It’s time for another author spotlight, it is my pleasure to introduce Urban Science Fiction and Fantasy Author, Bret Alexander Sweet!
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Bret Alexander Sweet. I am an entrepreneur, educator and author hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area. I started my career as a media entrepreneur, creating my own record label in high school and was the first person to ever sell digital music online. I took the lessons learned from that experience to work in under developed communities and teach those populations how to create their own jobs. Currently I teach at the college level and assist creative types in launching or growing their businesses. I really hate talking about myself, it seems so….”hey look at me!!”
(Link to bio if you want to pull anything from it is below:)
2) Where can we find you on the internet?
Anyone looking to find me on the internet can go to www.paperthrones.com
That is the site for the book but it includes my bio, my blog, connectivity for my social media and my random thoughts.
3) Why did you chose the genre you write in and how would you describe your writing style?
I’ve grown up in large cities my whole life so that is what I know: urban landscapes. However I grew up reading fiction that was the intersection between fantasy and science fiction. In addition, I am a musicologist and really love hip hop as well as music that helped craft it such as soul, reggae and psychdelic rock. The first book I ever read on my own was The Hobbit at age four. I got a few years older and my mother told me “you ready for the real stuff now?” She handed me Nine Princes Of Amber by Roger Zealzny. I was hooked and have re-read that series once a year since. I will probably require my children, when I have them, to read that series.
The genre I currently write in is what I would call Urban Science Fiction & Fantasy. I had to craft my own genre because it was the only way to bring together all these elements that I love. I wrote the series first and then tried to discover where it positioned in terms of genre. When none of the pre-existing boxes fit, I made my own. However that’s what entrepreneurs do: if the rules don’t work, we re-write them.
My writing style is like Tai Chi. From a distance it is flowing, meditative, descriptive and puts the mind at ease. Up close and deeply analyzed, there are very complex layers and they are powerful. Most people think Tai Chi is for old people. Let one of those old people punch you in the mouth and then tell me what you think. Tai Chi translates to supreme ultimate. I am a perfectionist and I am competitive. When I write, I aim to leave a mark on the world and I don’t want a single doubt about my abilities. I will put my style next to any of the greats and say “I belong here”. The only place I have an ego is about my writing; I am the harshest critic I know so I work very hard to make sure my own writing impresses me.
My publisher told me my writing is like “a mix of James Joyce and Harold Bloom for millenials”. Not sure it’s that incredible but I appreciate the compliment.
4) Tell us about your latest book.
Among The Veils is modern mythology using the more obscure pantheons and tales set in the inner city environments of the San Francisco Bay Area. It tells tells the tale of a psychiatrist named Clay Durward who works with young adults who is brought to a murder scene where the only survivor is a five year old boy. By counseling the child, the doctor becomes the child’s guardian and finds that the child is the epicenter of a war between two opposing armies of pre-dynastic Egyptian gods fighting in the modern day. Clay is torn between protecting the child and protecting himself by staying uninvolved. Among The Veils is the first book in a five part series titled The Paper Thrones Series.
Readers have described the story as “Harry Potter meets the Wire” or “the hip hop Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. Huge compliments as far as I am concerned. Big shoes to fill as well.
In addition to the story, the book comes with a soundtrack, character art, plot art and a glossary:
Character Art & Plot Art:
The idea is to make the story as interactive as possible so readers feel they are part of the story and can shape its direction.
5) If you could live in any world from a book or movie which would it be and why?
Wow what a great question. As writers, especially in science fiction, you run the risk of already living in the world that is being written. I see alot of parallels between Blade Runner and Neuromancer with the way the economy is and how tech companies dictate public policy. I think we have to go through this period for a while before we can get to some period where life is more like the Federation.
Personally, I would have loved to be an Amberite. My mother jokes that she is so maybe I am already. I think the ability to shift shadows is incredible.
6) What was your favorite book growing up?
