SLP: Let’s begin by giving the readers an idea of who you are, Brad. Where and when were you born?
BM: Lakewood, California 1963
SLP: And where were you raised?
BM: All over California, except for a single snowbound year in Portland, Maine.
SLP: Where were you educated?
BM: New York University’s Film School
SLP: Where is home today?
BM: Los Angeles
SLP: Other than writing, what is your principal occupation?
BM: I also write, direct, and produce independent films.
SLP: What genres appeal to you as both writer and reader?
BM: I love Mysteries, Psychological Horror, and — of course – good, non-traditional Fantasy.
SLP: What writers have most influenced your work?
BM: When I’m working on a project I immerse myself in good examples of the genre in which I’m writing. For this book, it was Philip Pullman, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, and Garth Nix.
SLP: What other genres such as screenwriting, travel writing, etc., if any, have you considered?
BM: I’ve been a screenwriter for the last fifteen years, and have also written technology and video game columns for a few magazines.
SLP: Do you write primarily at home?
BM: Only when my kids (9 and 11) are at school. Otherwise, you’ll find me at my local Starbucks, hunkered down at the table way in the back.
SLP: Do you prefer to write in public places?
BM: For some strange reason, I seem to focus better in public places. I suspect that the effort it takes to screen out the cell phone talkers and chitty-chatters creates a concentration vortex that draws me into the work.
SLP: Do you work best in the morning or in the evening?
BM: Because of my kids’ schedules, I primarily write during the day. But once they’re off to college it will be all nights, all the time, baby. I LOVE the night.
SLP: Do you set aside specific times to write? If so, when?
BM: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and late nights when I can.
SLP: Do you feel you have sufficient time to write?
SLP: How many hours per day do you devote to writing?
BM: Three to five, unless I’m doing one of my marathons (I sometimes move into a friend’s back room, lock the door, and don’t come out for a month). In those instances I write ten to fourteen hours a day — six days a week. I usually set a goal of ten pages per day during these sessions. Two thirds of the first draft of Sleepwalker: The Last Sandman was written this way.
SLP: If possible would you like to write full time, or do you have other overriding interests?
BM: I do write full time, when I’m not raising my amazing little rug-rats.
SLP: Do you feel compelled to write?
BM: I feel compelled to tell stories, but the actual writing is something I have to force myself to do. Well, to be accurate, I have to FORCE myself to begin, and then – more often than not – the characters begin to speak to me, and I’m off to the races.
SLP: When and how did your interest in writing first manifest itself?
BM: I wrote my first short story in sixth grade. It was a rip-off of the old horror flick, “Night of the Living Dead” (I got a B+).
SLP: Do you have any other creative outlets such as music, dance, or graphic arts?
BM: I thought I would be a photographer before I went to film school, and I still take a lot of pictures. I enjoy working in Photoshop (I did the cover for the book myself). I also dance around the office in my underwear after I’ve written an especially good passage — but let’s not go there.
SLP: Do you primarily write on a computer? If so, laptop or desktop?
BM: Always on a computer (I can’t read my own handwriting), and usually on a smallish laptop — in the dark, when possible.
SLP: Do you carry a notebook or gadget for note taking?
BM: My iPhone has a dictation app which I use quite a lot.
SLP: Are you a serious note-taker?
BM: Only when I’m doing revisions on a project.
SLP: Do you have a daily goal as to how much you write?
BM: I try to pace myself at one page per working hour.
SLP: Do you have a specific technique for priming the pump for the next day’s writing?
BM: I reread the previous day’s pages before I start the new day’s work. This way I get caught up in fixing things from the existing work and I forget that I have more blank pages up ahead. Usually, I’ve picked up enough creative momentum by the time I’ve made it through the previous day’s work that I can continue into the “void” without locking up.
SLP: How do you deal with writer’s block?
BM: I’ve never really had writer’s block. But I do keep a big, fat folder full of story ideas (some ten pages long — others just a few words on a post-it that I’d be hard-pressed to “reconstitute” into a proper idea) that serve as my story security blanket. If I never had another original idea, I would at least have enough fragments to cobble out some sort of career.
SLP: How much do you read?
