Graciously, Trever Bierschbach, author of Embers of Liberty and When Heroes Rise, has agreed to talk to us today about his books and what he believes makes for great story telling. Trever is a happily married writer with numerous creative ideas for stories which he feels need to be told, even if no one reads them. Read on to learn more about some of these ideas and about the man himself.
What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
I’m a pantser so the characters for sure. I usually have a theme, and a beginning and end to a story, but the characters will drive that for me as I write. Often the story starts with a cool character concept. I’ll come up with a great character and then I’ll want to know what their life is like.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good storytelling?
I think you need a story people can relate to, and characters that people can empathize with. You can have the best descriptions in the world, cool action scenes, and an amazing grasp of vocabulary and none of it will matter if your reader hates the characters or can’t relate to the story.
You’ve written several books, tell me about your favorite one and why it’s your favorite.
Embers of Liberty is my favorite so far. I love stories that change the real world in interesting ways and asks “what if”, without going too far off the rails. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off, when I first came up with the idea but I have had a lot of good feedback.
What are you most proud about your favorite book Embers of Liberty?
Most proud of with Embers was a compliment I got from a woman who visited my booth at a show this summer. She bought the book for her husband who is a history professor and she said he loved it. For me that’s huge, since I’m such a huge fan of history. I pulled a lot of inspiration from American history to build the world so that was such a big compliment.
What areas of history did you study the most about in building the world of Embers?
I studied most American history, especially around the time of the founding. Most of it I was already familiar with but I tried to get impressions from those who lived it rather than modern historians. Reading the writing of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin helped make the ideals feel more real so I could tap into that for the book. Other periods of American history were also useful, like World War II, The Great Depression, and radical activists in the 70s were also important.
How did you handle the emotional impact (on yourself) while writing these dystopian stories?
The dystopian part doesn’t really bother me. I’m an optimistic person and always skeptical of the “sky is falling” types. How it impacts my characters can be tough sometimes. In Heroes, there’s a short story called Sam. It was a fun story to write, again because it was an experiment, I wasn’t sure I could pull off. I knew, a few pages into the story that I was going to have to hurt Sam and that sucked. Especially because of Sam’s nature, which I won’t give away here. Anytime I have to put my characters through something awful it’s a struggle for me.
So your favorite book is also your newest. Tell me about Embers of Liberty and why you were moved to write it.
Years ago I watched a lot of cable news and I was intrigued by just how ridiculous some people’s ideas were. I thought, thank goodness there aren’t enough of those people to enact some of those changes. I started to wonder though, what would a world look like if there were, and what would people do. So I watched more cable news, unfortunately, and it gave me a lot to work with. For example, in the 70’s the Weather Underground was infiltrated by the FBI. Members were recorded stating if they wanted to enact real change a lot of people would have to die, and many others would have to be put in reeducation camps. A completely ridiculous idea, but someone presented it seriously. Those are the kinds of ideas that build the America in Embers.
After I had the premise I thought of one of my favorite parts of the Declaration of Independence, which talks about how much people will put up with before they do something drastic. It’s completely true, people will put up with a lot before they decide to take drastic action. So I thought, in this world where people are controlled by the government, and everything is strictly regulated, what would people do? What would eventually cause them to leave their homes and walk across several states to find freedom?
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?
Yes, I’m working on a fantasy series called The Moondancer Saga. It’s set in a world [called Thelos] I’ve built over many years and where many of the stories in When Heroes Rise take place. The story will follow a young woman called to save her people from a dark influence. She is young, innocent, and at first naive. I want to show my world through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before, hopefully giving the reader a vibrant introduction to Thelos. The story will pull in a large cast of characters who will aid the young woman on her quest to find faith and salvation for her people.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I think maybe that I handwrite almost all my first drafts, novels and shorts. I tend to type too fast for my brain so when I’m roughing out a story I just feel like it flows better if I’m writing it. Then I do some initial edits when I type it all into the computer.
What was your least favorite part of the publishing process?
Formatting. Being an independent author means doing everything, from start to finish, but formatting to get the book uploaded and looking good is tedious and anxiety inducing.
What piece of advice would you give about publishing to aspiring authors?
There’s a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of inexperience and impatient writers. Whether you go traditional, or independent, be wary of anyone who wants money who you didn’t seek out. Make sure to look into any artists, editors, and any other service providers.
You have a solid authors page at http://treverbierschbach.com/; what advice about building an authors page would you give?
Thank you. I’d say, start small. Web design is fairly easy now, and there’s a lot of free tools. Look at other author sites and see what you like, and don’t like. Emulate, don’t copy. Build it a little at a time to get the hang of it. It’s easier to fine tune a few pages as you learn than it is to redo an entire site.
You’re very active on social media, how can your readers best interact with you?
Twitter is probably the fastest way, @tjbierschbach. I’m on Facebook under Trever Bierschbach Writes as well. There’s also a newsletter signup on my site and every month I draw from that month’s new subscribers to win a free copy of When Heroes Rise. The newsletter is more of a one-way thing though, as is my SubscribeStar page, but there’s some content there only available to subscribers.
What’s your go-to cigar and whisky?
Go-to would have to be the mini Acid Kubas that come in the tin. All around it’s a good cigar, very portable, and the short smoke means I can get one in almost anywhere. For whisky, I think Elijah Craig has always been my favorite bourbon.
If you were to pair your latest book, Embers of Liberty, with a cigar and whisky, what would your recommendation be?
Definitely an American bourbon, Elijah Craig or Woodford most likely. Cigar, I’m quite fond of the Comacho American Barrel Aged, especially with a good bourbon.