Meet Stephen L. Brayton: Talented Writer with an Enjoyable Sense of Humor

Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black
Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree
Black Belt and certified instructor in The American
Taekwondo Association.
He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned
a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high
school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a
photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he
wrote and edited a video project.
In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class;
said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the
college newspaper.
During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee,
Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a
trilogy for a comic book.
He has written numerous short stories both horror and
mystery. He has also written a paranormal mystery, entitled
Night Shadows, sequels to Nights Shadows and Beta are
in rewrite/revision stages.

Interview with Stephen

1. You’ve had a busy, successful writing year with Night Shadows coming out last February and your Mallory Peterson mystery, Beta, scheduled for release this October. Night Shadows, a supernatural mystery, featuring homicide investigator Harry Reznik and FBI agent Lori Campisi. Your protagonist in Beta is a female private investigator who has a Fourth Degree Black Belt. What are the challenges in writing two different mysteries?

Getting my laptop to boot up and update itself. Why is the darn thing so slow?
No, seriously, I had the same challenges in each story, namely editing, rewrites, and finding time to conduct research. I like to visit the places I use in the books. Most of the locales you read about are real. In Night Shadows, I ran into the problem of finding the best place to have the dimensional portal for the shadows to use. I spent hours trudging around Des Moines looking at pieces of sculpture, exploring various buildings, and peering into eerie corners in the skywalk system. Then another writer suggested an art exhibit that might work. So I booked a tour and I knew immediately I’d found the last bit to the story. You can actually visit the ‘room’ I used.
For Beta one of my challenges was time. In the story, the heroine, Mallory Petersen, spends an entire day driving around the Quad Cities and checking various places in hopes of finding a kidnapped girl. I drove the route she took and discovered, even accounting for lunch and the time she spent checking out the various businesses, she’d be done by noon. However, I wanted her to take all day. So, I had to add in some other scenes and time spent with the police to fill the hours.
2. In regard to Mallory Peterson, how did you prepare for writing from a female’s point or view?  
A few years ago, a Des Moines reporter spent some time as a homeless person to do a feature from their perspective. So to answer your question…well, let’s just say I have a few pairs of blouses for sale that really don’t fit me any longer.
Wait, never mind the above explanation. I don’t want women emailing me wondering about colors and sizes. Actually, I just wrote Mallory from how I thought she should act and react in certain situations. I took my likes and dislikes and gave them to her. I gave her the empathy and the determination I would want to feel in various circumstances. I also read specific passages to critique group members and asked the women in the group if I had portrayed Mallory correctly. I ran into only a couple problems. First, Mallory is a six foot blonde, so most of the people she has to physically fight have to be bigger. Second, I was told I needed to add a bit more femininity to her during her interview with the mother of the kidnapped child.
3.  What are your plans for the next mystery?
Trying to solve the mystery of why my cell phone company cannot track my stolen phone when everybody I’ve talked to says they can. What? Oh, you mean in my writing.
I have a sequel to Beta written and I’m working on a sequel to Night Shadows and a brand new mystery with a world weary, alcoholic, chain smoking, technophobe detective.
4.  What was your biggest challenge in writing your first novel?
Blackmailing some publisher into accepting it. I’m still working on the Photoshop pictures of…uh, well, never mind about that.
Actually, though, getting it published is still the biggest challenge. See, my first novel is the sequel to Beta. I had written it before the idea for Beta came to mind. When Beta was accepted, I dug out the first story, saw what a disaster it was, shook off some of the cruddy parts, plucked out the basic premise, added a sub-plot and a few more characters, and rewrote it. So now I’m waiting for acceptance.
5.  Do you have favorite mystery writers who inspired you to write your own mysteries?
Where do I begin? As a youth I loved Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys. Then I started collecting Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, and Erle Stanley Gardner. I’ve enjoyed Viets, Evanovich, John Lutz, Patterson, Biggers, Spillane, and so many others. I take something from each one of them even though I couldn’t explain specifically what. I like the characters and the situations so when I think about my stories, I try to think of unique circumstances and character quirks and try to write the best story I can.  
6.  You run a full-time business, which involves teaching, what is your writing routine? How do you juggle both professions?
Actually, the taekwondo classes are only in the evenings, however, I work the graveyard shift five nights a week. Afternoons, weekends, and days off are spent with family, doing research, or just loafing around with the cat. I always think I want to write at home, but there are too many distractions. My night job is doesn’t involved too much labor and I have hours of free time with nobody around to bother me. So I try to schedule a couple hours for writing. I turn on NPR classical music, gather my notes, and start right in.
7. Authors today are expected to do much of their own promoting. How do you balance social networking and writing? What promotions work best for you?
I used to threaten to torch somebody’s car unless they bought my book. But it got too messy every time the cops showed up, so I stopped that method.
Seriously, word of mouth, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, various blog and writers’ sites. I’m planning a book trailer for Beta and doing about five blogtalkradio interviews. I’m looking to get on local radio and into the newspapers.
  1. What are you reading now?
The ingredients they put into this one brand of hair conditioner. What the hec is methylchloroisothiazolinone and hexyl cinnamal? How does one even pronounce those things? I swear somebody just threw together a bunch of scientific sounding syllables and said, “Hey, let’s put this on the bottle. It’s sounds really neat. Yeah, I know it’s gobbledygook but who cares? People will think it’s real.” Huh? Oh, you mean books.
Okay, it may sound corny, but you asked. I’m currently book one of a Han Solo trilogy. I know it’s not a mystery, but it was next on the list. Also I’m reading various books to review for three websites.