29th December 2018
Interview with Brandon Lawon
Good evening Mr Lawson - thanks for your time. For people not aware of your work, could you introduce yourself?
My name is Brandon William Lawson. I am born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. I attend a community college where I am studying Business Administration. Aside from that I write short stories, poems, essays on movies, and have written two screenplays in the past. I like to write, read, go to the movies and the gym.
You’re a keen writer of short stories. What attracts you to this style of writing?
What I like about short stories is that they are short, so I can write a story without having to invest the energy and time I would if I wanted to write a book. Short stories allow me to come up with many ideas, and be able to write them without being occupied with one, as I can move from one to the other. The frequency with which short stories can be written gives me a lot of content to put out because I wouldn’t be able to write and post a book each week and it allows me to connect with readers without them putting so much effort into it. So to put it in a straight-forward way, with short stories I can write a lot in less time.
Could you talk us through your website? Do you publish your short stories there often?
It’s actually funny because it’s been kind of a wild ride this year, and a little bit of last. So originally in 2016, I was posting short stories at least once a month. Then in 2017, I was so caught up with writing other things such as movie essays, doing youtube videos, and working on a novel which is still unpublished I only wrote 2 short stories. And then this year I had decided to just focus more on poetry until in June when I felt like it was time to write short stories again, and when I did I loved it. So now in October, I’m starting to post them more often. For the first time I’m doing it once a week, but I’m sure that will kind of be stretched out to at least once a month. But it’s great to be back at it.
Your recent short story ‘Election Night’ has some political overtones. Would you describe yourself as a political person?
I don’t see myself as being political in a way that’s overt. What I mean by that is that I’m not at rallies (except for 1), protest, or posting a lot of political stuff on social media. So, I’m not an outspoken political person. Nevertheless, introvertly, I consider myself to be where I can be political in subtle ways such as writing opinion pieces for newspapers, putting political messages and themes in some of my stories, or from time to time tweeting an observation or a subtle political message on social media. Along with that I of course vote, and I am very aware politically. if I were to be in a discussion like at school or in a group I can speak my mind, and have a very good understanding of what I’m talking about and what’s going on. That’s because I pay attention to a lot of things in politics and current events, and form my own opinion and make an analysis, but I don’t really talk about it that much. If I do, it’s with close people or it’s just for a short period of time.
‘Election Night’ has a cinematic feel to it. Did you draw inspiration from visual media for it?
Yes, I did. I remember I got the idea in late 2017. I wanted to do something like ‘Get Out’ which was a horror movie that spoke about things happening today and many misconceptions. Between ‘Get Out’, and two other movies that took places in houses which were ‘You’re Next’ and ‘The Invitation’ which I saw in the summer of 2017, that is when I came up with ‘Election Night’. I had first wanted to write it as a screenplay, but I never feel thru with it, and eventually just moved on. That was until recently when I decided to give it another try as a short story. I wrote the outline around August and September, then it became close to October, and I always wanted to do a horror short story for October which made it so fitting.
‘Election Night’ contains gore and violence. What do you think that brings to the story?
I do it for many reasons. One is contrary to what it may seem I write the graphic violence for comedic reasons. I try to find comedy in violence in my stories, so I go over the top with it, to create a kind of comedic feel to them. I know others may instantly think of it as being funny, but if I can get readers to stop, and be like “what the heck, did he really write that?” then I would be satisfied with the way I describe violence in my stories. I want readers to get lost in the gore and violence. Not in a way that it detracts from the entire story, but when they are coming across those scenes, I want them to really envision them and get a kind of feeling from them regardless of how over the top they may be or ridiculous.
I apply that to the violence in particular: I don’t try to make the story overall over the top on purpose like I do with violence. When writing, I get a sense that since it’s fictional characters, it’s a time to have fun. It’s basically my own world I’m creating, so that gives me an opportunity to go all out, which is what I do with the violence. I see that not many movies and works are excessive with it, and writing the violence gives me the opportunity to do so. When it comes to writing violence in my stories, I think if it sounds funny and seems cool, then go with it.
Another thing that it does for me, is I find the more I write it, the more I am able to write more. So if I was writing a scene about someone being murdered, and I decided to go over the top with it, which I have numerous times, for some particular reason it gives me a bigger idea of the story itself, and it propels my writing me: it feels natural to do so. By doing it, it helps me move forward and gives me a better idea of the story. To sum it up, I’d say writing in gore and violence the way I did with Election Night really helped me scope out the entire story, and get an idea of what I was writing.
What do you think makes a good short story?
In my opinion, since it all varies upon each person, I think a good short story is one that is able to leave the reader feeling something in that short period of time that it’s read. Usually, when reading novels, we get attached to the characters through all the pages we read. With short stories we don't have hundreds of pages to read, we only have a few, so a good short story should be able to still get readers the feelings they would get if they were reading a book.
