What’s it like to experience a second death? Interview with top US author Brian Rella

This week the runes have been cast in favour of up and coming US horror writer, Brian Rella. Like me, he’s a self-published author and is currently causing a storm with his ominously titled Second Death series. I picked up the first book about a month ago and read it through in one sitting – not a typical thing for me to do, but I was so gripped by the main character’s faustian dealings with a demon from the abyss that I couldn’t put it down. Like Richard Laymon, Brian has a way of grabbing you by the extremities and pulling you into the story in the first sentence.

But hey, you can find out for yourself as he’s offering his first book for free at http://www.brianrella.com/

The following interview reveals Brian’s inner thoughts and his sense of humour. So read on, Connoisseurs of Chaos:

 

Brian pic

Believer or non-believer?

Assuming you’re talking about God, I’m a believer. I can’t imagine all of life on Earth and the entire Universe is just some kind of cosmic coincidence. I also went to Catholic school all my life, so the concepts of God and Christianity have been drilled into me since I was five.

I think spirituality is very personal and I’m not a fan of organized religion despite my upbringing. Organizing around religious beliefs injects people, hierarchy, and agendas into what should be purely spiritual matters. It’s that injection which turns me off, because then a person’s spirituality becomes subject to judgments and standards interpreted or created by mankind, and not God.

And of course we’ve all seen the atrocities organized religion can cause when the wrong people are organizing for the wrong reasons. My beliefs are mine, yours are yours, and let’s not impose mine or yours on anyone else. It’s an individual decision to believe or not to believe. Let’s leave it that way.

Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer?

I have great respect for both authors, but I would have to say Anne Rice.

I read the Twilight series to see what all the buzz was about and enjoyed most of it.

But I read The Vampire Lestat several times. I had too because I enjoyed the story so much. And each time I re-read it, another layer of story was revealed. That’s the true test of a great versus good story for me. If I get to the last page, and I have to read the story again, I know I’ve read something great.

I also lived in New Orleans a few blocks from Anne Rice’s house once upon a life ago. She throws massive Halloween parties, which is one of my favorite holidays.

Stephen King or Clive Barker?

Again, I have incredible respect for both of these authors, and I would add more so than Rice or Meyers (or any other authors), these two masters of horror have influenced my own writing and storytelling significantly. That said, I have to go with Mr. King.

I devoured Stephen King’s books starting in 7th or 8th grade. I remember vividly, locking myself in my bedroom, and reading The Stand cover to cover in three days one summer. I only left my room for meals and bathroom breaks. Once I finished the book, I immediately turned to the first page and started reading it again. It is still the best book I have ever read. No other author has gripped me like that, ever, so hands down, its Stephen King for me.

Outliner or pantser?

I usually start with a handwritten outline, which I then transfer to the computer, and then I fly by the seat of my pants, filling in the details. I may drift back and forth depending on where the story goes.

My outlines are not very detailed and I usually use them as a loose guide to get moving in the beginning. I take my ideas from my notebook and organize them in an excel spreadsheet, writing a one or two sentence summary for each scene per row. In the column next to the scene summary, I write the characters in the scene and next to that, I set word count targets. That’s the extent of my outline which gives me a basic skeleton for the story. Once I have the skeleton, I am off and writing.

If I have an idea while I’m writing that strays from the outline, I go with it and let the story lead me where it needs to go. That happens a lot, and if the idea significantly changes the story, I go back to my spreadsheet and make formal adjustments so I can keep track.

 

My final drafts tend to look very different from my original outlines, because of my approach. I often write scenes out of sequence focusing on plot points where I am crystal clear and leaving the points where there’s ambiguity for later. I would describe my writing process as organized chaos.

Self publish or traditionally publish?

Right now I am focused on self-publishing.

When I first started writing, I wrote short stories and submitted them to various online magazines and received my fair share of rejections before I decided to give self-publishing a try. Now I’m completely focused on self-pub. I’m a control freak so it fits well with my personality.

