August 4, 2014

A Perilous Living: an interview with Robert L. Hay, author of "Closter's Branch"

Robert L. Hay's debut novella, Closter's Branch, hits the digital shelves today, and I had the chance to ask him a few questions about the book and his writing. Enjoy!

About Closter's BranchWould you know evil if you saw it?

White cracking heat. Ravenous animals that stalk the night. Talons that render flesh from bone. The desert is a hard and unforgiving place. When children get lost out there, they don't come back. The town of Closter's Branch knows that fact better than most.

Abraham Stone has spent the last ten years of his long life as Sheriff of the dusty town of Closter's Branch. It's an easy job. The townsfolk are peaceful. Everything seems normal on the surface of things, but Abe can't shake the feeling that something is not right. He's been having nightmares. Visions. The desert makes perilous living for everyone, but the more empty coffins they bury the more Abraham wonders if his visions are true. Something sinister is stalking the desert.

Aided by his deputy, the Sheriff works to uncover why the town keeps losing their children. The lawmen's search for answers sets a series of events into motion that will shatter families and bring the town of Closter's Branch to its knees.

Gef: Can you offer readers a little insight as to the inspiration behind Closter's Branch?

Robert: I wanted to write a classic monster story, in the vein of Dracula or Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. The idea for the story came about in a strange way. I had this idea for a horror story a few years ago. Just a premise, really, but I thought it would be interesting to go back and tell the much larger story leading up to it. Closter's Branch was born out of that. My original premise was set much closer to present day.

Gef: Did you grow up, like so many of us, with an affinity for westerns, or was the genre something you came to later in life?

Robert: I grew up watching westerns with my father, but I never really loved them until I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as a teenager. That movie was the first western that felt like art. Gritty, violent art, but art none the less. To this day, its one of my favorite movies, western or not. The soundtrack alone, don't get me started. Also, that point in American history is such an interesting time to set a story, especially for horror. Its a time when people are pretty isolated. It might take an hour or two to ride to the nearest town. A lot of creepy things can happen in that time.

Gef: What's your take on genre classifications? With so much genre-mashing these days, has it become antiquated, or does it still serve in helping readers with appetites for certain genres?

Robert: I like genres, but I don't think they are as useful as they used to be. When I buy books online, it because of reviews or recommendations, not genres. When I go to a brick and mortar bookstore, I find genre sections more helpful, but I find I buy most of my books online. I'm sure I'm not alone there.

Gef: As an artist, what disciplines from your illustrating did you bring over to your writing?

Robert: I think illustrating has given me the ability to condense a story to its key elements. There are a lot of fine writers who are able to tell you every detail of the world, but Illustrating has taught me that its not always what you see that is interesting. If I do it right, the reader will bring their own visual vocabulary with them, and build the world with very little help from me. I like a picture that tells a story and a stories that lets the reader make their own pictures.

Gef: How has your experience with Authonomy been thus far?

Robert: So far, my experience with Authonomy has been really good. I think that if you don't go in thinking you are the next Hemingway, you can get a lot of useful feedback from other writers. Like any online community, there are a lot of different people with different tastes, and it is good to get perspective from people who might not be otherwise inclined to buy your book. Occasionally, you'll get ripped a new one. Those are the reviews I am most grateful for. Often, they are the readers that will tell you the painful truth. If you have the humility to take that criticism and use it, it can be a tremendous help. I think Authonomy is gearing up for a redesign, so I'm interested to see what the new site looks like.

Gef: What else do you have in the works for readers, and where can they get their hands on Closter's Branch?

Robert: I am working on the follow up to Closter's Branch right now. You can pick up Closter's Branch on as an ebook or in print starting today.

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