Brooklyn James is the author of the Vigilare trilogy. Book one, Vigilare, was released this past November. The second installment, Vigilare: Hell Hound, is scheduled to appear in e-book and print format this coming June.
I have Brooklyn in the interview chair today, ready to answer a host of questions. Brooklyn is also doing a book giveaway. Read the end of the blog for details on how you can win a copy of Vigilare.
1. First off, tell me a little bit about yourself. I visited your web site and got a glimpse of the writer, songwriter, and musician Brooklyn, but what about the everyday you.
The everyday me is the youngest of three girls. I’m the free-spirit of the zodiac…Sagittarius, which in true fashion. I am adventurous, spontaneous and innately curious. I was the kid who always wanted to know ‘why?’ I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and have been on the move since, from Nashville to Los Angeles to New York to Austin. I really enjoy Austin, and have been here for 4-years (the longest I have ever stayed in any one place since moving out after high school).
I am an avid runner, weight lifter, Bikram yoga enthusiast, and P90X glutton…basically anything physical; I’m up for the challenge. I find while writing, I’m always in my mind. As my mind gets worn out, I have to balance my chi by exhausting my body. I like to be proactive and productive. I don’t understand procrastination and excessive lounging.
I’m a huge fan of the live music scene here in Austin, which is essentially why I came here. I’m into supporting Indies in all fields and endeavours. I believe life is a marathon, not a race. I’m quite happy in my life currently. I’m happy most often in my life, but as with everything else the seasons do change and my contentment ebbs and flows.
I enjoy spending time with my family, the love in my life and with friends. Those are the moments that I cherish. As far as hobbies, I’m up for anything. I enjoy movies, reading, dancing, paddle-boarding, brunching, touring, road-trips, working on cars (I find it calms me and makes me feel competent…now, I don’t do any major work, such as engine or transmission repair, but I can manage general maintenance stuff…changing oil, spark plugs, wires, alternators, idler pulleys, balancing tires, and things of the like).
I even like shovelling snow and chopping wood (yes, with an axe). I’m a real “project” type girl. I like to see results. What I am missing in my life currently would be a dog (I would love a Rottweiler puppy…I would name him Diesel). And, the biological clock that I did not know I had has started ticking. This new man in my life has that effect on me. If I had a Magic 8-Ball, I would probably see children in my future.
2. In Vigilare, a vigilante is disposing of sexual predators in a crime-ridden neighbourhood. Your tag line is: where one system fails, another never gives up! Is this the Vigilare’s motto or yours?
I would say, a little bit of both. In my life, it’s a great motto in my plight as an Indie artist, in both my writing and music careers. The wording may change a bit to something such as the old saying, “Where one door closes, another door opens!” You know, meaning, if I hit a roadblock, keep forging ahead and looking into alternatives…don’t give up…have the courage to live your dream. In this DIY era, the future has never looked brighter for Indies. If the ‘system’ doesn’t want us (i.e. record companies, publishing companies), we have options. Don’t give up on yourself.
And, as far as my Vigilare, that’s definitely the motto. Vigilare runs autonomically, so to speak, especially in the beginning of the novel, as doesn’t even know its own identity. Due to a traumatic past, and others’ who have allied with Vigilare, that is the way of it. Regardless of whether it’s wrong or right, just or unjust, the Vigilare is molded for that one specific reason, to deliver retribution…an eye for an eye.
Playing off the term vigilare, which means “to watch over, to guard, to keep an eye on.” In today’s society, even myself, sometimes I have difficulty standing my ground on particular subjects, because I like to attempt to empathize with both sides. There are always two sides to a story, they say. And people (even bad people) usually don’t act or do things just because they want to. It’s often linked to an unfortunate experience in their past (i.e. some pedophiles were victims of sexual abuse themselves). My human self, the one with a heart, can empathize with predators who fall into that category, as I wish they could have had a different, healthy experience. However, the other side of me says, well then be courageous enough to get help so those very people don’t ruin the lives of other children and victims of all ages.
