I’ve got a second interview with one of my FAVORITE writers!! Sit back in your seat and take some time to read this fabulous, mind-picking (promise no ice picks used) conversation with supernatural horror author Brian Moreland (www.brianmoreland.com). He wrote my favorite book of 2011, which I reviewed here (CLICK HERE to read DEAD OF WINTER review and our FIRST INTERVIEW!)….then keep reading for our second interview. I promise, it’s worth it…why?
I promise he is not as scary as his books!! We’ve got some great discussion ranging on how religion and horror connect to cupcakes, so I promise it’s deep AND fun. We also get a…gasp, SNEAK PEEK at the opening chapter of this third novel, The Devil’s Woods!!! Don’t miss that as you get further into the interview. And after the blog, Brian and I will be chatting below in the comments section and we’d love for your to join us or post your thoughts. Pull up that blanket around your chin, lock your door, and open your mind. Let’s get to the interview!
Welcome Back, Brian!! I am so happy to visit with you again and hear how 2012 is treating you! I hope your novel, Dead of Winter, is having huge success. I can’t wait to talk about what else is coming up the pike for you (besides a canoe, which would be fun though wouldn’t it?)!
Thanks, Erin, it’s great to be back. And I love paddling in canoes. The year 2012 has already started out as a good one. I completed my third novel The Devil’s Woods in February, so I already feel like I’ve accomplished one of my New Year’s resolutions. Now if I can just get myself to stay on my exercise routine. Maybe when it gets warmer this spring, I can get on the lake near my home and get in some kayaking or go canoeing on one of our Texas rivers.
Q1: How has the feedback for Dead of Winter been and what new things did you learn about your writing from publishing it and from reader feedback?
A1: Feedback from over a dozen reviewers, as well as a plethora of readers, has been mind-blowingly positive. We’ll say over 90% of people have thoroughly enjoyed reading Dead of Winter. One reviewer told me the book gave her nightmares and said she couldn’t sleep with her back to the door. She kept dreaming about the demons in my book. I took that as a great compliment since my goal was to write books that scare the be-Jesus out of readers. What I’ve learned from a variety of reviews is that some readers have different tastes than mine. I stand behind every chapter I wrote and wouldn’t change a thing about the book. I’m quite proud of it.
Q2: How much time did it take you to delve into the research needed for the historical content of this book? Where did the idea come from and how did you research it?
A2: I did about two years of research while writing Dead of Winter. The idea came from reading a non-fiction book about legendary monsters of ancient cultures. One chapter talked about a demon spirit that stalked the woods every winter and terrorized the Great Lakes tribes in Michigan, Minnesota, and Ontario. I found those native campfire tales fascinating, so I built a story around a supernatural killer stalking a fur-trading fort in Ontario and turning people into cannibals. I love mixing real history with fantasy.
The entire novel is set in Canada in 1870, so all my research was done through reading history books on the fur trade in 19th Century Canada and using the heck out of Google to find websites about the history of the Jesuits, Algonquin and Ojibwa Indian legends, and the early settlers of Canada. I even read books on cannibalism to understand this mental disease which really exists, even today. Also, because one of my main characters, Father Xavier, is a Catholic exorcist, I read a lot of books on exorcism by living priests who still perform exorcisms today. I learned so much that I could probably exorcise demons myself. So if you have a demon that needs to be exorcised, just email me. Kidding, of course.
Q3: How much of Dead of Winter is based on fact or legend as it is surrounded by your imaginative characters and plot?
A3: While indeed a work of fiction, I wanted this book to feel real. Throughout the story I interweave several facts I pulled from history books and an interview I did with a descendent from a Canadian Ojibwa tribe. I learned that back in the 1800s, the Algonquin tribes migrated every winter because of their superstition of this winter demon spirit that wandered the woods feeding on humans. Some tribes even performed a ceremonial dance to ward off this evil spirit, which I included in the book. This legend also spooked the white fur traders, like the Hudson’s Bay Company, who lived in isolated forts all across Canada and traded with the Indians [First Nations to be politically correct, but back in the 1800s they were called Indians or “heathens”].FortPendletonis a fictitious fort named after one my characters, a tycoon by the name of Master Avery Pendleton. When the mysterious killings start plaguing the colonists living within his fort, Pendleton hires Tom Hatcher to solve the case. Tom teams up with an Ojibwa tracker and shaman, Anika Moonblood. She doesn’t believe the killer is a man or animal, but something much more terrifying. In the book, everyone in the neighboring Ojibwa tribe is spooked by the stalker out in the woods.
