Jan 23, 2012

A.J. Brown and Suzanne Robb talking about Darkness and Dismay and writing

An Interview with A.J. Brown and Suzanne Robb – Based on a real conversation




Suzanne Robb –
Hi,

From Darkness and Dismay, would love to do an interview and same for you. I am getting questions together tonight and will send them to whoever is interested tomorrow.

A.J. Brown –
You beat me to the punch, Suzanne. I was about to send you a message as well.

I do my interviews a little different than most. I have only one set question and it is the first one. Then I build the interview from there. It can be as funny, serious or demented as you wish for it to be. And as short or long as you choose.

So, let me ask you the generic question and we can go from there. Answer it however you feel free to:

Who is Suzanne Robb?

Suzanne Robb –
I am an anxiety ridden LEGO lover.


I also do my interviews the same way, I ask really off the cuff questions and then based on the answers go from there, like you, I let the person make it as fun, demented, or serious as they like.

My question to you, milk chocolate or dark chocolate?

A.J. Brown –
Dark Chocolate all the way.

Did you say LEGO lover? We are kindred spirits then. Which LEGOs do you like?

Suzanne Robb –
Did you say dark chocolate? That seals it we are kindred spirits.

I like the Star Wars LEGO's, and have the collection issued about 5 years ago for their anniversary. My prized one is a foot and a half tall Yoda. About 4,000 pieces. My goal is the Death Star one day.



I also like the random stuff you can pick up at the LEGO store.

How about you, what are your favorite sets?

And to break tradition, I will not ask favorite horror movie, but favorite comedy.

A.J. Brown –
Favorite comedy? Hmmm... Blazing Saddles, hands down. Greatest comedy ever made.


And my favorite LEGOs are the castle ones. I have probably 50 or so of the sets. However, my second favorites are the Star Wars sets. I have the huge collector's editions of the Tie Fighter, X Wing and the Rebel Blockade Runner. I also want the Death Star one day.

I hear you have a book out now. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Suzanne Robb –
Blazing Saddles is a great one, I like Young Frankenstein.

I already had one book out already, Z-Boat a suspense thriller with zombies,(shameless self-promotion) BUT I bet you are talking about the one with Dark Continents called Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!.

It is a collection of three stories. The first one is a tale that changes the myth of were-wolves a bit and has a horror/humor element. The second one is about a dysfunctional family trying to fend off the coming apocalypse. The last story is a sci-fi one in which people alter themselves in a genetic level, and well, of course something has to go wrong.

How about you? I have heard rumors from sources you also have a book out, care to share with us what we can expect?

A.J. Brown –
Young Frankenstein is one of my favorites. Teri Garr rolling in zee hay is one of the greatest scenes a young boy (as I was the first time I saw the movie) could see.


Well, I tell you what, Suzanne, the collection from DCP sounds great, but before we get to that one, why don't you go ahead and tell me a little about Z-Boat first.

And, I do have a collection coming out. Along the Splintered Path was released by Dark Continents Publishing and it features three stories. A man dealing with his childhood and the scars it left behind not just on him, but his little brother's mind; a young man trapped in a valley in the mountains after a nasty fall and in the middle of winter when a snow storm kicks up... what he finds and, well, I don't want to give too much away about that one. The last one is about a homeless man who has a bag of money land beside him on the sidewalk and where the money came from and just what he does with it.


I think readers are going to like what they read. I really do.

Suzanne Robb –
I love Marty Feldman, I- Gor, makes me laugh every time. I was just a kid too, but there is great humor in that movie no matter how old you are.



Z-Boat comes across as a zombie on a submarine story, but is actually a lot more. At least this is what I am finding. It appeals more to the mystery/thriller/suspense people. I can understand why as the zombies appear in the last act. It is also very character driven. A lot of fun to write a story in the strict confines of a submarine, though at times I have to admit feeling a bit claustrophobic. 


Your collection sounds interesting, very psychological in nature. I would assume the stories are very character driven, you?

A.J. Brown –
I-gor. That cracks me up. Where wolf? There wolf.

