I’m fortunate enough to be able to work with a lot of great writers who are also great people. I’ve done hundreds of interviews over the last fifteen years, many of which were very fun and informative. Yes, I have my favorites, both types of interviews and people I’ve interviewed.
One of the things I want to do in 2018 is more of those interviews. The first of these you will read shortly, but for now, let me say, The 5 and 3 is dedicated to authors under the Stitched Smile Publications umbrella. There will be others outside of The 5 and 3, but I want to dedicate an entire series to the wonderful authors at SSP.
Here is what the 5 and 3 is: Five writing/publishing related questions, three non-business related questions and one bonus question. Unlike many of my interviews where I tailer the questions to the individual, these interviews will have the same questions for each author. Yes, it sounds generic, but the answers are always so different, sometimes startlingly so.
You are in for a treat with the first 5 and 3. Briana Robertson is a young, up and coming author. Her words drip emotions. Her recent collection, Reaper, was released in December by Stitched Smile Publications, and I can tell you, it is an emotional, white-knuckle rollercoaster ride you won’t soon forget.
To go with being a great writer, Briana is also a terrific person with a huge, huge heart.
I hope you enjoy the first of many 5 and 3 interviews. Here is Briana Robertson.
IN HER OWN WORDS:
Briana Robertson excels at taking the natural darkness of reality and bringing it to life on the page. Heavily influenced by her personal experience with depression, anxiety, and the chronic pain of fibromyalgia, Robertson’s dark fiction delves into the emotional and psychological experiences of characters in whom readers will recognize themselves. Her stories horrify while also tugging at heartstrings, muddying the lines of black and white, and staining the genre in multiple shades of grey.
In 2016, Robertson joined the ranks of Stitched Smile Publications. Her solo anthology, “Reaper,” which explores the concept of death being both inevitable and non-discriminatory, debuted in 2017. She also has stories included in several anthologies.
She is currently serving as Head of Dark Persuasions, the dark erotic branch of Stitched Smile Publications.
Robertson is the wife of one, mother of four, and unashamed lover of all things feline. She currently resides on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, with a backyard view of the Saint Louis skyline, and is a member of the Saint Louis Writers Guild.
A.J.: How do you go from idea to finished story?
BR: Ideas usually come to me in one of two ways: they are born from actual personal experience or from the potential emotional response a character would have to a set of given stimuli. For example, the story Lucy, included in my collection, “Reaper,” started as an idea after my own daughter, who was three at the time, suffered a head injury and had to be rushed to the hospital. Luckily, she turned out to be completely fine. But Lucy evolved as I imagined the worst-case scenario; as I asked myself “What if?” and then followed that line of thinking.
On the other hand, Capitulation, also included in “Reaper,” emerged from a huge surge of anger I initially felt. And as Yoda has always told us, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side. In that story, the protagonist’s anger ultimately leads to despair, guilt, self-hatred, and a not-so-happy ending. I simply let the emotion translate into action and followed the actions as they led to an unavoidable outcome.
A.J.: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
BR: Worrying that my stories will become repetitive. So much of my fiction is inspired by my own experiences, my own emotions, my own psyche, that I tend to doubt whether each story will continue to ring true. Will they all start sounding the same? Will my readers start wanting something different? Will they start hankering for monsters and villains that live outside the main characters’ heads, rather than constantly reading about an inner struggle?
Simply put, self-doubt.
A.J. How do people react when you tell them you’re a writer, specifically a horror writer?
BR: There’s usually an immediate, “Oh, wow! Really? That’s cool.” About half the time it’s followed up with something along the lines of “I always wanted to write a book.” Then there’s usually a question or two about where I come up with ideas, or why do I write what I write. Occasionally I get a request for where they can buy my book.
To be completely honest, I’m an extreme introvert with four kids. I don’t go out much. Most of my socializing is done online, and when I am out in public, I tend to avoid conversing with people at all costs. And when I do converse with them, it’s usually because they’ve made some comment about how cute my kids are—which they are, extremely so. So, I don’t have this experience all that often.
A.J.: If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be and why?
BR: Thana, from the title story, Reaper, of my collection. One, because she’s the Grim-f*cking-Reaper. And secondly, because she’s not based off me. A lot of my characters are, at least in part. They have personality traits or quirks that come directly from me (and no, I’m not going to point out which of those they are). Thana is completely her own character, and I think she’d be fascinating to meet.
A.J.: What qualities make up your ideal readers?
BR: My stories—I like to think—require the reader to be open to an emotional response. They’re not gory horror, they’re not extreme horror, they’re not the kind of horror that makes you jump at shadows. They epitomize the everyday horrors that can catch you completely off-guard and shatter your life, your everyday well-being.
So, my ideal reader has to be willing to experience their worst nightmare. They have to be willing to acknowledge they have a dark side as well, and then be willing to face themselves in the mirror. They have to realize that they themselves may be their worst nightmare.
My ideal reader is intelligent, non-judgmental, and openminded.
A.J.: If you ruled a country and could make one change that couldn’t be revoked, what would it be?
BR: I would abolish exemptions for Congress members from the laws they pass for us common folks.
A.J.: Do you have a guilty pleasure? If so, what is it?
BR: Oh, so many. Binge-watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dance Academy. Musicals. Belting songs from musicals at the top of my lungs while driving. Animals. Gushing over animals I’ve seen a million times at the zoo. Crazy socks. Disney movies. Belting Disney songs at the top of my lungs while driving. Click-bait. Hollywood award shows.
A.J.: Can you give us one memory from your childhood that helped to shape you into the person you are now?
BR: When I was twelve, a close friend of the same age committed suicide. He attended the public school, and I attended a parochial school in the next town over, so we only saw each other after school or on weekends. We got to be close because neither of us had too many friends at our respective schools; we were both teased and picked on fairly relentlessly. The difference was, I had supportive parents who paid attention. His dad was an alcoholic, and his mom had eyes only for his little sister. So, one day, when the teasing had been especially bad, he took a final ride around the neighborhood on his skateboard, and then went home and hanged himself in the garage.
I saw him that day. He came by to see me while he was riding around town. Two hours later he was dead. I had known something was wrong, but I was way too young to understand the signs I was seeing, or to know what they might lead to. He didn’t want to talk about it, and I did all I knew how to do. I gave him a hug, told him the other kids weren’t worth it, and I’d see him that weekend.
When I found out he was gone, I swore even at that young age, that I would 1) make an effort to not be purposely cruel to other kids (I haven’t always succeeded) and 2) I would try like hell to always be attentive to my kids, that I would pay attention and know when there was a problem, so that, God forbid, any of them ever decided to take their own life, I wouldn’t stand there afterward, like his mom had, and say “I didn’t know anything was wrong.”
A.J.: How does your spouse feel about your writing? Does he support your pursuit of writing/publishing?
BR: I’m going to be completely uncooperative here and refuse to speak for him. My writing, just like his job, our kids, housecleaning, etc., is a drain on time we get to spend together, and it, just like the others, can sometimes garner negativity. But that’s an issue between him and me; it’s one we’ve discussed at length between ourselves, and it’s nobody else’s business.
That being said, he tells me often how proud he is of me and my writing. That’s enough for me.
You can find Briana at:
On Twitter: @Briana_R_Author
On Instagram: @wyfnmmarbrtsn