C. Bryan Brown, thank you for doing an interview. Firstly, take us through your bibliography. How did Necromancer start and what led you in the direction of Vampires for They Are Among Us?
Hey, Stu, thanks for having me!
Necromancer started, technically, many years ago when I was in high school. I used to play AD&D (2nd Edition, for all you new-fangled d20 people) with my brother, cousin, and grandmother. Necromancer is, in a lot of ways, an homage to that era of my life and to my grandmother. She always played a wizard, fancying herself a female version of Gandalf. But we told stories together, the four of us, and those stories were about warriors and wizards and orcs and trolls and all their lovers and I ported all that into the modern time, changed it to be as realistic as I could possibly make magic, and went from there. As a bonus answer, the original story draft for Necromancer had Bobby as the main character, not Torrin.
They Are Among Us is a lot simpler; I love classic monsters. Vampires and werewolves are my two favorites. I have a werewolf book in me, I’m just not ready to write it yet. And for most horror fans, bloody, killer vampires aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be. The lion’s share of vampire fiction falls into the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres. So that coupled with the fact that I had a story and world building idea in my head, I ran with it.
Have you always been a fan of horror? In different media, how does horror change? What are the differences between horror film and horror literature?
I suppose so, yes. I don’t remember ever not being around horror. My mother was a big, big fan of the gore movies in the 80s. As a matter of fact, she still loves her gore, but also pretty much any horror movie in general she’d watch. She was also an avid reader, or so she says. I only ever remember seeing her with Stephen King books. One true fact… when I was 10 or 11, my mother dragged me out of bed to watch the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” because it scared her and she didn’t want to watch alone. Been hooked since, really.
I think horror changes to suit the media it’s presented in. To your question about the differences between horror film and horror literature, specifically, film is bringing horror to life and, in most cases, leaving very little to the imagination anymore. Classic example – Kubrick’s “The Shining” didn’t feature the topiary animals at the end because the FX at the time sucked and it didn’t look real. They can do that now (and have), so if it can be written, it can pretty much be filmed, and for me, once you take it out of the reader’s imagination and put a face on it, it loses power. There are some films that have come out recently that don’t show the horrors and rely more on the watcher’s imagination and these are good. A wonderful example is the film “The Babadook.” The ending has at least two interpretations that I’ve heard.
And that’s what makes horror literature so much more in my opinion. The ability to just sketch a picture or a scene and let the reader do the work, let them scare themselves. Their imagination produces monsters much scarier than any FX company can and so you’re able to delve into psychology of your themes with a soft, deft touch. There’s no need to over describe every detail because the reader is doing it for you. You can tell them a monster has a three inch horn, but they’re going to see a six or seven inches of darkened ivory waiting to impale them when the turn the next page.
When did you begin writing? What was the impetus that made you finally start putting words on a page with a specific goal?
I guess I started around 14 or 15, though it wasn’t serious. My sister pissed me off and I filled notebooks with a story about monsters killing The New Kids on the Block.
I kept writing after that, though most of it was for AD&D and online gaming stories back when dial-up was still cool. I was one of those CompuServe and AOL kids in the late 80s. It was just a whole lot of fun, but in my early 20s (which was the mid 90s), the gaming scene changed and the collaborative writing kind of fell away. People got prickly and way to attached to their characters, so stories were then written by one person for their character. Sometimes you’d add in another person or two, but mostly not. You could still game in chat rooms and things like that, but the forum boards, where the real writing was done, became a solo act. A few years later, I quit gaming online, and starting writing my first real stories.
In 2001 and 2002, I got my first publications, but then in late 2002, my wife had our first son and I stopped writing until he made it into kindergarten in 2008. I started writing again and then sold my next story a couple years later in 2010 to Post Mortem Press.
What’s next for your writing? Is there a specific direction you want your work to take?
What’s next is to continue the vampire trilogy and finish it, plus continue to work on some other things I have on the stove that involve dark urban fantasy and more straight-line fantasy.
I’ll have some audio stories coming soon, which I’m really excited about, and I can’t say much more than that yet.
And no, I don’t have a specific direction for my work. I’m not trying to point my career or my style in any specific direction other than producing better words than I did the last time I sat down to write them. As long as each book is better than the last, and readers are entertained and maybe enlightened a little bit, I think I’ve succeeded.
Which writers do you aspire to be like, if any? Which writers give you the best inspiration?
