TAEM- Writers are one of the mainstays for The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and their work is also a great inspiration to film and television alike. One of the newest writers is Brian Moreland whose creations are right up our alley. Brian, we learned that in your youth you loved scary movies, and they were the basis of your desire to write. Who among the writers that you followed inspired you the most?
BM-Like most horror writers I’ve met, I was first influenced by Stephen King, because his books dominated the horror market when I was growing up and they were popularized even more by the movies based on King’s fiction. One of the first fiction books I read just for fun was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I devoured every one of those short stories and discovered that reading fiction can be even more fun than watching movies. Stephen King taught me how to create a sense of dread in a scene. He would focus on the details of something that spooked him until he had you spooked too. That’s important in horror fiction. Sometimes you need to slow the tempo down and focus on the darkness until the reader is so curious about what’s lurking beyond that curtain of blackness that they can’t stand it any longer. The two other authors who had the greatest impact were Dean Koontz and Robert McCammon. I discovered their books while in college and learning to write my own fiction. Both were masters at creating loveable characters, scary monsters, complex plots, and high-octane action that propelled you to keep turning the pages. I badly wanted to write like them. I wanted readers of my novels to feel the same adrenaline that you feel when you read Dean Koontz or Robert McCammon. I studied their novels like they were textbooks on how to write fiction. I dissected their books chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, analyzing exactly how they structured a scene to give me the rush of feelings I was feeling. I also studied their prose, the words they used and added to my arsenal of descriptive words. I emulated both their styles in my early writing until I finally developed my own writing voice. Other notable influences were H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Laymon, and Clive Barker. Now, I study every horror author I write. I’m always learning and honing my craft.
TAEM- Tell us about your early training and education in your chosen field.
BM-During the spring semester of my freshman year at theUniversityofTexasatAustin, I wrote my first horror novel before I ever studied how to write. I skipped a lot of classes and wrote non-stop, often 8 to 10 hours at a time, until the people running the school’s computer room kicked me out around midnight every night. I finished the novel within three months and it totaled just over 100 pages. Through that process I discovered that I had a burning passion to write fiction. I decided more than anything I wanted to be a professional novelist—the next Stephen King. I switched majors from business finance to Radio/TV/Film (the University had no majors for would-be novelists.) So I majored in screenwriting and minored in English. I took every creative fiction writing class UT offered and learned about creating characters, writing descriptions and dialogue, plot and story structure. Our assignments were short stories. Writing short fiction is a great way to start because you can reach the ending so much faster and feel a sense of accomplishment. You also learn how to write a story from beginning, middle, and end.
Writing came naturally to me, so I had no problem being prolific. While I enjoyed writing short stories, what I loved most was reading and writing novels. UT didn’t teach any courses on novel writing, so I took a night class taught by a local author. I was way ahead of the rest of the students, because I had already written two novels by that point. But I had a long way to go to make my fiction publishable. The best thing I learned from my novel writing teacher was that every novel needs to have conflict—conflict between all the characters and conflict in every scene, every paragraph. At the time, the characters in my books all got along super well. They were all happy-go-lucky with each other until they came across the monsters in my stories. My stories started to improve once I added conflict between the characters themselves. In my first novel (which never published), I had six college students going to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend. The main hero and heroine were both single and fell in love at first sight. There was nothing keeping them apart and the love story was boring. To create more conflict, I gave the heroine a jerk boyfriend which created a love triangle and gave my protagonist a nemesis. I owe a lot to that first novel-writing class. I also read many books on novel writing, dialogue, characterization, how to write horror, suspense, and mysteries, and how to edit and rewrite. From there, I joined writers groups and got feedback on what people’s experiences were reading my writing. After years of reading, writing, learning, and getting feedback, I developed an understanding of how fiction works.
TAEM- You also attended a writing retreat in Rome. Who were some of the authors that attended it with you and what did you learn from it?
