Interview with Author Brandon J. Hall
My guest today is Brandon J. Hall. Hello! Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you again.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
http://nodnarbllah.wix.com/neuralian-chronicles https://www.facebook.com/brandon.j.hall1 https://twitter.com/BrandonJHall http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brandon-j-hall/25/586/5a http://www.amazon.com/Brandon-J-Hall/e/B00HO3JKN4/ https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4470153.Brandon_J_Hall http://solsticepublishing.com/brandon-j-hall/
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Um…Inception (Neuralian Chronicles: The Siede) is actually the beginning to a series that I’ve been dreaming up since my high school years. Obviously I’d moved away from it for a while only to come back to it. It begins with the character Anthony Mieko Griggs—a sort of hapless dreamer who’s looking for a deeper purpose to his life aside from his dreams. He has survived an abusive childhood and found a balance through his fiancée, Audrey. She’s truly his tether to reality. For him it all starts with a dream. He finds himself face to face with a stranger he’d never seen before and ultimately saves him before waking. It was with that dream that a new world, the veil to reality (if you will), opens up and becomes clearer to him. Anthony learns that this stranger was actually a coma patient and the key to his truest identity. His blood is bound to the family of the stranger and soon he is visiting nightly the mind of an unborn child. The child, as it turns out is the new vessel for the entity, Hope—the one true intangible lost to tainting of mankind. There are forces that would stop at almost nothing to ensure that this child isn’t born. There are others that eagerly await the birth of this child to use him as a weapon against humanity. Anthony is faced with a choice, the birth of this child or his life with his fiancée Audrey. Which will he choose? (laughs) Indeed…Inception (Neuralian Chronicles: The Siede) is available now in paperback or Kindle Edition on amazon.com and my website.
That’s a good question. When I was a child, no more than 8 years old, my sister opened up my world when she first gave me the book, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. She’d read to me and then eventually passed the book along to me. She read stuff like Homer and Shakespeare. It was really with The Iliad and Lord of the Rings that drove me to want to create my own worlds…build my own mythologies. I was doing some research into cultural mythologies and every religion you could think of and something clicked. I was drawn back to the story I had created back in high school. I took it as my opportunity to begin fleshing out my own mythology and superimpose it onto the world, as we know it. I was always fascinated with the idea that there is something greater going on behind the scenes of this world that a great majority of us are completely unaware of.
I’d have to say that my ideas about this world and how there is so much we don’t understand…so many mysteries we’ve yet to uncover…there’s that idea that there is so much happening right in front of us that our eyes just can’t see—that’s my inspiration that builds the foundation of this series I’ve created. Secondly, I’d have to say my daughter shares a great deal of responsibility for that as well. She’s so far beyond her years but just to watch her play and see the things a child’s imagination can just conceive out of air, I had to draw from her youthful insight.
I’d always known I wanted to write. I knew there was nothing else for me. I love the process of creativity and knowing that there is a world that you can invite others into that is of your own conception. I always knew that I’d do something concerning art. Writing has always been the passion though.
Do you have any favorite authors?
At the top of my list right now is George R.R. Martin. I’ve always loved the works of Stephen King, James Patterson and Neil Gaiman. But to touch the literary art that has so captivated my heart only two names come to mind, Tolkien and Homer.
Do you write in a specific place? Time of day?
I can write almost anywhere. My laptop or tablet is always with me. The magic mostly happens in my basement; I call it "The Den". I surround myself with books full of my research and sort it all out in my mind. The thing about me is when I write, I write out of order. I go back and piece the parts together almost like a movie is cut.I write whenever I can get the time. More often than not that time tends to be after my daughter goes to bed. (Laughs.) She’s usually all over me but she’s coming to understand the value of space.
Great! She sounds like a treasure.
I also know what you mean by writing out of order. I do that a lot, just however the ideas come to me.
Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
I always say that no matter who you are, there is a voice inside of you. It’s all a matter of finding that voice that is unique to you. I get frustrated with literature lately when I read something and it sounds like the author is emulating the work of another. I call them “copyists”. I see more and more of them today because like many readers are drawn to familiarity, it almost seems there is a fear that something unique could be rejected. I just say—be unafraid to push your vision. Find inspiration in others but don’t attempt to be them. Strive to be as original as your mind will allow. There’s no such thing as a bad idea, just poor execution.
Such valuable advice, Brandon!
Readers, here is the blurb for Inception.
