Brian has degrees in Physics and Business. He's taken a nuclear reactor critical, piloted a destroyer, ridden horseback in the Australian bush, negotiated multi-million dollar acquisitions, run two companies, provided strategic and management consulting across the United States and traveled around the world in every hemisphere. He's a plank owner on the aircraft carrier, USS Harry S Truman and has made a lifetime study of religious beliefs and mythology. Brian lives in Kansas City with his wife, two children, and two dogs. His first book, Tearing Down The Statues, was published in 2015.His dark fantasy thriller, They’re At The Window will be available in summer 2019.
That’s the blurb I’m using for back-of-the-book style introductions. All true, but definitely a highlight reel of my life. It’s not like I’m going to list my jobs crushing boxes or loading landscape timbers, or Quality Assurance at a printing plant. The LinkedIn profile lists the sequence and things I’ve done, if that matters at all to folks interested in the writing process. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-bennudriti-5626475/)
I’m a nerd though. I’ve watched Doctor Who since I was seven. My first crush was Cassiopeia on Battlestar Galactica. My kids won’t play Dungeons & Dragons; and nobody I work with knows what a Sandworm is or why one might want to hook and ride one. So mostly I’m a closeted nerd. Hi!
1. Tell us about your favorite work… what makes it special ?
I was an officer on a destroyer after the first gulf war; and my friends and I had made our way to a beautiful rock gorge in the Omani desert to blow of some steam. There was this opening in the rock where you could jump down into the rushing whitewater, surrounded by scrub brush and barren sand. My head was full of the first three books, reruns of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and John Wayne movies. It’s weird, I know; but I had a picture in my mind that trip of a haggard guy busting into a saloon in the salt flats, wearing a torn uniform. Everyone was terrified, but more of who came with him than the man himself. Somehow, I knew terrible companions followed. That kernel became my first novel, . It took me seven years to make it real.
Still, I swear to you, by the end I could smell the fires and feel the wind on the back of my neck. What an incredible experience!
See what you think about this. I woke up in a hotel in London with a fully formed idea in my head – a vehicle with articulated legs and a vortex that can ride up vertical walls. Don’t judge me; but I saw it like a drawing on a white index card, even with a name for it printed in block letters at the bottom of the card. I was charging so hard into making this book that this sort of thing happened to me. For at least three characters, it felt more like meeting them than designing them.
I’m probably scaring you though, so I’ll put my crazy back in its hidey-hole and go back to being as professional as possible. I’m just incredibly proud of that book.
2. What do you think makes for good Sci-Fi ?
Dialogue makes or breaks any book for me. The slickest concepts, the best setup and background, even an interesting hook in the first few pages - that’s all target practice if the people speaking sound like they’re telling me the plot. I can close a book two pages in if it’s hollow and obvious conversation. On the flip side, somebody like Nick Hornby can make the words pop (I know, not sci-fi, let me make my point). RA Lafferty and Neil Gaiman come to mind, although I pay close attention to Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith’s comics as a model to follow for dialogue. Humor’s okay, even in tense situations when characters are supposed to be afraid because that’s real. If you ask people their favorite bits in movies or books, more often it’s the softer character interactions than blow-out battle scenes.
I also very much appreciate a strong, innovative, but simple concept. Asimov’s Foundation series, and Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama and ’Foundations Of Paradise, are standard-bearers for this. I’m just spit balling here, let’s look at the kind of one-liner punch I’m talking about.
Robert Metzger’s Picoverse: A lab at Georgia Tech accidentally created a sub-microscopic universe, so they’re going inside.
Greg Bear’s Blood Music: The fellow that created self-aware biological cells injects them into himself.
Barrington Bayley’s The Fall OfChronopolis: An empire that spans across time rather than space is besieged by a mysterious enemy from frontiers in its future.
Of course there’s much more to a classic than a blow-out idea; but something just feels right if I’m trolling an old bookstore or library or surfing Amazon and see a one-liner concept that makes me stop and scratch my chin. I live for that. It begs questions; and I want to see what they do with that idea…see where it goes. That’s the whole reason I read science fiction, to feel my mind stretched and to be inspired!
3. Do you think your books can help shape the future and if so how?
You know, there was plenty to be offended by with Harlan Ellison; but he remains one of the finest word slingers and said once, “There is nothing worth writing about more than people.” Probably no one gets into the writing gig without at least some thought they can make an impact. I’m not any different there. I like to take old man Harlan’s advice and shape my writing around themes that I think we need. The idea being, if anything I write resonates with enough people, they’ll see what I’m screaming and pointing at and do something about it – at least in their own lives.
In my first book, it struck me as the novel took shape that tragedies such as the September 11th attacks and hurricanes and the Boston Marathon bombing brought out the finest in our character. We stop bickering and pass out water bottles and hold bandages onto strangers. It’s magnificent what we’re capable of doing. But we’re living in a time of rampant self-love and crappy, disconnected parenting where such core selflessness and integrity might conceivably be a generation or two away from dying out. I wanted to poke at the question of how much more horrible would such tragedies be should that happen.
