L.A. Jacob (00:00:10): Welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I am your host, L.A. Jacob. Today’s interview will be with Steven D. Brewer, an author of an ongoing novella series called Revin’s Heart and many short stories. In fact, coming out this month is The End of His Rope, number five in the Revin’s Heart series.
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We are talking with Steven D. Brewer.
Steven D. Brewer (00:02:00): Hello.
L.A. Jacob (00:02:01): What is your most recent story about?
Steven D. Brewer (00:02:05): I’ve just finished the manuscript for a novel called A Familiar Problem that’s about a young man who, in his magical training, has reached the point where he’s supposed to select a familiar, but he doesn’t like any of the typical familiars that people get. He thinks that cats are trite and that birds are stupid and that toads are ugly. And he wants something—what he really wants is, he wants to learn battle magic and so he wants something powerful that can be an ally that can fight with him. And he encounters not long after that a demon, and he’s like, do you wanna be my familiar? And she says, no, no, you’re gonna be my familiar. And she captures him as her familiar and trains him up to enter him in an illegal familiar fighting tournament. So that’s what the story is about is him working out this relationship with the demon and the items that follow.
L.A. Jacob (00:02:54): Why did you write this particular book?
Steven D. Brewer (00:02:58): So the thing that I’ve been doing before, Revin’s Heart, which is serialized and is coming out as a series of novelettes each about 10,000 words long. And when I had finished reaching the end of that, I was planning to write short fiction, actually. And I wrote a short story, just kind of a one-shot. I just sat down, and I wrote the short story that was this idea that I’ve presented about, what I’ve presented to you just now. And I got to the end of that. It was 2,000 words long, more or less. “I’m interested in this, I wanna see where this goes.” And so, then I went ahead and just fleshed it out and the rest of the story flowed from there. I wrote it really fast.
L.A. Jacob (00:03:36): Did you have an inspiration for this particular book as opposed to Revin’s Heart?
Steven D. Brewer (00:03:41): I’ve read similar things to this story. One of the ones that I’ve read most recently, I think, is a manga called Vermeil in Gold. And it has some of the same surface features. It’s about a young man who’s in school and he needs to get a familiar and he ends up forming a contract with a demon, and the surface features are somewhat similar, but other than that, it’s completely different. There’s not really that much similar about it, but it’s a story that had captured my imagination to a certain extent. The manga is still coming out, an anime is being produced for it. That should come out in the next half year or year or so. Which I’m looking forward to, ‘cause that’s a great story too, but it’s a classic conundrum That is something that comes up over and over again I think in the literature of, um, a young witch or wizard needing to have a familiar and the challenges going through making that relationship work. But I haven’t heard one that has this kind of turnaround where the witch or wizard ends up becoming the familiar of the entity that they thought they were going to make as their familiar.
L.A. Jacob (00:04:48): Normally when you’re writing, what is your work schedule like?
Steven D. Brewer (00:04:51): Because I have a day job that keeps me very busy most of the time. That is during the academic year. My schedule for writing then is rather different than it is in the summer. In the summer, while I am teaching a class that does not take a huge amount of my time, I have a tendency to come down and just write whenever I feel like it. In the summer I’ll get up, uh, when I usually get up, six or so, and then have breakfast and do the jumble with my brother and then I’ll come down to my office and write for a while in the morning. And then I often take a nap in the afternoon and then perk up again, come down right in the evening and write, starting at about six or seven until midnight. Not that I’m writing all the time, I also listen to K-pop and post things on Twitter and stuff like that.
Steven D. Brewer (00:05:37): But during the academic year, my days are completely full with teaching and so I get up in the morning and I spend all day Tuesdays and Thursdays interacting with students. Monday and Wednesday interact with students Tuesday and Thursday I teach one class and then Fridays I’ll go for my other class. And often in the evenings I’m spending my time getting the work set up for my classes or grading student work. And so, it’s really rather rare that I have much time at all for writing during the academic year, but I still have holidays and the intercession and weekends and, and those I’ll revert back to my summertime schedule and get more writing done.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:16): I understand that you met up with Paper Angel Press at Reader Con last August.
Steven D. Brewer (00:06:21): That’s correct. It’s been almost exactly a year.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:24): So how would you say your year has been since then?
Steven D. Brewer (00:06:28): Oh, it’s been transformative. I’ve been writing fiction in small amounts for a long time, but never particularly seriously. A lot of the fiction that I wrote earlier on back in 2004, 2006, around that period of time, I had several publications. But what I was doing is I was writing those stories in Esperanto and publishing them in the Esperanto environment, which is as one, uh, eminent computer scientist told me, like I didn’t want anybody to read anything that I wrote. But that’s in fact not true. There’s in fact a very lively audience of Esperanto speakers around the world and it’s an interesting audience from the many different countries and backgrounds, which has been in some ways the people that I’ve met via Esperanto in my own country have been a different cross section of people in the United States that I probably never would’ve had the opportunity to meet except through this particular language that we shared.
Steven D. Brewer (00:07:24): In any case, I had several of those stories win awards in the international competition for writing in Esperanto and again, speculative fiction, short stories, surely. But during the pandemic I discovered that I didn’t, I didn’t have any safe things to think about, that I would be lying in bed at night, and I would think about one bad thing and then another bad thing and then another bad thing. One of my friends called it the Hamster Wheel of Doom, where you just sit going through all the bad things that you’re stressing about, and I couldn’t sleep. And so, I began telling myself these fantasy stories as a way to give myself something safe to think about and then I would have to write it down and go on so that I could go on to the next part of the fantasy the next night. Um, and so that was how I began writing and I decided that while I was doing this, I might as well go ahead and start submitting stuff for publication, which I had never done before.
Steven D. Brewer (00:08:18): I kind of was aware of what it was like, but I had only submitted a handful of things to the English-speaking press before they were all rejected. So, this time I had, I don’t know, 8 or 10 different things that I had written by this point. And I began trying to submit them for publication. I opened a spreadsheet and began tracking them so that you don’t submit the same thing to the same market and that you don’t submit the same thing to multiple markets at the same time. So, you need to have something like that to keep track of that. Now there’s submission Grindr, but I, I didn’t know any of that at the time. And so, I’ve been doing that for several months by this point that as I started in May and, ‘cause again, it was last summer and got rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected.
Steven D. Brewer (00:09:05): But then when I attended Reader Con, I was really pleased to see that there were these different groups, and I was trying to bounce around among the different channels in Discord where you could chat with people. And I was impressed with Water Dragon Publishing because there were people there. They had a schedule of providing content where they had different authors in it, different times. And it was just staff. So, there were people there available to chat. It just seemed like a nice bunch of folks. I was really pleased to meet everybody and enjoyed my interactions with everyone. And when they said they were accepting submissions, I went ahead and took a manuscript that had just gotten rejected, and I bundled it up and sent it on to them. And it wasn’t for about a month later that I got a response back that it had been accepted for publication. And then I learned about all the other stuff that you get to do to try and get something published, which, uh, was all new for me. And so, it’s been a real year of discovery, seeing things from the other side, that is, the before you’re have stuff that’s being accepted for publication, um, when you’re struggling to write and then after you’ve begun having things accepted for publication. It’s a very different perspective.
L.A. Jacob (00:10:17): So when you published with Esperanto, was that small publishing or was that self-publishing?
Steven D. Brewer (00:10:26): So I did a variety of things that is, I write haiku as one of the other things that I do and I’ve written haiku for many, many years in Esperanto. I started doing that when I was in graduate school because I didn’t have time to do my Esperanto stuff anymore. When I was a grad student, I was not only working on my dissertation, I had an infant, I was the primary caregiver of an infant at that time. And so, I was just absolutely saturated, but I could find time for 15 minutes or so at lunch to be able to write something in Esperanto up a haiku and share that. A few years later I was attending a conference about haiku that happened to be at Smith College, which is nearby the US National Haiku Organization had, uh, their annual meeting there. And so I went there and I’d been originally writing haiku as kind of a joke, but there were people there who took it really seriously and in fact they took my haiku rather seriously in that some of them are just joke haiku, which there’s a word for that as it turns out, which is senryu, which is the kind of haiku.
Steven D. Brewer (00:11:27): An example is … what’s the classic one?
Haiku are easy,
But do not always make sense.
Just, you know, kind of silly (?), but it’s a perfectly good senryu. That’s the sort of thing that a senryu might be about in that haiku is supposed to be about the natural worlds. They’re supposed to be about the senses that you have of the natural world. They need to have a seasonal aspect to them, and they need to be in three parts where two of the of the parts are together and one part is separate from that, but three pieces that are each wholes not, something that’s smeared across multiple parts. So, a lot of people, the kind of haiku that they write, they’re just counting syllables and that’s, it’s not really part of it in Japanese, the things that you would think of as counting are unji, they’re not syllables.
