Author Brain Fence of Whiting, speaks to an audience about his new science-fiction/fantasty book “Librarian.”Fence also talked about the process of self-publishing and the changing role of women in novels and other media during his presentation on Jan. 28 at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library.
Whiting resident Brian Fence spent more than a year writing his first novel and along the way learned a lot about how to navigate through the publishing industry. He learned enough to make sure his science-fiction/fantasy book “Librarian” was printed and reached its audience.
He spoke to readers on Jan. 28, at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library, who wanted to learn more about the writing process, self-publishing and what inspired him to create a world that is part science fiction, part fantasy and part steampunk.
“I’ve lived in Japan and went to Oxford University. I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I’d like to think of myself as a global person. I am a sociologist and I love to study other cultures,’’ Fence said.
That love of different cultures and places along with his appreciation diverse people led him to write his first novel and to create a world of altered technology and magic.
The writer spoke of his admiration of author Diana Wynne Jones who was one of Britain’s top fantasy and science fiction writers. She produced over 30 books for children and adults, winning awards around the world. She died in March 2011.
“She influenced my style. I was very sad to learn she had died,’’ Fence said. Prior to this, Fence had written poetry and also wrote some fan stories based on his interest of TV shows like “Xena”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek.”
Fence said he enjoys creating strong believable female characters such as Lena who is the lead character in “Librarian.’’
“She is a librarian and she is a reluctant hero. This book definitely features magic and it is set in a world that is a bit steampunk.’’ He explained that steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by the Victorian era of the late 1800s.
“More aspects of science fiction will come out in the next book but I’m not going to talk about that as it is a spoiler,’’ Fence said with a grin.
He noted that many writers put a bit of themselves into their lead characters. He is currently taking ballroom dancing, enjoys baths and wine which are traits that have been passed along to some of his characters.
“I wanted her (Lena) to have some emotional baggage,’’ Fence said. “I wanted her to be a real person.’’
Fence noted some of the strong yet vulnerable characters that he watched growing up such as Xena, Buffy and Captain Kathryn Janeway the lead character on Star Trek: Voyager.
He began his quest to be published through the normal route. “That route involves submitting your manuscript to one of the major publishing houses and waiting for at least six months, if you are lucky, to hear back from them,’’ Fence said.
The other route was to have a literary agent pitch his trilogy plan to a publisher.
He later decided to abandon that approach and publish it himself. While he is pleased to have full control over his intellectual property, a benefit of self-publishing, a lot of work was involved.
“It was a nightmare. There are a lot of things that the publishing house does that now you have to do. I was fortunate to have a friend who is a graphic artist at Disney do my cover and I got her to do my second cover,’’ Fence said.
Fence said that with advent of the Internet, “self-publishing doesn’t have that same vanity stigma where you could publish your own work as long as you had the money to do it. People looked down on it at the time.’’
“Now a lot of fan fiction that was once done through fanzines (amateur publications) is done online. Anyone can be a writer and content is cheaper to get,’’ Fence said.
Fence noted that the popular book “Fifty Shades of Gray” began as fan fiction for the “Twilight” series concerning a woman who falls in love with a vampire. “They removed anything that would smack of Twilight and made it a separate story changing the names. That is how it got started,’’ he said.
“Librarian” received a number of good reviews and several ratings on Goodreads, a social reading website that put his novel above four stars. Kirkus Reviews called it “a promising first chapter.”
Those reviews plus a high profile online and twitter presence have benefited him in the post-creative process. His first public appearance after publishing “Librarian” was a book signing last year at the Barnes & Noble in Brick.
Fence who is in his early 30s said he enjoys speaking to people about writing and the process involved in self-publishing. He and several friends and fellow writers have launched an online literary magazine.
His parents were in the audience during his visit to OCL. They are proud of his accomplishments and support his efforts to build a career in writing.
“It is something I have wanted to do since I was a little boy,’’ Fence said. “I may have ulcers now and I get no sleep but I’m happy the book got out.’’
“I think writers write because they feel they have something to say,’’ Fence said.
In that case, Fence certainly has more to say. He is currently working on “Apprentice,” the sequel to “Librarian’’ which is due to be released this summer.
“Librarian” is available at the Ocean County Library and online via Barnes and Noble and Amazon, in paperback, hardback and e-book. HUZZAH! The audiobook version of Librarian is live. Narrated by Anisha Dadia, it can be purchased via Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.