I want to be like the working writers, the ones who get to do this full time. And by that I’m not talking the level of fame held by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or JK Rowling (though, seriously, I wouldn’t say no to it), but if I could replace my corporate salary with writing income, I’d be golden. And since I don’t really know the salaries of my writing peers, I can’t give any definite names.
The writers that give me the best inspiration are my direct peers. You, Violet Patterson, Tim McWhorter, Brad Carter, and all of us writing in the small press arena. I think it’s a great place to be, and I think we’re writing in a critical time, not only in the industry, but also in the world. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, doing this with anyone else (except maybe Stephen King, you know…) but who I’m doing it with. And that is inspiration enough to keep writing, keep getting better, and to forge forward.
If Necromancer could be made into a horror movie, who would you want to direct it and why? Who would be cast as the main characters?
Oh man, that’s a hard question to answer. Necromancer is definitely dark, and while it has its horrific moments, I’m not sure I’d qualify it as a horror novel. That said, I’ve been super impressed with Antoine Fuqua’s movies over the years, and specifically, handling Torrin’s characterization would be paramount. But he did a hell of a job with Training Day.
As far as casting goes, that’s a little simpler for me. I’d give the role of Torrin to Kevin McKidd, Bobby would be played by Bradley Cooper, and I’d totally have Kevin Spacey do David Hale. I used to think Warwick Davis would be good for the Salamander, but after Game of Thrones, I’m down for Peter Dinklage. Mercury is a little younger, just under 30, and I could see Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulling him off. I suppose that leaves Mildred and Kara… Kathy Bates and Kate Winslet, respectively.
What makes horror so appealing to horror fans? Why do we like to be scared?
I think in the context of movies and literature, horror makes us feel alive, yet in the back of our heads, we know we’re safe. Nothing bad is going to happen to us, it’s going to happen to the characters in the book or on the television. Hell, I love to watch people getting killed in the movies or write about it in my books, and there’s a great sense of excitement when a movie or book gets my heart pumping, and my ears attuned to the slightest noise in my dark basement or very quiet house. But I know I can flip on a light, or turn off the slasher flick, and that’s it, it’s all over until I want it again. It’s appealing because we’re in control.
But you put me in even a mild car accident, and I’m not chomping to have another. It’s not an adrenaline rush, but rather too close for comfort. Uncontrolled fear, as in the kind I don’t actively give myself, isn’t for me.
Of course, there are those that will jump off a cliff with nothing but a shoestring and a prayer to keep them safe, so what do I really know?
In Necromancer, much of the horror comes from very realistic situations such as failing relationships set over the supernatural backdrop. How does realistic horror stack up against supernatural / fantastic horror? How do you find a balance between the real and the impossible?
For me, realistic horror is far more terrifying than anything else. The thought of losing my sons or my wife to violence, or failing them to the point where our lives are broken, is what really scares me as a human being. One of the scariest films I’ve seen in the last five years is “Compliance” and, worst part, is it’s based on true events.
And for me, it’s not so much as finding the balance between the real and the impossible, but using the impossible to exacerbate the real, make it worse than it is, and ratchet up the suspense. Let’s face it, most people (myself included) see obstacles and problems and we have a tendency to overstate their seriousness. You’ve heard the “woe is me” testimonials, and have probably given one or two in your life. That’s what the supernatural is for me. It’s that obstacle that really isn’t overstated, that thing the character can really cry pity over, and it threatens to make his real problems all that much worse. And, just like with us, that’s what it continues to be, until the character turns the corner and sees the opportunities, the solutions, and moves forward, which is what most people do after a little self-pity.
Lastly, where can we find your stuff and when is your next anticipated release?
My stuff is everywhere! People can catch me on my blog, or on the Facebook at cbryanbrown, or even Twitter @cbryanbrown. I’m up on Goodreads, too, if people are inclined to see me over there. I attend more than my fair share of conventions and events. My schedule for those is up on my blog as well. All the proper linkages are below and I encourage people to stalk me by commenting on blog posts, my Facebook page, or tweeting me.
My next release should be this year, though I don’t have an exact date… my short story, “An Unfettered Life” was picked up for the Hydra Publications Dystopian Anthology and hopefully my next novel, At Dawn They Sleep, will be out next year. That’s the second book in The Blood War Trilogy and it follows They Are Among Us.
Thanks again for having me! I appreciate the opportunity to run off at the mouth!