Interview with Roman Theodore Brandt

What are your plans for the near future?
That's a good question. Lately, I've been struggling with some personal issues and I'm planning to take some time off starting mid-March, after the release of Illumination. I'm proud of Illumination, and I think it's a good place to pause, so to speak. Will there be a release in April, May, or even June? I don't know. I've got stories in my head I plan to write. I'm not stopping writing, mind you. I'm getting tired and moody, as writers are prone to doing, and I want to curl in and stop sharing for a while. I will be back, though. I have obligations to fulfill, including a few Novellas, which I will be working on. I'll be active until mid-March for sure, and I appreciate all the love and support I've been shown. The experience so far has been a lovely one, and I wouldn't trade any of it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Last Bus Home is the story of a very lonely man who lives by himself in a concrete high-rise low income box and works at a factory making cat boxes and trash cans. He receives a bus ticket in the mail from his dead mother, and all the ticket says is Route Zero: Home.

This story is one that has been at the core of everything I've every written about a mother-son relationship and deals with some very rough emotions that I've dealt with these past few years since losing my mother to breast cancer. I think it's a very human wish to be able to see a dead parent again, and decided to put a paranormal spin on it.

It's free, as always, and I hope my readers enjoy it. Aside from Ghosts and some elements of Midnight at the Bowling Alley, it's my first true paranormal story.
It's been a while since you've released a book on Smashwords. Why the long wait between Midnight at the Bowling Alley and now?
That's a good question. I found myself in a place where I wanted to improve my writing. I wanted to be better, more clear in my descriptions, and harness the power of emotional resonance.

I've been writing throughout my hiatus, but none of it has been what I wanted to write until recently. I've got a novella on the way called Meet Me at the End of the World, and it will be free. I also have a number of brand new short stories and a revised version of Midnight at the Bowling Alley coming in the next month or two.

I've definitely been busy, but I've just now decided that the new work is worthy of a comeback. I hope it lives up to the hype.
Tell us more about Meet Me at the End of the World? What is it about? What can readers expect from it?
Meet Me at the End of the World is about Joey, a boy who lives with his alcoholic mother and teen brother in a truck stop town. He wants nothing more than to leave the life he knows behind. He meets a dark stranger, a real character. His name is Franklin. Joey thinks that Franklin is going to take him away, but in the end, he might just be another way for Joey to hurt himself.

I think this novella's story is something my readers have expected from me for a while now. It's not necessarily a vampire story. I don't ever use that word. I think it's a tacky word when it comes to modern fiction. I wanted to create something new, because I've almost no concept of what a "vampire" actually ought to be. There are so many definitions. What I've created in Franklin is a lost soul. He's a cool, cold, unreadable creature who may or may not be planning to hurt Joey. It's a statement about love, trust, and humans in general.

I suppose the most obvious thing readers can expect from the novella is more text. In print form, it comes to a little under 75 pages. As for whether anyone actually will like it: I guess we'll see. I'm excited and nervous to see what happens.
How do you approach cover design for the novella? Did you try to differentiate this cover from covers of previous books?
In a way, I suppose I did. The cover is simple and geometric compared to previous covers. The words come together to form shapes in my mind, and I tried to convey that in the typography of the design. I don't use pictures or photos, only text. It's a difficult way to do things, but it's my preferred method.
Did you say that Meet Me at the End of the World will be free? When can readers expect it to be released?
Yes, it's going to be free. I look at it as a thank you gift to everyone who has supported my work and downloaded my ebooks. I'll be releasing Meet Me at the End of the World on December 15th, 2014 on Smashwords.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I think my primary motivation in becoming an indie author was a lack of books that I felt represented myself and people like myself. As a gay man, of course I am interested in gay fiction, but I noticed also that most indie fiction aimed at gay men is marketed as erotica and romance, or it deals with a life threatening disease such as AIDS. It almost always has a sexual or relationship aspect to it, which is fine, but I wanted more. I wanted a story with a conflict beyond getting to sleep with some hot guy or living with a fatal disease or being picked on. I wanted a story about gay men who are not only gay men, but have inner conflicts and emotions I can relate to.

