Brad, how would you describe your style of writing?
My writing style…
I like to play with the style a bit and feel that, to a certain extent, the style should cater to the mood that an author is attempting to engender. That being said, every author has certain stylistic markers that define their voice. These days I tend to pay more attention to the musical quality of sentences, trying to create and maintain a varied rhythm that (hopefully) picks up the reader and carries them along. But, again, this varies. In DARLING I tried to get out of the way as much as possible, to keep the prose clean and simple and sharp. Style-wise, I suppose my models for the book were Matheson, King, and Laymon. DARLING was written four years ago, though, and, if I were to write it today the models might be more Hemingway and Straub. This dynamic quality is one of the things I love about writing (and, really, about art in general). DARLING is a book I could have only written as it is at that point in time. As I grow older, my tastes will keep changing and my writing will (hopefully) continue to change.
Your brand new novel, Darling, is scheduled for release by Bad Moon Books. Could you tell us a little bit about it? What inspired you to write it and are you happy with the result?
I’ve always been a fan of haunted house novels, from Henry James to Shirley Jackson to Stephen King. Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, there was a strong undercurrent of folklore always about, from my grandmother’s stories of headless railroad workers to phantoms that haunted country backroads and leaped in front of passing cars (usually filled with drunk teenagers, but still…). Writing a haunted house story set in that locale and using that storytelling tradition seemed like a no-brainer. But heading into it, I instantly hit a snag. I wanted to do something new, to bring a fresh perspective to the haunted house tale. I hit upon what could be responsible for the phenomena that happens at the apartment building the book centers around, something that, in the end, makes the book not a haunted house story at all. But it feels like one and, if what I set out for works, it should give the reader a feeling of “home” within the familiar tropes of the genre while surprising them and taking the story somewhere unexpected. Worse case scenario, Phillip Simpson’s gorgeous cover will look good on your bookshelf…
Are you working on anything at the moment? Is there a piece of your work which you are especially proud of?
I’m currently expanding a novella I’d written last year titled THE MUD ANGEL into a novel. It’s a murder mystery set in Florence during the flood of 1966. It centers around families that have been feuding since the Renaissance, a lost work of Dante’s, and necromancy. I’m really excited about it and feel (as I’m sure every author does with every novel they write) that it’s deeper and more mature and has a stylistic integrity that I’m very proud.
I have another novel that revolves around pickpockets living in catacombs beneath Rome. It’s a sort of comedic adventure with elements of FIGHT CLUB and THE BEACH. It’s non-genre, so my business acumen with where I should place it is pretty non-existent so I’ve got a bit of a learning curve there. I’ve also written a play about Lord Byron that, if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, will be staged internationally within the next year.
Are there any other writers who you really admire? What was the last thing you read and would you recommend it?
The list of writers I admire could go on and on. To keep this short, I’ll stick with the living.
Within the genre, it’s hard to beat early King and early Barker. Peter Straub is fantastic, as is Richard Matheson. Dan Simmons I’ve always admired, not simply for his work itself, but his sheer refusal to be pigeon-holed in any one genre. Lisa Morton has to be mentioned because of her sheer work ethic. Even if I didn’t like her work (which would be impossible because it’s amazing), the sheer volume of short stories she has published in a year is breath-taking. The list could keep going. The horror genre is experiencing a kind of Renaissance right now, in my opinion, driven largely by the small press. There are so many great authors coming out, many new and fresh, that it’s hard to say at any given moment who I admire the most. It’s unfortunate that most people think of “Friday the 13th Part VIII” or “SAW V” when they think of horror, because the literature that’s being released right now is ground-breaking. Even only the genre could get ditch the baggage that the film industry has placed on it… Not that those movies aren’t fun (they are), but they represent such a small fraction of what horror is and what it could be that they have become an albatross around the genre’s neck as far as public perception goes.
As for the last thing I read, that would be a tie. I tend to jump around between books quite a bit and might read two books at the same time. The last two I finished were THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James and THE BURDEN OF INDIGO by Gene O’Neill. Oddly enough, I’d never read James (something I’m quickly correcting – THE ASPEN PAPERS is the next thing on my “to read” list), but THE TURN OF THE SCREW really is one of the finest ghost stories every written.
As for THE BURDEN OF INDIGO… Pick up a copy if you haven’t read it. Pick it up NOW. Just make sure you have the weekend free because you won’t put it down. Gene O’Neill has this quality to transport you into this bizarre world where the color of your skin takes on an entirely different meaning. If this isn’t a Summer blockbuster at the movies within the next few years, then Hollywood really has lost its touch.
Finally, do you have any hints and tips for other aspiring writers?
I feel odd answering this because, in many ways, I still feel like a beginner.
I will say that the old saw, “Read wide and outside of the genre” holds true. I didn’t mention them above because I was focused on the genre, but what I learned from reading Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, and Nick Hornby would be hard to pin down. And that’s not even getting into the Big Dead Greats like Hemingway or Flaubert.
I guess the other thing I’d say is reach high with your work. Don’t ever write something that you want to submit when you think you’re writing is “good enough.” Keep pushing, learning, growing. I used to fight at an amateur level, something that, oddly enough, tends to relate to writing in so many way. A coach I had once said, “When it really counts, you will never rise to your expectations but merely fall to your level of training.” Writing is an art that requires passion, but it’s also a craft that requires skill, skill that may take thousands of hours to develop. Someone asked for advice at KillerCon and, thinking of this, I said (half-joking): “Reach for the Heavens with all the fury of Hell.” The more I think about that, the more I actually like the sound of it. Passion and inspiration, on their own, do little. You combine them with the skill and the burning desire to be the best damned writer you can ever be… Well, now you have a potent combination. Now you have the foundation to be a writer.