When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?
My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.
Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?
My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.
If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?
I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.
Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.
How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?
A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.
What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?
I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.
You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?
To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.
The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).
In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.
I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?
Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.
In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.
Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?
I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.
From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series
I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.
I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.
Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.
I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.
Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.
Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.
From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press
“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.
“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.
Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.
“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.
“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.
“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”
“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.
“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”
“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”
“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.
Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.
“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”
“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.
“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.
“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.
Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”
Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”
Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.
Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?
Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.
I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.
For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.
To follow his blog, click HERE.