It’s kind of like an anthology tv series versus a regular tv show or a movie. The anthology tv series has episodes whose stories start and end in that episode, so for me if those episodes give me some kind of emotion whether it’s happy, sad, or other ones, then I will like it. The same goes for short stories. Along with doing that, it should not make you linger on it. So when the reader is done reading the short story, since that’s all there is to the story, everything should be clear for the reader so they know what they read, and are able to move onto the next one at the same time again feeling something, and not being left confused or nonchalant.
Do you not think there are circumstances where the message or themes of a short story - particularly if they are ambiguous or provocative - could be thought over and considered for some time afterwards?
I think so especially with ones that are science fiction since those seems to be turned into movies like Arrival, Minority Report, and Total Recall. It’s actually fun when people can dissect short stories, because they’re small, yet have a lot to show.
Out of those three, which is your favourite and why?
Minority Report most definitely for so many many reasons. It’s neo noir plus science fiction which are two of my most favorite genres, especially when they’re combined, I love those kinds of movies. It’s directed by my 3rd favorite director Steven Spielberg. It’s starring my favourite actor Tom Cruise. It’s based off Philip K Dick’s short story; I like many of his works books and movie adaptations. I love how the movie is so futuristic from the timeline, to all the cool technology. The story is very good. I like the twist. But most of all I love the entire premise. A world where murder is predicted before it happens, is a world that in my opinion is very safe. For all its flaws, it’s something I imagine would be a great time to live in.
You’ve had some considerable success with your screenplays, winning many awards. To what do you ascribe this success?
There were just a few film festivals, nothing big time, but I think the key to me winning them or being placed in them was just writing a screenplay that was a good story. I contribute that to taking the time to read about screenplays. Before I decided to write screenplays to submit, I read a few books on them to give me knowledge and a good understanding of it. And from there I was able to use that along with my ideas for story to put forth a screenplay. For that I owe it to reading and preparation.
What’s your writing process? Do you have particular conditions that you need to write effectively or can you write anywhere?
I usually write in my room. Sometimes in the kitchen if it’s during the summer and it’s hot. For the most part, I have to be in my room to get the right feeling. I have written at school before, but I feel most comfortable in my room because I just feel like the mood is right, and it’s my domain.
Some writers use music to evoke a mood they need for a particular story. Do you?
Sometimes, it depends on the story. Overall when I’m writing I do like listening to music just because it’s nice to have playing and get me going when writing. However for specific stories, I may listen to music that sways in what I’m writing genre. For example, when I was writing this cyberpunk short story, I was listening to cyberpunk-style music.
How do you find the writing community on Twitter?
Honestly, they found me. It was April of 2016, I had just started my Twitter again, deciding to start putting out content, and I used hashtags in my first post, such as #amwriting, and #writerslife. From there, other writers followed me, and I dived into the community. I think it’s great to connect with writers all across the world, literally. People we don’t even know, and we’re having connections with them. I don’t know what others can say, but for me I have actually learned somethings from writers on Twitter. So it’s the best community a writer will never physically be in, if you know what I am saying. Things like that are why social media is great.
Do you think that an online presence is an important part of being a modern writer?
Writers should have some kind of online presence big or small. From my experience, it is because that is what I use to communicate with writers and readers. Not just through social media, but things like Reddit and websites where I can post my writing. It’s not all about online presence if you’re talking about followers, because I don’t think a person needs to have all these thousands of followers to be successful. People focus so much on the followers rather than the engagements. I think the engagements in terms of how people interact and respond to a writer’s presence on social media is very important. So like are they retweeting it, commenting, liking, clicking on links, that’s important. It’s not the following and followers that is so important in my opinion. Many bestselling authors have less than 30k followers, and they’re very successful. I think the key is to use social media along with other tools to have success as writing. So social media is important, but so is other things that factor into being a modern writer.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out with writing, either about the craft itself or about managing an online presence?
A few things I would tell them that I see are around the same level of importance is to always write, and always connect with people. You should always use your writing skills to write more just so you will never fall out of touch with it. As well as that, also get people to check it out. It’s always nice to get a reaction from people from your writing, whether it’s good or bad. When people can react to something you write, that’s a good feeling in my opinion.
If people want to interact with you online, what’s the best way to do that?
To tweet to me on Twitter. As far as dmn’s goes, I tend to get automated dm’s from time to time, so that doesn’t get my instant attention as much as if I see I got a notification, check it out, and see that someone has something to say to me.
Thanks for your time.
Brandon Lawson's website - full of his short stories, poems, his essays on movies and his writing tips - can be found here.