October 4, 2015

The Number of the Beasts: an interview with Brendan Detzner, author of "Beasts: 16 More Weird Stories"

About Brendan Detzner's Beasts: A nurse gives a tow truck driver her number while the spirits watch attentively. 

Sasquatch and Chupacabra clash across universes. 

A skeleton billionaire throws his annual halloween party. 

A woman kisses her husband good night and locks him in a room in their basement. 

And twelve more.

Available at Amazon.com

Gef: What brought about the creation of this collection?

Brendan: It's my second short story collection. I'd had a critical mass of material for a while and wanted to put another book out, but I kept getting stories published. It's a great problem to have, but it slows things down because you have to wait to get the rights back. As it turned out, the delay worked to my advantage because by the time I was in a position to release the collection I'd quit my job to write full time and could put a lot more energy into getting it out into the world.

Gef: How much of a gear shift is it for you when writing a short story as opposed to something longer?

Brendan: Short stories are my home base. The adjustment for me is in going long, and most of my longer stuff still has a lot of short-story-sized chunks mixed into the ice cream.

Gef: How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

Brendan: I started devoting regular effort to writing at a young age and never really stopped. I can do stuff now that I couldn't do before and I see opportunities now that I would have missed previously, and if I can say the same thing a year from now and a year after that then I'll be pretty pleased with myself.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Brendan: I try to cast as wide a net as I can, but one source I go back to a lot that I don't hear other people in my circles talk about as much is crime fiction, not just the classic stuff like Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain but also Richard Price and George Pelacanos and basically everybody who ended up writing "The Wire". I've also started to appreciate how big an influence all the 90's era Vertigo and Vertigo-inspired comics were in setting my inner goal posts. That was a great time for the inmates taking over the asylum, but at the time that I encountered it I didn't understand that. I just took it for granted that you were allowed to go crazy and do what you want, and made my own plans accordingly.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Brendan: It depends on what I'm writing. When setting is important for something I'm working on, it's something I take very seriously. I go on a lot of field trips and do a lot of research, and it's a big turn off for me when I feel like the author of something I'm reading didn't go to as much trouble.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the horror genre?

Brendan: The big thing that keeps me happily tied to horror is that the audience around it actively wants to be surprised and shocked and caught off guard. It's part of the mechanism of how those kinds of stories work, and when things are going well it creates a lot of freedom to do interesting stuff that hasn't been done before.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Brendan: Anything that insists any particular genre only exists as part of a certain "tradition" or "culture" or whatever else. Genres stem from things that human beings naturally do- people explore their anxieties, people dream about how things could be different than they are, people fight wars, people break laws, people think about the implications of new technology, and so on. None of those activities needed to be invented, and if you want to participate in them you don't need anyone's permission. Read what you think is interesting, learn from what's going on around you, and pursue what you think is important. Don't worry about the hall monitors.

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

Brendan: Guilt doesn't come naturally to me but I have been on a little bit of a professional wrestling kick lately. There's things to learn there but I have to admit it might be time to move on for a while.

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

Brendan: If you like either of my last two collections than there's plenty more where that came from. At this point I don't see any reason not to put out a new short-story bundle once a year or so for a good long time. I also have some novel-length pieces in the trunk that are going to see the light of day one way or another, either me putting them out myself or coming to an arrangement with a publisher. To keep track of what I'm doing you can head over to my web site at http://www.brendandetzner.com and sign up for my mailing list and Facebook page and all that good stuff.

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