I think that if I can relate to a character, the story that character inhabits is reaching not only myself, but many like me who feel largely under represented in gay fiction. What I mean when I say "like me" are gays who want stories about gay men and women leading ordinary lives with normal human interests beyond the bedroom.

It is this desire that led me to become an indie author. Indie authors also get the distinction of being a huge part of pop culture right now, but that's merely a perk.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for me would have to be the knowledge that I have the unique opportunity to create worlds in which my readers live, if only for a few minutes. I write because I know that I am given the ability through writing to create characters and situations to which people can relate, and I would have it no other way.
What do your fans mean to you?
My readers are the reason I write. I know that's a very common response from an author, but I have wonderful memories of interacting with readers from when I was convinced that I ruled an empire on Livejournal, almost a decade ago.

in reality, my reach was very small, but over the years my online presence has afforded me the opportunity to meet and talk to people who actually read my work. Some of them have become good friends. I really love my readers, and it is because of the people who take the time to read something I have written that I have the courage to write in the first place.
What are you working on next?
I have several short stories in post-production and I am working on a novel, all of which I plan to release in ebook format on Smashwords and in print format elsewhere. I will, of course, provide links to print versions the moment they are available.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors include, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Kate Chopin, J.D. Salinger and William S. Burroughs. I read mostly mid-century fiction.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Usually iced coffee and unhealthy food at the moment. I'm hoping to change that.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I answer phones for a company, and I help customers troubleshoot issues with their computers.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was this really terrible entry into the Young Authors competition in first grade. Every year, we were required to submit a story to this competition and compete against our classmates. I lost, of course, because no one wants to read a story about a house that just sits in a yard, especially not other children. I know these days that the house ought to have no windows or lose rooms or be haunted.
What is your writing process?
My writing process varies. I sometimes make an outline and stick to it, and other times (usually for very short pieces such as "Drive") I just kind of slash open an artery and bleed on the page. if I like the stain it makes, I keep it.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I think that the most effective for me has been printing bookmarks with the book's name and URL on them and going around libraries and book stores and sticking them in books already there.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the small town of Portland, Indiana. There were three gay people in the whole town, and as a gay man, I felt intensely isolated from the rest of the world. It was understood in Portland that you ended up three ways at your funeral: a sad fast food or retail worker, a sad factory worker, or a bitter alcoholic.

I think that this has really influenced how my characters think, because they are all essentially filtered through my brain before they reach the page.
It's a very crowded marketplace. What do you hope will distinguish you from others writing for the same audience?
That's a good question. I'm not sure I expect to actually change anything, but I suppose I want to write books about ordinary people in realistic situations, and books that I'd want to read. It's very hard to find books out there aimed at young gay men that aren't purely romance, medical tragedy, or erotica. Mainstream media gets all the good plot lines, and we get outdated stereotypes in badly composed text. There are some good books out there, but nothing like what's available outside of the LGBTQ label.

