Monday, April 23, 2012

ALL ABOARD! GFP: Maple Express by Peter Brandt



Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...

I am a Canadian living and working in the Middle East. I spent 20 years in the Army and Air Force and when I left, I used my technical background to become a technical writer. It has only been in the last few years that I started writing creatively and it has taken off. I spend my spare time writing novels and screenplays and learning to play guitar and violin.

I am married and have five kids who are all adults and on their own. My wife and I love to travel and we get back to Canada and the United States usually once a year.

I am an independent author, member of the Writer's Union of Canada, and I consider myself a pioneer, an entrepreneur of books written by Peter A. Brandt.

BK: Please tell us a little about your book....

Maple Express is an interesting tale about Sara Maple, a rich girl from a family who has become the largest maple syrup producer in the United States. Being an only child, Sara is used to getting her own way. When her best friend declines to go with her to catch the start of a boot sale in a nearby town, Sara has a fight with her and decides to skip class anyway. Sara never makes it.

Sara wakes up on the floor of an old train surrounded by four people she has never met before. None of them know where the train is heading and don't appear much interested in finding out. Sara must now take control of her life and convince her new friends to help her find a way off the train.

BK: What inspired you to pen this particular novel?

It began when I listened to a news report about what the medical profession believed about us humans. My first thought was…"well, what if they are wrong. What if it is not like that at all?" I decided I needed to write about what I thought it would be like.

I can't tell you what that "what if" moment is because it would give away the story, but the book just flowed out from there.

I got half way through it and realized I didn't know how it should all come together before the surprise ending so I shelved the book for over a year before I finally figured it out and finished writing it.

BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

At the age of seven, I wrote a book about a monkey by the name of "Cheetah" that goes to school and causes havoc. I think I knew back then I was destined to be a writer but self-esteem issues began to creep in and I ignored writing for most of my life. It took becoming a technical writer and realize how much I really loved to write to really get down to writing the many stories that flow from my brain.

BK: How do you keep your story flowing?

I make sure that each chapter has a goal that must be reached and then I make one chapter feed into the next and then the next and so on. I like a story that progresses quickly and stays sustained like that throughout the book. I tried writing literary fiction but got lost describing the curtains LOL!

BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it?

Believe it or not, this actually happened to me but it has only happened once. Generally I have stories flowing out of my head all the time, but the writer's block came to me when I did something stupid.

It started when I lost a significant amount of writing when my computer crashed. I was keeping a backup but I got lax and before I knew it, I had lost 15,000 words to a novel I was in the middle of writing. I went into a real funk after that and I soon began to second-guess what I was doing with my life. No amount of seat time and writing exercises could help me. I was dry.

I took some time off and started reading again. I happened to read "On Writing" by Stephen King and he explained what he did to write his novels. It became a huge inspiration to me when I found out that I was doing exactly what he was doing; sitting down for a certain amount of words each day, letting the book sit for a few weeks before starting a rewrite - he even listens to music as he writes like I do.

I then realized that no matter who you are, famous author or otherwise, it's necessary to sit in that chair and write - one word at a time. I have learned through technical writing to chunk the tasks down into smaller tasks that can be easily carried out. Before long, that five pages of daily writing becomes a 300 page monster and a novel is born. I have always loved reading Stephen King but I am very grateful to him for writing "On Writing" and sharing his way of doing things, including his successes and failures.

I ended up writing again and I haven't had writers block since (knock on wood)!

BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write?

My real quirk is I like to write with 30 people sitting around me, all doing the same thing - trying to write a novel. I have attended five writers' marathons where authors begin writing on Friday at 8 PM and must have a complete novel written by Monday night at 8 PM. Writer's marathons are an excellent way to raise money for a cause and there is no better way to find out if you have the chops to write. After those three days are over, you'll know!

Unfortunately, I am far from home so my writing process has changed. I write for an hour or so every night when I get home from work and I take one day, usually Saturday, where I do nothing but write for 10 to 12 hours.

Just as important is my need to listen to music under a pair of headphones as I write. This started back in high school when I used to do all of my homework with the stereo blasting. I find it envelopes my head with a shield of music that insulates me from the outside world. I have to listen to music when I write at work as well and I actually quit a technical writing job because they wouldn't allow me to wear headphones in the office.

BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?

I would love for my books to be turned into movies. I have written a couple of screenplays and one has already been made into a short film. I write all my books by visualizing them as a movie. I love lots of action and I enjoy a cool storyline. I like the "what if" way of looking at the world around me.

BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

That I write good stories that show the world ordinary kids can become extra ordinary kids if circumstances arise. Ordinary kids can grow into happy and talented adults.

