Real Name: Brandon Johnston
Pen Name: Brand J. Alexander
Romelia: . WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS?
Brand J. Alexander: I think creating the right opening scene is difficult for me. I often have a clear idea of where I want the story to go. However, creating an opening that feels right and carries the story in the direction I need it to go tends to slow me down in the beginning.
Romelia: DOES YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER?
Brand J. Alexander: Sort of. I do not have a close relationship with most of my family, so a majority of them could care less. My husband supports what I do. However, he is not a reader, so his support is more peripheral. He cheers me on from the sidelines, even though he has very little concept of what I am creating.
Romelia: IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY AS A CHILD OR TEENAGER TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER AS AN ADULT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Brand J. Alexander: I would have been more determined. My early writing attempts were often hindered by computer issues. I lost so many stories growing up to technical issues, and it pushed me from the craft. I lost a lot of practice during those years because when I would lose whole chunks of a story that I spent months writing, I would just give up and not pick it back up for months or even years.
Romelia: HOW LONG ON AVERAGE DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?
Brand J. Alexander: It depends on the story. My 50 to 60k novellas often take a couple of months to write and edit to a point where I am happy enough with them to share.
My first two novels, Rise of Tears and Fall of tears, were actually written with the intent of being a single novel. It took me about a year to write that first book. But when I realized that it was about 475k words, I decided to split it into two novels instead.
Romelia: DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?
Brand J. Alexander: Yes and no. I believe it is something that happens, but I think it is more of a symptom of something than an actual condition. If the story doesn’t feel right or life isn’t in a place where the writer can focus, those things can create blocks to the creative process. Most of the time, when I have trouble writing, I simply need to step back from the project and look at it with new eyes to realize why I have so much inner resistance.
Romelia: AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?
Brand J. Alexander: When they have devoted themselves to writing.
Romelia: WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?
Brand J. Alexander: I believe a writer becomes an author once they have published their work.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?
Brand J. Alexander: I accept the fact that not every book is for every person. I have seen horrible reviews for some of my favorite books, and it has led me to realize that not everyone sees a story through the same eyes.
Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Brand J. Alexander: Editing. I do not have the money to hire a professional editor. It takes numerous read-throughs and reviews to get my work to a point where I feel confident enough to share.
Romelia: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?
Brand J. Alexander: I have been writing on and off for most of my life. As for writing seriously with the intent of publishing my work, I have been doing that for about four years.
Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?
Brand J. Alexander: Just get it written. It seems simplistic, but the daunting task of finishing a book was one of the big impediments to me moving forward in my craft. It wasn’t until I finished my first novel that I realized I could actually do it. That realization made every book that came after easier to write.
Romelia: WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?
Brand J. Alexander: I love sentences that flow and catch me up in the rhythm of the words as well as the rhythm of the story. I want the writing to make me feel something about the characters and the conflict. And I want to experience the world in a way that makes me feel like I am there.
Romelia: WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU – THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS – AND WHY?
Brand J. Alexander: It differs from story to story, but I would have to say the plot. The stories in my universe tend to rise from the creation of the world they take place on. That foundation tends to build the plot outward from there. My characters are usually developed in relation to the worlds they exist in. So that usually is secondary to the plot.
However, my Guardians of the Tide series was completely developed around the main character. The story was inspired by my time at the local pool and the friends I made there. One friend, in particular, was a lifeguard there, and my relationship with him is what inspired Aust Waverunner and the stories about his life.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?
Brand J. Alexander: I ask myself a series of questions continually building out from a central point. What kind of world is it? What kind of cultures exist there? What culture is my main character? How does his culture define him? Does he fit in, or Is he an outcast?
I almost always have a set goal of where the series plot will lead and a final outcome. So, I ask questions in an effort to build everything in between. I have numerous notebooks full of notes and details to reference along the way, although I do not do outlines.
Romelia: WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?
Brand J. Alexander: I have always considered myself a writer in some fashion. Although, I defined myself more certainly when I set out more determinedly to achieve my dream.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR?
Brand J. Alexander: I am still trying to figure that out. I try to share pieces of lore and progress on my books currently. But I am always looking for more ways to interact with my fanbase. The largest factor holding me back is having more active readers following me. With the minimal feedback I currently receive, it is difficult to identify what is working and what isn’t.
