People often say things to me like:
"You write horror? Really? You seem so normal!"
"I had no idea you write that kind of stuff, you're a nice guy!"
"Horror? Really? But...you...I mean..." Then their head bursts into a blossom of gooey red and bone.
Brian Moreland is one of those guys I bet hears that quite often as well. I have met many horror authors in my short career as a writer and, if I had to pick a horror writer bestie, it would be Brian Moreland. People like Moreland, Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand and Hunter Shea have showed me a humbling amount of altruistic support and appreciation that makes me strive to be more like them.
I got to chat with Brian Moreland recently. With his new book The Vagrants releasing this week, I have decided to post our talk for others to enjoy. Even in this quick interview, it's easy to recognize a true passion for writing and Brian's selfless nature.
1. When was the moment you realized that, without any doubt, you wanted to write stories? And why was it horror stories that intrigued you the most?
I had always loved monsters ever since I was a little boy. Whenever I had paper and crayons, I’d draw monsters--Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, and my favorite: Creature from the Black Lagoon. From age 7-12, I used to watch monster movies with my mom every Saturday when one of our local TV stations played a double creature feature. These were all the black and white horror movies of the Fifties and Sixties--Godzilla, Day of the Triffids, the original The Thing--and some of the color movies of the Seventies like Squirm, Snowbeast, Horror Express and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. I collected monster toys and comic books, and for was drawn to werewolves, vampires, aliens and any other creatures that roamed in the shadows. I also read magazines like Famous Monsters of Film Land and Fangoria. For me, watching scary movies was an adrenaline rush, a couple hours of absolute fun and terror.
When I got into my teens, I discovered horror fiction. I picked up a paperback copy of Stephen King’s Night Shift. It was the red copy with “Children of the Corn” on the cover and the arm holding a sickle above a cornfield. When I got home, I gleefully read “Children of the Corn” and “Graveyard Shift”, and from that moment on I was hooked on horror fiction. I had thought watching monster movies was the pinnacle of fun, but reading horror touched me on a deeper level. It was a more intimate experience and much more terrifying, when I was reading alone in my bedroom. After reading several Stephen King stories, I explored other horror authors like James Herbert and Clive Barker. Barker’s Books of Blood series took my imagination to a whole new realm. He showed me that horror fiction cannot only include facing our darkest fears, but our darkest desires as well.
By the time I got to college I had read countless horror short stories and novels, adding Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and John Saul to my collection of favorite horror authors. Reading Dean Koontz’s Watchers and Phantoms had a lasting impact on me, inspiring me to write my own fiction my Freshmen year at college. Ever since I was that little boy, I’ve had an active imagination. Watching all these horror movies and reading fiction by horror masters, my mind began to blossom with story ideas and monsters that I had yet to see in movies or books. I was discovering that I had my own stories to tell and that maybe writing horror was my calling. So at age 19, I wrote my first novel “The Degba Dynasty”, which I rewrote and polished 25 years later and published it as The Devil’s Woods.
2. The Devil's Woods was one of the best books I read last year. How much research did you do before writing the novel? And where did the idea come from originally?
Thanks, I did very little research, actually. That story just came to me straight from my imagination. The version that I wrote in college was inspired by many of the horror movies of the ‘80s, in particular Evil Dead and Demons. There was also a comic book that I had read long ago, which I can’t remember the title, but this super hero was fighting a thousand demons in some hellish underworld and that vision stuck in my subconscious. As with many authors, my writing is influenced by everything I read and watch, as well as what I experience and observe in the world around me. I’ve always loved the great outdoors, so I wrote the setting to take place at a cabin in the woods. Also, whenever I’m alone in the dense woods I feel this almost mystical sensation that the woods are alive and watching me.
I had originally set the story in Colorado, but after hiking through the wilderness of many areas in Colorado, I realized it wasn’t secluded enough to conceal an ancient forest. Everywhere I went I ran into other people hiking or camping. So I moved my story up to the northern tip of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, Canada, where much of the wilderness is uninhabited. Much of the core story and original characters, like Kyle, Elkheart and Jessica, made the final cut. I actually added Kyle’s brother Eric in the second revision.
The logging town in my original Colorado version was called Pineville and populated by a bunch of backwoods people. When I moved the story up to Canada, I decided to make the town its own character. I placed it on the coast of a beautiful lake with mountains all around. I changed Pineville’s name to Hagen’s Cove and gave it a Danish origin, founded by the town’s forefather, Hagen Thorpe, back in 1882. I did do some research about when the Danes migrated from Denmark to Canada during in the late 1800s. I also studied Danish folklore and demonology. I learned that the word “nightmare” comes from “mare” which was a mythical demon that climbs on top of your chest and sits there looking at you while you sleep. I wove some of my findings into my story. For instance, the legend of Beowulf fighting the creature Grendel is a part of Danish folklore, so in my book I described a tapestry of Beowulf and Grendel in the tavern where Kyle and Jessica go to eat lunch. Most of the research I did was to add rich details to the story. But the terrifying horrors that readers will discover when they enter the Devil’s Woods, I believe are ancient archetypes that come from the deepest darkness of my imagination.
3. The main character in The Devil's Woods is a writer as well, do you find writing stories with writers as the central character easier or a greater challenge? And are you a pilot like Mr. Kyle Elkheart, or is this something you learned for the book?
