Interview: J.L. Bryan

Welcome to Day Three, the final day of J.L. Bryan’s tour stop at Darkeva’s as part of The Haunted E-Book blog tour! Today, you’ll be treated to an interview from Jeff in which he answers some of the most burning questions that readers will have both before and after reading The Haunted E-Book. It’s been a bit challenging to get Jeff off the couch (what can I say? The man likes his beer and pretzels. And today, he’s added nachos) so I’m going to enlist in the help of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Hopefully he’ll annoy Jeff into leaving ;-)

Just a reminder that if you’d like to participate in the giveaway at Darkeva’s — a paperback and two e-books, compliments of the author — please do not comment here but rather on this Day One post.

The Interview:

Bio: J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. Most of his writing wanders into the horror or science fiction genres, reaching into the darker depths of human nature, where things are often scary or funny. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina and assorted pets. They have an organic and natural pet supply store (www.momandpups.com, which is where his cats and dogs often blog). He’s really getting into ebooks by indie authors lately.

Q: First off, how did the idea of the Haunted Ebook come to you? Was it an observation on the current trend towards more people who are actually buying more ebooks and ereaders, or did you always have this idea and then with the rise of ebooks, think “Hey, it’s a good time to release this novel.”

A: I’ve had an idea for a while about a haunted book, where people would awaken a ghost and get haunted if they read it. Then I got very interested in ebooks as I started publishing for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers, and the culture of indie authors that was arising around ebooks. And I thought, what if that haunted book was an ebook? Then you could have people all over the place, reading multiple copies at once.

Q: What’s interesting for me is that e-book authors are actually seeing a rise in readership, because the electronic distribution enables them to be discovered by readers in places where printed book distribution, especially in English, is limited and consists mainly of bestsellers. Do you think that e-book authors who forego the traditional print publishing route will actually gain more popularity as time goes on, or that they’re doomed to be forgotten?

A: I think ebook publishing is generally much better for authors, because your book stays available forever. Even if it takes months or even years for a book to finds its audience, that’s still much better than a book that’s available in bookstores for a few months and then disappears forever. That’s good for readers, too, because there could be any number of books out there that you will enjoy, but either you haven’t discovered them or you haven’t a had chance to read them yet, and now they will always be available. So digital publishing is publishing for eternity, or at least until the collapse of modern technological civilization. Whichever comes first.

Q: Secondly, how did you come up with the character of Jonah? It takes a lot for most antagonists to frighten and/or impress me, but it didn’t take very long for him to do that. In some ways, he’s the most disquieting kind of villain, because even though he’s completely fictional, he’s rooted in a very real human fear–that he’ll be forgotten–and it makes him dangerous. This guy is utterly consumed by rage, vengeance, and has a hold on his readers in a way that no other author has had. Did you use someone as a model to base Jonah on?

A: I think he’s influenced by a lot of real and fictional monsters. He has a flair for the dramatic like Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer — and let’s not forget Charles Manson and even Hitler were frustrated creative artists! As a supernatural monster, he has traits in common with Pennywise from It, and Freddy Krueger, and others who can tap into your fears and use them against you. I think he’s desperate because he vacillates between very powerful and very weak, depending on how many readers he has.

Q: I think that Jonah speaks to the fear that many authors have–that their books (and of course they themselves) will be forgotten in a hundred years’ time and that no one will ever touch their books again or even know about them. Was that a personal anxiety that you tapped into, or just something you noticed as a shared trait between writers?

A: I don’t personally worry about people reading my books in a hundred years, when there are millions of books out there to read. If they read my books while I’m alive and forget about me later, that’s no big deal. But I do think that every creative person wants their work to get out into the world and connect with people, whether it’s music or a painting or anything. Art is a form of communication, so if you’re just creating in the dark and it’s not reaching anybody, you can easily doubt whether you’re wasting years of your life.

In Jonah’s case, of course, if nobody’s reading him, he’s just a dormant and powerless ghost, so it’s pretty important to him! It seems like he’s very egotistically tied to the material world, sort of unwilling to surrender to mortality. So there’s the ego of the artist who takes himself way too seriously and has too much self-importance, who values art above actual human beings.

Q: Why did you choose the framing narratives with the “book within a book within another book” structure? For the record, it absolutely worked for me while I was reading The Haunted E-book, but I’m curious as to why you planned it with this particular structure in mind.

A:I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I liked challenging myself to create this intricately folded plot structure, yet do it in a way that was easy and even fun to follow for the reader. It explores something about how books connect readers with each other across space and time.
Your blog is an example of that — you might read about a book on somebody else’s blog, decide to try it, and then write about it on your site, and other people decide to try it, and then you discuss the book in blog comments…It’s a very multidimensional kind of thing, if you think about it, because each person has their own version and their own interpretation of the book, and their own thoughts and responses to it, and then they’re all able to share that and discuss it.

