Having been around the literary scene for a short while, and having written for a number of credible blogs, as well as my own here at Fantasy Focus, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know a number of talented individuals. Many of them have been authors, both traditionally published and self published. Many have also been creative talents such as typographers, cover designers, and editors that help bring the work to life. Despite being relatively new to the literary world, I have spent many years in business, and as with any entrepreneurial venture I’ve heard from many authors, both those writing full time and those aspiring to that, how challenging it is to turn their art in to a full time career. I found myself inspired and motivated by the career path of Rhett Bruno, who is not only a brilliant author of some of the best Science Fiction and Fantasy out there, but also the co-founder and co-director of Aethon Books, a rapidly growing publishing enterprise with a focus on quality work, stunning covers and the best in audio narration. He’s also recently been nominated for a Nebula for his short story “Interview For The End Of The World”.
After reading Titanborn, the first book in his new 5 book sci-fi series, and Web Of Eyes, The first in a 6 book Fantasy series he co-wrote with Jaime Castle (aka Aethon co-director Steve Beaulieu) I felt compelled to reach out to Rhett, and find out more about what goes in to his writing, and what set him on his path as an author and an entrepreneur. The following is our interview.
ME: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? What led to your decision?
RB: I started writing probably back in middle school. Maybe before. I was dealing with some things at that age, and a psychologist ( or psychiatrist hah) recommended I try to focus my thoughts in a positive way. So I started writing little stories about video games I loved. Diablo. Soul reaver. And it just evolved from there.
ME: Describe the process of your first novel being published?
RB: A terrible one. I was 16 and had written a fantasy book titled isinda. I had no idea what I was doing and me and my parents got swindled by a vanity publisher. Tate Publishing, the heads of with are currently in jail. It never sold. It didn’t deserve to be published. But I learned a lot through failing so miserably. It taught me to research, and made me a far better writer going forward.
ME: So that being said, was self publishing the next route explored? What brought you from that point to The Circuit?
RB: No, it wasn’t. My next route was trying the traditional path. And making more mistakes hah. I couldn’t find an agent for the circuit, but got some offers from small presses. I wound up signing with mundania press, but after some disagreements over the quality of editing shortly after its release, I got diversion books to buy the rights from mundania, re release book 1 and do books 2 and 3 with me. The editorial team there was a dream come true. Taught me so so much.
ME: What themes are important to you in your writing? What do you hope readers can get out of your work?
RB: I think the main theme that always finds it’s way into my work is that the characters often aren’t black and white. Even the protagonists. In fact, the narrative rarely has a clear villain. Sometimes the biggest obstacle for the main character is themselves. That sort of character-focused, realistic drama is what I try to bring to the table.
I’d love for them to learn something. I always try to have my characters be deeply flawed. They either embrace their flaws or battle them internally. But those struggles are where sometimes there are lessons about life even I didn’t intend to write.
ME: How did Aethon come to be? And how did your partnership with Steve Beaulieu begin ?
RB: Aethon was an idea that my partner Steve and I had a little more than a year ago. We talked about how we’d love to help other authors’ dreams come true. We didn’t really have the platform or the time back then, but after growing our connections throughout the industry in 2018, it felt like the right time to go for it. It’s really all happened very very fast.
I met Steve through Sci-fi Bridge, a cross-promotional platform I help run. A friend recommended him as someone who could do our logo. As fellow writers, we hit it off pretty well. We’re similar in a lot of ways, and also very different, which helped us start writing together and give our characters really diverse perspectives on the world.
ME: What roles do Aethon take on for its Authors? And What would you say your company’s mission statement is?
RB: We do everything any reputable publisher should. Multiple layers of editing, cover design, book design, proofing. We market every book, push for subrights deals right away, with a focus on audio. Mostly, we’re also authors, so our hope is to make our authors as successful as they can be. With us, and also in their future work.
Our mission statement is to publish great books, of course, but also to SELL them. And we put our money right where our mouths are. We release some of our own work through Aethon and try and sell it the same way we would for other authors. It allows us to have hands on experience with how to sell books at both levels of the industry, creator and publisher, and to keep updating strategies as this very volatile industry shifts.
ME: Talk a bit about a couple of your signings and why people should check them out?
RB: We have some really exciting stuff coming, or already out. Hayley Stone was the first author we signed, with her weird western MAKE ME NO GRAVE. I had beta read the book a year or so earlier, and knew she hadn’t yet sold it, so it was the first book I knew we needed to buy.
But most exciting is THE PATH’S BETWEEN WORLDS, by Paul Antony Jones, coming this March. To get a 47North author is something we never expected, and we get to publish his first book since his massively bestselling Extinction Point Series. His new book is a sort of Post-Earth, heartfelt story about a girl lost in time and man… it is really strong. Kate Reading, the narrator for the Audiobook, even messaged us personally telling us how much the story touched her.
