I’m back again with a new interview! One of my favourite things about interviewing is I get to give everyone the opportunity. This one is with Bryan Schuder, author of Ain’t a Hero.
Check out a selection of past interviews down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
For all practical purposes I’m a guy from America’s “Da’ South” just trying to make it work in this crazy world. I’ve had a lot of oddball things happen to me over the years and I’ve tried a whole sundry of projects during the combination of awful jobs, long gaps of unemployment, and now nice, comfortable work at a university library.
I’m quite the outsider to the normal writing communities. So, I don’t know the proper methods to most of this, which might work in my favor? Regardless, writing has always been something I come back to that as a great outlet for the strange situations of my existence.
There’s been quite a few:
I lived in a practically abandoned house for seven years. “Long term house sitting for free” technically, but the duty was passed onto me only officially by my roomate there, well after he left to take care of family. We did what we could to keep the place together. I’ve crawled into odd places both high and low in that old place. Places I propbably shouldn’t have had. When I decided to diagnose some electric issue in the attic… in a part I had to crawl through a 3ft diagonal triangular gap between wall and roof to get to… during a storm… WITHOUT my phone handy… Two thoughts crossed my mind at that moment as I balanced myself on a roof rafter: “I am not a smart man.” AND “I better hope if anything happens, my fat ass falls through the ceiling, so someone will eventually find me.”
Help raised a litter of raccoons in the attic. The mother was dead I believe, since she never showed back up. I found one kit when he tried to claw through the window with my window AC and I saw the rest on the roof. Read up about what rescuers do, kept my distance, set up a ladder to allow them to climb down off the roof, and randomly, in location and timing, put dog food out to teach them how to scavanage for food. They started wandering further out on their own in the neighborhood and got big enough to fend for themselves. So, I eventually sealed up the holes they were getting through (that they were trying to make bigger) and gave them one last meal before they were on their own. Still got pictures I need to pull off my old flip phone.
Still raising a 3.5+ year old avadoco tree that I sprouted from a pit. Its tall branches were over 10ft tall, so I had to run them up the stairwell, set up lights, and keep it inside during the harsh winters. When I moved out of the old house to my current apartment, I rented a U-Haul truck, hoisted the 100lb pot (because I learned too late the difference between potting soil and topsoil), tied the thing down at an angle, and drove a tropical tree down the main street of a university in the temperate early spring… in the middle of the day. Oddly no one paid attention. I was a bit disappointed on that one. It’s in my kitchen/dining area now, and I’ve carefully tied the branches down to give it some clearance. I also wrapped in outdoor led lights so it has a light source to help it out, and it makes for a conservation piece. I think I’ll get some more colorful ones for Christmas.
Before the old abandoned house was auctioned off, two estate sales happened… on top of me. It was like an antique mall passive aggressively moving in. I’d come home from work and find all the house stuff rearranged… now with price tags on it. Weird to go through once, strange to go through twice. And estate sales are serious business. I’m not even being sarcastic on that one. The sales happened at 8am. People lined up a 7am.
I was the practical god of a 30 gallon of over a 100 colorful and interesting, but terribly inbred and mutated fancy guppies. I was also their destroyer when I miscalculated the amount of hydrogen peroxide to add to the tank to help oxygenate it when the power went out. The trouble is the tank ecology was maxed out by a huge factor. I had already split many fish out to other impromtu tanks to divide out the load. But some unexpected chemistry happened, and started a mass genocide of fish in the main tank. So, in a dark creepy old house, without power on an dark autum night, I had to run around between either side of the house to vainly mount a rescue/cleanup effort with a LED head lamp as my only light. Thankfully, the water was working, because there was some serious flushing going on. Eventually, I found the survivors new homes, but I am very hestitant to setup another tank in the future without three layers of backup systems in place.