That’s why I enjoy writing fiction, because it allows us to explore other sides of the coin, and go places with the plot we would never go in real life. When the Vigilare is in true Vigilare-mode, it does not see two sides of the story. It’s right or wrong. If Vigilare’s ‘assignment’ committed evil, that ‘assignment’ must pay the price. Vigilare does not have the capacity for empathy.
3. What do the Vanguard Police Department think of this motto?
Great question! This is where it gets very interesting for me. I love toying with the notion of good vs. evil, and how those that are ‘good’ can just as easily commit evil, even when having good intentions.
And it brings up questions about political correctness (i.e. the law says this, but what’s just is that. The law says this, but I feel like that.) You know, do we give up rights to victims in an effort not to treat predators unethically. Where does the grey area begin and end in reference to human rights and victims’ rights? And you’ll see moments within the story where members of Vanguard PD struggle with the notion of upholding the law while remaining human and having their own personal viewpoints on the topic of sexual abuse, be it pedophilia or rape, and how it should be handled. Laws are made and upheld. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is in agreement of said law and its punishment.
4. A vigilante, according to the Encarta Dictionary is: a law-enforcing citizen who punishes law-breakers personally rather than relying on the legal authorities. What is your stance on the Vigilare? Do you view him/her as a villain? I ask this because the citizens of Vanguard embrace the Vigilare in the same manner in a few movies I’ve watched, such as Death Watch.
This is a toughie. Vigilare is definitely not a villain, however, I cannot say Vigilare is a clear-cut hero either. It depends on one’s experiences and exposure. As a woman, even though I know you can’t have a vigilante running around avenging the souls of others, the topic of sexual abuse is quite personal to me, as women make up a majority of the victims. In my eyes, and in the context of the storyline, I view the Vigilare as a hero. Others may not. It would be interesting to get a report from readers on this question. Hmm?
Vigilare does not believe him/herself to be a hero of any sort. Vigilare simply believes when a person is sexually violated in the form of rape and/or molestation, that person’s soul has been forever changed…their life forever affected. Essentially, it kills the organic soul of the victim upon such a vile experience. Therefore, Vigilare reasons, one soul for another…hence, disposing of sexual predators.
5. Can you share your writing process through Vigilare? Did the plot come first, the characters, or was it something else?
The general concept behind Vigilare started as a feature-length screenplay. I took a film class out of curiosity a few years ago, where I was elected to write and direct a short narrative film. I whittled my screenplay down to a 5-minute short. And I thought, boy this concept is following me around. Wonder what kind of novel it would make?
I would say the concept came first…the Vigilare. I knew I wanted to do something exploring the notion of a vigilante, inspired by such movies as The Punisher and Watchmen. I loved comic books as a kid. I would categorize many superheroes as vigilantes. I toyed with the term vigilante, and searched around until I found something that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been used before.
The term vigilare, stems from an Italian origin meaning ‘to look out, to guard, to watch over.’ And just like that, I found my title. After I had my concept underway, I would say the plot was forming in the “think tank” (that’s what I call my mind when in writing mode). I find ideas, concepts, and plots to be spontaneous and organic. I’m always full of ideas, among other things…lol.
The characters…now, they give me the greatest food for thought. They always surprise me in their development, which I quite like. They usually end up changing the direction of my plot as they mature. It’s kind of cool that way, I think. I don’t do much outlining and prep work. I love finding a concept and a general story I’m excited about, then opening that up to the possibilities of all the players (i.e. Characters). The same as in life, people/characters will change the course of action/history/happenstance.
6. What elements do you think a suspense novel with a twist of paranormal should contain? Did these elements influence Vigilare?
Action, curiosity, dark intense twists with humour and wit speckled here and there when the tension gets a little relentless. My goal is to rile readers and then let them come to rest temporarily, only to rile them again. I want to feel like I’m on a roller coaster when reading a suspense novel.
You also have to have characters that have substance, or else they get lost in the action. I always think characters should be bigger than the plot. They are what we relate to.
