Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Biting the Bullet
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Thursday, January 19, 2012ON THE COUCH: AJ BROWN
TC: So come in and take a seat on the couch. Lie back if you find it more comfortable. Can I get you anything? I want each of you to be completely relaxed. We tend to get to the truth that way. It's better than the other way, and less messy. So what can I get you?
AJ: Strawberry Kool-Aid. Seriously. Strawberry Kool-Aid. I love the stuff.
TC: What do you think this is? The Hilton? You can have a glass of water. Ignore the bitter taste, it's the...fluoride.
You've been transferred here because you're at it again. We've been here before AJ Brown, during the Necrotic Tissue days. We published you, even making it an editor's pick, and here you are again with this stuff still in your system. Why are we still writing horror, Mr. Brown? Is there any other publications we can review as part of this assessment?
AJ: We have been here before. No doubt and those Necrotic Tissue days were great days. Heady stuff you guys sold. I write horror because... well, it's an addiction. If I wanted I could write other stuff, but horror feels right. I've always leaned to the darker things--ask anyone who has known me for any length of time--so horror just feels right.
Other publications. Since you're wanting a bigger sample of this addiction you can go a couple of places.
Tales of the Zombie Wars has a series I'm writing called Dredging Up Memories here: http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/stories/tag/dredging-up-memories-series/
Then, if you really want to get into the disturbing aspect of things, one of my short stories is in the anthology, A Hacked Up Holiday Massacre, which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hacked-Up-Holiday-Massacre-Bentley-Little/dp/1617060917/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326071032&sr=1-1
And, of course, Picket Fences can be found in the Best of Necrotic Tissue here: http://www.amazon.com/Necrotic-Tissue-Anthology-John-McCann/dp/0615245285/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326071106&sr=1-1
There are some others coming out soon, but these are the most recent.
TC: I think we've only just begun to scratch the surface. I have in your case file a copy of a new publication Along the Splintered Path, a collection of disturbing stories that explore the dark side of life in the remote countryside. Have you traded Picket Fences for duelling banjos and squealing piggies?
AJ: Along the Splintered Path isn't really too far off from Picket Fences in subject matter, only the tense of Picket Fences was experimental 'future' tense. I think Picket Fences would have probably fit better with two of the stories than one of them that I chose for the collection. There is a darkness to it that I fell in love with when I wrote it.
Honestly, I think the disturbing factors in Along the Splintered Path are built because of the characters in the stories--all of them in situations that cause them to do what they do. Everything we do is a reaction to something else and how the characters react in the stories is mostly out of desperation. After writing them, I could clearly see what would have happened if Kenneth (from The Woodshed) would have chosen to not deal with his past or his little brother's mental issues. The same with James ('Round These Bones). If he makes one or two decisions differently, then he wouldn't have been in the position he was in. And Phillip's (Phillip's Story) choices not only affect him, but another character as well (and if a couple of other characters don't do something, then Phillip's Story doesn't even happen. All the disturbing factors of the stories are based on their reactions to events in their lives, which is pretty much the way real life is.
And there will be NO dueling banjos in my life. Squealing piggies maybe...
TC: Looking at some of the reviews on Amazon, and after reading through the collection myself, I can see that we clearly have imagination issues. To be able to create characters with so much emotional weight, fleshed out backgrounds and damn it, making the reader actually invest in the fates of these fictional people...that takes some skill, Mr. Brown. Can you divulge your process for creating these lives?
AJ: Creating lives? Hmm... I have a couple of rules when it comes to writing. The first is forget the word count. That one goes with the second and most important one: Don't ever cut a story short. In order for stories to 'live' they must breathe and in order for them to breathe, we the writers, have to get out the way and just let the stories tell themselves. In my opinion, the best characters (and stories) are created when we just let them happen.
That and people watching. I love to watch people and it's hard to do it discretely, sometimes. You can learn a lot from just sitting on a bench at the mall or going to a concert and ducking into the shadows and leaning against the wall. Most of the time people are oblivious to being watched (and not in a stalker sort of way) and you can gleam mannerisms and the way people talk and really just about anything you want to know by people watching.
And keep your ears open. I can't tell you how many of my stories started with something someone said as I passed them by.
TC: And because you're such a horrible person (not my words, this is from your psychological report) you like to create these believable characters and watch them squirm in these difficult situations. Very interesting. Are you allowed pets?
In 'Round These Bones, you have a regular guy receive some bad news and drive off angry (we've all done that). This results in him in a life and death situation. Have you ever been in a position were things looked bleak?
AJ: Yes, I'm allowed pets, but unfortunately, not the pets I want.
And bleak situations? A couple of times, but the one that comes to mind is when a gun was pointed at me by a suicidal teenager some years ago. I spent a few hours trying to talk the gun away from him, finally succeeded in doing so. That kid was on anti-depressants that actually made things worse. Shortly after that he got off those meds and he grew up to be a cool guy, father and husband. Still, having a gun pointed at you is something you never forget.
TC: That is a pretty tight spot there, AJ. Glad it turned out for the best for all involved.
So before we make our final diagnosis and prescribe your meds, can we add any upcoming releases to your case file?
AJ: Only one at the moment, Daniel. My short story, In the Shadows They Hide, was just released in the anthology Night Terrors II put out by Blood Bound Books. However, I do have high hopes for 2012. https://www.createspace.com/3729847
TC: We invite horror writers here to try and find out why they are doing such a bizarre thing, and hopefully stop them from producing such...filth.
However, Mr. AJ Brown, due to the characters you create and their redeemable qualities, this doctor is willing to let things slide for now, hoping that some of these noble qualities will rub off on the deviants that read this stuff. They could do with some sunshine in their lives.
But you're not out of the woods yet, and Dr. Sally will escort you Along the Splintered Path back to your room. We must now ensure these stories are written...particularly electronically. That's just how we keep up the motivation around here. Nurse! Fire up the electrodes!
AJ: Dr. Sally? Wait, before I go: is she cute?