I’m happy to be able to interview author and screenwriter Brian J. Walton today. Brian’s science fiction time travel thriller Recursion was just released this week.
Welcome to the Capricious Narrator, Brian.
What kind of stories do you like to tell? What draws you to science fiction?
I like to say that, as a writer, I’m more of a Spielberg than a Lucas. I love stories that push the boundaries of our imagination. That make us wonder about what is possible, and what we might do if placed in similarly impossible situations, but are also grounded in a familiar and relatable setting. I got hooked on the early science fiction classics from HG Wells and Jules Verne. But the book that was really significant for me was Enders Game. I’ve read it countless times. There was something about the reality of it, and the fact that the character was someone that I could relate to. I was hooked. Spielberg’s films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and AI are also huge inspirations.
What motivates your writing? What gets you in front of your keyboard?
My high-priced Los Angeles rent? Well, that’s part of it. But I guess I’ve always been a writer at heart. My mom still has the short, science fiction book I wrote and illustrated in Kindergarten and my high school English teacher made me read a short story I wrote in front of the class. For a while I wanted to get into film. Acting, directing, cinematography. All of the above. But after only a year in the program I knew that writing was still my passion, so I switched my degree from Directing to Screenwriting. My first job out of college was as a PA (production assistant) for a cable show about restoring old cars. I had a habit of carrying a notebook with me and writing down ideas in my downtime. My producer thought that meant I didn’t like the work, so she let me go at the end of the season (she was mostly right). I quickly found out that revealing I was a writer put me at a disadvantage for getting work in Hollywood. Employers knew it meant I would only be so interested in the job, and, well, they were right. Shortly after graduating, I actually transitioned into education, and that was a much better fit for my writing career. Teaching literature actually kept me energized to do my own writing.
But to answer your question more directly, I write because my story ideas are like an itch that need to be scratched. It’s a bit of a compulsion. And channeling that compulsion into stories I can be proud of, and excite and inspire readers, is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
Any formative books, either fiction or nonfiction, that impact your writing? Are any authors your role model?
To be honest, I’ve read so many that they all blend together. Recently, it’s been podcasts. Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Excuses podcast is a master class in fiction writing. It focuses on the craft of genre writing, but any writer could benefit from it.
What science fiction novels have you reread or do you return to?
As I said above, for a long time it was Ender’s Game. But recently, I’ve been completely enthralled by David Mitchell. Most people know him for Cloud Atlas, but his more recent book The Bone Clocks, has replaced Enders Game as my favorite novel of all time and has drastically influenced my own writing. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi/literary hybrid. The novel is split into six novellas, each with a different main character, all in first person present. The premise is that there is a secret cadre of warring immortals, but the book focuses on the tertiary characters affected by this war. It’s brilliant, and I shamelessly admit to modeling the structure of my own book after it.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year or two with your writing?
My hope is to be full time in the next year or two. But my ambitions go beyond that. I want my work to be a source for social change, by inviting readers into the lives of diverse but relatable characters. I also hope to be a part in elevating genre writing from the genre side. It is becoming popular right now for literary authors to write in genre fiction (though they still always slap “a novel” on the cover and always shelve it in the literary section). I’d like to write genre fiction that aims for some literary standards as well. Recursion doesn’t really hit this goal—it’s a fairly standard thriller—but the follow-up is much more character focused, while still engaging with the larger story arc. It’s an experiment, but I hope readers will like it.
Is there a sci-fi invention/ gadget/ or piece of tech that you’d most like to borrow for a day?
(Minor spoiler) There’s something called neural hijacker in my first book. It’s a device that allows someone to remap a person’s neural pathways to match their own, allowing them to, effectively, take over that person’s body. To me it’s a terrifying piece of technology, but I would still love to give it a try.
What’s your writing schedule?
I work full time and have an 18 month old with another on the way, so my writing schedule is whenever I squeeze the time in. I sneak away to coffee shops for a few hours here in there or work for a few hours after everyone’s gone to bed.
What have you learned about writing/ the world/ yourself when working on Recursion?
Wow, what a question. I’ve learned that, as a writer, I’m capable of reaching and affecting an audience. The feedback I’ve gotten has been beyond humbling. Have a reader tell me that they couldn’t put it down is like a drug that is immediately addictive. Having published, I can’t see myself ever stopping.
What was the biggest challenge in finishing your latest novel?
The biggest challenges are setting a consistent writing schedule (see above) and revisions. I’m a pantser at heart who begrudgingly outlines. But I consistently stray from my outlines, which usually requires some major rewriting.
Can you tell me about Recursion’s main character?
Molly Gardner is an agent for the ISD (Isochronic Securities Department). She’s a tough character who knows how to lead and make the hard choices. She is also haunted by a tragedy from her past and is pursued by a mysterious and powerful time traveler, whose purposes are beyond her understanding. By the end of book 1 you will get some answers to these questions, but they will open up a lot more. There’s going to be plenty to explore in Molly’s past, present, and future in books to come.
How can your readers best find you?
Thank you, Brian, for being a willing interviewee!
You can check out Brian Walton’s new release Recursion here. It’s on sale for $ 0.99 through June 30, 2017.