And for me, every book has to have an underlying romance of some sort. I want to feel some chemistry, some tension between lead characters. And of course, I do love a good, steamy, scorcher of a sex scene…even in a suspense!
As far as the paranormal aspect: For me, I enjoy story lines based in realism that have that ‘what-if’ factor. You know, scientific theories, be they grounded or far out there, always intrigue me in any paranormal read. Something that says the writer simply didn’t make everything up. They took some time to delve off into their plot and see what they could find. This particular element did influence Vigilare. I knew I wanted my Vigilare to be human, yet have a superhuman ability.
One of my Bachelor’s is in Nursing, so the idea of blood floated around in my mind. I thought it would be neat to link the superhuman aspect to the blood and its exposure to external oxygen. That’s how Vigilare becomes Vigilare…when its blood is exposed to external oxygen. Which is a neat twist because it allows the Vigilare to instinctively counter when purposely attacked.
Can you imagine someone trying to cause you bodily harm and by virtue of making you bleed, they engage your superpower? I knew a bit about blood and blood types. I started researching, and by the time I finished, I knew a lot about blood and blood types. I found some fascinating facts and theories about Rh-negative blood, and it worked effortlessly into my plot.
This is an example of why it pays off to research while writing. Taking the time to research my concept gave me so much more to work with than anything I could have ever made up. The combination of my imagination and scientific theories (some proven, some simple hypotheses) propelled my concept and my plot to another level.
7. Let’s take a look at Gina DeLuca, the protagonist of the novel–what do you love most about her and what makes you want to shake her?
I love that Gina is capable and competent, yet exudes a pliable vulnerability in certain scenes. It makes her relatable. The thing that makes me want to shake her is that she is all work, no play. Everything is a competition with her, and she aims to win. Sometimes I want to say, “Lighten Up!”
8. he same goes for Tony Gronkowski—what do you love most about him and what makes you want to shake him?
I love that Tony is witty, even in his role as a detective. He has a comeback for everything. He helps keep the suspense and the action tolerable with his light-hearted commentary. The thing that makes me want to shake him is his easy confidence. He’s so laidback, it’s hard to muster a rise out of him. Nobody should be that secure…lol.
9. Which character, whether lead or secondary, do you think most resembles you and why?
Hmm. My editor would say I most resemble Gina with her no-nonsense, direct approach to life and people. She is task driven and goal-oriented. She enjoys the company of a man, but does not need one to feel complete. She can be playful, interactive and sensitive to a degree, but those are not necessarily her comfort zones. I see her point, however I differ in my quirkiness and klutziness. Gina has far much better style and grace than I do.
The one character I gave a personal attribute to is Chief Burns. For some reason, I always mess up common idioms. For example, rather than saying ‘shaking like a leaf on a tree.’ I might spit out, ‘shaking like a twig on a tree.’ In my mind, I know the appropriate idiom. It’s just that something happens from the time it forms in my brain to the moment it rolls off of my tongue. I never get those things right! I purposely gave that familiar flub to Chief Burns because I like seeing people in power have some little quirk that makes them seem more approachable and relatable.
10. What’s your writing schedule like? As a musician, songwriter, and novelist, how do you manage it all?
I’m not sure that I do manage it all. Sometimes I feel like a dog chasing its tail! Focus. Focus. Focus. I am an idea girl. They come to me all the time. And I have a tendency to be a bit extreme about things. Once I get an idea in my head, I can’t leave it alone until it comes to fruition. That works in my favour. It helps me finish things…you know, get things done. However, focus, on the other hand, has never been my cup of tea. Neither is patience. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not it’s a virtue. So for me, the fuel is there to write and kick out books and albums.
It’s a matter of allocating the energy, and in which direction. I have to remind myself on a daily basis about priorities. I have to look at it in blocks…or modes, if you will. If I am in book mode, I write every day until the story is told. I cut back on my live music gigs and write away. I’m not one for interrupting the writing process. I have to stay in it to maintain consistency. It usually takes me about 1-3-months to pump out an 80-100,000-word novel. Then there’s editing, pagination, cover design and publishing. All of that takes another three months, at least.
