April 13, 2016

Coast to Coast Horror: an interview with Brian Moreland, author of "Blood Sacrifices"

Some evils require sacrifices.

From the author of Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods come four tales of blood-tingling horror:

The Girl from the Blood Coven

In this short prequel to The Witching House, when Abigail Blackwood claims her hippy commune family has been massacred, Sheriff Travis Keagan and his deputies investigate. They discover there’s more than weed smoking going on at Blevins House. Much more.

The Witching House

Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, but she helps her adventurous boyfriend investigate the old, abandoned Blevins House, scene of a forty-year-old unsolved massacre. Little do they know the house is hungry for fresh prey…

Darkness Rising

When Marty Weaver encounters three killers who like to play sadistic games with their victims, his own scarred past is unearthed. And when his pain is triggered, blood will flow…and hell will rise.

The Vagrants

Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering. While living under a bridge with the homeless, journalist Daniel Finley witnessed something that nearly cost him his sanity. Now, with a book published about the experience, he’s caught between the Irish mafia and a deranged cult preparing to shed blood on the street.

This is a collection of books previously published in digital format.

Gef: So how was it that this collection came to be?

Brian: The four horror stories in Blood Sacrifices (3 novellas and 1 short story) were originally published as separate eBooks. The stories include The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, Darkness Rising, and The Vagrants. I’m a big fan of reading paperbacks and I know several people who still prefer reading paperbacks over e-Readers. Since these stories weren’t available in print, I brainstormed with my editor and we came up with the idea to republish all my shorter books into a collection that could be available in paperback. We gave it the name Blood Sacrifices: Four Tales of Terror, designed a nifty cover, and this collection was born.

Gef: In a sense, this book serves as a bit of a time capsule for your writing career over the last few years. How would you gauge your progression as a writer so far?

Brian: Yes, these are my most recent stories that I had written a year apart. How would I gauge my progression as a writer? That’s an interesting question. I’d say it’s been a good run so far. I’m pleased with the stories that I’ve been dreaming up from the dark, bizarre place in my mind. My writing has gotten tighter. My first three books (Shadows in the Mist, Dead of Winter, and The Devil’s Woods) were long, epic novels with lots of characters and subplots. A few years ago, thanks to the invention of the eBook, I noticed novellas were growing in popularity. I challenged myself to write some shorter works, partially because they’re faster to write and partially because my editor asked if I could deliver him a book a year. So I took on the challenge. I like the novella length. It’s very much like writing a screenplay, which I learned how to do in college. Screenplays are typically between 90-120 pages in length. The stories in novellas are tighter, like movies, and can generally be read in a couple hours, as if you’ve sat down to watch a fun, entertaining movie. That’s my goal, at least, to give readers a movie-like experience. I don’t know if I’ve improved or not since writing my longer books, but I keep pushing myself to go deeper into characterization, strengthen my writing craft, and challenge myself to dream up stories that are unique and original, visually stunning and horrific.

Gef: When it comes to horror stories, do you have a preference towards novel-length works or short stories? Or do you have an affinity for the novella?

Brian: I love all formats and like to vary up my writing projects. Novels give me a chance to spend a long time in a complex fictional world with a group of characters. Novels, especially the historical ones that require a lot of research, take me about a year and half to two years to write. Novellas, I can write in about 3-4 months, so I like the speed of writing those. To me, a novella is the perfect middle ground between a novel and a short story. Short stories are fun for experimentation with characters, monsters, and points of view. They’re much quicker writing exercises, so you can get to that feeling of completion and achievement faster. Sometimes I can knock out a short story in a couple days to a week. I wrote “The Girl from the Blood Coven” in a two-day writing frenzy, then spent another day or two editing and polishing it. With shorter stories, I can finish one story and then quickly to jump to writing another story. In a collection I can explore a variety of characters, monsters, and settings. Novellas are typically focused on one general setting, a few characters and a simpler plot. With the longer novels, I feel like I’ve lived a whole other life through my characters, and finishing a novel has longer lasting rewards, especially when those novels live on through entertaining readers.

Gef: Along with the Witching House, we also get the prequel short story, "Girl from the Blood Coven." Which story came to you first in your own mind? And do you see yourself visiting this little piece of East Texas in the future?

Brian: I wrote The Witching House first. Before I had any characters or story idea, I dreamed up the abandoned house in the woods that had been boarded up for 40 years. Then I came up with Otis Blevins, the mentally disturbed caretaker of the Old Blevins House. Next I chose my characters (Sarah, Dean, Meg, and Casey) and came up with their reason for wanting to explore the house that was rumored to be haunted. Once I had all my characters in place, I wrote The Witching House in one frenzied month of writing in October. I wrote the book while staying at an isolated cabin in the woods of East Texas. That gave me the idea to set the story there. I also grew up in Texas and always wanted to set a story in my home state.

When I finished The Witching House, I still had a lot of desire to explore the backstory of the witches who had been slaughtered in the Blevins House back in 1972. I dreamed up writing a short story about Abigail Blackwood, one of the survivors of the massacre at her hippy commune and wrote it from the perspective of Texas Sheriff Travis Keagan. He just wants to have a beer at the local roadhouse bar and watch a baseball game on TV, when in walks a girl covered in blood...

