Sunday, January 15, 2012

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Brandon Ford

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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Macabre Interview with DarkWhite Arts

HELLO HORROR FRIENDS,
This week, the MADHOUSE brings you the girls of DarkWhite Arts. 'DarkWhite Arts is a collaboration of two sisters who both enjoy all things Horror. Between the two of [them], [they] make creepy crafts, charcoal portraits, paintings, jewelry and much more.' If you like what you see, and are DYING for more, check out their etsy shop, and like them on facebook! 

Stay Scared,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

1. When did the two of you start the business and what inspired you to do so?

We started DarkWhite Arts in the spring of 2011.  For myself, I was inspired when I was gift shopping.  I had a hard time finding the spooky gifts I had in mind so I just decided to make them myself!  Marlynn and I both became inspired by the horror conventions we were attending.  There are very talented vendors with a wide array of art, crafts, films, jewelry etc.  Being surrounded by that definitely triggered a bit of our creativity

2. What made you get into making jewelry, or was it something you always did?

Making jewelry is new to me, actually. The crafts I started with were whiskey flasks and decoupaged wood-plaque magnets.  The more I try new things, the more I want to try new things.  I really can’t remember what inspired me to try my hand in jewelry making, but it quickly became my favorite craft.  The possibilities are pretty endless and I’m constantly trying to come up with new ideas… which in and of itself, is inspiring.

3. Did you have any schooling in your craft(s)? If so, where? And do you do anything else on the side?

The art program in high school was VERY limited.  I did attend college for three semesters as a graphic design major.  The first two semesters were great!  It was all hands-on design, photography and drawing classes.  Once I got into the layout and computer stuff, I hated it!  So I dropped out to become a make-up artist.  I’m just someone who needs to work with her hands.

Marlynn is currently a high school art teacher.  She got her bachelor’s degree in Art Administration.  After working in art galleries for a few years, she decided to go back to school for Art Education.  Now she is molding the sweet, young minds in the art field.  It’s funny that no matter how hard she tries not to…  her art always ends up just a *bit* spooky.  Their big project last year ended up with pale-white arms and zombie hands.  It’s awesome.  I wish she could have been my high school art teacher!

4. How did you come up with the name of your business?

My first name, Melanie, is a Greek name meaning black or dark.  My maiden name and Marlynn’s surname is White… so together we are Dark White.


5. What kind of jewelry do you make? Can you customize it?

Yes!  I love to customize my work.  I mostly make my pendants and bracelets with iconic horror images.  I go with my personal favorite movies and images.  I’m a huge fan of classic horror,  so you’ll see a lot of that from me, but I am more than happy to work with a customer in selecting an image for a specific piece.  It doesn’t even have to be spooky ;)

6. What is your favorite piece to make and why?

Honestly I don’t think I have one favorite.  I am very happy to have a variety of crafts to work on.  If I focus too long on one thing, I quickly become bored and it feels like work.  Everything I make is because I love making it. 

7. What got you into the horror genre in the first place, and how do you incorporate it into your style?

Aww…  “the” question, Steph..  haha.  I told you I hate this question!  I really wish I knew the answer!  I just remember my dad taking us to rent movies (they were VHS in my day ;-) ) and I would look for the scariest looking movie there.  Growing up, Poltergeist was my favorite movie for so long.  Still is one of my favorites.  I guess I might need a lot to peak my interest in most things and I have an extremely morbid curiosity.  I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.  I don’t allow myself to become bored and most other genres usually bore me.  I do like a lot of comedies, though.  I especially love to find a good movie that has both.
As far as my style…  my personal taste in music, art, movies and books is very dark.  The spookier the better, in my opinion.  So it’s only natural that my work reflects that!

9. How can you purchase your products?
We do a lot of local (Pittsburgh) events.  I have a lot of friends in the area that are performers and artists.  Often times when they put on an event, they invite vendors to set up tables.  We keep everyone posted on where we will be on our facebook page www.facebook.com/DarkWhiteArts.And for non-local customers we have a shop online at www.etsy.com/shop/DarkWhiteArts

10. Do you have any upcoming events that you will be vending at? Do you have regular places that you show? If so, where?

Our next event is Horror Realm’s Spring Break Massacre on March 10 at the Crown Plaza, Pittsburgh South.  More information about that can be found on their website, www.horrorrealmcon.com.  Pittsburgh’s Horror Realm is always a lot of fun.  They have a full weekend convention every September, but last year’s one-day March convention was really successful.  There was a really good turn out and celebrity line up, so it’s definitely worth checking out!

11. Do both of you do photography and paint? Who are your inspirations?

Well, Marlynn is the artist in the family.  Her charcoal portraits and paintings are amazing.  I love seeing her development through her earliest to newest work.  She’s always been good, but each time she takes on something new, she just gets better and better.

I do most of the photography.  Cemeteries are my favorite subject.  Going to a new cemetery feels like a treasure hunt each time.  I always find the oldest part of the cemetery to check out the stones.  The oldest one I have found was from 1788 and it was hand carved.  

John Thomas Grant is a cemetery photographer I really like.  I have taken a bit of inspiration from his work.  My good friend Kevin Ross is an amazing photographer.  His eye for lighting and angles has always been inspiring to me.  Another friend, Arvin Clay’s style is also amazing and inspiring.  I’m very fortunate to have so many creative friends to feed off of.
 
Daggers inspires me the most though.  I swear I’m not saying that because he said it in his interview!!!  Lol.  But seriously, there is nothing more inspiring than late nights at the craft table, coming up with lighting and scene ideas for his films or new ideas for my jewelry.  When we put our twisted minds together, there are no boundaries.  The problem is, we seem to have so many ideas, it’s hard to put all of our focus into one.  I’m extremely fortunate to be spending my life with such a creative and supportive man, and that drives me to do the best I can with everything I do.

12. Describe your techniques when doing photography or painting.

I’m not afraid to do whatever I have to do to get an interesting angle.  I can be found climbing all over gravestones and rolling around on the ground.  It’s probably pretty funny to watch, actually.

13. What’s an average work day like in your business?

I don’t think there is an average work day!  Especially when it comes to vending.  The events and conventions we vend are horror, underground, fetish and/or goth themed events.  There’s nothing average about any of that!  Getting ready for those events can be a bit stressful.  I work until the very last possible minute to put the finishing touches on my crafts.  I’ve even worked on some things behind my table at the actual event!

14. How do you fight off creative blocks?

If I try to force it, I get discouraged and that’s no fun.  I learned very quickly that the best thing to do is just take a step back from it all.  That can last a couple weeks or a couple days… but since everything I do is for fun, there’s no need for me to force myself to create things if I’m not feeling it.

15. Now let me throw on the black cape and white mask and ask… “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Hellraiser!!!  There’s this other movie coming out soon that I’m super excited about.  It has the most frightening zombie ever!!  You may have heard of it?  It’s called Caustic Zombies and the trailer can be found here ~ www.daggervisionfilms.com  You may even recognize said frightening zombie. *ahem*