Last August 25, 2015, I had a fun chat with Bryant A. Loney. He will always have a very special place in my heart because he’s the first author I have ever interviewed. He’s open minded and he gave such award winning answers.
Read on for a glimpse of what went down as we talked about him, his writing process and his book, To Hear The Ocean Sigh.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HIM
To start, I would first like to thank you, Bryant, for letting me interview you for my blog! You’re the first author I’ll be interviewing and I’m honored to have you today.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity!
Random question! What’s your favorite book?
Oh, what a question. It changes from time to time, but I do like Stephen King’s Christine a lot. It’s a flawed book, sure, but it tells a real nice story. I even own a first edition.
I haven’t heard of Christine yet, but I love Stephen King! Will be sure to look it up! Next question is what book/occurence inspired you to start reading/writing?
Perhaps coincidentally, the 2008 Stephen King collection of short stories titled Just After Sunset. That book made me want to create fiction on a smaller scale, and I guess my writing grew from there!
Oh! With that said, is it safe for me to assume that Stephen King’s one of your favorite authors?
Yes, Stephen King is fantastic in my eyes. I love the way he portrays the average American town and people in an allegorical fashion, similar to Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone TV series in the ’60s. I’m a sucker for American writers, though I’m open to fiction from all authors, of course.
Great! Any other authors that caught your attention? Also, I, too am a big fan of American authors! I don’t know, there’s something about how you guys build worlds and depict your stories that compels me to read.
Nick Miller’s novel Isn’t It Pretty To Think So? is a favorite of mine, but outside the Fifty States, I also love The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Super talented guys. I’ll also read anything by Bryan Lee O’Malley. (He’s Canadian!) The Paris Review is mighty fine, as well.
I think the reason I like American stories, or fiction set in the United States, is because there’s a lot of stuff to poke fun of about us as a culture. We’re a strange group, Americans, but we’re also diverse, and that can add a lot to the writing and characters. There’s so much to talk about our social issues, it’s crazy. But that’s what interests me, you know? So I try to incorporate that into my work.
What genre do you want to explore and write about next?
I’d like to combine bits of traditional horror into the Young Adult genre. Not paranormal or supernatural; we’ve seen enough of that to get us through the 2010s, I believe. So often I find adults belittling the fears of us teens, whereas we, in turn, do the same to little siblings worried about the monster under the bed. I’m looking to mix both into my next novel, if that makes sense. Fear will play a major part—on a physical and psychological level.
Do you have any pre or post-writing rituals?
I like to write in a quiet environment, which can be difficult when you’re still in high school, as was the case with To Hear The Ocean Sigh, my first novel. I do prefer outlines, though I tend to leave them pretty vague to see where the story and characters take me as I write. I think it’s important to be as open as possible while writing the first draft. After that, it’s whatever works, but at least there’s some comfort knowing nothing is ever set in stone. That paragraph can go here, that character can come back again for this, etc. As for the time between drafts, I like to take a six-month break from whatever I’m working on so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s not for everyone, but that’s what seems to work for me.
I also try my best not to talk about any new stories in case I jinx it. These lips are sealed!
A joke among my friends is that I write about “people doing people-things,” since that’s all I’ll usually ever say.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS BOOK
From what inspiration or occurence did your book, To Hear The Ocean Sigh, started?
The inspiration came to me after my mother, sister, aunt, uncle, and I went Myrtle Beach in South Carolina for a day of fun in the sun. Except it rained. A lot. My uncle didn’t get out of the car, but the rest of us did, and surprisingly, we had a blast in that storm—and no lightning, thankfully. The waves were gray, the sky was white… I loved it, and my aunt did, too. This made me realize how different perspectives can be when it comes to shared experiences. No one wants to spend an afternoon on the beach when it’s raining, right? Maybe, but I bet some people do, and I wanted to write about them.
What made you want to write about an unpopular guy for a protagonist?
Mostly because I feel that’s something a lot of teens want in high school, to some degree. It’s that feeling of recognition, you know? At least, that’s what I wanted—probably still do, in fact. But I decided early on that the main character would have to see why popularity isn’t always a good thing; it can be worrisome for those who have it as much as it is to those without. That said, it’s also important to get both sides of every story, and that’s where Saphnie came in: the popular girl to his unpopular guy. She teaches us to see beyond the glimmer of immediate interests and to focus on more important matters such as friends, family, and our own personal well-being. I just hope I was able to get that message across.
How long did it take you to write this book? Were you always enthusiastic about it? Did you encounter hardships along the way?
