Thankfully, for those of us who prefer our vampires without sparkle, there are authors like C. Bryan Brown who have come to our rescue recently. With the release of his latest novel, They Are Among Us, Brown puts the ‘blood’ back in ‘blood sucker.’ Let’s meet him, shall we?
Tim McWhorter: Hello, C. Bryan Brown, and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. First off, in order to acquaint us with the man behind the name, tell us a little about yourself.
C. Bryan Brown: Ooooh, the dreaded bio question!
I suppose I could just info dump about who I am, and tell everyone where I was born (St. Louis), whether or not this hunka body of mine is married to a great woman (it is), and whether or not I have kids (I do), but that’s boring. Instead, I want to lean on my corporate life for just a minute and use an icebreaker!
Let’s play two truths and a lie.
I’m going to rattle off three statements. Two will be true and the other will be a lie. Pretty simple, but here’s the rub… if you comment on the interview with the two truths, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of They Are Among Us!
- Bryan isn’t the correct spelling of my middle name, but rather I chose it for its uniqueness over the correct spelling of Brian.
- I once ran myself over with my own car. After seeing the road I was on, my father observed it was the Missouri version of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
- My short story, Sewer Rats, which was published by Post Mortem Press in the Dark Doorways best-of anthology, is about kids that “spelunk” through the sewer system. That story is, in part, based on the adventures my friends and I had doing the same thing.
So, two of those are true and one is bullshit. Can you spot the pile of manure? Leave a comment with the two truths and you’ll be entered to win. We’ll keep the comments open for 24 hours for entries. Now, I’m a poor artist, so I can only ship to people in the continental United States.
Game on, people.
TM: There you have it, folks. To recap, one lucky person will win a signed copy of They Are Among Us, just by commenting below with the two statements that are true. I’m not even sure if I know which two are true, so good luck! You have until noon tomorrow (6/2)…
Now, C. Bryan Brown, what got you interested in writing in the first place?
CBB: Books, really, and an always/forever feud with my younger sister. Let me explain…
I’ve always been a reader. I remember breaking my teeth on “The Boxcar Children,” the “Choose Your Own Adventures,” the “Zork” series, Ann M. Martin’s “The Babysitter’s Club,” plus “The Hardy Boys,” and even “Sweet Valley High.” I graduated to the likes of F. Paul Wilson, Robert McCammon, and Stephen King around the 8th grade. From there, through high school, the more classic authors emerged: Vonnegut, Steinbeck, and Matheson. There’s so many more, too. I could go on for hours.
As far as the writing goes, I had an aptitude for it in school. One day when I was fifteen, my sister pissed me off and, for some strange reason, I thought it’d be cool to get even with her by killing off The New Kids on the Block. I filled a dozen notebooks with an evil, nefarious plot where werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and other creatures killed them. Believe it or not, too, there was a reason for this. Their music was bringing everyone together (think Wyld Stallyns) and the forces of evil couldn’t have that.
TM: We mentioned earlier that you’ve recently released a new novel. Readers like myself can easily pick it up and read the description on the back cover, but what doesn’t that tell us about They Are Among Us? When we open to page one, what are we in for?
The back of the book doesn’t tell you the novel is split into two separate timelines to tell the entire narrative, which creates a unique perspective on the events that transpire. It also omits the fact that this is first book in a trilogy. I usually save those two pieces of information for direct communication with readers.
The first page of They Are Among Us is you sitting at the start of the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. It’s a Ready-Set-Go moment and you’re off, up to 120 mph, but I don’t let up until the last page. The book will definitely run you longer than 17 seconds and when it ends, you’ll want more.
TM: They Are Among Us represents your third full-length book after Men of Five and Necromancer. How have you seen your writing progress from the first to the second, and now to this one?
CBB: Hopefully it’s improved! But to give a more serious answer, it’s progressed steadily towards telling a much tighter and more compelling story.
Men of Five deals with a very broad theme, faith, and Necromancer speaks to personal responsibility and the loss of personal control in the face of unbeatable odds. In each of those works, I left a lot of story pieces on the table. Some readers called me on it, because it didn’t match with their expectations. And while I know you can’t please every reader, I still try to walk that tightrope without falling.
In They Are Among Us, if it seems like a dangler, it’s dangling for a purpose. I’m playing a long game, and hopefully in the end, it pays off with a compact, thrilling, and relevant story for what’s going on today.
TM: Now that They Are Among Us is out, what’s next for C. Bryan Brown?
CBB: The second book in the trilogy, At Dawn They Sleep. That’s the immediate future. For the near future, I’ve set a timeline where, if I can keep my big ass focused, I’ll have three books completed by year’s end. Not published, by written, edited, and ready for submission. The far future, meaning 2016 and beyond, is to hopefully publish the above three books and just keep on writing, improving, and meeting more cool people.
TM: For you personally, what is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?
CBB: The most rewarding aspect is sharing my stories.
I read some article that stated when kids read a lot, they become more empathetic towards others. I believe that. I grew up in the middle class suburbs of St. Louis and I didn’t have regular interactions with anything but other middle class white kids. When I hit high school, and the “bussing” started, it was a whole new world… but not really, because of books. In the fantasy I read, racial tension was always a thing… fucking elves and dwarves couldn’t get along to save their own lives, until they did. In horror, it was rarely the unknown you had to fear and worry about, it was the nice guy next door with the pompadour hair and ankle-biting little poodle. It was always the stranger, the outsider, who had the knowledge, or the courage, to save the day.
When I write, I hope my stories are able to touch readers in some way, like books did me when I was younger (and, to a lesser extent, now). I hope readers identify with my characters (both the good and the bad), and recognize the ambiguity and uncertainty there is in everyone’s actions and, to a greater extent, just being alive. And ultimately, I hope my stories give readers a better understanding of the world around them and brings them some measure of peace, even if only for a little bit.
TM: Changing gears, what is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?
CBB: Selling the book after publication!
With the market dynamic what it is, you need more than just a good, or even a great, book. A writer has to be present and accounted for now. I have numerous non-writing commitments and responsibilities, and figuring out how to split my time between marketing, writing, editing, reading, and any other opportunities that come up is the worst. Ever.
TM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?
CBB: The best piece of advice I think, overall, was given to be my Jonathan Maberry. I’m sure he probably doesn’t remember it, considering the man is always on the road and he sees and talks to a lot of little writers like me. But, let me tell you a story…
Confluence, Pittsburgh, July 2012.
I’d been scheduled to be on a panel with Jonathan, Gary Braunbeck, Tim Waggoner, and Lawrence Connolly.
Did I mention this was my first panel ever as a published writer? No? Well, it was, and I’m supposed to throw out answers with these dudes, some of the heavy hitters of the small-to-medium presses. My first reaction was, naturally, “This is the coolest thing ever!” and that was quickly followed by “Fuck my life.” What could I possibly add to this group of talented writers?
The answer, of course, was very little.
I arrived a little early to the room, completely sober, and sweating bullets. I paced outside the room and Jonathan showed up. We’d met a little earlier in the day (he’s done some work with my publisher, Post Mortem Press, and that’s how we were introduced) and he inquired if I was on the panel, too. I said I was and he smiled at me, watched me pace for a minute or so, and told me to relax.
“Listen,” he said, “You’ll be fine. Trust me.”
And all throughout the panel, I was more than content to shrink my large body into the chair and disappear. But Jonathan made sure I answered questions, pointedly asking, “What do you think, Chris?” And I answered, and I did okay. Was I great? No. Did anyone come back and buy Necromancer? No. Did I survive? Yes. As a matter of fact, I was fine.
And that’s the best advice any writer has given me. Whatever happens, whether it’s a bad review or a stalled story or a lack of sales, I’ll be fine. And as long as I’m fine, I can keep moving forward.
TM: When you first sit down at a keyboard or notebook, what is your main goal?
CBB: The main goal is to write. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. I’ll edit it later. But the words have to be out on the screen/paper for them to be edited. Stuck in my head, they’re about as useful as one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
TM: Are you a high-maintenance writer who has to have the perfect atmosphere, or are you one of those lucky ones who can focus and produce just about anywhere?
CBB: I’m middle-maintenance all the way.
I don’t need perfection, but I can’t focus in certain situations. Mainly, those situations are when my friends and/or family are around. My time with them is precious and I don’t get nearly enough of it, so I like to pay attention.
I also can’t write if there’s a television on. I know some people use the TV as background noise, but it’s a visual distraction for me. I’ll need to pay attention to it and not my writing. That’s why on Sundays, all I do is laundry and catch up on my recorded shows and Netflix list. Every so often I’ll rent a movie through the AppleTV or something. But only on Sundays.
But, you take away the TV and my friends/family, I can write and be productive almost anywhere. Bars, restaurants, the car, the shitter. Of course, like most writers, I try to stick to places that are more conducive to working such as coffee shops, delis, or my home office.
TM: Give me the names of two books, one in your chosen genre and one outside of it, that you wish you had written.
CBB: In my genre is a hard call. Speculative fiction is such a large umbrella, and so many books have imprinted on me for one reason or another. However, there are two books I read once a year. Those two books are They Thirst by Robert McCammon and The Beasts of Valhalla by George C. Chesbro.
Between the two of them, I think The Beasts of Valhalla by George C. Chesbro is the book I wish I’d written. The novel really says “fuck genre” like few others I’ve read. It blends science fiction with fantasy, horror, mystery, and thriller in such a beautiful way it’s staggering. It’s a fantastic read from start to finish.
Outside my genre is pretty easy… The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. Such a great book, so human and also not. It’s very much a mirror to what we’re going through now as a society.
TM: Finally, I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to answer some questions and acquaint yourself with some of my readers. Before you leave, though, could you tell us where can we learn more about you and your books?
CBB: Anyone can stalk me at my website, http://cbryanbrown.net, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cbryanbrown. You can also get me on Twitter and if you’d like to buy anything I’ve written, you can hit my Amazon author page, which is http://www.amazon.com/C-Bryan-Brown/e/B004DJKPM2
I’d like to give a big thanks to Tim for pounding me with questions today! Hopefully everyone enjoyed my answers and I hope to see you all around on this here interwebz thing.