Talking about The Vagrants, New Novella from Brian Moreland~
I’ve been so busy that I’ve held off talking about a new exciting release called The Vagrants, even though I read it weeks ago, but I just can’t keep it in anymore. I had the chance to read an advanced review copy of this novella and gobbled it down in one sitting. I hope launch day found you all buying it, but if you haven’t, please do snap up this novella from Brian Moreland. It’s a great piece of writing, available in e-format, for just about $3. (You can head to Brian’s website by clicking on the book cover above right now, just remember to come back).
Here’s the synopsis~
Beneath the city of Boston evil is gathering.
Journalist Daniel Finley is determined to save the impoverished of the world. But the abandoned part of humanity has a dark side too. While living under a bridge with the homeless for six months, Daniel witnessed something terrifying. Something that nearly cost him his sanity.
Now, two years later, he’s published a book that exposes a deadly underground cult and its charismatic leader. And Daniel fears the vagrants are after him because of it. At the same time, his father is being terrorized by vicious mobsters. As he desperately tries to help his father, Daniel gets caught up in the middle of a war between the Irish-American mafia and a deranged cult of homeless people who are preparing to shed blood on the streets of Boston.
Brian’s a great friend of mine, but he’s a great writer first and foremost. I would not have met him had I not been his biggest fan girl and all–and then there was the fact that he was hooked on my cookies!! There isn’t a book I haven’t liked from Brian–he’s a seasoned writer who has been traditionally published, re-published, is an internationally award-winning author and videographer, and he’s been around the writing world awhile even topping best seller lists. If you haven’t heard that, it’s because he’s pretty humble, but really this guy is one-of-a-kind. Now published primarily by Samhain Publishing’s horror line, they released his novella The Vagrants this June.
I said to Brian a year or so ago, “you know, all your books take place in the woods.” Which too me was awesome–I love horror, thrillers, and historicals that take place in the forest–but he may have not wanted to be pigeonholed I guess. I love his historical reads, like Shadows in the Mist, which takes on the Nazi Occult, or my favorite book Dead of Winter, which surrounds a 1800s outpost in the Canadian wilderness. I love The Devil’s Woods, which I had the honor of helping him critique, with its Native American characters, legends, and of course, the woods. Being a huge fan of witches, he even pulled me in with his novella, The Witching House, which again, takes place in a wooded area.
But he decided to switch it up on me with The Vagrants, as he sets it in none other than my favorite city, Boston, but nowhere near a forest!! As I’m reading he’s taking me into the depth of the city, the tunnels and the abandoned factories, and he’s making me care about the writer in turmoil, and the homeless, and terrifying me about the Irish Mafia. Yet, STILL I loved it.
Here’s why. (Well, besides the fact that it’s BOSTON). No matter the setting with Brian, woods or city, he has a unique way of blending modern protagonists and characters who are emotionally wretched, uncertain, and have something to prove or redeem themselves from. As he sets into motion their inner turmoil and creates a whole back story that we enjoy just for that emotional connection with them.
His prose is succinct, detailed yet to the point, quick-moving, and cinematic. His protagonist, author and journalist Daniel Finley, is well-rounded and I feel I know him within the matter of a few chapters. We almost forget we are reading a horror novel, but are enjoying a thriller with some suspense…..and then BAM! He just blows it out of the water with a major dose of action, horror, gore, and in this case, supernatural with an element of H. P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker with a dose of The Walking Dead thrown in for good measure. And since I hate the genre that The Walking Dead falls in, Brian does a good job of making me love something I forget that I don’t like. He makes me care and then horrifies me in a way that hypnotizes me so I can’t begin to pull myself away.
The Vagrants tore at my heart-strings due to Daniel’s angst over making it as a writer and his career near and dear to my heart (journalist!), the guilt he feels from depending on his dad for his college and his subsequent financial support, his fight to redeem the name and life of his dad who went to extreme lengths to support him, and then, of course, there is the tale of the homeless living in the city’s tunnels and a strange occurrence happening among them that Daniel goes undercover to report on.