BM: To be honest, before the Kindle came along — I wrote a lot more than I read, although I listened to audio books constantly (while driving, shopping, exercising, cooking, spell checking my own work, etc.). I’ve always had a hard time settling into that certain stillness that’s required to read a book on paper. And I’m not one of those readers who love the smell of the ink, or the feel of the paper on my fingertips. But, for some reason, reading on the Kindle HAS actually rekindled my desire to read. Maybe it’s the fact that the Kindle is a gadget — and I’m a hardcore gadget guy. Or maybe it’s because I can jump between any of the five hundred books I’ve got on the device. I just feel less . . . locked in, I suppose, to the book itself. And I find it easier to exit out of a Kindle book and start up another than I do to physically close a paper book and replace it on a shelf. To me, the latter feels like giving up on that writer — and that story — while the former just feels like taking a breather. That’s not to say I feel less involved in a book on the Kindle than with one on paper — it’s quite the opposite. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I just enjoy reading more on an e-reader (I’m now using the Nook, too).
SLP: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
BM: That’s always changing. Currently, it’s Sean Stewart, Michael Marshall Smith, Early Stephen King, Amy Hempel, Chuck Palahniuk
SLP: What are you currently reading?
BM: Galveston, by Sean Stewart
SLP: What would you estimate to be the ratio of fiction to nonfiction?
BM: 100% fiction, apart from research and reference used for my own books and movies. I don’t care much for the real world.
SLP: When discovering a book you’ve begun isn’t to your liking do you feel compelled to finish it?
BM: I did on paper, but I don’t on an e-reader.
SLP: Do you prefer reading ebooks rather than paper books?
BM: Absolutely. It’s easier for me to focus, better for the environment, and reduces the clutter in my house immensely.
SLP: Regarding Sleepwalker: The Last Sandman, what is the genesis of the book’s concept?
BM: Fifteen years ago I went through a period in which I couldn’t dream — or, at least, I couldn’t remember dreaming. That was the seed that ultimately grew into a screenplay entitled Sandman. The screenplay was “shopped around” Hollywood for several years and was almost made into a movie a few times. But, in Hollywood, “almost made” is like being “a little pregnant”. So, I put the script in a drawer, but the story remained one of my two very favorites (the other will become my third book). So, every couple of years I would take Sandman out of the drawer, re-work it, and send it out again. But it never happened, as a film. A few years later – after I had married and my sons had come into my life – I revisited the script again, changing the single little girl in the script into two brothers. Then, because my own sons had become so central to my life, it seemed natural to make them central to the Sandman story (the daughter had been a pretty peripheral character in the early drafts of the script). Partway through that transformative draft I realized that this was a bigger story than the traditional 90-120 pages of a standard screenplay could tell (one page of a screenplay equals roughly one minute of the finished film, that’s why scripts are written in their awkward format). So, I wrote the book. And rewrote it. And rewrote it. Until I got it right.
SLP: The Kindle version of the book has received very laudatory reviews–including one from me. Were you surprised at all?
BM: This story has been so close to my heart for so long that I had not one ounce of objectivity, regarding its “quality”. I had always loved it, but I had no idea how others would receive it. That’s why I put it out for the Kindle. I wanted a limited, passionate group of readers who could (and would) give me an honest opinion. This was essential because my queries to traditional literary agents had garnered several nibbles, but no bites — although I remained passionate about the story — so I needed to know if it was as good as I hoped it was, before I went on to self-publish on paper. I literally wept when I received my first “fan” email from a Kindler named A. Fox, and then again when I received my first positive review from bklvr. Your review was so generous that I feared people would believe that I had “planted” it (but I cherish it, nonetheless). My sons, who are in the book, have been involved in every aspect of its current incarnation — as well as the process of getting “our book” out into the world. So, they have read every single review, and ask me several times a week if we’ve gotten any new ones — and how many books we’ve sold. So, I think I’d say that I’ve been relieved by the positive reception, more than surprised.
SLP: Were the Zane and Charly characters modeled on children you know?
BM: Actually, it’s Sean and Cole that are my own sons — down to their mannerism, speech patterns, and deepest fears. I think Zane and Charly are the kinds of kids I hope my own sons will have someday.
SLP: Do the children and young adult market segments have special appeal for you as a writer? If so, why?
