Interview with Brandon Luffman

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Georgia, but I've lived in North Carolina since I was old enough to remember. Rural North Carolina is a lot like any other rural place, but there are little things that set life here apart from the rest. Plainspoken, honest people lead to a culture based in frank and open talk. That translates to my writing. I don't shy away from a subject, but instead I face it head-on. That creates fiction that isn't fettered by niceties. I prefer instead to offer the reader an experience that often has a raw edge. But, that honesty in fiction is what creates believable tension and facilitates the suspension of disbelief.
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing fiction for the entertainment of others since about the 6th grade. That was when I discovered how powerful (and fun) it is to connect with someone through writing. Having that emotional impact and being able to affect readers deeply is an amazing thing.

However, while I considered writing as a potential career throughout my school years, in particular in high school, after graduation I drifted away from writing for a time. I would come back to it now and then, but kept putting it off.

Eventually, I decided that if I was ever to get anywhere as a writer, I would have to take it seriously. In 2011, I set out to do just that. Now my first novel (Frostwalker) is out as well as some of my short work, and more is in the pipeline!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Originally, like many people interested in writing fiction professionally, I had thought I'd go the traditional route of searching for an agent and trying to sell work to the traditional publishers. However, when I started pursuing my writing seriously, I wasn't just writing and editing my work, but also learning a lot about the modern publishing business.

I had known about self-publishing for some time, but I hadn't really thought it was a viable route to really find success as an author. However, the more I learned about the subject, the more apparent it became to me that (at least in my case) self-publishing independently was the only way to go.

Over the first few months, I had queried a few agents and done the traditional sacred dances that authors are "supposed" to perform. But I kept finding myself coming back to the same question: WHY? Why go through all that? If a time comes when I NEED an agent, I'll have the credibility to find one. But, for now, I don't need one, because at this stage in the game, an agent is mainly just a conduit to a traditional publisher. Why would I want a traditional publisher? In this age of print on demand, social media, and liberating self-empowerment, why seek out someone to do the things that I can do myself?

The traditional publishing system has a few advantages. But, those advantages aren't worth the trouble it takes to get them - and that's assuming you're lucky enough to get into that system when there are so many great books out there and only so many books they can publish in a given time frame.

The biggest hurdle to overcome in deciding to go indie was admitting to myself that self-publishing doesn't mean my work is any less worthy than traditionally published books. Are there droves of poorly written, unedited books out there in the indie book market? Certainly! But that doesn't mean that I can't produce something that IS well-written and carefully edited!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
In my other life (that dreary life we have to occupy when not reading or writing) one of my jobs is running a small business. Long ago I learned that simplicity is often the better path. I would decline to sell a given product, despite it being popular, if it was something that was very difficult to obtain or if the source was someone who was hard to work with. Keeping things simple might shrink your bottom line a little at first, but it pays great dividends in the long run, because you have less stress and more time to devote to growing your business rather than begging some supplier for product or struggling with some complicated website backend.

For me, Smashwords means simplicity! I want to offer my work in as many places as possible. I know that many people have a given ebook reader, or have loyalty to a specific retailer. But, rather than publish through all of those different retailers and have all those accounts to manage, I can simply publish through Smashwords and let my work be distributed worldwide at the click of a button. One account to manage, one interface to work through, and it all flows out from there!

Could I get better royalties if I did it all on an individual basis? Maybe. I honestly don't care. That simplicity is worth a great deal to me!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
For me, there is nothing better than that feeling of connection with the reader. When you really get your hooks in them and you've got them truly invested in the story, that is the payoff. That's why I write. Some write for therapy. Some write to teach. I write to entertain, and I do it all for that buzz I get when the reader is swept along and I know that I'm giving them joy, fear, sadness, love, disgust, whatever. That's what I'm after.
What are you working on next?
Presently, I'm working on more short stories. Primarily, there's a near-future, dystopian, sci-fi, western sort of piece that I'm beating on called A Man With A Gun. That one has been a tough project to keep on, but it's got some great bits and I'm really excited to see where it leads.

Aside from that, there are a few other ideas bouncing around in my noggin, and the long version of Out After Dark that may someday see the light of day. For now that's very far on the back burner, though.

Lastly, I have an idea for a new book that may take things in a different direction for me. It's WAY too early to reveal anything specific, but fans of Frostwalker may find it appealing. It's probably not going to be a horror piece, but more contemporary/urban fantasy.
Who are your favorite authors?
I'm a fan of a wide range of authors, and read lots of different sorts of fiction. In the traditional side, I like the usual folks: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tad Williams, Tom Clancy, David Weber, Jack Campbell, Jim Butcher. I'm also fond of some of the older players like Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov and the like.

