BookView Interview with Author Brian Estvander

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Brian Estvander , about his writing and his recently released latest, Stilled, The Story of Inklebrawt Winklehank, an epic-scale space adventure about a group of hybrid siblings struggling to protect the future of the human race while coming to terms with their true identity. (Read the review here.). Brian has worked in the pharmaceutical/nanotechnology/biotechnology industries for over 23 years developing technology for small molecule drugs, regenerative medicine, and membrane protein biochemistry.

Brian Estvander has worked in the pharmaceutical/nanotechnology/biotechnology industries for over 23 years developing technology for small molecule drugs, regenerative medicine, and membrane protein biochemistry. He is currently working on the purification of cellular integral membrane protein receptors utilized for studies on the Cryo- Electron Microscope and Native Mass Spectroscopy. In his free time, he likes gardening, playing sports and Dungeons and Dragons and writing. He also spends time researching and learning military history and ancient history, and the life and physical sciences. Music drives it all. He resides in Northern Illinois with his wife, daughter, and son.   


What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When I said the word “ball”, and everyone laughed. I can make people laugh! I don’t really remember that, but that was my first word, so I am told.

How often do you base your characters on real people?

Very much so. I am an observer, always have been. But I tweak the characters a bit and make them my own. I try and make them believable and real for the reader. If I can’t physically act them out in privacy or while writing then I know those characters (personalities, quarks, voices, and such) aren’t correct for the story. Maybe those that didn’t make the cut this time will be perfect in another story.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have three very rough drafts and two others that are ideas with some outlined plot. But the current one is well underway ~ 20,000 words so far.

What does literary success look like to you?

Original works that I write and publish.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A lot of research! I want to get it right but also enjoyable for the reader so as not to bog them down in the details. In my previous book Stilled: The Story of Inklebrawt Winklehank, the places are real in the current time of the story. For example, you can google earth every place and actually see the location and even the buildings/homesteads/parks etc. Except the planet of Ply’ – that I created in my mind.

Do you find writing therapeutic?

Yes! It is a great escape. The best escape to enter and allow for your imagination come to life through words, numbers, and music. Also, since I was diagnosed with cluster headache attacks, I was able to speak of this terrible disease and intertwine it into the story line for the current book Stilled – in a SCI-FI way. 

What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

Time. Where does it go?

How many hours a day do you write?

When I am in writing mode and have the time, sometimes four hours straight or most of the day. But that includes research, picking the correct music for the scene. It can take a week to write three to five sentences perfectly. Sometimes, it just flows and pages turn out in minutes. Then, I don’t write for days at a time.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Mostly energizes but can be exhausting.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Everyone is different. I can’t answer that.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Never thought about that. That’s the individuals own problem to solve by their own personal calculation and judgement. I suppose you have to have confidence in yourself and always seek as much help as possible if you are stuck or unsure of something, being rhetoric or an idea.

How often you read?

I read all the time. All day and night. Work and for fun.  

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I write what I feel. If it feels right and I think the readers will enjoy it, then that is what I will do. I’m not particularly good at following what is popular to get one published. For example, I am not going to write a zombie or vampire book because it will sell. I suppose I can, but my heart and the music would not be into it. But, if it fits the plot and has meaning, then there will be a vampire or zombie or two.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

No. You must connect to the characters. I think it’s the most important thing to keep the reader going. To keep the author going. I laugh and cry for my characters!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Brian. Write. Don’t waste your time on petty things that don’t allow you to think and grow.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

So far, nothing has changed.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Editors, beta readers and an excellent cover artist.

How do you select the names of your characters?

They just come to mind. Some are based on experience meeting them, but I alter the names a bit.

Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?

Yes. I read the reviews. I read them because they are available, and I can learn from them and utilize them to either promote the book or inspire myself to continue writing. Good or bad reviews, I will grow.

Do you Google yourself?

