It’s author Brooke Burgess on my blog today. He is the author of the acclaimed “The Cat’s Maw”. Be sure to visit his website http://brookeburgess.com/
1) Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hmm…let’s see. I guess I could share the bio from my new site 🙂
After a youth in eastern Canada spent daydreaming, reading, role-playing, and scribbling through plays and short stories, I officially started my jack-of-all-trades narrative career as a writer, producer, and voice director on AAA titles for software giant Electronic Arts. This period was a blessing on so many levels that I consider it my ‘Masters degree with pay’ to this day.
After several tours of duty in the videogame trenches — and with the nascent awesomeness of the WWW beckoning — it was time to embark on my ‘Storytelling PhD’ by creating the world’s first motion-comic epic: BROKEN SAINTS. (www.brokensaints.com) Experienced by millions worldwide — over dial-up, no less! — this life-changing project let me run wild with a narrative vision, and gain immeasurable growth as a storyteller for the digital age.
Nearly a decade later, I continue to work with the gaming industry while consulting on all things transmedia, directing voiceover, speaking and lecturing, and creating exciting original IP on multiple platforms.
2) Tells us about The Cat’s Maw.
IT’S ABOUT A BOY! A CAT! AND A NIGHTMARE IN TWO WORLDS! =)
Basically try to imagine a modern-day Narnia with a very dark side, as if written by Stephen King and/or Neil Gaiman? It’s my award-winning Mystery/Fantasy/Horror debut for brave young readers, and cat lovers of all ages. Here are some of accolades it has received so far: BEST YA MYSTERY 2015 — Gelett Burgess Awards SILVER MEDAL (Pre-Teen) 2015 — Moonbeam Awards TOP SHELF HONOREE 2015 — VOYA Magazine (Middle Grade) ‘Top 100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime — GOODREADS ‘One of 8 Great Novels Starring Cats’ — CATSTER And a story synopsis: In the sleepy town of Appleton, a young loner follows a stray cat onto the road and is struck by a car. A leg is shattered, a summer is ruined, and the troubled life of Billy Brahm goes from bad…to cursed. When the mysterious cat appears at his bedside, Billy is haunted by strange and prophetic dreams — the creatures in them speak of Watchers, and Shadows, and the Enemy that Awakens. Does this impossible realm hold the key to healing the broken boy? Is the golden-eyed cat there to help him…or to make the nightmares come true? Too frightened to share the truth with his strict adoptive parents, Billy realizes that the only ones he can turn to are the local vet’s daughter, the town’s ‘crazy cat lady’…
And a mystical tiger, beckoning from his dreams!
3) Any reason for your fascination with cats?
You mean besides the fact that they’re smart, beautiful, powerful, and mystical animals that seem to hold the secrets to the Universe in their eyes?
I was an only child, and grew up in a tiny farm town in Nova Scotia, Canada. A cat was my first real ‘friend’. He opened up my heart, and had a huge impact on me from a very young age. In fact, he was probably the first seed of inspiration for The Cat’s Maw, as you can read here:
4) The Cat’s Maw has received a very positive response and many awards. How was the process like of writing and publishing the book?
I had been thinking about the story for many years, as I realized that there were all of these important moments from my life — ‘spiritual’ moments, if I’m being honest — where cats were involved, or somehow connected. So then I started forming this story in my head, the adventures of Billy Brahm and the big arcs of the Shadowland Saga, and doing lots of research. I looked at the history of cats in the civilized world, how different cultures viewed them (as gods, magic spirits, demons, and – most importantly, as dream walkers), and begin to make an outline for the entire story.
When it came time to write, I was fortunate enough to find a tiny, peaceful island in southern Thailand that was just perfect — there were cats everywhere! The first draft of the book poured out of me in just over 8 weeks. After that, I took a break to rest and recover (writing can be very draining for me, because I really surrender to the process), and then edited and polished the book over several months while submitting to publishers.
