Name: Brian Paone
Latest Release: Yours Truly, 2095
Genre: time-travel romance
Hugo Award Nominated author Brian Paone was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Brian has, so far, published three novels: a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts; a macabre cerebral-horror novel, Welcome to Parkview; and a time-travel romance novel, Yours Truly, 2095—all three novels are available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. Along with his three novels, Brian has published two short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words, and “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words. Brian is married to a US Navy nurse and has four children. He is also police officer and has been working in law enforcement since 2002. When Brian isn’t writing, he is playing or recording music with his bands. He is also a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and his favorite color is burnt-orange.
- How long have you been writing?
In 7th grade, I wrote my first original story called, “The Night is Young,” and brought it into school for everyone to read. My classmates liked it so much they encouraged me to write more. Every weekend throughout 7th and 8th grade I wrote a new story, just for my classmates to read on Monday mornings. My teacher encouraged it so much, she would even go to the front office and photocopy the stories so each student could have their own to take home. I even had a friend start drawing front covers of all my stories, which would be stapled to the front of the printouts. So I think the “in-school popularity and quasi-celebrity” status I received in junior high because of my short stories was what fueled the fiction machine for me. I still have every story I wrote during those 2 years, EXCEPT that very first one. Someone spilled water on the only copy and the paper disintegrated. . I only wrote short stories from 1988 to 2005. It was then that I began work on my first novel.
- What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I write exclusively in a genre called Rock Fiction, which is a sub-genre of Musical Fiction, when a single song, an entire album, or the span of a band/artist’s complete work is turned into fiction, using the literal lyrics to directly create the plotline and story arc, and usually the title of the book/story is taken directly from the song/album that the work is an adaptation of.
- What are your goals as a writer, both small and large?
To do justice to the albums that I novelize. I know that dire-hard fans of each of these bands and albums that I adapt buy and read my work, and my goal is to make them happy and not show up at my house with torches, ready to lynch me because I ruined their favorite album. Because that is always a risk with everything I publish.
- What inspires you?
Music. Albums that have strong emotion all the way through. If I can’t connect to an album as a listener, how could I ever be motivated to adapt it into a novel/short story?
- Have you ever fallen in love with a character? Tell us about this romance.
Allison Tampico, in my second novel Welcome to Parkview. She started off as a child in the beginning of the book, and I grew with her to adulthood by the ending of the novel. She’s the only character that I saw grow up right before my eyes.
- How do you find or make time to write?
I’ve published 3 novels, and my typical day during the writing of each book was totally different from each other. When I was writing my first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, I was in the middle of moving from MA to GA, changing police departments, and recording an album with my band, Transpose. So a typical day would be: get everything done first for the move, switching jobs, the recording studio, and whatever time was left at night: work on the book. We also didn’t have any kids yet.
With my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, my wife had been deployed to Djibouti and I was working full time at the police department in GA, and we had 2 kids now. So I was alone without my wife, with 2 toddlers, and working full time. The My day would be: get the kids to day-care, go work fighting crime for 8 hours, pick the kids up and do whatever household chores I had to do (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping etc.), feed the kids dinner and put them to bed around 6:30, then I would work out for an hour, and then I would work on Welcome to Parkview after I showered until whenever I passed out at my laptop.
With Yours Truly. 2095, the Navy had sent us to Japan for the next 4 years. I had to take a leave of absence at the police department, and we moved the family there. I did not get a job right away, as my wife wanted me to be the stay at home parent during our time in Japan (I did eventually become a Criminal Justice professor for the college on base, but that’s irrelevant to the book.) We moved in November, 2011 and by January, 2012 I was itching to write. For the first time, I had the TIME to write, and not having to worry about a new job, moving, or wiping poopy diapers. So, in February, 2012, I started my outline, and writing the book was my full-time job for a while. We sent out 2 kids to Japanese Kindergarten (called a Yochien in Japan) and they were gone Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00. I would bring them to the bus stop, wave goodbye, go back up into our apartment, and write until the bus brought them back. It was the first time I could write without distractions, and the first time I was writing not being dead-tired at night after putting in a full day.