If I am in music mode, I take a break from storylines, and crank up the live gigs and songwriting and studio sessions. To me, songwriting is a totally different animal than writing books. It’s not that it’s easier, per se. It simply doesn’t require as much time. You tell the story in three to four minutes versus three to four months. And really, one inspires the other for me.
When I need a break from sitting in front of my computer pecking out a story, I pick up a guitar. When I need a break from the music, I sit down at my computer and let my mind, and my fingers fly. The thing that never ceases to amaze me is that a person can write a book in a month or a song in a day, but the work it takes to package that story, to produce it into a marketable product takes double or triple the time.
Being in studio with an album is much like being in editing/pagination/cover design mode with a book. We have to lay music tracks, then vocal tracks, then we mix and engineer, and yada yada yada. Sometimes I think maybe I became a writer to learn how to be patient J as the process requires patience and perseverance.
11. When did you know Vigilare was ready for publication?
I knew I had something with Vigilare when the cliff-hanger came to me. I was about halfway through the initial story when it finally dawned on me how the novel would end, ultimately setting it up for a sequel. Then I thought, why stop there? Go for a trilogy. I didn’t know it would be a series when I started.
As far as publication, boy…in my opinion, the adage is true: A book is never finished. It’s so easy to knit-pick, and continue to revise and edit and proof. My books go through me (several times over), through my editor (several times over), through my associate editor (several times over), through at least 2-proofers for a one-time read through, then onto the paginator.
Even with all of these checkpoints along the way, it is guaranteed that there will be at least one mistake (most often more than one) in the first print run. Nothing irks me more than to get a beautiful box of first run copies, only to leaf through and find the first error. Oh bugger. And that doesn’t even take into account the storyline. Although, I don’t punish myself too much on the storyline. I’m of the belief that a book is what it is in that one moment in time. Don’t mess with it too much. It’s okay if you feel like you could have added this or said that or developed a character a little more. Everybody experiences that.
My general pattern is to obsess, obsess, obsess for a period of time during the editing phase until I come to a point of ‘it’s time to let this one go.’ Once you let it go, truly let it go and accept it for a piece of art that captures your creativity and imagination in that one moment in time. It may not be perfect, but that in and of itself makes it viable. There is such a thing as perfectly imperfect.
12. What made you decide to go the indie route?
I’ve yet to attract the attention of an agent or a publisher who can do more for me than what I can do for myself at this point. Rejection is my friend in terms of the Big Five. And on a smaller scale, I’ve attracted attention, but I feel my best option is still to self-publish. I maintain my rights, keep a larger percentage and control timelines. Yes, I do have some control issues. Don’t we all?
The way I see it, unless I attract the attention of someone who can really propel my career to a much higher level and audience, I may as well maintain control. Life is one big trade-off, really. If my writing attracted a publishing company that had a track record of igniting careers, then yes, they could take nine months to a year-and-a-half to release my book, along with final say on editing and cover design. Until that point, I enjoy being able to put a book out in six months, if I so desire.
Some people will say it takes a year to or better to do it right, to publish a book worth reading. I say, hooey. A good story, is a good story, regardless how long it took to tell the story. If I wait patiently on an agent or a publishing company who thinks my story is worth telling, maybe I would never get published.
Writing is so subjective. I took a chance on myself by self-publishing, and thankfully I am finding there is an audience for my stories. It may not be as big as Stephanie Meyer’s or Stephen King’s, but it’s an audience…my audience, and it grows with each book. Of that, I am grateful!
It takes a lot of work to go the Indie route. It’s worth it for me. I am considering e-book publishing companies, such as Samhain Publishing. You know, spread it around a bit, in hopes of broadening my audience.
13. What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love starting with a blank page and filling in all the spaces until the story is complete. Talk about a sense of accomplishment!
