Today’s author spotlight is on the illustrious Bryan Nowak. Bryan is one to explore every country within reach. I bet he is actually Indiana Jones, always in search of the next horrific adventure!…without further ado, here’s… Bryan!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Bryan Nowak, I’m the author of two books, No Name and The Dramatic Dead. I was born in Chicago, and I moved to a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, when I was fourteen. I went to college in Minnesota at Mankato and still have lots of friends living in that area.
I’ve been married for almost twenty years, and we have three kids. We’ve been very fortunate to live in Germany for the last three years. It has been an experience. So far we have seen over fourteen different countries in Europe. Very soon we will be on our way home, back to Virginia.
- How did you get started on your writing journey?
By reading, of course. As a child I would read a book and then fall in love with that character for a while. No matter who the protagonist was, I’d always try to put myself in their shoes for a while. I got a better appreciation for bringing depth to a character. I am proud to say that I was the proverbial weird child.
I think my parents saw me as strange for the amount of time I spent living in my head. Little did they know that is really the attributes of a writer. It’s a little sad that we sometimes want to put these kinds of kids in therapy for what could be perfectly natural for them.
I was lucky to have teachers support my interest in writing. I’d have to write for class and my teachers would try to support this as much as possible. However, that is a hard thing to do with a school kid when you only have a little time to teach them the things they need to know.
- Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
I love Dean Koontz. He has a wonderful writing style. It really grabs you by the nose and pulls you through the story. You don’t have to flip back a chapter to find out what the heck he’s talking about. Second place would go to Steven King. He has a sense of suspense which is heads and tails above others in horror. In the fantasy realm, I really love Terry Brooks. His Magic Kingdom for Sale series was amazing.
In high school I had a wonderful English teacher who read Poe to us. It opened up a new world to me. We learned to appreciate his works and understand concepts such as symbolism and irony that Poe really does better than anyone. I also love the work of Douglas Adams. Adams knew how to describe incredibly absurd ideas which, taken out of context, you would doubt the sanity of the writer. But within the story line, it’s completely believable.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
My latest book is, called The Dramatic Dead, centers on a private investigator/motorcycle mechanic, Dirk Bentley, who has a flair for cases where leads have dried up and the police are stumped. He’s joined by his best friend, Keith, who is also an investigator (as well as having other jobs), and his humorous ambassador from the beyond, Victor.
By the way, Victor has been hailed as my most endearing character to date.
The police quietly suggest to the mother of the most recent victim that Dirk could be helpful. During the investigation they interview an unusual cast of characters, from a boat salesman trying to hide his grief to a minister who runs afoul of the government for tax fraud.
Victor, working angles only he can, meets and consoles the serial killer’s last victim, who is suffering from post-mortem memory loss. He fights against time to help her regain her memory and adjust to the afterlife.
Meanwhile, the killer selects his next victim, who happens to be a girl Dirk had just interviewed for the case. Dirk, Keith, Victor, and the entire police department have to race against time to find the girl before the killer has a chance to add her death to his tally.
Their investigation focuses on the school’s theater group. Dirk suspects the theater arts teacher is involved, but needs to prove his case. A stake out leads to some tantalizing new facts and opens the door to the world of a madman trying to recapture something he desperately wants to reclaim.
- How is the title significant?
My Mom, as mothers will, pointed out that the title was wrong for the book. So, I was walking home from the train station one afternoon when the title just emerged. The victims are theater students. So, The Dramatic Dead was born.
I really hate long titles. I think it detracts from the book. Something short and impactful is really the way to go. I want to give you just enough to make you curious, enough to make you want to look at the back cover for more information.
- Where did inspiration for this come from?
The inspiration for The Dramatic Dead comes from my love of crime novels and television shows. In particular, I love stories of serial killers, both real and fictional. The central antagonist in The Dramatic Dead, is actually the culmination of several serial killers I’ve researched.
Another influence, for at least one of the characters, was my interest in the paranormal. I always thought it would be interesting to sit down and talk to a ghost. Victor is the manifestation of this thought. A crime fighting ghost sounded like a lot of fun.
- Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Dirk Bentley, our main character, is a private investigator. He is also the owner of the local motorcycle repair shop. He has a knack for seeing connections where no one else does. What most police officers would dismiss as insignificant, he sees as evidence.
Unlike other detective stories, Dirk has a good relationship with the police department. Dirk’s girlfriend, who plays a significant role in the story, is a police sergeant. He loves her, but has a hard time saying it. She is his opposite in some ways. Where he is not above bending the rules, she studies the rules and adheres to them. But Dirk knows where the lines are and how to keep himself out of trouble, if not exactly legal.
Keith is Dirk’s best friend in the world, and would do anything for him. They grew up together, learned how to fix motorcycles together, and he became a licensed investigator to help Dirk out. A man who needs little sleep, none of his jobs are really full-time. He is also the local Methodist Pastor, a columnist for the local paper, and a popular associate professor at the local college. He loves living a life where he never knows completely where his day is going to lead.
Victor is the character that all my readers tell me they love. He is very much the comedic relief in the book. He is best described as cranky, dramatic, and dead. Victor is a ghost. He haunts the motorcycle repair shop and helps Dirk by talking with other spirits to gather evidence from the great beyond. As cranky as Victor is, he is committed to helping the team solve the cases.
Dirk and Keith are really reflections of me and my closest friends. I value relationships. Life is hard, don’t try to do it alone. Dirk, Keith, and Victor are the culmination of those people in my life. Those whom I can turn to, no matter what.
Everyone knows someone like Victor. A friend yes, but someone you bring with you because of what they might do. Always unpredictable, always hilarious, Victor makes you want to spend more time with him because you are fascinated by him. Yes, he can be over the top, but that’s what you love about him. He’s bizarre, but he owns it.
- Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you
People who are interested in crime novels, and just a good entertaining story. I jokingly say I want to be an “airport author”. I want to write the kind of books you buy, or download, before a flight. I want people to recommend my book to others because it’s a fun ride. Not so heavy that you’ll feel pressed under the weight of the story. My number one goal is to entertain.
Victor and Dirk’s niece, Claire, show up in the story to ensure there is some light in Dirk’s world. It’s not a story of a rampant serial killer wreaking havoc in the city. There’s some airiness to the story.
I would have no problem with my fourteen-year-old reading this book. There is some mild sexual suggestion, but nothing graphic. Some strong language, but I really don’t like an overabundance of foul language, so I use it sparingly.
- What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
The world is scary. Have some good friends that have you back, no matter what.
- What is your writing process like?
I prefer to write in the morning. I need some good solid time, about three hours to really concentrate. I listen to classical music while I write, nothing with words. If I have something going on during the mornings, I will write in the evening. I find I write less at night than I do during the mornings.
- How do you go about editing your story?
“I never edit, everything I write is solid gold,” said no serious author ever.
I hate editing. I think most writers do. But I have a system I stick to. I don’t edit until my first draft is done and I’ve typed “THE END”.
Then I go back through the story, reading it on the screen, and catch the obvious mistakes. The next step is to print it off and read the actual written page. Then, I print the thing off and give it to my wife to read. She goes through and finds a lot of things I missed.
Next, it’s off to betas. After they are done with the draft (they’re a brutal bunch), I make those changes. I love my betas; they really help bring the piece home. I give it one final read and then off to the editor.
I have a friend/editor I used for The Dramatic Dead, and I love the work he has done for me. With a few exceptions, I accept his changes. Being an author means you have to learn to trust your editor.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I found my artist on a site where a lot of graphic artists post their work and solicit jobs. I love the work she does. You really have to learn to trust them. She has the uncanny ability to see what I am thinking and put in the page. For The Dramatic Dead, I got goosebumps when I saw her first draft. I had to ask her if she was a mind reader in addition to graphic artist.
My advice to new authors looking for a graphic artist is to remember that this is your book. Even though you are hiring the work out, it’s your name on the book and your reputation. Make sure you are happy with it in the end. You have a right to ask for changes until you feel it’s right.
- How did you go about getting published?
I’m an indie author and will be for the foreseeable future. I don’t bemoan those who went a more traditional route, but I really do see indie/self-publishing as the way authors will become popular in the future. I may go the traditional publishing route in the future if I meet the right agent.