I’ve just started outlining what will be novels 4 and 5, and the process has, again, changed. We have a new baby, and we are back in America, but this time, I have my first office. It’s a room in our house that is designated to strictly writing or creating music. So, I have a room I can go into, shut the door, and disappear, even when the kids are home… which I was never able to do before.
- Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
All 3 books were done a little different from each other. My first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, was outlined more in journal format before it went to narrative. My second book, Welcome To Parkview, had no outline. I wrote stream of consciousness and just let the story take itself where it naturally wanted to go. Then when I was finished, I had to go back and almost write it a second time now that I knew how everything played out. With the new book, Yours Truly, 2095, I did the most amount of outline, but it was done on a poster board with different colored Sharpies, tracing the character’s time travel journeys back and forth to make sure none of the lines crossed and created paradoxes that I couldn’t explain. When I was done, I could hold the poster board up and see the whole book in the form of Sharpie lines crisscrossing and making a graft that then needed to be turned into words.
- Who would play you in your life story?
- What projects are you working on at the moment?
- A short story that I am writing for the anthology, “A Haunting of Words,” is going to be an adaptation of Porcupine Tree’s album, “Fear of a Blank Planet.”
- One of the two novels that I am currently writing is about the eight months my wife was deployed to Djibouti, Africa, and left me home alone with two toddlers. Tentatively untitled, it’s going to be a comedic-military novel, almost in the style of the film Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton, about the learning curve and craziness that ensued during those months. Every night I would send her an email, usually quoting song lyrics from our favorite bands at the end. I am compiling all those songs, and will use those specific lyrics to drive the story forward.
- The other novel that I am writing is an adaptation of Dog Fashion Disco’s “Adultery” album, which is a concept album that is about a private detective, set in a pulp noir setting, who gets dragged into the dirty underground. The great thing about this novel is the reader will not need to have ever heard the album to read the book. None of my novels or short stories have a prerequisite of needing to know the band or album the work is based off of to enjoy or understand the storyline.
- What process did you go through to get your work published?
So, I’m kind of a rare case in the manner of how I got published. I never had an agent. So it’s not mandatory or a prerequisite to have an agent to sign a book deal. I landed my first publishing contract because I had self-published my first novel, “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” and I had built and designed a website strictly for the book. This was BEFORE Createspace, and Smashwords and all those other self-publishing platforms. Back then, you had to find a company who would mass print documents (like a Kinkos) and literally have it pieced together with the plastic spiral binding… no back cover, and pretty much printer paper stock. It was so ghetto that I wish I still had a copy of my “self-published” book just to show you guys (or so I could laugh it.) Anyway, between the website, and constant self-promotion, I sold a little over 1,000 copies of this terribly put together/bounded “book.” (It was really just 320 pages-3 hole punched and kept together with plastic rings.) I couldn’t order them fast enough. I was ordering them 20 at a time, and selling 30 (so I was always behind in my orders. I couldn’t keep up.). What I did RIGHT (if I didn’t do anything else right at all with the way it physically looked) was that I was smart enough to assign an ISBN number to the book before I even sold the first copy. This meant that every single sale was being tracked! Even my Mickey Mouse looking “docu-book” was being tracked sales-wise. Well, after about 8 months of selling hundreds and hundreds of my book from my website and out of garage MC Hammer style, publishing companies started contacting ME! I have never written one query letter in my life. I have never solicited my book to one single publishing company myself. All of a sudden, I had about 3 publishing companies fighting to sign me… and they got into a mini-bid war over my novel. All of this because I had proof of how many units were sold through the ISBN number, and they could also track it themselves. I had no idea, in my wildest dreams that I would sell that many copies of my book… and I never EVER thought that I would be one of those cases where the publishing companies contact me first without having to go through all that stress of dozens of query letters and rejection slips. But looking back at it now, I really truly believe it was because I had created a unique and specific website for the book PRIOR to release, and I had assigned an ISBN number to the book. Without that ISBN number, my book would never ever have gotten on the radar, and I would probably either have quit writing by now, or would have a shoebox full of rejection slips under my bed.