Pretty much the day I wrote “The End” on The Witching House, I was so inspired, I started writing “The Girl from the Blood Coven,” and two days later I had a prequel short story that could stand on its own and give readers a taste of the mystery of the Blevins House.

Gef: Along with Texas, we also see Massachusetts and Oregon featured as backdrops. How important a role does setting play for you in writing a story?

Brian: To me, setting helps create the atmosphere of the story and can become its own character. The backwoods of East Texas, the wrong side of South Boston, the dark wooded lake of a remote part of Oregon...all these places conjured up the visceral feelings I needed to create the creepy atmosphere. The setting also shapes my characters. Daniel Finley, from The Vagrants, grew up in an Irish community in South Boston. He has to deal with the O’Malley Family, all members of the Irish mafia. Beneath Boston there are also real abandoned subway tunnels that were perfect places for my cult of vagrants to live and worship subterranean horrors. So the history of Boston and its heavily Irish influence helped shape that story.

Same with my Texas coven of witches. If you drive into the thick pine country of East Texas, you’ll find some shady backwoods people. In 1972, it was a great setting for a Manson-Family-like hippy commune that discovers what happens when you play with black magic.

I chose Oregon for Darkness Rising, because I think the wilderness in that state is beautiful. The woods in general can appear like paradise in the day time, but terrifyingly scary at night if you find yourself alone in the woods after dark. The lake that Marty Weaver visits becomes a character in a way. The isolation of this particular area of Oregon--the remote woods, the small town--reflects Marty’s isolation. These isolated locations are also great places where sadistic killers can get away with murder.

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

Brian: I’ve broken the rules so many times, I’ve forgotten what the rules are. I don’t know if I’ve received any bad writing advice. I’ve been told by naysayers that my efforts to be a published writer were a waste of time, because they thought I’d never be successful at it. My advice to young writers is ignore anyone who tries to squash your dream of being a writer. If someone tells you you’re writing isn’t good enough, keep learning the craft and get better. Follow your heart and write the stories that you love to write. Let the naysayers eat crow when you’ve published several books and are living your dream.

Gef: How do you like the state of horror as a genre these days?

Brian: I like it more with books and TV than movies. Now I’m a huge horror movie buff. I’ve been watching movies since I was a kid and have seen just about every horror movie that’s been made. In the past decade, Hollywood seems to latch onto a hit like Saw or Paranormal Activity, then keep reproducing sequels until people stop going to the theater to see them. I’ve seen way too many shaky-cam, found-footage movies. It was a neat gimmick with Blair Witch and a couple of other movies, but I’m ready for horror movies to move on from that format.

There are also a lot of derivative movies, especially in the straight-to-DVD/Netflix/Hulu market. Every now and then I’ll find a diamond in the rough, like We’re Still Here, It Follows or Martyrs, but most of horror movies from the past few years have left me unfilled. On the contrary, Cable TV series are getting better. The Walking Dead continues to surprise me with its writing, acting, zombie action, and zombie makeup. I love that TWD has become popular and that the writers and producers have done that show right. I was also impressed with the series Penny Dreadful.

In the literary world, I think horror books are very diverse today and there are a lot more diamonds in the rough. There have been a lot of new horror authors on the rise. There are a lot of fresh stories being published today with some interesting new voices. It’s an exciting time for publishing horror.

Gef: What else do you have up your sleeve for 2016?

Brian: Well, 2016 is mostly a year for writing for me. I need to output a few thousand words to get a new book out. I’m in the middle of writing a historical horror novel called Tomb of Gods, set in Egypt in the 1930s, which I hope to finish this summer and get into a publisher’s hands quickly. I know I’m itching to finish the novel and move on to the next story.

I’m also tinkering with some short stories (old ones that I wrote over a decade ago and new ones). My goal is to self-pub a short story collection later this fall or early next year. A couple stories that are in it that I’m eager to share with readers are “The Dealer of Needs” and “Chasing the Dragon.” The anthology has been a work in progress for over a year now, so I’ll see how that comes along.

I do have some audio books published and soon-to-be-published through Audio Realms. Right now, The Devil’s Woods, The Witching House, and The Vagrants are available as audio books. My WWII horror novel Shadows in the Mist has wrapped up production and should be released this year. I’ve also been told that Darkness Rising, my revenge novella that’s in Blood Sacrifices, is being matched with a narrator and slated to go into audio production soon.

Thank you for having me on your blog. It’s been a pleasure.

Brian Moreland is a best-selling and award-winning author of novels and short stories in the horror and supernatural suspense genre. In 2007, his novel Shadows in the Mist, a Nazi occult thriller set during World War II, won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an international contest. The novel went on to be published in Austria and Germany under the title Schattenkrieger.
Shadows in the MistDead of Winter, and The Devil's Woods are his currently available novels, as well as his Kindle short-story The Girl from the Blood Coven and the novella it led into called The Witching House.  Now, he has released the full-length The Devil’s Woods. His novella, The Vagrants, was released in 2014, and another, Darkness Rising, in 2015.
He loves hiking, kayaking, watching sports, dancing, and making guacamole. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel.  When not working on his books or books for other writers, Brian edits documentaries and TV commercials around the globe. He produced a World War II documentary in Normandy, France, and worked at two military bases in Iraq with a film crew.
Brian lives in Dallas, Texas. You can communicate with him online at www.brianmoreland.comhis Dark Lucidity blog, Twitter, or Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment