Brian Toups - Paranormal Fantasy, Where Romance and Adventure Unfold in Harmony
Brian Toups lives part-time on Earth, part-time in the multiverse of fantasy. With the stars as his muse, Brian seeks to take you on an adventure into the depths of space and time . . . and deeper, into the heart of humanity. When not crafting worlds, he enjoys gymnastics, astrophotography, and ultimate frisbee. His short stories have been featured in Zetetic and Every Day Fiction. His debut novel Star Kin was released in 2019. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Drifter.
Please give us a short introduction to what Drifter is about.
Coral is a shapeshifter, and a spy. She’s just come back from a year at sea. You get the vibe that she had a bad time and wants to start over.
She enrolls in the Port Luce Academy for magic, hoping to change her fate, and maybe even rekindle an old romance.
But her past follows her and threatens to destroy her hopeful new world before it even begins. So she has to fight.
The story follows Coral and her mentor, the battle-poet Cyrus. Cyrus faces down his oldest, most deadly foe while Coral learns what it means to be a DRIFTER—to defend the multiverse from all who would seek to destroy it.
DRIFTER will appeal to fans of paranormal fantasy, where romance and adventure unfold in harmony. Fans of epic fantasy in the vein of The Earthsea Cycle will enjoy the lyrical style and ineffable magic system.
Why paranormal fantasy? What drew you to the genre?
I feel most at home in the epic fantasy genre, but years ago I read a novel by Octavia Butler called Wild Seed. The main character is a powerful shapeshifter, deeply connected to nature. And the antagonist is an all-consuming and almost immortal figure. Their struggles across the centuries are legendary.
In the paranormal genre you can build a world where angels, demons, shapeshifters and gods interact, while still diving into what it means to be human.
All my books contain romance. Paranormal fantasy is by far the most fun genre to showcase love and passion, when beings from vastly different worlds interact and fall for each other.
Tell us more about Coral. What makes her tick?
To Coral, locked doors are not obstacles, but invitations. Using her gift as a shapeshifter, she specializes in recon and infiltration.
But when she steals something of terrifying power and value, she starts to regret it.
She’s confident in herself, despite being looked down on as a second-class citizen. Changers like her are considered lesser mages with their primal magic. She embraces this, and gave up trying to fit in long ago.
Cyrus is a battle poet. What does this position entail?
Cyrus is a shaper. The power of his imagination is unfathomable. With his quill and ink he can shape the world to his will. His journal contains spells and poems of great power.
He also has the power to open portals to other worlds, an invaluable skill for the DRIFTER order.
Have you always wanted to be an author? Tell us more about your journey.
The world of Alta began with my absolute obsession for fantasy stories—mostly books, but RPGs also had a strong role to play as well. Books like The Lord of the Rings, The Earthsea Cycle, and Dune gave me my start. I also love the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.
As a kid, I enjoyed video games like Golden Sun and Monster Hunter and drew inspiration from those vibrant fantasy worlds. Some of my early novels read like sprawling role-playing games. I learned a lot writing them, but I will not inflict all those adjectives and battle-scenes on another human being.
There’s a strong sense of wonder that comes from diving into a fantasy story, not knowing where it will go. There’s adventure in ignorance. And the moment I put myself in the place of the creator, the storyteller, I felt this incredible sense of power and purpose, and I knew there was no going back.
Apart from writing, do you have any other secret skills?
My favorite activity aside from writing is astronomy! I absolutely love learning about the stars and planets. I spend nearly every clear night under the stars, filming planets or taking pictures of stellar nurseries through my telescope. Astrophotography is such a fun and rewarding way to explore the universe.
My love of theoretical physics and theories of the multiverse definitely influenced the creation of DRIFTER.
Why be a writer?
I think life is a marvelous and perilous adventure. I want to awaken a sleeping power in my readers to take the first steps on theirs.
The two primary elements of my fantasy are yearning and adventure. These are the things I want to awaken in you. What is your yearning? Your search for purpose? Your secret gift or talent?
When my characters follow their passions, take risks, go on adventures, they realize that, all along, their yearning is deeply connected to joy. A joy like pain, as poignant as grief.
I find that joy in the depths of space, capturing light with my telescopes. I find it in the love of my family. Intimations of the divine. To see it is to lose it again. And that’s all right. Because the seeking is the finding in a sense.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I always begin with a character or idea that fascinates me. For DRIFTER I began by imagining a pearl diver who can transform into animals at will. What kind of world does she live in? Are there other mages with powers like hers? What are her goals, her dreams? Does she want to see the world, get rich, fall in love? Of course, she has a dream. Everyone does. So how does she achieve it? What is the most difficult and interesting year of her life? Once I figure that out, I have the starting point for a story.
Next comes the writing, then months of editing, then more editing. I write at least five drafts before I feel confident in a book or story.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Back in high school the well of inspiration seemed unlimited. I would write in the afternoon after school, or even late into the night. But lately, I find I can only be productive if I write first thing in the morning.
One of my old professors, Robert Olen Butler, wrote a book called From Where You Dream, where he explains why early morning writing sessions are his preferred method. He believes that writing comes from the same place where you dream, and if you can move straight from dreaming to writing, you will find your sessions more productive and inspired.
I have found his method extremely helpful! And if I had one piece of advice for aspiring writers it would be this: read like your livelihood depends on it, because it does! I’ve never met an accomplished writer who didn’t read all the time. Write every day, if you can. An hour each day is better than cramming in seven hours one night a week. The routine keeps your brain connected to the world of story, keeps the ideas flowing.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on the sequel for my debut novel Star Kin. I am now in the final stages of the first draft, so that is exciting! My novel writing has slowed down slightly now that I have children.
I now tell stories to my son about the fictional adventures of Silas Starsail, who travels the universe with his panda companion helping people and animals in need.
Despite the fact that my novels take slightly longer to write than they used to, my passion for creation has never burned brighter.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have three novels published on Amazon, and each stands alone. I encourage you to go check them out and see which description resonates with you. Whether you love epic fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, or action adventure, I have a story for you!
The best place to say hi is definitely Twitter. I post excerpts from my writings daily, and can’t help but share my astrophotography as well.
I’m passionate about digital ownership and artist sovereignty, and often share my thoughts on those subjects.
Please come say hi! Can’t wait to meet.
A dashing battle poet. A girl with a dragon inside her. Together they race to stop an immortal witch and her dragon army. DRIFTER will appeal to fans of paranormal fantasy, where romance and adventure unfold in harmony. Fans of epic fantasy in the vein of The Earthsea Cycle will enjoy the lyrical style and ineffable magic system.