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Interview: Brett Sills, author of My Sweet Saga

 Interview: Brett Sills, author of My Sweet Saga
This was my first attempt at a long-form project since I was in college, says Brett Sills, author of the blistering debut My Sweet Saga, the first release from new publishing outfit Admiral J Press.

Thats not to say that Sills is a novice, by any means: a multi-optioned screenwriter, Sills knows how to keep bums on seats. It wouldnt surprise me if'much of the book felt like a movie instead of a novel, he says. Coming from this background, one persistent concern he has had is whether the characters feel thin.

I approached characterisation in the same way in the novel as I would have for a screen play, he explains.

But other than this qualm, Sills found the experience freeing in that he wasnt constrained by the very structured conventions associated with writing for the screen.

Writing for the screen vs the page

Screenplays are science.''You really have to understand the beats, and how to be economical. You also need to know the proper placement of plot points.

Tangents are an additional luxury that the screenwriter is never able to enjoy. Every word has to support the task at hand, he says, whereas in a longer form you can go off on tangents and take liberties with the tone and plot without it necessarily being a death sentence.

Moving between the two different forms, then, is far from easy, and many have tried and failed. There are a number of great novelists that are terrible screenwriters, he says.

my sweet saga brett sills Interview: Brett Sills, author of My Sweet SagaAlthough Sills is aware of the differences between writing for the screen and for the page, he admits that the odd screenwriting convention can be found lurking between the covers of My Sweet Saga.

Circular narratives

The circular narrative is'another place my screenwriting background probably reared its ugly head, says Sills.

My protagonist Brandon is an inherently boring guy, and I knew the first few chapters would feature his mundane lifestyle and his resentment towards it.''So I chose to start the book with an absolutely insane scene from the future to accentuate the contrast from the character you will get to know over the first hundred pages.

The objective, he says, was that the reader would end up wanting to know how such an everyday character could end up in such an unusual situation.

Plus, I think you probably forget about the first chapter as you read, and I hope you are pleasantly surprised when the story catches back up.

Sills is spot-on when he contrasts the books then and now: the narrative zooms between a fairytale-esque Sweden and gritty, traffic-filled LA. Both loom larger than life, and the reader cant help but wonder at the juxtaposition of the two.

Working on location

Sills believes that locations themselves need to be characters, and that in My Sweet Saga'they are used to almost metaphorical effect.

Brandon feels stuck in Los Angeles. He views it as a trap, and therefore speaks ill of it. In contrast, Stockholm is a complete escape. Its romanticised not just for the sake of pretty detail, but because the city represents everything Brandons life is not.'It might as well be some far off kingdom and Saga [Brandon's love interest] his princess.

The book was written during a challenging time in the authors life, and draws on the way he felt about Sweden during a trip to Stockholm during this time.

In many ways the book is a love letter to Sweden. I wanted to depict Stockholm as a romantic summer city rather than the dark, snowy locale that literature often displays. I never believe places are arbitrarily chosen by writers, locations have distinct feel and characters are often defined by their surroundings.

If youre not making your location a character, says Sills, youre probably doing something wrong. This rule isnt the only one that he subscribes to, however: he also believes firmly in mapping the emotional and moral trajectory of a character throughout a work.

On characters and honesty

I wanted to make all of the characters as flawed as possible with the expectation that they'd be redeemed in some way later on, he says of his motley and largely unsympathetic cast. I think each main character is feeling lot of emotional pain and desperation, and they all act out in their own unique way.

Although Sills doesnt expect the reader to agree with the actions of his charactersmany are deplorable, he sayshe hopes that by the end of the novel the reader at least understands where they are coming from.

My Sweet Saga'is one of those books that is unflinchingly honest and at times quite brutal to read. As a reader I personally found one or two scenes involving the female characters to go a bit beyond my comfort zone, and Sills admits that he found himself at times fettered by his tight first person point-of-view approach, which prevented him from exploring some characters or situations in greater depth.

The protagonist is angry, bitter, and a bit entitled. He doesnt always see the best in people, says Sills. But since the reader is only provided with his point of view, it is harder to round out the other characters.

On misanthropy and perceptions of misogyny

A few people, including me, have questioned whether Brandon is misogynistic, but Sills believes that this disconnect is more of a men are from Mars thing.

Sills says that many men view life through a sexual prism, and this, not misogyny, is what we see in My Sweet Saga. They see it not as a conquest but as an ideal. When Brandon sexualises Saga, it's not because he only sees her for her beauty. He genuinely has an overly romantic, unexplainable love for her, and expresses this through a desire to share the ultimate form of intimacy. His first thought is that he'd like to have sex with her every day for the rest of his life because he wants to share that intimate connection until they are old and grey.

Issues such as this lead Sills to admit that his efforts to be unerringly honest may be seen as having gone overboard by some, and agrees that one of the consequences of this approach can be a misunderstanding of his, and his characters, thought processes.

I read the book shortly after it was released and cringed at some of the lines, he says. I thought, my mother is gonna read that!

But Sills believes that the novel would have been far weaker had he not allowed his character to go uncensored. He's a bit angry and bitter, so there's definitely some venom to his thoughts. I'm not sure he actually even means a few of the things he says, but his reactions are often visceral and they come from a place of desperation.

Sills was mindful about not using Brandons voice simply for the sake of cheap jokes, however. I tried to'use his omega male outlook to further explore the depths of his anger, apathy, and so on.

On working with the small press

Despite having a strong list of screenwriting credits to his name, Sills found that a book like My Sweet Saga'is an unlikely darling of the publishing crowd.

You know when you hear those novel success stories about the book that was turned down by every publisher in town, save for the one little engine that could?''Well, I never even got that far because I couldn't even find an agent to take it on, he says.

Even his screenwriting representative wasnt interested.

One of the major issues was not that the book is so raw, but rather that at its heart its a romantic novel written by a manand therefore ostensibly targeted at men.

Interestingly,'I personally always thought females would enjoy it more, but it was hard to convince them of that.

Sills says that he eventually shelved the book until an opportunity with Admiral J Press arose.

They were a new collective looking for novels from writers who had had even a modicum of success in other mediums.''I figured the book was better released through a small press than not at all, so I went with it.

And the outcome has been excellent: My Sweet Saga'can be found in major bookstores and in all manner of online venues. Its even selling well in Sweden.

It's certainly gotten into hands I never expected. Its received kind reviews, and it really seems to grow with each passing day.''I have no basis of comparison, but the process was incredibly hands-on and I'm pleased with the outcome.''Hopefully it keeps growing, as Id love as many people to see it as possible!

See my review of My Sweet Saga

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One comment

  1. HiI am really happy that I have found this post because it can help a lot of people even meThanks!!

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