The answer to your first question is both easier and harder. Being a writer, it’s very easy for me to identify with a lead character is who also a writer. I put a lot of myself in Kyle Elkheart, and out of all the protagonists from my novels, Kyle is the most like me. I could easily get into Kyle’s head and know how he was feeling in any situation. I knew how he would react to certain conflicts like being attracted to his brother’s girlfriend, Jessica, and identified with his fears and emotions. At the beginning of the story, Kyle is a hermit who rarely goes out and mostly escapes into writing. There have been times in my life when I was reclusive and would go for days not seeing or talking to anyone, just writing, just escaping into another world.
The challenge of making a writer the main character is how to make him an interesting hero when his profession is mostly sitting at a computer and typing words on a screen. It’s much easier to write about protagonists who have active professions like a detective or a soldier or a spy. With Kyle, I decided to make him more of a detective--he’s searching for his missing father. And Kyle has a unique gift--he can see into the spiritual realm. He sees and hears ghosts and can get psychic visions of events that happened in the past--like when he witnesses the murder of an Indian girl from twenty years ago. As a horror author, Kyle became rich and famous writing a ghost detective series. The ghost detective, Alex Winterbone, has become Kyle’s alter ego and pushes Kyle to solve the mystery of the Devil’s Woods.
To answer your second question, I’m not a pilot, and before writing the book knew very little about flying. Both my grandfather and father were pilots. My grandfather flew C-47s back in WWII and dropped the paratroopers over Normandy during the D-Day invasion. My father started out as a Navy pilot, flying cargo planes and landing on aircraft carriers. Dad went on to fly commercially for airlines like Braniff, Muse Air, and spent most of his career flying Captain for American Airlines. I consulted my dad about flying and got some basic flying information. But in my story, Kyle flies a seaplane, which neither my grandfather nor father ever flew. So first I researched seaplanes to find out the type Kyle would be flying up in Seattle. Out of several different choices, I decided to go with the de Havilland Turbo Otter seaplane. I love how those pontoon planes can take off and land on lakes. Once I chose my plane, I decided I needed to talk with a pilot who actually flies one of these so I can correctly describe how Kyle operates the plane. I contacted a flight school up in Seattle and interviewed a flight instructor who flies the de Havilland. He explained how to take off, the proper altitude to take the plane, and how to bring the plane in for a landing on a body of water. I love doing this kind of research for books, because I always learn something new and I believe it adds some authenticity to the story.
4. At Horrorhound Indy this past September, we were lucky enough to spend a great deal of time talking about writing. Our conversations helped motivate me for months. Is this something you find helps you as well? Discussing the love of writing with other writers?
HorrorHound Indy was a blast and I really enjoyed hanging out with you and talking about horror novels and movies. Yes, I love discussing the love of writing with other writers. Where I live, very few people in my circle of friends and family are writers. And my local friends, who are writers, don’t read or write horror. So when I go to horror cons and get to hang out with writers like yourself, I feel like a kid who has finally found a group of like-minded people who share my passions for horror fiction. I remember we talked for hours on end and it was a lot of fun. Hanging out with you and other Samhain horror authors definitely motivated me to go home and get back to writing. I immediately went home and finished my novella The Vagrants, which earned me another book deal with Samhain Publishing one month later. Our talks definitely played a part in keeping me motivated.
5. What will we see we see next from you? After reading The Witching House and The Devil's Woods, I'm overly excited to read the next Moreland book. I've compared you to Graham Masterson and Dean Koontz, so I keep your books on the shelf next to theirs.
Thanks, that’s an honor to be compared to those two masters, especially Dean Koontz, since I studied his writing style voraciously back in college when I was first learning how to write a novel. I loved his fast-paced storytelling and always aimed to write my books so readers keep turning the pages.
My next book The Vagrants will release as an eBook June 3rd, 2014. While most of my books are set in the woods, this one takes place in Boston. It’s a mix of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.
Here’s the synopsis:
Beneath the city of Boston evil is gathering.
Journalist Daniel Finley is determined to save the impoverished of the world. But the abandoned part of humanity has a dark side too. While living under a bridge with the homeless for six months, Daniel witnessed something terrifying. Something that nearly cost him his sanity.
Now, two years later, he’s published a book that exposes a deadly underground cult and its charismatic leader. And Daniel fears the vagrants are after him because of it. At the same time, his father is being terrorized by vicious mobsters. As he desperately tries to help his father, Daniel gets caught up in the middle of a war between the Irish-American mafia and a deranged cult of homeless people who are preparing to shed blood on the streets of Boston.
Lastly, I’m working on a collection of short stories which I’m aiming to release in October 2014.
To read an excerpt of The Vagrants and see some cool videos of abandoned subway tunnels, go to here.
If anyone would like to receive updates about my publications, they can join my mailing list at http://www.brianmoreland.com/.
Krist, thanks so much for interviewing me for your blog. I look forward to hanging out with you again at horror cons later this spring and summer.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Author Bio: Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, and The Devil’s Woods. His next book, The Vagrants, will release in June 2014. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel.
Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland
Like Brian’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HorrorAuthorBrianMoreland
Brian’s blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com