Bryan Alaspa, is a Chicago native who has dreamed of being an author since third grade when he first sat down at his mother’s typewriter and pounded out his first short story. It wasn’t very good, but it did give him the habit for writing that he has not been able to shake since.
He is the author of several works, both fiction and non-fiction. His non-fiction works include the history and true crime genres, whilst his fiction is available in the horror, suspense, thrillers, and mystery categories. These include, The Ballad of the Blue Denim Gang, The Vanished Child, Dust, RIG: A Novel of Terror, After the Snowfall, MYTHOS: A Thriller, and the Sin-Eater series.
Bryan currently lives in Naperville, Illinois, with his wife, Melanie, and their two dogs, Gracie and Pippa.
He can be reached at: http://www.bryanwalaspa.com.
Synopsis of his latest novel “Sapphire”:
Jimmy Parker is a typical high school student. Unpopular with the girls and picked on by the boys, he’s just trying to survive long enough to escape the tiny Pennsylvanian town of Knorr. With Jimmy and his friend, George, heading to the school dance, they expect nothing but the usual ritual humiliation from their peers. But when a girl in a brilliant blue dress enters their lives at the side of a lonely old bridge…everything changes.
Her name is Sapphire, and she is the most alluring girl that Jimmy has ever met. Yet, there is something strange about her; something different. Why has he never seen her at school? Why does she only want to meet up near the bridge? And why does everybody keep warning Jimmy to stay away from her?
Before long, Jimmy is plunged into a decades-old mystery. The town of Knorr has many secrets; some held by powerful men. Men that would do anything to keep them from getting out. Something dark happened one night in Knorr, and now Jimmy is a part of it whether he likes it or not.
And Sapphire holds the key to understanding it all.
Jimmy discovers that his bond with the mysterious girl creates a unique power between them. A power that bridges time, space, and even dimensions. It is the one thing that could save them both. Because sometimes the most powerful force on Earth is love.
Alie: So Bryan, what Genre do you write in?
Bryan: Normally, I write in the horror, thriller and suspense genres. Of course, my latest one, Sapphire, is also my first Young Adult novel, but still falls into those categories. It is a romance, but has mystery and suspense elements.
Alie: What inspires you to write?
Bryan: Lots of things inspire me. Sometimes it just comes to me. Sometimes it is a news story that I read about or see on a newscast. With “Sapphire” I saw a special on TV about ghost stories and urban legends and saw a “vanishing hitchhiker” story where the girl’s name was “Lavender.” I thought the story was so good that it would make an interesting premise for a novel - but I have always liked blue better than purple so I changed the girl’s name to Sapphire. The rest of the story fell into place after that and soon veered far away from the original urban legend.
Alie: If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
Bryan: Gosh - that is a tough question. If I could be any writer it would be Steinbeck or Stephen King. I cannot say which character I would be, however. I tend to read a lot of horror and thrillers, so most of the people I read about are in very horrifying situations, which means that I don’t mind reading about them, but I would not want to be one of them.
Alie: Have you ever written someone in real life into one of your books? If so, what happened to them.
Bryan: Virtually all of my novels have people based on friends and family in my real life. I am happy to say that all of them are alive and well.
Alie: Why did you choose this genre?
Bryan: Well, I was once asked why I cannot write about bunnies, flowers and puppies instead of stories of murder, mayhem, ghosts, demons and other horrors. I said, well, I have to write about what interesting me, and unless the bunnies and puppies are rabid and the flowers poisonous, those things do not interest me.
How was your publication experience?
Bryan: It’s been interesting. I started out self-publishing my fiction with Print on Demand. That did not go anywhere. I got hooked up with two non-fiction publishing houses (Schiffer Publishing and History Press) and got my toe in the door in the publishing world writing history and true crime books (I still love writing non-fiction works). Then Kindle came about and I started publishing my fiction for Kindle. Lo and behold, I found an audience that has grown steadily from the very first Kindle on the market. That growth led to my connection with SalGad Publishing and they really took a chance on me and took me under their wing for my novels “Vicious” and now “Sapphire.” I owe much of my current success and continued growth to the great, great people at SalGad. I cannot thank them enough or give them enough credit.
Alie: Can you give me one of your ‘aha moments’?
For my latest novel, my Aha moment was realizing that the story I had, the one I was working on would make a good Young Adult novel. It did not start out that way, but then I looked at the story, realized I had a young adult protagonist and that the story fit the mold so well. I really did go, “Aha, this could be a young adult novel” and it changed how I approached the book from there.
Alie: When did you first decide to write your first book? What was it like? Did you have support from you friends and family?
Bryan: Well, I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in third grade and sat down at my mom’s electric typewriter. My first novel-length work is a horrible murder mystery that still sits in a binder, handwritten on notebook paper, on a bookshelf. It’s an awful story called “Among Friends” that will never see the light of day if I have my way. My family has always been supportive of my writing, which was very lucky for me.
What is the biggest influence on your writing?
Bryan: Stephen King has been the biggest influence. I had some great English teachers in my day, too, that really encouraged me.
Alie: How do you connect with your African American, Native American, Latina and other ethnic readers? Author chose not to answer...
What is your favorite romance book? (not written by you ;)
Bryan: Well, romance is not my go-to genre, but for me the most romantic and heart-wrenching novel ever is “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Also, the author is a fellow Chicagoan, which is awesome.
Thank you so much for taking the time Bryan.
We hope you had fun...
GREGORY FROST writes dark fantasy, SF, and historical thrillers. His latest novel-length work is the young-adult crossover Shadowbridge duology (Random House), voted “one of the four best fantasy novels of the year” by the American Library Association, and a finalist for the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction exploring or expanding gender roles.