I’d be open to a traditional publishing deal, but not exclusively. I’ll always want to retain rights and control over my work, and would never sell that away permanently. Once we authors click save, we own the rights to our work until we die and then for seventy years after. The rights and royalties to my stories are something I can pass on to my grandchildren. It’s part of my legacy and I couldn’t put a price tag on that.

Psychological suspense or Blood and gore?

A bit of both. I like writing descriptions of blood misting across the room, and dotting the almond colored walls with pinpricks of crimson. Descriptive blood and gore comes pretty easy to me. I find the psychological aspect of horror writing to be more of a challenge…and reward.

I visualize every scene I write as if I’m watching a movie, and I write descriptions of the pictures and people in my head. But getting into a character’s mind and describing the emotions, thoughts, and sensations that a character experiences, and drawing a reader into the mind of that character is a greater challenge for me. I’ve had a few people email me or leave a review that said they enjoyed my characters. For me there is no better compliment.

I think great horror stories have a good mix of the psychological and gore aspects of horror. At least, my idea of my ideal reader demands both, so I try to find a balance between the two in my story-telling.

Will Self purple prose or Mark Twain simplicity?

I’ve never read Will Self and honestly, I had to Google ‘purple prose’ to find out what it meant J I was a business and IT double major in college and never studied writing or the fine arts so I feel like I am always playing catch up in the literary world.

I am definitely Mark Twain simplicity. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were two of the first books I ever read. I never made it through Jane Austen or other authors like her in school. I always grabbed the cliff notes for those books because I would get lost in the flowery descriptions.

Literary rule breaking or stylistic conformity?

For me, story trumps style and grammar. I’ve read some horribly written stories to the end because despite the awkward style and poor grammar, the plot held my interest enough to make me read to the last page.

My rule of thumb would be something like: break enough rules to be unique and stand out, but not so many that only me and two other people will read my stories. There’s room for experimenting, but to repeat myself, I am a story driven reader and writer. I care less about the oxford comma than I do about a twist I never saw coming, but should have.

DC comics or Marvel?

Both, though I think Marvel has more original and creative storylines.

The Conjuring or The Evil Dead?

Evil Dead, because it’s groovy…

First or third person pov?

Third person for the series I am currently writing. I’ll be giving first person a go at some point in the near future, but it wouldn’t work for what I’m writing now.

Physical books or e-books?

eBooks. My eyes keep getting worse and the print in hard covers and paperbacks keeps getting smaller!

Self publicist or literary recluse?

I definitely have an introverted side that needs to be fed peace, quiet, and solitude on a regular basis, but it’s balanced with the need shout to the world sometimes too.

Writing group or online critiques?

I’ve only had experience with online writing groups, so I’ll have to go with that. I do need to reach out more locally I think. It’s something on my ever-growing to do list.

My first ever published book, Mosaic, was an anthology I published with a group of people I met in an online class. It was an amazing experience that jettisoned me into the self-publishing world. We still keep in touch and help each other out.

Facebook or Twitter?

Social media is something I hope to outsource one day. There’s too much to tackle for one person, and I’d rather be writing than figuring out the what hashtag I should use or why my post only reached three people. I use both because I feel I have to, but I prefer email.

If you had to choose the theme music to be played when you walk into a room, what would it be?

Depends on the room and who’s in it. For example:

If the room was full of zombies, and I had a pump action shot gun: Shoot to Kill by AC/DC

If the room was full of suits from AMC, clamoring for the TV rights to my Second Death book series: Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

If my wife was in the room, and it was our fiftieth wedding anniversary: More than Words by Extreme

If both of my boys are in the room, with sinister smirks on their mugs: Star Wars Imperial March by John Williams because I know their lightsabers are hiding behind their backs and I’m about to battle Darth Vader and Darth Maul.

Anything else you’d like to add?

First, I’d like to thank you, Tom, for the thought provoking, fantastic interview questions, and also thank your readers, for giving me the opportunity to share part of my writing life with them.

Lastly, for a limited time, I am offering the first book in my Second Death series for free. If any of your readers are interested, I’ve made it really easy for them to get their copies. Just go to www.brianrella.com and click on the big purple button that says “Get My Free Books” right on the home page.

 

Thank you again, Tom.

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