BM: I had never read a Young Adult book, even as a young adult, until I started working on the book adaptation of my earlier screenplay – then I listened to more than 100 YA audio books. My favorites were Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Artemis Fowl books, and both the Sabriel and Keys to the Kingdom series, by Garth Nix. I think the fact that I had no former attachment to the YA genre is probably why the book works so well as an adult novel, too. The screenplay focused on Jake’s emotional journey — and destiny. Once I added my own kids to the mix, and tailored it so that they could enjoy it, too (all of my other work has been R-Rated), the innocence and whimsy that I now find so appealing in the tale began to creep in. In the screenplay Jake was an “adult” throughout the whole story, so it was very, very different.
SLP: Did you ever feel the characters were changing your storyline in unforeseen ways?
BM: I work from a pretty detailed outline, so the characters usually behave themselves pretty well. So, I guess I’d say that they generally do what I ask them to — but what frequently surprises me is HOW they get to where I’ve ask them to go.
SLP: Were you blocked at any point while writing the novel?
BM: Not really. Or, if I was, I probably moved to another project for a while (I generally have two more in the “hopper” at all times), so I didn’t register the block.
SLP: Are any of the other characters modeled on real people?
BM: As I mentioned before, Sean and Cole are my boys. Jake is the kind of dad (at the beginning) that I swore I would never be, but the hopeless romantic/dreamer that I can’t help but be. Adult Cole’s wife is actually modeled after my own wife (a little Oedipal action there, I suppose), and They/Them are an amalgam of every inflexible figure of authority I’ve ever hated.
SLP: How did you choose the locale?
BM: I assume you’re talking about Iowa, because the land of dreams was a no-brainer for the Sandman. I wanted a humble, stable, rural home for the boys – that would contrast with the instability and oddness of Nod.
SLP: Did the story unfold easily or did you find it difficult to write?
BM: The first draft of the first screenplay was written in about three months — and it came very easily. Most of the core elements of the main plotline were present in that draft. So, in this instance, it was the sheer number of revisions the story underwent that was hard. I think I did six drafts of the script, and three of the novel. And when I say “draft” I mean significant story changes and brand new characters and plotlines – not just polishes. There were probably another dozen “polishes” along the way.
SLP: Is writing strictly a linear process for you, or do you often switch between chapters?
BM: With a story as complex as this one, I would think it would have to be a linear process — as one thing leads into the next, which leads into the next. Although, there were a few “standalone” sequences that I dealt with separately (Hannah’s story, Shelby’s story, and Joshua’s Door).
SLP: Was the prologue written separately from the rest of the book?
BM: Yes, it was. It didn’t exist at all until the final draft of the book. Before the prologue was written, I loved the slow build up to the world of dreams. But I feared that the reader might not have the same patience, so I borrowed a page from my old screenwriting playbook and started with a little mystery — to capture the readers’ attention. I also felt that I needed to imply the existence of a magical world and mysterious creatures early on, so that it wouldn’t come out of the blue when Jake “crosses over” for the first time, around page 100. I also wanted to present the prologue in a style of prose that differed from the rest of the book. I wanted it to offer the promise of something extraordinary.
SLP: Approximately how long did the book take?
BM: All told — fifteen years. But it would probably be a year and a half “as the crow flies.”
SLP: Did you work from a plot outline?
BM: Always. I start with the last “scene” of the story and work my way backward, building up the essential events needed to support that climax.
SLP: Were there surprises when writing this particular book? If so, what were they?
BM: Ping surprised me. He just hopped into the story one day during my “marathon” month.
SLP: Did the book end as you originally planned?
BM: It ends exactly as I first imagined it would. It’s just everything else about the story that changed along the way.
SLP: Since you write on a computer, what writing software do you use?
BM: For screenwriting I use Movie Magic Screenwriter. For the novel, I used Word Perfect.
SLP: What’s your next writing project?
BM: The next book is the first in a series of mysteries, starring a b-level Indie filmmaker. After that will be the first in a series of supernatural/psychological thrillers entitled House of Drums. My goal is to get these three series going and then to add occasional “serious” novels and novellas into the mix.
SLP: Is it underway?
BM: I’m halfway through the outline. It will be a much shorter book than Sleepwalker (250-300 pages vs 450) so I hope to have a first draft by the end of April. The tone will be halfway between Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books and John Sandford’s Prey series.
SLP: Does it have a similar theme to that of Sleepwalker?