BM-Wow, that was one of the best experiences of my life. We had four author instructors—horror author John Saul, fantasy author Terry Brooks, literary authors Dorothy Allison and Elizabeth Engstrom Cratty. I went because I had been a huge fan of John Saul’s for years and wanted to meet him and learn from him. There were about forty attendees divided into four groups. The 9-day retreat was structured so that we spent two days with each instructor. John Saul taught us how to come up with story ideas by writing a “What if?” statement in 25 words or less. The other three authors took us out on a tour ofRome. We observed the details and then were assigned to write short stories based on what we saw. We had 24 hours to write each short story and then met the next day with our circle, read what we wrote out loud, and then got critiqued by our instructors and the group. The instructors taught the process of “writing on demand.” Which means you write against a deadline. You don’t wait until your muse strikes. You write because it’s an assignment and someone is holding you accountable. Much like an editor assigns a journalist a story and expects the article to be delivered the next day. I had never written fiction “on demand.” Up to that point writing was something I did when I was feeling creative. Studying with professional authors taught me that writing fiction is a job that you do every day. And they write whether they feel creative or not. That’s the difference between a career author and a wannabe.
TAEM- You also worked as a ghost writer and edited books from other authors. How did this build confidence in you?
BM- When I first started novel writing, I hadn’t ever considered working on anyone else’s books. I didn’t even know ghost writers existed. I was also just learning the process of writing and editing books myself—the perpetual student. My side career as an editor/ghostwriter evolved over time. After writing four novels and numerous short stories, I began getting comfortable with the writing process. I had also studied how to edit my own work and learned more from hiring three different editors to critique my novels. Here and there, author friends of mine began asking me to help edit and critique their books. For years, I did this for free as favors to my friends, who in turn offered feedback on my books. Then a friend who had a two-month deadline to self-publish his book offered to pay me to be his editor. I remember being nervous that I couldn’t deliver. No one had ever paid me to work on a book before. I felt immense pressure to do a great job. But we were so crunched for time I didn’t have time to worry about my performance. I just rolled up my sleeves and worked daily on his book. In addition to editing, I also ended up ghostwriting a couple of chapters plus the prologue. We made our deadline and the book came out great. The experience definitely raised my confidence and showed me I had skills that could earn me an income. After that, writers needing help on their books came out of the woodwork. Now, whether I’m ghostwriting, editing, or designing the book’s layout and cover, I have total confidence that I can bring value to an author’s book.
TAEM- You started writing short stories and turned your attention towards novels. Your first book was titled ‘Shadows in the Mist’. Tell us how you were able to display this to the public, and the trials and tribulations you endured in doing so.
BM-By the time I wrote Shadows in the Mist, I had already cut my teeth on three previous novels that I never published. They were the equivalent to a Hollywood director’s student films. Shadows in the Mist I wrote in my mid-thirties when I was more mature and seasoned as a writer. Being that it was a WWII thriller about the Nazis and the occult, I knew that it had a good hook. That if I could just get it in front of the eyes of the right people, then it would sell and people would enjoy the supernatural mystery. To display my novel to the public, I had to get creative. Since it was a blend of three genres—thriller, military fiction, and supernatural horror—I decided to take a three-prong approach in my marketing. I figured this book would appeal to horror fans, thriller fans, and World War II enthusiasts, so I did marketing campaigns for each. I contacted book reviewers from each genre and got reviews posted on their sites. Fortunately, Shadows in the Mist was well received by reviewers. My friends and family certainly helped spread the word, sending out e-blasts to all their friends. On Facebook, I created a World War II group and horror group. I searched the network for everyone who talked about these subjects or chatted about authors who wrote books that were in my three genres. I personally contacted hundreds of WWII fans, horror fans, and thriller fans and introduced myself and my novel with a link to my website. The response was astronomically positive. Fans were grateful I had reached out to them. Many bought my book on the spot. Then, as they started to read Shadows in the Mist the positive fan reviews started showing up on my Facebook wall. I also attended conventions where I got to meet fans face to face. I even dressed up like a WWII soldier and signed books at soldiers’ reenactment weekend inNew Jersey. Now, I use many forms of social media, including Twitter, Goodreads, Redroom, and Shelfari.
