In June, The Book Pound will be a tour stop for Brian Michaud's The Road to Nyn blog book tour, but today we have the pleasure of learning more about Brian Michaud himself. A music teacher and rock star, Michaud also knows a thing or two about storytelling and writing. Many thanks to Brian Michaud for taking time out of his very busy schedule to share some of his insights and experiences.
Since you're an elementary school teacher, do you feel that your interactions with your students influenced the dialogue and actions of any characters in The Road to Nyn?
Yes, definitely. There’s an old cliché, but it’s so true: Students won’t care about what you know until they know you care. As a music teacher, I strive for my class not only to be one in which the children gain new skills but one in which they can enjoy themselves. I constantly put myself in my students’ shoes when I create lessons. I ask myself, “Will this be fun and interesting for them?” I truly care about them as individuals, and I feel it’s important for my students to like what they are learning.
Applying this concept to a book, I believe that readers have to first like and care about the characters before they can care about what happens to them. My favorite books are ones with characters whom I miss when the stories are over. To this end, The Road to Nyn is strongly character-driven. As Kay travels on a journey to save his parents, he meets many friends and enemies along the way. Each one adds to the plot and allows the reader to know and understand him and his companions more intimately. My hope is that the reader will finish the last page of my book longing to find out more about the characters, to hang out with them a little longer, and to go on another adventure with them.
What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Road to Nyn? What was the hardest part?
The most enjoyable part of writing the book was the discovery of the story as it unfolded. I began the book with the intention of writing a short story simply to pass the time one night back in my college days. I grabbed a notebook from my clarinet class – an instrument that I had to take for one semester under extreme duress – and began to write what I expected to be a short story. The tale came to me as if out of nowhere, and I found that I had twelve pages at the end of the first night. Curious to find out what happened next, I began a nightly ritual of writing the story of Kay. I wrote stream of consciousness; I didn’t know what was going to happen until I wrote it. It was actually quite exciting to write in this way.
Long story short, that was twenty years ago. I picked up and put down the manuscript over the years, finally deciding to self-publish in 2013. That being said, you can imagine what an utter nightmare the editing process was. I had unresolved subplots, situations that didn’t make any sense, and many other issues. The editing was not fun, but definitely a rewarding experience and a valuable lesson for the writing of my second book...plan, plan, plan.
Have you always enjoyed fantasy books? What were your favorite books when you were growing up?
When I was in elementary school, I was a big fan of the Hardy Boys. I read every one of the original books and some of the newer ones that came out in the 1980s. I have fond memories of reading at night with my mother; she would read a chapter and then I would read a chapter until one of us (usually me) would fall asleep.
I began my love affair with fantasy books with The High King by Lloyd Alexander. (Yes, I read the last book in the series first.) I bought it at a book fair when I was in seventh grade and was immediately drawn into the characters and their lives. Another early favorite was The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. In high school, I read all of the Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman collaborations.
In addition to writing, I have always loved storytelling. I think it goes back to the days when I was in the Boy Scouts and would hear and tell ghost stories by the campfire. Each time someone would tell a story it would be a little different. That was the fun of it. The story was never complete; each telling brought about different nuances. I remember my friend Earl was great at it. He would have us enthralled (and often frightened) with stories of “Red Eyes” and “Three-Fingered Willie.”
What advice do you give to students who are interested in writing books?
Don’t be too fussy about your first draft. You will edit it many times over. I see students who get stuck like I did when I had to write in school. They feel that their first draft has to be near perfection. Some spend so much time agonizing over individual sentences and words that they miss out on the fun of writing. It’s about discovering the story within.
How is the sequel coming along? Have you found that writing a sequel is different than writing the first book in a series?
The sequel is coming along fast and furiously. I am about three-quarters of the way through the first draft. I’ve got the path to the ending in my head and am just working out a few of the subplots. The working title is The Ring of Carnac, but I’m thinking of changing the title so people don’t confuse it with the old Johnny Carson skit.
One of the main differences is that the characters are established. They are intimate friends of mine, and I know their thoughts and motivations. That doesn’t mean that they will be static, but I have a starting point.
One of the other differences in writing the second book is that it is a little more confining. In the first book, the only limits were my imagination. Now I have to stay within the bounds that I established.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell Book Pound readers?
Like many self-published authors, I have the challenge of balancing my writing, family, and day job – oh, yes, and I also play lead guitar in a rock band. I try to do the bulk of my writing in the morning. I’m an early riser, so I’m usually up around 5:45. I find that is the best time for me to write. The house is quiet – no phones, television, knocks on the door, etc. – so I can totally immerse myself in my imagination. I can picture the scenes in my head and get them to come to life on paper. I can usually get in a solid hour and a half of writing during this time.