Today folks, we have Brian Johnson, no not the singer from AC/DC, over for a chat. Brian as well as being an author, is also a teacher and a storm chaser, so please give him a warm welcome and enjoy the interview
Hi Brian how are things with you?
Can you please give the readers a little bit of background information on yourself?
I always like to describe myself as a crow in a field of glass. Several things interest me and I can be pulled off task pretty easily.
Strom chasing, is that as cool as I imagine it to be?
Yes. Yes it is.
How did you get into this? And are you mental?
Bah, labels. I was trapped in a tornado when I was seven years old. At that point, weather scared the hell out of me. We were running into a storm shelter at a KOA camp ground while a very pregnant woman behind me screamed “Oh god, it’s going over the top of us”. My fear meter pinged out and short circuited. My father picked me up, took me outside, and showed me a wedge tornado with two satellite rope tornados hitting the town up the road. To this day he said it was the worst thing that he could have done.
How close to death have you come while doing this?
I’ve been ¼ mile from an F4 (old scale) tornado, stuck in the mud with it heading towards us. It was the only time I’ve ever heard one, (sounded like water draining from a tub). The power poles were waving good-bye to us as we got unstuck and quickly exited the area.
Do you have a favourite storm?
Electric storms. I do a lot of lightning photography and someday they are going to find my fried corpse in a field with my finger on the shutter release.
What scares you, and answer the truth this time?
Anything that puts my family or loved ones into danger. We had a really bad storm hit this year and I dropped chasing and came home to make sure everyone was safe and be here if the worst happened.
You’re also a teacher, what do you teach?
Minions. Very smart minions.
As a teacher you must have you noticed any changes in the amount of reading kids do?
I teach brilliant kids, so they read all the time. This year, I’m getting into a lot of YA I didn’t know existed, but I’m introducing them to classics, sci-fi, fantasy, and the occasional horror novel.
Have you ever confiscated a book from a kid, just because it was terrible?
No, although I threatened to burn “Twilight”.
My wife is a teacher and she finds it both rewarding and hellishily frustrating, how do you feel about teaching?
Out of all the jobs I’ve done (there have been many), this one feels like my true calling. I denied it for many years, then went head first. I think I must still be in the honeymoon phase.
So let’s talk about books. Why horror, what is it about the genre that holds your appeal?
I love to be scared, the supernatural, and figuring out what scares people. I used to work Halloween haunted houses. I loved hiding in the dark, then following someone close enough that they could feel the breath on their neck.
And what is it about the genre that you dislike?
There’s more to horror than vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Also where the hell did all this romance come from?
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you and your writing?
Charles Bukowski. I had a voice, but nothing I was insanely proud of. I read a couple of Bukowski’s stories, and found it ok to be a rough around the edges and call out the darker aspects of life.
If you could give any book to someone who doesn’t read horror, in an attempt to change their mind, what book would you choose, and why?
Joe Hill’s “Heart Shaped Box”. It had good characters, but more suspense than I’ve read in a novel.
Can you remember what first motivated you to start writing, and has your motivation changed over the years?
I’ve always been a story teller and in high school my English teacher told me (didn’t ask) to write a story for a local contest. She loved what I turned in but told me it was going to be a fairly conservative contest I entered. Then as I went through college (I have a degree in Chemistry and Teaching), there had to be creative classes to balance out my logical side. I took a couple creative writing courses, then found some local groups to discuss and critique. That kept me up with deadlines to get stuff done, but life happens. I want to write full time, but there are too many shiny things taking me off task.
And how would you describe your writing style?
Insane amounts of the muse dry humping my skull, then long searches in the desert begging for inspiration.
Let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of your writing. How do you go about the writing process? Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow?
I tend to know what is going on with the story and might write the pivotal chapters first. In “Hell to Pay” the end chapter was about the 6th chapter I wrote. Then I go back and figure out the roads to take to get from Point A to Point Z.
Pen and paper, or computer for the first draft?
All of the above. I’m a fan of drop everything and write, and it gets me in trouble. Depending on where I’m at and what I’m doing forces what I’m writing on. I’ve scrawled notes on my arms before.
Do you have any rituals that you go through when you write?
No, maybe I need to develop some. The main thing I have to have is music.
What music do you listen to?
I love heavy metal and progressive rock (Tool, Pink Floyd, etc.) at times I like classical or orchestral music and will even settle down with Opera if in a heavy mood (love Russian and German Opera).
How do you edit, do you edit as you write, or do you edit after each draft is finished?
I’ve done a little of it all. I find it better to finish something before polishing. Otherwise, you may be stuck on a couple chapters trying to perfect it, and the story goes nowhere.
Can you tell us about your novel Hell To Pay?
A man who thinks he’s losing his soul, meets a man who has. An ex-alcoholic police detective suspects the man he’s investigating may be possessed.
You say the book draws heavily of the influence of Joseph Campbell’s epic storytelling and mythology can you expand on this please?
Joseph Campbell was one of the world’s foremost experts on mythology. He wrote a book called “Hero of a Thousand Faces” that went over many of the similar traits of heroes and gods in many religions. Most of the stories were similar with different characters and settings and this “Hero’s Journey” came about. I used it to plot the story. You start off with a character in the everyday world, give him a problem, a touch of the supernatural, and set him off. The interesting thing about the journey is when they return home, nothing will ever be the same for them.
