Author: Bryan K. Johnson
Publisher: American Book Publishing
Published Date: August 14, 2012
Format: Paperback & Kindle
Buy on Amazon: Paperback or Kindle
Author Website: http://www.armageddia.com/
"To sequel or not to sequel..."
by Guest Writer Bryan K. Johnson
It seems like many writers these days are confronted with the same conundrum of continuance. Should I turn my story into a series? At face value, it's a simple enough question. The word "trilogy" can cause a million possibilities to fire inside the depths of our synaptic web, tracing down through dynamic characters and immersive worlds all painted in glorious verbal detail. There are certainly enough success stories of formerly unknown writers finding fame and fortune with a captivating book series: J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games. Audiences and critics alike enjoy multi-part story arcs, often bringing unparalleled success to their creators.
I have also set out down that same long and layered path, taken by many but finished by few. My debut novel, YIELD, is book one of the chillingly intense, shockingly unforgettable, (enter your own superlative here) Armageddia trilogy. The only problem? It's not all written yet.
Marketing a series of ethereal ideas without the concrete parts already in hand is a very real challenge for new writers. How do we know if the first story is going to be well received? What if we haven't been lucky enough to find a publisher with the patience to see our series through? What if there is too long of a gap between releases and all of that hard fought momentum is lost?
The highly competitive book business can be an unforgiving place. Having even one novel pop on the charts as a new writer is hard enough, let alone trying to ride your own coattails years later when all of the intended companion pieces are finally done.
Being new to the industry, I've realized I really don't have a bulletproof answer to the sequel question—not one that applies to everyone. The answer, just like the stories themselves, depends largely on the motivations and commitment of their authors.
My advice, from that place somewhere between hope and disappointment in my gut, is this:
If you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will complete your series—even if book one is an abysmal failure, even if the critics hate it, even if everything else in your life crumbles away—if you are that passionate about your story and have a clear vision for what it can be, then I say do it. Commit to it, and don't give up on your idea even if Dante's inferno opens wide and threatens to swallow you whole. It might just take that kind of commitment and sacrifice to make it.
On the other hand, if you are just testing the waters and trying to get a foothold in the writing world any way you can, you might be better off having several weapons in your literary arsenal. A good writer is a good writer, regardless of the specific story. Having a few finished manuscripts in your hip pocket to show your versatility and style to a prospective agent or publisher may just get you that shot. There can be strength in playing the numbers. Not everyone will like a particular series concept. And if you put all of your eggs in that one basket, your writing career may get poached before you've even had a chance to hatch.
For a special sneak peek at my own sequel, go to: www.armageddia.com. I've posted an exclusive excerpt on my blog there from book two of the Armageddia Series. Book one, YIELD, will be available August 14th in paperback and e-book formats.
Happy writing! (...and writing....... and writing..........................)
Interview with Bryan K. Johnson
Author of Yield: Book 1 of the Armageddia Series
|Bryan K. Johnson|
Q. Can you tell us a little something about YIELD?
At its core, Yield is a journey of self-destruction and redemption. When our country's entire infrastructure is crippled by a brutal attack, the survivors are thrown into an unthinkable world full of chaos and anarchy. We're thrust right into the middle of that madness with the characters, without understanding what happened or why.
Yield is a story about that shift between the life we know and the very dark world that emerges from the ashes. If everything you knew suddenly changed in a flash of hatred and violence, how would you react? What would you be capable of to protect the ones you love? Yield's characters come face to face with those extremes of humanity, trying to overcome their own savagery and demons while fighting to survive.
Q. Share something about yourself or your writing that you haven't told fans?
Before becoming a novel, Yield actually started its life as a screenplay. I thought the concept made for a very visual type of story, so I initially fleshed out Yield in a traditional screenplay format. Putting it together as a screenplay actually helped me quite a bit while writing to better visualize the scenes, structure the story, and tighten up my dialogue. But screenplays have to be so concise and heavily formatted that it really limited the emotion of the story. I received a lot of feedback from prospective agents and production companies that the screenplay was overwritten and just too literary. So I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet to expand Yield out into a novel. It took a few more years, but was extremely liberating to be able to flesh out how my characters felt and thought—how the fear inside them was palpable and crippling. It allowed me to really explore my own style of writing and create a much deeper story.
Q. What inspired you to write the YIELD trilogy?
Books two and three of the Armageddia Series are receiving their own flashes of inspiration, but for Yield, it was a singular experience. About six years ago, I was on a plane from San Francisco to Bend and the fog was so thick over the bay that it completely blotted out the sky. As we took off above the cloud bank, everything just disappeared beneath me. Mankind and all our worries seemed to fade into the grey. I wondered what would happen if the world changed at that very moment. What if the life I knew didn't exist when I landed? What if my world died somewhere under those clouds?