As I researched this legendary evil spirit even deeper, I discovered an article about a real isolated fort inQuebecwhere all the colonists went crazy and turned cannibal. In the late 1700s, a Jesuit priest who visited this fort documented the case in his journal, describing the deranged colonists as possessed by the devil. This is all factual and documented by the Catholic Church. I also did extensive research on the history of frontier life of Canada in the 1800s. During the long winter months out in the wilderness, cannibalism became a way of survival for isolated villages that ran out of food. And sometimes soldiers would arrive at a fort to find that everyone was dead except one man, who survived by eating the others. So, a lot of this book is based on real facts. As you reach the end of the book, you’ll see that my imagination just went wild.
Q4: The bloody circular symbol on your book cover for Dead of Winter, and mentioned in your book, really intrigued me. Around the time I was reading your book, my 8-year-old was drawing the same symbol in pretty colors all over multiple pieces of artwork. It had to be a coincidence, but it certainly did freak me out a little. Can you explain about the symbol and why symbols as a whole have seeped into many fiction novels of this decade? (And please tell me that my daughter drawing those symbols was coincidental!!)
A4: You just gave me chicken skin. Symbols have been around since man first started engraving hieroglyphics on stone. Symbols are very powerful because their meanings bypass the conscious mind and into the unconscious mind. If they are given a special meaning and show up over and over in art, teachings, architecture, or propaganda, that meaning begins to become a part of people’s belief systems. Think about the holy cross, the sitting Buddha, or the swastika and how those symbols have influenced the masses. The spiral is an ancient symbol that has been used in many cultures from native tribes in America and Africa to pagans in the Gaelic cultures of Ireland. I took the liberty of using that symbol to be a part of the mystery in my book. Your daughter might be highly intuitive or maybe she saw it on TV or in a painting. Sometimes the sun is painted like a spiral. It’s probably just coincidental.
Q5: I loved your female characters in Dead of Winter, especially Anika. How do you develop your characters with such intricate personalities?
A5: I love Anika and Willow, myself. Both women were really fun to write. I did my best to make them complex as they secretly battle one another over Inspector Tom Hatcher. Part of developing character personalities is spending over a year with them. They usually start off as sketches of people with a few traits and a little back history to get me started. The more I write my characters in scenes and see how they respond with other characters and the dangerous situations I put them in, I begin to see who these people really are and what they’re made of. It’s amazing what you learn about a person when you put them face to face with a serial killer or the devil. Characters like Father Xavier rise to the occasion, while other characters succumb to their dark sides.
It may take a few drafts before I come up with the complete back story of the character. For instance, the book’s villain, Avery Pendleton, plays the violin and fiddle, and has a red violin that he made with his grandfather when he was a boy. All of that detail and back story got added two years after I started writing the book. Sometimes I feel like a character needs more depth, and I will keep adding details about who this person is–their likes, how they dress, beliefs, and temperaments–as I go through a number of drafts. I usually write more than the reader needs to know and cut a lot of the back story to keep the main story tight. In Shadows in the Mist, I had intricate back story for every soldier in Lt. Jack Chambers’ platoon. I knew their birthdays and hometowns and childhood events that shaped their lives. That helped me see them as people rather than just characters. Most of that back story got cut, but the main story is about Jack Chambers and everyone else is in the story as a supporting character.
I might change character names half a dozen times before I end up with just the right one. I believe names define a character, think Hannibal Lecter. That name just sounds menacing. For my serial killer in Montreal that was Tom Hatcher’s nemesis, I thought long and hard as I came up with the name Gustave Meraux, the Cannery Cannibal, and his complex history. He was another character who evolved over many drafts until I felt like he could just walk right off the page and into nightmares. For me, creating characters is the most fun part of writing.
Q6: I’m a lover of Native American fiction, non-fiction, and culture. Does their history and culture intrigue you? Why or why not? How do you feel their culture and legends impact us today in America?
A6: I’m a lover of Native American culture because it’s part of our country’s history. I’ve also studied shamanism, witnessed shamanic pipe ceremonies, and endured the sweltering heat of sweat lodges while a shaman chanted. The native tribes of the previous centuries were deeply connected with the land and animals and the spirit world, at least in their beliefs. I find their legends fascinating and very translatable to writing horror fiction. My next novel, The Devil’s Woods, also deals with a Native Canadian mystery, although this one is more from my imagination than from historical fact. I don’t know how their culture impacts us today in America. For the most part, I think our tribal ancestors have been pushed aside and now they mostly represent sporting team mascots and casinos. If you go to places like New Mexico and Arizona and Vancouver, there are still tribal descendants who keep native traditions alive.
