Exclusive Interview with

Brandon Keaton

Let’s start with your Career as a writer!

When did you start writing?

Thank you for having me by the way! (laughs) Oh I'm not totally sure when the writing bug bit me. Probably in junior high school... maybe? I was really into comics in my early teens, and I think those books prompted me to start crafting my own stories. I wanted to do my own comics, you know? So then I'd imagine where the books would go after they ended and draw that out on paper.

What makes writing your passion?

There's this "mode" that you get into—and other writers especially will know what I mean—where the writing just flows out of you. All time and space seems to slow down, or stop altogether, and you just want to stay in that "place." I love that feeling, and the joy which comes from being in that creative space is really when I feel I'm at my best.

How long have you been writing?

I guess on and off my whole life, really. I'm in my forties now, and I wrote Transference nearly ten years ago. Prior to that I was always writing songs, and short stories, comics, and really really bad poetry! (Laughs). I didn't have anything published until this year though.

What was the feeling when you published your first book?

So many feelings all at once, really. Relief. Elation. Fear. Mostly fear. (laughs) I was afraid of the failure of the whole project... and I guess failure can mean any number of things... zero sales, bad reviews... all that sort of stuff. I realize now that, for me, true failure would've been to not publish the thing at all.

What’s the story behind your choice of characters?

I really wanted to make something akin to Star Wars. Transference is not like Star Wars at all really, but if you peel away all the sci-fi layers of Star Wars, the whole saga is just about family. Or "a" family. That's what I was going for with Transference, in my own way.

What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?

I have an aversion to the phrase "write to the market." But you know, I guess that sort of thing works for a lot of writers. However I do wish I was the kind of writer that could churn out two or three books a year, but I don't think I am.

How do you get over the “writer’s block”?

That's really a tough one. I think it's so personal. I honestly don't know how to answer that because for me the writing seems to come when it wants to. It's like an entity that I have very little to no control over.

We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

Oh, I try never to give advice because the last thing I'd want is to steer someone in the wrong direction. I would say if you're struggling with fear, don't. be. afraid. Do not let irrational fear hold you back. You can totally do this. I know that because if I did it, you can do it! (laughs) Reviews are probably the most encouraging thing though. Robert J. Sawyer gave me the most wonderful quote to use for the cover of Transference, and he didn't have to do that. He could've ignored me, or said, hey kiddo you don't have the goods! So I think comments from peers and editorial reviews kinda validate the journey, and that's a wonderful thing because you're constantly second-guessing yourself as a storyteller I think.

If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

I would probably be too firm with him. (laughs) No, but seriously, I think I would just tell him, you know, to hug his parents more often. To show my appreciation more.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?

I try not to read them, but I also want to be appreciative of someone's time. The thing that hurts most is when someone gives a glib review. I'm all for someone giving an honest review, but occasionally someone will be straight-up ugly, and what they say doesn't seem to be coming from a desire to be constructive. I mean, I'm guilty of it too... we all watch movies and read things that we quickly dismiss with little thought, right? You just like it or you don't. I guess what I'm saying is that I've become more aware of the fact that any form of art is someone's baby. They had the wherewithall to make the thing, and put it out into the world, and maybe we ought to really try to be more thoughtful about how we review things. I'm of the mind that I generally will just say nothing at all if I don't like something. But it's just the way things are I guess... the world we live in today gives everybody a voice because of the internet and social media. Maybe that's the problem. Or my heart is on my sleeve. Probably both! (laughs)

What is the feeling when you get a good review?

I think whether you're a writer or a musician or a painter or whatever you are creatively, you just want to bring joy to someone else. Writing can be a lonely endeavour at times, so to read the response of someone who "got" what you did is really very gratifying, and it makes the "struggle" worth it.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Oh totally. A few things in Transference are embellishments of real-life events. I especially enjoy using names of people I know or knew, and finding ways of working them into the text.

Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?

The main character in Transference, Madzimure, is probably like me to some degree. A few of my friends commented that they could "hear my voice" in their head as they read Madzimure's dialogue. I wasn't going for that, but it is pretty funny.

What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?

Is it as important as the story? In short... yes and no. It's important, no doubt about that. You need to grab the eye, and there's absolute value in getting it right the first time, and using the fonts correctly and all that. But I'm not 100% sure the cover's the more vital of the two. Maybe for a first-time author the cover might outweigh the story. You know, now that I'm thinking more about it, I'm not sure! (laughs) Let's call it a tie depending on your point of view.

Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?

Oh, absolutely. If someone takes the time to reach out to me, I genuinely appreciate that and I'm interested in talking to them and getting to know them a little bit. I had a reader in Australia email me saying he put down the book he'd been reading so that he could continue with Transference instead!

How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?