I have.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I am not going to swallow the “vampire” pill from American Horror Story…but what would I give up? I am. I cannot change. Great question! I am stumped here.

What are your favorite books?

Dibs in Search of Self. To Kill a Mocking Bird. Dandelion Wine. With the Old Breed. Moby Dick. The Sword of Shannara. The Wheel of Time series. Odd Thomas. Sarah’s Key. Pushing Ice. Contact. Jurassic Park. Icewind Dale Trilogy. Druids. Undaunted Courage. Russka. Sarum. Ender’s Game. Ender’s Shadow. I could go on and on…

What is your favorite childhood book?

Honestly? The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Time. Too many distractions. But they are all mostly good and necessary distractions.

Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?

Myself. I was and am a storyteller. I love it.

How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?

Too many interests. I can write SCI-FI and historical fiction.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Nope. They perceive it as a hobby only.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

Studied intermediate composition more seriously.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

From limited experience in writing a book I can only say about a year maybe two.

Is writer’s block real?

Hilarious! Yes. But then there is always a way and just some weird thought or experience that happens and then the words flow. I generally don’t force the writing. If I find that I am forcing something written down then it is not path to go down. I can and have deleted entire pages to better the plot.  

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I guess I pay more attention to the style of writing and storyline and or topic. But the books that have had a strong influence on me would have to be Dandelion Wine and the Shannara Series and Ender’s game.  

After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?

I hope the correct words were chosen to convey the story for the reader. Then, darn it! I find something I didn’t like. Pacing is so important.

How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?

Currently not my career. I am a scientist.

Were your parents interested in literature? Did they read a lot? What books did you have in the house?

My Father read everything. Sciences, history, fantasy, SCI-FI. My Mother read lots of magazines on the topics of cooking, gardening. They always had a book or magazine in their hands-while the television was on and the reading material was always available to me since I was able to read.

What in particular attracted you to this genre?

It’s what I like.

How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?

Just starting. But what I have read and seen, pretty competitive.

How do you begin a book?

That’s difficult to answer. I will try my best. An idea. It flows. Then stops. Then suddenly it comes together for plot. Or, characters are developed first then the plot is shaped around them. That last sentence. That’s what I do mostly.

What’s more important: characters or plot?

Characters drive the plot. Who knows what they are going to do. I don’t. Just like music. Music drives the lyrics. You have to have flow of naturally happening.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Acceptance from family. Man, that’s difficult. And notoriety. It’s a difficult trade now days with all the avenues of communication being saturated second by second. Time.

SOME FUN QUESTIONS:

If asked, what would your friends and family say about you?

Who? Brian? He’s a good guy.

Would you rather read a book or watch television?

That depends on what the book is and what is on television.

If you could only change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Not to have cluster headache attacks. But without them, the book would have never been written so it’s a double edge sword.

Are you a feeler or a thinker?

Both all the time.

What is your greatest failure? What did you learn from that failure?

Rushing out a book to get published when it wasn’t properly edited nor fleshed out. Never again, take my time and talk to the correct people.

How different was your life one year ago?

Not much has changed.

Is there anything you want to unlearn?

Why would I want to do that? All experiences and knowledge learned can be used for material in writing a book.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR BOOK/WRITING:

Tell us some more about your book.

Inklebrawt Winklehank is a Huply, a hybrid of the biologically engineered immortal Plythi’i race and a human. Because of his birthright, he has both the logic and enhanced psychokinetic abilities of the Plythi’i paired with the wild emotions and temperament of humanity.

Maggie Henderson is a scientist working at MIT, creating leading-edge bio-nanotechnology while struggling to keep her powers hidden, unaware of a growing threat close to home.

DavidWessel is an elite sniper stationed in the Afghanistan desert. When his latest target turns out to be far more dangerous than your average enemy, he is forced to choose who to believe when those closest to him are threatened.

And Nicola Helyn is a runaway mobster who only wants to forget his past, but when he meets a mysterious woman and finds himself hunted by a dangerous man, he is forced to reconcile all he thought he knew with the truth of who he is.