It’ll have to be the right agent though. I am not interested in just anyone, it has to be the right person. I have to believe in them as much as they believe in me. Getting an agent is serious business.
- What was your self-publishing experience like?
Overall, I’ve had a pretty good experience with self-publishing. However, I’m always reluctant to jump into something with both feet without having a good idea of what’s at the bottom. Fortunately, writing a novel isn’t like racing formula one cars, nothing happens quickly. I had time to do the research and look at blogs of people who have gone before me.
I asked a lot of questions and got tons of people willing to give me advice.
- What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros: You’re in control of everything. Every last piece of the enterprise is yours. Life as a self-published author has gotten tons easier with the technological advantages we now have available to us.
Cons: You are in this for the long haul. Even under the best circumstances it’ll take a lot of work for a long time to really make a name for yourself. The praise you get is largely internal. You have to be happy with what you are doing. If you need someone to heap constant praise on you, then self-publishing, or being an author in general, isn’t a good career choice for you.
- What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
The sense of community. I recently wrote a blog how writing is a very solitary experience. I went on in great detail on how writing is really just you … and maybe your family, your friends who beta read, your editor, your friends on Facebook who help you when you have questions, of course your readers. But that’s it … no one else.
Self-publishing really is a community. I’m a member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion community, and the Horror Writers Association. These communities are critical to me and my work. But they’re not just groups or resources, but also friends and sounding boards when I need something or have a question.
- How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
This is a difficult question to answer. I’ve yet to meet the author who has mastered this art. You really have to reach the reading public. Find blogs and forums where the readers are actively sharing information about books.
Make sure you write reviews of other people’s work and ask them to write reviews for you. This is critical. Occasionally reviewers will put out requests for books to review. Jump on these chances! The reviewers will post the review of your book to their own websites and blogs.
Promotion in the self-publishing realm really equals networking and relationship building. People are no longer content to simply buy a book, they are looking for a relationship. They are going to look you up on your website, Facebook page, etc. They want to know the person behind the words.
- Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you
before? Good or bad?
Being a writer isn’t about simply writing. It is very much about being a part of the community of writing. Interestingly enough, this has always been true of writers. Shakespeare was also active in the writing and screenplay community of his time. I like to think he would have been very active in blogging.
- Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Treat it like a hobby, then it will always be just that. No truer words were ever spoken. Do your homework. Participate! Blogs are essential, get active in Facebook groups which support indie writers. I’m active in two which take about ninety percent of my Facebook time. Being an indie writer is going to take over your life and you’ll happily give your life over to it.
The odds of you suddenly becoming a major sensation are largely against you. Be happy with your small successes, when they come. Enjoy writing because it’s what you love to do. Writing is its own reward. Above all, write.
- What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
My next, and third book, is presently in the hands of my beta readers. I have already gotten some amazing feedback. After they are done with it then it will go to the editor for him to do his magic. It is set in Illinois and takes place in a farm house which was the location of a horrible murder suicide. I’m very excited about it. It is titled Crimson Tassels, and it should be out late summer, early fall.
At the end of The Dramatic Dead, I give you a little teaser about the next book. I’m thrilled to tell you that I am working on that manuscript right now. I’m shooting for late fall, early winter. Yes, you can expect to see Dirk, Keith, Victor, and the others again.
Naturally, I’ll continue doing blogs, guest blogs, and shows as well. I’ll be appearing at Scares that Care in Williamsburg, Virginia, in July 2016. I’ll also happy to announce that I’ll be a showcased author at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, in Suffolk, Virginia, on August 13th 2016 and the Fredricksburg Independant Book Festival, in Fredricksburg, Virginia, on September 24th. Information on all of these events can be found on my website.
- What are your social accounts if people want to connect with you?
My goal in life is to be the most discoverable author in the history of the world! You can reach me a whole bunch of different ways.
My website: www.bryannowak.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bryanthewriter/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bryan_TheWriter
My blog: https://bryanthewriter.wordpress.com/.
You can read a sample of The Dramatic Dead by clicking on this link: Bryan Nowak The Dramatic Dead Teaser
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