Welcome to the latest Guest Author spot featuring a fellow Samhain Horror writer. Brian Moreland‘s incredible ‘Dead of Winter‘ exploded (like blood on snow!) onto the horror fiction scene as part of the new Samhain Horror line back in October 2011. Brian was kind enough to drop by and answer a few questions about his life and work. So read on to discover more about Brian, his fiction, and what horrors are yet to come…
1. Your novel ‘Dead of Winter’ debuted as part of the Samhain Horror line October 2011. Can you tell us about the novel and the inspiration behind it?
My latest horror novel is a historical story about a horrific cannibal plague that breaks out at an isolated fur-trading fort deep in the Ontario wilderness near the end of the 19th Century. The main character is Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective from Montreal 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 at Fort Pendleton 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 from Montreal who is ordered by the Vatican to travel to Ontario to help Tom battle the killer causing the outbreak. Tom also joins forces with a native shaman, Anika Moonblood, who is feared by the colonists to be a witch. But Anika knows something about the spirits that haunt the woods surrounding the fort. She also knows something about Tom Hatcher that he’s not willing to face. And to battle the menace that is terrorizing the fort, Tom must confront his past and everything he believes.
Dead of Winter is 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.
2. Care to reveal more about your clear fascination with historical horror?
My first two novels have been historical for a couple of reasons. One, I love history and believe there is a lot of gold to be mined from writing stories based on events that really happened. Two, it seems like the more contemporary horror I read or watch in movies, the more I’m seeing the same general story ideas over and over. I strive to write fresh stories that readers haven’t experienced. I want to take their minds to some place new. And I find that bringing the classic horror elements to a historical setting offers some new adventures to readers. Also, if they already know something about the history I’m writing about it adds dimension to the reader’s enjoyment. For instance, in my novel SHADOWS IN THE MIST (to be re-released in September 2012 by Samhain Horror), the story is set during World War II Germany and involves the Nazis and their fascination with the Occult. Many readers have expressed how much they enjoy the rich war history of the book, because they have their own relationships with World War II. Either they had a father or grandfather who fought in the war, or they’ve read many history books on the subject and already know about the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest, where my novel is set. (This preceded the famous Battle of the Bulge. Thanks to movies, documentaries, and books, readers also have in their minds an idea of what the Nazis were like. So when people read about the Nazi villains in SHADOWS IN THE MIST, readers can enjoy the book all the more since they have some historical background. My book interweaves a lot of historical facts, and many readers have expressed that they learned a lot of about the Nazis and their Occult practices that the readers weren’t even aware of. When something terrifying really happened in our past and is forever branded in the collective consciousness, those true facts add a whole new element to reading horror fiction. That’s why I like to combine history and horror.
3. Samhain Publishing is a new player in the horror literature field. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has it been working with them?
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 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 was 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 intact. With Don and Samhain, I definitely feel like I’ve found a home to publish my future books as well.
4. The Dead of Winter has descended and you are snowed in at a remote log cabin. The stove is piping hot and a cauldron of broth is on the simmer. Around the table are 6 chairs. Who’s snowed in with you, and why?
The broth smells delicious and gathered around my table are Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Joseph Campbell, Stephen Spielberg, Natalie Portman, and Jennifer Aniston.
I’m a huge fan of books and movies. From Steven King and Dean Koontz–two masters of writing horror and dark suspense thrillers–I’d pick their brains on how to become a better storyteller and how to create a successful career as they have. I’d also have their books on hand to read and I’d ask them to read my latest manuscript and provide feedback.
Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is just fascinating with his books and talks on mythology. I think he’d keep us entertained for hours and would be my sage. Same with Stephen Spielberg, who has made some incredible movies in his career. I’d love to bounce some story ideas off of him and, who knows, maybe after spending some time with him he’d option my books to become movies. I wouldn’t want to be snowed in a cabin with just men, so I picked two smart, sexy, beautiful actresses who I feel have a wonderful combination of personality, sense of humor, and charm. I’d have a steamy romance with each to keep warm on those cold winter nights.