Steven D. Brewer (00:12:14): And the calculation really is part of the way the language is structured more than people intentionally doing things a particular way, the way people present it in English. But I’ve gotten a little far afield in any case, I’ve written several self-published books, a haiku that I had made where I was interested in learning about creating books. And so, I was learning desktop publishing applications and, uh, using my own photography to make artwork that would go in them. So, one book has, uh, imaginary postage stamps from Esperanto Land. And so that includes a lot of my own personal photography, but then graphically designed together so that it looks like a postage stamp. Another one that I wrote is called Sen Okulvitroj. That’s perhaps the best one. Sen Okulvitroj means without glasses, like without eyeglasses. And so, it’s about the kind of soft focus that you get. And the artwork that I developed is all pictures that have a very narrow plane of focus so that there’s some little part that might be in focus and you can understand what the rest of the thing is, but all the rest of it is their own out focus.
Steven D. Brewer (00:13:18): So those were books that I self-published, the stuff that was award-winning. When you submit it to this particular award, the winners are published in Beletra Almanako, which is a kind of high-end publication in the Esperanto world that is probably the most prestigious of the literary magazines. And then there’s another literary magazine that’s kind of a different community of people. They argue with one another to a certain extent about Esperanto things and that one’s called Literatura Foiro, which means literary fair. And I had several pieces of my longer fiction published that way as well. A mix of things.
L.A. Jacob (00:13:54): Since you’ve done both self-publishing and small press, which do you find to be more satisfying?
Steven D. Brewer (00:14:00): There’s a lot of satisfaction to doing the self-publishing because it lets me bring together all of these interests that I have. It was a lot of fun to learn how to lay out books. It was a lot of fun making all of the artwork that went with it. And there’s something very satisfying about producing a book that looks like a published book, like a book that you would get, like you’re just buying at a store. And so, I’m very, very pleased with the production values of the books that I made. That said, it’s a huge amount of work. It’s a huge amount of work and you still can’t do it all because you need to have somebody else that edits it for you, and you simply cannot edit your own stuff. That’s don’t, don’t try, it’s a mistake every time you do that. So, from that standpoint, it was satisfying to do it myself, but having a publisher to work with has been wonderful.
Steven D. Brewer (00:14:47 ): One of the things that I like most about Water Dragon Publishing is their contention that they’re a partner to the author. And that partnership has been particularly fruitful, at least for me, in that I feel like that I’ve learned a lot. I’ve got another pair of eyes that can look at the things that I’m looking at and help me interpret what I’m seeing. I have somebody with expertise that I can go and talk to about all of these things. And so, it’s been, it’s been a wonderful partnership from my standpoint and uh, and that’s been incredibly satisfying. Is it more satisfying than having the finished book in my hands? I don’t know. That’s pretty satisfying too.
L.A. Jacob (00:15:23): But where can they find your stuff?
Steven D. Brewer (00:15:27): You can find it all where basically any place that you could buy books online. So of course, you can go to the giant corporation who shall remain nameless and uh, find it there. Um, Google will help you find a whole variety of places. But of course, I always direct people to go to the publisher. Um, water Dragon Publishing that provides links to all the different book sellers that have it so that you can get it from one of them or you can order it directly. And of course, if you wanna signed edition, you can order it from there and I will sign it and ship it on to you. And, uh, that’s actually the fastest way to get it because I actually have copies of the books, order the signed one from me and then I’ll even sign it, it costs the same. Cheaper if you get the digital copy.
L.A. Jacob (00:16:09): You can’t sign that. How can people contact you or where can they find you online?
Steven D. Brewer (00:16:15): I’m easy to find online. I have a Twitter feed, which is @limako, and you can find me that way as well. My website is StevenDBrewer.com and that’s a good place where you can find a whole bunch of information about me and there’s a contact form there where you can reach me. And of course, Google is your friend. If you Google me, I turn out pretty high on the list of Steven D. Brewers.
L.A. Jacob (00:16:48): Thank you very much for your time.
Steven D. Brewer (00:16:51): Oh yeah. This has been a lot of fun.
L.A. Jacob (00:16:51 ): I can give you the big secret gift that you can give to any author and, best of all, it’s free. Leave a review. That’s it. You can leave a review on Amazon for a book that you didn’t even buy on Amazon. You can leave a review even if you haven’t finished it. You can leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, your own blog, or your YouTube channel. Authors love reviews. It gives us feedback and strokes our ego. The best gift you can give an author is to leave a review. Thank you.
L.A. Jacob (00:17:56): Thanks again to our guest author, Steven D. Brewer.
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This podcast was recorded and edited by L.A. Jacob. Executive producer is Steven Radecki. This month’s episode was sponsored by Paper Angel Press and its imprints, Water Dragon Publishing and Unruly Voices. You can hear our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and most of your favorite podcast services. Visit our marketplace for more information about books that are mentioned on this podcast. Thanks very much for listening and talk to you soon.
Transcription by Remy of Sleepy Fox Studio