“A Captive’s Portion” – An Interview with Author C. K. Brooks.

In this article I am proud to interview my younger brother about his newly published work, “A Captive’s Portion”. I am immensely proud of my brother in his accomplishment and look forward to the long career of quality writing that lies before him. Links to the book and how to get it will be provided. As an avid reader I am not one to hand out praise easily or too quickly. Chendall has truly found a gift and will contribute greatly his important piece in the literary world. For aspiring writers, be encouraged by Chendall’s persistence and dedication.

1) Chendall, what first made you interested in writing and becoming an author and how did that unfold? 

That is a difficult question, because I’m not 100% sure myself. I suppose it really all started with a love for creation that found its expression in construction and storytelling. I loved creating plots, and I loved building unique things that others could view and experience. 

Probably the first moment that I consciously “fell in love” with writing and reading was when I read through The Hunger Games series. I loved those books, and perhaps unlike any other made me, in some way, wish to experience another’s life. The Hunger Games were the first books that showed me the wonder of writing as a medium; it showed me that philosophy, character development, and plot can all coincide in this single medium. It showed me that writing is much more than just telling a story, and that’s what drew me to writing versus other forms of storytelling. 

I suppose the final element, or straw you could say, was when I read my favorite book to this day: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I read that book in a night and a day, and it was soon after finishing Ember that I began plotting what would amount to my first attempts at a novel.

2) What challenges have you faced in getting to this point and what kept you motivated?

Perhaps the most challenging part of being an author is motivation. I mean, as an author, especially somebody who is just starting out, there are lots of pitfalls that can discourage you to the point of giving up. Whether it’s believing that your writing is garbage, that your storytelling isn’t unique (or worse, simply faulty), or quite simply realizing that this plot, or this character, or this element just don’t work in a story. I mean, I wrote three or four attempts at books before writing A Captive’s Portion, one of which ended up being roughly one-hundred fifty pages long! All work that will never be showed to another soul and will never earn me a lunch.

Ultimately, despite these challenges, I realized that writing is rewriting, and editing, and writing again. Writing is a job that requires discipline, but most of all, the ability to learn and try again. One-hundred fifty pages that nobody will ever see or interact with isn’t useless, because you, the author, have just grown one-hundred and fifty pages better at the thing you love.

So, it is by knowing that none of my work is in vain that I overcome challenges. It is through my love for writing that I remain motivated.

3) Alright, what are some of your favorite authors or books that really sparked your passion for reading and writing?

Well, I mentioned a few of them above. The Hunger Games was really the first book that I remember truly enjoying; I couldn’t get enough of it. I was engrossed in the character of Katniss Everdeen, and I loved the world that Collins made. Even despite the killing, I almost wanted to be a part of the world because I felt so strongly for the characters.

The next book that impacted me the most was likely an Ember in the Ashes. As stated above, I read the book very soon after it came out, reading it in a day (24 hours). This was like what I experienced with The Hunger Games, but really impressed on me the desire to read new fiction, as well as write.

4) Has there been something throughout this process that has surprised you? 

Honestly, it was the amount of work it takes to create a well-polished, publishable document. A first draft, followed by a full rewrite, and then 12 other edits has taught me how hard it is to write a book. It isn’t something for everyone, and it’s a labor of love, but I didn’t realize just how hard it was until I actually completed A Captive’s Portion. When you think your done, you’re actually only about halfway there.

5) What do you consider the heart of a story?

Well, I’m sure that there are a number of opinions on this matter, but in my few years I’ve watched, read, and experienced a vast number of stories. I suppose this is a question of philosophy, and my philosophy for plotting and storytelling is this: plot exists to serve characters. What do I mean by that? I’ll explain, but in short, it means that character is the heart of storytelling. 

The mantra of any story worth its salt is conflict. It’s this way because the nature of the conflict itself is rarely the object of the story: it’s how the characters in the conflict react. In Lord of the Rings, the story isn’t about the war. The Lord of the Rings is about how this war brings the characters together. It’s about how Frodo reacts to this call-to-action. It’s about Sam-Wise Gamgee carrying Frodo to the top of Mount Doom because he loves Frodo.

