Bryan “B.A.” Bellec
B.A. Bellec’s debut novel, Someone’s Story, won the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Literary Award for Young Adult Book of the Year. Someone’s Story is a young adult coming-of-age book and has seen good support over Instagram, YouTube, and Goodreads. One of the aspects that makes Bellec’s projects unique is he includes musicians in his novels and then he actually produces the songs as his book goes through the editing stages.
Bellec was born in Richmond, BC, and raised in Langley, BC, before settling in Winnipeg, MB. His first adventure was a career in Finance, where he spent 15 years developing his business skills. His highest achievement was the Certified Payroll Manager designation. He currently still consults with businesses on their systems and processes. Over that period of time, he also attended Lights Film School where he started to nurture his early creative abilities.
A self-starter always interested in research, he taught himself many of the aspects of storytelling through reading books, screenplays, and material online. Whenever he found an inspirational piece of art, he quickly went to the source to find the story behind the artist who created the work. It took many years after attending film school for him to finally combine his creative skills with his life experience and tell these stories he had been holding back. Some of his favorite creative people: Lukas Rossi, Justin Furstenfeld, Peter Jackson, Stephen Chbosky, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King.
During COVID-19, Bellec started a YouTube channel and was awarded a grant from The Canada Council for the Arts. He also pounded away on the keyboard to bring his second novel, Pulse, from his imagination to the page. He can’t wait to release that book along with the new songs that will go with it!
Hi B.A., Welcome to Reader Views! Tell us about your latest novel, Pulse.
Pulse all started way back when I was a teenager. I watched all kinds of sci-fi horror with my family and friends. Things like Alien, X-Files, and The Thing. In my late twenties, I attended film school and some of the early Pulse concepts started as scripts to short films. This Pulse project was too ambitious and I had to shelve it for a few years so I could grow the necessary skills to write the story the way I saw it in my mind. If you are into creepy creatures, the dangers of corporations, politics, and technology, and cinematic writing, then this one is for you!
Pulse takes a complete 180 from your award-winning debut novel, Someone’s Story. What motivated you to tackle a different genre and why did you write this story?
Although Someone’s Story was my debut, Pulse was my first idea. I would argue Someone’s Story was the 180 and Pulse is more in line with how I envision the feel of my next few novels. With Pulse in the back of my mind, I grew my author toolkit by taking the Someone’s Story path. I learned how to write characters, settings, callbacks, and twists. Then for Pulse, I turned the fun dial up so much the knob broke right off. There is no way I could bring the energy like I did here without Someone’s Story being my first canvas to work out my style.
If I were to get down deeper to the motivation. Pulse is for my dad. He is a huge sci-fi fan and I wanted to write a novel that would knock his socks off. This project is inspired by all that stuff we watched together years ago.
One of the many unique aspects of Pulse is that it’s written using some screenplay formatting elements. What is your ultimate goal for Pulse – do you have plans to pitch it for the big screen?
100% yes! My writing is more influenced by screenplays than novels for sure. This was an intentional choice that my editors and I discussed a few times. Ultimately, the goal for Pulse was to tell a story. Is it a novel? Maybe. Is it a story? Yes!
I attended an online filmmaking program and my dream project is to try and adapt Pulse. I am networking in the indie film community already but the full pitch won’t be until the sequel is closer to done. I know that getting a self-published book adapted is almost unheard of, but “the times they are a-changin” (Bob Dylan) and I just might pioneer a new trend. All I can do is try.
You are also using some powerful original graphics to promote Pulse. Tell us about the visual development of the creature. Did you work with an illustrator?
There is no way I could draw this stuff. I have been working with the same illustrator for over two years. Let’s roll back the clock. Check this link out:
That is a chapter from Someone’s Story with images similar to what a graphic novel (think storyboards or concept art for those of you into movies) might look like. Anyways, I had this idea to just do one chapter as a sample because it isn’t cheap or easy to make these, but doing one chapter helps my pitches down the road by showing proof of concept on the idea and style I have in mind. I started a search and connected with an artist named MidKnight Comics:
We made those eight cells together over a few months. I love them. As we were wrapping up the Someone’s Story project, I pitched my Pulse idea. I said I need someone to draw me the creature because this thing is the centerpiece of the new story. I shared some of the writing and handed over a couple dozen nuggets on what I needed out of the drawing. We designed this fun little fellow:
What is that?
