When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?
I got my official start when I was 13 or 14 (maybe 15?). NKoTB were young and huge. Am I giving away my age here? At any rate, my sister was a big fan (admittedly, I didn’t hate them) and when I say big fan, take that to mean she’d chew their day-old Bubble Yum if given half a chance. She pissed me off one day and so I killed them. All of them. In gruesome, disgusting ways via werewolves, zombies, vampires, bombs, witches, and whatever; I don’t remember all the details, other than it took so and so many spiral notebooks, each page painstakingly handwritten, front and back. So yeah, for you n00bs out there, this is waaaaaaaaay back before computers were iMpersonal and in the palm of your hand. This was back before computers were even really a thing in most homes. I don’t think we got our first computer for another couple of years and it was tucked away in the master bedroom. Where my parents slept.
And did other things.
I kind of stayed away from the machine at first, not because the thought of my parents screwing bothered me (I knew where I came from... wait, was that a bad pun?) but rather I just didn’t get along with them at the time and so stayed as far as away as possible.
I chose the speculative fiction genre because it’s what I grew up reading and watching and loving. All manner of spec fic ranging from King, McCammon, Wilson, Bradbury, Koontz, to Orwell, Twain, Chesbro, Matheson, anything D&D related, and Crichton. I watched a bevy of horror movies; my mother pulled me out of bed when I was 11 to watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street movie with her. She was scared and I suppose having an eleven-year-old, someone who couldn’t punch himself out of a bag at the time, made her feel safe. Personally, I just think she woke me up in case Freddy tried dragging her across the ceiling, she could offer me up instead. I’m also a giant fan of Disney cartoons and watched many, many growing up. And sure, a lot of them are mostly anthropomorphic, but there’s also quite a few fairy tales/magic realism thrown in for good measure.
So there’s all that and the small matter of loving to show the ordinary through the extraordinary. It’s like exaggerating your point, but not really, and people seem to get said point a lot quicker.
For example, I can write a human monster and people might call him an anti-hero, but if I write a human who turns into a werewolf, who’s also an asshole but does the same things as the regular human, the werewolf isn’t as redeemable. He’s suddenly a monster in all senses of the word.
Where you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?
I do not journal, but I blog. Half-assedly. I enjoy the blogging and throwing out opinions, thoughts, lies, what have you, but my time is better utilized writing fiction than interacting with the four people who visit my blog/website on a weekly basis. And considering three of them are family, I can always text; it’s quicker.
What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?
A normal writing day consists of waking up at around 4:30 am with coffee and then going to my corporate job for 10 hours, where I’m browbeaten, underappreciated, though not underpaid. After that, it’s quasi-family time. Homework with the kids, dinner, various (and sometimes necessary) other activities like shopping or school functions. I might also read, play video games, or take a nap if I can get away with it. Once the kids go to bed, which is around 8:30, I put my butt in a chair, drag out the laptop, and I’ll either write or edit until I can’t see straight anymore. Sometimes that’s as early at 10:30, sometimes it’s around midnight. As a matter of fact, it’s around 9 as I type this.
Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?
SO HARD! But if I have to choose just one, it’s Stephen King. Like him, love him, or hate him, it doesn’t matter. The man is scary smart when it comes to crafting poignant stories and relatable characters. Truth be told, I haven’t read much of his work after Gerald’s Game. I couldn’t get through that book (it came out when I was a senior in high school and that’s when I last tried to read it), but it doesn’t diminish the affection I have for some of his earlier works. I have read The Cell and Bag of Bones, a couple of his short story collections.
My favorite book, which I’m mentioning separately, as it’s not a Stephen King book, is Beasts of Valhalla by George Chesbro. It’s the fourth book in the Mongo Mystery series and it’s just a roller coaster ride of science fiction, horror, mystery, thriller, and humor. Just a great, great book. A close second, a book I read every year along with Beasts, is They Thirst by Robert McCammon.
I’m currently reading more books than I have hands. They are, in no particular order: The Hunt by Joseph Williams, The Talisman by King& Straub, and Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?
I prefer prose. When I was younger, poetry always seemed somewhat pretentious. The people in high school who wrote poetry were cliquish, very haute couture, if you will. If you didn’t fit their mold, you weren’t taking seriously. It’s not a fair assessment of poetry itself, basing it on the poets I knew growing up, and I have a much fonder appreciation for the form, but my earlier resentment still exists.
Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?
I write in silence brought on by white noise in the form of music. The music tends to be bands I’m very familiar with (Metallica, KISS, Van Halen, Van Hagar) so that it’s tuned right on out of my brain. I know the lyrics, the music, so I’m not concentrating on it, or singing along, things like that. It’s comfortable and non-distracting, but it drowns out all the excess noise around me. I don’t hear if the kids are getting up out of bed, or if someone’s knocking at the door. I usually can’t even hear my phone ringing right next to me. I can’t write with the television on, simply because if I’m watching television, it’s something I want to see and I’ll pay attention.
Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?
No, I’m a vanilla-writing-habit kind of writer... okay, so that was convoluted, so I’ll just say no, I have no weird habits. I sit down, put my headphones in, and type. I outline like a fiend, which I get into more with the next question, but that’s about it. I write longhand if I’m having trouble pushing forward or starting a story (a few pages, maybe a dozen at the most), but I’ll eventually switch back to the computer.
