Sunday 6 January 2019

MEET THE AUTHOR: Get to know writer, artist and musician Ian Bristow

Ian Bristow is a talented man. He's an author, and also an artist - the creator behind a number of covers for books that have featured right here in this blog. Add to that being a musician and... well, I might be a tad jealous of such an array of skills! He stopped by the blog to say hi and to chat about his work. Meet Ian Bristow. 

Hi Ian, and welcome to Altered Instinct!

You’re an artist, a writer, a composer… that’s a pretty wide range of talents right there! Many a creator struggles to find time for one thing to do – when you get free time, what’s most often your gut thing to do from those three? 

I think music is my main go-to when I have free time, as I am a freelance artist and part-time author.  So, essentially, music is the only one of the three with no monetary attachments, leaving me free to truly relax when I create.

A time lapse video of Ian's work in progress for his painting Mage

Have you formal training in any of the disciplines or self-taught – how did you come to each of those? 

I’ve had formal training in all three, via college and also one on one tutelage. That said, I self-educate on a regular basis. It is not enough to merely take some classes and expect to grow in any area of life without further exploration and effort. Practice is key to any skill. Take an athlete, for example. Footballers don’t have a great touch on the ball or send a perfect pass to their teammate 60 yards away without training for hours on end. I came to art as a very young child. Colors fascinated me. I came to music as a young child as well. My mom taught me piano from the age of 5 to 10, when I started playing clarinet, which I put down to start playing guitar (I was 13). Writing, however, did not become part of my life until my late 20s. I wanted to illustrate a book for younger children and asked my sister to write one, she never did, so I sort of just wrote it myself. The story evolved into the Conner’s Odyssey trilogy and hilariously, I never ended up using my illustrations in the final version. Funny old world, in’it?

The first book in Ian's Conner's Odyssey trilogy

Tell us a little about your most recent writing project – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it! 

The title is Instinct Theory: First Contact. It’s about the first mission into interstellar space to study an earth-like planet discovered in another star system. Here’s a brief pitch: Though known by few, Earth’s ability to sustain human life has nearly been exhausted. The Federation’s quest to find a new host planet has finally paid off, and a small team of experts—ignorant to the urgency of their mission—has been sent to explore the new world prior to settlement. But to what lengths will the Federation go to keep their secret? Murder? Genocide? Or is no price too high to pay?

What inspired the story? 

My Cultural Anthropology class was the first inspiration. I thought, how cool would it be to have the opportunity to be the first person charged with studying the culture of another race of sentient beings? And the answer was—write a book…

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much? 

One of my favorite moments to write was introducing my MC to the fact that another planet had been discovered with sentient life, and that the federation wanted her to be part of the team to go and study this life. As a cultural anthropologist, there would be no greater accolade. This moment came early in the story and really gave me the opportunity to dig into the MC’s character in a way that made writing her from then on feel unforced.

Ian says: "Prelude to Winter is a piece I did to reacquaint myself with good old fashion landscape work."

What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? Which were the first books you remember falling in love with? 

I really loved the Redwall series. Brian Jacques’ creativity was astounding.  I also enjoyed the Hobbit and LOTR books a ton. Outside of that, I’m a bit foggy on the stuff I read. I actually spent a great deal more time outside as a child. That or building Legos and drawing.

Who are your favourite authors to read? And in a similar vein, who are the artists who influenced you? 

Wow, this is tough. I really enjoy Patrick Rothfuss, Tolkien, Crichton, Rowling (Harry Potter only), and of course, the aforementioned Brian Jacques. There are plenty of others, of course.  The artists who inspired me growing up were any involved in Disney productions, my mom, and Bob Ross. As I’ve gotten older, that has not changed, but others have been added to the list.

This piece was created as an exploration of creature design, and how texture, focus and light can help bring a level of realism to the work.

What has been your favourite reaction to your work – be it writing, art or music? 

Any time I get the sense that I have inspired another person to create, I feel wholly satisfied. And of course, when someone goes out of their way to tell me they loved my book, or music or painting, that never gets old either.

2019 is upon us now - what’s coming up for you this year? Any big landmarks you’re aiming for? 
Publishing my WIP. I’ve been working on it for quite a long time and still have much work to do, so if I can release this year, I’ll be very pleased. I’m working towards a fall release.

Ian's novel Hunting Darkness

What has been your biggest challenge as a writer? What hurdles have you had to overcome, and what helped you to do so? 

My biggest challenge has been recognizing that each time I feel I’ve reached a goal in my craft, it merely opens my eyes to a new set of issues I need to address. It’s as if each time I rein in one writerly issue, I’m awarded a pair of goggles that highlights the next issue with florescent paint. This journey is one with rest stops, and some might even have accommodations like peer approval or fan acquisition, but then you have to get back on the road and keep to the quest, lest you stay there forever and stagnate. The main hurdle I’ve overcome is acceptance of the issue I’ve just spoken about, and the thing that helped me do so was my peers. Other folks who are going through the same thing and able to offer solution-oriented empathy, not sympathy for something they know little about.

Taking art to the streets - Ian Bristow creating some chalk art

Marketing is always a challenge for writers – to share the love, what have you found the most useful tip for spreading the word about books? 

Marketing… A word that strikes fear in the hearts of all who live paycheck to paycheck. I have very little money, and as a result, I am quite dreadful at marketing. I could market my book or eat dinner… It’s like that for many of us indies. But I know what I would do if I did have that bit of financial padding, and that would be to hire a PR expert, set up regular ads on Amazon, and create high-end advertising material, such as professional trailers with industry-leading production, etc. And above all, it’s a rinse and repeat thing. You don’t get the sale the first or hundredth time a potential reader sees your book in the ocean of options. They need to have that opportunity to buy over and over and over again.

Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work? 

They can check out my website or follow me on Facebook and Twitter
And if they have a taste for art, they can look me up on YouTube

A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year? 

I am currently reading Light’s Rise by Yvette Bostic. The best book I read in the last year was Mistrust and Treason by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Many thanks, Ian - a delight to have you call by the blog. Good luck with that WIP! 

* A painting by Ian inspired one of my own flash fiction pieces - which you can read, and see the art that sparked it, right here.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! Thank you! loved "My biggest challenge has been recognizing that each time I feel I’ve reached a goal in my craft, it merely opens my eyes to a new set of issues I need to address. It’s as if each time I rein in one writerly issue, I’m awarded a pair of goggles that highlights the next issue with florescent paint. " !!