Interview with Author Stephen L. Brayton
Stephen L. Brayton
I am thrilled to have interviewed author Stephen L. Brayton, who shared with us details of his writing life, his book ‘Alpha‘, which was released on 24th July 2023, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
Stephen L. Brayton is a Sixth Degree Black Belt in the American Taekwondo Association and a Marketing Associate for a software company.
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.
Current publications include Alpha, the first of his Mallory Petersen action mystery series.
He is the editor and contributing author of The Peace Tree Mystery, a story set in the Knoxville, Iowa/Lake Red Rock area.
He has also been published in numerous anthologies of fiction, poems in Lyrical Iowa 2018-2023, and an article in the Nov/Dec ‘23 issue of Plant Engineering.
1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
With the central character a martial artist and a private investigator, I wanted a plot that would cover both professions. I wanted something professional and personal. I developed the idea of Mallory going after the murder of her boyfriend and finding out his secrets long ago. In time, I had to change the format of the story to fit certain circumstances, and change a couple scenes that were unrealistic. For the most part, the plot has remained the same throughout the various publications.
2) How did you plan out the plot?
I write outlines. I don’t understand the pantsters. It’s like walking through a cavern system without a map and only a flashlight. I type out a simplified and linear outline and use it to write the story. However, that outline is flexible enough (I hope) to accommodate additions and chapter/scene reordering.
3) When did you choose the title for your book?
When I set out to write the Mallory Petersen series, I wanted a hook. Sue Grafton had the alphabet titles. Gardener had “The Case of the (alliterative words)” with Perry Mason. Evanovich has the numbers. Other niche mysteries have pun names for cooking or sewing or travel. I chose the Greek alphabet. The challenges are to find which letter best represents the story and can be referenced in the story without using the common fraternity/sorority names…which I do in Alpha and another down the line.
4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
For Mallory Petersen, the first name just popped into my head. I took the last name’s spelling from a former co-workers.
Mallory office assistant was named Jamie but a critique group said that name was too…uh, feminine for the male personality her has. So, he was renamed Darren. May other last names come from a certain list. The challenge is for readers to figure out which list I use.
5) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I love research. I enjoy visiting the sites where I put scenes. I always find something special, although they’re not always positive experiences.
In researching trains, I visiting the train yard under the East 30th Street bridge. I talked to some people and they referred me to a representative in Lincoln. While on the property, I followed a service road around the perimeter and found a great spot for the climactic scene. Unfortunately, when I talked to the rep, he told me not to do that ever again because that was trespassing. Also, he didn’t reply to my emailed questions.
Another experience was wonderful. The original idea for the Val Air scene was for Mallory to chase the fleeing woman through an empty building. I arrived one afternoon to check out the place and get descriptions and wound up walking into a quinceanera. It was so different, I had to put that into the scene. Mallory meets the same short blonde security officer as I did. I did get to talk to the venue’s manager, so that was good.
For other scenes in the book, I rely on experts. Military, police, doctors, etc.
6) What made you choose this genre?
I’ve been a mystery fan since I was a kid reading Encyclopedia Brown anthologies. I have most of the Hardy Boys series and all of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators books. SI moved onto Ellery Queen, Gardener, and scores more mystery authors, so, mystery was the logical genre.
7) How long did it take you to complete your book?
I can take up to a year or more to write the first draft. Then I like to read it piecemeal to critique groups which takes another year. Then rewrites and submissions to query publishers. Many years may pass.
8) Can you describe your book in three words?
No. Lol. Okay, let me try. Action. Fun. Serious. Action because I try to use martial arts in the fight scenes. Fun, because Mallory encounters numerous quirky characters and accepts sill cases. Serious because each book has a serious case she takes on.
9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Marketing. I used to say editing, but that’s just tedious and time-consuming, not too difficult. The hard part is getting the book in front of people’s attention through marketing. I’ve tried numerous methods. Some work. Some don’t.
10) Why should our readers pick your book up?
If you like mystery, if you like action, if you like a strong female protagonist, then you should enjoy Alpha. Also, I’ve set it and the other books in the series in Des Moines which is different than the typical settings of New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami, etc. I use real places and fictionalize a few businesses.
The mother of a writer friend of mine enjoyed my books and kept sending my friend out to take pictures of the various locales.
A Mallory Petersen Mystery
Publisher – Tuxtails Publishing, LLC
Pages – 373
Release Date – 24th July 2023
ISBN 13 – 978-1957211138
Format – ebook, paperback
How well do we ever know anyone? Even someone we might be falling in love with…
On a rainy October morning, Mallory Petersen, private detective and martial artist, discovers the corpse of her boyfriend, Bobby Furillo, in front of her office in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bucking police authority and continually attacked by unknown adversaries, Mallory discovers Bobby’s devastating secrets. Each new revelation puts Mallory in deeper peril from powerful and dangerous people, but she won’t stop until she learns the truth.
1) Do you have a writing buddy?
Yes. Leia the cat. The one the animal shelter said was docile and calm. Instead, she gets into everything and wants constant attention…as you can see in the photo. She’s interrupted my writing time.
2) Do you have any writing quirks?
I try to write in the early mornings before work. A little soft jazz in the background, cup of hot tea. Otherwise, I’ll meet with a friend at a coffee shop for writing time. I’ve written outside at parks. As long as I can tune out distractions, I’m okay.
3) Where do you write?
At home, in coffee shops, in the park, in a restaurant.
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
I’d love to be Darren, although he appears more often throughout the series, so he’s not a cameo part. I might accept the role of of one of the bad guys Mallory defeats.
5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?
“Hey, this is a great book. Why don’t you take me along to your author events to help promote? I promise not to be that cartoon singing, dancing frog who performs only for its owner. Come on, Stephen, you know a talking owl will draw attention. Payment would be only a couple field mice per day and an inclusion in a future book. What do you say? Is it a deal?”
A big thank you to Stephen L. Brayton for sharing his writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.