The Vagrants is a phenomenal novella that intermixes all the best short story ideas of Stephen King’s societal yarns, focusing on character development, and yet writing with more staccato prose and less filler such as the master suspense author John Saul and the imaginary, subterranean, otherworldly, monsteresque, cannibalistic, supernatural writing of Clive Barker.
If you haven’t read Brian Moreland, start now with The Vagrants, but don’t stop there, check out his entire back list. They’re well worth the money and are all unique and highly well-written and edited. He’s a top-notch author you’ll not want to miss, whether you meet him in the woods or below the city streets of Boston.
And now, I’ve had the opportunity to ask Brian a few probing questions about his newest work. He said that he’s unveiled some things here about his life and his book that he hasn’t anywhere else! I think my questions offer some insight you’ll enjoy and his answers allow you to delve deeper into the book as I did when I laid awake thinking about it at length. Please do let us know what you think!
So without further introduction, as he’s sitting here with a smile on his face and a beer in his hand…and he’s already spied all the cookies I set out, though he won’t eat them now, he’s been to the gym and drank a green smoothie, but it’s so much fun to tempt him…at any rate, I welcome Brian to the site today!
Erin: Hi, Brian!! Let me get you a napkin for those cookie crumbs, because I think I saw you sneak one. Let’s turn off the baseball and get down to a discussion of your work.
BM: Hi, Erin, it’s great to be back as a guest of Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m trying to eat healthy, you know!
Q: Where did you find your inspiration for The Vagrants? What led you to Boston, one of my most favorite cities?
BM: The Vagrants started out as a short story I wrote many years ago when I was writing a lot of short fiction. The story was originally set in Chicago about some mobsters having to get rid of some vagrants that were squatting in their building. Last year, I re-read the story and liked the dark mystery. I moved the story to Boston, because I wanted the horror element to come from an abandoned underground subway and the Boston’s T has plenty of creepy tunnels that have been closed off for decades. I created a new main character, Daniel Finley, and made him a reporter who was doing an undercover story and witnessed something he shouldn’t have. The new, revised version was supposed to be just a short story, but the more I kept writing, the more I saw a bigger story and expanded it into a novella.
Q: I loved that you chose a journalist to be your lead. It’s always a fear of ours, as journalists, that a story will lead us into horrible circumstances…kidding!! Well, maybe not as I at first wanted to be a foreign war correspondent! But I do like how you used this profession for your protagonist. Your book had some social undertones at the start, was this meant to layer your book? I always think some of the best horror interweaves societal turmoil. What do you think?
BM: Yes, the social undertones were meant to add a layer to the story and make Daniel Finley a sympathetic character as he starts out attempting to do something good for humanity. Also, I’ve had my own experiences with homeless people. There used to be a shanty town beneath a bridge here in Dallas. I don’t know what happened to the shanty town or the people who lived under the bridge, but it looks like the city made them move on and then cleaned up that area. Another time I was helping out a homeless married couple. I offered to just give them some money so they could get back on their feet, but they were very proud. The husband was an ex-soldier and a very good handyman. He had hit hard times and couldn’t find a job. His wife was a housewife and mother of two kids. The husband insisted that he and his wife work for the money, so for a couple months I gave them odd jobs at my house. In the mornings, I’d pick them up at this slum motel they were staying at. One morning, while I parked outside waiting for them, I saw this tall homeless man emerge from beneath a nearby bridge. He crossed through a weed-ridden field toward the motel. At first, I just casually watched the man hiking through the weeds and then turned my attention back on the upstairs apartment door. The married couple was taking longer than usual to get ready. When I turned back to the field, I was shocked to see the homeless man approaching my vehicle, reaching for the passenger door. Before I could hit the locks, the passenger door opened and the homeless man climbed inside and sat right beside me and closed the door. He was bigger than me, sweaty and filthy. He just looked right at me with this crazy grin and said, “Hey.” My fear of being attacked at close range skyrocketed. I panicked and yelled, “What the bleep are you doing in my car? Get the bleep out!” I think I scared him as much as he scared me, because he opened the car door and was out of the vehicle in half a second. I believe in treating homeless people with respect and helping them out when I can, but when they climb into a car with you that crosses a line. A few minutes later the married couple came down to my car and told me that guy was crazy and I did the right thing. Those up-close experiences with homeless people influenced the writing of Daniel Finley’s story.