There were several interested agents and publishers at first, but I found that the money they were offering was just too little in exchange for them controlling the rights to a very personal story — my story! So I did a crowdfunding campaign on social media and raised enough through friends, family, and fans of my old series to finish the illustrations and book cover, properly self-publish, and create the amazing audiobook version:
5) How many books will the Shadowland saga consist of?
Five. The story will also evolve over time. The first book is more of a mystery/fantasy, with some suspense and a touch of horror. The second book brings in more adventure and suspense elements. The third will move more into thriller/horror territory. The fourth is full-on fantasy. And the finale will combine all of the elements to finish as a ‘spiritual epic’.
6) The Cat’s Maw is both for adults and children. Was it difficult to maintain a writing style that attracted both age groups? How did you achieve it?
One of the best compliments I received from a reviewer mentioned that they loved the book because I had ‘faith in the audience’. I believe that younger readers are capable of understanding and really enjoying deeper and somewhat complex characters and ideas, and are also brave enough to immerse themselves in a scary story with big questions about life and death if the writing doesn’t talk ‘down’ to them.
These were the kinds of stories that interested me when I was young, and I find in my travels that many adults feel these types of stories had the power to stay with them their entire lives. That they were ‘timeless’. And that was always my goal — I just wrote for my 12yr-old self, and tried to keep him interested and excited 🙂 And this seemed to work, as many adult readers have reviewed and said that the book made them ‘feel like a child again, with a sense of wonder and dread‘.
7) I assume you are working on the sequel. Is the anticipation by readers daunting you? Do you have any fears that the sequel just might not live up to the first book?
I’m working on the sequel in Morocco right now! I wanted to go to a new place that had a history with and affinity for cats, and I’m feeling very inspired here. The island in Thailand had a cat-loving Buddhist culture, and the Muslims here appreciate cats very much. So that helps a little with finding the courage to keep writing, seeing cats every day and remembering that I have a responsibility to tell this story. But I certainly have some fears about the sequel — I don’t want to let people down, or copy myself, or play it safe and miss the essence and message that needs to be loud and clear in the story.
I’m also aware that I need to make some small structural adjustments to engage readers earlier on this time. The first book was intentionally designed to be a slow, hypnotic tale that carefully pulled people in and then suddenly dropped them into a roller coaster of weirdness about 2/3 through. For Book 2, I’ll be diving into more mystery, tension, and urgent conflicts from the beginning…and also blurring the line between what’s ‘real’, and what exists in the ‘dream’ world.
8) So which books and authors have most influenced you?
It’s quite a mix, but I’m a big fan of things that left a lasting impression, touched my emotions, and shaped my values and spiritual beliefs in some way.
Here’s a small list – ask me again tomorrow and it could change!
- The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
- The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Sandman Anthology – Neil Gaiman
- Salem’s Lot / The Stand / The Dark Half – Stephen King
- The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
- Valis – Philip K. Dick
- Watchmen – Alan Moore
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
- Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
- Watership Down – Richard Adams
9) What’s a typical writing day like?
When I’m able to get into a rhythm and have a month+ to devote to a writing project, my writing day usually unfolds like this:
- wake up at 8’ish
- do 20-30 min of yoga
- go for a walk and have a light breakfast and coffee (or two!)
- return, respond to mail and social media, and turn off internet
- meditate for 20min
- start writing around 10:30 for 4-5hrs
- hit ‘save’, turn of my writer’s brain, and get out of the house
- later that night, I’ll do a bit of research and prep, and make notes for the next morning
- I do NOT read what I wrote that morning — if I did, I’d be tempted to edit. My feeling is that I should wait until the rewrite phase to edit.
- REPEAT until complete!
10) So when is the next book coming?
If the Muse is kind, then early next spring. I’ll be announcing the title and doing a cover reveal before the Holidays.
11) Anything you would like to add?
I hope you’ll come and visit www.brookeburgess.com to experience all the weird and wonderful things I’ve been working on! I split my time between videogame writing, audio projects, stories for comics, travel videos, and books…so there’s a lot to discover and explore. Looking forward to connecting with all of you soon 🙂
Thanks for the opportunity, AJ — good luck, and don’t stop writing!
A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers.
To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!