A Pulser. I don’t want to give too much away as that “thing” is perhaps the most intriguing part of Pulse. You are just going to have to read the bookand see him in action to learn more.
I have been told by a few people I am very collaborative on my projects. I don’t even think of it like that. I just fall back to my business experience and one of the things I learned early in business was to outsource your weakest skills. Just because I can’t do something (like drawing) doesn’t mean it is impossible. The story, the music, the art. It’s all one giant project. The hard work for me is communicating the vision in my mind to the right person. Once I have the ball rolling there, I step back, and I let the professionals do their thing. I become a fan, just like you. I pick my collaborators for a reason…I believe in them!
Imagine being me. The writer. I have this raw manuscript and I am working with a graphic novel artist to draw a critical piece months before anyone has even seen a word of the book. I have no idea if the artist will capture the idea as I have it in my mind. When that creature drawing popped into my inbox, I jumped out of my chair with joy. It’s so good and I can point to the moment in Chapter 16 that spawned this drawing. What is the old saying?
“A picture is worth a thousand words”
There is a considerable cast of amazing characters involved, treating readers to many different viewpoints. Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about the main players and their roles in Pulse?
I have all kinds of cool technology and a creepy creature straight out of Hollywood. None of that matters without strong characters. The team behind this book worked tirelessly for months to bring the number of characters down. In Pulse, we bounce around into tons of different POVs, but we did it intentionally to keep that TV feel and let the reader experience so many unique moments that would not be possible if handcuffed by having only two or three viewpoints.
The novel breaks into four main plotlines:
1 – A Detective
We catch the last moments of her previous case and then she stumbles into our main storyline here. She had a partner and some techie friends. This storyline is the original idea for Pulse. The stuff in the mall is very similar to a film school screenplay I drafted over 5 years ago.
2 – A Regular Family
I wanted to have a diverse set of characters so bringing in the middle class and children was a must. We get some family drama and this group helps me ground the story against some of my other extreme characters.
3 – An Eco-activism Group
This is split into two main points of view. We have the leader pulling all the strings and trying to take down the big corporation causing all the problems from her secret headquarters located in a zoo. Then we have her protégé who actually attends the festival to see their plan through and interact with that team of people. I had to have boots on the ground for the festival to make it big! Many of my storylines start together and then split as the festival approaches.
4 – The Corporate Group (Pulse is a company name)
This involves an exiled former owner and the ridiculously wealthy father and son still in control of the company. I use this group to show the greed taking over corporate America. I also pepper in this ominous villain and his small group that serves as true villains as many of my characters have duality as to whether they are good or bad.
This may seem like a ton going on, but once you get through the first part (Pulse is told in parts almost like episodes of a TV show) and meet almost everyone, things start to pick up. Just trust my award-winning pedigree to take you on a journey unlike anything you have experienced before.
Politics, climate crisis, technology, pandemics, greed, corruption. Any one of these elements could drive a terrifying dystopian sci-fi horror, but in true B.A. Bellec style, you hit full force with all the above. How do the fictional catastrophes in Pulse compare to potential real-world tragedy?
I tried with everything I had to rub a crystal ball and predict what the future would look like. I never wanted to go too far. We ended up only twenty years from now. This is about the gap between SARS and COVID-19. I felt twenty years was enough time for the world to recover and forget about COVID a little. A big piece of my horror comes from how realistic my themes feel. Health and global warming are huge problems that can’t be swept under the rug. We need to address why these disasters are happening. I point a not-so-subtle finger at corporate America and backdoor politics. I sure hope nothing like what I dreamed up ever happens…
There is a certain darkness that shrouds your novels, yet you seem like the antithesis of what you produce. What takes you to the dark side when you’re writing?
