Featured Friday! Brandon Daga
Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history at York University from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of Olhean, the setting for his “Four Kingdoms Saga” novel series, compared by critics to the works of Terry Brooks, Michael J. Sullivan, and R.A. Salvatore. Brandon has also proven that SF/F can be made accessible at any age, writing the lauded picture book “Dragon in the Doghouse”. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
That’s an interesting question. I feel like a great many authors have wildy varying lifestyles, to be honest, so I have to speak to my own experience.
Conventions, I think, are a definite highlight for me. I have a background in retail and customer service, and I’m not nearly as active on social media as one ought to be, so conventions are really when I do my best work getting my books into readers’ hands. Plus conventions are just straight-up fun; you get to spend three or four days catching up with the friends in the community you probably haven’t seen since the previous year, and just immerse yourself in this microcosm of fandom. It’s always tough dragging yourself back into the real world when it’s over.
What made you start writing?
I’ve been telling stories since long before I could even write, and writing them down since I could. I probably still have old spiral notebooks from university that contained articles for nonexistent skateboarding magazines next to notes about whether ancient Rome had what could be considered a local police force (I was a history major in school).
The real catalyst, though, was my sister. The two of us had spent the morning at a job fair, and on the way home she had mentioned, apropos of nothing, that I should write a book. I’d never thought myself patient enough to sit down and write a whole novel, but she convinced me to give it a go. I guess she was onto something.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
Too many. Most often I’ll liken my work to R.A. Salvatore, Weis and Hickman, Michael J. Sullivan, Terry Brooks… classic popcorn fantasy.
That said, the authors who most inspire me are those I know more personally. There are scores upon scores of people in this industry working their butts off and putting out consistently good work, and spending time among them has only made me a better writer.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
Success is relative. This is a tough business to find traditional financial success with, so if that’s what you’re expecting going in, you’d best meter those expectations.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
I do read primarily fantasy, but I’m a huge sucker for nonfiction. In particular, I have a decent collection of books about the histories of both skateboarding and punk rock.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
Probably my half-elf bard, Erasmus Stonehand. I legitimately took up the mandolin in an effort to better write the character, so it’d be fun to grab some drinks and jam.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
I’m not typically someone who really adheres to the “Books X, Y, and Z are the canon and must be read” philosophy, but I do encourage anyone who has an interest in fantasy to read the Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin. Those books were so far ahead of the curve, and to this day hold up against anything being published.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
Typically, I underwrite. The only exception to this has been my short story for the Art of War charity anthology, “Shortblade”. I was roughly 1.5 thousand words over the hard word limit, and I had to spend an entire day poring over the manuscript over and over, mostly cutting what would prove to be extraneous lines. It was painfully labourious at the time, but it made the story tighter, which was ultimately for the best.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
I’m not sure that I would want to! Books are all so perilous!
Then again, maybe the book Stalefish by Sean Mortimer. It’s a collection of anecdotal accounts of professional skateboarders through the years, and I wouldn’t mind having the chance to be a fly on the wall for something like seeing Mike McGill land the first 540 air in a contest.
If you could pick an author to write your biography, who would it be?
Probably the author I mentioned above, Sean Mortimer. Writing biographies is a specific skill that I wouldn’t want to burden any of my SF/F colleagues with figuring out on my account, and Sean’s work is some of my absolute favourite non-fiction.
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
I don’t believe so. I’m a strong believer that you should write the book you’d like to read, and so by that account I figure my readers enjoy the same sort of stories I do.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
A good review can be one of the best parts of my day. Any time someone takes the time to so publicly praise your work, it helps bolster your confidence in your work.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
Trying to make time for the things that excite me.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
There’s a lot for me to be excited about. My next project is an anthology called It’s a Living. Anthologies are always fun because you get to work with a whole crew of amazing authors, so there’s that. Add the fact that my story, Spelling Errors, is I think some of my best writing to date, and add a dash of the fact that the whole anthology stemmed from a joke I made in the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers Facebook group. Suffice it to say I have my reasons.
[Editor’s Note: Not released at the time of the interview, It’s a Living can now be picked up on Amazon here.]
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
“No regrets, just lessons learned.” – Mike Vallely
Our thanks to Brandon for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ve definitely added It’s a Living to our to-be-read pile!
If you want to find out more about Brandon, The Four Kingdoms Saga, or any of his other work then check him out on the links below.