August 1, 2014

When Harry Met Talley: an interview with Brett J. Talley, author of "The Reborn"

About Brett J. Talley: A native of the South, Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard
 Law School. When people ask, Brett tells them he writes for fortune and glory. But the truth is the stories in his head simply refuse to stay put. Brett loves every kind of fiction—from horror to literary to historical to sci-fi—as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose. There’s still magic to be found in fiction, the mysterious and the unknown still beckon there, and the light can always triumph over the darkness, no matter how black the night may be.
Brett writes when he can, though he spends most of his time working as a lawyer so that he can put food on the table. That is, until the air grows cool and crisp and fall descends. For then it is football time in the South, and Brett lives and dies with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Roll Tide. (source: http://brettjtalley.com/)
Earlier this year saw the release of Journalstone's latest DoubleDown, featuring Harry Shannon's Biters and Brett J. Talley's The Reborn. I had the chance to ask Brett a few questions about the book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: Double-novels (or novellas more accurately) were kind of everywhere back in the 80s it seemed. Did you ever have a favorite from back in the day?

Brett: I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I never even knew they existed. I just thought my publisher was a genius. But then people told me about the Ace Doubles, and I still thought he was a genius for bringing back such a great idea. It’s such an intriguing and versatile format. Like with our books, I knew that Harry was doing a zombie novel. I thought about doing something similar, but instead went with The Reborn, which is also about people coming back from the dead, but in a very different way. I think it worked out great.

Gef: So how did you get the news you'd be sharing literary real estate with Harry Shannon?

Brett: My publisher called and asked if I’d be interested in doing it. I can tell you, it didn't take long for me to answer. I've only been at this for a few years, and to have the opportunity to pair up with a guy who’s done it all and done it well, just incredible.

Gef: In The Reborn, reincarnation is a natural part of life and leads to people being hunted for crimes committed in past lives. What was the initial lure for you to use reincarnation as part of your world?

Brett: Like all good ideas, it just sort of came to me during a discussion of the implications of reincarnation. People always imagine that they’d be Cleopatra or Marilyn Monroe or Clark Gable if reincarnation is real. But what about the people who are Hitler, or John Wayne Gacy? How would those people be received? If someone killed your son or daughter, and then came back, how would you feel towards the person, even if they couldn't remember it, even if they seemed totally different? And what if there was some correlation between who people were in a past life and how they acted now? How would society react? There are almost limitless questions to be considered, and it was an approach that I had never seen before. People may hate the book, but I don’t think anyone will say it’s not pretty original.

Gef: With reference to The Great War, I think of WW1, but the Great War in The Reborn takes places in the mid-21st century. What's the impetus for this war and how does it serve to shape your protagonist and the home to which he returns?

Brett: Yeah, and I called it the Great War to bring up those very thoughts. As you know, after WWI ended, the allies did everything they could to ensure it never happened again. And of course, by doing so, they put in place some of the conditions necessary to bring about an even worse war. I wanted to have echoes of that in my story.

As for the Great War itself, it resulted from what I think is a not unlikely scenario. If people come back, then all the prophecies of legendary figures returning are, in fact, true. In this case, it is Genghis Khan. Who better to unite the downtrodden people of the world and strike out against the great empires? And of course, that plunges the world into war. Our two protagonists, Marcus Ryder and Dominic Miles, are both shaped by the war. 

They’ve seen the tragedy and the horror of it, and they come to be defined by it. Dominic is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that there’s never another war like it. Ryder is sort of a broken man, going through the motions of life, until the Shepherds and Dominic give him an opportunity to do something great. When he learns the implications of that choice, however, that’s when he has to decide who he is and who he will be.

Gef: With such a richly conceived universe, do you see yourself revisiting it for more stories, whether relating to this novella or exploring other new characters?

Brett: Definitely. I have a short story that will be in Dark Discoveries magazine soon, and I may do more in the future. I just need more time in the day!

Gef: What more can folks expect from you in 2014 and beyond? And how can they keep up with your writing?

Brett: Right now, I am working on the sequel to That Which Should Not Be, which should be out early next year (if I finish it on time). People can follow me on twitter, Facebook, or at my website, brettjtalley.com, where they can also sign up for my mailing list.


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