Mark R. Brand - Life After Sleep Tour 2012

Today, I have the honor of hosting Mark R. Brand and his rowdy traveling blog tour for his novel, Life After Sleep, published by CCLaP. I had never really been a big fan of science fiction until I had the privilege of meeting, and becoming friends with, Mark R. Brand. He introduced me to the world of speculative fiction; a world where future possibilities are very near reality, a place where ideas from the future do not require a giant leap of faith. Brand's Life After Sleep inhabits this world. The novel maintains mainstream literary credibility while cultivating a realistic science fiction plot. I recently had the opportunity to send Mark some questions about Life After Sleep:

JF – As a writer, I'm always interested in how other writers work. Can you tell me a little about your writing process for this novel.

MRB - This novel actually began as a short story; just the Dr. Frost segment written in first-person perspective with a weirder, darker tone and a different sequence of events as he slowly goes insane from sleep deprivation. When I floated the idea to Jason Pettus at CCLaP about expanding it into a longer work with more characters I initially added Lila and Max and intended for the finished product to be shorter and more like a novella than a novel (hence it being inconsistently referred to as both a novel and novella). During the revision process, though, it became clear that those three characters and the tangential ways they interact with each other through most of the story weren't going to be enough. Something was still missing, and that something turned out to be a fourth character named Jeremy and his extensive conversations with Dr. Suri, another key but mostly-unexplored character. Once these two pieces fit into place, the story started to reach for something bigger and more interesting we felt, even though in its final form it's really closer in length and scope to a novel. In any case, the entire process was one of building and layering until I got it right, and that was something new for me creatively. Ironically, though he was added last and mostly as a way to connect and strengthen the rest of the book, the character my readers seemed to like the most and gave me the most positive feedback about was Jeremy.

JF - Is there actually more to Life After Sleep that the reader hasn't seen? If so, how much more?

MRB - In terms of subtext and hidden easter-egg type material, there are several characters in this book named after my real-life friends, and a number of characters and events are amalgamations of various people I know or things I've experienced, particularly in the medical field. An example might be the scene where Dr. Frost's nurse has to barter clinic supplies with nurses in other wings of the office to get what she needs to treat her patients. I actually worked in an office once where the supply guy was under the thumb of a particularly sociopathic office manager whose idea of cost cutting was to never have enough of things like needles and gauze on hand at any one time. There was no way to deal with this other than an insane little micro-economy where when supplies would come in, the nurses (I was a medical assistant, which isn't a licensed nurse, but serves a very similar purpose) would hoard and then barter supplies to get what we needed. You need paper exam shorts? Give me some of your Kenalog. It was exactly the sort of crazy bullshit that makes the TV show "Nurse Jackie" so great, except it was real, and at times even wilder and less plausible than what ended up in the fictionalized version.

JF - Have you ever thought of writing a prequel? 

MRB - I think that by and large the story as I intended it is all here on the page. Several reviewers mentioned the brevity of the book, and that they wished it was longer, but the length of it was partly intentional as well. I think eBooks are likely to move in the direction of shorter, punchier work simply due to the fact that people's eyes can't handle digital screens for 500 pages as well as they can regular paper, and since my book was one of the first paper editions that CCLaP came out, it wasn't clear when I was writing it if it ever would have a print version. I liked the idea of keeping it a comfortable, entertaining book that didn't overtax my hypothetical readers. Now that it's done, though, and I re-read it, it feels complete to me and the length consideration is more of a happy coincidence. 

JF - Thanks for stopping by Mark. Check out Life After Sleep.

Mark R. Brand is a sci-fi author and an editor at Silverthought Press. His novels include Life After Sleep and The Damnation of Memory.