Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She has multiple master’s degrees and multiple qualifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, taught at Alief ISD for 15 years, and is a full-time real estate agent in Houston. She has published numerous short stories, two children’s picture books and some poems. Her debut novel United Viden is the first book in her Cyline galaxy wall series and was published in 2020 with her graphic novel / novel hybrid New Beginning. She is the current president of the Houston Writers Guild and previously held that position. She also she, she is a board member of Authorology. In addition to being a city liaison for Nanowrimo Houston, she is also a member of the American Book Publishers Association, Blood Over Texas, and Romance Writers of America. She lives in Houston, Texas with her parents and the talkative husky Arya.
Here is an interview with author Fern Brady
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Mexico City and my parents brought my brother and I to the United States when I was 5 years old. I studied journalism and history and have three masters degrees – one in Communication, one in Counseling, and one in Educational Leadership. After a short time as a freelance journalist and public relations specialist, I began a fifteen year career as an educator in Alief ISD. I came across the Houston Writers Guild, and it reignited my desire to write professionally. Leaving teaching, I began by getting various short stories and poems published while I worked to develop my debut science fantasy novel.
How many hours a day do you write?
I try to write at least one hour every day. However, I own and run Inklings Publishing, I teach some writing classes with Writers In The Schools (WITS), and I am the head of the Houston Writers Guild, so there are days when I simply don’t get that hour of writing.
I have gotten better at being more forceful about protecting that time. A key difficulty I see as an author is that many people don’t see your job as a real job. So many times I’m asked to help do this or that which would take up the space of your writing time, and when you say I can’t I’m writing, people push hard because that’s not a job, that’s just a hobby, in their minds. I’ve found that if I say “I’m working during that time,” then there’s no push back. People accept that as okay for why you can’t do what they want you to do. That’s why I feel the term ‘working writer’ needs to be part of our jargon in the industry, and we need to encourage people to view writing as a job, as work.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have created a whole intergalactic alliance of planets in my head. I have so many stories that vie for attention, and I have found the only way to silence them so I can really dig into the one currently on my desk is to jot down the ideas that percolate in my head about them. So I have a tone of story gist that interconnect to what the rest of the storyline is doing as well as many short stories that have made their way fully onto the page. These prove useful when the main line of books stalls.
Recently, I have been struggling with fleshing out the war scenes for Gortive Offensive, which will be book 2 of the Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series. So I started working on Nichamir’s story. I knew he would be a critical player in the final book, so I let my mind ask “what is his story?” And that is how Love’s Call and the Dragon and His Kitten series was born. The first book is ready so we will release it first this year, and I hope by end of the year to be ready to move Gortive Offensive to publication.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It is not easy to say how long it takes to write a book. My first book was nearly 20 years in the making. It began as a story I wrote with my students very informally and morphed into a fully fleshed out tale as I became more serious about being a writer. Love’s Call took a year to go from Nanowrimo first draft disaster to a fully formed and revised ready to publish book. Gortive Offensive has taken two years and it is still not ready. I think GO is taking longer because it involves actually writing out the war and deciding what needs to be seen – which battles and moments are crucial to do as vivid scene work – versus what just need to be known and can be done with a war counsel scene has been the crux of the hold up for me. Plus, writing the war scenes has been a challenge as I push my craft skills to envisioning war.
Where did you get the idea for your recent book?
My inspiration originated in my classroom. As an English/Language Arts teacher who also taught Social Studies, I merged the content to create cohesive learning units. Each year, we created planets with varied cultures, read books which informed our understanding of culture, and created stories which took place in these worlds and put into practice what we learned. There the world of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall was born.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Naming characters and places is one of the parts of the writing process I love the most. I have two strategies for developing names. Since my work is a science fantasy set of planets, my names need to sound alien.
So the first method I use is I keep a piece of scrap paper next to me and when I need to come up with a name I jot down on it items in the room with me. Sometimes, I jot down items or terms related to perhaps the topic or area the name will go with – like say when I’m naming a mountain range or forest I might put down words related to those features. Then, I take a part of one word and a part of another word and smash them up together until I find a combination I like. So for example, I might right down words like – sand, storms, lizards, dunes, hot, dry, blistering – for a desert area I am trying to name. Then I play with putting together the -orm from storms with the liz- from lizards and make Ormliz Oasis. Or take -nes from dunes and San- from sand and make the dunes of Sannes.
