INTERVIEW WITH BRANDON FORD
With Stephanie M. Wytovich
Brandon Ford (b. 1981 - ) is an American author of horror and suspense fiction. To date, he has written 3 novels (CRYSTAL BAY, SPLATTERED BEAUTY, and PAY PHONE) and a collection of short stories (DECAYED ETCHINGS). He has also contributed to several genre anthologies, including: CREEPING SHADOWS (a collection of three short novels), THE DEATH PANEL, SINISTER LANDSCAPES, MADE YOU FLINCH, and RAW: BRUTALITY AS ART. He currently resides in Philadelphia.
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t know I wanted to write professionally until I was 18, but I’d been writing for fun since I was around 8. I always loved penning my own works of short fiction and occasionally writing novelizations for my favorite movies. It was a fun way to pass the time and stay out of trouble. Up until I graduated high school, I thought I was going to be an actor. That was until I realized I really had no talent for it and writing really became my true passion. I then focused on doing everything in my power to learn, study, and hone my craft.
2. Did you study writing anywhere? Join any critique groups? Are you a member of the HWA (Horror Writer’s Association)?
I majored in Communications, so I took lots of English and Creative Writing classes. I never joined any formal writing groups, but I enjoyed sharing my work on websites like Writing.com and Strange Minds. There, I was able to obtain critiques from likeminded individuals and check out the work of other struggling scribes. It was a lot of fun and for a brief period, nothing pleased me more than finding I had new comments on a story I had posted. I’m not yet a member of the Horror Writers Association, but it’s definitely on the horizon.
3. Are there any writing/genre conventions that you like to go to? If so, which ones and why?
Because of a disability, making the convention circuit isn’t something I’m able to do at this point in time. However, I remain hopeful that things will change in the not-so-distant future. Getting to know those in my field on a personal level is something I sincerely look forward to. And it’s always fun to meet the readers.
4. What are your writing habits? Do you like to type or hand write? Need to be at home or out in a café somewhere? Do you drink coffee or tea (or something else, haha) when you write?
I’m a big fan of longhand writing. Great admirer of yellow legal pads. I’ve really grown to love the smell of fresh ink on a straight-lined page. Most of my original drafts are done by hand, then typed over. I’ve found it’s much easier to edit this way. I prefer to do my writing late at night when it’s most quiet. That way, I can really get into a creative zone without having to worry about distractions. I’m not much of a coffee drinker anymore. Tea always made me gag. So, most of the time, it’s just me and my trusty Papermate. Although, if and/or when I find myself facing that figurative wall and the juices just won’t start flowing, I’ll allow myself a beer or a lone glass of wine. That always frees the mind and makes the process easier.
5. Who are your inspirations in the field? Favorite pieces?
I’m a great admirer of authors like Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon. Authors who tell dark and grisly stories that are real world-rooted. I was never much for the supernatural, especially not supernatural-type villains (although the villain in my debut novel, Crystal Bay, is a spell-casting witch). I’ve always found myself attracted to stories that could actually happen. The things that we as human beings are capable of doing to each other is far more frightening than any fictitious monster. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy Ketchum so much. Not only is his style unmatched, but most of his works are ripped-from-the-headlines stories that could take place in your backyard. His novel, The Girl Next Door, is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.
6. What draws you to the horror genre and what makes you comfortable in it?
I’ve always fancied myself a creative individual and the horror genre is by far the most creative of them all. It’s easy to allow your imagination to run wild and I enjoy the challenge of creating a new and captivating villain.
7. I saw that you write short fiction as well. Do you have a preference or like one better than the other? Have you ever done poetry?
Writing a novel, obviously, is a hell of a lot more difficult than writing a short story. There’s a lot more involved and many more pages to fill. I find it more difficult to find a subject or story that I’d want to spend upwards of 50,000 words on. With a short story, it’s usually a premise that I find unusual or thought provoking and I begin writing from there. Often times, I stumble upon a title that I like and that becomes my springboard. I love both avenues equally, but I do find myself writing short fiction more often than full-length novels. I tried my hand at poetry a few times, but my heart was never in it.