In answer to your question, yes, if you look between the words of a horror novel, there is often a social message or warning. I didn’t write my story to purposely have one. I mainly focused on characterization and writing a horror story that would entertain readers.
Erin: Leave it to me to find more in a story than what was planned…..lol!
Q: I enjoyed how you intertwined the modern crime and mafia feel into the surreal world of the unknown. How did this come together as you were writing it?
BM: As I mentioned earlier, this story started from the viewpoint of a mafia family dealing with a problem with vagrants. I had liked mixing the mobster genre with horror, but my characters were all bad guys in the short story. I needed a hero readers could root for, so I created Daniel, a man who grew up in South Boston and has a father who did his best to keep Daniel away from the O’Malley family. Connecting Daniel with the O’Malley’s and the vagrants took a little puzzle solving to work out the plot, but eventually the story came together.
Q: You packed a lot of substance into a short novella so that it read like a full novel. Your character development of your lead, Daniel, was superb and you were able to show us the human elements of parental struggles, regret, guilt, and the need for redemption. Where do you pull your feelings from for these characters? Do you feel that these common emotional themes are what drives people to reading horror?
BM: Thanks. I did my best to add depth to a story that’s just over 100 pages. It’s about the length of a 90-minute movie, and to accomplish building the story with many layers, I wrote this in scenes, just like a movie with lots of dialogue, and painted the world around Daniel with as few words as possible and kept the action moving. I pulled my feelings for Daniel and his father from my own experiences. My parents helped me financially through college, and even after college I got into some financial troubles and had to borrow money from my dad. For a long time I felt guilt for not being able to pay him back. He never gave me a guilt trip, but I could relate to Daniel’s need to be financially independent and prove to his father that he was a man who could make it on his own.
Q: How can horror be explained to those naysayers of this “red-headed step-child” genre? How can readers and writers of the genre encourage others to be open minded and not “judge a book by its cover” or in other words, have preconceived notions?
BM: Well, first I’d say that the naysayers probably think reading a horror novel is the same as watching a horror movie, which many of the straight-to-DVD movies are terrible and derivative of all the horror movies that came before them. Reading horror fiction is an entirely different experience. For one, it’s very personal to the author, and so there’s usually more emotional depth than a movie. Two, reading gives the reader a much more personal experience, where everything is happening to them through the points-of-view of characters. It’s one thing to watch people being chased by zombies on the big screen. It feels much more real when you’re inside a character and the zombies are chasing after you. There are many great authors out there putting a fresh spin on horror. I’d say read several of them and you’ll discover reading horror can be really fun.
Q: Now that I’ve read all your books, I have a more clear idea of a theme running among some of them. It creeped up on me. There is a certain type of horror I hate (which I think you know what that is), but yet, you keep surprising me with it. It seeps into my reading without me even realizing it and then there is no going back. So I do like it, just don’t let me know in the beginning. Ha!
How do you create your stories in such a way that by the time the ending has smacked me in the face, I am shocked and surprised that I am reading it AND liking it? How do you get the reader so invested?
BM: Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment. (Erin comments: PLEASE DO!!) I do my best to write the kind of horror that seeps into your brain, gets under your skin, and makes you feel what the characters are feeling. The main key is characterization. If readers aren’t invested in the characters, they won’t follow them into the dark house or abandoned building where the horror is waiting for them. I think another technique is knowing how to write a mystery and peeling back the layers slowly, so the reader is constantly wanting to know what’s at the end of maze you’re leading them through. If I’ve done my job right, then you’ll be feeling chills and thrills and finally an adrenaline rush, and that’s what makes you surprised that you are enjoying the story, even when it gets scary and bloody. I’m glad you’ve been willing to read my kind of horror.