In the beginning all men were gods, Neuralytes…naturally enlightened beings. That was until Pandora gave birth to humanity and the one entity all have looked to in their bleakest hours, Hope. For centuries Hope served as a beacon through its chosen vessels to keep the balance. Now there is a new vessel and the Jinn—dark counterparts of the Neuralytes—have plans for it. Yet other forces would keep him from ever drawing his first breath.
Anthony Griggs, a hapless dreamer, finds himself bound to the unborn child. Through the abyss of dreams, they are connected. Every time Anthony closes his eyes worlds collide merging closer into his reality. Through his blood he is charged with the protection of the child from any invasive threats. But his sacrifice could bear a great cost. Can Anthony come to grips with his destiny to see Hope thrive? Or will it be undone by the void of darkness to leave mankind in a wake of chaos?
Here is an excerpt:
There he sat on his boat. Waves rippled beneath nudging it constantly. His lure bobbed up and down against the glassy surface of the lake. Fish rarely bit for Anthony on Lake Superior, or maybe they just decided not to come out during his presence. He thought somehow the schools banded together and held a grudge against him. A constant joke he held with himself. It didn’t matter. The serenity he felt when he was out on the water was all he needed. It allowed his mind to wander. It allowed him to drift into the deepest realms of his artistic imagination. He imagined the water as an endless canvas and the sky as the heavens painting a portrait along its surface. His drawing pad was never too far from him. He rested the fishing rod along the right side of the boat. It was one of those small wooden boats, kind of weathered, tattered from time. It had definitely seen its best days. It often put Anthony in the mind of a Mark Twain novel when Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn cast off on their adventures. That’s what these moments were to him, an endless adventure into the world he created around him.
Anthony reached into his leather bag and pulled out his sketch book. He began to etch the brush on the shore onto a fresh white sheet of paper. He grazed his pencil lightly against the paper. Each stroke created a scene. Things he’d seen before in dreams and mixtures of the reality around him. He bit the back of his number 2 HB pencil and grinned to himself. It was a mixture of things really. The recollections of dreams and the constant criticisms he’d become accustomed to by others telling him he’s nothing but a dreamer. Anthony daydreamed a lot. He was always lost in the fictional greats tales of fantasy and adventure, mystery and intrigue. Greats like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, J.D. Salinger, and even Dean Koontz; writers that drew him in and allowed him to find his inner talents. He was also quite fond of comic books. He even sketched his own in between portraits of vast landscapes or what he considered beautiful people.
As a child, Anthony always felt the need for an escape. An escape anywhere as long as it wasn’t in the presence of his drunken mother or abusive father. At first it was the tale of The Catcher in the Rye around the time he was eleven. That book gave the world levels of depth and meaning to him. Then The Hobbit took him to a world that time had forgotten. The books kept him company at night under the covers with a pocket flash light. He read them over and over again to drown out the sounds of his parents arguing. When they finally divorced it was right after he’d turned twelve. He had a choice to make, a mother so lost down the bottom of a bottle she had no concept of the life passing her by outside of it. Or a father that was twice his size and weight that would much rather use him as a live target rather than venting his frustrations on a punching bag or doing bench presses. Anthony didn’t favor the sting of closed fists sending vibrations through his frail body, so he chose the drunkard. When he thought of it, his parents weren’t anything to him; at least he was a dreamer. It was his imagination that kept him sane. It was his own characters that had become his closest friends.
He was drawn from his trance when he noticed the skies darkening above him. The absence of rolling thunder didn’t make it seem angry, but still, there could be some light showers. Anthony tucked his pad into his case and pulled the line in from the water. He thought of how he would be teased by Audrey for going out on the water and still managing not to bring back so much as a tire or an old boot. The lure resisted his pull and for once he thought he’d got something. He figured it was a good batch of worms because this resistance was strong, something large and hungry. He laughed aloud and sat back trying to shift his leverage on the rod.
“Audrey won’t believe this!” he thought to himself.
It seemed for a time, she was the only person that understood him. They met in art school their freshman year and had an instant connection. She wasn’t put off by his horrible childhood that eventually led to his early escape toward “freedom”. She didn’t look at him with judgmental eyes for his laid back demeanor. Most people just thought of him as lazy, but for some reason Audrey got it. She knew there was something more to him, especially his resilience to withstand his troubles and still turn out half way decent.