Thank God no one's recognized me in public! (laughs) But appreciation online is always a lovely thing to read. If someone were offering up their appreciation to my face, in person, I'd probably be more than a tad bit embarrassed... I wouldn't like being the sole center of attention in that regard.

Who is your favorite author? Why?

I love everything that Tolkien created. Especially The Silmarillion. It's just the richest, most engrossing thing I've ever read. It's such a joy because I'm seemingly always finding "new" things in there every time I read it.

What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?

I read once that Lindsey Buckingham said something to the effect that when it came to being in a band like Fleetwood Mac, he got to be part of a big machine and have fame and fortune and all that, but he could still walk down the street by himself. He still kept that level of anonymity. I think that'd be the ideal way to go. But hey, I'm pretty sure that authors don't have to worry about being paparazzi'ed anyways! (laughs)

Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?

Well, I wasn't sure I'd ever get the chance again, so I wrote Transference specifically as a middle part of the story even though it has its own ending. It hits the ground running and fills in the backstory on the characters as it moves along. So, I don't necessarily regret that choice, but I probably could've started the story "from the beginning" and crafted it in a way that would've served it better in terms of being a trilogy. I think it could still be a different kind of trilogy, though.

If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?

Kurt Vonnegut. Man, that guy lived a life before he was even 25 years old. He served in World War II, was captured by the Germans, and eventually managed to escape after hiding in a meat freezer deep underground. I mean, you can't make that stuff up!

What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.

You accomplish nothing by discouraging an artist. And that discouragement is usually something that gets turned around as a sort of force for good. But hey look there's been times when I was so deeply disappointed by something, usually a film, that I've just had to put in my two cents. With books though I pretty much won't say anything in writing if I don't like it. I think it says a lot about a person that they would read something, then go out of their way to then go online and type up something negative about it. They're essentially discouraging others from reading your story. If someone derives pleasure from that, I don't think there's anything you can say to them that's going to alter or better their behaviour. It's sad because I would imagine that being like that would be very hard, and life is already hard enough.

What would you say to your readers?

Don't read it, wait for the movie! (laughs)

Thank you for sharing! Let’s talk about your Personal Life!

Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?

I live in New Zealand, and have been in Wellington now for almost 15 years. I was married to a wonderful woman for about ten years. Life kicked me around and we grew apart, and we later divorced, but we still have love for one another. I'm grateful for that.

What is your day job if you have one?

I've had so many different jobs over the years. An aged care nurse, various forms of retail, a duty manager at a craft-beer brewery. I suppose my day job in 2020 is really just trying to maintain my sanity. (laughs)

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I started playing guitar in the mid-90s, though not so much picking for me these days. I grew up playing all the Nintendo consoles, so I still do that from time to time, and my love of comic books never really left me either.

Did you have a happy childhood?

Oh good Lord yes! My dad loved to read and play video games. Mom was a good woman who took us to church every Sunday. My home life bordered on magical. We had a terrier in the house named "Dude" that looked like Toto from the Wizard of Oz. Mom and dad both expected a lot from me in terms of school, but they were careful not push too hard I think, and all of it was tempered with the truest love I've ever experienced in my life.

Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?

I remember around 1989 a buddy of mine in school wanted to do a comic book based on the Ninja Gaiden video game. I thought it was cool too and did some of the artwork, and I may have written it as well. My dad encouraged it, and helped us print a few dozen copies. I can't remember now if we sold it to friends, or if we just passed it around at school. God knows what we were thinking! (laughs)

Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?

I've got a few stories in the bag that were meant to be graphic novels, and one novel about time-travel that I'm about halfway finished with. I've also penned a handful of tales meant to be told in children's picture book form, so I hope to break into that area in the future. I love the idea of writing books that parents can read to their kids.

What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?

I'm a product of the public school system, and I don't think I turned out too bad! (laughs) For the most part, I had very lovely, encouraging teachers in school. Personally I feel that every kid should have the opportunity to be an artist in some form or another, whether it's an instrument or writing stories, or woodworking, or whatever. I think it's so good for our heart and soul.

If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?

Oh wow. You're hitting me with all the tough ones! ( laughs) First, I'd wish that I could speak all languages. Second, I wish I had the powers of Superman. Third... I wish I could've spent more time with my parents when they were alive.

What is your favorite music?

My tastes run the gamut but I mostly stick to the pop rock genre. Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Queen, The War On Drugs, Gin Blossoms, The 1975, and Toad the Wet Sprocket... that sorta stuff. The last few years I've been on a retro-wave/synthwave kick because of bands like The Midnight, FM-84, and Timecop1983 to name a few.

Share a secret with us 🙂

You mean like, what is KFC's secret recipe or something? Hmm... I don't know if I have anything that scandalous! (laughs) What I wanna know is why does Diet Dr. Pepper taste more like regular Dr. Pepper? I don't think anyone ever answered that one.

Thank you! We wish you the best of luck for you and your art!