Connected by the threads of family and fate, the four must learn how to work together despite their differences. And to bring them all together, Ink must wrestle with his very human emotions in the face of what he knows he must do. Time is running out. Because the Shepherds, a group of rogue Huply who believe the Plythi’i should remain separate from humans, are moving. They nearly destroyed the Plythi’i in their first attack centuries ago, leaving the Earth and its civilizations in shambles, with nothing more than rubble to mark the technological advances of the past. This time they are determined not to fail.

And behind the scenes, whispers of the half-believed Tsr’Yyd are growing. They are coming. And Ink and his Huply siblings must be ready.

Spanning lifetimes and crossing galaxies, Stilled: The Story of Inklebrawt Winklehank is an intricate, fast-paced science fiction novel of a fight across millennia for the future of the evolution of the human race.

What inspired the premise of your book?

A mix of real-life experiences. Minus the SCI-FI aspect, what Ink and Maggie experienced in the story were not too far off from what I experienced. So I put all these experiences and people I have met and made it into a SCI-FI story.

How many rewrites did you do for this book?

More than 10 for sure. But the plot remained mostly the same it was just getting the pacing and flow of the plot and choosing the correct words and studious research.

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?

Experiences and a person I met and a paragraph I wrote about 15 years ago. Mostly music by Hans Zimmer and other artists. Then ideas just started to flow.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

They just happen if it fits the story. Some of the characters names have a scientific meaning behind them that partly drives the story.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Probably Nicola Helyn. I know very little about the mafia. Although kind of a flat character, he is essential to the plot and I like his personality.

Are any of your characters based on real people you know?

Yes.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

Probably the chapters Pero de un Amigo and Ink Stains. These chapters really dive into why Ink is the way he is and is the start of many revelations as to the why of what is going on.

Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?

When Ink is aged 15 on the planet of Ply’. Trying to write and choose the correct words for what I was imagining the world of Ply’ looks and smells like, its habit, geology etc. But mostly on how Ink deals with the Plythi Convictions and communicating with the Tsr’ Yyd. 

Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?

Sister Maggie!

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

A rollercoaster of emotions and hopefully think a little more broadly about existence of life.

How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?

I suppose I wrote it in how I live my life.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

I have two kids. My daughter has Pink bunny stuffed animal and my Son has Blue Doggie stuffed animal (who is a major on influence/conduit on Ink’s mind set and decisions). I actually built the garden that Maggie builds in the story and describe what it looks like and what actually happened to me in real life. I did kick a fake dear. I did have a run-in with a real deer. I did slip on the wet floor in a coffee shop. I do work in a laboratory. I did bonk a lovely girl on the head with my kite (a long time ago). A lot more.

What makes this book important right now?

I think it is not only a good escape from the real world but addresses how precious it is to be human and what a miracle our planet truly is.

Where do your ideas for this story come from?

My life experiences and knowledge gained so far to date.

What sort of a relationship exists between you and the characters you created in this book?

I am definitely a mix of Inklebrawt and Maggie.

Has this novel changed drastically as you created it?

Not drastically. Just an added a chapter here or rewrite there for clarity and flow of the story.

How did you decide on this title?

Stilledis a process that happens altering the human state and Inklebrawt Winklehank just came to me out of the blue and well its his story in this time.

How crucial is it to have a working title before you begin a project? (answer this if you decide on your title very early in the writing process)

For Stilled, the title came together somewhere during the first draft. But for the current book I am writing the title absolutely is driving the story.

What’s next for you?

Finish the current book I am writing which is set in a fictional Earth around a time period and technology of England’s late 1800’s. I haven’t decided yet, but the story may tie into Stilled. Those who read Stilled would be pleasantly surprised and those who didn’t might want to go back and read Stilled. We will see what the characters decide to do! I don’t know yet. Sometimes, I surprise myself! That for me, is the best part of creating a story!

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