Interview with horror aficionado C. Bryan Brown, author of Necromancer and They Are Among Us.

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!

Blog: http://cbryanbrown.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cbryanbrown

Twitter: @cbryanbrown

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4027709.C_Bryan_Brown


Interview with Steampunk Author Rebekah McAuliffe

 

 

Firstly, tell us about Gears of Golgotha, your debut novel. What inspired it? Where did you get the idea for the world of chemists and scientists?

It's kind of a funny story how I came up with the idea for Gears, actually. The basic ideas of it came from a dream I had after a night of hanging out with friends (and no, it wasn't like that haha). From that dream came Erin, the main character; Dr. Sharpe; the villain (at the beginning, the villain was a man named Xerxes, brother of the Supreme Leader); and the Gears themselves. I knew I wanted to turn it into a novel, but I didn't know where to go with it. That was until NaNoWriMo 2013. I was hanging out at my cousin Amy's house (of Bella Morteand Letters to Daniel fame). I had a basic skeleton of the story, but didn't feel it had any meat on its bones. I had two choices to take on for my NaNoWriMo project: develop this new idea, or refine a murder mystery I had been working on. I eventually picked the new idea, but still couldn't think of a name. The idea of Chemists and Mages, as well as the title itself, are actually fossils from the era of story development where Gears was actually a commentary on the science vs. religion debate.

 

 

 

What made you sit down and start writing? Have you always been a writer?

This is another funny story, I think. When I was in first grade, my class had to participate in the Young Authors competition at my school. I've always been very competitive, and when I heard that there were going to be medals (at the time my life goal was to earn one of them), I jumped at the challenge. With the help of my Eighth Grade Buddy (an 8th grader that was assigned to first grade students to tutor them and serve as a role model), I wrote My Alabama Vacation, a story where I go on vacation to a zoo in Alabama, even though I have to this day never been there haha. There was no real plot to the book; it was mostly just about the trip there, and stopping at places like a barber shop and comparing human and animal behavior ("Do animals get haircuts, too?"). I glued in different pictures of animals, including one of a monkey picking bugs out of another monkey's fur for the "haircut" bit. I was really proud of my work, and submitted it to the contest. A kid in my class named Nicholas won first place with his story The Last Dinosaur. Even though I won second place, I didn't think it was good enough. I swore that day I would hone my skills as a writer, so that next year, I would kick Nicholas' butt. He transferred to another school the next year, and there were no more Young Authors contests, but I still kept writing and writing. In 7th grade, I wrote Chapparelle's World,a short story which can only be described as Edgar Allen Poe meets Alice in Wonderland, in which a woman ends up in her dreamworld and confronts her demons while in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. I won 1st place in my school's Young Author's competition, and even went on to the county-wide semi-finals, but it was then I realized something: I didn't care about the awards. Sure, they were nice, but I loved writing. And I was good at it. I've been writing regularly ever since.

 

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being a writer? What keeps you writing more?

I love making up things. I love asking "What if...?"  When I was little, I used to make up what I called "step-friends," imaginary characters that I would make up stories for. I think about different worlds, wonder what life would be like if someone changed one little thing, or if something never even happened.

 

Who are your favorite authors? Does any of their work influence yours?

I really love the classics; you can never go wrong with them. I feel like the darkness of my stories was inspired by writers like Poe and the Bronte sisters. I love J.K. Rowling's writing style, too; it's so raw and personal, and gets under the readers' skin, which is something that I strive to do as well.

 

What books did you read when you were young? What was the first book you ever read?

I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I would read anything and everything. While I can't remember the first book I ever read, I do remember that I started reading from a very young age. My mom will tell you that I started reading at 2 years old, when I picked up the newspaper off the kitchen table and started reading it to my parents. I mostly read Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and the Magic Tree House books. I didn't start reading classics until 5th grade, with my first being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

 

What do you have planned in the future? Anymore steampunk? Anything written in the Gears universe?

I do want to write a sequel to Gears, but I haven't even started it yet, let alone set a release date for it. Right now, my attention is focused on ALPHA, book 1 of The ALPHA Trilogy. Think Bourne saga meets Manchurian Candidate. It's my first spy/political thriller, but I've always been fascinated with MK ULTRA and other legends like it, so writing it has been a lot of fun.

 

What's the best convention you've attended to promote your work?

Imaginarium, by a long shot. It was my first convention, and I had never felt more welcome there than anywhere else. That was where I actually felt like my work could mean something to other people. I was offered and signed two contracts there for Gears and ALPHA from Hydra Publications. I had a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go again in September, where I'll be turning 21!

 

What advice do you have for fledgling writers? 