I was a late bloomer growing up. When I was 17, I looked 13. I was just hitting puberty when I joined the army. I had nothing going for me at the time and I joke with my wife that if she knew me in school she would have steered clear of me. I was one of those guys a girl's father warns her about - you know the "guy who won't amount to anything." Well, I am living proof that some of us just get started a little later in life.

The point is - you may not think you're much right now or you may think you may never amount to anything but life is long and it is amazing what you can do if you set your mind to it. I know - I studied and became an actor of television and film at the age of 50. It's never too late to do what you love.

BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing?

My father told me before he died "if there is something you want to do in your life, don't wait, - do it now." He wanted to travel and by the time he retired, health issues took over and they couldn't go anywhere.

After he passed away, I began to write with a real commitment to what I wanted to say. As I mentioned, I even studied and became an actor.

The other piece of advice I have learned the hard way is to write what you want, not what other people think you should write. My first book was a comedy and I sold it to a romance publisher. I had to sex it up and frankly, it just wasn't me and it showed. I like to write funny, emotionally charged, and action packed stories about young people. Just remember - romance and love are the basis for all stories in life.

BK: What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?

Don't get hung up on the whole conventional publishing model of finding an agent and a publisher. I went through that route. My first book was bought by a publisher in Florida and it wasn't a great experience.

I have read that agencies in the United States get on average 5000 to 6000 book queries a year and only take 5 to 10. This doesn't mean that 5990 of them are terrible and not fit for print. It's just a numbers game and rejections are all par for the course. If it happens for you to grateful but if it doesn't - don't get down on yourself, become an entrepreneur with your books as your product, and do it yourself.

Study the art of storytelling so you know what you are doing and like any good business, it is important to sell the best product you can so don't scrimp on an editor when you are done. They are worth their weight in gold. Get a fantastic cover made and then sell, sell, sell not just your book, but yourself as well.

BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?

Yes, I am always working on something new.

I just wrote a couple of screenplays for a producer / director friend of mine and they have been filmed already. Being the scriptwriter gives you the ability to write in an acting role for yourself LOL!

I grew up with the Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew mysteries and I wrote a book along those same lines titled "Holly Alexander and the Mystery of the Courthouse Square." This is an action packed young adult thriller. Holly Alexander gets herself into some serious trouble in her new town and requires all of her cunning and newfound friends to get her out of it. The cover is already made and up on my site and the book will be released later summer, early fall 2012.

As well, I am halfway through writing a novel about a young man by the name of Taylor who lives in Los Angeles California. Taylor disappears while walking to school and is found two months later wandering along the side of the Pacific Coast Highway. He has no idea who he is, where he has been, and who the girl that permeates his nightly dreams is.

BK: Where can readers find you?

Well, the number one place to find me is at www.peterabrandt.com but my books are being sold both at www.amazon.com (memoirs) and through www.smashwords.com. www.simplesimonpublishing.com/. People can follow my blog at Simple Simon's website as well.

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been a pleasure having you and I wish you much success in the future.

Thank you for inviting me and it's been my pleasure as well. I look forward to meeting many of your readers who want to leave comments. As well, they are invited to stop by my blog as well.

Giveaways: 

I have some exciting prizes for this book launch. One grand prizewinner will win an awesome Bachmann Trains Pegasus Ready-to-Run HO Scale Train Set.

Two winners will win a pint jug of Butternut Mountain Farm Vermont Pure Maple Syrup, Grade A Dark Amber, in honor of the main character of The Maple Express, Sara Maple, from the small town of Mapleton Vermont.

As well, the blog host with the most comments will win a 2012 Canadian (1 oz) Silver Maple Leaf Coin in an “Air-Tite” Capsule and in this day and age, who couldn't use an ounce of precious metal!

Sara Maple has a comfortable life—the only child of a wealthy family—a best friend who does everything she asks—and the admiration of most of her schoolmates. Unfortunately, her temper and “indestructible” attitude quickly place her in a very precarious position.

“The Maple Express” is a powerful novel that captures the author’s take on the miracle of the human mind. “The Maple Express” delves into the actions and consequences of a young girl who has never had to take responsibility for her actions before. The story brings the reader into a world where Sara’s determination to find her way off the train sends her on an emotional trip that bonds her to her new friends and changes her life forever.

Both young and old readers will love the emotional journey Sara Maple takes them on as she deciphers the obstacles that confront her. Sara’s story ends with a surprise twist and leaves the reader with a sense of discovery about his or her own humanity.

Maple Express” Excerpt One

It took Sara a few seconds to comprehend where she was. As best as she could tell, she was staring at an upside down Thomas Cole painting that appeared to be zipping along at a tremendous rate of speed.