BM: Not at all. This one gets pretty dark. And the one after that is even more disturbing. And then I’ll return to Nod for a breath of fresh air.
SLP: When do you anticipate finishing it?
BM: First draft — Aprill 22nd. Out on the Kindle — June 22nd.
SLP: Can you offer a ‘high concept’ or brief plot summary?
BM: Dex Wexler, my filmmaking doppelganger, gets roped into working undercover for a rogue federal agent in the porn industry. It’s called Pop Shot: A Dex Wexler Production.
SLP: What do you believe will be the short- and long-term impact of ebooks on the publishing industry?
BM: They’ve already opened up a miraculous pipeline between new authors, like me, and adventurous readers who are willing to forgive occasional typos in exchange for fresh, “untamed” voices. Long term, I think they will be fatal for the “mainstream” publishing industry. But if we can’t figure out how to price ebooks in a way that is fair to everyone (readers and authors), I fear that our ebook revolution will self-destruct. I think that DTB editors will become ebook editors, and that traditional, snobby publishers who refuse to adapt will start dropping like flies.
SLP: What do you think of the current publishers’ pricing structure for ebooks?
BM: I think the $9.99 or less movement, for bestsellers, will become an industry standard, though it will cost a lot of mid-level folks at traditional publishing houses their positions. I think that Indie authors need to start charging more than 99 cents for long-form work (aside from limited promotional periods) before 99 cents become the de-facto standard for all Indie books.
SLP: Do you currently own an ereader?
BM: I use my Kindle 2 all the time, and I just recently sold my DX (too big to carry around all day). I also bought a Nook, because I’m publishing Sleepwalker for that platform and I needed to see it on the device for quality control purposes. I love its whiter screen and darker fonts, but am unimpressed with every other aspect of the device.
SLP: ‘That’s a wrap’ as they say in your world, Brad. I wish you the best of luck with the upcoming books, but if they’re accomplished with the obvious care and craftsmanship exhibited in Sleepwalker: The Last Sandman, luck will have little to do with your well deserved success.
SLP: A note to SLP readers: When reviewing the book, I was particularly taken with the prologue. The “hook” was both quickly and deeply set. Here it is in its entirety, see if you agree:
There were no shadows in the place some call Nod until the night he was created. He emerged from nothing, glistening ink-black beneath flickering pinholes in the sky which hinted at a world on the other side. There is no moon in Nod so, until his arrival, there had never been nighttime shadows, nor anything to fear.
He threw back his head and howled in pain, his amorphous form warping and twisting as it grasped for stability, but in his infancy the dark man was unable to hold any shape for more than a moment. The awful sounds of his agony, as he tried to solidify, gradually hardened and grew into a thundering battle cry. In time, he began to look vaguely human, but his sharp black outline continued to ripple. To anyone witnessing this beginning of the end, the man made of shadows would have been little more than a sinister silhouette cut from dirty black paper, a silhouette that blotted out the wondrous landscape of Nod even as it moved through it.
The shadow man glided down a grassy slope that was wet with dew. His dark form fell across the lush foliage and a deadly frost immediately descended upon it. The man approached the Stream of Consciousness, which teemed with Random Ideas, as well as more cohesive schools of Thought. Together, these sparks of creativity swam beneath the surface of the sacred water, as they had from The Beginning. One of the Great Ideas (a large Iridescent) leapt excitedly into the air—hovered for a moment—and then splashed back into the burbling emerald water. It wasn’t quite ready to fly.
The shadow man had mass now and he stepped into the Stream of Consciousness, causing the water’s temperature to plummet and the ideas within to grow stagnant. A miserable, high-pitched keening emerged from the stream in frantic bubbles and the shadow man, who had been stepping up onto the opposite bank when he heard the sounds, realized the suffering of the stream’s inhabitants, due to the chilling effect of his presence. His curiosity piqued, the dark man stepped back down into the stream and watched chunks of ice begin to form on its surface. Within seconds the water had turned to slush. A moment later, the stream was frozen solid and the ideas within were lost forever.
The shadow man looked down at his legs, which had been encased in ice, and he allowed them to dissolve into sooty smoke. He stepped up onto the other side of the stream, made his body solid once again, and then set out to make a home for himself in this strange new world.
SLP: Sleepwalker: The Last Sandman is available in both ebook and paper editions.