Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Brian S. Converse – Brian S. Converse is an author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and poetry. He has produced comic books, short stories, novels, and articles about writing in a career spanning more than 25 years.
Thanks so much, Brian, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Brian S. Converse: I can remember a project in 9thor 10thgrade English, where my teacher had everyone go outside and write a poem. I went down to the creek that ran alongside the school and wrote a poem to a blade of grass, and received an A. It wasn’t until a few years later, while serving in the US Army, that I began to write seriously, and most of that was poetry while out in the field, where I was feeling sad, lonely (and cold.) Jump ahead a few more years, and I was attending a community college in my hometown in Michigan, and getting complements from my professors, and I actually began considering writing as more than a hobby.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
BSC: I was always a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. My mother was a fan, and I think that’s where I picked it up. I can remember watching horror movies at a fairly young age. It does take a bit of a different mindset for each genre, but I also believe that there are only blurred lines between them as well.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
BSC: My main protagonist is a middle-aged black man named James Dempsey. Another member of the team is an American Indian woman (and his love interest.) In the first book, Rajani Chronicles I: Stone Soldiers, another character, Dennis is gay. He is set to have a much bigger role in the next trilogy. I didn’t set out to make my characters minorities or showcase underrepresented groups, it happened organically. I write the characters, and it’s a natural progression to discover who they are if a character trait is important to the story.
JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
BSC: Lawrence Mann, a digital artist based in Leeds, England. When I was finished with the first novel, I did quite a bit of research of the options available to indie writers. I grew up reading scifi novels with wonderful art from the 70s and 80s, and I wanted my books to look similar. I discovered that Lawrence and I were mutually following each other on Twitter, so I approached him and we had a great discussion about speculative fiction artwork and found that we had similar likes (including Chris Foss, who inspired the ship on the first cover.) Usually the design process consists of me giving Lawrence a few excerpts from the book – a scene or two that I think would make a good cover. We then talk face to face over Skype and hash out the details. I always give him artistic leeway on what his vision for the cover is, and I haven’t been disappointed. I think his work on the cover of the current novel, Rajani Chronicles III: War is his best yet.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
BSC: Don’t tell James, my main character, but I’ve loved writing about Ries, a minor character in the books, just because he’s such a quirky, nasty alien. He’s the kind of character people love to hate, but his job in the books has been to discover information crucial to the reader’s understanding of the bigger picture surrounding the adventures of my heroes.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
BSC: Very much so. I read above my age group, so I was reading Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Robert R. McCammon, and many others when I was nine or ten years old. You could always find me at the bookmobile that visited our apartment complex every week back in Michigan.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
BSC: As I mentioned earlier, I went into the Army at the age of seventeen as a combat medic. When I got out, I worked security for a little while, then injection molding making airbag covers for steering wheels. I then went to college and after graduating and attending grad school, I fell into the world of professional services writing proposals for large Architectural/Engineering/Construction firms, which I’ve been doing for the past 18 years. I think all of them have contributed in some way towards my writing, whether the experiences involved (Army) or the motivation to not get stuck doing them (injection molding) for the rest of my life!
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
BSC: I can see myself in most of my characters, though I think some are much closer to who I am than others. Even the strangest alien has a basic sentience that we can relate to, usually. Until we meet some real aliens, everything we know is filtered through human understanding.
JSC: What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
BSC: There are so many to choose from that would offer great adventures, Middle Earth, Narnia, Fionavar, Osten Ard, Shanara. All I know is I don’t want to go anywhere created by George R. R. Martin – it seems much too dangerous!
JSC: What are you working on now?
BSC: I’m working on a fantasy trilogy that seems to be turning into a YA story, despite my best intentions. The characters are much younger than any I’ve written before, so we’ll see what happens. I’m 70k words into the first novel, and I’m excited to see where these characters take me.
And now for Brian’s new book: Rajani Chronicles III: War:
James Dempsey’s team of powered humans are finally reunited, but the war with the Krahn Horde goes on. The Resistance fighters, made up of the Rajani, Sekani, and Jirina inhabitants of Rajan are slowly turning the tide against the invaders, but diplomatic rifts are still apparent between the species.
Galactic Intelligence officer Ries an na Van returns to his old command station to find answers to the many questions that remain of the Rajani mystery he’s discovered. His persistence is about to pay off, but will the answers he’s sought bring him peace?
Ronak now stands alone against the unified might of the Rajani. His quest for the Johar Stones has so far proven fruitless. He now knows the only Stones dwell in the bodies of the alien Humans. James and his team are in more danger than ever as the final push for liberation comes for the Rajani. The time has come for the final battle to free them all!
Previous books in the series:
Detroit police lieutenant James Dempsey is on the verge of career burnout when he awakes aboard an alien spacecraft. He finds his life has changed, and possibly for the better.
The Rajani crewmembers are desperate for help, and have picked him and four other humans in a last-ditch effort to repel the Krahn Horde from their home world.