I feel like I write the same was we drive to somewhere we’ve never been, but with GPS on. When you drive somewhere far away, and you are using GPS for each turn, you understand what and when the next “turn” will be, but you have no idea what you are going to be seeing out of your window while you are driving to the next turn. I feel that’s how both of my fictional novels were written. I knew what had to happen, and when, but I even surprised myself at some of the things that I saw out the window while I wrote.
- What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The greatest challenge about writing is the first 20,000 words of a new novel. That is really the most critical time where you are figuring out what you are trying to say, and the voice and the tone you are trying to say it in. When I was writing “Yours Truly, 2095” I wrote about 40,000 words and trashed the whole manuscript. It was unorganized and too busy. I was trying to cram a mini-series worth of plot into a single novel. Once I cut back, and started from the beginning again, focused and organized with a single vision, everything fell into place. Some writers will tell you that the editing process is the most frustrating about being an author. I, on the other hand, feel that once my book gets sent to the editing team, all the weight has been taken off my shoulders and now it’s just a series of corrections, approvals, omits, rewrites…. That sounds tough, but when you have a solid editing team that you trust, it’s more like building a puzzle with a few friends where someone is in charge of the corners, and someone is in charge of edges, and someone is in charge of the middle… eventually you all get to the same goal together. Being on a team while editing is easy… being by yourself during those first few drafts when you don’t even know if you’re coming or going… THAT is the hardest part.The greatest challenge about #writing is the first 20,000 words of a new #novel. #author… Click To Tweet
- What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.
Because I turn people’s favorite albums into novels or short stories, my favorite part is when a complete stranger leaves a review or contacts me and thanks me for doing a great service to their favorite album.
- If you could have any fictional character(s), living or dead, on your survival team after an apocalypse, who would you choose and why?
Cujo. Because I could just sic him on anything that threatened us. On second thought, he might also attack me. So, maybe Christine? Or Pennywise? Or Arnold in Terminator 2?
- Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in your story?
For Yours Truly, 2095 I would have Rose Byrne play J0/Julie, Jason Bateman play Jeff, John C Reilly play Bruce, Paul Giamatti play Horace, Ellie Kemper play Rael/Rayleen, and Randy Blazak play Blazak.
- What is your favorite escape from day to day living?
Music. And football.
- What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?
I am a marketing a promotional machine. Social media presence, swag, book signings, paid advertising, blog tours, giveaways. And I believe that promotion is such a big part of the process, that I consider it “part” of the writing.
- Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?
Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Jean Auel, however, I only have one favorite author, but many favorite books. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I would say that his influence is all over the place in my second novel, Welcome to Parkview. In fact, some reviews of the novel on Amazon have said things like, “a great combination of Stephen King and the Twilight Zone,” and stuff like that. So I guess, reading every single King novel and short story he has ever commercially published, had some effect on my writing when I wrote that book specifically, since it is a cerebral-horror novel. Some of my favorite books include The Bell Jar, The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables, Pillars of the Earth, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Virgin Suicides. I think the emotional breakdown that happens in The Bell Jar and the constant struggle of trying to find out where you actually belong in society that is prevalent in The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes out in all of my writing. In my book, Yours Truly, 2095, the main character wakes up over a hundred years in the future, and has to figure out his place in that time, or he might never get back.
- Do you know the secret to originality in writing? Would you share it?
Find a niche that isn’t saturated. Be a big fish in a small pond. The beauty of the genre I write in, is that I will always have a 2 built-in audiences: the fans of the band/album I an adapting, and then the fans of the genre that the story encompasses. For example, Yours Truly, 2095 is a time-travel romance adaptation of Electric Light Orchestra’s album “Time.” So ELO fans are buying the book, AND romance fans are buying the book. The crossover with everything I publish is always two-fold.
- What are you currently reading?
I just finished “Habeas Corpseus” by PR Johnson.
- What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Unedited and poorly written self-publishing novels are killing the industry for the solid, well written self published novels. I think there will be a crest and a revolt against these pieces of drivel. Right now it seems that every 14 year old can release a book into the world, but I think the consumers are going to start to make some noise and there will be some stricter standards put into place to “publish” a book.
Thank you for your time in answering our questions, Brian. We wish you much success in your future endeavors!