The first draft took three weeks to write, but it was half the current length, and it wasn’t too good, now that I think about it. Once I figured out character motivations, it became much easier. That said, I was always excited and enthusiastic about coming home from school to my secret project. It was a lot of fun to edit and revise, which seems opposite to what some might expect from writers, but hey, that’s how I roll. Hardships? People who weren’t as enthusiastic. People who read it and called it a piece of shit. That can get you down, and it sure did for me. I suppose, though, it made me want to work on it more, as well, to create the best novel I could at the time. And I’m extremely happy with the end result. It’s not perfect, but neither is reality, and I wanted to write realistic YA fiction. So call it whatever you like; as long as readers connect with the characters and learn something about themselves along the way, I did my job. I’m not any of those authors I mentioned before. I’m Bryant Loney, and that’s all anyone can really ask of me.
Were you happy with what your book turned out to be? Or are there some scenes or parts that you want to change?
When it came to describing characters, I usually stuck to hair color and maybe height, but that was it. I’m Costa Rican, so representation is important to me, and it certainly wasn’t my intention for the cast of characters to be seen as all-white, though I can understand how some might get that impression. Oklahoma—despite what the media might show—isn’t all just a bunch of white people, and I should’ve made that more clear. It’s problematic. Like, I imagine Megan as a young, black woman, but all that’s ever said is that she’s a girl with dark hair. That’s no good. I know it’s shouted all the time, but it is for a reason: representation matters, especially for teenagers. I’m definitely working on that for the next one.
Story-wise, I’m proud of the finished product. It’s a learning experience, of course, and I’m more than happy to keep working on my skills.
Jay’s question for the author of Rudderless at Sea came up towards the near end of the book. Did you have a hard time trying to choose what question will Jay have to ask? Or did you know it all along?
I knew once I wrote in there the bit about the question. It’s funny… Jay and Saphnie both sort of used each other as a diary that had the ability to comment back; they bounced opinions and ideas off each other, and I think that really benefited their friendship and enriched their lives. It also helped they were physically removed from each other’s drama—an outsider’s perspective, if you will. That’s what Jay’s question to the author is sort of like: a continuation of his conversation with Saphnie. And the answer? That’s for the reader to decide. It doesn’t matter what the author thinks. It doesn’t matter what I think, either. So yes, I knew the question, but the answer is still up to you.
What made you want to write about life’s major issues like depression, peer-pressure, etc.? Do you have first hand experience with people with these kinds of tendencies?
Good question. I think that stems from other YA books I’ve read where various forms of mental illness are either glossed over or romanticized. I guess I wanted to do my part to correct that aspect of such a real-life issue. I did consult with some people, yes, as well as my own extensive research. The signs are there. If readers spot them, more power to ’em. If not, I hope they will be able to in the future and perhaps help someone out in the process. Peer pressure I was more familiar with—it comes with being a teenager.
Nowadays, young adult readers, myself included, are fond of reading books with themes like suicide and depression. In your opinion, what do you think is it with these kinds of books that gets these readers interested?
In my opinion, today’s youth is desensitized to death. It’s unsettling, if you think about it. So much violence in our movies, books, newscasts… In my novel, death is everywhere. The main character’s dog is said to have passed away. The mom says these allergies will be the death of her. One of the characters in the videogame in the story dies in the game’s finale. There are more examples, but those are the ones that come to mind. As a curious species, we’re fascinated with death, but only when it happens to other people. When it’s someone we know, the tables turn. We get angry. We blame things, we blame people, we blame God, and we blame ourselves. So I think we turn to, say, books to get the answers to why people die and if any part of life truly matters in the end. I used this novel to explore my own thoughts on the subject. I’m still searching for my answers, sure, but I think I have a better understanding of it now, and for that, I’m grateful.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS
“You’re never too young. I wrote the first draft of To Hear The Ocean Sigh when I was fourteen, and it was published three years later. If rejection is what you’re afraid of, don’t be; it’s a part of the process, but it’s worth it. If you have a story to tell that’s powerful enough to bring out 80,000 of your own words, don’t give up. I can’t promise you’ll get to where you want to be, but I can say your writing will only get better as you proceed. Oh, and walk the beach in the rain sometime. You’d be surprised as to what might happen next.”
Bryant is the first author I have ever interviewed, as I have already mentioned above. He answered my questions beautifully and he kept on complimenting me, my questions, and how I “make it easy” for him. Thank you for such kind words, Bryant! I’m looking forward to reading more books from you!
That concludes my interview with the author of To Hear The Ocean Sigh. If you feel like giving your feedback, tips for improvement (since this is my first ever author interview post), I would love it if you leave some comments down below! 🙂
About The Author
Bryant A. Loney is an 18-year-old growing up in the U.S. Heartland. He wrote a coming-of-age novel called To Hear The Ocean Sigh, available via Amazon,Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Google Play, Kobo, and more.