And beyond those two bigger names, we have a lot of debut authors. Brian Mansur is doing something with a Military SF Book called CAPTIVE EMBERS that I think will open some eyes. His characters are great. JB Ross wrote a far future story of Roman Gladiator-like Mech battles. Which sounds awesome of course, but the world he’s created is so strange and unique… it’s something you’d never expect from a debut.
ME: What made you And Steve decide to co-write a series? Describe the process of the co-Write
RB: When we first met, I had a WIP that was something new for me. I was in a rough position at the time with my agent and publisher and work, and we talked about him maybe writing it with me to take over one of the two main characters. We just clicked. That book isn’t out yet, but it’s coming one day! Then we started the Buried Goddess Saga together, and now that we felt comfortable editing each others work, the give and take has been fantastic. We constantly push each other to throw the characters into unexpected situations and take the story to unexpected places. I think it’s helped us create a truly unpredictable series.
Our style is that both of us take 50% of each book. In that, we both take lead on certain POV characters, then swap. There isn’t a word in any of our books that both of us haven’t touched, and it all smooths over into a style that is uniquely “Bruno & Castle” when compared to our solo works. We actually wrote a book called TWO AUTHORS ONE BOOK that details our co-writing process, with examples, as compared to other co-writing processes authors have talked to us about.
ME: Can you talk a bit about The Buried Goddess Saga, and what readers can expect from your co-written Fantasy series?
RB: The Buried Goddess Saga is as fun and unpredictable to write as it is for readers (I hope). Jaime Castle and I are constantly pushing each other to be better, constantly throwing each other curve balls as we craft the epic story. As we are a 50/50 team and each touch every word, it really allows us to push things far. A two heads are better than one sort of thing. It also allows us to make the characters we lead on feel unique, and give every POV a voice
ME: Take us through the original publication of Titanborn and talk a bit about why it’s getting a re-release? How many books are in the series and when will they be released ?
RB: Titanborn was originally bought and released by a digital only imprint of Random House where, I’ll say, my editor Sarah Peed was fantastic. The book wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is without her, and I’ll say it here, Editing Is Crucial. But anyway, the book had a ton of critical success, but sales never took off the way we hoped, both for it or it’s sequel. Another thing I’ve always said, beyond viral successes that can’t be explained, marketing makes a bestseller. I really believed in this book, and in 2018 I bought my rights back so that I can do the work to make it a continuous series like I always envisioned.
There are currently 4 Books written that will be coming out in February through July, on ebook, print and audio from Audible Studios. And I can announce it here, Audible Studios just contracted me to write a 5th book. The idea I have for it is probably the most excited I’ve been about a pitch. Logan mixed with God of War 4 is the most I’ll say about it. My hope is to write it fast enough so that it could be released this fall.
ME: How did your deal with audible studios come about? How were you able to land RC Bray as narrator for Titanborn?
RB: The Audible Studios deal was pretty easy in that we had already sold the Buried Goddess Saga rights to them. They saw in the series what I always did, and were willing to take a big chance on releasing the entire series with RC Bray. He was always my number one target for this series, with Ray Porter as a very close second, and Audible has been great to me. They basically gave me a choice of either and made it happen. I owe them everything when it comes to that.
ME: what takes up most of your time when you aren’t writing and publishing books?
RB: I spend most of my time watching TV shows and movies with my wife. Right now were sadly finishing up the final season of the Punisher….
ME: Congratulations by the way on your Nebula nomination. How did that feel? Can you tell us a bit about the story?
RB: Thanks man. It feels pretty surreal! I wrote this story a few years ago as I was writing the Children of Titan Series, and it never saw the light of day until the massive Bridge Across the Stars Anthology I helped collect. It tells a story that I never could in the series, and I never really thought anybody but fans of Titanborn would enjoy it. But apparently I was wrong! It’s a story about sacrifice, and what family really means… all set at the impending apocalypse.
ME: What’s next for Aethon in 2019…what are some of the big releases coming out
RB: Probably more than I even realize now haha. We have Paul Antony Jones’ book, THE PATHS BETWEEN WORLDS coming on 3/19/19, on ebook, print and audio.
On 2/19/19, we’re relaunching the ebook and print books for Joshua Gayou’s incredible Commune Series, which is just killing it on Audible with RC Bray.
In April we should be releasing Brian Mansur’s debut CAPTIVE EMBERS as well as book 4 in the BURIED GODDESS SAGA.
Things aren’t so concrete datewise after that, but we’ve signed roughly 15 authors so far and are excited about every single one of them. And while it’s mostly all Sci-Fi, every series is very very different. There will be something for every fan of Speculative fiction, from epic fantasy to Cyberpunk, from Military Scifi to Post Apocalyptic.
I can also say that we’ve signed a bunch of great sci-fi standalones to be published by us and recorded by RC Bray through our exclusive patreon page. Stuff that may not have seen the light of day
otherwise, like a sci-fi cop thriller from James Wolanyk.
If you want to find out more about Rhett C. Bruno you can find him at Rhettbruno.com
You can also interact with him on Facebook @ The Official Rhett C. Bruno Fan Group
For more on Aethon books visit aethonbooks.com