An interview with Vera Brook

Vera Brook
SAND RUNNER  -  debuting June 2017

Ms. Brook,

Thank you for taking your time for me ~

Thank you for having me. 

How do you come up with your stories? And what was the inspiration for SAND RUNNER? 

I’m the type of person who is interested in everything. So to me, inspiration comes from everywhere: the people around me, my work, the books I read, a random online article on technology.

In this case, I got the initial idea for SAND RUNNER from my work. I’m a neuroscientist by training and I taught psychology for a few years. One topic we discussed is how the brain—or the motor cortex—controls our voluntary movements. And also what happens when someone loses a limb, and the amazing new research on prosthetic limbs and how to integrate them with our nervous system. So I started reading more on the topic, and really got into it.

The science and technology behind prosthetic limbs is fascinating, and advancing so fast that reality is starting to look like science fiction. But to me, the human side of the story is even more interesting. If we have technologies like bionic limbs, how would we use them and misuse them? And how would they change the way we live our lives? So that’s what SAND RUNNER is about—trying to imagine a possible future like that. 

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?

My writing philosophy is very down-to-earth. As a writer, I’m a storyteller. Stories come to me, and I try to write them down as truthfully as I can. I love everything about the process—even when writing is hard.

In my mind, there are two parts to the writing process, although they are not completely separate. The first part is coming up with ideas. This part feels easy and natural. I always have more ideas than I know what to do with, and I don’t think it’s unusual for writers. I usually force myself to work on one specific project until I have a finished draft. But I usually work on four or five different novels on the side, taking notes, and sketching characters and scenes, just to capture the ideas as they come to me.

Really, I joke about it with my writer friends, because it sounds a little crazy when I say it. But it feels like I can hear the characters in my mind; or like I’m watching a kind of blurry movie about them. And my job is to pay attention, to listen and watch—and then to write it down, as accurately and honestly as I can.

The second part of the writing process—the actual writing—is never easy, although it gets easier with regular practice. It helps to make writing into a habit and to set goals for yourself. You just sit down and write. And you don’t let yourself stop until you have 500 words, or 2000 words, whatever goal is right for you. I also outline a lot, to figure out what happens in the story and how all the pieces fit together. I add more and more information to the outline, and jump all over the place, until I have a very rough draft. I call it “draft 0” and no one ever sees it but me. Then I usually go through several more drafts, tightening and polishing the story with each one, sometimes making big changes to the story or the characters. I also work with a professional editor. So my final draft goes through one or two rounds of professional editing, just to make sure it’s the best I can make it before I publish it.

To me, this second part of the writing process is all about discipline and work ethic. But I do the work because I truly enjoy it, and because in the back of my mind, I’m already thinking of sharing the book with my readers—and that, of course, is the best part and the reason I write in the first place. 

Who are your influences?

If I had to choose just one, it would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I know it’s not very original. But it’s true.

I was already writing when I read The Hunger Games, but not very seriously. The Hunger Games got me serious about writing—it made me want to be a writer. The book made a huge impression on me, and every time I reread it, I discover something new, some new element that often looks very simple on the page, but it’s masterfully done.

When you think about it, Collins took a lot of risks in the book—with the characters, the plot, the whole concept. But the risks absolutely paid off. The story is smart, compelling, and unforgettable. Even when I try to reread The Hunger Games with a writer’s eye—to absorb the technique, to learn how Collins does things like characterization or foreshadowing, for instance—I can’t help but be sucked into the story and rooting for the characters all over again. 

Anything else you would like to share about the novel?

SAND RUNNER is going to be a series. I am currently writing book 2 and outlining book 3 as I go. It’s funny because I initially set out to write a standalone, but I quickly changed my mind. I’m too attached to the characters! I’m not ready to let them go. They are like real people to me, and their story continues to unfold in my mind, so I have to write the rest of it down. I hope the readers will want to find out what happens next, too.

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About the author  ~

Vera Brook is a neuroscientist turned science fiction and fantasy writer.

Connect with Vera

Sand Runner is her debut novel
A science fiction novel about courage, grit, and extreme sports

Jun 2, 2017

You could read the first four chapters here

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