Z-boat takes place on a submarine? Wow. That would make for a tight read... oh, I know, that was lame, but I couldn't resist. Where can we find Z-Boat?

As far as my collection goes, yes, it is very character driven. All three of the main characters are different and face their own challenges and deal with their own thoughts and it's those thoughts that drive them to do what they do. I think it's important that stories focus on characters in order to make them realistic and make the journey the reader takes worth their time and money.

Suzanne Robb –
There wolf, I love well done comedies. Galaxy Quest is another one that is very well written.

Z-Boat can be found on Amazon, and any store that has Ingrams. Yes a submarine, I always got annoyed with zombie movies as I did not think slow moving brain eaters were a real threat to people who could drive, lock themselves in an attic and so on. I decided to come up with a place and a scenario where the people were forced to deal with the zombies, and these aren't slow.

I enjoy a good character driven story; the ones that evoke an emotion at the end are the best for me. Sounds like you enjoy getting into people's heads. Do you like to scare them, show them a different way of looking at things?

I also notice that the last two stories are dependent on location, wrong place wrong time, right place right time. Was that done on purpose, or have I had too much sugar today and reading into things?

A.J. Brown –
I agree that so many of the zombie stories/movies out today make no sense. Zombies shamble. They can't run... and how in the world could other zombies be created if they all eat the brains (which, if you watch the movies, they never do)?

I like your concept for Z-Boat and will check it out. Sounds like a fun read. Now, back to your collection for Dark Continents, Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!. Horror, humor, an apocalyptic story and a sci fi piece, all in one collection? Did you intend to spread your wings, so to speak and show a wide range of writing or were you going for a certain feel with this book?

I love character driven stories more than any others. If you have no feelings for the characters you generally don't care much for them or what happens to them. At least that's the case for me.

When I write, the first thing I think about is the characters and the situations they are put in. How would I or someone else react in that particular situation? I try--keyword there is try--to make the characters as real as possible and if what I put them through scares someone, then that makes it all that much better.

The scenarios in all the stories are pretty much a combination of the wrong place and right time scenarios. If you think about it that is what life is. Someone goes into a bank to deposit their check. It's the right time for them to do so. But, what if someone comes in with a gun to rob the bank. Uh-oh, wrong time after all. Then what if the robber decides to shoot someone? Still, worse timing.  Or maybe someone buys a lottery ticket on their way home from work and the next night they win a hundred million dollars--right time, right place. But, then say they die before they claim the winnings? Everything in life is about placement and timing--why shouldn't our stories be the same way?

Suzanne Robb –
I am in total agreement with you on the zombie thing. Probably why I prefer the 28 days series, they are at least fast. I wanted to make the zombies a challenge and the way they turn is not some experiment gone wrong, it is actually more reality based which is why they are not the typical zombies. The book itself however is very character driven and has a lot of the old mystery suspense elements to it.

As for Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My!, it is funny because I am not a horror writer, at least I do not think of myself as that. I love to write creative non-fiction, and parody. A friend told me to give horror a shot and a year later this is where I am. I suppose I am still looking for my niche as it were, but I love the horror/parody stories. That and changing mythologies around to something new.

I love character driven stories, they are what make the tale worth reading. How do you "try" to make your characters real? Research, watching people in everyday situations, or some other mind reading secret?

Interesting take on the right place/right time, wrong place/right time elements. I do not think I read a lot that emphasize that element, which you are in fact right about it being a mainstay of life.

What other elements do you try and put into your stories to make them more real?


A.J. Brown –

I'm going to have to pick up Z-Boat--it sounds like it's right down my alley.

So, you don't classify yourself as a horror writer? That's fine, but tell me how do you feel about writing in the genre now that you've been doing it for a while?


What do I do to make my characters real? I pay attention to what's going on around me. Things like mannerisms and conversations. I listen to folks even when they think I'm not. I also pay attention to feelings and the way people respond to hurt, joy, sadness, anger, whatever... even sicknesses. There is desperation in all of those things, to be seen, to be heard, to be felt, even when someone is excited and happy. I try to put that in my stories.

