Thursday, May 05, 2011

Interview & Giveaway with Brian Rowe, author of Happy Birthday To Me

Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. That’s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who's never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place...

Why did you choose to write YA and can you tell us your inspiration for the story?

When I sat down to write Happy Birthday to Me, I wasn't thinking in terms of genre. When I realized the story would be told from the first person perspective of a high school student, however, I just naturally decided to position the novel for a YA audience. I've loved Young Adult novels all my life and feel blessed to be writing in the genre.

The inspiration for Happy Birthday to Me came to me at a restaurant in Los Angeles two weeks before my birthday in 2009. I told the friend I was with that my birthday was coming up, and the waitress just happened to overhear. At the end of the meal, she appeared with a giant slice of chocolate cake, with a lit candle in the center, and wished me a happy birthday. I was stunned, first, because it wasn't my birthday for a couple of weeks, and second, because she hadn't even double checked that my birthday was actually in the near future. The cake was marked free on the receipt, and suddenly, the idea for a story about a high school student who fakes his birthdays came to mind. In addition, I had the idea about a person who ages a year of his or her life with each passing day, and so I decided to combine the two in Happy Birthday to Me.

What do you think makes your story different or unique to others in the market?

I think what makes Happy Birthday to Me different from many other YA Paranormal Romance novels in the marketplace is that it's a story told from a male perspective, written by a male writer. But even more unique to Happy Birthday to Me is the central dilemma: what if a gorgeous, athletic seventeen-year-old started aging a whole year of his life every day, all the way into his 80's? It's a concept that's impossible to the human condition, yes, but something everyone can relate to. Who wants to celebrate another birthday? Who really wants to keep getting older? Not many. This book provides the reader an opportunity to put him or herself in the main character's shoes throughout his mind-boggling adventures.

Are you a plan-the-whole-book-out person or a write-as-it-comes person?

I fall somewhere in between. I think to sit down and outline every scene of the book before writing the first chapter sounds smart, but ultimately robs the writer of the joy in actually writing the book. One of the most enjoyable processes in writing is surprising yourself in that first draft, coming up with a new idea and a new concept on the spot and successfully weaving it into the storyline.If I just mapped out every single character, scene, and beat before I started, that special time writing the first draft would be diminished.

On the other hand, I would never just start hacking out a few chapters to a novel that I hadn't thought about in great detail beforehand. Generally I need to know the beginning and end of a story, as well as the wants and arcs of the main characters, before I begin. For instance, I just started writing the sequel to Happy Birthday to Me, and before I started, I knew the beginning, five crucial developments in the middle, and the ending. Did I know every single scene and every single plot development before sitting down to write Chapter One? No. But as long as enough is there to send my creative brain into maximum overdrive, I feel ready to begin the first draft.

How much research went into Happy Birthday To Me, especially since it appears to have a medical/disease thread?

I did plenty of research in Happy Birthday to Me, mostly with the disease the main character Cameron experiences, and also with Cameron's dad's profession as a plastic surgeon. I spent nearly a year, from 2007 to 2008, working as a Production Assistant on the E! Entertainment plastic surgery show Dr. 90210, so I had a lot of memories of my time there working with and listening to half a dozen L.A. plastic surgeons as they performed such gruesome surgeries as liposuction, tummy tucks, and butt augmentations. As for Cameron's disease, I read many articles related to the real disease Progeria, a rare condition found in children that ages them faster than usual.

Do you write full-time?

Right now I'm holding two jobs. The first, and most special to me, is my writing. I'm writing all sorts of fiction, from novels to short stories (my most recent short story New Year's Kiss just appeared in Wilde Oats Magazine). I'm working on two upcoming novels, and planning many more after that. I've become a writing fiend, and I really can't stop! In addition to my fiction writing, I also work as a film critic for Suite 101 Online Magazine. Most recently I reviewed Hanna, Insidious, and Scream 4. In addition to writing, I also own my own videography business in Reno, Nevada, where I film and edit all sorts of movies, from life stories, to weddings, to birthdays, anniversaries, you name it. It's a great gig that allows me to take part in my other love, making films.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging when you’re writing?

I'm sure most authors feel the same way, but I find the most challenging aspect to writing is tackling that blank page every day. I realized about a year and a half ago the key to writing a novel is giving yourself a schedule, one you can never, under any circumstance, deviate from. When I write the first draft of a novel, I write at least 2,000 words, usually 2,500, sometimes as many as 3,000 words, a day. I don't take Sunday off. I don't take holidays off. I don't skip a day because I feel like it. I've written four novels now, and I've never skipped a day when writing the first draft ever. I just feel it's important, especially considering the amount of ideas I'm wading through and trying to get down on paper. But that blank page is scary, for sure. Every single night when I sit down to write, it typically takes me an hour or so to sum up the courage to write the first sentence of that night's work. But once I settle into my groove and hear the voices of the characters inside my head, it's pure joy from there on in.

What’s next on the table for Brian Rowe?

I've got many books planned for the future. At this point I'm planning one adult novel, a YA trilogy, and a novella, every year, and I've planned out all my projects through 2013! This summer I have an adult horror novel coming out called Townhouse, followed this fall by Parts II and III in the Happy Birthday to Me trilogy. I'd love to go into plot details of Happy Birthday to Me's two sequels, but I'm staying tight-lipped for now. All I can say is that the first book is a warm-up of what's to come… Book III particularly is going to be epic!

What are you reading now?

I read all kinds of books, from brand new mainstream books to old classics. In the last few weeks I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Under the Dome, and The Hunger Games. I'm currently finishing up The Girl Who Played With Fire, and I eagerly await Catching Fire, which I just purchased on Amazon!

Describe yourself in three words

Whimsically Insane Iconoclast

If you could be dropped into any book as a character who would you be and why?

I would love to be dropped into the world of Robert McCammon's Boy's Life as myself and just walk around for a few days, tag along with Cory on his adventures, and meet all the wonderfully eccentric townsfolk. Boy's Life has been my favorite novel for twelve years now, and I encourage everyone out there to check it out.

Thanks to Brian for answering my questions. If you'd like to know more about the author and his work visit Brian Rowe's blog.

If you'd like to win a eBook copy of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME leave a comment regarding the interview. Don't forget to include your email address.

+2 post about this give-away on twitter or your blog & leave a link

Competition is International. Ends 19th May and the winner will be announced on my blog. Good luck everyone!


  1. I would love to read this book, it sounds like a really interesting story!

  2. The cover alone looks fun ;-) and yes, I'm the kind of girl who'll buy books just because she likes the cover *sigh*.

    As to the interview - I always love to find out what authors themselves are reading. And I think that reading a variety of different books/geres, old and new makes for great writing too.

    danaan at gmx dot at

  3. Please enter me, sounds like fun :)
    Thanks for making it international.


  4. A lot of research went with writing this book. It does sounds like a fun and interesting story.

    Thanx for this giveaway!

    +2 for link at blog. ;)

  5. Thanks for the great interview. I've just finished Happy Birthday To Me, and really enjoyed it. Great blog.

  6. I don't think I'd want my life to pass so fast!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com


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