The wind in her hair and face made her eyes water and saliva run from the corner of her mouth. Sara closed her mouth and swallowed.

The last thing she remembered was stepping up on the ladder that led to the train engine. When she woke, she was staring at the scenery, dangling upside down, and being held by something that had wrapped itself around her ankle. Her face was mere inches from the ground. She couldn’t distinguish any one individual rock — they were all shooting past her too fast to see anything more than a blur.

Sara turned her head to find out where the noise was coming from. She knew the sound of the wind that rattled past her but the throaty metallic rattle that overpowered it was far more excruciating on her ears.

The wind spun her a quarter turn and what she saw caused a scream to erupt from deep inside. Two large train wheels were spinning along steel tracks. The sound she heard was steel hitting steel. The pistons created the swooshing sound as they pounded the wheels around, propelling the train forward.

Sara looked for something to grab onto but there was nothing within her reach. She felt like a side of beef dangling in a butcher’s freezer.



It only takes a few minutes of thought before Peter Brandt can devise a scenario that would make a fantastic story, and minutes after that before it begins to fill itself in.
“I have been able to think up stories all my life but it’s only been in the last seven years that I realized I was abusing my creative side by not writing them down.”
Peter retired from the Air Force and began a new career as a Technical Writer. His writing abilities have allowed him to work in Canada, the United States and even in the Middle East.
But its Peter’s love for stories that has brought him into a new realm of writing. His humorous memoir about his life as a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces and the tragic memoir about his father’s life in a Prisoner-of-War camp at the age of 14 allowed him to refine his writing before he began to venture in writing Young Adult fiction.
“I have a very unique way of creating my stories. It begins with a craving, like a recent smoker who just quit cigarettes but still feels the addiction. I can’t shake it until I sit down and begin to let my mind wander. Many times I start my quest for a new story by wondering - What If. Soon after I begin to write and can usually get the first draft completed within a few weeks.
Maple Express began as a “what if” question and I’d share it with you but it would give away the storyline.”
I always write my stories as I would see them on the movie screen, which is why writing screenplays are also something I do. I am shooting a short film I wrote with a friend of mine within the next couple of weeks with another film shortly after.”
Peter has taken formal lessons in acting and has enjoyed some success as an actor in TV and film before his day job as a Lead Technical Writer required him to move out of the country.
“I can honestly say I have landed in the perfect job for me. I love to write...doesn’t really matter what I write, creatively or technically, writing is a pleasurable experience. It has allowed me to travel and for that I am grateful.”
Peter grew up with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew hardcover books.
“I loved them. I remember sitting under my blanket after lights out, sweating from the heat and the fear that gripped me as Joe and Frank carried on with another of their adventures.”
It is with these wonderful stories in mind that Peter wrote “Holly Alexander and the Mystery of the Courthouse Square.” This young adult novel will be released summer / fall 2012.
“I never really grew up. I have tried to write for adults but I find it difficult. I was a small, shy, and bullied kid growing up. I was nothing special. I had terrible grades, no idea what I wanted to do with my life and girls...wow, totally foreign to me. After I joined the Army those years faded quickly and I guess it has caused me to want to get those years back.
That is why I crave writing about young people who feel they are nothing special until I put them in a position where they have no choice but to become someone they never dreamed they could be. It is very uplifting for me to make heroes out of young people who believe they have nothing to contribute. It’s an eye opener for me as well as for them when it happens.”
Pete continues to write and publish through Simple Simon Publishing, a different type of publisher.
“Simple Simon Publishing is all about turning authors into entrepreneurs. For too long authors have felt dependent on the closed loop publishing industry to discover them and make them successful. Simple Simon’s philosophy is you are not just an author but the best person in the world to sell your product...you and your writing.”
Peter and his wife Carly have five kids who are all grown and on their own.  



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4 comments:

BK said...

Thanks so much for chatting today Peter. It's been a pleasure :)

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Peter today!

Catherine Lee said...

Hi Peter...I like the mention of your "Cheetah" story that you wrote as a child. Have you ever revisited that story? Did you tell it as a bedtime story to your kids or grandkids? Did you make up other bedtime stories for your kids?

catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

pbrandt said...

Thanks for your comment Catherine. I have tried to remember the Cheetah story but I just can't remember it anymore. I guess I could rewrite it but I always felt it would be not right so I haven't bothered. As well, I have a short attention span. I have books I have written that if I took the time to rewrite they might be pretty good, but I just can't make myself do it. I always have newer more exciting stories to write.
As for my kids, I read a lot to them and yes from time to time I would make us stories as well...especially scary stories.
Thanks for the comment,
Pete