Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Author Interview - Ian Brennan, Author of Sister Maple Syrup Eyes

                                       About the Book

Sister Maple Syrup Eyes is one of the first books published from the historically under-reported perspective on rape: from that of the lesser and oft-forgotten other victim, the individual's partner. With terse lyricism, this novella radiates the anguish of attempting to repair a love and life shattered by violence. Through a series of deliberately concise and untitled chapters, the story erupts in a before/after chasm, culminating with the main character's facing a tentative peace with his past.

                                     Interview with Ian

What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?

Art at its best is an empathy-building device. It allows people to access experiences otherwise distant from their own. Through that action, we are all enriched and bridges are built between cultures and individuals to help celebrate our shared humanity.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Though the novella is fictional, it was inspired by the emotional aftermath that followed my partner’s being brutally beaten and raped in her own home.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

The best exercise I was ever taught is to write through the blocks. To literally force yourself to fill pages with stream of consciousness thought. This can help us get past judgmentality, and shift the focus from the left/analytical sphere of the brain back to the right/creative side.
What are your current/future projects?
My next book is the non-fiction work, How Music Lives (or Dies): Field-recording and the battle for democracy in the arts. It is my fourth book— all four with different publishers— and deals with the need for greater representation of international music and languages globally, to help offset the dominance of English-language artists. It is based on the many musical recording projects that my wife and I have done in more remote areas of Africa and Asia, one of which thankfully resulted in my winning a Grammy-award as the music producer. The book is being released February 2, 2016 by Skyhorse/Allworth in New York City.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
The better ideas have a way of sticking. But sometimes, once forgotten, recovering them from the unconscious can be very laborious. As a precaution, it is best to write things down immediately. I always carry a pen and end-up with a lot of notes written on the palm of my hand (but sometimes those get washed away or smeared). I also send myself a lot cryptic emails as reminders, notes that would look crazy to any one else who attempted to decipher them.

If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?

If you leave this world without ever having inflicted deliberate harm on another, then you are already a success. Anything more is somewhat superfluous and just a bonus. You don’t need to be the “best”. The best is an illusion. The more important objective is to fully become yourself with modesty and acceptance towards others and our own innate limitations.
What makes a good story, why?
Truth. Period. The reader has to believe the author and their intention.

What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?

I owe an incalculable debt to my two primary writing mentors, Robert Sillonis (when I was a teenager) and the late Betty Solomon. They both pushed me and refused to coddle my ego.
They were never afraid to tell me the truth versus what I wanted to hear.

What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

All artists must find a way to integrate their influences and then shed them entirely, in order to find their own voice. Specificity is the key. The more detail there is, the more universal a story becomes, ironically. Good writing takes the reader “there”, even if they have never been there before.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?

Write for yourself, not an audience. Join a creative-writing workshop and welcome educated— meaning more objective than most— critics to find the weak points in your vision. And always read everything you have written aloud before committing to a final draft, since many flaws reveal themselves when lifted from the page vocally.

                                      About the Author

Ian Brennan is a GRAMMY-winning record producer and has produced three
GRAMMY-nominated records. He has worked with artists as diverse as country-great Merle Haggard, filmmaker John Waters, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Fugazi, Green Day,
Tinariwen, Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), the Blind Boys of Alabama, Nels Cline (Wilco), and the Vienna Boys Choir, and has repeatedly travelled the world in search of music. Amongst others, he has discovered and produced groups who went onto be the first international releases in the indigenous languages of their respective countries, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Malawi. During his leanest years, he supported himself by day working as a counselor in the locked emergency-psychiatric unit for Oakland, California. This led to his becoming a violence prevention “expert”, lecturing on the topic over 100 times annually since 1993, at such organizations as the Betty Ford Center, Bellevue Hospital (NYC), UC Berkeley, and the National Accademia of Science (Rome), as well as on various continents— Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. He was a published poet by age 19 and has written about music regularly for Zero Magazine and Guitar Player. He is the author of four published books.The Boston Phoenix called his lyrics,”a model of economical, unpretentious, narrative songwriting,” and the Readers+Writers journal praised his novella,  Sister Maple Syrup Eyes as, “A beautiful book. Achingly beautiful.”
In February 2016, his book will be published about the need for greater attention to be given to international music. It is titled How Music Dies (or Lives): field-recording & the battle for democracy in the arts and is being issued by Skyhorse from New York City. 

I'd like to thank Ian Brennan for sharing his thoughts with us. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading! 

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