PGH author Brandon Getz is releasing his first novel later this month: Lars Breaxface: Werewolf in Space, a story he originally serialized on JukePop (RIP). Given how popular it was on that site, it’s no surprise it’s gaining new life beyond now-defunct serial site.
Brandon will be officially launching his book on October 11th at Caffe D’Amore. If the idea of werewolves in space tickles your fancy be sure to mark your calendars (and if it doesn’t, I’m not sure we can be friends).
Since he’s a former contributor to After Happy Hour (“White People” in Issue 3, if you were curious) and a long-time member of the HAHH workshop, I asked him to swing by and talk about his experience putting Lars Breaxface into its current form.
After Happy Hour: Is Lars Breaxface the same story it was when you serialized it on JukePop, or did you do a lot of changing?
Brandon Getz: I didn’t change anything about the arc or the tone, but there are about 15,000 more words in there than where it was. Basically there had been a point in the middle that I fucking hated. I just kind of had to keep going because it was serialized, and I had to figure out how do I get from point A to point B, and get out of this mire that I had gotten myself into. There were these couple of characters that I felt like I didn’t utilize properly. So how can I tie all this back in, how can I make this make sense, how can I justify their existence as characters? When I went back that was a big focus, and that takes up a lot more space, couple more chapters than it did previously. But I also think it works a lot better. It’s kind of the mid-season finale, like the early boss battle before you get to the main boss battle. So there was that, and there was a lot of just cleaning things up, making things make sense.
AHH: Do you think you would’ve written it differently if you hadn’t been serializing it?
BG: Absolutely, but it also would’ve fucked me up. Because I would’ve been rewriting a bunch of things instead of just going. That was the beauty of the serial, really, was it forced me to keep going.
AHH: Why did you decide to bring it out as a book, since it was already published as a serial?
BG: The serial was definitely a first draft. It felt that way when I was doing it. It was intended to be an exercise, to be a thing that would force me to finally finish a novel since I had been trying and failing, rewriting and rewriting chapters instead of continuing with stuff. I didn’t set out to compile it into a book. But once I finished, I realized I put a lot of fucking effort into this. I actually spent two years of my life working on this.
AHH: So it was kind of the sunk cost thing. At this point I have a manuscript so I might as well do something.
BG: Yup. I was just going to self-publish. That was my plan. Then I found out about this press, and even then I was like, I want to have all the art in there, will they allow me to have the art? What if they want to do this thing, or that thing. Finally my partner Hillary said, “Just fucking send it to them.” And actually working with them has been great. They listened to me the whole time, they had good edits to suggest. They were very supportive to work with and they’re just really cool dudes.
AHH: Which press is it again?
BG: Spaceboy Books. They’re a small press based out of Denver. They had previously published another Pittsburgh writer, Rick Claypool. His book came out last year, Leech Girl Lives. And that’s how I heard about it.
AHH: You mentioned the illustrations. How did those come out?
BG: They look great. Two dozen different artists did illustrations for it. I got a whole bunch of people, including myself.
AHH: What led you to doing the illustrations that way?
BG: This guy Jonas [Goonface] was coming into the coffee shop where I used to work for a while. He was working on his own comics and I really like his style. We got to talking. He would tell me about his comics and I was telling him that I was working on this thing. Finally I asked, “Hey man. Would you like to do a cover thing for me?” He was like, “Yeah, I was actually thinking about doing that.”
AHH: That’s the one on the fliers?
BG: Yeah, the blue one. So then, after that, a friend of mine from college, Brian [Gonnella], who does awesome graffiti-influenced art reached out to me and was like, “Hey, are you looking for more images? Because I’m down to do one.” Then my brother-in-law, he’s trying to get into doing more comic-bookey stuff, he did one. So for a long time I had those three. And then from there when I was doing the pre-copy, I just kept asking people.
AHH: Did you find that all the images ended up having a similar aesthetic or are they all different?
