“It’s six month after Paul Carter and his unlikely gang of misfits kick-started a slow burning revolution, and New Britian is falling to its knees, as it recovers from a short and bloody war with No-Man’s Land, north of the border, an ultra-violent band of former lawyers, led by the unhinged Nat Sweeny, is stalking the streets killing any law man that stands in their way.
The thing is, an ultra-violent band of Scotsmen, led by the unhinged Ben Turner, right hand man to one Paul Carter, is doing the exact same thing.
In a country as fragile as New Britain, it’s only a matter of time before something gives and chaos reigns on the streets.”
Barnsley writer Ryan Bracha is on the cusp of the release of his fitth novel. The amazon best-selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Met Yet, and the critically acclaimed Paul Carter Is A Dead Man is back with his new novel, Ben Turner Is A Dead Man – the second book in Ryan’s satirical, violent and dystopian Dead man trilogy. In the last few years, Ryan has collaborated with film makers and other writers and even launched his one publishing label, Abrachadabra.
In the second of three feature on Barnsley writers, here Ryan discusses his work, method and his current role as publisher.
So when did you get into writing? Was it from a young age, and did you take a specific route after school?
I’ve always had a very active imagination, and love storytelling. My philosophy in life is that it doesn’t matter what happens to you, good or bad, once that initial feeling has passed, it’s always a story to tell. At college during my film and media degree course, my strength was always in the screenwriting modules. The reality/documentary side of things always passed me by, it was the fiction writing I was looking forward to, the storytelling. So after I came out of college, a friend and I founded a not-for-profit film company, one where we’d take young actors off the streets and put them in films we’d written. I wrote and directed a feature film called Tales From Nowhere. I always punted it as Pulp Fiction meets Kes, and it gave me a massive satisfaction when it was up there on the big screen, after over a year of hard work. I’d got that bug and wanted to do bigger better things with it. Unfortunately that friend and I fell out quite badly before the second feature could come to fruition, and we went our separate ways. I got a 9 to 5 job and put it out of my mind. Then six or seven years ago I had this idea. I wanted to write a novel that was told by hundreds of characters, I wanted to tell a story from all of these different perspectives, from the bar room racist through the socialist blogger who thinks every fight is theirs, on to a French sex addict. Seriously, I wanted to get every angle on this story covered. It became gradually apparent that it might just be a little TOO out there for some readers so I reined it in just a tad, and went back every now and then to add some more to it. Four years later my debut novel Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed yet was finished. I punted it to some agents, but the opinion of the majority was that it wasn’t mainstream enough to make it to the shelves of Asda so they passed on it. Then my wife Rebecca heard a self-published author talking on Radio 2 about their experience in that arena, and suggested I give it a try. The rest, as they say, is history.
What influences – written or other – pushed the young Ryan Bracha?
In storytelling, my main influences at the beginning came from the Coen Brothers. Their way of bringing sometimes very basic stories to life was mesmerising. The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, and then The Big Lebowski showed me that the characters, and an original execution of the story are far more important than the originality of the plot. Although I always loved reading, I didn’t really search for originality in books. Elmore Leonard and Chris Brookmyre were my main entertainers, their books were well written crime fiction with quality dialogue, but they didn’t try anything new. It was only after I saw Fight Club several times in 1998 and bought Chuck Palahniuk’s book that my eyes were opened to what kind of carnage you can paint with a novel. Of course, there are probably superior writers from long before he was around, but he was my first influence to start writing novels.
Is there a specific book that you always go back to?
As far as books I read, I always return to Irvine Welsh more than others. My favourite ever book is one of his called Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. I got to him very late in his career, but I’m glad to have got there at all. When my last book came out, on the first page of the ‘customers also bought’ page, that book was there. After the birth of my daughter, my wedding, and scoring a really good goal at football on a Wednesday night, it was the single proudest moment of my life. It was the single proudest moment of my literary career so far.
Is there a writer whose career you admire, or would like to emulate even?
Either Irvine Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk. I’d like to emulate their success, but it’s not imperative. I’m happy to work away to build up my modest following of readers slowly. What I like is that they tend to never compromise. They tell stories their way, and if you don’t get it then that’s just tough. That’s what I like about them. It’s like they write for themselves first and foremost, and if everybody else likes it then that’s a bonus. My favourite ever quote by any writer was Irvine Welsh. “It’s almost as good to be hated by wankers as it is to be appreciated by the really cool people.” – That’s my approach to storytelling summed up in twenty words.
For any genuinely talented writers out there, is crowdfunding or self-publishing the way forward, or should you hold out for a publishing deal if you’re that good?