In the indie scene, there are lots of fantastic authors out there. Rebecca Hamilton is a great example, as well as S. M. Boyce. Some other up-and-coming indies are also on my radar.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I get out of bed each and every day because you can't live in bed. I've tried. It just doesn't work. It would be nice if you could do so, but no. Access to a laptop helps. You can do a lot from the bed with a laptop and internet access. However, there's always that problem of paying the bills, and that requires income, and (for now) income means getting out of bed to go to the dreaded "day job".

So, more people need to buy my books! If enough people buy my books, I can stay in bed, write all day on the laptop, and we'll all be happy! What a wonderful vision for the future!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Between work and kids, there's a lot going on in my life. But, aside from those things, I like to have fun when I can. I've always been a gamer, and I probably always will be. I'm a fan of video games as well as tabletop roleplaying games and miniature wargaming. Roleplaying games are probably a big part of my storytelling background.

Aside from gaming, I have a few other hobbies that I pick up and put down as the mood strikes. I'm into programming and software development, electronics and robotics, flight simulation, and a few other odds and ends.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was a fantasy piece I did in the sixth grade for an assignment. It was supposed to be at least a page long and, if I recall correctly, it ended up being three or four pages. I've always been long winded!

It was a totally original story, but it was inspired by a game I had been playing on our Apple IIc computer at home. The game was called Eamon, and was a text-based adventure roleplaying game.

That story was very well received and the next assignment I ended up with a sequel story that ran five or six pages!
What is your writing process?
For me, the process always starts with a small kernel of something interesting. It might be an interesting character, or a intriguing idea for a potential conflict, or perhaps a partially formed scene that comes to mind.

This idea stews and ferments for a while. This is mostly a subconscious process. It will rise to the surface now and then, and I'll think about it a bit before it sinks back down to brew some more. Eventually, if it's got a shot at being something more than just an idea, it will either nag me until I start writing it, or I'll drag it out and play with it a bit and see if it's got legs.

Sometimes the idea will develop into a bit of a sketch of where the story will go, but usually I don't have any idea what lies ahead. I don't plot or plan. I just can't do that. Some authors can't write a word until they've got binders full of character bios and plot points and storyboards. Any time I try plotting, it just kills the story. You just have to tease it out and let it flow into the keyboard. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's like pulling teeth, but if there's a story to be found, it will eventually make its way out with a little work!

After I've gotten the first draft done, (with perhaps a bit of quick proofreading and polish if it's something short) it gets handed off to my first reader - my wife. In addition to her, I send copies to beta readers. Once I've gotten the feedback from them, I go in and work up the second draft. Then that goes to my editor, who sends me her first round edits, which I use to create the next draft, which I then send back to her. This goes back and forth a few times until we think we've got it nailed down.

Then, the story is done!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I've tried a lot of different ways to get my work noticed by readers, but most of it all comes down to one thing: There is simply no substitute for word of mouth recommendations from readers who enjoyed your book! When you're just starting out, as I am, you don't have a broad audience waiting on your next release. You're trying to build an audience, and the only way to do that is to convince people that your work is worth taking a chance on with their hard-earned money.

When you pick up something from an author you've never read, consider why you did so. Almost always, this is because the book was recommended to you by a friend. We find new authors by borrowing books from our friends, or hearing about what they've been reading when we talk with them.

Most of us aren't vanguards - we have our comfortable rut and we like to stay there most of the time. Why buy something you don't know anything about when you have plenty to read from people you KNOW you like to read? But, those who are vanguards, those who actively seek out new authors and search for the diamonds in the rough, those people are invaluable to indie authors like myself. Because they tell the rest of us who sit in our ruts where those diamonds can be found.
Published 2013-08-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Frostwalker
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 79,390. Language: American English. Published: May 7, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Horror » Undead
(4.40)
When his small hometown of Wynn, North Carolina falls under an ancient curse, Jake Marsden will find himself in a battle against creatures worse than any he’s faced in a game. Playing for keeps, it will be geek versus god in the fight to stop an evil force bent on destroying everything he holds dear.
The Card
Price: Free! Words: 5,990. Language: English. Published: January 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Horror » Occult
(4.40)
When a strange tarot card appears in a friend's deck, Jason assumes it's just a prank done in poor taste. But, when terrible events befall those around him, he must face the possibility that something sinister is afoot. This 4,500 word short is a supernatural horror story in the spirit of the pulp era, but with a modern feel.
Out After Dark
Price: Free! Words: 3,600. Language: English. Published: December 28, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
(5.00)
A cat and mouse game played by those who stalk the night. Who is the hunter and who is prey? This 2,100 word short explores the classic vampire and hunter story from a different angle.