Interview with Brian Reindel
Brian talks about writing fiction, publishing with KDP, and Substack communities
This week I’m interviewing Brian Reindel, creator and writer of, a Substack featuring science fiction and fantasy short stories. Brian is a journalism graduate and a software architect by trade.
I was first introduced to Brian via his contributions to the Fictionistas Substack, and I’ve quickly become a fan of his work. His weekly short stories are beautifully-crafted, well-written, and digestible. I’m excited to ask him a few questions regarding his approach to writing on Substack and his ambitions.
Welcome, Brian. Thanks for being open to doing an interview for The Storyletter. Can you hark back to a particular time in your life when you realized you had an inkling to write fiction? How did that manifest over time into what you're doing today?
Writing was the very first activity that I enjoyed as a child, and in equal measure with art. Creativity, in general, has always been a major component of my DNA. When I was in grade school, probably third or fourth grade, I entered a few exhibitions for local schools that involved ribbon judging. I wrote some cheesy poetry and drew some original artwork, both receiving the esteemed blue ribbon. Esteemed for a fourth grader that is. I loved any assignment that involved creativity, and took creative writing and art classes throughout high school and college. I never wanted to be a journalist, but the idea of becoming a novelist or artist meant starving for a time, and I liked to eat. Journalism, I presumed, would be sustainable while I figured out where to focus. That path diverged during the dot-com boom, and as an enterprising individual, I taught myself how to code. Programming, and especially software architecture, is a surprisingly creative activity. However, my real passion is still writing. After settling into family life, and as my kids got older, I took it back up, and in 2022, I wrote like a mad man… maybe, I’m just a little bit mad, and I wrote as a way to process that madness.
I read that you dabbled in art. Can you explain that journey and how it may have fed into your storytelling creativity? Do you still practice your artwork on the side?
I talk about that journey a little on Fictionistas, at the end of my piece titled Embrace the Writing Process. The essence of that is that I wanted to combine writing and art, and figured creating a comic book would be the best medium. I spent more than five years honing my craft, only to realize it didn’t bring me the level of satisfaction I had anticipated. I had to let that dream go, and now art is much more of an exploration, an outlet of sorts when I need a break from writing or work. I can flush out an idea that feeds back into a story, but it’s rough, and I would never release it out into the wild. However, the time I spent practicing gave me the confidence to create artwork when I would otherwise need to pay somebody. For my upcoming short story collection, I designed the cover and typeset the manuscript myself.
What brought you to Substack? Can you explain why you view Substack differently than any other platform?
Two things brought me to Substack. Hamish McKenzie’s support for free speech through a privately-owned tech platform, and the potential for subscription payments. Oddly enough, that’s not what keeps me around. I’m not saying anything controversial, and I decided after a short experiment to ditch the paid option. I stay because Substack is primarily about communities, fostered and tended to by writers of all sorts. Anyone can argue it’s just a blog, but communities like Fictionistas tell me there’s something more below the surface. It’s simple, easy to use, and I can focus on the writing above all else.
Fictionistas has been a great vector of confluence for many fiction writers here on Substack. What are your thoughts on the indie writing community as a whole, as well as the communities forming here on Substack?
The indie fiction community on Substack is incredibly engaging, way more so than on social media. I’m very thankful that Jackie Dana and Geoffrey Golden recognized that early on, and started Fictionistas to build on the momentum. Even those writers that don’t belong to Fictionistas are building small communities of dedicated readers with their unique voices. The big guns, like George Saunders and Chuck Palahniuk, demonstrate the real potential — that you can belong to a large group of focused writers and their community of readers/writers. Social media, especially Twitter, can’t do that because it amplifies voices that are not often focused exclusively on a given subject — that’s not their brand. I spent a few months on Twitter as an experiment, and it felt like that scene in Minority Report where people’s eyeballs are scanned, and they’re constantly inundated with “personalized” advertisements… “Hey, John Anderton, I know a great historical, sci-fi, indie romance book that you might like!”
From what I’ve read of your work, you enjoy writing short, speculative fiction. Do you have any particular influences? What compels you to write short fiction rather than longer works? Do you intend to write full-length novels in the future?
I’m probably in the minority as I don’t have any tried-and-true influences. When I was in college, I read a lot of horror, but I’ve seen enough darkness in the real world. I don’t need it in the fictional world anymore. Anything that grabs my interest, by any author, especially new authors on the cusp of mainstream is what I enjoy. A speculative, flash fiction outlet that I’ve really come to appreciate lately is Factor Four Magazine. Their stories are under 1,000 words, hit you hard and fast, and have no pretense. I love that kind of writing. As for me, I intend on writing a novella or novel, hopefully this year. I have enough time for weekly pieces on Substack, and one or two submissions per month to other outlets. If I decide to write a novel, then I can’t submit elsewhere, and that would be a real bummer. We’ll see which way the winds blow.
