Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed Bradley R. Blankenship, the author of In Lost Dreams the Four Were Bound, an epic dark fantasy saga. It’s the first book in Genean Chronicles #1 and part of the larger Remi’s Cross Saga universe.
Bradley R. Blankenship is a first-time author working on multiple manuscripts while taking a giant leap into self-publishing. The stories he loves to tell blend elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and thrillers. Though he maintains several wikis of knowledge about worlds and ideas from unpublished short stories and novellas, his ambition is to craft a series of books set in his larger world setting, the Remi’s Cross Saga.
At an early age, Brad found his passion for reading while struggling through instruction manuals and onscreen text with his favorite video games Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. As he grew up, he poured over every fantasy novel he could get while enjoying the self-same attractions that drew him into stories both as a concept and device for expression. In high school, this transitioned into writing short screenplays and dramas to portray during late-night tabletop sessions. These ideas then transformed into his first short stories and novellas in college, culminating in a need to express the worlds and adventures in his mind.
Brad finds much of his inspiration in video games, anime, a broad spectrum of fiction, and mythology. He enjoys trying new writing techniques, telling stories from different perspectives, and world-building.
He currently resides in Seattle, WA, with his girlfriend Ami and two cats, Edgar and Irkalla.
BookView Review: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Bradley R. Blankenship: The first most prominent trap I run into is the endless spiral of self-editing. I don’t know how many times I went through my book trying to catch all the errors, rewrite individual scenes to sound better, etc. Honestly, I lost months and perhaps up to a year just on that. Some of the edits made sense (incomplete ideas, misaligned certain events thematically, etcetera). Most of the time, I just wanted perfection. My advice on this trap: pay for a good copy or line editor. If you want someone to vet your ideas, get a structural edit. The amount of time you will spend on trying to catch everything yourself could be better spent getting the rest of the writing done.
The second trap is endless world-building for world-building’s sake. This is probably more common for fantasy and sci-fi authors who love to build cultures, histories, and the like. This trap plays out in two ways. The first is merely losing sight of the end goal, aka getting a story out there. The second is far more insidious. Often I tend to build a rich history and series of events, which put such heavy constraints on the story I write myself into a place where the plot cannot move forward as intended. This leads to me trying endless variants of scenarios that might fit into the prescribed world narrative. When all else fails, I end up writing the necessary plot and then figuring out how history must have played out to lead there. My advice is to work on the story you want to tell and then figure out how the world plays into that story.
BookView Review: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Bradley R. Blankenship: As someone who does not feel emotions strongly, I would whole-heartedly say, “Yes!”. I think there’s a misconception that people without typical emotional responses cannot relate or extrapolate how feelings affect behavior and motivation. Yet from my own experiences, I find that I spend a lot of time digging into someone else’s shoes. I puzzle out the cycle of experience, emotion, reaction, and rationalization people go through as it drives their daily and lifelong endeavors. And the more you understand that cycle, the easier it is to write relatable experiences. Maybe it’s harder (I couldn’t say), but I think the process drives me to write better characters.
BookView Review: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Bradley R. Blankenship: I don’t have many; thus, I have read every review.
In general, most of my reviews have been very positive. It’s heartening to read reviews that callout specific characters or events which people loved. As for negative reviews, I’m lucky in that only a few editorials have been sour. Yet those critiques I take to heart.
One review brought up the adjectives I used for several characters (Casera, Liora, and Neris) in my story. I’ve also had a lot of criticism of some of the explicit content. Even before publishing, I knew aspects of the book could potentially be considered problematic. After pondering for a long time whether I should try to change my language or the events, I decided to stick by the initial writing. To see it called out in editorials was not surprising, though it did sting a bit.
In the end, I enjoy specific criticisms or praise as they make me think about what I’m doing well, what I could do better, and what decisions I have to make when writing in the future. They present opportunities and challenges to overcome, which help me to become a better writer and storyteller.
BookView Review: What are your favorite books?
Bradley R. Blankenship: I think my favorite book I’ve read in the past ten years is probably House of Leaves. I’ve read it six times thus far. It’s a unique psychological horror piece with a very engaging, dynamic presentation that always leaves me wondering what I’ll get on my next read. Outside of that, I enjoy the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I also sincerely appreciate the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi (and with illustration by Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy fame). Berserk is probably my favorite manga, and if the author ever finishes the series, I will be impressed. Going backward into my teenage years, I loved the Deathgate Cycle and Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I also have a soft spot for Lord of the Rings and all things Asimov, Bradbury, and Lovecraft.