BM-My writing style was influenced by watching the intense opening scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan and scenes from the movie Black Hawk Down. Both of these movies put the viewer right there in the middle of the action, where you feel like bullets are whizzing over your head. That was my aim for Shadows in the Mist. I wanted my readers to feel like they had transported into Lt. Jack Chambers’ body and were experiencing everything he experiences first hand. To pull this off I studied the art of writing Point of View, where every description comes from one of your character’s five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. My goal was for the reader to feel like they are in the scene, experiencing it through multiple senses. For instance, in the war scenes I described what my character Lt. Jack Chambers is seeing—the battlefield, the fog seeping through the war-torn forest, enemy soldiers charging between the trees. Then I added in some sound effects, like gunshots and explosions, soldiers yelling, the metallic crunch of tank tracks rolling over rubble. Then touch: the heat of the blast scorching Chambers’ skin, the mud sucking at his boots. Then taste: his mouth filling with dust and grit. And smell: the stench of death all around him. When you combine descriptions of all five senses, you create a visceral experience for your readers. Most importantly I wanted Lt. Jack Chambers and his platoon—“the Lucky Seven”—to come off the page like real people who lived back in 1944. So I interviewed both American and German WWII veterans and got them to tell me their personal experiences of fighting in the Great War. I also traveled over toGermany and walked the battled fields and lay down in the fox holes that are still there in the woods where my story takes place. The point of view, the details of the five senses, and interviewing people who experienced that war all add up to what I think is a visceral experience.
TAEM- How was it received by your readers and the recognition it earned?
BM-In the six years that Shadows in the Mist has been on the market, I’m happy to say the novel has been well-received. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and email, I get direct feedback from fans all the time. They post positive comments on my wall or send me long, glowing emails that warm my heart. Several have told me that they read my book two and three times. One high school student told me he talked about my novel to his class for a school project. Another man told me he had been depressed and considering suicide and that my book lifted his spirits. When I first self-published Shadows in the Mist it won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an independent publisher’s contest. That year I landed a book deal with Berkley/Penguin, and then the next year a German publisher, Otherworld Verlag, translated my book into German and released it inAustria andGermany.
TAEM- Where can our readers find this work?
BM- While Shadows in the Mist is temporarily out of print, I plan to re-release the novel with a new publisher in 2012. Readers can go to the homepage of http://www.BrianMoreland.com to join my mailing list and I will contact them when Shadows in the Mist releases again.
TAEM- You also finished your second novel, ‘Dead of Winter’, which you claim to be dear to your heart. Tell us about the storyline and how you got it published.
BM-DEAD OF WINTER is a historical horror novel based partly on true events and an old Algonquin Indian legend that still haunts the Great Lakes tribes to this day. It’s also a detective mystery and even has a couple of love triangles thrown in for fun. The story takes place near the end of the 19th Century at an isolated fur-trading fort deep in theOntario wilderness. The main character is Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective fromMontreal who had recently captured an infamous serial killer, Gustav Meraux, known as the Cannery Cannibal. Gustav is Jack-the-the-Ripper meets Hannibal Lecter. Even though the cannibal is behind bars, Tom is still haunted from the case so he decides to move himself and his rebellious teenage son out to the wilderness. At the beginning of the story, Tom has taken a job atFortPendleton to solve a case of strange murders that are happening to the fur traders that involve another cannibal—one more savage than Gustav Meraux. Some predator in the woods surrounding the fort is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—the victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. In Tom’s search for answers, he discovers that the Jesuits know something about this plague. My second main character is Father Xavier, an exorcist fromMontreal who is ordered by theVatican to travel toOntario to help Tom battle the killer.