KEEP WRITING. I can't stress this enough. They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something. And don't let ANYONE tell you to stop writing.

 

Lastly, where can we find your work?

Amazon * Goodreads * Twitter

Peer into the mind of a horror editor...

Interview with Sanitarium Magazine editor Barry Skelhorn

 

When did you get into the fiction industry and what drew you toward the horror genre?

When I was young, my Granddad lent me a copy of Frankenstein – which I devoured. Soon after that he lent me Dracula and a few collections of M.R James. Over time I read more and more horror and it grew from there.

There is just something about horror and the written word, the writer leads you one way, but it is your imagination that fills in the darker gaps and that’s the beauty of it.


As an editor selecting a story for publication, what is the line that you won't cross? How much violence, even beautifully written, is too much?

Personally I think that most subjects, if they are in the correct context can add to a story. However I won’t entertain any works of fiction with any graphic sexual reference to minors.




What is your take on the standard giants of the horror genre such as King, Matheson, Laymon, Bierce, and Koontz? How do some of the indie writers of today stack up against the legends?

Everyone has to start somewhere. As the story goes; without Tabitha King picking Carrie out of the bin and giving her feedback maybe King wouldn’t be where he is now.

 

There are so many indie authors that are making strides in the horror genre today – it would be wrong to single a few out. I would also like to give a shout out to the small and not so small independent presses that are keeping the integrity of the business together.



When selecting a story for publication, do you tend to prefer more psychological and subtle themes or more overt and graphic tales?

The way Sanitarium works is simple – you never know what is going to be behind each case file. Each issue that we collate we try and keep a mix of sub-genres so there is an eclectic collection of tales for the reader.

 

I find going from (for example) one zombie story, then another and another is great. But after a while you end up comparing them and not enjoying them as much.




What direction do you see the Sanitarium Magazine taking in the future? Any major milestones coming up?

We are working on a new look that we are bringing in one piece at a time. The magazine will be offering a printed copy as payment from the start of 2015. Also we are changing the tag line so we can cover more in its pages. “Showcasing Horror Fiction, Dark Verse and Macabre Entertainment”



Which issue of Sanitarium Magazine do you consider to be the best? What sets it apart?

Cover wise I love issue 20 with Kevin Spencer’s artwork “skull” – the vibrant colours and washed effect really works for me. As for the stories, there are a few stand out ones for me but we have found everyone has their favourites and we’re happy with that.




If you could interview any horror writer, living or dead, who would it be? How do you think they would act face to face?

Sadly one of the greats we were close to interviewing with was James Herbert. We are based in the UK and he lived only a short drive away but it was not to be. I think his style of writing where it was quite close to the bone both with gore and sexual undertones struck the right balance.

 

I would of course love to interview Clive Barker, Stephen King.


What is the most terrifying thing you've ever read?

I think this has to be put in context. I was 16, on a family holiday in France and we were staying in a large converted farmhouse just outside of Bordeaux – I was staying in the bat house.

 

Whilst staying there I started to re-read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. The summer storms were a sight to be seen and the atmosphere was just right for a good scare. So with every turn of the page, the story gripped me more than it had the first time around.



Have you had any horrific experiences in your own life that you couldn't explain?

I wouldn’t say horrific but there were a couple when we stayed in the farmhouse. Whilst staying in the bat house one night I felt something hit the bedframe at the foot of the bed. Thinking nothing of it I just fell back asleep. I felt it again, this time I was jolted awake and flicked on the light. My Brother, asleep in the other bed next to mine, was sound asleep. Looking around the room, nothing seemed untoward, so hitting the light I went back to sleep.

 

It wasn’t until the morning when both of us awoke did we realised what had happened. My bed, which has started flush against the wall, was now a good foot from the wall.  

It turns out that when they were renovating the farmhouse, they came across a soldier’s helmet with a bullet hole through it – I think I was sleeping in his snipers nest and he wasn’t best pleased.


Finally, does your love of horror branch into other media such as movie, music, art, etc.?

 

Most media interests me in the horror world. I have mentioned Clive Barker as a writer but I also love his style of art from “The Hellbound Heart” to “Abarat” and everything in between. If I could I would have a piece hanging in my office for inspiration. Another that I really have a lot of time for is the theatre and plays such as Danny Bolye’s Frankenstein, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. It would be interesting to work with some of the writers who have appeared in Sanitarium and put together a 3 Act show with some of the stories.   

Interview with Evan Camby

Evan Camby

 

What got you into horror? Have you always been a fan of the genre or did one particular work pique your interest? 