A few years ago, there were You-tube terrorist beheadings on a beach. Watching that, I knew the book I’m writing now needed a backbone analyzing the urgency and fallout of standing up to bullies. Is it enough to stand and fight? Does it matter if you back down or ignore them? How do you take down what they stand for as well as the bullies themselves? That’s the mark I want to make. You’ll hopefully be reading a thrilling and fun story, loving the snappy banter and chapter-end surprises and only afterwards catch what I was doing with this. I want it stuck in heads though, long afterwards…so you’ll remember me and how I said you’ve GOT to deal with this.
4. Do you have inside jokes or true events hidden in your writing?
Remember those projects in school when you had to collect bugs and stick them with pins into foam? We knew this tiny little girl with moon-eyes and huge glasses that somehow had hundreds of bugs; and she sold them. “Wanna buy a bug?” I totally stole that and just dropped her wholesale into a chapter a couple of months ago. I’m chuckling right now thinking about her.
5. Which do you prefer… model your characters after people you know or just make them up?
I have an uncle that you’d love, a big Italian Brooklyn native that used to run an artisan concrete business. His house is on the corner; and bellowing Italians cut through his living room to say HEY and pick up some cannoli on the way through. All are welcome; and family is everything. He used latex molds to make statues and architectural elements (like the little curlie-cues above windows on high-rises). I stirred my uncle together with Mister Pickwick for a core character named Farmilion. His line of work morphed into another character who rode high on the buildings with cans of latex to hurriedly capture beautiful things on buildings before the city was destroyed in the looming battle.
No single character I can think of is entirely based on an individual; but certainly I steal shamelessly aspects of loads of people. The book I’m working on now has a fellow you’ll root for named ‘Burger’, who’s got my nerdiness but my high school buddy’s loyalty and ease of getting along. His friend, Matty is Mexican and missing his legs – traits that came from design. But Matty’s sense of humor is a soup of a couple of guys I knew in the Navy.
6. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to take away?
My upcoming book is (probably) titled They’re At The Window. I hope to make you love these people and fear for them. They’re trying to look defiantly in the eyes of the distillation of all bullies; and it’s going to get bad. I want you to wear out your kindle flipping chapters to see what happens and cheer when they step out of that car.
Then long after it’s over, I’m cool if you don’t remember every twist of the story or their names. I just want you to remember when you’re looking at your own bully, even if that’s a situation and not a person, what these people learned in this book…I want to be there touching your shoulder whispering, “You can do this.”
7. What is your favorite review?
Someone at Readers’ Favorite named Melinda Hills said some of the kindest things I could have hoped for about Tearing Down The Statues. Kirkus was a disappointment because all they did was recap the story and add a couple of lines. One guy I remember wanted to swap reviews; but he just commented on my book cover. There have been some nice things said (and at least one person that thought English wasn’t my native language!). Melinda, though – God bless her – she’s the trophy winner.
"In almost cinematic scope, Brian portrays a vast world, populated by an amazing assortment of people, beasts, and war machines that is subject to the ancient laws of the Salt Mystic. With exploits and emotions that combine the technology of Star Wars and the quest of The Hobbit, Tearing Down The Statues keeps you turning the pages and holding your breath while you experience this strange world as if you are in the middle of the intrigue. This is a tremendous story that needs to be read slowly for one to fully grasp the complexities that drive the characters and fully appreciate the vast wonders being exposed."
Dang. I asked a buddy to write a review; and he wasn’t even that awesome.
What comes next?
They’re At The Window is at 64k words of a planned 80k. The plot is outlined; and I just pivoted into the home stretch where events take off with jet fuel from here. The characters are crackling; and I can tell when it’s me or them talking. That’s all great news, so I’m hoping to finish by the end of summer.
I’ve also been working on a fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction collection that contains an over-arching question hanging over it posed at the beginning. You have to read the stories to get clues to answer it. You might see that one around the same time because it’s almost done. Look for it – Grailrunner’s Flash Fiction Puzzle Box.
Where can we learn more?
I would be thrilled to have anyone join me at some of my hangouts:
I curate and share a collection of gorgeous and inspiring science fiction-themed art. Some folks are using this for writing prompts. Others just like to see space ships.
I share science fiction and fantasy short stories, many of which will appear in the collection. If you can keep yours under 300 words, PG-rated, and interesting with no copyright issues, feel free to submit. We don’t pay for them; but we’re happy to share if they’re inspiring.
This is the website for Grailrunner Publishing, which is pretty much just me and the dogs. I’m posting articles on science fiction, pop culture, and experiments and learnings in the discipline of fiction. I’ve got a freebie book on 21st century storytelling here, which you might want to check out.