My agent and I were trying to find a good fit for my new book. I had finished DEAD OF WINTER in November of 2009 and was eager to sell it to a publisher right away. That’s how I feel after finishing a novel. I just can’t wait to share it with readers. But in 2009, publishing houses were shuffling their editors like a Vegas dealer shuffling cards. My agent was afraid my book would get bought up and then lost in the chaos, so she told me let’s wait it out. It was tough to do, but we held out from submitting my book for over a year. I’m glad we did, because we were ready and waiting for the right opportunity. And then in January of this year my agent told me that Leisure Books was dissolving their horror line and that their editor, Don D’Auria, had moved over to Samhain Publishing to start up a brand new horror line called Samhain Horror. Don wanted to start the line in October 2011 and was looking for submissions. We submitted my book within about two weeks of Don starting his new job. My agent sold me on Don, saying he was a legend in the horror business. I hadn’t heard of him, but I did a little research and discovered that he had been the editor for many of my favorite authors—Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, and Jack Ketchum, to name a few. On his blog, Brian Keene wrote a post about how much he loved working with Don D’Auria. I flipped through a dozen books by Leisure authors and read the Acknowledgements. Again and again, I kept seeing Don’s name being praised, many describing him as the nicest editor to work with. That sold me, so I told my agent let’s submit DEAD OF WINTER to Don at Samhain. Less than 30 days later in February, my agent called back and said that Don loves my book and wants it to be one of the first books to release in October. I was so excited. My first novel I had to wait over a year to see my book in print. With Samhain, my novel released eight months after we concluded the book deal. And working with Don has been a dream. Like everyone says, he is the nicest guy and very diplomatic in his style of editing. He made some great suggestions on how to improve my novel while keeping most of the book in tact. With Don and Samhain, I definitely feel like I’ve found a home to publish my future books as well.
TAEM- We found out that producing commercials are also one of your interests, as well as film editing. You also publish a blog. Please fill us in about this aspect of your life.
BM-Sure, for the past 18 years my main day job has been editing documentaries, TV commercials, and corporate videos. This career has taken me all over the world traveling with film crews. Some of my favorite destinations include Dublin, Paris, Honk Kong, and Turkey. For two straight years I got to travel with the USO and Tostitos to military bases in Baghdad, Iraq. We filmed the troops playing a football game with celebrity football players. That was a cool experience. One of the highlights of my career as a video editor is I got the opportunity to write, produce, film, and edit a documentary called Return to Normandy. It’s about my grandfather Captain Henry Dawson Moreland, who was a C-47 pilot who dropped the paratroops over Normandy during the D-Day invasion back in WWII. People can watch that video on my blog (http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com). My blog “Dark Lucidity” is where I post updates about my books, signings, interviews, and post articles and guest author reviews. I also write a second blog called Coaching for Writers (http://www.CoachingforWriters.blogspot.com). On this blog I offer tips on the business of writing, publishing, and promoting books.
TAEM- What new work on the horizon can our readers look forward to seeing?
BM- I’m over 300 pages into my third horror novel, which is currently titled TRICKSTERS. This one is about three brothers who travel up toBritish Columbia,Canadawhere their father vanished in a haunted rain forest while on some top-secret expedition. This novel has some wicked monsters in it. Stay tuned for TRICKSTERS some time in 2012. I’m also mentally sketching out a novella that was inspired from this novel, plus I’ve got a list of short story ideas to flesh out. I’ve got plenty of new stories and characters in my head waiting for their turn to come to life in a book. I’ve also recently released two short stories “Chasing the Dragon” and “The Dealer of Needs.” Both are available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.
TAEM- Brian, it has been a pleasure to have this interview with you in The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and many of our readers are Students of the Arts and surely learned much from it. We want to thank you and hope that you will keep us abreast of all your future endeavors.
BM- Thanks so much for having me. It’s been an honor to be interviewed for The Arts and Entertainment Magazine.
Author Bio: Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. He loves hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and dancing. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at http://brianmoreland.com/ or on Twitter @BrianMoreland. His latest novel, DEAD OF WINTER, releases on e-book October 4, 2011. The paperback releases January 3, 2012.
Brian’s Horror Fiction blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com
Coaching for Writers blog: http://www.coachingforwriters.blogspot.com