Friday, March 9, 2012
INTERVIEW WITH BRYAN HALL
BRYAN HALL a writer living in the mountains of North Carolina. He's had numerous short stories appear in various anthologies and magazines, now bundled into the collection "Whispers from the Dark." His debut novel Containment Room7 was released a few months ago by Permuted Press. Listen to what he has to say:
When did you start writing and how long was it before you were published?
I started young and then stopped for a while. About three or four years ago I started focusing seriously on it again and started selling short stories pretty quickly. I got lucky with the novel and made a deal with Permuted Press a few months after I finished it.
Tell us about your latest book and what inspired it.
Containment Room 7 covers a lot of areas, from zombies to aliens to murderous cults. It's a sci-fi zombie novel that really started when I was trying to break into a pro sci-fi market. I was struck by the idea of 'What would happen if we found God, and it wasn't really what we were expecting at all?' That evolved and twisted and turned and became the novel. The book's not preachy in the least in any direction, but that's the idea that it sprang from.
What genre do you write in, if any? How do you feel about the genre, the future of it, and the authors in it?
Horror, although I've got a few dark southern gothic stories in the pipeline. As for my feelings on it – it's stronger than ever and will probably just grow throughout the future. When it comes to writers, horror is one genre that certainly has no shortage of talent and the new publishing paradigm makes it easy for them to get their stuff out there.
What/who do you read for pleasure?
It's such a diverse list that I don't know where to start. I try to read one fiction book, then a non-fiction book and keep that pattern going. Everything from Dante to Cormac McCarthy, George Carlin to Clive Barker. I also read a lot of comics.
Is writing pleasure or work for you?
It's both. The fiction writing is pure pleasure, although sometimes the need to get it on the page can drive me insane. But during the daylight hours I write freelance nonfiction stuff to keep afloat, so that aspect of it is definitely work. Still, considering that I could be doing construction work or some nine to five job, I've got no complaints at all.
If you had to exchange your writing life with another writer, who would that writer be and why?
What an incredible question…I'll go with Alan Moore. I know he's a comic author, but the things that he's done are amazing and literally changed everyone's perception of what not just comics, but stories in general could be. From the Watchmen to his run on Swamp Thing, if I could create characters and plots like that I'd die content.
How do your friends and family cope knowing you have such dark or unusual thoughts?
Luckily most of my friends have thoughts just as dark. My wife just laughs it off. She likes a good horror movie more than she'd care to admit, I think, so she takes my strange thoughts in stride.
How supportive is your spouse and your family?
Completely and totally supportive. My wife let me turn an entire room of the home into my office, and has stood behind me completely since I told her this was going to be my life from now on.
What inspires you? Or triggers a story idea?
A long drive with some music on the radio is where most of my story ideas seem to hatch, for some reason. I'm not sure if it's the music or the drive, but that's where a huge percentage of them come from. But inspiration's a tricky beast to pin down, and everything from a news headline to a stubbed toe could do it. If you mean what inspires me to keep writing, I'm sure you already know – it's more of a compulsion that you can't control than anything else.
What has been the most difficult/painful/surreal story to write, and why?
I have a story that's pretty much outlined in my mind concerning a group of boys living in a town with a child murderer on the loose. It starts when they're young then moves to their adult lives. But the opening chapter is one of the victims coming to, tied up and scared as the killer prepares to kill her. I'm writing from the perspective of her, and I just can't get through it yet. I keep imagining my kids in this situation and have to move on to something else. One day I'll finish it up, but for now it'll just have to simmer.
How do you see the story in your mind as it's created? Is it like making a plan, seeing a mental movie, or do you just write down what the voices in your head tell you?
A little bit of the last two. I can't plan it out completely, though I usually know the opening, the basics, and where it's leading. Usually I play out each scene in my head like a movie, then go back through the dialogue a couple of times. But there are occasions when it just spills out before I know what's happening.
What's the best book you ever read?
I reread the Books of Blood by Clive Barker almost every year, and The Road is really amazing as well so it's probably a toss-up between them. But I'll say that the best work of fiction I've ever read was the entire run of Preacher by Garth Ennis. The characters and the storyline in that changed my mind about what fiction could be.
Who are your influences in literature?
Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, and Clive Barker are the big three in fiction that I look up to. But my main influences are really comic writers: Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, and Neil Gaiman to be specific (I know Gaiman writes novels now, but the Sandman comic blew my mind).
Do you feel traditional publishing may become a niche?
If something doesn't change, it may. Obviously it's going to take a while, but there are already publishers switching their focus to more of a niche kind of thing, with hardbound signed copies for collectors followed up by eBooks for the masses. It's really tough to say, but the next few years should be interesting.
What is your education and job, other than writing?
I don't have any college degrees, if that's what you mean. And I'm lucky enough to call writing my full time job (albeit with help from the nonfiction freelance stuff), and thus far I'm able to make a living from it.
Do you ever, like Truman Capote confessed doing, take from real life, friends, and family situations or characters to use in your fiction? If so, do you tell them or keep it secret?
The novel I'm working on right now is centered around a character based on a family member with paranoid schizophrenia, although he'd probably never recognize it due to his situation. As for others, a few personalities and situations weave their way in here and there. It's the best way to get that realism a good story or character needs, I think.
Do you belong to any writer's organizations? If so, which ones, and how do you feel about professional organizations?
I'm a member of the Horror Writer's Association, and they're really committed to helping up and coming writers. I haven't had the time to really delve into everything that they offer their members, but there are plenty of benefits to be had.
Do you think networking on social sites has helped your career and sales?
I think it has, for sure. It's made it much easier to get the word out and to meet others in the business to exchange ideas and collaborate on marketing and even on creative projects. I'm not so sure how much it helps to just post a "Buy my book!" post daily, since it hasn't impacted my sales tremendously. I do it every so often, but I think beating the dead horse will only help you lose followers.
What is the hardest thing you've ever had to do concerning your work as a writer?
Honestly, just find the time to write fiction. With a family, a full time writing job, and a property to take care of, it's hard to squeeze in the time needed to get a book written.
Writing fiction is important to all authors, but how much does it mean to you? If there were no outlets for fiction of any kind, how would that feel? If for some reason you could not write anymore, what would you do instead?
It means a lot, for sure. There are just too many things go on in my head to not have some kind of outlet. Actually, before I started writing full time I spent a good bit of time…not depressed, really, but listless. I notice I get that way now if I don't get at least a few hundred words onto the page every day, so I guess there's something going on there. If I couldn't write, I'd be playing music again. I pretty much stopped playing once the writing took off – only so much time in a day, really.
What three things should our world have that would make it a better place?
Far more craft beers...far more common sense…and another season of Deadwood (or two). Yep. I'm shallow.
His novel Containment Room 7 is available from Permuted Press.
His short fiction collection Whispers From the Dark.