Author Interview: Brand J. Alexander

Tell us something about your book.

Rise of Tears, book one of the Tears of Hatsunae series, is the beginning of more than just the series. It begins my entire literary universe. The prologue of the book is the literal genesis of my universe and every world that comes after. When I was going through chemo, vowing to fulfill my dream to be a published author, I envisioned the formation of the universe in which everything would take place, and to honor that, I offer it as a story within the story at the beginning of Rise of Tears.

Rise of Tears revolves around the concept of faith, which is partly why I decided to include the genesis of my universe in it. One of the biggest debates within the faiths is how everything began and who did it. I offer that truth right from the beginning. No faith needed.

This series explores numerous versions of faith throughout, faith in the divine even though all the gods are dead, faith in a parent and the vision a child develops of them, and faith in a people’s prowess and reputation. Each of these versions of faith help to move the story along and push the main character, Asahn, to evolve his own concept of faith.

As Asahn comes into manhood as the son of the tribe’s chieftain, he must contend with the history of his people and the expectations of his position. Their world is dying, their people are hunted, and the old tribe storyteller seems to think that Asahn is the only one who can do anything about it. Yet one figure stands in Asahn’s way of doing so, his father. In order to save his people, Asahn will have to challenge the man he thought his father to be, and along the way, he must discover the man he must become for the good of them all.  

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

I like to think my books are for people who pick up a fantasy novel for more than just the specific adventure, but someone who goes to explore a new world, experience new cultures, and discover new fantastical creatures.

I grew up on a steady literary diet of 90s epic fantasy novels. Jordan, Brooks, Eddings. It is the type of fantasy that I enjoy. Sprawling adventures spanning hundreds of pages with in-depth world-building and historical structures that solidify the story.

While I have and do publish a few sleeker, more compact short stories and novellas, my true passion is to write long grand epic fantasy adventures, and my Tears of Hatsunae series is a prime example. If that’s the kind of tale you enjoy, then I hope that I am the author for you.

 

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Epic. Simply epic. Join Asahn in his world of Elerea. Where Gods have been born and died leaving a once Eden-like world barren and hard to live off of. But the Khan Shogal do live off it. Led by Kah Hrah Hazahn and Kah Asahn, they are a nomadic tribe who has roots in ancient history. It’s time for their annual pilgrimage and there is danger afoot. Sycophants and traitors. Loyalists and surprising support. Asahn encounters all of it. Grows and learns. Becomes a man in his own right, not just due to age. The story is like a thief in the night. Comes and takes you away. To Elerea, where you meet the Dulhar and Ailewah and hear of ancient Gods and magic. Ride with the Khan Shogal. Engage in politics and lies. Experience friendship and loyalty that knows no bounds. Encounter things you never thought possible. I’ve only ever wanted to live in one fantasy world. Now I want to live here too. It’s harsh and beautiful and tragic. Some parts bring tears immediately. Some parts make me so mad I want to scream. It’s an emotional journey and so worth the ride.

What inspired you to write it?

A large portion of this story rose from my views on organized religion and how faith can be manipulated in so many ways. Many of us have faith in what we are told to have faith in, and I wanted to explore someone who learns the lessons of faith through trial and error and develops his own system.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

I am not really sure if I have an intended lesson. If I were forced to say something, I imagine it would be for people to decide themselves how they use faith in their lives and where they place it, whether it is faith in the people around us or faith in something bigger than us.

But mostly, I want people to enjoy an amazing adventure in a beautiful fantasy world.

Share an excerpt from your book.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of Rise of Tears. The old tribe storyteller Durn is telling the story around the campfire of the tribe’s origins, their homeland, and the gods who once ruled it. This is an excerpt of the story he tells.

“The armies of the Assembly marched unhindered across the High Plains. The great cities of the sky burned. Hatsunae and Vulgoth watched in despair as their realm was laid to waste. But their grief was diminished by dread. Nothing remained to protect their son from destruction.”

“Vulgoth couldn’t bear the pain in his lover’s eyes; her people, her son, her land, were all dying, and she was helpless to prevent it. His devotion to Hatsunae couldn’t allow such tragedy to continue. He embraced his divine love tenderly one last time. As she looked with tearful understanding, he drew the stone heart from his chest and offered it in token to seal his oath of eternal love.”

“Unburdened from love and the fear of losing her that would weaken his resolve, Vulgoth descended from the heavens to meet the host of the Assembly. ‘It’s forbidden,’ the enemy gods decried. ‘The covenant binds you,’ they insisted. But without his heart, the god of stone cared not about repercussions. ‘What punishment does the covenant hold for my transgressions that you don’t offer me already?’ he asked the Assembly. ‘Whether it be death as your blades strike down my faithful or death as my wrath consumes yours, the end is the same. I choose vengeance over surrender. Feel the wrath of stone’s fury!’ He struck the ground with a mighty blow.”

Durn’s next addition sent the flames erupting skyward. The percussion shook the ground and brought outcries of fear. “So fierce was Vulgoth’s blow the very heavens trembled! Sun and stars across the sky flickered with the shockwave. The Highlands groaned in protest as the fury of its maker wrought destruction. The Assembly quickly realized their folly. The land beneath their army’s feet quaked with the force of Vulgoth’s power and split with a deafening crack.”

