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Lupo's World ~ A Blog

Guest blog post: An interview with Brian Moreland, author of DEAD OF WINTER (Samhain)

Brian Moreland, author of Shadows in the Mist and the new novel Dead of Winter (just published by Samhain), discusses his influences and research and what makes him tick as an explorer of dark deeds and darkness in general. Prompts by fellow Samhain author W.D. Gagliani...


1. So, Brian, what experience warped you and turned you into a horror writer?

I would say watching movies like Jaws and Alien and The Howling when I was a kid. I never had so much fun being scared. I got similar experiences from reading horror novels. For me, horror creates an adrenaline rush that makes the experience thrilling. When I decided to try my hand at writing a horror story, I discovered that being creative and exploring my own imagination can be just as thrilling as watching a great movie or reading another author’s novel. It’s also very fulfilling to share my fiction with readers.

2. What was the book or movie that made you say: "I have to do this kind of thing myself!" (Or maybe you said: "Boy, I could do a better job than this!")

I’ve said both those above quotes many times. The Alien, Aliens movies definitely inspired me, as well as Dean Koontz’s Watchers, Robert McCammon’s Stinger and Swan Song, and a number of books and short stories by Stephen King. I wanted to write at their level. I’ve studied their books, their writing style, how they orchestrated terrifying scenes, and did my best to learn from the masters.

3. I read about how you intended your novel Dead of Winter (Samhain Publishing, part of their new horror line, which debuted in October 2011) to have parallel past and present stories, but then chose to stay in the past. How did you research it? How did you handle the time-relevant details?

That’s correct. Dead of Winter was originally about a modern-day detective, Tom Hatcher, and a serial killer that had links to strange killings that happened back in 1870. The historical flashbacks were based on real events that I discovered in my research. Whenever I get a kernel of an idea that intrigues me, I read a lot of non-fiction books and surf the net. Google has been great for doing research. I always double-check facts I read about on the internet, because you can never be too sure. I might read something interesting on Wikipedia and then search for books on the subject to cross-check the historical facts. I also interview experts and historians. The more I came across weird supernatural stories involving the Jesuits and the Ojibwa tribes of Ontario, Canada, and cannibalism and mysterious evil spirits, the more I felt the 19th Century scenes were much more fascinating than the modern-day scenes. So I decided to place Inspector Tom Hatcher and the serial killer known as the Cannery Cannibal in 1870 with the rest of the characters. It was a fun challenge writing a completely historical novel and I’m glad I did it.

4. You wrote a novel set in World War 2 (Shadows in the Mist). Why is this war so fascinating? Why are Nazis so desirable as bad guys -- is it because they dabbled in the occult? (Indiana Jones said: "Nazis! I hate those guys..." What was your inspiration for this book (which I haven't had a chance to read yet, but I look forward to reading.)

I’m like Indiana Jones, I hate those guys too. I believe that any fanatical group makes for a good villain. And the Nazis--based on how cold and ruthless they were and how many millions of people they killed--are universally thought of as evil. The fact that a few of them really practiced the occult makes them interesting for a horror novel. Shadows in the Mist explores the question, “What if at the height of WWII, the desperate Nazis created a supernatural weapon to stop the Allied forces from invading Germany, but instead, unleashed something evil into the foggy woods?” Following a rogue U.S. platoon behind German lines, I blend action, adventure, horror and suspense with real historical facts about WWII and the Nazis and the occult. (Shadows in the Mist re-releases from Samhain Horror in September of 2012.)

5. How do you create your characters? Are they born whole in your mind, or do you develop them layer by layer?

Definitely layer by layer. At the beginning of a novel I’ll usually decide what occupation the main character will have first and build from there. In Shadows in the Mist, I wanted to tell my story from the point of view of a U.S. soldier, Lt. Jack Chambers, fighting in the trenches. He’s also got a squad to look after, so I made him a platoon leader who cares too much about keeping his men alive.

Dead of Winter was a detective mystery from the beginning. Originally my main character was a small-town sheriff in present-day Michigan. When I decided to move the setting to Ontario, Canada, my character changed to a British inspector to fit the history. The priest was a Jesuit exorcist from the get-go, but he went through several name changes before I was satisfied with Father Xavier Goddard. My characters always evolve over time. Each draft I write, I add more character flaws, back story, and often make them stronger than they first start out. For instance, I might think a lead heroine is acting too much like a damsel in distress—so I’ll change her actions so that she can handle her own. As I throw my characters into scenes of conflict, I learn who the are and how they handle themselves, how they talk, how they behave battling for their lives or risking their lives to save others. It’s like painting a painting. It’s never a masterpiece after the first attempt. I just keep adding brush strokes, layer by layer, until I feel a character is the best that I can make them.

6. What is the one element in your fiction that you think most reflects your voice/philosophy?

I would have to say Good prevails over Evil. I believe that when a man or woman digs deep into their soul to face their greatest demons, they can tap into a reservoir of courage and strength and conquer anything. We all have that capability and I like to write stories where the heroes and heroines come out stronger in the end.

7. If you were forced to pick only 10 books you could keep (the desert isle scenario), what would they be?

Horror

The Island by Richard Laymon
Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Phantoms by Dean Koontz
The Stand by Stephen King
Books of Blood by Clive Barker

Non-Horror

Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Iron John by Robert Bly
Excuse Me Your Life Is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn
Harry Potter Series by R.K. Rowling
Lord of the Rings Series by J.R.R. Tolkien

8. Which three authors have influenced you the most and why?

Horror authors Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and Richard Laymon. They write stories that are pure fun and adventure. They create loveable characters and monsters, and their writing style keeps you on the edge of your seat. They know how to write thrilling action and ratchet up the tension. I’ve done my best to write books that ignite all the senses and are a joy to read.

9. Describe your next novel project!

I’m over 300 pages into writing my third novel The Devil’s Woods about a secret forest on a Cree 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.

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Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels are Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist. He loves hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and dancing. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at http://brianmoreland.com/ or on Twitter @BrianMoreland.
Brian’s blog for news about his books: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com

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