Anthony leaned toward the edge of his boat to tried to get a look at what was trying to steal his bait. He couldn’t see anything at first. Just the ripples on the top of the water that the lure created as it motioned up and down. He looked closer into the darkness that encircled the boat beneath. The dark void below reminded him of a scene right out of Moby Dick. A scene where the whale attacked from the bottom with its mouth wide open, it was funny that would cross his mind. That would be impossible here for a killer sperm whale to attack. Then a bright light consumed it. It was pure but not blinding. It was fantastic to him actually. He’d just drawn a scene like this days ago. The boat rocked as if hands lifted from beneath it and began pushing from side to side. It threw him off balance. Water splashed onto the deck slapping the calf of his goulashes. He slipped back into his seat banging his arm. The line to his rod flew out of the water and swung wildly into the boat. Anthony watched it as it landed. The bait was there still intact. Instantly he sat up and grabbed the oars trying to row away from the current that was trying to hold him captive. The further out he got the light had spread beneath him. He stopped when he heard the calls. Someone was pleading for mercy not to be drug under by the pull of the lake. He could hear water splashing wildly. There were sounds of gurgling and then he saw it. An elderly man in a hospital gown was drowning. It was like instinct took over. Anthony instantly rowed out to save him. The boat wouldn’t row against the current. It was being drawn back in the opposite direction. Anthony never considered himself to be a hero by a long shot. In his dreams he may become whatever warrior the setting suggests. In his dreams he embodied his comic book characters. He wished he had the strength to be one of them now. But he wasn’t going to let this helpless man suffer any longer. Anthony snatched his coat off and tossed it behind him in the boat. His heart was racing but it didn’t stop him from spearheading into the cold watery surface under the boat. He shivered as he sprang up gasping for air. He checked to the left and right of him to see if the old man was still within his reach. He put his legs together and lifted his arms above his head to dive. As his body attempted to pierce the surface again he found himself sliding toward the edge of a cliff. The red dirt like clay suggested the Grand Canyon. That wasn’t possible. He looked around. The climate had changed. The heat was smoldering. Cactus patches trailed throughout what looked to be the dried lands of a desert.
Anthony was on his knees surveying himself. His hands were scuffed from the collision with this hardened surface. Yet he still had his goulashes on and his water pants. His thermal shirt was stained by the red dirt. Behind him, his boat was buried nose first into the dirt. The ores were scattered along the sides of it. His leather case was propped up on the hill of dirt where the nose of the boat was penetrating. Ahead of him was the edge of the cliff where he heard screams of terror. Dust kicked up into his eyes and then he saw a bronze toned hand clinging to the side of it gradually sliding losing grip.
“HOLD ON!!!” Anthony yelled out. “JUST HOLD ON!! DON’T YOU FALL!” he gasped climbing to his feet. “I’m comin’…” he called out reassuringly, but finding it hard to get a decent stride going whilst wearing his heavy boots.
Anthony struggled, wondering if he should shake those cumbersome boots from his feet, but considering the urgency of the situation and caution prevailing, did not commit to that notion. Reflexively, he stretched forward sliding to the edge to grab his hand.
“Hold on, I’ve got you.” His mind was reeling with this encounter. It was so surreal, one minute he’s on the water of Lake Superior, the next he’s hanging over the Grand Canyon.
He finally looked down at the man. The man’s eyes looked very weary. His face was weathered by the harshness of time. His skin was soft though, not fragile, but soft. He was well groomed, well taken care of. It was clear he was a fighter. He was not ready to give up on life just yet.
“I hate to ask this at such a delicate moment but, do you have any idea how we got here?” He was grunting from exertion whilst trying to hold up the man’s weight and keep from sliding off the cliff himself.
The old man laughed as if he were no longer in immediate danger. He laughed as if it were the funniest thing he’d heard in a long time. “Thank you…” he mustered between laughs. “Thank you for breaking my fall.” Tears filled his eyes. Anthony didn’t understand the joke nor was he aware that he’d told one. “Now let go. I’ll be fine now.”
“No…” Anthony resisted.
The man shook his head, “I’ve been here for what seemed like an eternity.”
“You were just in the water outside my boat. I don’t know how we got here! Now come on, I can’t let you fall, I couldn’t live with myself.” Anthony pleaded
“You have to let go… If you fall trying to pull me up, you won’t awaken if you hit the bottom.”
Anthony’s neck jerked back, “What?”
The man laughed and forced his hand free. Anthony was flung upward by his own resistance trying to pull him to safety. He didn’t see anything. He couldn’t hear the sounds of screams as the man fell. The atmosphere began to spin around his head making him dizzy.