“The gods of the Assembly watched helplessly as a rift swallowed their forces almost to a man. As the last rumbles faded, Vulgoth looked one final time to his mistress with love and farewell before vanishing into the nether. Having broken the covenant, he was stripped of the very potential that fueled his being and banished from existence.”

“Hatsunae cried out with heartrending loss. Consumed with rage and despair, the goddess of sea and storms lost all substance, reverting to the primal forces of her nature. Winds spurred by her hatred tore across the High Plains in fitful fury. The darkness of her mourning enveloped the sky in a vortex of clouds as black as night. With every scream of tortured agony, the tempest howled in answer with wrenching gusts that pummeled the land in a fierce barrage.”

“The Assembly beheld the display of divine wrath with terror, for within that storm lay the potential for their followers’ demise and in turn their own. A god willing to sacrifice themselves to save mortals was beyond their ability to comprehend. So they fled the Highlands with the remnants of their army.” 

A mild cheer went up at the Assembly’s retreat, but tears in many eyes were a testament to the cost of victory. Durn waited for the fire’s rage to relent, withdrawing the red glare of battle from the faces around him. The flickering calmed to a more natural light. The mood was set.

“Hatsunae, though overcome with grief, controlled her tempest’s fury and avoided breaching the covenant as well. She allowed the enemy to flee unscathed, despite her need to avenge her loss. With Vulgoth gone, her duties to son and people were paramount to vengeance.”

“You see, the paradise of the Highlands was a blending of both their powers. Alone, neither deity could have managed. With the death of Vulgoth, Hatsunae knew the lands would quickly follow. The people would need time to adapt to the changes or be forced to flee the harsh new environment. And her son Gilden wasn’t prepared to face the world beyond the Highlands’ safety. If forced to lead his people into the ravages of the God Wars, the entire purpose of his existence would come to naught. So Hatsunae resolved to expend her divinity like her lost love for the salvation of her world, her people, and her son.”

“She didn’t breach the covenant; however, for that would only waste the essence of her potential. Instead, she directed it to one singular purpose, to slow the decline of the lands and give her people and her son a chance. Suspended within the eye of the tempest and clutching the stone heart of Vulgoth to her chest, the goddess Hatsunae expelled the force of her divinity, and with one final expression of all-consuming grief, she wept.”

“The tears of Hatsunae fell in glistening streams across the lands she and her lover forged. With every drop, her potential infused the Highlands, safeguarding it for a time from the withering that was beyond her power to fully prevent. Some claim a few of those tears were born from more than the watery magic of Hatsunae alone. For her truest tears were infused with the love of the stone lord’s heart and fell in the likeness of both stone and water as sapphires, hard as earth and blue as the deepest oceans.”   

“As the deluge subsided and the roiling clouds dissipated to the four winds, a great absence was felt across the Highlands in the hearts of all its people. Hatsunae and Vulgoth, the creators and defenders of the land, were gone forever, banished through selfless acts of sacrifice in defense of their people. But they left gifts with their passing. With Hatsunae’s final act, she slowed the inevitable death of their world. And in place of the divine couple, a son remained to lead.”

“This brings us to the most important part of the story. For here begins the origins of the Kahn Shogal.”

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

Yes. I wasn’t sure how it would be published, but I was determined to make sure that it was. I have dreamed of being a writer my entire life. A battle with stage 4 cancer reminded me that my time to achieve that could be limited. I spent my months on chemo, plotting my goal and building myself up to fulfill my dream. Once the cancer was in remission and I had recovered from all the chemo, I sat down at my computer and got to work with the intention that I wasn’t going to stop until I was a published author.  

How many times were you rejected?

I didn’t have any rejections. I chose early on to self-publish. I dreamed for most of my life to be published under one of the big publishing houses of my favorite authors. But by the time I began working towards that goal, I realized that it likely wasn’t the right path for me.

I had specific artistic concepts that I didn’t feel would be accepted well within the traditional publishing community. I also suffer from a disability which makes meeting other people’s goals or expectations more difficult. If I was going to do it, I decided I needed to write what I wanted to write and do so within the limitations of my body in a manner that I could keep up with.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

While I didn’t set out to find an agent or publisher, when I first began researching, I confess that I was definitely a bit intimidated. Perhaps that helped make my choice not to go that route easier.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

It took me eight months to write the book that was initially planned to be a single book called Tears of Hatsunae, but it was 474k words. So I split it up into Rise of Tears and Fall of Tears.

Since I was just starting out with publishing, it took me a while to figure out my path and bring it to publishing. I initially paid for someone to edit Rise of Tears. Four hundred dollars and five months later, I was not happy with the results. That slowed me down quite a bit. I spent the next few months deciding my course of action. I began heavily editing and revising it myself.

Over the next year, I refined my novel, proofed it and edited it multiple times, and settled on the decision to self-publish. That following August, on my birthday, I finally did. After having figured out my own process, I did the same thing with Fall of Tears and released it the following April.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

Once I finish breakfast, I prep my coffee, and I head back into my office to get to work. After a quick scan of all of my social media and promotional mediums, I open up my word document and get to work. I will often write through the afternoon until lunch around 2 or 3. Then I head out for a walk to clear my mind. I may or may not return to writing when I get back.