BookView Review: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Bradley R. Blankenship: Just sitting down to write. As a part-time writer, getting myself somewhere where I can sit down for even thirty minutes to write proves to be very difficult. Working a 9-5 day job where I’m writing most of the day (emails, Slack messages, etcetera) saps a lot of the enjoyment I get from the process. What I’ve found I often need to do is take a more extended break (~90 minutes) between work and writing to get the mental space I need to execute. Fitting that 90 minutes into an evening of dinner, animal care, and whatnot is another story. Ideally, I make myself write at least 300 – 1500 words a day. But I’ll take 250 words when I get it.
BookView Review: Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
Bradley R. Blankenship: To describe where In Lost Dreams the Four Were Bound came to be, we must first discuss how the Remi’s Cross universe began.
In the beginning, there were two children, Clayton and I. We played games of make-believe, spanning vast, fantastical worlds, planetary vistas, and techno-magical cities born from video games and Legos. Separated by tragedy and overtaken by teenage years, my childhood dreams crystallized around a repertoire of media experiences and creative endeavors, culminating in Dungeons and Dragons games with my younger brother Todd.
I began to fit it all together in college, writing dozens of short stories about the various characters Clayton, Todd, and I created while exploring my voice. To translate the world into a series, I decided to set the tone of the universe and grander plot in this first book. The final process of putting pen to paper flowed organically, organized around the extensive world-building from my youth and beyond.
BookView Review: Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
Bradley R. Blankenship: My favorite “sequence of events” is the climax of the story. We have many tiny scenes during the finale, switching perspectives in short snippets as the action plays out for our heroines and hero. We get different kinds of engagements during these scenes, from the supernatural to just straight hack-and-slash combat.
The reason I love these scenes is they culminate in one big dramatic, emotional payoff. They are a microcosm of the tension we’ve experienced during the whole story, where the string keeps getting pulled more taught as impending doom shadows our cast. Here that same tense chord is being strummed frantically, all up until the string snaps. It’s hard to describe much without spoilers, but I hope anyone who reads the story gets there. Please look forward to it.
BookView Review: Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
Bradley R. Blankenship: Elis and Neris’s conjoined plots, along with that of Rais, changed drastically from the first draft to the final product.
Starting with Elis and Neris… In the original short story, Neris didn’t exist. Instead, her role was partially pushed onto Elis, while Rais captured other aspects. As I developed the novella into the first draft of the book, Neris emerged as a rival to Elis. This was coupled with Elis also being both more standoffish towards the Hyunisti and her essentially despising being a “prize” for them. Overall, the antagonistic relationship between them served its purpose but left many questions on the table. Why would Elis put up with any of this? Why had they never sat down and talked, especially given Neris’s lascivious behavior and general talvuo tendencies? Did she stay around because she felt obligated? What obliged her?
None of this worked thematically or motivationally. Looking back to where each of these women came from, I realized that they were two halves of a very bitter pill. Both at their core are of the same medicine: independence, passion, and a need to control their worlds. But due to their circumstances, they donned different personas, expressing themselves in contrasting ways. This led to me developing them as new lovers where a romance from their near and distant pasts injected tension into their lives. This made their dynamic more realistic and relatable while giving them both reasons to “hang around.”
For Rais, she initially was a pseudo mischievous, naïve child that enjoyed acting like an adult. After many iterations, she developed into being a child taken care of by Elis. This was for two purposes: first, to give Elis some baggage, which would help explain her; second, to provide Rais an emotional dynamic readers could attach to.
BookView Review: What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
Bradley R. Blankenship: The death of my great grandfather, James Crumm, shaped so much of who I am. It’s hard to describe all the consequences. I remember the morning of January 1st, 1999, with crystal clarity. My then best friend Clayton and I were the first witnesses, which cascaded into neighbors, family, and friends from the neighborhood, outside states, and beyond. The cacophony of voices is hard to recall. My first thoughts were: this has happened, what do I do, where do I go?
To explain, James Crumm wasn’t merely my great grandfather at the time. He was my father, having raised me with my great grandmother, aunts, uncles, and various surrounding family in and out through my formative years and childhood. It took the better part of the following decade, maybe longer, for me to really cope with losing him.
After he died, a whirlwind of life changes swept me away, culminating in a radically changed worldview. My world grew in radical ways: from moving in with my real mother to moving away from “home” then back in a strange way, having a brother, then sisters, a new dad, etcetera.
I think much of my melancholy and lax view on life comes from dealing with my great grandfather’s death. The games I played with my brother, which carried on the stories from my childhood, were due primarily to hanging onto those fond memories. I still wonder what he would think of my life today. Would he be proud? Would I be able to regale him with my random tales? Those are questions will never be answered.
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