Q: Brandon, You have a new novel called Thunderland coming out very soon, What can you say or would like to say about the book?
A: Thunderland is a story about an African American teenager, Jason Brooks, who enters the bathroom one morning and discovers the word "remember" scrawled in red on the mirror. This incident, understandably, puzzles him. Who wrote the word on the mirror? Why? With the help of his two best friends, Jason embarks on a search for answers, and it soon becomes clear that they are up against a mysterious, supernatural stranger who will stop at nothing to completely take over Jason's life--even if it means killing everyone that Jason loves.
It's a fast-paced tale, full of suspense and action. Initial feedback has been wonderful, and I hope readers continue to discover and enjoy the book.
Q: What other work do you have published thus far? Any short stories?
A: I published my first story in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, back in 1996. But I didn't get back into the groove of writing short stories until recently. I have a piece in an erotica anthology (the book is called "After Hours") that's been doing well, and I've published a number of short stories on my website. Of course, I haven't been paid for those stories that I post on my site, but some of them have been viewed over twenty thousand times. The exposure is well worth it. I love short stories and plan to release a collection one day.
Q: What influenced you into becoming a writer?
A: I've been an avid reader since I was a child. It was always in the back of my mind that I would one day become a writer. I don't know where the idea came from. No one in my family was a writer, and I didn't know any writers as I was growing up. It was a case of simply having this innate understanding of what I ought to do with my life. I started writing seriously when I was seventeen and haven't looked back.
Q: Are you working on any new material for a book or story?
A: I'm working on my second novel. It's a vampire thriller entitled Dark Corner. I'm very excited about the book. I've always wanted to write a vampire novel (like most horror writers) and I'm loving the challenge of putting my own spin on the vampire mythology. The book's scheduled to be published in Winter 2003.
Q: Who are some of the people, writers or anyone, that have played a part in you wanting to do this writin' stuff?
A: Dean Koontz was a tremendous influence on me. I discovered his novels when I was a teenager and was first beginning to write seriously. I loved his fast-paced, adventure-oriented thrillers. I was so enamored of his work that, at the tender age of nineteen, when I had completed a draft of my novel, THUNDERLAND, I wrote Koontz and asked him if he could recommend an agent or editor who might be willing to read my book. Although I'm quite sure that he constantly receives such requests, he responded and said that he would read my book himself and give me his honest opinion.
And he was very honest! The book needed a lot of work, he said. He gave me notes and then line-edited the first twenty-five pages of the manuscript to provide examples of what I needed to work on. Of course, I was floored that he would do this for me. After I got over my initial despair over needing to do so much rework, I set about rewriting the novel, following his suggestions. I always tell people that that was when I finally got a handle on the fundamentals of fiction. I learned about structure, pacing, characterization, setting scenes, and much more. I'm convinced that Koontz's critique saved me at least ten years of trial-and-error, and I'll always be grateful for his honesty and generosity.
Q: Are you a big horror fan?
A: I read a lot of horror. I've been a fan of the genre since I was a child, when I would get ghost stories from the library and read them and get so scared I'd have to sleep with the light on. A love of horror stories and the supernatural and the downright strange runs deep in me. Don't ask me why. Guess I was just built that way.
Q: Does it seem to you that horror fiction is resurging the last few years?
A: Things seem to have picked up a bit. Leisure Books is putting out a healthy number of titles, and Pinnacle, an imprint of my publisher, Kensington, has an active horror line as well. And let's not forget the small presses such as Delirium Books, Cemetery Dance, and others. Overall, while the opportunities for mass-market publication aren't as plentiful as they were back in horror's "Golden Age" of the late seventies through the eighties, I think a good writer has a shot at building a bonafide career in the current climate. I could name several who are doing it right now.
Q: Name some of your favorite authors? Why?
A: I enjoy reading the usual suspects: King, Koontz, Barker, Straub. Outside of the horror genre, I enjoy Walter Mosley, James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver, and many, many others.
Q: Have you quit the day job yet, or have you been told not to?
A: Nope, I'm still holding onto the day gig. I'm a systems analyst--one of the most "non- literary" jobs you could think of, right? It's my dream and goal to eventually write full-time, but if I were to quit right now, I wouldn't be able to afford to eat. Not regularly. Maybe three times a week, and then maybe ramen noodles and crackers. I don't know about you, but when faced with a diet like that, or working a day job, the day job looks awfully appealing.
Q: Any films or books that have genuinely frightened you over the years?
A: The Exorcist scared the mess out of me when I first watched it, but that was something like fifteen years ago. I'm not sure it would have the same effect on me now. More recently, I think The Sixth Sense had creepy moments. I liked The Others, too.
Q: Aside from yours of course, what other up and coming author's books would you recommend to someone looking to branch out from the normal King, Koontz, and Rice avalanche at most book stores?
A: I love Tananarive Due. She's a brilliant writer and is going to make a huge breakthrough soon. I really like Simon Clark. I expect to see more great books from him in the future. Scott Nicholson and Jon Merz are well worth reading, too.
Q: How do you normally go about working on a piece (in your writing I mean, not on some chick man)? Is there a certain frame of mind or thought process you find yourself going through?
A: I usually begin the day's work by re-reading what I wrote the last time I sat down. This gets me back into the mindset and mood of the story. Sometimes I will pick up one of my favorite horror novels and read certain passages, to inspire me.
Q: How's your Website doing? Does it help spread the good word?
A: My website is quite active. I'm getting a nice amount of traffic. It's been a boon to my career. I've gained so many readers, solely due to having a website, that it baffles me when I meet new authors who don't have sites. That's like leaving money on the table, man! Any serious author--especially a new author--needs a site. It's the most inexpensive and effective promotion you can use these days.
Q: Any advice for other struggling writers out there that haven't yet been published?
A: Read a lot, write a lot, learn the business, and don't ever give up. Keep in mind that editors and agents are individuals and their opinions are always subjective. Just because an editor says a book sucks doesn't mean that another editor won't think it's the greatest thing ever printed on paper. To be successful as a writer you need to have a lot of faith in yourself and the value of your work. You have to keep pushing and growing no matter what anyone says. That's the most valuable piece of advice I can offer any writer.
Q: What's the best part of writing to you? The worse?
A: The best part of writing is when I have one of those days when I'm utterly engrossed in the story, see and feel everything my characters experience, and totally lose track of time in the "real world." The worst part? Dealing with the business side of things--it demands a different set of skills and it can be a challenge to handle the constant pressure, the lack of control you have over various factors, and the uncertainty of the marketplace.
Q: How long did you spend working on Thunderland?
A: It took about four years to write. Even though I started on the book ten years ago, many of those intervening years were spent awaiting responses from agents and editors, and in a journey through self-publishing. Publishing moves at a glacial pace, for real.
Q: OK, any thing else you'd like to yell out? Gripes? Accolades? Hype yourself by all means.
A: I'd like to invite readers to try out Thunderland. Check out the book, send me your thoughts about it, and if you like it, tell a friend. And drop by my site at www.brandonmassey.com to sign up for my free newsletter. I give a free ebook of some of my short stories to everyone who signs up for my newsletter, which people think is kinda cool.