BG: Wildly different. Some of these people had never done anything like this before. They did their own sketches, they did watercolors, they did cartoons, so to do a werewolf in space thing was really different. But that was what was so fucking cool about it, was all these different takes. It wasn’t all comic book-ey. There were just very unique styles. I was surprised when people thought of a character in a way that I hadn’t thought of them. The Frank character, the tree man, I think he has the most varied illustrations of any of the characters. I think people were like, “How do I make a tree interesting, and not just be a regular tree?” One guy, Nic [Eaton], he had a gorilla looking tree. One of my favorites—I hate favorites, but—this dude Ken [Town], who comes into the coffee shop, his Frank is a little bit like a giant broccoli, in the best way. And he wasn’t even going to give me that one. He had submitted a different piece to me, and just told me about this and said that he was sketching it. And I was like, “Man, I’ve gotta see it. You’ve gotta send it to me.”
AHH: Back to the publishing side—from sending the manuscript until the launch, how long was that process?
BG: Shit, when was that? Year and a half, maybe? Year? I sent it to them a year and a half ago. Then we had to hash out the contract, and they were like we’ve got too many books, how’s a fall release? And I said, “Let’s do October. It’s fucking werewolf shit.”
AHH: Since this is your first novel, is there anything that surprised you about the publication process?
BG: The review process, chasing reviews—contacting these reviewers, knowing where to look and how to write your letter and all that stuff. About a month ago I got very anxious about that. This was new territory. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, where to look for reviewers. I figured it out, and contacted 40 spots and I’ve heard back from a quarter of them. And a bunch of them have already said they’re going to review it.
AHH: That seems like a good percentage.
BG: Yeah, other people have told me it’s pretty good. If everybody who said they’re going to do a review does a review, it would be 9, and that would be good. I’m definitely going to get 5 or 6 and that’s still pretty decent. But there was a lot of anxiety before I finally figured it out.
AHH: A lot of internet searching and sleepless nights.
BG: Yes. Looking at Twitter and looking at who reviewed other people’s books, things like that.
AHH: Have you set up any readings? Doing a tour?
BG: I’m doing this launch party. We’ll celebrate, we’ll have some beers, I’ll read a couple chapters. After that, I might reach out to the other bookstores in town once they have my book stocked, but I probably won’t be going out of town. If I’m going to another city for some other reason I might contact a book store and ask them, “Hey! Can I do this?”
AHH: Any advice you’d have to offer other people working to publish a first novel?
BG: I would say I didn’t go through the whole process of querying and submitting and everything because I just picked this press. I was like, “I think it’s a good fit, I think they’ll take it, I’m going to see what they say first and after that I’ll figure out what I’m doing.”
AHH: That makes sense. If you have that avenue why not take it, as opposed to spending years querying agents and presses?
BG: Exactly. And I think it depends on your expectations for your book too. If you are really trying to get it out to a big publisher, if that’s where you see your book going, then you have to do that process. But I was very happy to just see this out into the world. I love small presses so I wanted to be a part of that. I never saw Lars Breaxface necessarily being on the New York Times best seller list. It was just cool to get it out there and have people reading it. That said, talking about having a first novel out, I’m realizing very recently with the launch coming up that it doesn’t feel the way it does when you get a story published. With a story, somebody liked it and is publishing it, and some people will read it and whatever. This has so much hype around it, and it’s this physical thing that has my name on it, right on the cover. And that’s weird. It says dildo so many times in it, and my mom’s coworkers are buying copies and stuff, and what the hell are people going to think of this thing? It’s freaking me out a little bit.
AHH: Have you gotten any negative feedback yet?
BG: Not yet. But I mean, who knows? Not everybody’s going to like this thing. I can accept that. Somebody’s going to pop on Goodreads and call it awful for any number of reasons. But that does feel hard now in a way that I didn’t expect it to. I’m bracing for it. Somebody’s going to say terrible things about my book. So that’s new, too. I hope people mostly just enjoy the ride and think that it’s fun. Because I think it’s fun.
AHH: Well it’s a werewolf in space.
BG: It’s supposed to be ridiculous. And it’s got some heartfelt things about it, especially as you get further into it and you see the connections these characters are making. But also it’s got a bunch of dildo jokes, it’s got a bunch of blood and gore, it’s got a bunch of shooting stuff, and they’re flying through space and they’re monsters. That’s what it is.