So… Those experiences and similar come into play when I write. I mostly learn towards comedy and oddball, but with my current series “Ain’t A Hero” I’m trying to really work on the theme of “Making the best of a strange situation” on many different levels. I started back into writing on Reddit’s r/writingprompts, then got directed towards r/HFY where I currently post my Ain’t A Hero episodes. It’s been a few years now, and I’m still writing and loving it again.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I wish I had some great answer to this one, but I mostly just simulate it all in my head. I start out with a basic situation as the pretext to it all. Then, I assign characters with various rough traits and put them in the situation. I practically run the simluation of their interactions in my head with only a rough idea of where it might go. When conflicts of logic or flow happen, or I can’t decide how it should resolve, I examine either the situation or character. Then, I determine if I need to add something to help story move along. For example, I test adding traits to a character and see if the story resolves in a way I like, then I’ll do another pass to see if I can justify the traits in a manner that makes sense given the aspects of the world. A lot of the time, it’s just extending existing character’s traits with refinied versions, but sometimes I have added hidden, contrasting aspects that work out and open up more depth and opportunities.
I’m a computer scientist by training and have played way too many tabletop role-playing games over the years. So, that might provide some background as the method behind the madness.
The plots start to form over time with the development of the situations. I have a rough outline of what I want to happen, but I don’t put any great detail in. My experiences game mastering have made it so I don’t make greatly detailed outlines, as they never survive contact with the players. Also, any situations and set pieces that don’t fit into one arc of the plot… I save for later.
So, I let the characters run the plot for the most part, but I’ll introduce elements of chaos and “chance” encounters. Mostly it all stems from “I wonder what such and such is doing…”
Tell us about your current project.
Well, my current project is continuing the “Ain’t A Hero” series. I’ll be starting on the fourth season in a few weeks and post the episodes on Reddit’s r/HFY subreddit. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing another editing past and writing one more extra side epsiode of sorts to make the Season 2 book… And, actually publish it on Amazon.
The best summary I’ve managed to make of “Ain’t A Hero” so far is this: In the thrice cataclysmed future, we hop right into the life of Bach. He’s a thirty year old adventuring school drop out that is reflecting upon where his life isn’t, while he watches the latest news report about his “chosen one” brother’s defeat at the hands of the Dark Lord. It’s all starting to sink in when he comments about the Dark Lord’s last attack, his brother agrees. The ghostly form of his brother, sitting right next to him, agrees.
And from that point, Bach is figuratively and literally dragged back into the adventuring life within the confines of a “kitchen sink” fantasy world. There’s a little bit of everything in there: Dragons, comic book shops, adventuring fandom conventions, hybrid magic/tech phones, and even Adventuring themed reality television shows.
I’m pretty much challenging myself to try to build a sensible enough world that is cohesive and coherrent despite how mundane the extraordinary may become.
I thoroughly enjoy writing it and have been doing so for over a year and half now. A lot more territory to cover, from many angles.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
For Ain’t A Hero, it’s Bach. He’s ultimately the point of origin despite where the focus shifts. He’s a guy down his luck. And like many of us, not in the worst life situation possible but not exactly in the greatest. He’s just playing the hand he’s been deal the best he can. Then, the fickle finger of Fate pokes him in the eye and he stumbles back with brother, Sebastian, and his diverse adventuring group. They all hope to defeat the Dark Lord and get Sebastian back to a non-ghostly, physical form once again.
So, now he’s been dealt a new hand and works with the new strange situation he finds himself in. But, there’s only so much he can do and only so much he can understand. Thankfully, he’s got a party to rely upon to try to figure out the rest, on-the-fly. It might be like having to try to change the tires on the car while it’s moving, but it’s not the first time they’ve done it.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Don’t over complicate it. From what I’ve read on many forums, that’s what discourages many people from writing. Don’t set out to write the next great epic or anything similar. Start with the basics: A few good characters, a solid plot, and a situation that sparks it to start. Let it roll from there and feel it out for yourself. When the momentum starts to wane, consider the rest of your world. Remember, it’s there to pull from and so have it react to the plot and characters. And, I’d avoid strict structures, they don’t allow the story to grow as it needs to. Stick with loose outlines of major goals, collections of situations, and notes about the world so far as introduced to the reader. When it comes to characters, establish the minor details first, then reinforce later.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
A lot of 90’s anime and games, MANY of the strange situations I’ve encountered in life so far, my job as a systems administrator at a university library, my comptuer science and electronics background, and my experiences from tabletop role-playing. (That really helps with keeping in mind what needs to be explained and how it can be presented without bringing things to a halt. And also, what details people may latch onto.)
