From Plot Bunny to Published Novel: an interview with The Bureau of Time author, Brett Michael Orr
Hey there, friends. Fancy a sneak peak inside an author's process?
Today's your lucky day!
As you might know, I used to host a monthly interview series highlighting an author who had inspired me with the story of their writing journey. I had a lot of fun collaborating with these writers, getting to know them better via our fun interviews.
But, for reasons entirely my own fault, the interviews also seemed a bit disjointed. I most often used a standard set of questions rather than tailoring the interview to the author's story, and so reader feedback was understandably a bit dry. Simply put, I was a bad interviewer, so I put an end to the series...
But it's redemption time, baby!
When today's guest, The Bureau of Time author Brett Michael Orr, reached out to me for a collaboration, I could hardly wait to write up some interview questions. This guy is an amazing author and incredible human being, and his publishing journey is one you definitely don't want to miss.
We had so much fun putting together this quirky, little interview. So without further ado, let's get started!
Hey! Welcome to She's Novel, Brett. Why don't we begin by talking about the exposition in your writing journey? What led you to become a writer?
I think my path to becoming a writer was similar to most writers - it started with reading a lot as a kid, having parents who read regularly to me. My mum always says I could read before I could talk, and when I did speak, it was with a lot of words!
So naturally reading progressed into wanting to tell stories. I had a lot of creative play time with Lego and toys, and as a kid, I’d tell these really complex stories set in new worlds I had made up myself.
From there I started coming up with my own ideas - even as young as about seven or eight, I was writing short stories about a private investigator (one day I’d like to return to this, in proper novel format), and then branched into my first novels at about fifteen.
Everything after that has been about finding my way in life, realizing what my talent and passion really is–what being a writer actually means.
You recently published your debut novel, The Bureau of Time. Congratulations!
What are the beginning chapters to this story in your writing journey? Where did the idea for The Bureau of Time come from and how did you prepare to write the story?
The funny thing with Bureau is, it was a spur-of-the-moment novel. It was late October 2014, and I had just started getting into the writing/bookish community online. I saw all these people doing NaNoWriMo, and I spontaneously decided to challenge myself to write a new novel in a month.
I’d just come off the back of my last manuscript, which wasn’t going anywhere with agents/publishers. I wanted to get ‘back’ into writing, and the community surrounding me was amazing. I had this idea in my head, initially, of a contract agency that would go back in time to assassinate people - and then it twisted around, and suddenly it was an agency defending our world against these assassins, who later became the Adjusters.
NaNo then led into a year of rewrites, edits, betas, querying, and finally settling on independent publication.
Every good story has rising action. What did your writing and editing processes look like for this book? Did you face any crises that you had to overcome?
Writing The Bureau of Time, I had a battle plan of sorts. I read a lot from other writers and authors, learned about the processes of editing and beta-reading, and so I knew going into the new manuscript that I wanted a very precise progression from draft to release.
I did have a few crises - real life, as is does, interfered a lot. I was writing this novel during my last year of university, which was a really stressful time, but I think having that creative outlet helped me, and Bureau quickly turned into a project that I was quite passionate about.
Overcoming my own doubts was the biggest problem, and to be honest, I still haven’t. That’s true of every writer though, no matter where you are in your career. Mark that one down as a ‘recurring antagonist’ I think!
So let’s talk about the climax of your debut novel journey.
How did you nab a deal with Fontaine Publishing Group and what were some of the difficulties you faced in publishing?
Fontaine Publishing Group is an amazing independent digital publishing group based in Australia, and I’ve worked with them to get my novel to digital format.
The biggest difficulty is simply spreading the word - Fontaine have done an incredible job of getting my novel to digital bookstores and lending libraries around the world, but generating interest and demand for my book is always really tough.
One of the toughest parts was deciding on the cover - it was stressful choosing between dozens of designs from competing artists, and finally settling on the released cover. I had an incredible cover-release event around the world to celebrate publication, and everyone has loved the cover - myself included!
Now that The Bureau of Time is available worldwide, you’re on a new leg of your writing journey.
What has the response to your novel been like thus far? Have you learned anything from feedback and reviews that has shaped how you plan to approach your writing in the future?
Something I’ve learned post-launch is that you can’t please everyone. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but also amusingly conflicting - one review might note a particular aspect of the book they didn’t like, and the next review will say they love it. So, I’ve learned that you can’t quite predict your readers, and you can only write how you want to write.
Interactivity with the community is key - as a reader/blogger, knowing that I can tweet an author and have them interact, that they’re a real person, is really important in building relationships. So I always strive to be accessible and friendly on social media, to always take time to provide advice to younger writers or just to talk about my favorite books!
What about a sequel? Will we get a literal sequel to The Bureau of Time? What is the next (metaphorical) book in your writing journey?
There’s definitely a sequel to The Bureau of Time, and it’s entitled The Fate of Us. There’s a third and final book planned as well—watch this space, as they say!
I think the metaphorical sequel will be interesting, to say the least. There’s a lot of possibilities there, and I would like to see Bureau reach physical publication at some point - so that’s something I hope the (literal) sequel will facilitate.
The writing journey itself sees me continually growing as a writer - I think no matter what stage of your writing career you’re at, there’s always room for improvement. I’m reading more than ever to help understand the current market, to see how readers are shaping what books are being written.
The writing journey is a road without an end, I think—in the sense that there’s no hard goal or milestone by which we can measure success. We all stop at a point we’re comfortable with, and there’s more than enough readers out there for all of us; we shouldn’t try to compete with others, or get stuck in the comparison trap.
The journey is about improving ourselves as writers, and only we can judge when we’ve done that successfully.
How much fun was that? A big thank you to Brett for joining us today. If you enjoyed this interview and would like to see more inside peaks at authors' publishing journeys, make sure to let us know in the comments below. And don't forget to check out Brett's novel, The Bureau of Time, available now.
(P.S. Wasn't that book cover amazing? *swoons*)