We’re currently in a very weird time for publishing and writing. There’s been a wave of extremely talented independent authors rising up for the last eighteen months or so, on both sides of the Atlantic and in Europe too. It’s a network of people always willing to help out the guys that stand out. There are small presses in the UK which are developing reputations for delivering quality, such as Blasted Heath and Caffeine Nights. In America there’s a phenomenally talented guy called J David Osborne whose Broken River Books are doing the same thing there. Everybody’s connected in some way, and it can only be a good thing. It’s showing the big publishing houses how it should be done. They’re willing to take a punt on an unknown author whose work is good. I chose against asking any of them to take my work, instead I chose to learn what they did. If it could be done then why couldn’t I just learn to do it myself?
To answer your question, though, it all takes hard work whatever route you take. I’ve never met anybody who embarked upon a crowdfunding quest to get a book made, but I would imagine you’re leaving yourself wide open there. You’ve got a lot of responsibility on your shoulders not to mess it up. Self-publishing takes hard work, a lot of time, and an unwavering belief in yourself. You’re going into the world unknown, and you need to build up your reputation, you need to accept that you can often go weeks without a sale in the beginning, but don’t let it get you down, because we all started there. Those of us who are still standing are those that put all of the above into it. We can all dream of writing that Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, but the truth of it is that there’s a tiny percentage of writers will hit those heights. If you want to hold out for the big time publishing deal then you better have thick skin. You’ll receive rejection after rejection. In the network of writers I’m in, I can hear about my pals receiving another rejection letter every week. My advice, if you’re looking for a publishing deal, research the small to medium presses, because they’ll likely be your first port of call if you lose faith in the shark-like world of literary agents.
You started up your own publishing label, Abrachadabra. Tell me about some of the shit hot writers you’ll be working with.
My label kicked off last October, so it’s very very new. I’ve put work out by one writer just now, but early this year I’ve got another book coming out. The first one was Allen Miles. He’s a ridiculously talented writer from Hull, whose novella ’18 Days’ was very well received a couple of years ago. I asked him to contribute to my experimental novel-of-stories “Twelve Mad Men” last year, and his was one of the stories which resonated with the readers more than most. We had some conversations, and he asked if I’d put his collection of stories and prose out under my Abrachadabra label. It was always at the back of my mind that this would be the next step for me, but labelled ‘pipe dream’ on the top shelf. His request kicked it right down into my hands, and I read the collection. It blew me away. He’s a very honest and humble writer, I sense he’s still feeling the literary world out, but I want to help him get to grips with it and understand how good he is. He writes superb character pieces, and characters are my thing. The collection is called This Is How You Disappear, and is available from Amazon, but I’ve been looking into getting the Abrachadabra range down at Stu’s Debut Records on the Arcade in the near future.
The next writer I’m going to be working with is a giant in the independent author world, a guy named Paul D Brazill, he’s a northern chap who’s found himself settled in Poland of all places. His works have been included alongside Luca Veste and Lee Child in some very respectable collections. I can’t say too much about it just now, but he represents quite a coup for Abrachadabra, and he’ll help to take it to the next level.
Tell me about your novel, Ben Turner Is A Dead Man?
This novel is the second book from my Dead Man Trilogy. The first of which was Paul Carter is a Dead Man. The trilogy is set predominantly in a present day Sheffield, but in a re-imagined reality. It supposes that a bomb in 2009 killed hundreds, including the majority of the royal family. In reaction to that, there’s a military coup led by a man named Robert Lodge. He takes the country over and closes the doors to the UK, nobody comes in or out. He removes troops from overseas, separates England from Scotland, and he creates a social network simply called The Network. Nobody really goes out, they just stay in, play online games, shares pictures of their dinner, and more than anything else they judge. The justice system is placed in the hands of the public, in that anybody who commits a crime is placed on an online forum, and if they receive enough votes (likes) then they are sentenced to death. In the first book, a man named Paul Carter makes a stand with a few people he’s collected along the way. This second book, Ben Turner is a Dead Man, is the continuation of that, the titular Ben Turner is one of those people that Carter picks up in book one. Where the first book raises concerns about the way the country is going with its love of Twitter, Facebook, and xenophobic rants by keyboard warriors on both, this second book straight up asks the questions of, is this really what you want? I’m not a politically minded person at all, nor do I charge into online bickering or trolling. I’m just an amused bystander whose amusement is turning to concern.
What kind of person will be buying your book?
Intelligent, self-aware people with a sense of humour.
Where can we get it from?
You can get the new novel from Amazon, on paperback and Kindle. It’s out on January 15th, and available to pre-order before that. For those who don’t like online purchasing, as mentioned before I’ll be looking to get them into Debut Records very soon.
Ben Turner is a Dead Man, and other works by Ryan Bracha can be found at www.amazon.co.uk/Ben-Turner-Dead-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00PNZXK3G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Allen Miles’ collection This Is How You Disappear, available now through Abrachadabra Books, and can be found here www.amazon.co.uk/This-How-Disappear-Allen-Miles-ebook/dp/B00O293F84/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420898930&sr=1-1&keywords=allen+miles
Get all the information you need about Ryan, his work and other projects over at his official website or facebook page.
I thought I’d include this film here, as I really like it. This was a collaboration between Ryan and local film maker, Wayne Sables.