I've realized that while I don't necessarily want to be associated singularly with gay fiction (because it's been marginalized by the above-mentioned stereotypes), I've realized that if I want books whose characters happen to be gay, I'll have to write them for myself. By writing them for myself, I hope I can also write them for someone else.
When did you first start writing?
I began writing when I was about eight years old. I wrote some of the dumbest things to ever be submitted to the Young Authors program. I was always crushed when someone's story about a baby duckling was picked over my own story which (in my mind) contained so much more drama and awesomeness. I look back on those stories I wrote at that age and cringe a little bit. I realize I was just learning, but they make me want to burn them. Humility goes a long way, I've learned. What one writes now might seem great, but years later, one's opinion might change.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I find a lot of the ebooks I read based on print books that I read. The ebook format offers me the opportunity to read books that went out of print decades ago, which makes me happy.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I do a lot of e-reading on my laptop, to be honest. I like the bigger screen, and mine is touch screen, so it's a lot like reading on a tablet. Otherwise, I use an iPod Touch when I'm on the bus or between classes.
Describe your desk
A mess. Definitely chaos. I do most of my writing on a desktop computer that is completely surrounded by printed out drafts I've destroyed with red marks and despair. I know a lot of people pride themselves on being neat and tidy, but I have no idea how those people find anything to be honest.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has allowed me to finally connect with my readers, who are kind of like celebrities in my mind. Meeting someone in person who has read my work is the best experience that's come out of all of this.
Published 2015-02-16.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The End of Everything Bad
Price: Free! Words: 2,220. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Coming of age
(4.00 from 1 review)
Momma came back three days after we put her in the ground. She was all black, like a Momma-shaped hole sitting on the couch. Then Daddy came back too.
Life Among the Voids
Price: Free! Words: 11,130. Language: English. Published: December 26, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Literature » Literary
(3.67 from 3 reviews)
Somewhere on the lake, far down the highway, a gunshot echoed across the water. Birds took off from the trees, their fluttering silhouettes dark against the sunset, and then both my parents were gone. I was completely alone in this world, with no one to shield me from the oncoming voids of death and old age.
I Left My Heart at Terminal Tower
Price: Free! Words: 6,420. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay
(5.00 from 1 review)
Cleveland was darker without him. They shut the subway down when he left. I remember his voice in my ear, whispering. "Don't let it consume you." Well, I guess I did. I guess it happened, because here I am. He always said he'd come back.
All the Stars in the Sky
Price: Free! Words: 9,850. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Coming of age
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Mom always told us to stay out of the woods behind the house. There was something final about the way she said it, like she had been there her whole life. She didn't always say a lot to us growing up. Sure, sometimes you couldn't shut her up, but she spent a lot of time just standing at one window or another, staring out at the woods behind the house.
Price: Free! Words: 5,200. Language: English. Published: March 31, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Horror » Ghost
It's Mark's birthday, and he has a secret to tell his mother. But will the world as he knows it end before he can do it? Did it end years ago? Or did it ever exist? Mark: What if we're already dead? Cody: I think we would have noticed by now.
We Wore Our Scars like Wedding Rings
Price: Free! Words: 2,210. Language: English. Published: February 19, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy
We were that last loud couple in the Midwest. We ended up sprawled out on the floor every night, bleeding and reborn. I guess this was what we wanted.
Price: Free! Words: 1,670. Language: English. Published: November 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Coming of age
(2.00 from 1 review)
The night I drove Roger home from a party was the night I had to relive all of my childhood mistakes.
Meet Me at the End of the World
Price: Free! Words: 15,980. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay
(3.33 from 3 reviews)
Joey is a lonely, nineteen-year-old living with his mother and brother in a truck stop town after his father's suicide. Life since graduation has been a holding pattern. That is, until he meets Franklin, a young man working at the local grocery. Franklin is everything Joey has wanted in a friend, but what are his intentions? Is their friendship really healthy?
A Column of Ash
Price: Free! Words: 2,510. Language: English. Published: September 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Drama
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
A Column of Ash is the story of two brothers, one away at college and the other stuck at home, and the small but game-changing betrayal between them. Jim has been away at college for over a year, visiting on holidays. Jeremy has been stuck at home with their verbally and emotionally abusive mom, but his time to leave home is coming. When Jim is invited home for dinner, the family secrets come out.
Midnight at the Bowling Alley
Price: Free! Words: 5,640. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
Midnight at the Bowling Alley is the story of Oscar, who attends his partner's mother's bizarre late night birthday party at a remote bowling alley and wants nothing more than to go home. But will he find that he's doomed to be stuck with Zeke's family forever? Is this possibly the last night on Earth? Was anything ever real? (Note: this is the revised text, posted 07/30/2014)
Price: Free! Words: 870. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay
We came here to get away, and to be in love. What we found was a lonely home in the Midwest.That's life, they tell us. That's normal. Get up, eat, wash the dishes, go to bed. Live life in the living room. When you die, you'll be buried face down on top of your father and his father, each new arrival sending the last closer to hell. Suppose I don't want to live this way anymore?