 

From a very young age, I preferred horror and the macabre to anything else.  I remember one year I missed a lot of school because I got very sick, and I spent the days in bed watching a marathon of old Vincent Price films.  Many of them were based on works by Edgar Allan Poe, which guided me towards his books.  I read everything I could of Poe's and he was my first, biggest influence.  I loved the way he created such rich, Gothic atmospheres even in very short works.



On of your stories, Hat Man, deals with night terrors. Do you have any personal experience with sleep paralysis or other terror-inducing sleep disorders? An interesting phenomenon occurs during the hallucinations triggered by sleep paralysis where the brain has trouble recalling the face of a remembered person and thus places a hood or dark hat over the character in an attempt to make the blurred face appear logical. 

 

Hat Man is definitely based on night terrors I had when I was young.  In fact, 80% of what Bernice lives through in Hat Man are things that actually happened to me.  I have read all the scientific explanations behind sleep paralysis and night terrors, and I do think there is a physiological component to them.  However, no one will ever be able to convince me that there isn't also a supernatural element to what I experienced.  




Have you ever used a Ouija board yourself? If so, how did it go? 

 

I have, with a childhood friend.  We both loved ghost stories and anything spooky, so we played with it often.  The only thing I can remember happening when we played was that she would get terrible migraines almost every time, which is part of why we stopped altogether.  Another reason we stopped was a story that her mom told us.  Her mom said that when she was a little girl, she played with the Ouija with her friends, until something happened that scared them out of it.  One of the girls she played with had recently lost a family member who, by all accounts, was not a nice guy.  So, they asked the board what happened to him, if he was in a better place, that type of thing.  She told us that the board suddenly shifted under their fingers, and then spelled out "Satan knows" before sliding across the room and hitting the wall.  Of course, she might have made the whole thing up,  but that story coupled with the migraines was enough to scare us out of playing with the Ouija anymore.  I haven't picked it up since. 




Almost everyone experiences some type of terrifying, unexplained event. What's yours?  

 

Other than the night terrors, which were truly terrifying, I have experienced a lot of strange events.  I'll pick one from when I was a kid.  I grew up in a house set back deep in the woods, with big windows all over the first floor looking out at the trees. My mom says I used to stand at the windows and smile and wave outside. One day she asked me who I was waving to, and I said, "All the people."  Now, no one was outside.  At least, not that she could see.




Do you believe in ghosts? How about spiritual beings such as angels and demons?  

 

Definitely, I believe in all of them. I don't think that this life is all there is and that there is a lot we don't know and can't prove.  There is real evil in the world, both natural and supernatural.  I also believe there is pure good and love that counteracts that, whether it's angels or God or whatever your particular beliefs name it.  



When you first started writing horror, how did your friends and family respond? 

 

It's not a surprise to anyone who knows me.  Most little girls play with baby-dolls--I had a plastic skeleton who I named Skellie that I carried around.  My parents are a little shocked, though, that I remember the night terrors so vividly, since it's been over twenty years since I first had them.  



What has been the most difficult thing that continually plagues you as an author?  

 

Self doubt is a huge obstacle to getting words on the page.  What I've learned to do is "brain dump"--just get it all out there.  No matter how terrible that first draft is, you can always go back and change things, edit, add, subtract.  My advice to writers who struggle with the same issue is to give yourself permission to suck.  Really, it's OK if what you put down is terrible at first.  None of it's permanent, it's not as if your first rough draft will be tattooed on your body forever.  But if you don't at least start somewhere, the words will never make the jump from your brain to the page.  


What is the most unique advice you've ever been given by another professional in the writing world? Did that advice prove to be useful?  

 

I read an interview where Stephen King answered the question, "What makes a talented writer?" or something along those lines.  I'm paraphrasing, but basically he said that if you write something, and someone pays you for the story, and you then take that money and pay your light bill with it, he considers you talented.  I love that.  It takes the pressure off of setting out to be the next Hemingway, and lets me have fun and focus on being a storyteller who people pay to entertain them.  That's something I can be proud of, too, it's not all about Pulitzers and The Paris Review.



If you had to pick one author for your writing to be favorably compared to, which would you pick? What elements from other writers do you try to incorporate into your own writing?  

 

In my dreams, Vladimir Nabokov, simply because of his mastery of the English language.  As far as my genre goes, Stephen King knows how to tell a great story and create realistic, flawed characters, and that's my main focus in writing.  The fanciest prose, scores of allegories, and a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness style of writing are worthless if you can't tell a story worth a damn.  I want to entertain and help people immerse themselves in the more visceral and scary elements of the world in which we live, and he is the master of that.

 

Lastly, where can we find your stuff?

Amazon * Twitter