“NO!!!” He shouted leaning forward to see if the man had fallen. He was unaware of how much room he had between the cliff and the wide open space. He slipped over the edge in a freefall. The wind suctioned his face drawing his skin back in the fall. His heart fluttered in panic. As he turned his arm swung out and connected with something. It was something soft.
Anthony’s fist relaxed and flattened into a palm on the surface of his mattress, he rubbed it feeling the fabric of the fitted sheet. He jumped when he felt Audrey’s hand touch his chest.
“You’re soaked…” she said in a light groggy voice.
Anthony sat forward with his tee shirt clinging to his body. He had perspired heavily. He was still trying to convince himself he was only dreaming. Only, it didn’t feel like any dream he’d ever had. He was usually aware of when he was in a dreaming state. But not this time, “Bad dream… Uh, I guess…”
“You guess?” Audrey sat up alongside Anthony.
“It’s nothing…” He cupped her hand between his palms. “Just go back to sleep. I’m going to get some water.” Anthony spread the comforter back and eased out of the bed. “I may do some edits to my comics. And besides, I’d better go back to my designs, make sure they’re just right. I have a lot riding on my grade in class.”
“Okay…” Audrey laid back on her pillow. “And change that shirt, you’re drenched.”
Anthony waved her off and headed down to the kitchen. He was doing well with his freelance art work outside of school. He’d gotten a couple of businesses to buy into his work. He had a deal he was pursuing with a rising comic book company as well. He was doing well enough to afford a two story apartment. Not bad for a lazy dreamer. It was just this dream that had him rattled. His thoughts were clear as if he were actually sitting on the lake fishing. He could really feel the weight of that old man. His hands were scratched when he looked down at them. That was equally as strange in his mind. They throbbed. The mind is a powerful thing as he’d often been told throughout the years. Was the dream that intense? Anthony reached into the cupboard to grab a glass. He turned on the faucet and let the water run until it was cold. The remote control to the television was on the counter. He grabbed it as his glass filled with water.
“Okay, what’s on television at 1:30 in the morning?” He often spoke to himself. He figured as long as he didn’t answer his own questions he wasn’t crazy. To answer would entail a conversation.
He turned the monitor on and let the water flow down his throat. He could feel it course through his body replenishing him. There was breaking news of a miracle, an awakening of sorts. A man that had been hospitalized for several years in a coma thought not to ever wake up had done just that. Anthony looked closer and dropped his glass. His mouth hung agape. It was the man in his dream. It was reported that his vitals were stable and he was well enough to speak. He was fully aware of his surroundings and becoming reacquainted with his family. When asked how it felt to recover his response was,
“The… There are re… Real angels out there…” A tear rolled down his cheek. “I was in darkness for a long time. I was barely hanging on, I felt myself slipping. And my angel reached out and pulled me in.” Who looked to be his wife wiped the tear from his eye and kissed him. He inched his head around and Anthony could almost feel they were making direct eye contact. “I want to thank you… Thank you for allowing me to see my grandchildren. They’ve grown so much and I can’t recognize them. But at least I will have a few more years.”
Then he lipped something into the camera, it looked like he was saying Anthony’s name. Anthony’s knees were weak. He backed up and leaned against the counter top. He’d just seen this man in his dream. Was he really an angel in someone’s dream? This was too much, quite possibly a coincidence but there was no way he could convince himself of that. Besides, Anthony didn’t believe in coincidence.
Anthony regained his balance and stepped forward right down into a shard of glass where his cup had shattered on the floor. He yelped in pain at the sensation of the sharp glass piercing the bottom of his foot. He lifted his leg and slipped back on the river like puddle of water now beneath his feet. Anthony could have blamed it on the water but he never was much for balance, not physically anyway. There was a time he’d tried martial arts classes, but the movements in the system were too technical for him. He was more of an observer. Anthony liked to watch physical sports but that was the extent of it, he never wanted to participate. Usually when a person suffers abuse at a young age they grow violent, they become attracted to danger and physical activity, not Anthony he was the opposite. His comic books were fantasies tied heavily into mythology. They were full of the great warriors and heroes he wished to be. But his nature wouldn’t allow it. His only sense of adventure was taking long drives and camping in the wilderness to observe nature. That’s what inspired him aside from his library of fiction novels. He especially liked his long trips to Lake Superior to fish. There, in his mind, anything could happen as far as imagination could carry on. Would he actually let an innocent person drown? Most likely he wouldn’t. But it sure as hell wouldn’t have been as extravagant as his dream made it seem. He probably would have panicked when he first hit the water. His mind was in a zone as he tried to pull that glass from his foot. It was the idea of pain that was worse than the actual feeling itself. He imagined blood squirting everywhere once he’d have gotten it out like a gory horror movie; especially given the fact that the glass was deeply embedded in the sole of his foot.
