Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Author Interview! Brian Keene...

Over the last couple of years Brian Keene has become one of my favourite authors of horror fiction. This is a guy who doesn't just have zombies invade your hometown, he gives them the ability to drive tanks at the same time! There's a lot more to him than just that though. I've described him elsewhere as a heady mix of fear and gore and I reckon that's the best way to describe his work. You can tell I'm a real fan (I've reviewed Dark Hollow and Dead Sea on the blog) so I jumped at the chance to ask Brian a few questions. Without further ado, here they are...

Graeme: Hi Brian, thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

Brian: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

G: Your latest book ‘Dark Hollow’ has also been published as ‘The Rutting Season’. It’s a great book but why the re-release? Are there any differences between the two novels?

B: There are no differences other than the title change, which was done from a marketing standpoint—the general thinking is that ‘Dark Hollow’ will appeal to mass market consumers more than ‘The Rutting Season’ would. Same thing happened with The Conqueror Worms. The original title, in hardcover, was Earthworm Gods.

G: Without going into too much detail the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger. Are you going to leave the ending open or can you see yourself referring to it in a future book?

B: I don’t know if it’s really a cliff-hanger. If you read the last entry in the character’s diary (which occurs earlier in the book) then the ending sort of dovetails into that. But just in case readers don’t figure it out, yes, there is a sequel of sorts coming out in August. That’s called Ghost Walk, and it basically picks up a few years after the events in Dark Hollow.

G: Anyone who has been following your work will have seen the gradual revealing of your ‘Labyrinth’ mythos and ‘Dark Hollow’ is no exception. How would you describe it to someone who hasn’t read your books? Any new teasers for those of us who have?

B: The Labyrinth is the overall mythos connecting all of my books and stories. Many readers probably didn't even realize that they are connected, and that's good. This was done on purpose. New readers should not have to read Ghoul to understand Dead Sea, or The Rising to understand The Conqueror Worms. The inherent danger in a mythos is that you risk turning off new readers who would otherwise try your work. Therefore, knowledge of one of my books is not required to enjoy another. And yet, the connections are there—I just keep them subtle.

In a nutshell, the Labyrinth is an other-dimensional space used by many of the supernatural beings in my books. The Labyrinth is a way of travelling through time and space, between worlds, and between those world's alternate realities. Humans view it as a maze, because that is the only way they can comprehend it, but it is really much more than that. Think of it as a series of back alley short cuts through the universe.

G: Is ‘Dark Hollow’ a good place for a new reader to get started with your books or would you recommend another one?

B: It’s the perfect jumping on book. No knowledge of previous titles are required, and in truth, I’m really proud of the writing in it. When I go back and re-read the book, it doesn’t make me cringe. (laughs)

G: There’s a lot of apocalyptic stuff happening in your books, how does it feel going to a place (in real life) that you’ve had torn to pieces by zombies or overrun by giant worms in one of your books? Have you ever looked at a building and thought, “I had the Leviathan destroy that”?

B: (Laughs) I have! You know the disaster-proof skyscraper in City of the Dead? In real life, that’s the offices of my publisher, Leisure Books. So every time I visit there, I picture an army of zombie encircling the building. And the destruction of downtown Baltimore in Dead Sea is another fun one—I visit Baltimore quite often. Now, every time I’m at the Inner Harbor, I picture it in flames.

G: I was first introduced to your books when I picked up a copy of ‘The Rising’. What made you decide to write a book about zombies that could make wisecracks, operate heavy machinery and use machineguns?

B: Well, at the time, it had been about ten years since the genre had seen a zombie book. The last two really good ones were Phil Nutman’s Wetwork and Skipp and Spector’s Book of the Dead 1 and 2. So I thought it might be time for a zombie resurgence (boy, was I right about that!) I wanted to do something a little different, rather than just repeating what had been done before.

‘The Rising’ was originally going to be a standalone book but fan feedback led to you writing ‘City of the Dead’. Looking back, are you glad you did this or do you think it would have been better left alone?

B: I am glad I did it. I didn’t want to, at first, but in hindsight, it was a fun book to write, and I think it gave both readers and myself a sense of closure.

G: Are we ever going to see anything more of Ob or is that one part of the Labyrinth that is now closed?

B: I’m sure you’ll see him again. He popped up in two recent short stories, “The Resurrection and the Life” and “The Siqqusim Who Stole Christmas”. He’s inarguably one of my most popular monsters, and I still find him fun to write about, so I’m sure I’ll use him on occasion.

G: What’s it like hanging out with other horror writers? Do you have competitions to see who can scare the others the most?

B: Not really. I’m lucky enough to live near several other horror writers—J.F. Gonzalez, Geoff Cooper, Robert Ford, Thomas Montelone, Chet Williamson, Richard Chizmar, James Kidman, and several others. That’s nice, because many authors only get to stay in contact with their peers through the internet or at conventions. I have the luxury of seeing my friends more often than that. But I guess we’re just like anyone else. Maybe we get a few beers, go target shooting, or just hang out and talk shop.

There’s a lot of genres for a writer to work in, what made you decide to go with horror?

I’ve been a fan of the genre since I was a kid, so I guess it was natural that I gravitated towards it in my professional life. I’m still a fan. I consider myself a fan before I consider myself a practitioner. Hopefully, I never lose that sense.

A number of your books have been optioned for film and video game treatment. Are there any developments in this area that you can tell us? I would love to see ‘The Rising’ on the big screen…

B: The Rising is slated for an October 2009 release, although with the current WGA strike, I’m sure that will change. City of the Dead, Ghoul, and Terminal have also all been optioned, and are in various stages of development.

G: I want to buy a horror book by someone who isn’t Stephen King etc. Recommend me someone good!

B: To avoid leaving somebody out, I’ll limit myself to ten suggested authors, all of whom are newer and definitely worth checking out: Sarah Langan, Greg Gifune, Bryan Smith, Mary SanGiovanni, Nate Southard, Wrath James White, Nate Kenyon, Brian Knight, Mehitobel Wilson, and Brett McBean.

G: Finally, this isn’t a question it’s your chance to introduce your work to people who may not have heard of it. Go for it! (Sorry, I forgot to mention that you’re only allowed twenty words tops…)

I can do it in less than twenty... (clears throat)www.briankeene.com

G: Thanks again Brian, it’s been great talking to you.

B: The pleasure was all mine! Thanks.


Chris, The Book Swede said...

This was a really cool interview, and Brian seems like a nice guy. I'm going to have to check out some of his work. Nice one :)


Graeme Flory said...

I reckon 'Dark Hollow' is the best place to jump in but 'Dead Sea' is good too ;o)