Interview with Brad Beaulieu
To mark the launch of my debut, When the Heavens Fall, I’m asking five different questions to each of five different authors this week. Today, no doubt already regretting his decision to take part, is Brad Beaulieu, podcaster and author of the forthcoming Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.
Hi Brad, and thanks for being here.
1. I always like to open with an easy question. Rock, paper or scissors?
When I play with my kids, I typically start with rock. At the very least, if I win, it’s so much more satisfying when I smash their scissors.
Ha! I was thinking of paper, would you believe that? What do you mean ‘no’?
2. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai will mark the opening chapter of your second fantasy series, The Song of Shattered Sands. When you started writing it, was there anything in particular you wanted to do differently from what you’d done in your first series, The Lays of Anushka?
I’ve long wanted to scratch the itch to write a desert story. I can attribute this partly to liking the tales of the Arabian Nights (or One Thousand and One Nights), particularly the milieu. As The Lays of Anuskaya progresses, you can see more and more of the Persian-influenced Aramahn coming into the picture, culminating in long stretches of desert scenes in the final book, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
So the desert was something I really wanted to explore, but I’d probably give the most credit to the Thieves’ World anthologies for the inspiration for the setting. I loved the city of Sanctuary when I first starting reading the anthologies in high school. I loved that it was the “armpit of the empire,” that it was a meeting point of old and new as the Rankan Empire drove into Ilsigi territory, that there were pantheons of gods vying for power, and in fact commingling even as they fought. Above all, I loved the vastness of Sanctuary and the hidden wonders it contained.
The feel of that is what I wanted to explore with Sharakhai. Sharakhai is in some ways a mere city state. But in effect it controls trade throughout a massive desert bordered by four powerful kingdoms, and because it controls trade, it has amassed incredible wealth and power among all four kingdoms and the desert itself. It hasn’t done so without making enemies along the way, however. The twelve immortal kings of Sharakhai are hated by many.
And that’s where the story begins.
3. I note that you’ve already received some great comments on Twelve Kings from the likes of Glen Cook and C.S. Friedman. What’s the nicest comment you’ve ever received about one of your books?
I was really pleased to have the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy be named one of the Top 50 Essential Fantasies by Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review I was also honored to receive the Most Promising New Voice and Debut of the Year from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist when The Winds of Khalakovo first came out. But really, I think the comments that I get the most joy out of are those that compare me to other authors.
Certain aspects of my writing have been compared to that of C. S. Friedman, Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin’s, Guy Gavriel Kay’s, L. E. Modessit, Naomi Novik, and more. I’m not saying they were right. I don’t really like to compare myself to other writers when those authors have accomplished so much and I’ve yet to hit my stride, as it were. Even still, it’s very nice for others to see some things in my writing that remind them of authors that have written some beautiful stories and gone on to sell boatloads of books. I especially love comparisons to people that inspired me as a writer. C. S. Friedman was one of my biggest influences early on, and later, so were George Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay. To have their names mentioned in reference to my own work is an honor and a joy.
4. It’s good to see your Speculate Podcast still going strong. Do you think reviewing other authors’ books has caused you to re-evaluate your own writing?
Well, I don’t know if I’d use the term re-evaluate. But certainly I (we all) learn through osmosis. I feel fortunate to have read the works that we’ve picked for the show and then gotten the chance to talk to the author about it in our interview episodes. There’ve been some real “ah ha!” moments for me on the show while talking to such wonderful guests—some of the best writers in the entire industry. And the writing technique shows force me to really dig into the work to pull out what I think was working well or, in some cases, not working so well. I definitely think I’ve learned from running Speculate, and I suspect (though who can really tell?) that it’s accelerated my progress as a writer as compared to where I might have been had I never started the podcast.
5. When you yourself were interviewed on Speculate last year, you gave advice on how writers could promote themselves. What’s the most shameful piece of self-promotion you’ve ever done, and do you mind if I use the idea myself?
I’m hoping you meant shameless and not shameful. And gosh, what have I done? I will say that most self-promotion makes me uncomfortable, and I think this is a truism for most authors: that we want to get ourselves out there but that we also feel uncomfortable talking about ourselves, because we’re taught that to do so is self-centered and boorish. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. I think if we can approach our writing obliquely, our potential audience will be much more receptive than simply taking a “buy my book” strategy.
So I think I’ll avoid the shameless question entirely—because to my mind it doesn’t work and in fact is often counterproductive—and instead focus on the most effective piece of promotion I’ve done. And that’d be networking. This is, in effect, one step removed from the actual promotion, but if you can reach out, be humble, make friends, talk about the stuff you love and that other likeminded people will also love, you’ll start expanding your network of fans, reviewers who like your work, industry folks who know about you, and so on. Be friendly. Be positive. Promote other people’s work (the very approach these interviews are taking; well done, Marc!). If you do these things, you can also reach out for requests. Would you like to read my work? I’d love to be on your website if you’d like me to talk about this or that.
Approach it as a long game. Be outgoing and reach beyond your circle of friends and acquaintances, but also recognize that it’ll take time to build from that into a wider network. Over time, you’ll find your reach expanding, and noes will start to turn into maybes and yeses.
Also, write awesome books, because really, what better piece of marketing is there than having a book that people are talking about?
Write awesome books. Damn, I knew I’d forgotten to do something.
Thanks again for the interview!