Walter Brockmann is one of our new authors and our resident YA Fantasy specialist. I was pleased to be able to perform his first interview after the release of the first book in his The Seventh Order series. He will be signing books at Sports Dome Kenosha on Saturday, October the 14th from 1-3 p.m. If you’re in the area, swing by and ask the author your own questions. If you’re not, don’t worry. You can still purchase his book from the TouchPoint Press bookstore or Amazon. And keep an eye out for the second book in The Seventh Order series, which he is currently writing.
- I know that you started writing when you were a kid. Did you keep your childhood stories? When did you first consider yourself a “real” writer? What do you think of those stories now?
I do! Well, my mom, technically, is the one who’s kept them, but I still have them. “Sharks” is a book I wrote in first grade, about…well, sharks, and there’s another about me and my friend Ben. We go to Pluto and meet some aliens. My writing style has matured since then, but I still like to write about space!
I probably first considered myself a “real” writer in high school, when I wrote my first novel. It was called “The StoryTeller,” and I’ve actually grabbed some characters and ideas from that book and used them in The Ruby-Eyed Child. Unfortunately, that one didn’t get picked up (to be honest, it wasn’t all that good) so the only way you can read it is if you talk to my friend Eric and get the copy I printed for him freshman year of college.
I have a special connection with everything I’ve ever written, even stuff that was pretty terrible! For instance, my first attempt at a novel was in fifth grade. I still have the spiral notebook I wrote it in. Obviously, the writing isn’t great, but to me, it’s something special because it reminds me of how long I’ve been doing this, and how much I love it. Even the little “books” I wrote when I was little mean a lot to me. I can’t ever remember a time when there weren’t stories in my head that needed to be told.
- That’s awesome! So often, love of literature and the written word is developed at a young age. How did you choose TouchPoint Press when it came time to submit The Ruby-Eyed Child for consideration? We encourage our authors to be involved in every step of the publishing process. How involved were you in this process?
I first was turned on to TPP by a college friend of mine. She suggested I submit, and here we are! As for the publishing process, I represented myself, so very involved! It was pretty cool to really be a part of the book from beginning to end.
- What do you want your readers to know? What were you trying to say with your book? What is your motivation or reason for writing?
I’ll start by saying that people often find deeper meaning in my writing than I do myself! With that said, I do try to sneak in some different themes that I find particularly important.
- Maybe you’ll get to elaborate on those themes at a later date. I have a very serious question for you now. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do! Kind of. My full name is Justin Walter Brockmann, so I go by J. Walter Brockmann. I think it has a nice ring to it.
- The Ruby-Eyed Child is a character-driven story. All of the characters are unique and play integral, and sometimes surprising, roles. How do you handle your characters in your mind? How realistic are they and their world? Do you think it’s important to have real, physical inspiration or models or not? If characters aren’t difficult to write, what is your “writing kryptonite”?
I think my stories are pretty character-driven…at least that’s the goal! My characters are very real to me, and when I’m thinking about plot, I often find myself impersonating them. I think it helps me get into the mindset of ‘what would this character really do or say in this situation?’ So I’ll have little conversations with myself between characters. Probably looks kinda weird at the coffee shop, but hey…writers are pretty weird.
As for what, in particular, my characters look like, that honestly isn’t that important to me. Sure, I like to have a basic idea, but I think, for the most part, a well-written character shouldn’t have to be described much. They should jump off the page at you not because of how they’re described but because of who they are, what they say and do. So when I write, I try to “feel” the character more than I try to see them, if that makes any sense.
My writing kryptonite is probably pacing. I tend to get excited about what I’m writing and try to get through things too fast.
- Ever since reading your manuscript, I’ve wanted to ask you one very important question: How did you name your characters? I love Spawn’s name. I don’t know why it suits her – it shouldn’t – but it does! What was your favorite and/or least favorite character to develop and write about?
Ah! I’ve actually had quite a few people bring this up. I’m glad people like them! I don’t have a “formula” for naming characters. I occasionally use an online name generator (don’t tell anyone!) but I don’t think I’ve ever taken a name straight from it, just ideas. I try to come up with a name that fits into both the character and the world.
In The Ruby-Eyed Child, I decided to go with more nature-based names for the elves, simple names for the humans, gruff names for dwarves, and old/biblical names for vampires. I’m still working on the ghouls. (I only had to name one in the first book!) Once I have the category, I try to find something that fits the character well. I think the name of a character is the most underrated part of really making him/her pop off the page, so I spend a lot of time on it.
My favorite character to write about was Cord. He’s my favorite overall character, and I’m excited about adding some depth to his character and letting you guys see more of him in the coming books. My least favorite character to write about was probably Grunchik. I felt like I had a difficult time encapsulating what he was supposed to be, and I ended up sort of all over the place with him.
- Well, I can’t wait to see what you have in store for the characters in the next book. Are there any little hints or tidbits that you can give your fans? Also, do you have any non-series writing plans?
Well, I can’t tell you too much! With that said, The Olympiad of Races is going to play a pretty big role in the coming books, so I’m excited to see how that turns out. Outside of this particular series, I’m always working on things! Right now, I have a series of short, episodic type stories called “Rooster & the Building” that I’m working on. It’s very weird and more sci-fi than I usually write, but it’s been fun!
- You seem to embody the joy that is supposed to be a part of the writing process, but it’s not all fun and games. What has been the hardest part of the writing process? The editing process?
The hardest part of the writing process, for me, is the time that it takes to put together a good book. It’s hard to sit down with an idea in your head, start working on it, and say, “I won’t have much to show for this for a year, maybe two years.” That’s tough. But it’s worth it when it all comes together.
