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Monday, March 22, 2021

T.A. Bruno interview


T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel.

IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS BY T. A. BRUNO: Goodreads Amazon Barnes&Noble

SERIES: The Song of Kamaria (#1)

GENRE: Sci-Fi, Adventure

PAGE COUNT: 502 (Print Length)

RELEASE: October 4, 2020


Thank you for joining us, T.A., and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for having me! I’m a long-time reader, with a few false starts at writing throughout my life before finally getting In the Orbit of Sirens all the way to the finish line. At home, I’m a husband and a double-duty dad of two boys (both toddlers now—fun!). I work in the film industry as a day job.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

Currently, I’m a layout artist for DreamWorks animation, but for the majority of my career, I’ve been called a previsualization artist. Previz/Layout are sort of the same thing. We handle the big-budget VFX scenes for movies, making them entirely in 3D first with real camera data. We work closely with the director. After they get it in a spot they like, they bring it to set and have a lot of the “figuring out” finished before the real cameras start rolling. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some excellent directors on some big-name films. It has lent itself to my writing, learning storytelling techniques from directors and using action to forward plot.

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

My favorite current writers are Adrian Tchaikovsky for Children of Time, Micaiah Johnson for The Space Between Worlds, and Amal El-Mohtar and Mac Gladstone for This is How You Lose the Time War. For major influences for my writing and my all-time favorite classic writers, I look to Vernor Vinge, Dan Simmons, and Ray Bradbury.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer?

I’ve had a roundabout journey into writing. I always did well in my English and Writing classes in school, but it wasn’t my focus. I wanted to make movies, so I majored in computer animation and film in college. During that time, I made plenty of little films with my friends and drew a few graphic novels, all non-published stuff. Initially, I was developing In the Orbit of Sirens into a short animated film. When it became apparent that my story was too big for five minutes, I got serious about writing a novel. I did a lot of self-research and took Neil Gaiman’s masterclass (highly recommended!) and just did everything I could to learn about writing and storytelling. I used the knowledge I’ve gained on the job from director insight and molded it into my story. In the Orbit of Sirens is a culmination of every part of myself stuffed into one adventure.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Story-driven action scenes in epic locations are my strong areas. I keep the pace moving forward. I aim for fun and exciting, but with just a dash of horror and violence.

How would you describe the plot of In The Orbit of Sirens if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

The last fragments of the human race are forced to adapt to a dangerous new world or face extinction.

What was your initial inspiration for In The Orbit of Sirens? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

It all started when I was in third grade. I wrote a little comic book serial called Space Explorers. It featured my friends and me going on adventures to different planets with some blatant copyright infringements—the kind a 3rd grader can get away with innocently enough. Although not much has remained from that old comic, it was still the catalyst to what would eventually evolve into In the Orbit of Sirens. As far as serious work on the final product novel, it has been about 6 years of planning, writing, rewriting, editing, re-editing, and refining.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Exciting, thrilling, and fresh.

How did you come up with the title?

I wanted a title that accomplished a few things; it had to be unique, place the reader into a sci-fi right away, and mention something significant in the novel. In the Orbit of Sirens puts a reader right near Kamaria without even opening the book. It also gave me a theme to work with for the next two novels in the series (currently haven’t revealed the names!)

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

Humanity flees the Sol-System in desperation and ends up on a dangerous new world. They cross paths with these mysterious beings called Sirens, and suddenly extinction becomes a real possibility again.

How many books have you planned for the series?

I am currently in the editing phase of book two and deep into writing book three. I plan for this to be a trilogy, but I keep it open enough to add one-off novels to the world if I find the right story.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to In The Orbit of Sirens’s protagonists and antagonists?

We have two main characters, at first separated by time and space.

Starship mechanic, Denton Castus, is caught in the destructive path of a devastating war. He abandons his home and seeks refuge on a distant planet. However, this new safe haven has undiscovered threats of its own.

Eliana Veston, a scout preparing the planet for the refugees, struggles with a deadly pandemic that is killing off colonists. The hunt for a cure unleashes a new threat to humanity—the Sirens—mysterious beings with incredible powers and a deep hatred for invaders.

How did you select the names of your characters?

I just kept refining their names for my main characters until I really liked the way they sounded. For side characters, there were a lot of times that I grabbed names of people I know. I don’t make the character into that person, but I give them a nod by using their name. Some of the names I’ve chosen are actually to memorialize people that have passed away in my life. My 3rd-grade teacher, Mrs. Tasker, has one of Kamaria’s two moons named after her. I care deeply and personally for every character in the book this way.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

Somewhat. I try to lean into sci-fi, but there are fantastical elements in the book (warning for those looking for hard sci-fi!). Most of the “magic” stems off of the Sirens themselves. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but essentially each of the Sirens has a singular power. These powers can be mixed and matched through tethering, which creates a complex web of abilities with the right combinations.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of In The Orbit of Sirens?

Artist Daniel Schmelling created an excellent cover. I’m so proud of his work, and I’m bringing him back for the sequels. For In the Orbit of Sirens, I wanted to place the reader in a location and set the tone right off the bat. The scene is right outside the colony in its early stages. Eliana and a few scouts are returning from another failed search for the cure to lung-lock. I wanted readers to know that most of this book takes place on an alien world, not in space. The humans are small on the cover because they have been widdled down to only about 30,000 survivors. The atmosphere is dreary, a little mysterious yet has a few familiarities. If you follow the art to the back cover, it gets darker, foreboding. The Siren is lurking in the shadow if you look closely, observing the invaders. It also feels big and epic, with mountains scaling up to the top of the art. I love what Daniel made.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who’ll enjoy it?

Anyone looking for something between Star Wars and Star Trek. Fantastical sci-fi elements mixed with characters who’d rather think than shoot.

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

I’m hoping people love my aliens. I wanted to make a new monster for people to fear and love. Nhymn is not like anything I’d seen before, and we explore her deeply in this book. She’s my own little nightmare to share with the world, and I hope readers find her enjoyable. Kamaria is my baby as well. I want people to feel like they are there and yearn to return when they finish book one. The world evolves throughout the story, and I hope it's entertaining to watch it grow.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“We don’t know what the auk’nai have planned for us when we reach their city. I want you to be careful, and remember, they can read your intentions. You can’t lie to an auk’nai, not even a little.”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

I’m hoping to publish book two by mid to end in 2021 and book three sometime early to mid 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you for having me! To the readers, I hope you enjoy your escape to Kamaria. I’m honored to be on your shelf or in your e-reader. It’s a dream come true to bring people into the world I’ve created, and I will do my best to make every moment there worth it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour. Here's the tour's full schedule.


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