Q7: How do you feel horror novels of the psychological variety parallel religion and its role in society?
A7: Wow, that’s a heavy question. I hope I can do it justice. I write mostly supernatural and often include religious characters or mysteries based on religious history. Like worshipping an invisible God, supernatural horror explores the unknown. H.P. Lovecraft was a genius at creating horror stories based on mythos and otherworldly gods. Since my stories are battles between light and darkness, good and evil, they suggest that unseen forces exist behind all good and bad that happens in the world. Perhaps with free will, man is free to express his goodness and his dark side, influenced by his inner demons. Horror fiction gives us a place to pit those two sides of man against one another to see which prevails. Stories about heroes battling monsters date back thousands of years. Whether they are told in mythology or religious books, they serve as metaphors. Moral choices we must make. I think horror stories serve society in that they give us outlets to express our relationship with the unknown and all the complex emotions we have going on inside us. They help us in our search for deeper and greater meanings of our existence.
Q8: I know you loved comic books as a kid, is it still a guilty pleasure? If so, what comic books do you like today? What comic books inspired your imagination?
A8: I did love comic books as a kid and read them well into my twenties. Big influences were Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, Aliens vs. Predator, The Thing, and some of Clive Barker’s comics. I’ve since outgrown reading comics for the most part and mainly read fiction and non-fiction. I do enjoy movies based on comic book heroes. I’m looking forward to seeing The Avengers this summer.
Q9: My stove is heating up in the kitchen, what kind of cupcakes am I baking you?
A9: How about chocolate cupcakes decorated with faces from the Monster Mash–Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, plus some ghosts, witches, and Jack-o-Lantern faces? Really, you can’t go wrong. I love all flavors of cake.
Q10: What are some of the films that cross from entertainment and into the realm of literary genius? Do you find that some of the best are usually stemmed from books?
A10: I’ll mix in some recent movies with some of my classic favorites–Alien, The Exorcist, Prophecy, The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and more recently Black Swan, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Lord of the Rings. A lot of great movies stem from books. Occasionally a screenwriter pens a brilliant script like Pulp Fiction and The King’s Speech. I love movies that make you feel and make you think.
Back to serious questions…let’s talk about your novels…
Q11: Dead of Winter has been out in e-book since October and now available in paperback as well. This was your first novel with new publisher Samhain, who launched their new horror line in October 2011. What’s the latest news on your debut novel, Shadows in the Mist, coming back into print?
A11: My first novel, Shadows in the Mist, has had a successful journey so far. I originally self-published it back in 2006 in trade paperback. In 2007, it won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an international contest, and I got to go to New York to receive my medal. Then Berkley/Penguin bought the rights to it and re-released it in small paperback in 2008. In 2010, a German publisher released it in Austria and Germany under the title Schattenkrieger, where it is still selling today. After three years with Berkley, I got the rights back to Shadows in the Mist and signed a new book deal with Samhain Horror, who published Dead of Winter. This gave me an opportunity to revise Shadows in the Mist based on feedback I had gotten over the years from reviewers and fans. I’ve tightened up the opening chapters and even eliminated a few scenes to get to the World War II part of the book even faster. With Samhain Horror, I’m also getting to use the original blue cover that I designed with renowned artist Les Edwards back when I self-published the book. For those who haven’t read my first book, Shadows in the Mist will re-release as an e-book and trade paperback September 4th, 2012. The cover can be seen above and at my website http://www.BrianMoreland.com.
Q12: What is Shadows in the Mist about and what inspired you to write it?
A12: The historical novel is a supernatural thriller set in the foggy woods of Nazi Germany in World War II. After 60 years of silence, a secret pact between two war heroes is about to be broken. Buried beneath the blood stained soil of Germany lies a Nazi relic that could destroy armies if fallen into the wrong hands. Now the diary of WWII hero Jack Chambers is being delivered to the U.S. Army to reveal a dark conspiracy. This is the untold story. The real reason Jack Chambers’ entire platoon vanished in October, 1944.
The story opens in present day, when retired war hero Jack Chambers is an old man haunted by his past. The story flashes back to World War II where Lt. Chambers and his platoon are fighting the Germans inside the bloody Hürtgen Forest. As they cross enemy lines on a top-secret mission, the platoon comes across something supernatural that is killing both American and German soldiers. Lt. Chambers and a few survivors from his squad take refuge in an abandoned Catholic church in the woods and discover a Nazi bunker where occult-obsessed Nazis had unleashed something deadly into the woods. I won’t give away too much more of the premise. It’s all based on historical facts I uncovered about the Nazis and the occult and it blends the genres of war history, conspiracy theory, and supernatural horror. Some reviewers have described it as Band of Brothers meets The Da Vinci Code.