Much like many of my characters, there is a duality to me for sure. The people that are in my personal life know me as a hardworking guy with an infectious drive that keeps to himself until he has an idea to show you. This author side is where I scream into the night at the top of my lungs with everything I have. I embrace the darkness and use it as fuel. Knowledge is the key to understanding. Once you educate yourself on some of the darkest things in modern society, they have less power over you.
Before I was a writer I had no confidence and I was always nervous. My keyboard has been the best medicine I ever found to mildly temper my anxiety. I am so in my element when I have my headphones on and I am listening to classical music while strange ideas flow from my mind onto a page.
How does music come into play in your novels?
I am a huge music fan. Just adore it. I don’t have instrumental or singing skills, but I do have a vision and a sound in mind when I work on a project. I use my writing and communication to produce the bones of the idea and then I bring on super-talented people to brainstorm and grow my early concepts.
The whole reason music is a part of my platform is twofold. It makes me stand out against other authors, and it will make my movie pitch easier one day, as I have books to translate to the screenplays and songs to use for sound engineering.
In fact, I wrote an article just about the production of the music here: Dream Big and Work Hard I highly recommend the read!
Have you always wanted to be an author? Was there a particular incident that ultimately gave you the push you needed to move forward?
No. I wanted to be a movie director. When I dipped my toes into film school, I was just too socially awkward and anxious to run a crew. I let the dream go and picked up writing a few years later as a hobby.
In a way, my film school dream already did come true. By finding writing, I was able to make the movies I wanted to film come to life in a different medium. When it comes down to it, the reason I have two published novels is largely one person. I want to tell you a quick story. It’s about Sheila Harris…
Who is she? On paper, one of my editors. In reality. She is a dear friend.
A few years ago I was plugging away with my 75% finished draft of Someone’s Story and working in business administration. She came on as a consultant for a project I was working on. We worked together for months and months. We got to know each other outside the office. I never once mentioned I wanted to write. I just impressed her with hard work and being a total weirdo. I found out she liked to read and one day I just took a shot and handed her my rough manuscript. She helped me finish Someone’s Story. Not long after that, I invited her to lunch (we were both still working at that same job) and I pitched her Pulse with a rough outline of a few stories and a spreadsheet that had ten tabs. She told me to stop what I was doing. She saw the business side of me and the creative side of me. She was one of the first to see both. I didn’t know which path to take. I was so scared. To give up a stable career for a dream takes a leap of faith most can’t even imagine. Thank you, Sheila!
How did your writing/publishing experience with Pulse differ from your experience with your debut novel, Someone’s Story?
Well, my marketing is 1000% better. When I released my first novel in April 2020, I had no idea how to market myself. I didn’t even have a release event. It just went live. I slowly acquired social media skills and followers. I started getting #bookstagram traction in the summer of 2020 when my sister-in-law came over and helped teach me social media. She laid the foundation for the platform while I was observing her ways and crafting the first draft of Pulse.
The big event was when Someone’s Story won your award, the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Award for Young Adult Book of the Year. That brought a new feel and energy to the platform. We put on a massive celebration where I formalized the award across my various marketing channels and we revealed the Pulse cover which is so good (that cover is a story in and of itself). Ever since that week, it has been a whirlwind of preparation for the Pulse release date (December 1). I am very pleased with what I have planned.
Given what you have learned from your personal experience, what one or two things are, in your opinion, critical for the new or aspiring author to know?
Set aside the time. Follow your heart. I started writing on weekends and nights outside my 9 to 5 job. After a few years, I got skilled enough to start giving up some of my corporate work so I could focus on writing and marketing 30 to 50 hours per week. It all started with me taking the occasional Friday or Saturday to start writing Someone’s Story. If you don’t start, you will never finish.
Also, get on social media. Writing is just one of the skills needed to craft a book. Learning social media and marketing is what will get you the exposure to let your voice be heard. No one is going to find you if you are hiding. Start supporting other indie authors so when your moment comes, dozens, if not hundreds of people are standing by your side. Expecting someone to just stumble into your work is the wrong attitude. Go find your online community and start making friends!
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