The hardest part of the editing process…boy. Writers don’t like editing, you know? I would probably say, and hopefully, this will make sense: I would say it gets really, really difficult to step back and read the book like a reader would. You get so close to the story, to every line, almost, that it makes it tough to pull yourself back and feel it the way a reader would.
- So tell me, where does the magic happen? What writing habits do you have, and are you a paper person or a computer person?
Oh, computer for sure. I wrote some of my very early stuff (late middle school/early high school) by hand, and it was terrible. There’s no backup copy, it hurt my hand, and it’s almost literally impossible to read what I write. (I somehow make my g’s look like s’s, and that’s just the start.) I actually do most of my writing at either Starbucks or the library. I don’t like to do it in a place like my house because it’s too familiar and too easy to get distracted.
- I understand the handwriting thing. I have to concentrate really hard if I want to write something that someone else can read. Maybe it’s just a writer thing. Does your bookshelf reflect your own writings? I have found that the answer isn’t always yes. What do you love about your genre?
Definitely. Ha. Pretty much all I read is YA fiction…weird, dystopian, fantasy YA fiction. I started reading it in middle school, and I guess I never really grew out of it! I love strange, different worlds, whether it’s writing about them or reading them.
- Weird?…Huh. I don’t know what you’d classify as weird, but I think it’s great that you write what you love! Do you want your work to fit into your favorite genre or stand out? How did you manage either?
I want it to do a little of both. I want it to appeal to lovers of my genre (for The Ruby-Eyed Child, it’s fantasy), but I also want it to stand out within that genre. I think you do that by trying to bring a fresh take on old ideas. For this book, it’s taking common fantasy characters (elves, vampires, etc.) and putting them into a different world than you normally see: more of a dingy, industrial world, but a world still ruled by magic.
- I know that you have recently gone through some big changes in your life. So how do you balance your work, writing, and family lives?
Man! Great question. It isn’t easy all the time, that’s for sure. I got married about a month ago, which obviously changes things quite a bit, but I’ve found time to get some writing done. I usually write in the evenings while my wife is in class.
- Are you part of any writing/reading groups, or is writing a private experience for you?
Writing tends to be a very private experience for me…I’m not sure why. I’m a little bit self-conscious about my work, to be honest, and I don’t like people to see it until it’s finished. I have a couple of people who read my work, and who I bounce ideas off of, but besides them, really no one sees it until it’s a finished product.
- I know that The Ruby-Eyed Child hasn’t been out for long, but I’ve already noticed a lot of positive feedback from readers. With any positive feedback you receive, you’re sure to receive your share of criticism. How do you handle criticism? Do you ever google yourself or read reviews for your work? Do you actively seek out positive criticism?
I handle it okay, for the most part. I have a couple of very supportive text messages from a few people that I’ve saved over the years for when I get frustrated. But for the most part, I understand that I’m not a perfect writer, and not everyone is going to like what I do. I don’t Google myself often and I’m not particularly concerned with finding positive criticism. Positive feedback is great, and necessary, but I think it’s more valuable to address the weaker spots in your writing.
- That’s a great answer! What do you plan to do with your first royalty check?
It depends on how big it is, right? In reality, I’ll probably save it. I just got married, and we’re looking to buy our first house, so that’s the main focus on the financial side right now!
- Do you have any writing/editing pet peeves?
Not really, honestly. I have a few things about my own writing…I get into bad habits of using the same things over and over or trying to make things overly obvious when I write, so that bugs me about my own stuff a little bit. But besides that, not much.
- What have you learned since you first started writing? Has the way that you approach writing/editing/publishing changed?
Oh my gosh…the answer to this question could probably fill a book. I would say that recently, and I was just talking with my wife about this, I’ve really been trying to consider sort of the point between the micro and the macro when writing a novel. Somewhere along the way, what you’re writing ceases to be a collection of individual letters or words and instead becomes a single entity, and I guess I’m trying to learn what that means and what it looks like to understand how these ten thousand individual keystrokes come together to be this single story.
- Wow, I’ve never stopped to think about how that all comes together. It’s truly amazing. I see that you aren’t actually a first-time author. The Ruby-Eyed Child is the first book you’ve published through TouchPoint Press, but it isn’t your first published work. Can you talk a little bit about your other works? How they came about being written and published, and how they cross genres/mediums?
Definitely! I have a couple of different things available, including Rooster, which I mentioned above. I also have a collection of short stories available titled “The Attempted Love Life of Rudy Campbell & Other Short Stories.” I actually shot a short film based on one of the stories in the book, “Richard Blatt and the Magik Elixir.” It’s a pretty light-hearted story, and will be out on Youtube soon!
- I’ll keep an eye out for it! What question are you dying to answer? This is your chance to ask yourself one question.
I always like when people ask me how long I’ve been writing because the answer is quite literally my entire life. And I like answering that question because it shows how much work has really gone into this, and how much I love what I do.
- What is the most underrated book/author in your opinion?
Another tough one. This is maybe a weird answer, but I’m going to go with “Maniac McGee” by Jerry Spinelli. It’s pretty popular, I guess, so I don’t know how underrated it is. It’s a middle-grade book, but I read it for about the tenth time not that long ago, and it’s just super relevant to everything that’s going on right now. I think it was great!
- Okay, and the last question. Drum roll, please! This is super important. What does literary success look like to you?
In a way, I think it’s something I’ve already achieved because every day I get the chance to sit down and do what I love – and that’s been true since long before I ever published anything, or anyone had even ever read what I wrote. In fact, I think anyone who spends time telling stories they love has achieved that success.
You can find out more about J. Walter Brockmann the author of The Ruby-Eyed Child and connect with him through the TouchPoint Press Website, Amazon, or Goodreads.
Happy reading! Let us know if you are already a fan of The Ruby-Eyed Child, and make sure to check our website for more information about author appearances and upcoming books soon.