Here is my first ever interview with Brian Rowe. Don't forget to enter the giveaway of Happy Birthday to Me!
When and why did you start writing?
I’ve loved reading books ever since I can remember and always imagined myself, even from a young age, as being a writer. In my third grade class at Oakhills Elementary School in Granite Bay, California, a children’s author came to speak about writing, and she gave us all an assignment for the week, to write one chapter of a novel. I ended up writing a chapter about the ghost of a librarian that haunts the school. I loved writing this assignment and ended up writing dozens more short stories over the next few years, culminating into the fifth grade, where our teacher Linda Frodahl gave us story assignments all year round. On the last day of school that year she pulled me aside and said to me, “Brian, one day I want to see your name on the front of a novel. Don’t let me down.” Fifteen years later her wish finally came true, and I decided to dedicate Happy Birthday to Me to Mrs. Frodahl.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’ve got a big pile of books on my nightstand. I’m currently reading the last 150 pages of The Girl Who Played with Fire, and up next are The Drawing of the Three, More Tales of the City, and Catching Fire. Huh. You know, I just realized all four of these books are the second installment in a series. And I’m currently writing the second installment in my Happy Birthday to Me trilogy. Coincidence?
What do you think makes a good book?
A dynamic plot is great in a book, but what makes a truly outstanding novel is complex, memorable characters. You as an author can come up with the most original, fascinating concept, but it won’t mean diddly-squat if there aren’t characters to care about on the page. The plot and pacing of your story is important, of course, but attention to character is probably the most important aspect in writing fiction. When I think about all the books I love, the characters immediately come to mind, not the plot. Take the time to come up with a killer concept, and then spend a few weeks getting to know and flesh out your characters, before you jump right into to your writing.
Liesel Maupin is going to a gathering of literary characters. Who would she sit with and why?
Now that’s an interesting question. Liesel is a strong, focused female character, a good-hearted wallflower with love for her soul mate, Cameron Martin. I would love to see Liesel go out for a Friday night dinner with Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger. Hermione would probably one-up the other girls on intelligence, Katniss would one-up with sheer physical strength, and Liesel would one-up with her otherworldly magical powers, ones even more impressive than Hermione’s. They could all talk about their boy toys—Ron, Peeta, and Cameron. And Katniss and Hermione could take time out of District 12 and Hogwarts, respectively, to join Liesel for a more laid-back meal at one of Reno’s delicious sushi restaurants!
What character in Happy Birthday to Me would you like to hang out with for a day? Why?
That’s tough to decide. It’d be fun to hang out with Liesel, pick her brain, and watch her perform some magic. It’d also be interesting to spend some time at Caughlin Ranch High School and see just how vicious Mrs. Gordon can be. We find out later in the book that she is way more of a free spirit than she lets on, so I’d try to peel off the layers to the strict librarian to try to find the more human side underneath. And Wesley’s a lot like me in many ways, so he’d be easy to spend time with. But if I had to choose one of these characters to hang out with for a day, I would choose Kimber. She seems like a cool, easy to talk to thirteen-year-old girl who would be fun to chat with and toss ideas off of. I also love the violin, and I’d love a front row seat at one of her applause-worthy string recitals!
What is your writing process like?
When I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I write at least 2,000 words a day, every day, until the book is finished. Sometimes I’ll write many more than 2,000 words in a day—for instance, my third book Townhouse, coming out this summer, I wrote much faster than anticipated. I allotted myself five to six weeks to write the first draft, but it ended up only taking me about four and a half weeks. I will then spend a few weeks on each subsequent draft the heaviest work being done on the pivotal second draft. The amount of re-writing becomes less and less by the fourth and fifth draft, until I finally get the manuscript to a point where I feel it’s ready to be published.
What advice would you give to young writers?
My advice to young writers would be to stop thinking, stop worrying, and start writing! For many years I didn’t think I had what it took to write a novel, and in the last year and a half, I’ve written three. Don’t worry so much about a year from now or six months from now. There will be lots of time to worry about agents, editors, traditional publishers, self-publishing, and more, down the road. Believe in yourself, believe in your story, and believe in your characters, and focus on writing the best novel you can, every single time. As Conan O’Brien recently said, “if you work really hard, and are kind, amazing things will happen.” And I believe that with every sense of my being. I’m living the dream! So should you.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for your time, and for featuring me on your awesome blog. I hope all of your readers take a chance on my YA debut, Happy Birthday to Me!