One thing I think is crucial in character driven--or even any story--is to use your surroundings as a character. Your scenery can be used to set the mood of the entire piece, therefor creating everything you need to develop your characters as well. Think about how many times you've read a story where it starts with a storm. Immediately you have the image of what the weather is and you have somewhat of a mood created.

Suzanne Robb –
It is weird to think about writing in the genre now because I know so little about it. Most of the people I meet read all these horror authors and I have no idea who they are. I know comedy/parody/non-fiction people.

I do think that it has broadened my horizons and made me stretch my imagination to some degree, and then in another way it scares me at how easy it is to come up with scary scenarios.

Interesting what you say about your stories. I have degrees in Anthropology and Psychology and was basically taught to look at what is going on around me, look at body language, and also to look at the surrounding area to re-build the past.

I know what you mean, a storm sets a mood and is visual. A dark room, a musty hotel with peeling paper. All these little things help the reader create a picture in their head.

Do you write outside your genre?

A.J. Brown –
You're not alone, Suzanne. I've been writing in the horror genre since 2005 and I still have no clue who most of the folks are. I'm still learning with each passing day. And, you know what's really scary? It's not just coming up with the stories that chill you to the bone, it's the simple fact it's outside your box and you’re spreading your wings and trying something new.  It’s a daunting task. What is the scariest thing you've come up with since writing in the genre?

I've never taken Anthropology or Psychology--I just don't think I'm smart enough to do so--but, watching folks and listening to the world as it passes by makes writing horror easy--they say write what you know and if you've lived at all, then you know a lot of stuff. If you've paid attention to the life around you, then, really, writing is not so difficult.

Sometimes I write outside the genre, but rarely. I enjoy the darker stories and the way they feel. However, I can write humor if I want to and I could probably write--gasps--romance, but that's not a road I want to go down...

Suzanne Robb –
Good to know I am not the only one who draws a blank when someone asks what horror writer inspired me to write. C.S. Lewis or Roald Dahl just does not go over well, trust me.

I agree it is daunting to step outside and create new stories. For me the one that shocked me the most was one based on a relationship gone south. Based on experiences it was a bit too easy to seek out revenge.

I think all people are smart in their own way, and I bet you could take psychology or Anthropology. I did and I am not that smart. I did take a cannibalism class that was one of the more interesting classes I have ever taken. Imagine a whole semester devoted to how to eat a body and make sure no one knows you did it.

I felt like a serial killer when I would talk to my friends.

Do you write dark humor or fun humor? Also, this romance thing intrigues me, not many men go for that genre, is it the Fabio covers?

A.J. Brown –
Roald Dahl is probably one of the more underrated writers of his time--he gave us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after all.

Did you say you took a cannibalism class? I should have consulted you when writing Round These Bones--seeing how there is some cannibalism in there.

I tend to write fun humor, when I write it. I love to pen song parodies in the vein of Weird Al. I've tried my hand at Bizarro, but I just don't think I have it in me. One thing about romance--I never said I have written any, just that I could and NO there would be no Fabio on the covers, but maybe Ashley Judd in something skimpy...

Suzanne Robb –
I agree about Roald Dahl, I fell for his writing with The BFG. He also has many other collections that are very much adults only.

Yes I did take a cannibalism class, was one of my favorite. Not sure what that says about me?

Ah Weird Al. Have to love music, without it I could not write. In college I used to make up new lyrics to remember things for tests to Sir Mix-a-lots baby got back, again not sure what this means about me.

Ashley Judd in something skimpy, and your favorite movie by her? For me it is Kiss the Girls, she kicks butt in that one.

Fun humor, will we ever see a collection of that from you?

A.J. Brown –
That's the thing about the publishing world: there are too many underrated writers who never really get their due and then there are entirely too many who are vastly overrated. I won't name names.

Since you like to make up song lyrics as well, and without music you wouldn't be able to write, what do you listen to when you write and who are your favorite bands/singers?

And since you took cannibalism, next time I have a story that involves that subject I'll let you know. I would like to know a bit more about that anyway... not that I want to eat anyone or anything like that... no, nothing like that at all.