What’s the huge pun in the book?
Not telling that one, for the general audience to figure out on their own
The book deals with the loss of one’s soul, are you a religious or spiritual person?
I see myself as a spiritual person. I’ve always done a lot of searching without letting a certain dogma take over. It also comes from my own life, you may have everything planned out well for life, but when it all crashes around you, you have to start over.
What made you decide to write a supernatural police story? Where you aware of the whole sub genre of this type of novel?
Not really, then I started reading Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files”. It started with my love of crooked cop stories. I even thought about taking all of the supernatural out of the story and writing this as a psychological thriller. The supernatural came back and I really wanted to put a mythological bend in the story.
What would you say is the unique selling point of the book?
The book is about someone at the absolute bottom pulling it together and doing what he can to save a world that didn’t notice him. In this day and age of economic and social struggle, we need more protagonists struggling with the hardships of life.
That’s something that went missing from horror for a while, the everyday, down on his luck protagonist, why do you think that was?
I think focus in popular culture went to the affluent (yes, I know . . . Hunger Games and Harry Potter) but look at the two summer superhero blockbusters (Avengers – Tony Stark billionaire, and Batman -Bruce Wayne billionaire). True, not all the protags in books tend to be billionaires, but when was there a protag that struggled everyday just to get through it, without the storyline they are thrust into. I’m curious to see comments on this, because I know they are out there.
Looking at the cover, you could be forgiven for thinking that the book is a crime novel. Who would you say the book is aimed at?
People who like gritty novels and aren’t afraid to see their heroes bleed. I’m aiming this one at horror, urban paranormal, and police procedure readers who are not afraid to try something new. The economic collapse happened in my book before 2008. The town of Ashton (where the story takes place), lost it’s primary manufacturing business and all the businesses that fed into it. It’s a town waiting to die. You look at Detroit and even now, Wichita (Kansas, where I am near). Detroit lost the car business, and now Wichita is losing one of it’s historical aircraft manufacturing
plants and the economy is not close to stabilizing. You have the Euro over the pond, that could kick out some countries soon and even further destabilize things. What do people do when everything they’ve worked for in life is gone. That’s the soul of this book. You take someone with nothing to lose, and make them the chosen one. It’s a scary concept.
What would you sell your soul for?
My soul, not for sale. Not a spiritual or religious thing, it’s just that I am the master of my own destiny.
Will this be a stand alone novel?
No, I would like to see this as a trilogy.
Can you tell us about the journey Detective Bailey might make in the two sequels, will he find redemption?
Without giving too much away, he will be a balancing counterweight for an apocalyptical war, and an avatar for a doomed god.
What’s your favourite unhappy ending?
Illusions by Richard Bach, the best person in the world is destroyed by less thinking individuals. Anyone who saves the world always gets it in the end. Take it like a man, baby.She called it the “Messiah Complex”, and thought it was sexy. (sorry, quote from my book). Also seen in Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
How well has the book been received, have you had to deal with any negative reviews?
The book’s been well received and so far, only positive reviews. I did find one reviewer odd for the statement that there wasn’t enough romance in it. I guess she thought it was a paranormal romance (it isn’t).
As an indie writer, how do you go about getting yourself noticed?
The book sounds like it would be a great movie. Who would you cast in the lead roles if you had the power to do so?
In the beginning Keifer Sutherland was the obvious choice or Michael Chiklis, but as the story grew I wanted someone with a more down to earth everyman appearance, Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs), Colin Ferguson (Eureka (a town not to far from where I live), and the really strange one was Wayne Brady. Changes the race of the character, but after seeing his acting skills outside of Whose Line is it Anyway, he could definitely pull it off. As for George, Jason Alexander or Patton Oswald. Both play the duck out of water role well. George’s image was based on Artie Beemer, from the Geech Comic strip. Davis Morse has always been John Sheen, and I want to play Dunbar. Not that I’ve thought about casting much. Directors, if your out there and interested, I’d love to see this on film.
Blog, social media, and tie it in with the storm chasing crowds. It’s been a crazy year and I wish I had more time to market. I did have my release party at a local bar and loved the amount of people that showed up. Even if they didn’t know who I was and what I wrote, they were friends by the end of the night.
The floor is yours sell the book to the readers.
Detective Michael Bailey is a seasoned homicide detective who can’t escape the deaths of twin girls that happened on his watch. Over the years, it has slashed at his sanity and sobriety, and now he stands at the crossroads of his life. The murder investigation of a young woman sends him over the edge as he finds the main suspect may be possessed.
George Graham is an antique store owner who has fallen for the wrong woman. When rejected and berated in public, George runs home to find a strange old man with an odd antique box wanting to make a deal. George buys the box and inside finds a matted scalp, a relic of untold power.
“Hell to Pay” is a haunting story about the loss of one’s life, redemption, and personal sacrifice. This supernatural thriller is strongly based on Joseph Campbell’s epic storytelling and mythology.
Can you tell us about any future projects?
The follow up for “Hell to Pay”, then a dark epic fantasy about a half-demon child being raised by the church as the ultimate weapon, and a possible attempt to resuscitate an old script about a feral child being raise by sasquatch.
Thanks for popping by for a chat, do you have any final words for the readers?