Q: Have you ever thought about writing a novel about a fantasy world? Another realm? Science-fiction? It seems to me that your mind would take you there if you were open enough to it?
BM: I don’t know if I’ll ever write a story that’s pure fantasy. I love real-world, human characters who must confront the supernatural and horrific. I like part of my stories grounded in reality and then we discover another, darker parallel world has secretly existed alongside us―underground, in basements, hiding among us yet disguised as human. The Vagrants, which is art horror, part urban fantasy, was inspired by my love for reading Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft, who are masters at creating other dimension creatures that crossover into our world.
Q: What makes some of your horror different from anyone else’s work? I have my own thoughts, but I’d love to hear how you think you connect separately with readers?
BM: Hmm, I’m not really sure what makes me different. I’ve never really thought of my writing as unique, just doing my best to measure up to the successful horror-thriller writers who came before me. I mix a lot of genres and often have more than one horror element going on, like a creature and serial killer in the same story. I learned this from reading a lot of Dean Koontz. I love characters with depth, so I spend a lot of time developing my characters so readers care about them. I also put a lot of emphasis on atmosphere, so that wherever I set the story, you feel like you are there. I’m very lean with my descriptions. Because I studied screenwriting in college, I’ve applied my script writing skills to my novels, where each chapter flows together like movies scenes. They are driven by action and dialogue, cause and effect. The characters are driven by an emotional force that propels them to deal with whatever horrific antagonist they are up against, whether it’s a monster, serial killer, demon or ghost. I don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the universe or preaching my ideals. In fact, I do my best to take myself out of the story. I focus on story and attempt to breathe life into fictional characters that feel like real people. My writing style would probably be considered pulp fiction.
Q: What are you writing next? What new ideas do you have for future novels and novellas?
BM: I’m currently working on a three-volume short story anthology that’s a collection of short stories I’ve written over the years, along with some new ones that I can’t wait to share with readers. The stories range from supernatural horror, like “The Dealer of Needs,” some urban fantasy such as “Chasing the Dragon” and “The Cosmic Gate,” as well as some stories about serial killers, “The Pond” and “The Jack-O-Lantern Man.” I’m also working on some historical horror short stories, as well. I plan to release these three volumes as eBooks and in paperback. I’m also plotting out my next novella and novel.
Erin: Thanks so much for letting me, and my readers, be privy to your innermost thoughts as a writer. It’s always a wonderful time when I have you here.
BM: Thanks, Erin, for inviting me back. I always enjoy chatting with you.
See an excerpt of The Vagrants, HERE!
Brian Moreland, Author~
Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of supernatural horror and dark suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, and The Devil’s Woods, and The Vagrants.
Brian lives in Dallas, Texas, where he is diligently writing his next horror stories, and helping clients with their own books. In his free time, he watches movies, sports, and make guacamole!
Connect with Brian Moreland~
Find Brian’s books at Samhain Horror
Praise for Brian~
“Brian Moreland writes a blend of survival horror and occult mystery that I find impossible to resist. His writing is clean, precise, and, best of all, compulsively readable. I know, when I’ve got one of his books in my hands, that I’m going to be lost to the world for hours on end. He’s just that good.”
—Joe McKinney, author of Dead City and Flesh Eaters
“Brian Moreland writes horror on a level that soars above the usual fare, and THE VAGRANTS is no exception. Chocked full of scares and suspense, Moreland delivers a tale that will soon be a classic. This is the kind of story horror lovers need.”
—Kristopher Rufty, author of Oak Hollow and The Lurkers
“I am in awe of Brian Moreland.”
—Ronald Malfi, author of Snow and Floating Staircase