Inkshares writer Brian Guthrie talks about his contest-winning science fiction debut
With its release just a few short months ago and with over 2,000 copies sold already, Brian Guthrie’s Rise is on the rise as a wonderful new addition to the science fiction genre. Rise is one of the five winners of The Nerdist Collection Contest, was published through the online publishing company Inkshares, and is only the start of a fantastic and original new series. A story about people residing on a shattered planet, about a dwindling water supply, about a civilization on the brink of war, and about four strangers who must join together to save humanity from itself.
The accomplished Guthrie was born in Germany and resides there now with his wife and daughter. He has four college degrees, has lived in three different countries while visiting twenty others, and his wife travels with him everywhere he goes. His original idea for his series started when he was fifteen. “I have written it too many times to count. The first complete draft of the first book was finished in 2001 and I printed it all up. It’s in a big binder and I keep it just to remind myself of how bad I once was to write. It was horrible. My wife refused to read any of my writing because it was bad. She’s my number one critic and my number one encourager,” Guthrie said.
Upon first look, any reader may be intimidated by the size of Rise; however, it reads quickly and, what gives the story so much depth is not just its storyline, but also its characters. “Originally, I just wanted to tell a big story. I had a bunch of grand ideas, but I was missing the things that make the story matter: the characters,” Guthrie said. “About two and a half years ago, I started the actual write up of what is now Rise and I was trying to tell a story about redemption of people and how they can, through their choices and actions, redeem themselves, but I was also trying to tell a story about hope in the face of fear. Over time, I realized I was telling [my story] on a grand scale with the whole world and on a micro scale with the characters; the story of trauma and living after trauma has happened and how you go on from that.”
On the grand scale Guthrie mentioned, he did not realize how grand of a scale he had written about trauma in Rise until he began the editing process in 2015. The entire world within his story has been ripped apart and the people that remain must find ways to survive, but due to this, they will never be the same again. Not only creating an entire fictional world, but also having that world endure trauma is quite the feat to tackle. Guthrie was able to take on this challenge, but one of the main elements he had to tackle first was gripping the readers’ attention. “You don’t have a whole prologue to get [readers’] attention. When they open that book, if you don’t hook them with the first line, they’re going to put your book back on the shelf. I took a bit of a gamble on the opening to Rise. There’s no action going on in the opening scene: it’s just two people talking to each other. Snore. But I wanted to find something that I could key on where just the thought of it would make you do a double take. ‘Wait a minute, you don’t know what paper is? What do you mean you don’t know what paper is?’ Paper is everywhere,” Guthrie said. “In Germany, we have to separate our trash. We have an entire trash can just for paper. We are so accustomed to it, we just waste it. We don’t care. But, in their world, paper doesn’t exist. You don’t think about it until you’re exposed to the conflict of, ‘What if paper doesn’t exist anymore?’ And then you start thinking, ‘What kind of world doesn’t have paper?’ Then it gets you thinking and you want to know more, so that was the idea to hook them with that. I honestly didn’t think it would work.”
And on the micro scale, the traumas each of the characters face while living on their shattered world. Before it was published through Inkshares, Guthrie had released Rise on JukePop.com. His co-workers went to the site to read it and, come the end of 2014, Guthrie asked them who they thought the main character was. Many said Logwyn, the main journalist interviewing the other characters throughout the story, but to Guthrie, she is not the main character. “It’s one of those points when you realize this is not just your story anymore because once you put it out there for people, it becomes their story,” Guthrie said. “They start having the characters that are their favorites, ones that they don’t like, [and] they might not be the same ones as you. So that was eye-opening for me when I realized this story is becoming more than just my little fantasy that’s been in my head for twenty-plus years.”
Guthrie said that each of the characters has their own story and each of their stories is a part of the readers. The inspiration for Micaela came from Guthrie’s wife and is a character who cares deeply about her family, but is always faced with situations where she loses hope. Logwyn began as a minor character until a beta reader asked for more of her and Guthrie discovered an entire story with just her character. Quentin is an incredibly hopeful character, but has also endured a traumatic past that Guthrie himself endured. Guthrie’s favorite character, Nidfar, speaks as Guthrie does, though he does not make as large of an appearance in Rise as he will in future books. This was Guthrie’s aim: as the stories in his series progress, readers will receive more points of view from different characters.
Two writers inspired Rise: Tracy Hickman and Patrick Rothfuss. Hickman is well-known for his novels in the Dungeons & Dragons universe and Guthrie was able to enlist in a course offered for a full year where Hickman himself looked at the manuscript of Rise and let Guthrie know how he could tighten the story. In 2013, Guthrie was inspired to switch from writing in the third person to first. “I wasn’t going to write it that way at first, but then I read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and that is when I knew the characters needed to tell their stories,” Guthrie said. “The characters are just telling the readers what they remember. It is up to the readers’ imaginations to fill in the blanks and questions and imagine things on their own.”
“There were points where I actually considered trying to tell [the readers] more of Colberra’s story and what you saw, but it felt like I was forcing something,” Guthrie said. For Guthrie’s world of Colberra, he said it is good to not know a ton about the society. Even where readers live, do they really know EVERYTHING that is going on all the time? There most certainly were times when Guthrie wanted to tell his readers all about Colberra, but he didn’t wish to be bogged down by explanations and extra and unnecessary characters. “There were times when I could have talked about the politics, but I didn’t want it to turn into a George Lucas thing with his prequel movies. I did this on purpose because the politics didn’t matter to [the characters]. I didn’t want [the readers] to be getting things that weren’t necessary to the day-to-day, what’s going on right now,” Guthrie said.
With his book having a base plot about trauma, readers will be touched by who Guthrie dedicates Rise to: To the broken, the shatter; Those whose world has been torn apart. To those hiding in a dark room, longing for the light; Those who have lost hope. This story is for you. This delves into Quentin’s storyline. As aforementioned, Guthrie based Quentin’s traumatic past off his own and Guthrie remembers being in a dark room, alone, feeling broken. “There are people who live normal lives and they hide the trauma from others, but at night, they’re still in that dark room, hurting. That’s who I’m writing the story for: the people who have experienced trauma and have to live with it,” Guthrie said.
“I want as many people as possible that I dedicated the book to to read it. I want them to know that there is still hope. What Quentin keeps telling [Micaela] as the story goes on: there is still hope, there are always reasons for hope. It may not seem like it right now, but there is always a reason for hope. If it only helps one person figure that, then that’s success to me. I would love to see my story everywhere. I want the story to be a success not just because I want it to be a success, I want it to be a success so more people can hear that message and see that, yes, trauma’s happened and it will never be the same, but you can live on. In the story, the world itself is an example. Your whole world’s been shattered and you have to go on and you can never put it back the same way again.”
Rise is only the first in Guthrie’s Future World series and he hopes to release one book out each year. He doesn’t want his readers to wait forever on the story of Colberra and its characters because readers wait on too many other stories. Fall is already available for pre-order through Inkshares and Guthrie is already a tenth of the way through his third book. “There is a moment where Logwyn says, ‘We tried to put it back together and we couldn’t, so we had to figure out another way to go on with everything broken apart.’ I wanted to share a story about trauma, but no one is going to sit down and read a book about trauma. If you disguise it within a fictional story, then you reach a lot of people. What do I hope to see? I hope a lot. I very much believe I have a story that can reach people, but that’s dependent upon factors that I have no control over. The only thing I can do is write a good story.”