That flight started my entire thought process for the Armageddia Series, and even turned into one of my favorite scenes in Yield. As our main character, disgraced firefighter Devin Bane, takes off on the way towards his own interview, everything he knows changes while he's in the air. Devin crashes headfirst into a chaos he doesn't understand, fighting not only to get back to his wife and kids, but also to protect the other survivors now looking to him for a leadership he wants no part of.
Q. Do you have a favorite scene and character in YIELD?
That's a hard one. I'm partial to each of the characters in Yield for different reasons, but Devin Bane is probably my most interesting one. He is an exceedingly complicated protagonist, flawed with addiction, full of razor-sharp skepticism, and with an almost constant sense of conflicted purpose. He doesn't want to be a leader, yet his instincts are to rise up when needed. His unrestrained and often harsh sense of humor can cut you down in an instant, but his charm can also brighten the darkest of days. Devin is at a crossroads in his life and still trying to find himself. His biggest problem is what he finds lurking in the shadows.
Q. When writing YIELD, did you take anything from real life?
I integrated some contemporary news headlines into the narrative to give it a greater sense of relevance and realism. Aside from that, I really wanted to take the story down a very dark and dramatic road—one that was uniquely gripping and terrifyingly real. Everything is just a step or two past where we are now. I love science fiction and fantasy, but didn't want Yield to have that fantastical and unbelievable quality to it. I wanted the story to feel horrifyingly possible in every way.
Q. How do you write? Do you have a set routine each day? A word or page goal?
I lead a very scattered and chaotic life. I'm a moonlight writer with a busy day job, spending a lot of time on the road in addition to working 50+ hours a week. I write when I can, while also balancing time with my wife and kids when I'm at home. I was actually still writing Yield while finishing up a very challenging MBA program, too. I don't know how I juggled everything, but somehow you just find a way when you're passionate about it. Lately I've been more focused on the marketing of Yield, but when I'm in creation mode, I'll write in the evenings until the ideas stop flowing. No word or page goal. I think creativity is hard to force a finite number on. It just happens, in the quantity and breadth it chooses to bestow.
Q. What types of genres do you like to read?
I like to read everything from Dan Brown's thrillers and Tom Clancy's military ops novels, to sci-fi, fantasy and dystopians. I'm a big fan of multi-book story arcs like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Eddings's Belgariad. I also just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and was really impressed by the author. She created such an intense pace through the entire three-book series. I think I read each one in about a day. They were just too good to be put down. I love books like that.
Q. Is there a particular author or book that influenced you as a writer?
I loved exploring the science fiction worlds of Tolkien, Brian Jacques, and David Eddings growing up. I was always amazed by the feeling that a good book series could give you. I remember as I finished up one of Eddings's five-part story lines in high school, having this almost overwhelming feeling of disappointment that it was over. I didn't want the characters that I had been through so much with to leave my mind. Great writers make us feel like we truly know the characters, and can bring them to life in a way that is so real and personal. We feel their fears. Laugh at their triumphs. Cry at their pain. I started writing in high school at first to continue some of those incredible stories that I just didn't want to end. I moved on to graphic novels, toying with the idea of being a comic book illustrator, then on to screenplays and finally my debut novel, Yield.
Q. What aspect of the story, YIELD, did you find most challenging?
I think the biggest challenge for me was the process after all the writing was done. Becoming an author isn't simply putting together a compelling story with a unique hook, then watching the floodgates of success open wide. Becoming a published author with tangible numbers is far more difficult than writing the story itself. There are a lot of other very talented writers out there, all competing with one another to reach prospective readers. New writers must be well versed in social media, able to network and build connections, be willing to invest their own time and resources, maintain engaging presences on a host of different platforms, and always be looking for ways to market themselves and their brand to new customers. I have an MBA in marketing, so thankfully I have a bit of experience in that arena. But trying to build credibility and a following takes time. New writers start at ground zero, regardless of how great you think your book might be. Don't get discouraged, but don't underestimate that either.
Q. Any final thoughts?
Thanks for featuring me! It's been a lot fun so far and the Armageddia journey is just beginning. Buckle up!
For a special sneak peek at book two of the series, check out my blog at www.armageddia.com. I've posted an exclusive excerpt there. Yield, book one of the Armageddia Series, will be released on August 14th in paperback and e-book formats. I hope you all enjoy it!