Imbued with extraordinary powers, James and his fellow humans are thrust into a new world filled with intrigue, politics, and conflict. But the Rajani have a secret, and it’s up to James and his team to decide, are they fighting for the right side?
James and the others are about to experience incredible events that will change how they think both of themselves and the universe around them. Together they face events that will alter not only their lives, but the course of the entire galaxy!
James Dempsey and his team of powered humans are stranded on Rajan with no way to find each other. They must search for any resistance fighters among the peaceable Rajani inhabitants.
Meanwhile, there is a political cover-up beginning in the Galactic Alliance. Disgraced Alliance Society for Peace Commander Ries an na Van stumbles upon a terrible secret, one that could mean a greater war within the Alliance should it ever come to light.
While each human struggles to understand and survive on their new, alien planet, they discover that the Rajani are in desperate need of help. The Krahn Horde has decimated the city of Melaanse, and the Rajani are quickly running out of resources.
James, Yvette, Gianni, David, and Kieren are about to face the fight of their lives, and the powers granted by their implanted stones may be the difference between life and death!
It had been a long day of preparation for James, and he’d had little to eat. He was starting to feel the effects of the fernta that Zanth had brought to their meeting, even though he had drunk only one glass of the powerful beverage. He pushed his cup away and adjusted the volume on the translating device he kept with him at these types of meetings. It was a crutch, he knew, but he didn’t want anything important to be lost in translation, though he felt like his Talondarian Standard was probably good enough without it. Besides James, Zanth, Mazal, and Kedar were present for the meeting.
The Rajani Elders had refused to attend any war councils, so those Rajani who were willing to fight had chosen Kedar to represent them. The group had even taken on the name Vaderren, which, as far as James could tell, was translated to, ‘those who will fight.’ Not very original, he thought, but it was to the point.
James was about to call the meeting to order when there was a knock on the door. All conversation stopped, while everyone looked expectantly at the door, wondering who it could be.
“Enter,” Zanth said. The door opened, and a Sekani entered and spoke in hurried whispers with Zanth for a moment. “What!” he asked after he had listened to his assistant. Zanth stood up and motioned for the Sekani to leave. “I apologize for the interruption, but word has come of our strike teams in the south.” He sat down heavily. “I’m afraid that it’s not good news.”
“Tell us,” Kedar said, leaning forward.
“No,” Zanth answered quietly, looking down at the table. “Someone is coming who will.” There was silence for a moment, and then another knock on the door brought Zanth out of his stunned reverie. Unbidden, the door opened and a bedraggled-looking Rajani entered.
“Welemaan?” Kedar asked, a stunned look on his face.
Welemaan sat down at the table and poured himself a small glass of fernta and drained it in one mouthful before speaking. “I only just arrived now,” he began. “As far as I know, my strike team was the only one that survived, let alone was successful in stealing a Krahn ship.”
“No!” Mazal said, a look of horror on his face. “But how?”
“They knew we were coming,” Welemaan said, pouring himself another glass of fernta. “They were waiting for us. When the strike teams arrived from the north, they were ambushed.”
“How is it that you made it through unscathed?” Zanth asked.
“Simple. I didn’t arrive from the north,” Welemaan replied. “I found a boat, and my strike team sailed down the coastline as I advised you we should do. We came through the inlet unseen, at night, as I thought we would. By daybreak we had set up an observation point just to the west of the airfield in a small grove of trees. We saw one of the strike teams get ambushed by a group of Krahn.” He took another drink of fernta and then continued. “We were too late to save the team, unfortunately, but we were able to overcome the Krahn and take two prisoners. We pieced together what had happened to the other strike teams from what they told us.” He took another long draft of fernta after his explanation, and then banged the glass down on the table.
“Bring the Krahn here so they can tell us themselves,” Zanth said, still visibly upset.
“Wait, there’s more to my story,” Welemaan said. “One of the prisoners was a Krahn, yes. But the other is Belani’tola.” He turned to Mazal. “I’m sorry, Mazal. The strike team we saw ambushed was Fajel’s. He and Rachal are dead.”
Mazal sat stricken for a moment before his eyes welled up with tears. “No,” he whispered.
The room was silent for a moment before it erupted in shouted questions and accusations, with everyone speaking at once.
Finally, James stood up. “Please, be quiet. Wait until we’ve heard what happened.”
The room slowly grew quieter as the occupants calmed down. James could see, though, that the situation could erupt again if he allowed it. He sighed, wondering if he could just place them all in timeouts, like his partner, Steve, used to do with his kids back on Earth.
Two Rajani guards brought in the Sekani prisoner, shackled at the hands and feet with a crude rope. He was a pitiful-looking specimen. It seemed like his captors had been a little rough with him on the trip. One of his eyes was swollen shut, and he had blood still oozing slowly from a cut on his lower lip. He looked utterly defeated, like he had given up any hope of living. For a moment, James pitied him, but then remembered this Sekani was responsible for the death of troops James had personally sent into battle. The Rajani sat him down and then turned and walked out of the room, closing the doors behind them. There was silence, but James could feel the tension sitting like a layer of fog, permeating the air of the room.
Finally, Zanth spoke, breaking the silence with an icy tone that James had never heard from him before. “Belani, you have been accused of treason. We are giving you a chance to speak, only because I want an explanation from your own mouth. Tell us what happened.”
Belani sat still and silent for a moment, and James began to think he wouldn’t speak. The Sekani finally spoke in a low tone that caused everyone present to lean in to hear him clearly. “It doesn’t matter. They’re dead. They’re all dead.”
“Of course they’re all dead,” Welemaan said angrily, standing up. “You’ve betrayed us all, you piece of filth!”
“Quiet, please, my friend, let him talk,” Kedar said.
Welemaan nodded and sat back down, a look of disgust on his face.
“I’m not talking about the strike teams, you ignorant fool,” Belani said. “My family, my two sisters and younger brother are dead.” He looked down at the table. “They must be, for the Krahn to have tried to kill me like that.”
James thought it sounded like the Sekani was talking to himself now, even though the crude translating device on the table made it difficult to tell.
“Where’s the Krahn prisoner?” Kedar asked. “Can he verify what happened, at least?”
Welemaan looked sheepishly around the room before speaking. “Uh, the prisoner . . . had a little accident on the way here. He, uh, fell out of the ship at five thousand feet.”
“Don’t tell me you dropped him out of the cargo bay,” Kedar said, holding his head, but smiling. Welemaan smiled as well and shrugged.
“I am so happy that you find this amusing,” Zanth said. “But we now have no way to verify any of Belani’s story. I, for one, would like to know how long he’s been working for the Krahn.” He turned to the prisoner. “Was it you that called them here to Rajan?”
Belani seemed to wake from a dream state at this question. “What? No! Of course not, Zanth.” He looked around the room at the faces. He seemed to see something in James’s, because he stayed focused on him as he spoke. “You must understand, I had no choice. When the Krahn attacked, they took my siblings captive. They . . . killed my mother in the process. I had to find out if they were all right. So, I-I made contact with the Krahn and pleaded for their safe return.” He sat up a little straighter before continuing. “They told me they would release my siblings, if I would spy for them. That’s all it was supposed to be. But then, they kept asking for more and more, finally wanting all the details about the strike team mission. They told me if I turned in my team, they would let my family go. They never said they would kill them. You have to believe me, I never wanted anyone to get hurt.”
“You expect us to believe that?” Welemaan asked, snorting in derision.
James sighed before speaking. “There’s nothing we can do about this now. We still have a war we must fight. Our strike team mission has failed; we’ll have to deal with the consequences of that going forward.”
“I agree,” Zanth said. “The prisoner shall be dealt with at a later time. We need to get back to the real reason we’ve met here this night. For now, I suggest incarceration for Belani. He may still be able to provide information. Someone please remove him from my sight.”
Welemaan stood up. “Gladly.”
“No,” James said, standing as well. “I would hate for him to have a similar accident as the Krahn before reaching the jail. Mazal, do you have anyone in the building who could perform this task? Mazal?”
The Jirina had been deep in thought. He jerked to attention. “Um, yes, James. I’ll make sure he gets there safely.” He stood up slowly.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” James asked him. He knew how much his nephew had meant to him.
“I don’t know,” Mazal answered, truthfully. He turned and walked the Sekani out of the room.
“I know we may not feel like it, but we must continue our meeting as planned,” Zanth said wearily, looking at the others. “Before we do, however, Welemaan must leave.”
“What?” Welemaan asked angrily.
“I’m sorry, but the agreement was that we would all send one emissary from our species for this meeting,” Zanth said. “And as you can see, Kedar is already here.”
“But—” Welemaan began, looking at his fellow Rajani.
“He’s right,” Kedar said. “If not a little tactless in his assessment. It is what was agreed upon. I’m sorry, my friend. I will speak to you after the meeting concludes. I promise.”
Welemaan stood a moment, and then walked quickly from the room, pausing long enough to give a dangerous look toward Zanth’s back.
“I appreciate your support,” Zanth said, nodding toward Kedar. “I didn’t look for it from the Rajani.”
“The Rajani cannot win this war alone,” Kedar said. “Welemaan is proud, but it was that same sort of pride that has brought about this tragedy in the first place. The Elders claimed all of the inhabitants of Rajan were equals, but we all know this was a lie. The Rajani pride, as well as our prejudice toward the Sekani”—as he was speaking Mazal returned to the room, and Kedar continued, nodding toward him—“and the Jirina, have led to this disaster. If we are to defeat the Krahn, we must truly be equal. All of us.”
Brian S. Converse is an author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and poetry. He has produced comic books, short stories, novels, and articles about writing in a career spanning more than 25 years. He resides in Colorado with his wife, four children, a cat, and a dog. You can see updates to his writing at www.BrianSConverse.com