Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Bryan McBee is the author of Vector Zero, also from Atmosphere Press. After serving in the US Army, he attended Boise State University, graduating in 2018 with a degree in writing and communication. He is an avid bookworm, cinephile and gamer, and lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and daughter.
Find out more about Bryan and his books at https://bryanmcbee.com/.
Tell us a little about how the story of Afterworld first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
I first conceived of the story back in 2001, after watching Fellowship of the Ring in the theater. It all started with a question: “What would that king of fantasy quest look like in the real world?” Then I set about trying to answer that question.
How did publishing Vector Zero, your first book, change your writing process for when you were working on Afterworld?
Afterworld was actually my first attempt at writing a novel, so work was slow going. I’d write in fits and starts on whatever paper was handy (I hadn’t yet gotten into the habit of carrying a notebook with me everywhere I go). All in all, it took me about seven years to finish the book, writing it like that. Vector Zero, on the other hand, involved a similar process, but was finished in 2013 only taking me about four years to complete.
I published the books in the reverse of the order in which I’d written them. At the time when I was looking for a publisher, I felt that Vector Zero was the stronger book, and I wanted to give Afterworld another round of revision, cutting and polishing before sending it out into the world. The experience of editing and revising Vector Zero for the publisher, as well as the writing and editing skills I gained in college, helped me make the Afterworld manuscript the best it could be.
What draws you to a “post-apocalyptic/dystopian” setting?
The post-apocalyptic setting was more due to the choice I made early on to use technology and science in place of magic. So the setting was born out of the need to make that choice make sense.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I suppose a little of both. People are comforted by things that are familiar. However, too much of that becomes boring and cliché. I try to come up with original concepts or events for my stories. Whenever possible, I especially like to use things that are familiar in new ways.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Finding the time to write is the hardest part of the process. Between work and family time, squeezing in time to write is difficult. When it comes to the process itself, I believe just getting the words on paper is enough to start with. I don’t expect much more than that from a first draft. I set a word count goal and write till I reach it. Everything can either be fixed or cut in subsequent drafts.
Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been a bookworm, thanks to my mom. She read to me a lot when I was little. When I was in the third or fourth grade, I pestered her into reading to me from Stephen King’s The Night Shift short story collection. The cover had a hand wrapped in bandages with eyeballs peeking out, and I wanted to know what that story was. Finally, she gave in and read I am the Doorway to me, starting my lifelong love of Stephen King’s writing. That love of reading eventually became a desire to tell stories of my own.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t be lazy. The book isn’t going to write itself. Scribble something, anything, everyday.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Some of my favorite authors are Dan Simmons, Robert R. McCammon, Stephen King (obviously), Joseph Heller, Megan E. O’Keefe, Agatha Christie, Michael Swanwick, Joe Abercrombie, William Gibson… too many more to briefly list here.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
Getting published and getting my work noticed has been the greatest challenge so far.
What’s next for you?
I’m already working on my third novel. It’s going to be a sci-fi serial killer thriller. I’m still tossing titles around, but the story takes place in the near future where people have smart phone technologies built into their bodies. I’m currently deep into the second draft.
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