Brian Marggraf is a New York City teacher and the author of Dream Brother, a debut novel about dreams, drugs, and memories. Here is my interview with him:
1. This is your debut novel; what prompted you to take that step from creative writing to publishing a novel?
I started writing stories during elementary school, didn’t get serious about it until my first year of college. From there, I took several creative writing classes, read a lot of the classics, and joined some writing groups. A few years later, I graduated from San Francisco State University’s creative writing program. Then, a story started to form. In the years that followed, I took that work through many drafts, I was published twice by two literary magazines, and finally, in 2013, I began querying agents, and decided to self-publish a few months later.
2. For readers who aren’t familiar, tell a bit about your book.
Dream Brother follows Jacob Gavel, a fledgling sculptor. He leaves a failed marriage, flees New York City, returning home to San Francisco, welcomed by his mentally ill mother, subordinate father, and successful sister. As he settles in, he discovers a family secret. He had a twin brother who died in the womb right next to him. When the shock wears off, his reality becomes clear. He’s alone, broke, and unemployed. In an attempt to rebuild his life, he takes a low-paying job as a mental health case manager, but with all the tech money flooding the city, his childhood friend, Paul, has a better idea. His fresh start spoils. Events trigger his dreams, and his dreams resurrect childhood memories, propelling him forward on a sleep-deprived, speed-fueled mission to find recognition, love, and revenge.
3. Are there any autobiographical elements to this novel?
There’s very little of me in Jacob Gavel. I lived in San Francisco during the dot-com boom, and that’s where most of the similarities end. Some of my own personal experiences, lifestyle and love life, were rendered in the book, but Jacob is about 90% his own man.
4. I love the cover – did you design it?
Thanks. Yes, the current cover I did myself. The randomly scattered drug baggies, with their contrasting designs and colors, gets attention, I believe. My first cover was designed by someone else and after I few weeks I realized that it just wasn’t working. I scrapped it and I gave it a shot. Sales jumped up soon after the second cover was live.
5. You seem to have a significant internet presence – your blog has over 5,000 followers. How did you generate such interest and how long did it take you to get that many followers?
I was able to generate that following by putting in massive amounts of time, both online and in New York City, promoting, spreading the word. Didn’t really go out much, didn’t date, focused all my attention on building a platform. Also, I think my first two blog posts were unique and somewhat edgy, receiving a lot of comments. Many people shared my posts, via WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook. It happened pretty fast, all within about two months.
6. What else are you doing to market your book?
As I mentioned, I do a lot online: connect via social media, hang out in forums, run ads, blogging. I also spend my time in New York City: handing out business cards, sticker bombing high traffic areas, talking to people. I think having both those elements running full throttle has given me good results.
7. Did you consider traditional publishing routes before you settled on indie publishing? Or was indie publishing what you planned to do from the start?
I always wanted to land an agent and get published by one of the big six. I never thought about it any other way. That was, until, I queried over 300 agents and realized that was going to be my road to publication. I pulled together some money, drained some retirement funds, sold some things to raise up some cash. I decided to take my work straight to the readers, let them decide, not some agent who is more concerned with profit margins and commissions. I am happy it went down that way. In the end, going indie was a great match. My terms, I answer to no one. Total control and creative freedom, that’s amazing.
8. Do you have any future novel in the works? If not, what are your writing-related plans for the future?
In between promotion and marketing for my debut, I am working on my second novel. This one will draw from me a bit more, from almost ten years of special education teaching experience. The book explores bullying, high school, and follows young adults with and without disabilities. A typical teenager theme, presented in a new way. I hope to publish it sometime in 2015.