You have a short story collection called “The Stars Will Fall”. What inspired this collection, and what can readers expect from the stories found in it? Are there any unreleased stories exclusive to the book?
First and foremost, readers can expect an escape. Relax, read a short story in a single sitting, and if only for a moment, it will put you in a different head space. Of the 34 stories, a total of 5 have not been published on Substack, and are exclusive to the book. They will never be published elsewhere. The rest of the stories are available on Substack, but everything in the book has gone through rewrites and edits. It’s unlikely most of my new readers have read them all anyhow, so much of it will be fresh. They are all speculative, which means a mix of fantasy and science fiction, an eclectic mix of heavier topics and a few light-hearted for good measure. A couple are also folk tales, which allowed me to tell the kinds of stories read to me as a child that tackle topics of morality.
When considering the avenue to take for publishing your collection, you went with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I’ve been going back and forth between KDP and IngramSpark. Did you have a conscious driver that sent you down the path of KDP over other options? What has your experience been publishing your book?
I wanted the process to be as hands-off as possible, and as cheap as possible. Being my first book, I also wanted to focus solely on quality, and forget about reach. KDP has enough of a reach to scratch that itch, and their tools were simple and efficient. There’s nothing that prevents a self-published author from doing both. Neither system negates the other and it’s more about how to manage the process. If you really want to get into libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores, then start with IngramSpark. A fair warning though, IngramSpark provides you with the opportunity and avenue, but there’s still no guarantee. In both cases you will need to approach those institutions directly and petition for your book. In the case of libraries you are at the mercy of the head librarian or identified purchaser. This is one thing that traditional publishers do for you.
The most frustrating part of this whole experience has been formatting and typesetting the manuscript. If you have a license for Word, great, you’re all set, but most of us don’t want to pay that astronomical cost. There is Atticus, Vellum and Scrivener, but those all cost money as well. I chose LibreOffice, which is the largest free, open source competitor to Microsoft Office. It did everything I needed it to, but there was a steep learning curve. It’s designed by engineers, and the UI leaves much to be desired.
I’d love to know the future of Future Thief. Are there any ambitious goals that you’d like to achieve? What does full-time writer Brian Reindel look like in terms of Substack and story production? What steps are you taking to get there?
Like many aspiring writers, I already have a full-time job. Quitting that job to write at this stage in life, with one of my kids going to college in a few years, and me wanting to reach retirement at a reasonable age, does not make sense. I turned on Substack paid for a couple months, then realized I personally made the wrong choice. If people want to support me, then sharing my writing with others, and buying my books are the best way. I want to tell quality stories that people remember, and that brings them joy. To do that I need to write consistently, seek out feedback and interact with more people. There’s power in the written word — power to change people’s lives, and that’s how I see Future Thief. It will continue to be my home for writing, and anyone who subscribes will advance with me through each stage of growth, regardless of their financial commitment.
Do you have any advice for early or independent writers?
You can take classes (I did), go to workshops (I did), read what the masters have to say about writing (I did), but if you’re really serious about becoming a writer then none of that matters. The best way to become a master storyteller is to read, write a lot, and get honest, well-formulated critical feedback from other writers and regular readers, and then apply what you’ve learned. Especially, if those writers are further along in their writing careers. If you can’t sit down and “take a beating” without simply listening and digesting, then you’ll never improve. In time, you’ll find that the criticisms are accompanied with some praise or encouragement, and after more time passes, you may even pass along what you’ve learned.
How do you overcome the fear of public scrutiny?
Humility is the enemy of scrutiny. If someone tells me they hated one of my stories, that I’m a terrible writer, and I should give up on the craft, there’s only two ways to respond. I can get angry, defensive, ban them, insult them back, etc., and that’s one approach. Or, the more appropriate response is to find any nugget of truth in what they said and keep writing. Not to prove them wrong, but to prove it’s always been about learning how to tell good stories and putting them out into the world. Some people aren’t going to like what I write, and if I ever get popular enough, to the point of leaving negative reviews or comments. There’s no stopping that train from rolling down the tracks, but I’m certainly not going to stand right in front of it.
Thank you so much, Brian! If you’re interested in Brian’s new book, The Stars Will Fall, consider following the link below to purchase your copy today:
That’s the end of our interview with Brian Reindel. We hope you enjoyed it. Please like and share this with friends and family. Join us in the comments for any questions or interests you may have. Thanks for reading. ~ WM
Thanks so much for the interview, and the great questions, Winston! I really enjoyed putting down my thoughts and thinking through some of my journey. I hope your readers get a lot out of it, and I'm open to any questions your readers have as well.
Very nice interview.