I mentioned The Hobbit and the Amber series previously so I should probably give some light to other books that really made an impact. I loved Invisible Man and Song of Solomon. Dune shaped alot of my perspective. Journey to Ixtlan is another great one. The Patternmaster Series by Octavia Butler was incredible. The Burke Series by Andrew Vacchss.
7) The infamous question- what advice would you give to any aspiring and new authors out there?
Write because you need to not because you have to. Meaning, write the story or text that keeps you going. Write it because if you don’t tell it there won’t be enough space in your head to do other things. Do not write a story because you think it will pay your rent. Have the integrity to ask “maybe this has already been done, maybe I can do it better, but do I need to?”
Know who you are writing for. You are not your customer. Maybe that’s the marketer in me talking. Try to get out of your own head and picture the folks who will really enjoy your book. Are you using their language, symbols and culture? Challenge them but also give them what they want, not what you think they need.
Finally, do not fear revision. Iterations is where the magic is. Yes, you wrote it. That’s great. Just because you finished it does not mean its “finished”. Assemble a team who will give you critical feedback and push the envelope,
8) What are your preferred method to use while writing and environment?
I am an entrepreneur affected by many processes used in Silicon Valley. My first technique comes from my martial arts training and from studying tons of Nikola Tesla. I write in my head first. I used to write songs in my head. When I got tired of the music industry, I turned that skill toward designing products and services. I create the first 99% in my head and perfect it there.
My next step is to transcribe from my head to the written page. I buy Moleskines by the bulk. Among The Veils ended up being nine moleskines of my handwriting. The edits and revisions ended up being three more.
My step after that is to type up the manuscript into a word processing document and send it off to the editor. This ALL accomplished with really good coffee and a selection of music that goes with the theme. In fact, the soundtrack is the collection of songs that were used to write Among The Veils.
9 )What are your favorite games (tabletop and/or video)? If you’re not too much into gaming (even monopoly counts!) what are your other hobbies?
I love Monopoly but ever since I graduated from business school, NOBODY, not even my wife will play with me lol. I have to play on my iPad with the computer.
I have been kicked out of Seen It games. I think I know movies too well. I find Taboo can be great when there is alot of alcohol available. Leads to incredible laughs.
Video games wise. Console, I have my holy trinity: Dynasty Warriors, UFC and Assassin’s Creed. Anyone who knows those titles will automatically understand me.
PC games wise: I have owned and played every version of Civilization. I love that game. Hands down incredible. I even taught a class on it once. I also really dig Sim City.
In my youth, I have played every role playing game known to man. You name the game and I have played it. Might even have played tested it or ghost wrote some of the rules lol. My favorite is still…….guess what…..Amber Diceless Role Playing. It’s impossible to meta game or power game that system. I have close friends I would trust my car for a week but won’t turn my back in a crowded room because of that game. You really get into character with those rules.
I also love discovering new music and collecting 12″ vinyl records. There is something about the warmth of vinyl that sounds unlike anything else.
I still practice and train martial arts but not as hard core as my youth. I am an avid UFC fan and seldom miss a fight card.
I am also working on a family business that has a very cool take on rental properties. Can’t say more than that, I don’t like talking about unfinished products.
10) What can we look forward from you in the future?
More of the same with alot more impact. I am going to release the second edition of Among The Veils some time this year. In addition, I am finishing up the audio book which is sounding incredible. We also have been in talks to get some clothing out to go with the book. There are rumors of a game as well. We will see how it goes.
I spend a weekend a month going around the country speaking and signing books. I also do alot of media appearances ranging from radio shows to podcasts to magazine articles. Follow us through social media at the Paper Thrones site and find out where I am appearing next; I love signing books for people who have finished the book and hearing their thoughts. Our next step is to get these readers to connect with their fellow readers and raise the profile of the Paper Thrones community. Ultimately, thats what I like doing, building tribes.
Finally,. I expect to put the next installment in the series out over the next two years. I want to get the readers involved in that process but everything is a step at a time.
Thanks again Bret for taking the time answering my questions!