In the romance story, we read on to see not who the sides in the conflict are (this guy/girl versus that guy/girl), but who is ultimately chosen. It’s the reaction of the characters. In Star Wars, it isn’t about the wars, but about how Anakin, and then Luke react to these outside pressures. The unassailable focus of the first six movies are that Luke succeeded where Anakin failed. It isn’t about Republic vs CIS, or Rebellion vs the Empire, but of good versus evil. It is a moral question, and as humans, we are moral beings.

With that in mind, the heart of story is character, because people can react in unique and varied ways to a situation. It adds unpredictability, which makes story interesting. Poking a bear will likely lead to you being mauled. Pulling at a vending machine will likely get you squashed by the vending machine. These things are much more constant, and therefore, much less interesting than the human element which makes us ask, “What will they do next?” This is the heart of storytelling.

6) How did you decide to self-publish? What were some factors that led you in that direction? 

I decided to self-publish after a great deal of thought. I originally spent some time attempting to publish traditionally, which involves a number of steps starting at acquiring and agent, then acquiring a publisher, and doing all the stuff that it takes to publish a work such as marketing after that.

Well, after some time in that grinder, sending out query letters to agents, I read something on traditional publishing that made me think. It said something like this: “Unless you are THE book to be had this year published by one of the big five publishing houses, you’re probably going to do most of the marketing for your book.” That statement really hit me, because that was one of THE reasons I wanted to traditionally publish. It caused me to think, what can a publishing house do that I can’t do? I mean, if I’m going to market it myself, what am I actually getting by jumping through all these hoops? I don’t have time to go into the details, but the answer is that all I will likely receive is a full print run.

The next factor was sort of the straw that broke the camels back, but this was creative freedom. As a bible-believing Christian, some of my views are not particularly popular (understatement) with the modern world. Would I be asked at some point to violate my conscience? If so, and I said no, would my writing career be ruined? Maybe it wouldn’t be so dire, but the fact remains that I have sole creative control of my projects as a self-published author, and when considering all the other factors in this decision, it seemed obvious to me that self-publishing was the way to go.

7) Have you drawn anything from other authors that you have incorporated into your writing? Any examples? 

Oh my goodness, yes. So many examples. Whether these examples are from particular ways to write, or story examples that have inspired my work, they both abound.

To the former, several authors have made an impact on how I wrote. As mentioned multiple times already; Sabaa Tahir’s writings have really played a major role in developing my own style. Her prose, which is deep and long when considering character’s thoughts, is much more practical and brief in description, and combat. Her dialogues are deeper, often revealing major elements of the story. Whenever I read her books, I come away with a renewed inspiration to write. 

Other authors that have impacted me in a similar way are Laini Taylor, Greg Cox, Suzanne Collins, and J.K. Rowling.

As to the latter, I could go on, but that would dive into elements of A Captive’s Portion, which wouldn’t quite fit here.

8) What support have you had that has made this process possible?

Oh, support is everything. You probably know this, but writing a book is extremely hard. In fact, it is far harder than it sounds. It takes great patience and even more self-discipline, and I’m not saying this to toot my own horn but to put a spotlight on how important it is for an author to feel like they have support. Writing a book is a huge time investment. I couldn’t even begin to calculate the time I’ve put into it; that time needs to feel like it is ultimately worth something. That is when support matters.

I myself am lucky to have an immense support system of people that love and care for me, and are willing to put in the time to encourage me in whatever ways they can. It warms my heart more than you can know when someone even spends five minutes helping me think through a writing problem. Even more so, I love it when someone spends the time to read my book. Or, most importantly, when those same people come alongside and make tangible steps to help me fulfill my dream. I don’t deserve this investment from them, it’s a gift, and I know that, which makes it all the more precious to me when people do.

On the whole, every member of my family has been a support I couldn’t have made it without, and of all the answers I’ve given today, this one is the most true. I can’t overstate this fact.

9) What is the release date and what can we expect in the future?

The release date for my debut, young adult, fantasy novel is September 27th. I am extremely excited for the future, as I have big plans for this coming year which includes not only another novel, but even more fun and exciting news that will likely be a staple of my writing career!

You can find C. K. Brooks on Twitter @CKBrooks5 and on Facebook at C.K. Brooks. You can pre-order his book on Kindle and Google Play. Print editions will become available September 27th.

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