14. What do you enjoy least about writing?
Having to sit still…boring. 🙂
15. I know you did a soundtrack for your break-out novel The Boots My Mother Gave Me. Are you considering a soundtrack for the Vigilare trilogy, too?
Not at this point. My musical style is Roots/Americana, I don’t think that would fit the vibe for Vigilare…lol. Vigilare would require more of an Evanescence flair, which would be really cool, but it’s not something I do innately.
The soundtrack for Boots was a bit of happenstance, really. I was in studio working on the album the same time I was writing the book. In Boots, each chapter has a title, rather than Chapter 1, 2, 3, and so on. The songs we were writing for the album started to mirror my emotional energy from the novel storyline, whereby sharing song titles with chapter titles from the book. I swear it was synergy. It was with that realization that I knew I had an original music soundtrack to the book.
16. What’s the best advice someone ever gave you when you first decided to seek indie publication?
Be prepared to work hard, and be persistent. Robert Collier said, “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” Oh, and get an editor!
17. Do you have any advice for new writers who are considering indie publication?
Of course. Once you finish your manuscript, find an editor. Not a proof-reader…an editor, preferably one with book editing experience. I use a freelance editor who used to write her own humour column for the local paper. She holds me accountable and makes my writing more active.
For example, she was adamant I get rid of as many ‘to be’ verbs as possible (i.e. Am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, etc.) This simple fundamental allows words to leap off the page by inserting action verbs in place of ‘to be’ verbs, which kind of just lounge around on the page. It’s the most simple things that a good editor will bring to your attention that will in fact change your writing for the better.
My editor doesn’t mess with my storyline much, as far as content, unless there are obvious inconsistencies. What she does for me is keep me on the straight and narrow from a grammar, punctuation and spelling perspective. I don’t believe voice can be taught. I think it’s innate, and can be groomed and brought to the surface.
From my perspective an editor should help you fine-tune your writing and assist you in telling your story with the least amount of filler as possible. If it can be said with five words instead of ten, those are the things a good editor should be able to bring to your attention.
It’s difficult at first…the editing process. But a good editor is irreplaceable to a writer. From what I gather, most editors charge between $1.50 and $3 a page for edits. That may sound expensive, but for me, it’s worth it. I do know of university students here in my area who are open to editing for reduced rates or for free to get editing credits. Now keep in mind, they should be graduate level students in either English, Journalism, or something that merits the appropriate skills. I almost went this route. However, I am impatient, and needed an editor who could work with my timeline. Most students are juggling school and work, and may not have the same availability as a paid editor.
Pagination and cover design can be expensive, too. If you’re tech savvy, there are DIY programs that I hear are quite good. I have had a few experiences with this. One, I went to my local publishing company and paid for their pagination and cover design services. I was pleased, however, I found a freelance graphic artist for the next book, and have used him ever since. He is a third of the price of my local publishing company, and quite frankly, he is more personable and does just as good a job, if not better.
Always be on the lookout for these types of people to add to your arsenal. I met him through my film class. I needed some props made for the film. This guy has a start-up media company, where he is trying to build up his graphic design resume. He did the props for me for free to be listed in my credit roll at the end of the film. He is interested in adding paginating and cover design credits to his media company, so he offered me a very affordable rate with my Vigilare books if I would be patient with him and extend the knowledge that I had picked up in my previous pagination experience. For people with novice experience, I would say keep it simple on the pagination and cover design.
Thereafter, you have to decide if you would like to publish electronically or in paperback, or both. From an Indie perspective, a larger royalty is most often gained from e-books. However, paperbacks can be lucrative. With my first book, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, I used a local printer because I was sceptical of Amazon’s Create Space, and I wanted to put my hands on it and be able to see the process.
With the second book, Vigilare, I went straight to Amazon Create Space, only to wish I had done that with the first book. It cost me a lot more per copy with my local printer, and their cover gloss was not as good as Create Space. Therefore, based upon my experience, I would recommend Amazon’s Create Space.