His historical thriller, Fitcher’s Brides, a reworking of the Bluebeard fairy tale, was a Best Novel finalist for both World Fantasy and International Horror Guild Awards.
A graduate of the iconic Clarion Workshop, he has taught at Clarion several times as well. He has also been an instructor for the Odyssey and Alpha Workshop programs.
Frost has been nominated for every major fantasy, sf, and horror fiction award. His novelette, "Madonna of the Maquiladora," alone was a finalist for the James Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Hugo Award.
Current short fiction by him appears in Ellen Datlow’s anthology Supernatural Noir, and in V-Wars, edited by Jonathan Maberry. His novella, “T. Rhymer,” written collaboratively with Jonathan Maberry will be out this year in the anthology Dark Duets. He directs the fiction writing workshop at Swarthmore College.
Fitcher’s Brides (Tor Books) is a historical thriller set in 1841 in the Fingerlakes district of New York state. The story follows three sisters, Vernelia, Amy, and Kate. Caught up in their widowed father’s religious fervor, the sisters and forced to move to a “utopian” community called Harbinger, run by the charismatic Elias Fitcher. However, there is something truly ominous about Fitcher, and his tight hold over the sisters father. Fletcher seeks the hand of the eldest daughter, Vernelia in marriage, and she is swept from her family into his strange lair. Soon, it seems she has run off, and Fitcher comes for the second daughter, who likewise vanishes, until only Kate remains, relying on her wits to confront a new husband who may be something far more terrible than anyone imagines.
Based upon the fairy tale of Bluebeard, Fitcher’s Brides is a gothic novel combining equal measures of Jane Austen and Edgar Allan Poe. In its starred review, Publishers Weekly said “Exploring such adult themes as lust, masochism and desire, Frost neatly counterbalances the underlying threads of wifely curiosity and disobedience with the growing awareness of true evil in Fitcher, the elements that have made the fairy tale such a timeless story.”
So Gregory, just for our new readers, who might have no idea what your work is yet,
The umbrella genre category would be fantasy, although as soon as anyone reading this sees that word they’re probably going to leap to some specific work or author they associate with the word. It’s a big umbrella, and I’ve written pretty much across the landscape, from Sword & Sorcery to Science Fiction to Literary Fantasy to Supernatural to Thrillers to Young Adult. So I call myself a fantasist, because I have no idea how anybody tracks all of that.
A lot of things. Stories can come from anywhere. I’ve written a story that was triggered by a line in a poem being read aloud by a friend of mine, Leonard Gontarek; a story that occurred because of the proximity of a steam vent and an Atlantic City bus in Philadelphia as I was walking home one winter night; a story that evolved on a bus ride home after I had spent an hour in an isolation tank.
Odysseus. First off, he got me started in the realm of fantasy (not his fault, but there it is). Second, he was a great trickster. Third, he never gave up on his quest.
Okay. This is going to sound a bit odd, perhaps, but I’ve written friends into fiction and have killed most of them. Two of the incidental characters in Fitcher’s Brides are cast from friends who run a record store not far from me. They were both delighted to be part of the story, although Mike, who was killed, seemed to enjoy it more. My friend Jonathan Maberry has run across this phenomenon, too. He put friends into a novel where the characters were battling zombies, and most of them died horribly. His friends loved it—the more awful the death the more fun. I’m not even going to try psychoanalyze this.
The fantasy genre chose me, I think. Going back to Odysseus…the first book I remember checking out of the library as a kid was a retelling of The Odyssey by Barbara Leonie Picard. By then I had somehow acquired a 78 rpm retelling of the story of The Trojan Horse, set to Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges Suite. So it’s as if, accidentally, Odysseus had burrowed in before anyone else could and turned me toward Circe and Sirens and Cyclopes.
I’ve had good and terrible experiences over 30+ years. Very little of what was bad was the result of malice; mostly stupidity.
I decided to write my first book while a sophomore in college. My grandparents had a cabin in Minnesota, and I retreated there with the intention of writing a science fiction novel. It turned out to be 74 pages long… I had a great deal to learn about how to write a novel. Friends were certainly supportive, or at least they did not say to my face “You are crazy.” I’m not sure my parents quite knew what to make of it all. I had been studying painting and art history, and all of a sudden I was writing—or trying to write—stories and novels instead. It could not have been what they were expecting.
I’m afraid, for me there’s no one answer, probably no right answer, to that question. There are writers whose work has been enormously influential in some way: Roger Zelazny and Mikhail Bulgakov to name two that surely don’t seem like they belong together. And writers who were teachers of mine who were huge influences, advisors and guides and critics. I’ve been influenced by music, by art, by dance. By life. That probably sounds highly inflated but I don’t know how to segregate out the myriad of skeins.
I think that the categorizing of “minority” or “LGBT” or any other grouping of that sort itself presents a hurdle. The fantasy genres are full of authors who don’t conform but who aren’t labeled or segregated in any overt way. I would throw names at you but then I am by definition parceling them as “other”, and that runs counter to my argument. Frankly, I would love it if there were “fiction” and “non-fiction” as the only categories in the bookstore. God forbid someone might accidentally read a mystery or a science fiction novel written by someone who’s not a white Anglo-Saxon, or a dark fantasy with a lesbian protagonist, and have their eyes opened a bit. We’re all writers. Period.
I try to be true to whatever cultural context I’m writing from—African American, Latino, Romanian…even extra-terrestrial—it doesn’t matter. If I get details wrong, it’s not for want of trying to get it right, and it’s not for failing to treat every culture, real or invented, with the respect it’s due.
Just do it and don’t think of what you’re doing in such terms. Junot Diaz wasn’t worrying his work would not be appreciated across interracial lines; nor was Toni Morrison, or Julio Cortazar, or Amos Tutuola. They have/had stories in them that must come out, that need to be heard. That’s what matters. Unleash the stories.