Interview: Five Minutes With D.R. O’Brien
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I’m a young writer based in the U.K. I studied for a Masters Degree in English Literature, and then studied film production with USC. I also studied screen-writing under Bill Phillips, writer of the screenplay for the film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Christine”.
I’ve been a horror fan since my mum dressed me up as Godzilla at Halloween when I was six years old and let me watch a late night showing of the “The Fly”: the sight of Al Hedison screaming “Help me, please, help me!” whilst caught in that Spider’s web has definitely inspired me (and, quite possibly, permanently traumatised me) ever since.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I think that all of them are useful as short-hand terms but that none are flawless: Dark Fantasy, which I saw used in my local Waterstones recently, sounds more like a new Galaxy ice-cream! I prefer the term “Fantastical Fiction” as it pretty much covers the whole gamut from brooding Anne Rice-style vamps to Richard Matheson-esque apocalyptic fiction.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have so many! I love Jeff Strand’s off-the-wall horror comedy titles: “Mandibles” and “Specimen 313” are brilliant pastiches of 1950s-era B-Movies and I would recommend his work to anyone with a fondness for those kinds of films. David Wellington is also a personal inspiration: the whole “just get out there and do it” ethos that he extols is very empowering and hugely inspirational to a whole new generation of genre writers, myself included.
What are you reading now?
“The House on the Borderland” by William Hope Hodgson: taut, thrilling and as terrifying now as it was back when it was first published.
Which book do you wish you had written?
“The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, without a doubt. It’s a perfect example of economical, exciting writing: it neither out-stays its welcome nor drags on forever. Its theme of the importance of friendship is touching and unexpected: I defy any reader not to smile at least a little in response to the final paragraph. Oh, and anything by H.G. Wells: for someone to almost single-handedly invent some of the most key fantastical sub-genres of all times is nothing short of incredible.
How would you describe your writing style?
Fast-paced with plenty of action set-pieces and off-the-wall characters: I aim to write the kind of books that I enjoy reading myself.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t have a typical writing schedule as such: I have quite a demanding day job and due to the unpredictability of its demands I can’t really commit to a specific amount of hours per day. For me, it’s a combination of jumping out of bed when inspiration hits (as it invariably happens when I’m half asleep and never at a sensible or convenient time) and frantically scribbling out some hand-written notes, then spending my annual leave writing the full work, or at least that’s the model I’m working to at the moment!
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
From a practical perspective that would have to be my first work, the horror comedy mash-up Shakespeare v Lovecraft!
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I wanted to make sure that my recollections of all of the Bard’s plays were as fresh in my mind as possible before I started writing so I decided to watch ALL of the plays again. Fortunately Shakespeare’s Globe (a brilliant venue which I thoroughly recommend to anyone reading who finds themselves in London) was running a fantastic season called “Globe to Globe” which brought together theatre companies from all over the World, each staging a specific play. I immersed myself in dozens of different cultural interpretations of Shakespeare’s work: some deeply moving, some incredibly innovative and others utterly baffling, but all fascinating.
I’ve always felt that Shakespeare’s iconic protagonists, for example Richard III or Henry V, somewhat overpower the other characters in their respective plays, with many of the other players coming across as weak by comparison. In a similar manner I have always thought that Lovecraft’s creatures (understandably) utterly eclipse the human characters in his works. In short, I felt that Shakespeare’s characters and Lovecraft’s creatures were in need of more suitable opponents: so I decided to stick them in the ring together, stand well back and let the war of the literary Worlds commence!
At the moment I am planning a number of diverse, high-adrenaline fantastical fiction short stories, the first to be released via Kindle at the start of 2013, with the ultimate intention of creating a paperback anthology collection. I am also developing a young adult series with a strong emphasis on horror and action, and plan to write several more fantastical novellas. I’m also at the early concept stage for several adaptations of my work in different mediums…