There’s something about writing longhand that frees my mind, lets me write without reservation and get past those parts I struggle with. Hazarding a guess and psychoanalyzing myself, I’d say it’s because writing on paper is sloppy as hell (handwritten, eraser marks, scratch outs, all junking up the prose) and in my head, I know it’s okay to just write down whatever I want in that mess, which is in direct contrast to the white, pristine pages of Microsuck Word. Sometimes, I just need to know it’s perfectly acceptable to shovel shit from a sitting position (thank you for that quote, Mr. King!) Hopefully, that makes sense. It’s a free diagnosis, so if it doesn’t, fuck it, right?
Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pancer?
It depends on the length. I’m an “over” plotter when it comes to my novels. My outlines run in the double digits page wise. I have scene outlines, dialogue outlines, character outlines. I draw maps, timelines; I go all out.
Short fiction is usually pantsed, based on a thought, an image, or a scrap of dialogue between characters. I just run with it and build around that central piece.
What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
The hardest part is writing that first draft, which is really a matter of turning off the “inner editor” and just writing. Most everything else can be fixed in revision and editing, but if you don’t get to that stage, the game is over.
Beyond that, not letting the characters dictate the entire story. They have a tendency to run away with the narrative and while I grant them some creative license, there comes a time to rein them in and be the parental unit.
There’s a few current projects. Let me count them off...
I have two planned trilogies in the works. I’m currently ass-deep in the first book of both. One is about halfway through the first draft and the other is halfway through the revision process. One deals with a vampire apocalypse and the other isn’t fully formed just yet, so I won’t comment.
Along with those two novel sets, I’m revising a YA fantasy novel of about 75k words.
Then there are the short stories, which I’ve woefully neglected the last few months. There are a handful in various stages of completion, including two that have just titles and themes.
How do you balance being an editor and being a writer?
I’m not really sure it’s a balancing thing at all; it’s a commitment that I’ve made, not much different from getting married or agreeing to have kids (and then having a couple). Writing is a part of my life and it doesn’t get shucked any more or any less than any other part of it.
Like I answered in the “normal writing day” question, I have a time I’ve set aside to write (or do writing related activities, such as this interview). There’s very little that messes with that particular writing time.
On the weekends, I’ll miss going to the zoo with my kids in favor of attending a convention, such as Context in Columbus, Ohio. I go to a writing group every other Saturday and I skip going to my local Farmer’s Market (best organic cheese ever) on those days, or seeing my kids play at the park, or my son and daughter-in-law visiting. I tell my kids I’m working and they accept that. At the same time, if my wife has a cake to deliver (she does cakes and cupcakes, etc), I’ll skip writing and help her. So if something important comes up, I don’t write. I missed a writing group meeting in early May to attend my stepson’s college graduation. Both my kids were born in November, which is NaNoWriMo month for some novelists out there. I use NaNo as an excuse to leave the house nearly every day and write, except for those birthdays. Instead, I’m at the parties, smiling, having a blast and not worrying about word count.
When I sit down at the laptop, my toddler asks me, “Daddy, are you working?” I’ve ingrained writing into my life and the people around me know that.
It’s my opinion that if you have to balance your life to make time for your writing, you’re not as devoted as you could be. And I hope no one takes that as a “fuck you” because it’s not intended that way. Each person has to decide how important writing is to him or her and that’s on the individual. No judgment, but in my world, either you write or you don’t.
What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?
I hope that they expect a well-crafted, entertaining read that makes them think about some aspect of the world we live in. Other than that, I hope they never know what to expect. I want to continually redefine myself as a writer, be prolific in regards to genre and style, and appeal to a wide range of people. Or everyone, you know.
The only odd thing I’ve noticed (as have a few others who’ve read even my unpublished work) is that my short stories lean much more toward horror while my novels are much more urban fantasy-ish.
Advice for aspiring writers?
It’s cliché, I’m sure, to hear something so similar to things every writer says, but the best advice I’ve received: read critically and write desperately.
Reading and writing (language, in general) is something we’re all taught in school, and like any skill you possess, practice makes you better. It’s a lot harder to learn how to draw because it’s not something you must be able to do in order to survive, but you need to be able to read and write to do just about everything life throws at you. So read everything critically—tear it apart, look for the underlying themes and messages, the word choices—and each time you write, do so desperately, as if it’s the last thing you’ll ever get to do. Treat what you’re putting on that paper as the most important thing you’ve ever had to say in this life.
was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and the surrounding counties in a middle class family by mostly loving parents (regardless of the famed “Plunger” incident at the age of 17). He no longer lives in Missouri, is married with children, and isn't looking forward to dying. You can find him all over the interwebz, but he questions anyone who does.
His first novel, Necromancer, was released last year by Post Mortem Press (www.postmortem-press.com). Most recently he's had short stories appear in the anthologies "Fear the Abyss" and "For When the Veil Drops," both of which are available via Amazon. In fact, you can find all his published work at his author page, located here: amazon.com/author/cbryanbrown