tobe memorable because of who they are, not because they're in a relationship, orbecause "that's the black guy" "that one chick" "that gay dude" and whatnot. I'msure that'll still happen with Nicholas, but hopefully what goes along with itis, "that gay dude, the one who found out about the Tasmanian Tiger and had tofigure out how to explain it to Alex without sounding crazy.” But you don't wantit to feel like you're putting in different characters for the sake of beingdifferent. You don't want it to feel like the horror movie stereotypes of "thejock" "the pretty girl" "the innocent girl," etc. ect. You want your charactersto feel real. How do you do that? Just write them, I'd say. Don't try to beclever about it, "Har har this is going to be my minority." Just write themnaturally. It doesn't need to be "THE BLACK GUY." It's just a guy who just sohappens to be black. Don't force him in your story if he doesn't belong. Don'tforce him in there because you're trying to bait a certain audience into yourbook. Let it come to you. There's all sorts of people in the world, and there'splenty of room for them in your book, but only if you let them come to you.Don't drag them in, just leave the door open, and see what happens.  
                        
ThePersona tarot is a craft example, it's woodburning   Pac Man wall andPortal wall are part of a room my partner and I hand painted  Geek Roomthings, Fighting games, and SMT collection are just examples of the geekycollections of things.
PrincessTiana, Princess Peach, and Flo and the General are cosplay examples.  Mypartner makes all of our costumes. Puppet the cat and Clayton and Carter arecurrent cat pictures  
               
         
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