Q13: I know you mentioned to me that your grandfather inspired some of this novel based on his military service. The story of your grandfather is so amazing.
A13: Thanks. I believe that article tells the story best, so I’ll let readers click the link below to read my grandfather’s true story and watch clips from the documentary that I filmed. My grandfather was a real-life World War II hero who did inspire me to write Shadows in the Mist. It was so freaky that after I wrote the book, he was contacted by a museum in France that had his C-47 airplane. There are scenes that happen in my novel that ended up happening in real life about three years after I released the book.
How wonderful for him to travel to France and be recognized there, honored as an US service man who helped to save France, and his (and your) experience, as he was reunited with his famous airplane after many years of thinking it lost.
I’ve linked to an article and the photos on your blog that you wrote some year back: http://brianmoreland.blogspot.com/2008/08/war-hero-returns-to-normandy.html
Q14: Do you have any more novels in the works? I know many readers that loved Dead of Winter are itching for more from you. What say you??
A14: As I said earlier, I just completed The Devil’s Woods. My third horror novel is about a secret forest on a Cree Indian reservation up in British Columbia, Canada where a lot of strange things are happening and people are vanishing. This one has both ghosts and some really cool creatures. I don’t know why I keep setting my books in Canada. I guess because there are some places up there that are still isolated. Plus, I love the wilderness, and British Columbia is absolutely beautiful. The story starts out with an archeologist disappearing while on a mission inside the ancient forest. Then his two adult sons and daughter–all half Cree–return to the reservation in search of their Cree father. They begin to unravel the mystery behind all the disappearances and why their reservation is haunted. This novel has plenty of scares and ties in a lot of the Native American [First Nation] culture we discussed earlier.
My aim is to release The Devil’s Woods in 2013. For those who would like a sneak peek, here’s an excerpt of the opening chapter:
SNEAK PEEK at THE DEVIL’S WOODS!!!!
Q15: What are your goals for 2012 and what do you want to accomplish?
A15: Well, first I’d like to finalize the book deal for The Devil’s Woods and get that one into production. I’ve got some local book signings lined up to promote Dead of Winter and in the fall I’ll have two books to promote with the release of Shadows in the Mist. It’s important to keep writing, so I plan to work on some short stories, a novella, and start my fourth novel, which at the moment I’m not sure what that will be. I will continue to study the craft of writing and read novels by other authors to sharpen my skills. I also plan to attend some horror cons and get out there and meet fans of horror.
Q16: Again, how can readers connect with you?
They can email me at Brian@BrianMoreland.com.
Friend me on Facebook by looking up Author Brian Moreland, and tweet me on Twitter @BrianMoreland.
My website is http://www.BrianMoreland.com.
I love meeting fellow book lovers and writers and welcome people contacting me. I also have a blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com where I post news and interviews.
Brian, it is also so nice to have you come and visit with me. You’re an amazing writer and a super great fellow. I wish you continued success in your writing. Stop back soon!
Thanks, Erin, I’ve enjoyed both interviews and appreciate all that you’ve done to help promote my books. I wish you lots of success with your own PR business and writing your own novels. Hopefully, one day I can sample some of those delicious cupcakes you’re always baking.
(Erin: Thanks for that Brian, I appreciate you!!)
Who is Brian Moreland?
I grew up in Dallas, Texas. I come from a large extended family from both West Texas near Lubbock and South Texas near San Antonio. I admit to having a pair of cowboy boots and enjoy two-steppin’ and spinning a lovely lady around the dance floor. I love football and am a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. Since I graduated from U.T. Austin, I also bleed orange and root for the Texas Longhorns. Hook em’.
My writing journey began over twenty years ago when I started my first novel and wrote a few short stories. I studied creative writing and screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin.
I haven’t always been a professional writer. While living in Dallas, I spent several years working as a producer and film/video editor. I edited the documentary Band of Champions, as well as hundreds of corporate videos. I traveled to Iraq twice with the Tostitos and the USO to film TV commercials with the troops. My commercials played during the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, and the 2011 BSC Championship football game. One of my proudest accomplishments is a WWII documentary I produced about my grandfather.
I’ve lived most of my life in Texas. For an amazing year and a half, I got to live in Hawaii, on the tropical island of Maui and learned a lot about myself. Today, I’m back living in Dallas. I am writing my next horror novel and editing and designing books for other authors.
I also write a blog, Dark Lucidity, about the exciting and often bumpy career of writing for a living. I’m also an amateur photographer, so I like to include plenty of photos of my outdoor adventures.