Interview with Brittany K. Blair, author of “Control (Anomalies)”

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Extremely important. I know the majority of people probably won’t notice small slips, but I have always had a fear that someone reading my book will latch onto something I didn’t research enough that’s completely wrong and I’ll eventually stumble onto a meta about this one (or or more than one) slip. As a member of the Tumblr community, I see this happen to other authors (albeit more popular ones and more popular stories than myself or mine), and I can’t help think it could happen to me. As an added bonus to staving off this paranoia, it helps me immerse myself in the topic that I’m writing, and I jump genres and topics so often, it’s the only way I can keep up with the story sometimes.

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I’m actually waiting until after the holidays to get a new typewriter-esque gift from my husband, a Freewrite by Astrohaus, so I’ll be able to weigh in on that another day, but for now my two main ways to write are by my laptop and longhand. My laptop lets me stay in the zone longer, but some of my best writing comes from longhand-ing it. I (as I suspect most writers) have a thing for pens, I like smooth writing, dark ink, almost marker like pens, Sharpie pens actually are some of my favorite but I hate that they bleed through the pages (even if they say they won’t- they do). I recently got a 1951 Tornado Rollerball and oh my lord I’m in love. It’s so smooth and the ink doesn’t smudge as I’m writing and the ink is so lovely and stark. Long story short: longhand works best for quality, but in short bursts until my hand cramps while my laptop lets me get into a groove that lasts longer but ultimately needs more quality editing.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was young, like 10 years old young. My fifth grade class got a taste of publishing when we wrote short stories that our teacher made into actual hard cover picture books. We got to come up with a story and draw the pictures for it and everything. My parents still have their copy, actually! Although, even though I’ve always written, and always had stories to tell, I didn’t actually commit to writing be a career of mine until into my twenties, until after I met my husband. My family has always been supportive, in the way of writing being a hobby that might someday make me some extra money, but once I met my husband and he realized how important writing was to me, he really pushed me to get published, to push myself to the next level and push myself out of letting writing just be something I did in my spare time.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I hate these questions a little, because I prefer to be the type that writes when I’m inspired, but these days it’s hard to be inspired during downtime. We’ve recently moved to Texas from Las Vegas, and have three dogs, one only recently turned 9 months, we have two chickens and now we have 5 acres to keep an eye on, which I like to joke is more land than either me or my husband (both born and raised in Las Vegas) have ever actually seen in our lives. Between planning a wedding, getting married at the beginning of the year, finding and buying a house, moving every possession we own and setting up and furnishing a new house, along with all of those fun home-owner things everyone tells you about but you never believe can be that bad, it’s been almost a year since I’ve had downtime for longer than five minutes while I’m inspired. So I’ve set myself on a schedule so that I can get things done in a timely manner, and every day I block out time to get all the homey things done that I need to have done that day, sit down, and block out all the distractions to write.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

Writing is never hard, to be perfectly honest. It’s hard to find uninterrupted time, it’s hard to limit myself to a certain project (right now I’m working on the second installment of my Anomalies series, and my numerous other projects are having to be on stand-by while I finish it), it’s hard to explain to people (like my husband) why I can’t just pop in and out of the zone to attend every little thing that comes up during a day, and it’s hard sometimes to write something good. But it’s never been hard to write for me. There’s always something I need to be transferring from my head to my hands, it’s just a matter of whether it’s what I want to be producing.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

Heck no! I tried for a couple months to really focus on word count, and I found it killed my quality, because I was more concerned with putting out words than putting out my story. I know it works and works well for others (some of my friends are very word-count focused), but every time I get too focused on how much I’m producing, I find I produce more sludge than usual. I tend to do well even without watching the word count, some days are worse than others of course, but I produce better work when I let the story go how it wants to go without constantly thinking “100 words… 250 words… 50 more words… I’ve got to be close right? … 600 to go, dang.”