He finally gathered the courage to pull it out and hobbled to the bathroom to clean up the wound. He chuckled to himself. There was no blood spray. It only hurt after he’d taken it out anyway. The pain was sharp, but it didn’t feel like death. Now imagine if he was stabbed or even nicked in a mugging, his reaction would be the real scene. Every time his father would hit him and his little body would stumble all over the place his father would tell him,
“Stop acting, you little faggot! I hardly even hit you… Always the actor…” he’d laugh contemplating on whether or not he was going to strike again. He usually didn’t if Anthony put on a good enough show for him. “The way you drain our pockets, we should make money off you!” That was usually said followed by a very loud thud after he slammed the door.
Anthony reached into the cabinet for the ointment and band aids. He thought of his father just then. He’d picked up a habit or two since his divorce from his mother. It was the combination of heavier smoking with some drinking. Now he’s got cancer. Anthony M. Griggs Sr. He hated being a junior. Especially with the idea of who his father was. He thought it was rather ironic that his father couldn’t handle his mothers’ drinking, but turned into an alcoholic himself. Maybe it was karma. Now when he sensed the end was near, he wanted to have a relationship with Anthony. He’s known to have a big heart, a forgiving heart, but not toward his father. But that’s a common tale amongst men. He wondered as he applied the ointment if he’d even miss his father once he passed. Or would he go to the hospital as he reached the final stages of his transition and ask him,“Who’s the faggot now?”
He had a lot of gripes against the man. But he’s doing well enough not to let it rule his life.
Anthony stood from the edge of the tub and began to place everything back into the cabinet. He turned the sink on to wash his hands but found himself staring at the parts he hated most about himself. He looked into his deep brown eyes. How they were just like his father's. His eyes always spoke out to him as if they were searching for a purpose in his life. He looked at the coarse wooly hair atop his head and mildly thick eyebrows just below the scar over his left eye. That was one of the last wounds he got from his father. A vicious right hand sent him head first into the frame of the bedroom door. His lips were evenly thick. He rubbed the stubble of his forever five o’ clock shadow. It was like looking at his face to tell time, no matter how he shaved it was always five o’ clock. His ears even had a slight point to them like his father. He was a spitting image except for the weight difference. But there was a time his father had a nice build. Anthony not being athletic or into fitness at all just had a natural physique. He did a push up or two just to get his mind to jog looking for the next idea. He thought to himself, even if his father passed in his sleep tonight, he’d never be rid of him. His father’s face always reminded him of his nothingness. He also thought that maybe if his father died, his face would take on an identity of its own. He ran his hands under the water simultaneously lathering them with soap. He bent down and splashed water into his face and rose up to look at himself. In the mirror Anthony saw the old man in his dream. Or was it his dream? The man said he was in darkness for a long time until his angel reached down to pull him up.
“So that means I was in there, in his mind.” Anthony said to himself. “It was real.”
He hobbled out of the bathroom in a rush to get back to the television but a late night dating game was on. He’d missed the old man. He flipped through stations trying to find anyone else covering the breaking news but the fascination was over for now.
“I have to wait until the afternoon sometime after class to try to catch the news. Damn it!” he thought out loud.
-Just who are you, old man?
You definitely hooked me! Thanks for visiting us today, Brandon!
Brandon J. Hall currently lives in Detroit, MI. With his first novel, Reflections—The Chronicles of a Man Scorned, behind him he is set to move forward in a new genre. This will mark his first outing in the realm of fantasy with Neuralian Chronicles—The Siede. His passion has always been for the genre from his early childhood when he was given a copy of Homer’s The Iliad from his sister. From then he’d always looked ahead to creating his own mythology that stood as unique as the likes of Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.
Very early in his life he’d developed a fondness for literature. He’s always aspired to share his voice, his vision, through the craft he’d so embraced. Having his art showcased during his elementary years at the Detroit Institute of Arts and praised throughout middle school he knew that his path was defined for him. After several publications in the magazine, Afterthoughts, throughout high school for his poetry and art he knew his passion was clear. After years of exploration and self-discovery he finally published his first novel in the year 2007, Reflections—The Chronicles of a Man Scorned. Brandon now strives to place his name among those who have made him love the genre of fantasy by bringing his own unique quality to it. His series, Neuralian Chronicles—The Siede aims to do just that.