January 29, 2015

Hope Within a Haunting: an interview with Michaelbrent Collings, author of "Twisted"

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He has written numerous bestsellers, including Darkbound, Apparition, The Haunted, The Loon, Rising Fears, and the bestselling YA fantasy series The Billy Saga, beginning with Billy: Messenger of Powers.

He hopes someday to develop superpowers, or, if that is out of the question, then at least to get a cool robot arm.

I had the chance to ask Michaelbrent a few questions about his new haunted house novel. Enjoy.

Twisted is available on Amazon.com

Gef: What is the impetus behind Twisted?

Michaelbrent: Twisted is, at its heart, a story about abuse. The father in the story struggles with a past rooted in abuse, and the terror that he might abuse his own family someday. The ghost that serves as the villain has a similar background, and has let it twist him beyond recognition, to the point that he has renounced all his humanity and now exists – even in death – only to cause terror and pain. Unfortunately there are real people in these situations. Not the paranormal aspects, but children who live in fear of their parents, and parents who live in fear of their past and of themselves. The pain of abuse that, once inflicted, never completely heals. I thought there would be a story in there, and once I followed it to its end it became dark, frightening, and (hopefully) a bit illuminating.

Gef: What do you suppose the allure is with ghosts and hauntings? They've been around for as long as recorded history it seems, but the last decade has seen a real renaissance of sorts in pop culture--or at least reality TV? What's driving it?

Michaelbrent: That’s a very interesting question. I think that as we move into a more and more secular society, there is a loss of spirituality that we miss. Additionally, as we become more “connected” – Facebook, Twitter, other kinds of social media – we also become at the same time more isolated. There are sudden, lonely holes in our hearts that we long to fill. With friendship. With love. With money. With drugs. With answers to the great questions: where are we going, why are we here, where did we come from?

Ghosts allow us to discuss these last. Because if there are ghosts, there is indeed an after, even if it isn’t the after we imagined. There is the possibility of more than just this place, this now. Not only that but, because of this emptiness so many people suffer from, I think horror in general offers a unique opportunity for people to receive something they desperately need: a sense that they are alive. When staring numbly at a computer screen, or tablet, or TV, what better to remind us of our humanity and the fact of our existence than a pounding heart, the pulse beating in our ears?

Ghost stories, scary stories, give us an odd sort of hope, and let us talk about things nothing else ever could.

Gef: How much research goes into a novel like this for you? Are there any bits of local folklore acting as an influence, perhaps?

Michaelbrent: Research varies for me depending on the novel. The one before Twisted was called This Darkness Light, and that had a tremendous amount of research. There are different kinds of advanced weaponry, hospital setups, disease vectors, all sorts of things I had to know for an apocalyptic thriller. For Twisted I had to do less, though there was a bit. I looked at photography in the 1800s, examined different writing styles back then, and (oddly enough) researched bike messengers. I like to get things right, but I also don’t want to spend so much time researching that I forget to do the actual writing.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever got?

Michaelbrent: Hmmm… I can’t remember. Why dedicate brain space to something dumb?

Gef: What do you believe is the saving grace of the horror genre?

Michaelbrent: The saving grace of the horror genre is just that: grace. Horror is a genre – the only genre – that not only allows for but at times demands the reality of life after death, a Great Beyond, powers both good and evil that watch from places unseen. It allows us to talk about God, because if there is a devil possessing a little girl, then who can save her but a man of God? And with this peculiar characteristic comes an ability to talk about questions of life, death, and beyond that no other genre can touch as fully. Horror exists largely in the darkness, but in so doing it also becomes the only genre capable of fully appreciating the light.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Michaelbrent: Ha! I must say that when I’m up at two in the morning I have a habit of turning on TNT or TBS or one of those basic cable stations and seeing what horrifically bad splatter movies they have on, all cut to pieces so the swearing is gone and the nudity has disappeared and the violence has been cut out so the movie makes even less sense than originally. Nothing is better than Wrong Turn 16: Hillbillies Love Nubile Teens with all the “good parts” taken out so the movie is basically a Mystery Science Theater 3000 set piece. I don’t know why, but this kind of thing cracks me up.

Don’t judge me. There is a whole generation out there that thinks the Star Wars “prequels” are better than the original ones. Those are the people that need judging. <grin>

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Michaelbrent: I’m currently working on the next in The Colony Saga, The Colony: Buried. It’s book six in a zombie apocalypse series that’s been incredibly popular – probably because unlike most z books the zombies don’t die when you shoot ‘em in the head (they just get more dangerous), they’re getting smarter, and the people in the series are largely good (as opposed to being horrible folks who kind of deserve to get eaten). I’m also working on a few screenplays (I’m a produced screenwriter in addition to my adventures as a bestselling writer), and after that I think I’ll write a book about a police officer who gets framed for multiple murders, called Night Patrol. Or not. Who knows?

As for best way to keep up with me, you can follow me on Facebook at http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or you can sign up for my mailing list at http://eepurl.com/VHuvX - the list only has new releases and sales for my books (NO SPAM!) and subscribers are guaranteed safety when The Glorious Revolution begins!  

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