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

Depends if the story is going to be a series or not. I found out the hard way when I started Anomalies that to go in and wing it for four books was a good recipe for disaster and inaccuracy, so I gritted my teeth and now I have two poster sized whiteboards, one a master plot outline and character tracker for the entire series, one I write out the major scenes for whichever book I’m currently working on. It’s not something I’m used to doing, I tend to be more wing-it with most of my writing, but it was a sacrifice I had to make, and it’s made everything so much easier in all honesty. I do however, tend to write by scenes, instead of in order. I get inspiration for certain scenes throughout the book, major ups or downs or interactions that just come to me, and I usually write those first, and then go back to bridge everything together smoothly.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

If anyone ever says no to this question, I’ll faint out of shock. I have, the worst span has actually been recently with Anomalies book 2, what with everything going on in life. I was too frantic, too scattered, too focused on the house and the move, too tired, too always worried I was forgetting something for real life, that by the time I sat down at my computer, I was more likely to take a nap with my eyes open instead of write something. In small bouts, they last a week to two weeks, but this one was awful, it was a good three months before I finally forced myself to break the habit of avoiding my most needed project.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I broke through it- and I hate to even remember this because it’s the first time I’ve had to take such desperate measures- by just forcing myself to write the project I needed to. I wrote sludge. Like, serious sludge, bottom of the nasty barrel sludge, but I wrote, and as I wrote, it got better, and my inspiration came back, and it got easier and it got better. And sludge can always be edited, right? At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as I forced myself not to ‘delete all’ the entire document some days.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I live to read. Almost as much as I live to write, some days more. I’m a speed reader, and I can knock out a book- or some of a book if it’s particularly long- almost every day. My favorite authors include Sherrilyn Kenyon at the very top always, Melissa Marr and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes on the list as well. Sherrilyn Kenyon is without a doubt by biggest inspiration as an author; her books are filled with personality and so many characters, and they and their stories and their books link together so wonderfully and minor characters from this book end up center stage in that book and she really taught me to appreciate and develop my minor characters, even if they only get honorable mentions in your current project. Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is a longtime favorite, with her morally ambiguous characters and amazing character driven plots, and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has such a haunting, high-caliber quality to her writing it still sometimes leaves me breathless when I reread her stuff.

11.Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

I don’t think writers have a singular muse, like you’d find in the fashion world, but every writer has a muse, or multiple muses, for their stories. I think the word has become synonymous with character in a lot of circles, and it’s being used to describe the character(s) you’re actively writing. My muses for novel writing tend to be the main characters, at least they’re the only ones I actively consider Muses, but I think the meaning is open to interpretation.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

No. I still get nervous when people read my stuff, even if it’s a final draft and they’ve read all my rough drafts and they basically know everything that’s in there already, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little smack to my ego when I read or hear a negative review, but it’s never made me feel like I should give up, or change everything, or anything drastic. If the negativity is constructive, I take it into account and watch for similar missteps in the future, but if it’s just hateful, I don’t let it get to me. There’s constructive criticism and there’s people who are just rude, and once you learn to take to heart the one that matters and let the hate roll off of you, you’ll be so much happier with yourself and your writing.

Do you reply back to your fans and admirers personally?

I don’t have many that I don’t already know personally- writing friends and non writing friends alike, so I can’t answer this fully, but I try to answer and/or thank everyone who says something nice on social media especially.

Do your novels carry a message?

I try really hard to put messages into my stories, and usually it happens on it’s own. Captivated, my first work, is about being yourself and not giving into the pressure (especially in high school) to tone down or liven up yourself to appease other people. Anomalies will have a few messages throughout the series; in the first book, Control, it’s about how doing the right thing isn’t always something easy or even something you can clearly define and it’s about how small heroic acts, though they may not cause world change, can cause someone’s world to change, and sometimes that’s good enough.

15.How realistic are your books?

I try to make them as realistic as possible (says the girl who writes urban fantasy). My pet peeve stories are the ones where the singular underdog rises to the occasion of world heroism and everyone falls in line behind them and they single-handedly start a revolution or a revolt or world-wide change. It’s fun to watch, but most people can’t take actual, real life implemented inspiration from things like that. I prefer to deal with small things; you may not overthrow the king or the president, but that meal you bought for the homeless guy on the corner, that shed you insulated and left open for animals during the winter, that person stranded on the side of the road waving for help that you stopped for, you made all those lives better, and maybe they went on to make other lives better, and on and on. That’s heroic, and it’s those kind of small acts, things that everyday people can do without thinking ‘I need an army behind me to accomplish this’ that I try to exemplify in my books.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

