If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
At my heart I’m a family guy, so I’d love to live closer to my mom and sisters. The cool thing about being a writer is the ability to live just about anywhere, so if I ever get to the point where I am a full-time author, I’d love to move back to my roots in central Pennsylvania and see my family more often.
How do you write – laptop, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
Being lefthanded, I’ve always hated handwriting. My author bio in The Wings of Dragons even talks about how overjoyed I am to live in a time when I can type my stories. My handwriting is terrible. Not just bad, terrible. I can’t even read it, and all the correcting teachers of my youth failed to make it better. So when I write, I always use a laptop. My favorite place to write is on my couch in the living room. It’s comfortable, and since the computer is sitting right there, it makes it easy to pick it up and just start typing. I often feel like I don’t have enough time to write, but if I can get started, suddenly I’ll find that I’ve gotten a lot more done than I thought I had time for. All that said, when I do revisions, I always print out the manuscript and make my edits in red pen. As much as I hate handwriting, I’ve never been able to edit on the computer.
Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
Support from others is what’s gotten me through this whole publishing process. I had friends at my day job and my family at home cheering me the whole way. They saw what an incredible risk I was taking in putting my work out there, as well as all the work that went into it. They all wanted me to succeed and were willing to pitch in to help me get there. I’ve also had great support from a fellow author, Shannon Delany, who wrote the 13 to Life series and the Weather Witch series. Her advice helped me hone not only my writing style, but also my marketing efforts.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
I’m a heavy sleeper, and I need a lot to feel well-rested. Usually I need at least 8 hours, and sometimes a little more than that is helpful. I’m impressed by those who can do fine on 6 hours of sleep. When I do that, I might as well dye my skin green and don some purple pants.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
Sure! These folks are also thanked in the acknowledgements of The Wings of Dragons, but I’ll cheer their names from the mountaintops every chance I get. First and foremost, I want to thank Shannon Delany, author of the 13 to Life series and the Weather Witch series, whose writing workshops literally changed my life and convinced me to pursue my dream. I also owe a great deal to those who reviewed drafts and provided copy-edits: Tom Foulkrod, Jim Hilson, Gretchen Smith, and my dear wife Christine. Finally, I especially want to thank Heather Hilson, who turned my manuscript into an actual book. She designed my cover and also did the typesetting for the paperback version.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is. What does success in writing look like to you?
Success to me means making sure that every book I write is absolutely the best I can make it at the time it’s released. Each book should communicate my thoughts, stories, and characters as clearly as possible. Then I use the feedback I get from readers to improve, so that each book is better than the last. Success to me isn’t an end-state; it’s a continuous process of growing as an author and a communicator of ideas.
It’s vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign.
Even before my book came out, I had written both a detailed business plan and marketing plan. That probably sets me apart from a lot of other artists, but I originally trained in economics. That business sense is deeply engrained in me, and unfortunately, while writing a novel may be a craft, publishing a novel is a business. I knew that I had very little time available since I work a day job and had to keep writing new content, so I set out from the beginning recognizing that I couldn’t do everything. I researched different book marketing strategies and found ones that worked for me. As a new, unknown author, I emphasized getting thorough, honest reviews of my work from magazines, newspapers, book blogs, and customers. I’ve entered several contests as well (none of which, as of this writing, have announced winners). The central theme for me was to build my credibility since I plan to be writing for the long haul. I didn’t do much with social media because I didn’t have the time to invest in it. I still only use Facebook for personal connections rather than marketing, and I only started using Twitter (@joshvanbrakle) at the end of 2013.
Tell us about your new book. What’s it about and why did you write it?
The Wings of Dragons is a 250-page epic fantasy and book one in The Dragoon Saga trilogy. It follows the story of Iren Saitosan, the only known lefthanded person in the kingdom of Lodia. As the country’s lone Left, Iren has lived a life of social isolation, considered dangerous and demon-spawned. His fortunes change when he’s drafted into a mission to assassinate a bandit lord and becomes part of a team. It’s a chance to earn respect from his countrymen and make friends, but it could also kill him. Someone on his team is plotting treason, and Iren’s katana imprisons a dragon’s spirit that can turn him into a rampaging monster. To survive and stop a revenge one thousand years in the making, Iren needs to figure out who – and how – to trust.
As for why I wrote it, this story has been in my head at least since high school, but life has always gotten in the way. I finally had a chance to write it down thanks to a few coincidences, not the least of which included my wife starting a job working evenings that left me by myself after work. When I saw the opportunity in that, I decided it was time to fulfill my dream to publish a novel and get this book out to readers.
If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?
I would definitely invite some of my favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Crichton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Shannon Delany. I’m also really interested in the environment and forests in particular, so I’d also love to chat up some of the founding members of the environmental movement: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold.
When you aren’t writing, how do you like to relax?
Since I also work a day job, writing for me is my relaxation from that. But when I’m not doing either of those, I love getting outdoors. I enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, nature photography, camping, and basically any excuse to get out and enjoy nature.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
Take a hike! Get out in nature and go for a walk. When I get writer’s block, or if I’m really stressed about something, I throw on some hiking boots and hit the trails near my house. It really helps clear my head. There’s something about the combination of the beauty of nature and the exercise that gets all the junk out of the way, and then when I come back, usually I’ve figured out a way to get out of whatever jam I was stuck in. I’ve also found it helpful to talk to a member of my support team, especially the folks at my day job. They always have a joke or smart comeback that makes me laugh and releases my tension.
From fantasy author Josh VanBrakle comes an epic new trilogy of friendship, betrayal, and explosive magic. Lefthanded teenager Iren Saitosan must uncover a forgotten history, confront monsters inspired by Japanese mythology, and master a serpentine dragon imprisoned inside a katana to stop a revenge one thousand years in the making.
Lodian culture declares lefthanded people dangerous and devil-spawned, and for Iren, the kingdom's only known Left, that's meant a life of social isolation. To pass the time and get a little attention, he plays pranks on the residents of Haldessa Castle. It's harmless fun, until one of his stunts nearly kills Lodia's charismatic heir to the throne. Now to avoid execution for his crime, Iren must join a covert team and assassinate a bandit lord. It's a suicide mission, and Iren's chances aren't helped when he learns that his new katana contains a dragon's spirit, one with a magic so powerful it can sink continents and transform Iren into a raging beast.
Adding to his problems, someone on Iren's team is plotting treason. When a former ally launches a brutal plan to avenge the Lefts, Iren finds himself trapped between competing loyalties. He needs to figure out who - and how - to trust, and the fates of two nations depend on his choice.
"A fast-paced adventure...led by a compelling cast of characters. Josh VanBrakle keeps the mysteries going." - ForeWord Reviews
Genre – YA epic fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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