It makes the book itself a much bigger thing than just the original text written by the author. It gives the book life. I wanted to reflect the complexity and the connection involved with all the different readers each having a very personal experience of the book.

Q: I also notice that you put in a lot of research into the history of American printing in the nineteenth century, as well as the American library system’s digital cataloguing methods. How much research did you do in preparation for the book?

A: I was already interested in tramp printers, who were these very literate people that specialized in operating printing presses, but they rode from town to town like hobos, and they were often known for being rough, drunken and generally questionable sorts of people. It’s a mostly forgotten era of history, but an interesting one if you’re a book lover. The tramp printer is an inherently complex person, so that made a good base from which to create Jonah’s character.

To write him, I had to understand all about 19th century printing technology, which actually evolved pretty rapidly. I had to know the machinery, the processes involved, and eventually I had to research it all the way back to the manufacture of paper and parchment.

I really like that era of American history, between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I, all the invention and discovery. If you read writers from that era, there’s something glowing that comes through the language, an optimism about progress that eventually get shattered by the world wars. It’s the time period that steampunk really celebrates, a relatively peaceful and international period with a rapid increase in knowledge and prosperity. So I enjoyed studying all of that.

Q: I have to ask you about the Agrippa, which, in occult circles, is a book bound not in parchment, but in human skin. Usually it has names of demons, and the spells to summon them. The Agrippa legend says that whenever the book’s owner dies, the book knows (sentient books — yikes!) and unleashes calamity. Did you examine parts of this concept when you were writing The Haunted E-book?

A: I did study about books like the Agrippa and the Necronomicon, and other enchanted books. The Agrippa is interesting because its rebels against anyone besides its owner who tries to use it, and then unleashes terror if the owner dies. (It’s also four feet tall, which makes it a bit too big for my purposes!) But I definitely had an assortment of legendary spell books and grimoires in mind. Jonah, of course, doesn’t create a spell book, but instead writes a novel, which he then prints and binds in the manner of a black magic spell book.

Q: What impressions do you want to leave readers with once they’ve finished the book?

A: By exploring the history of printing a bit, at least from the 19th century and into the 21st with ebooks, The Haunted E-book kind of looks into the question of what a book really is. Is it fundamentally a physical manifestation, something bound in paper or displayed on a digital screen, or is a book really a psychic piece of knowledge and experience that lives inside the human mind? What does it really mean to write a book or read a book? What is this whole bizarre activity where one person creates an imaginary story, and then shares it with other people? We’re complete strangers, and maybe we even live centuries apart, but these stories create a common psychological ground between us.

Q: What made you decide to organize a blog tour for The Haunted E-book? Why this title in particular?
A: The Haunted E-book seemed like a fun choice for a blog tour because it’s all about books and reading. Supernatural things happen when people start reading the book, and then readers have to figure out how to overcome this evil ghostly author who starts taking over their lives. It seemed to be a good fit, with authors, bloggers and readers interacting on a blog tour. Especially when the first grand prize is The Haunted Library, with speculative and paranormal ebooks donated by a variety of writers.

Q: Tell us a bit about how much preparation you had to put into planning the tour — did you use a step-by-step plan, or take a different approach?

A: There are basically two things, reaching out to people and then keep tracking of things. Spreadsheets are key for the second part! So first I had to find authors who were willing to donate to The Haunted Library, and then keep track of their donations. And I had to reach out to book bloggers and keep track of who was interested, whether I’d sent them their materials, and which blogs are having special giveaways like paperbacks that will require extra attention on my part. And another spreadsheet to keep track of Grand Prize entries as we go. So it’s really all about the spreadsheets! I won’t say it’s the most organized thing in the world, but it’s been fun so far. Thanks for having me stop by and hang out here for the last couple of days, Darkeva!

Sheldon: Jeff, you’re in my spot…

I’m kidding, of course ;-) Jeff, it was a pleasure to have you here, and I hope to see you return soon :-)

Darkeva

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11 Comments

  1. Big Jenny Pox fan here, I just downloaded Haunted E-Book and so far so great. I love the grizzled librarian. This is a really good interview too. J.L. Bryan seems like the type of guy I’d like stuck on my couch all weekend ;o

  2. Really wonderful interview Anita and J.L.! Working in a print-related fields, I’m really looking forward to some of the history of printing aspects of this book. I’ve taken a few classes on it, but it’s always fun to learn more for a new and different perspective. I’m a little worried this one will petrify me as I’m a giant wimp, but I’m a big fan of Mr. Bryan’s writing so I need to give it a try regardless:)

    • Hiya Jenny,
      You will absolutely appreciate the print-related aspects of the book :-) I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you start reading it :-)

      D

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