Honestly, I kind of agree. But I try to think of them as being reborn. It’s a little crazy to expect a movie to fully accomplish what a book can (even though I’m no exception and I always hold out hope anyway). You can spend an entire day, multiple days, reading a single book; a movie has an hour and a half, maybe two. Book rely on narration to help you along; movies only have visual cues (I mean, I guess they could have the narration of the book, but I think that’d be more annoying to most people than anything). It’s just logically absurd to except the same quality of a book in a movie. Now, this doesn’t take into account mis-castings or complete plot changes or ridiculous amounts of time spent on romance storylines that were, at best, minor plots in the book, but I digress before I go on a rant.

Whose work do you enjoy reading the most?

Sherrilyn Kenyon, hands down. I prefer her Dark Hunter/Were Hunter/Dream Hunter series, and have so much invested in so many books and so many of her characters.

Are you friends with other writers?

Of course! Most of my closest friends are writers, we just find that we have more to talk about than other friends together. I have dogs, but I don’t have kids and we don’t yet have horses or cattle (both big talking points among my age group and my location, respectively), and honestly, I don’t have a whole lot that I can talk to others about other than my writing. Which can get boring or hard-to-follow for my non-writer friends.

Do you think you still have a story to tell to the readers?

I think I’ll always have a story to tell. I don’t consider them my stories, necessarily, they’re my characters’ stories, and new characters crop up all the time, wanting their turn to put their story out into the world. It’s my passion and it helps me live so many lives I otherwise wouldn’t ever think of, and I genuinely hope I never run out of characters and their stories.

Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?

YES. Worse than writer’s block in my opinion is forgetting something I wanted to write. Luckily it happens not that often, and a trick I use is that when I’m in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to whip out a notepad and pen or type a quick note into my phone, is music. Usually it’s in the car when I risk losing something, so I keep music playing, and if I get something good, I replay the song and replay the scene in my head until they’re timed to one another. Then later, when I’m writing, I can play the song and trigger the scene back so I can write it. My husband recently got me a voice recorder, and it’s useful, admittedly, but I kind of hate listening to my voice so while I don’t lose my scene, I cringe while I listen to myself redo it.

Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?

The Dark Hunter/Were Hunter series (can you tell I’m a touch obsessed?). I’d rather it be a television series than a movie, but honestly I’ll take anything I can get. Close second choice is Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ Kiesha’ra Series and close third would be The Janie Johnson series.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My husband. My entire family is incredibly supportive of my writing, and most of them like to brag about me, which tickles me pink every time, but Nicholas was the one that truly pushed me to become the professional novelist I am.

Can you tell us about your current projects?

Of course! Right now I’m in the process of editing book 2 of my Anomalies Series, titled Power. It continues the storyline of book 1, but a minor character, Talia, is the main POV of this book. Anomalies is an urban fantasy series where ‘Anomalies’ are people with supernatural powers that are ostracized and fighting against the stigma that they’re all going to eventually go rogue; Cole, the main character in book 1 (Control) has the ability to supercharge other people’s abilities, Talia in book 2 has the power to create (semi)impenetrable, dome-like shields around herself and others. Cole is still longing to be back with his semi-rogue Anomaly friends, but Talia is trying to convince him that her side- well, her boss’ side- is the best and only option to make the change he wants to see. Book 1 is on Amazon now and book 2 will be available early 2017!

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

A huge part. The main issue I find is that I like to drown in music, and with both my husband and I working from home, I usually have to resort to headphones, which aren’t bad but get tangled on things and get tugged by my dogs when they want attention and basically just get really annoying after a while. It’s one reason my sharpest inspiration usually comes in the car where I can blast the music so loudly I can only watch my scenes flash across my mind in time with my own personal soundtrack and not worry about bothering anyone.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I can write to an extent anywhere. At home it’s hard to isolate myself right now because our puppy can’t be trusted, and noise around me has never bothered me. Oddly enough, I’m usually at my most productive when I have another job, like a proper part-time or full-time job. Which probably means I should look into a part time job now that we’re settled in Texas, but honestly, home-making and chasing after all the animals is second job enough for me right now!

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