8. What was the hardest part about breaking into the writing world for you?
The hardest part is rolling with the punches. I received hundreds of rejections before I finally sold Crystal Bay. I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, but I knew that the only way I’d realize my dream was if I stuck with it. So, even though it was incredibly disconcerting, I took each “no” with a grain of salt and promised myself that no matter what, I wouldn’t stop until I achieved my goal.
9. What do you find is the hardest part of writing a novel? The easiest (if there is such a thing)?
The hardest part about writing a novel is probably getting into the heads of your characters and understanding their motives so what they do makes sense. It’s imperative to make each character real, flesh and blood individuals that think, breathe, act, love, hate, and most of all, live. There is nothing easy about writing a novel. Anyone who says it’s a breeze is kidding both you and themselves.
10. Every writer has a way that they manage to stay on task. How do you manage your time to fit writing in? Do you write in the morning, late at night, on your lunch break?
I’ve always been a night owl, so I prefer to do my writing at the wee hours of the morning, some time before bed. That’s always when it’s most quiet and I don’t have to worry about being distracted by phone calls or any outside voices. It’s next to impossible not to be distracted by the Internet, so if I’m writing on the computer, I’ll disconnect my connection. If I’m writing longhand, I’ll either shut my computer down or distance myself from it. I enjoy writing at the kitchen table every now and again. A lot of writers prefer to give themselves a quota (i.e. how many words to get down before they stop, or how many hours they spend at the keys). I find this method to be very effective.
11. How do you conquer writer’s block or beat the muse when she doesn’t show up to work?
I honestly don’t like to force it because ultimately, what ends up on the page never ends up being my best work. But if I’m in a place where I really need to get something down, or can’t find my way out of a certain scene, some classical music or a glass of wine often help.
12. Is there a particular section in horror that you like to write, i.e. zombies, vampires, psychos, serial killers, etc.? Why?
I’m partial to what could really happen, as opposed to monsters in some fantasy world. Beings born in a supernatural universe never really appealed to me, even as a child. I prefer to write about real world horrors. The horrifying things that could very well be going on right next door. To me, that will always be the most terrifying. And who the hell needs anymore sparkle vampires?
13. Do you outline your stories or create as you go? Explain.
Sometimes. If I find myself overcome by an array of ideas I just can’t write down fast enough, I’ll start writing a loose outline, but always with the freedom to deviate from it. If I come up with an idea for a short story, but can’t find the time to get started on it due to other open projects, I’ll start making notes in a little notebook I keep for such things.
14. Writing horror can take you to some dark and disturbing places, so when you’re writing a particularly grotesque/dark/malevolent scene, how do you bring yourself out of the horror when you’re finished?
Listening to some music or watching something funny on television helps. But I usually don’t become so affected by what I’ve written that it unnerves me. While I’m in the moment, sure, I’ve been disturbed by my own words, but I don’t usually get so enraptured in it that it’s hard to find my way out.
15. What are your present feelings on the horror genre? Do you feel that it’s dying out or stronger than ever? Explain.
Oh, I think a lot of people would agree with me when I say the horror genre is in some serious trouble. What we need more than anything are some unique voices. Everything nowadays is so derivative. It’s next to impossible to pick up a book or turn on a video without seeing a rehashed version of someone else’s idea. Where has all the originality gone?
16. Which of your pieces did you most enjoy working on and why?
Probably a short story I wrote called “The Neighbor.” It was written for an anthology of extreme horror, so I was expected to push the envelope as far as I could. And push the envelope I did. I remember scribbling at my notepad and wincing and cringing at the things spilling out of my pen. It was a lot of fun to embrace my truly sick and disturbed side.
17. Advice to other writers in the field?
The best advice I can give is to never give up on yourself and never stop submitting. Don’t get discouraged by editors that tell you your work isn’t good enough and whatever you do, don’t lose confidence in yourself.