For character names, I have a book called The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. The book lists names sorted by ethnicities/cultures of our world and by gender with some lists of common family names for the area. It also provides what the name means in that culture.
Because my world is on another planet, I apply the same strategy for naming places to this resource. I decide the type of personality or theme of a character’s arc and find names that mean critical areas of the character’s life in the book. I also consider the general flavor of the culture I’m creating. I have a planet with a more Chinese and Asian inspired culture so for those characters I would look in the book for Thai or Japanese names. Then I take pieces from one name and pieces from a second name and mash them up together. This gives me a private joy, knowing that the character’s name actually is made up of names with specific meanings.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
My father had hoped that I would become an attorney like him. Growing up, we had conversations about me and him working a law office together. When I graduated with my bachelors, I took the LSAT and I applied to various law schools. I was accepted at a very expensive one and, sadly, not at the UH Law which is the one I really wanted to attend in order to stay in Houston and with the university I had graduated from which I really loved. I thoroughly enjoyed my university time because UH main campus is such a beautiful space. So when it came time to decide to go ahead with law or move forward with a communications master, I chose the less expensive option and stayed in Houston. Occasionally, I do wonder what my life would be like and if I’d be doing what I’m doing if I had taken the law school option.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
My favorite books as a child were the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, LOTR, and many other fantasy novels as well as mysteries. As I grew up, I began to see them for more than just fun stories. I began to delve into the themes and ideas they spoke to through fiction.
For me, the power of fiction to present the reader with hard truths that need to be examined in a safe space is amazing. Through made up worlds, we can examine our understanding of humanity and all its darkest corners without feeling judged or condemned. This is especially true of Science Fiction and Fantasy in which the worlds are completely foreign to us and therefor looking at concepts of gender equality, racism, and economic inequalities can be explored without feeling attacked.
What are you currently working on?
Love’s Call, book one in a side series that is also set in the world of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall, will debut in August of 2022. It launches The Dragon and His Kitten series and provides insight into Nichamir Linput, one of the most powerful men of the Intergalactic Alliance. He’s also hiding a secret – he is half dragon and half human. The series is a romance which will allow readers to understand what leads Nichamir to make the fateful decision he is destined to make in book 3 of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I always tell authors to remember that books are an artform. Like all art, they will speak to some more than to others, and even bring out negative emotions in some audiences. I think about books like I do a painting by Picasso. My brother can sit and stare at a Picasso and marvel at it and feel its power for hours. I look at it and can appreciate the artistry but feel nothing. Yet, when I step in front of a Monet, my heart stirs. He can look at Monet and feel nothing. Because they are art. They speak to each of us differently.
So when I look at reviews by readers, I remind myself that the art offering I have put before them is not going to resonate with everyone and my hope is that, at least, they can appreciate the artistry, even if it doesn’t stir their hearts. But you also have to be ready for those who see themselves too clearly in the work and have a negative reaction because it shows them things they aren’t ready to face. As an artist, a writer must not take the readers reactions to heart. Instead, I feel it a complement that they either loved it or hated it because either way it made them feel strongly enough to write a review.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring authors is to take your time. Don’t rush to publication. Trust the process, attend conferences and seminars that teach you to navigate the industry successfully before launching, and don’t tie your ego to your work. Your worth as a person is not in the success of your book. Also, don’t expect to suddenly become a multi-millionaire overnight the moment you hit the publish button.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hiring a great developmental editor is the best money you can spend as a writer. Yes. you can revise your work on your own to an extent, but you need objective eyes that love and support your work and who can pinpoint what is lacking in the text and tell you in a professional way. A good substantive critique by a professional developmental editor will make your story go from okay to great by showing you what needs to be fleshed out, what is still confusing, and, perhaps most importantly, what it is actually transmitting to the reader. Many times I think I said what I wanted it to say, then my editor’s feedback shows I didn’t quite get the right point across. You can’t know that if you don’t have an objective set of eyes, that can critique it professionally, look over your work.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
People can follow me on my website and monthly newsletter will be best for gathering information on what is coming next. Facebook is the best place to interact with me as a fan. Also I co-write a blog with a good friend, author Ellen Seaton, and it is a great place to read about what is going on in my life and author journey. Here are the links: