I recently enjoyed interviewing Brian Easton, author of AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WEREWOLF HUNTER and HEART OF SCARS, both of which were finalists in the 2003 and 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Learn more at www.hauntedjack.com.
Craig: What have you contributed to the genre? What’s your best known work? Tell us about it!
Brian: I wrote AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WEREWOLF HUNTER and its sequel HEART OF SCARS, both published by Permuted Press. The novels follow the life of Sylvester James and chronicle the events that turn a misguided orphan into a borderline psychotic anti-hero. Exploring the effects of relentless pain and hatred on a man’s psyche is what sets these books apart from your average werewolf fare. They deal with the concept of redemption through violence, and if that sounds too cerebral or dull, don’t worry there’s enough crowbar brutality and dead grit to make you feel dark and dirty.
Craig: What type of storytelling in the genre do you consider your niche?
Brian: As much as I love monsters, I’ve always had a vision for the guy the other side of the balances—the monster hunter. I like my monsters as bad-guys, and my heroes as the lesser of two evils. I’ve contributed to the Legends of the Monster Hunter series, and their editor Miles Boothe has graciously dubbed me the Godfather of Monster Hunters. I’ll take that.
Craig: Which writers do you particularly admire, and what did each teach you about the craft or profession of writing?
Brian: Of course I’m a huge fan of old school masters like Lovecraft, Blackwood and Derleth, but when it comes to contemporary authors Cormac McCarthy tops the list. He may not be considered an author of the genre (Unless you count BLOOD MERIDIAN or THE ROAD) but his poetic way of describing the ghastly is much like presenting a severed head on a bone-china tray.
Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE explained why it was OK—and sometimes preferable—to leave questions unanswered. In fact, whenever someone asks me why I write horror I usually fall back on King’s answer from the book: “Because there’s something wrong with me.”
Craig: What is your approach to writing? How do you complete a novel?
Brian: I’ve been writing for 35 years and in that time I’ve come to realize what they say about the best laid plans is true, especially when it comes to plotting a novel. I don’t mean to suggest I sit down and just start writing (although that is what happens sometimes) but following an outline I’ve prepared in advance just doesn’t work well for me. I generally have to spend awhile collecting ideas, filling my coffers so to speak for the journey. Once I feel that I’ve harvested enough information for what I want to do and have a basic map of where I want to go, only then do I write page one. After that I usually find the thing takes on a mind of its own and sort of tells me how to proceed.
Craig: Our approach sounds almost identical. What kind of feedback have you gotten? What is the best review you ever received on Amazon, and why did you like it?
Brian: I can’t single out one specific review, but I always enjoy reading the ones who appreciate the less obvious elements my stories. I’m as up for mayhem and bloodletting as anyone, but I love it when a reader chimes in who sees through the veil of grime and grue and picks up what I’m really laying down.
Craig: Without naming names or quoting, what is the worst review you ever received on Amazon, and if you could respond to it, what would you say?
Brian: The worst reviews I’ve received have come from people who have admittedly never finished the books. They may say they couldn’t make it through because it was too boring, or were so disappointed they just put it down halfway through. My automatic response to these people would be to grow an attention span, but realistically I’d say: “No one’s fit to judge a book unless they’ve actually read it.”
Craig: Amen to that. Let’s talk about craft for a bit. What are the key elements to a great story, and how do you approach them?
Brian: To me it’s mostly about character development. If you can flesh out your characters then you know exactly how they’re going to act and react as the story progresses. I’m also a firm believer in evoking a visceral reaction from your audience. In horror especially it’s easy to go for the gross out, but you don’t need a bucket of guts or rotting limbs in a hefty bag if you can make a scene relatable to the reader. Case and point: I remember watching PREDATOR for the first time and they’d just shown a gut-pile from one of the characters. No one in the audience reacted. Then, in one of the next scenes another character was dry shaving with a disposable razor and bore down with it until blood ran down his cheek…the audience gasped.
Craig: What makes a great character?
Brian: A character should be complicated, but not to the extent he becomes cumbersome. Most readers aren’t interested in every nook and cranny of your hero’s psyche, but they can also spot the one-dimensional cardboard type a mile off. Striking the right balance is the real trick. For my money, a character should be realistic enough to feel like I may have met him before, or at least have some familiar traits. It all comes back to being relatable. I can’t really appreciate a fearless mini-gun-wielding super hero because I don’t know anyone like that, but make him a habitually late screw up with a bum knee and a porn addiction, and yeah, I may know that guy.
Craig: Which of the following appeals to you most about the genre—monsters, survival horror, apocalypse—and why?
Brian: Definitely survival horror because it actually happens in every day. People get trapped in car wrecks and live off ditch water and Tic-Tacs for three weeks, or get their arm caught between rocks while mountain climbing. You’ll find a daily dose of survival horror from every media outlet, and while zombies and apocalypse go together like tweens and TWILIGHT these days, I’ve never seen a real zombie and I certainly haven’t witnessed the end of the world, (No thanks to Harold Camping) Once again my watchword is: relatable.
Craig: What are you working on? What can we expect next from you?
Brian: Since last January I’ve been working on the third book in my AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WEREWOLF HUNTER series, entitled THE LINEAGE. I hope to finish out the series with this one, and then move on to a prequel surrounding the life and times of Michael Winterfox, mentor to AOAWH’s main character.
Craig: Sounds awesome. Thanks for joining us, Brian!
Brian: Thanks for the opportunity.