I am not the kind of writer who writes the first draft straight through to the end. I edit as I write. So my mornings often begin with reading through what I wrote the previous day and revising and editing as I go before I actually begin writing new material.

My brainstorming and story plotting often happens at night. I take my notebooks out to the living room and turn on some fantasy-themed show to create fitting background noise and sketch ideas out and plot my stories. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter marathons are usually pretty good for that.

Who was your first literary crush?

I really tried to think of one, but I cannot think of a character that I had a crush on from a book. I usually find myself cheering for them to make something work with their love interest or crush. The only thing I can think is that because I sort of live through the characters when I read, that I wish to see them achieve the things they want, not draw them into my own desires.

It is not as if I don’t develop crushes on characters. Just not books, apparently. My number one fictional crush is Sam Winchester from Supernatural. I have a lifesized cardboard cutout of him in my office. I even had a slight video game crush on Tidus from Final Fantasy X. But for the life of me, I cannot think of a book crush.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

Always. I won an award for a short story I wrote in 2nd grade, and after that, I knew I wanted to be an author someday. Of course, that was on top of all my other life aspirations. I have been writing my entire life, trying to complete my first novel and embark on this wonderful journey. Unfortunately, I had numerous setbacks.

I have bad luck with computers. I can’t count the number of times I lost work on a novel to a computer dying or file corruption. I even had an ex’s pig eat a word processor that I had three-quarters of a novel on. Each time it happened, it would set me back, and I would give up writing for a while. Add in health issues, and it has been a difficult journey to get here. However, I never stopped wanting it and trying for it.

Once I finished my first novel and proved I could do it, thankfully, it seemed to get a little easier. I have been writing and completing stories ever since.  

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

I can’t think of any single one. I have always been in love with reading. I remember being four years old, sitting on the kitchen counter reading Green Eggs and Ham to my parents. I loved reading. My parents used to take me to the library on the weekends and just drop me off. It wasn’t long before I had read everything in the animal and wildlife section as well as the dinosaur section.

Where the Red Fern Grows may possibly be the first book I ever fell in love with. I read it numerous times when I was younger. But my love for reading was well established even before that.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

The first book that I can remember making me cry was Where the Red Fern Grows. I have read it more than once, and every time I still cried. I loved those dogs.

The other book that I remember making me cry was Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. That was the first fantasy novel to make me cry.  

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Again, I never really had those kinds of feelings about characters in books. I am not sure why. Because as I noted, I have developed crushes on fictional characters before.

The only character of a book I can think of who I might have these feelings for would be Aust from my own novella series, Guardians of the Tide. Aust is completely inspired by a friend of mine who I have a big crush on. And I definitely think those feelings were expressed in my writing of the character.  

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I sing almost everywhere. I wake up most mornings with a song in my head and start singing. I refer to it as a radio station that is constantly playing in my mind. All I have to do is tune in and start singing along with whatever song is playing at the time. Unfortunately, sometimes that station gets stuck on repeat.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I love cooking. I am the primary cook in my household unless my condition keeps me on the couch, then my husband whips up something. My specialties would likely be Thanksgiving turkey, amazingly moist and flavorful, and my authentic pork tacos, which are to die for.

Do you have a pet?

I have numerous pets. I have a dog named Brody. I had two pooches up until December, when I lost my sweet Duggie. Once I recover from that, I hope to adopt another shelter dog and give him a loving home. I have a Bearded Dragon named Fiona. (Named after the pyro spy from Burn Notice, not the princess from Shrek) A Cockatoo named Jimmy. A Chicken. And I have nine fish tanks.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

I don’t make big grand gestures. I tend to do small things to show my love. On an early date with my now-husband, I snuck out of the bar and set up a vase with a dozen roses in his seat, so he would find them when we were leaving. I told him one night when I came home from work that something had followed me home and he should go look. I have a big stuffed zebra (He loves zebras.) sitting on the porch waiting for him. I bought him a porcelain rose for an anniversary and wrote a poem with it about how like this rose, my love for him would never fade or die. I cook him his favorite meals and make him a cake from scratch every birthday. I go out of my way every day to make sure to show him that I love him.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

My husband stayed by my side after I became disabled. Even when I could barely get off the couch or do anything, he was there patiently helping me through it. Our lives dramatically changed, and he could have easily moved on to someone he could have had a fuller life with. But he stayed by me through it all. Then he did it again when I was diagnosed with cancer. Eight months of chemo and all the drugs made me a different person for that time, yet he helped me through it.

If that isn’t a romantic love story, I don’t know what is.

Do you believe in love?

Definitely, I am happily married and have been with my husband for eighteen years this May, married for sixteen in October. I fall in love with him more every day. That love makes both of us stronger and helps us to be our better selves.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BrandJAlexander

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrandJAlexander 

Website: www.BrandJAlexander.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B07KBDBRQC

Rise of Tears https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WL7N4W6

Fall of Tears https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08633S235

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