I actually don’t pull a lot from the classic fantasy influences. I know of them and have enjoyed their works, but I wanted to write something for my tastes. And, if I do pull something from the typical sources, it’s usually going to be put to use as satire or parody.
What inspires you to write?
Getting the ideas of out my head onto a format to be enjoyed by others. While I enjoy the challenge and the escapism of the process, ultimately… I want to share my creation and hope that it is enjoyed by others. Because if no one enjoyed it, I could very well just keep it in my head and play out the whole thing like a movie all I want. The fact that others read it and continue to do so, keeps me going. It allows me to get excited when I come up with a new situation and try to figure out when and where I can fit it in the story. And due to the serialized nature of what I write, I get to see reader commentary and the feedback helps me tweak and adjust my process.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Editing, nit-picky bits of formatting, and just general clean-ups. And finally getting the courage to post it on something “official enough” like Amazon… And… telling people about it. I’ve always had an apprehension with associating anything I create with money. This is mostly due to the number of “get into the ndustry” projects that failed when I tried to push them commercially. So, it was a few months before I mentioned in the comments of a posted episode that I had Amazon KDP version of “Ain’t A Hero – Season 1” posted. Didn’t even drop link, but two people found it and bought copies. So, I loosened up a bit after that, but I don’t pimp the Amazon link heavily. I actually prefer people to read it first and then pay for it. Just read it people. That’s all I ask.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
For Season 1, it was either when the party ran into what was scaring folks from the park, or the end epilog. I strive to get everyone in the party equal representation and I like showcasing them working together as a proper team. Then, I also like showing the levity of life despite the situation. Humor in the face trauma. That is something I’ve always found to be distinctly human and a trait I hope endures well into our collective future.
And, I love to drop hints and teases for readers for what may come in the future. I’m actually always curious if readers have actually picked up on the clues I’ve left hidden throughout episodes before. Love reading those fan theories.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Just do it. No matter what you do, you are going to royally screw things up eventually. You will have failed projects. In fact, you will have a huge pile of failures if you keep trying. And that’s okay. Because you can climb up on top of that mound of mediocrity and view the world from a much higher vantage point than ever before. And hopefully, the view will encourage you to make more possible failures that will build up your pile.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
As I mentioned, I try to simulate the characters in my mind and see how they react. Psychology has always been an interest of mine. Also, the weird paths of my existence has lead me to interact and relate with a variety of people in the world. I’ve tried to develop a good deal of empathy and understanding for how others think. Try to get to the root of their thought processes. There’s a lot of people I emphasize with. But, while I do not agree with their decisions on matters, I understand how they they got there given their experiences. I look at my characters’ traits and behaviors, and apply layers upon layers of “Why” questions to define how they all function. Even the supposed “bad guys” in the series have histories that support how they behave. You still might not care for what they do, but given how they got to that point… You can’t fault them. Honestly, with some of the people I have known and hearing their life stories… I find it hard to be even angry at them when they do what they do, since I don’t rightly know if I would do better given those circumstances.
What are your future project(s)?
Future Seasons of Ain’t A Hero. There’s a tabletop game or two I made for a contest a long time ago I thought about rewriting to my current standards. Eventually need to do something with the computer game engine I’ve been writing… like write a game using it. There’s a cyberpunk and science fiction series I may work on, but my focus is presently on Ain’t A Hero.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Tenured professor of computer science at a unverisity, teaching the introductory courses. I would have so much fun with that job. I don’t have to prep, just show up, comedically ramble about random basic computer programming stuff, and not have to worry. Most people who go into computer science, and will actually make it, teach themselves after a bit a of guidance. Those that aren’t a fit will fail out at a certain point no matter what you do. So, I have fun and don’t have to worry about whether I’m setting anyone up for failure by my ineptitude at teaching.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I’m a bit of outsider to the normal means that more established authors use. But, I do have a website with my various projects, including the free EPUBs for Ain’t A Hero: http://www.bestwithstuff.com
On Reddit, I go by Lakstoties and post over to r/HFY , ( https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/ ). They’re pretty accepting and decent folks over there, so if you write anything about humanity it should have home there.
And folks can always just e-mail me. It’d be nice to get something than other automated e-mails and spam: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, I guess the Amazon link for Ain’t A Hero – Season 1 would make sense here. Read first from the website, pay if you enjoy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BCWLBW8