5. Where do you feel the horror genre stands nowadays and what does your crystal ball predict for the genre’s future?
I definitely see horror on the rise for books. Movies have been pretty steady for the past decade. The type of horror keeps changing. Whether they’re slasher films, movies like SAW, or about ghosts, vampires, or zombies, it seems like every year there are at least a dozen horror films to go see at the movies or rent at Blockbuster. Right now, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus. Alien was my all-time favorite movie when I saw it as a kid back in the ‘80s.
As for books, the horror genre was down in the ‘90s through the mid 2000s. I couldn’t sell anything. Every agent and editor I submitted to kept telling me, “Horror is dead.” But that seems to have changed in that last four to five years, and now people are reading vampire, werewolf, and zombie novels and talking about horror feverishly on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. My agent was right about being patient. She told me to just ride out the slow years and keep writing fiction. That’s what I did and now with two books out and more on the way, I’m in great position to feed the rabid horror readers with more fiction.
It used to be the large publishers were defining the horror market by publishing big name authors like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Peter Straub, while snubbing us yet-to-be-discovered authors. Now, I believe that small and medium-sized publishing houses (like Samhain Horror) are introducing a fresh batch of horror authors to the genre and bringing in a lot of diversity. It’s also bringing American authors like myself and British authors like yourself to play on the same field together. I’ve always loved reading British horror, and to be released alongside a legend like Ramsey Campbell is truly an honor. E-books are also changing the publishing landscape and making it easier and less expensive for readers to download our books and give us a look. It’s an exciting time to be a horror author and I feel we’re just now gaining momentum.
6. What is your favorite work of fiction (horror or otherwise) and why?
There are so many books that I have loved from horror and other genres: The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Torro, Dan Simmons’ The Terror, Robert R. McCammon’s Swan Song, Charlee Jacob’s Haunter, David Seltzer’s novelization of the 1979 movie Prophecy, and too many by Stephen King to choose a favorite.
But if I had to pick just one book, I’d say Dean Koontz’s Phantoms. I read that novel in college and it had an impact on my love of horror books and writing. It has a great set up from page one where two sisters return home to a small mountain town where they grew up. Immediately they discover that everyone in town is missing–including their parents. I found the book so intriguing as the sisters search the town for what happened to all its inhabitants. It’s very scary and I remember being in a state of joy while reading it.
7. Please give us an insight into the personal journey behind your experiences with the military.
While I’ve never served in the military, twice I got to travel with the USO and Tostitos to military bases in Baghdad, Iraq. When not writing novels, I still work part-time as a video editor. A production company I was working for took me with them to Iraq to film commercials for the USO. We traveled with several celebrity football coaches and players. We filmed the troops playing a college-bowl like football game with the celebrity football players. Some of the highlights of my trip were hanging out with some of my football heroes, donning a helmet and flak jacket and flying in a C-130, visiting Saddam Hussein’s palaces, and surviving a mortar attack–running for cover while mortar shells exploded nearby. That was a wild adventure! You can see photos from my first tour to Iraq at my blog (http://brianmoreland.blogspot.com/2010/01/traveling-to-iraq.html).
8. As many people will know, Samhain Publishing is named for the ancient tradition that became every horrorhead’s favorite festival of Halloween. What would make for your best ever Samhain celebration?
First, I’d have to have a killer costume. Then it’s all about the party. I’d go with my girlfriend and a group of friends to some exotic place that throws a great Samhain celebration like the French Quarter in New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Two years ago I was living on Maui, and a group of us went to a beach town called Lahaina. They blocked off the main street for a mega Halloween party and every bar was packed. I saw some of the craziest costumes and a lot of risqué ones too, where people are half-naked. Now that was a party to remember. What I’m really looking forward to doing in the future is meeting up with fellow Samhain Horror authors at a horror convention and celebrating the success of our books.
Frazer, thanks so much for the interview. Hopefully next time I find myself in England, we can talk about writing over a few pints. Cheers.
You are most welcome Brian, thank you for stopping by and answering my questions. Mine’s a pint of Type O Negative – Cheers!
Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels are Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist. He just completed his third novel, The Devil’s Woods, and plans to release it in 2013. 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. Brian’s blog for news about his books: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com