Developing a better strategy and building an author community is one of my goals for 2021.
Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?
Brand J. Alexander: I love being able to share my work with the world. That is my favorite part.
My least favorite part is how much money it requires if you want to do it the way everyone says you must do it. Professional editors and cover artists. I am disabled and on a fixed income. I do not have thousands of dollars to spend on those services. I have had to do the best I can with the resources I have available. But it has definitely left me with a slight inferiority complex when it comes to my published work.
Romelia: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?
Brand J. Alexander: Good luck. It isn’t easy. But I fully understand the reasons behind the decision. I have had to design all of my own covers as well. I am currently saving up to try and have a few professional ones done. However, I am not a fan of the cookie-cutter models that all fantasy books have lately, so it could become an issue when I finally set out to have some designed.
Unfortunately, not having covers designed professionally and not sticking to that cookie-cutter design will likely lead to fewer sales. But every author has to do what they feel is right.
Romelia: HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?
Brand J. Alexander: I have written nine total books, although that includes short stories and novellas as well as my full-length novels. Only seven of them are currently published.
My favorite would have to be Fall of Tears. As mentioned earlier, when I first set out to write Rise of Tears and Fall of Tears, I intended it to be a single novel. So the second half, Fall of Tears, stands as the climactic end to what I had initially intended to be my first novel. It was a powerful story on its own, but for me, it is even more powerful because it is my first completed book. Needless to say, I cried a little when I wrote the final words to it.
Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK DID YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WRITING?
Brand J. Alexander: I’m not really sure about this one. While I have had difficulty with some of my other books, this one pretty much flowed out of me. I don’t remember having much difficulty with it.
Although the name of the final villain in Fall of Tears did take me a week. I still have about eight pages full of names from my effort to find the right one with the right feeling to it.
Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK WAS THE MOST FUN TO WRITE?
Brand J. Alexander: The final four or five chapters of Fall of Tears take place at an event called the Daharra. Earlier in the story, the plot follows a single tribe of the Kahn Shogal in their homeland. Once they arrive at the DAharra, it introduces the other clans from the other lands of Elerea. The diversity was exciting to write. I also loved introducing the wider world beyond the Highlands.
Those final chapters also contain the conclusion I had been envisioning for over a year. So finally being able to put those scenes to paper was invigorating and quite exciting.
Romelia: WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AND WHY?
Brand J. Alexander: I tend to think I relate most to old Durn. He is kind of old and curmudgeonly, like me. But he is also very wise and loves telling stories. Durn is passionate about the history of his world and how it has influenced the present day. I share those passions about my worlds.
Romelia: IF YOU’RE PLANNING A SEQUEL. CAN YOU SHARE A TINY BIT ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR IT?
I am currently working on the sequel for Fall of tears right now, Tears of the Fallen.
The events of the first two books prepared the main character Asahn for the trials he is about to face. Now, he must set out into the wider world and face off against the threats that have been building around him. The world of Elerea is still dying, and he must discover the cause and hopefully a solution. But he also must uncover the mystery of his people’s new enemy, the Order of Light, and figure out what is behind their growing powers.
Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR ADULT LIFE.
Brand J. Alexander: Not really sure what would be funny. Maybe amusing. As an adult, I still sing Disney show tunes around the house. Does that count?
Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.
Brand J. Alexander: I am a country boy at heart who grew up exploring the wilderness around me and imagining fantastical stories along the way. When I became disabled with a pain condition in my twenties, I turned to the fantasy worlds I had created in my mind to fulfill the things I could no longer do in the real world.
Thankfully, when I had difficulty taking care of myself, I was able to rely on my loving husband, who has been by my side now for almost eighteen years. Together we try to help the other accomplish their dreams. Without him by my side, I may have never reached the point where I could write and share my stories, and I am profoundly grateful.
What do I hate about the world? I hate how poorly mankind treats its natural places. We use the world with a certainty that it is there for us to use, never considering the millions of other species who rely on the world around us. We destroy natural spaces and plant barren green lawns because it looks good to us and ignore how few species can coexist with us in these ecological deserts. Because of that, I garden and tend my yard as a sanctuary for wildlife. I plant my gardens not just for beauty but with a consideration for how beneficial it is to other species besides myself.