I do know of a few Indie authors who are tech savvy enough that they use Create Space’s pagination and cover design module as well. I’m not that adept, so I have my graphic design guy send me the appropriate files for upload as far as interior and exterior. In the line of e-books, Smashwords is a formidable resource, as they will send your e-book out to a plethora of other retailers (i.e. Barnes & Noble, Ipad, Diesel Books, etc.) for upload and sales as well.
And of course, you must market yourself. Get connected. You don’t have to get on every site known to man, nor wear yourself out with social media. However, do what you can do. Currently, I am active on my website, Facebook, and Amazon’s Author Central. I’m on Goodreads, but I have to get better at updating that. Two of my goals are to start blogging and get on Twitter by year’s end. This is my first round of Book Blog Touring. I have to say, it’s quite fun. And thanks for hosting me Maggie.
One last thing on this topic: Quit obsessing about ‘getting organized.’ Some people spend their entire lives getting organized to do something. Sure, they’re organized, but the thing they set out to do still remains undone.
I have a few writer friends who will spend hours a day getting organized to write. When I ask how much writing they did, they say, ‘By the time I got organized, I was too pooped to write!’
The only way to write is to write. You don’t have to be organized to write. To write is to write. Sit down, and write. Starting is the hardest part. Getting the first few lines down can be a bear. I’ve had people say to me, ‘I want to write, but I don’t know where to start.’ You write, I tell them. Sometimes the best thing to do when you don’t know what to do is act. Actions get the ball rolling. If you know not what to do…simply act…write.
18. I enjoy doing random questions, so humour me LOL.
- What’s your favourite movie? Cat on a Hot Tin Roof…wait…maybe Tombstone. I have a lot of favourite movies!
- What book is currently in your e-reader? The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Who’s your favourite musical group? Currently, I’m really enjoying The Randy Rogers Band
- What song puts a smile on your face? Currently, I would say Jolie Blonde. I make reference to it a few times in Vigilare: Hell Hound as Gina’s roots are in New Orleans, LA. I swear I’ve listened to it over and over again recently.
19. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Think I’ve rambled on enough…lol. Sorry for being so longwinded.
20. Lastly, where can we find Vigilare?
Brooklyn’s Web Site: http://www.brooklyn-james.com/Shopping-Cart.html
Barns & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vigilare-brooklyn-james/1106696738?ean=2940032879985&itm=1&usri=vigilare
Music on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/music-from-novel-boots-my/id396730010
Blurb: Where One System Fails, Another Never Gives Up!
Detectives Gina DeLuca and Tony Gronkowski investigate a string of murders among Vanguard’s most loathsome population, rapists and pedophiles. With fed up citizens, the city is on the verge of a vigilante uprising in support of their seemingly superhuman Vigilare with the sparkling emerald green eyes. Friend or foe, Vanguard Police Department has a job to do in bringing the vigilant one to justice, causing their own internal battle with right and wrong, immoral and just. Following their leads, Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski find themselves pulled into a mysterious world of super blood and super powers, and closer to the Vigilare than ever expected.
It’s a race to the finish between Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski and the Vigilare to figure out who she is and why she exists. The first in a Trilogy, Vigilare—the one who watches over—comes to light.
Author Bio: Brooklyn James is an author/singer/songwriter inspired by life in the Live Music Capital of Austin, Texas. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack and was chosen as a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Brooklyn holds an M.A. in Communication, and a B.S. in both Nursing and Animal Science. The Vigilare trilogy is an adaptation from a short narrative film. She is currently working on the last novel in the series, as well as another book and music soundtrack combination. All songs from the soundtracks are written/co-written and performed by the author.
Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!
Brooklyn is giving away an e-book copy of Vigilare. Here’s how to enter:
1. Go to her Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/BrooklynJamesSinger) and “Like” her page.
2. Leave a comment and tell Brooklyn you “liked” her page.
3. You are now entered in the contest.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Brooklyn will announce the winner on her Facebook page.
Brooklyn, thank you so much for stopping by Romance, She Wrote.