Favorite movie by Ashley Judd? I'm not sure I have one. Kiss the Girls was great, but I've liked most of what she's been in.

And fun humor. Maybe one day. I would like to put together a collection of stories where my parody songs segued into the next piece.

Suzanne Robb –
I know what you mean about the publishing world. There are some writers who are everywhere and I say what is the big deal, and then there are some I say WOW why don't more people read this!

As for music, I listen to a lot of scores, usually ones by Ennio Morricone or Hans Zimmer ( I have a tendency to write the lyrics of what I am listening to at times, makes for interesting beta read) Others would be Orgy, Arcade Fire, Portishead, Andrew Bird, Peter, Bjorn & John, I adore Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and a lot of indies like Reichenbach Falls, Luisa's Bones, Wolf Parade...

Anything you want to know about cannibalism I am game. One anthropologist did report that human flesh tastes a lot like marmite, just saying.

That fun humor collection sounds like a good idea.

How about you are there any musicians you prefer to listen to while writing?

A.J. Brown –
I haven't heard of some of those bands. I'll have to look them up. As far as what I listen to when writing, mostly I don't anymore, but if I want inspiration, Concrete Blond, Motorhead and Carbon Leaf all help me get into my dark place.

Is there anything else on the horizon for you, Suzanne, anything else the readers can look forward to in the near future?

Suzanne Robb –
On the horizon for me are two anthologies. One is called Read The End First I am co-editing with Adrian Chamberlin. It is apocalyptic in nature and 24 writers each took on an individual time zone and end the world in a unique way. The other is Anxiety Disorders, a collection of non-fiction stories I have compiled and edited for Hidden Thoughts Press.




And yourself? What other interesting reads do you have in store for us?

A.J. Brown –
Right now, only one slated to come out in the near future, in Night Terrors II. It's a fun little tale about boy and girl and shadows.

Suzanne, it's been wonderful talking with you. Now, I have one last question: Coffee or cappuccino?

Suzanne Robb –
Coffee, if I were to have cappuccino I would have to sign some sort of non-responsible clause for what happens. I have far too much energy as it is.

Great talking with you as well, and my last question

Dog or a cat person? (Brownie points if you like Boston Terriers)

A.J. Brown –
Coffee it is. I don't care much for the crappuccino at all.

Interestingly enough, I like both, but my real preferences are Oscars and all of their bad attitudes.


Suzanne Robb –
I have no idea what an Oscar is...though I think of the Muppets when you say that.

I like both as well, but am allergic to cats Description: https://s-static.ak.facebook.com/images/blank.gif

A.J. Brown –
Hahahaha--it's a fish.

Suzanne Robb –
Ah, never would have guessed that ever.

Are they hard to keep?

I was going to get a water dragon until I found out they need an enclosure as large as my bathroom when full grown.

A.J. Brown –
They are great fish and you can feed other fish to them. And, really Oscars are pretty easy to keep, including the water chemistry. They get kind of big, but it also depends on the tank you have them in.

A Water Dragon, eh?

Suzanne Robb –
Feed other fish, I sense a cannibalism theme in the things you like...

I had Beta fish at one time and some gouramis but they had babies, fry, I guess they call them, and they ate them all! Turned me off fish. As for the water dragon, yeah, he was super cute.

I am not one to take animals to a pet store. I will try to take them all home and convince myself a Toucan, a stable of cats and dogs, and multiple fish, and a variety of rodents can live happily.

So um, out of curiosity if you had a dog, what would you feed it?

A.J. Brown –
Depends on what I have. I do have a dog and, for the most part, I try to feed her moist food since she's fourteen years old and a little long in the tooth. But, if I had to feed her meat... you know... flesh... I guess she would eat it. Or maybe not.

Suzanne Robb –
Interesting, good to know. (making mental note that if I ever have dinner at your house to eat salad)

A.J. Brown –
Hahahaha--my wife is a great cook and I don't think she's ever cooked people, though I could be wrong there....

Suzanne Robb –
You might want to check, just saying.

Though you are the cannibalism obsessed one.

A.J. Brown –
Yes, I am... and the cutting obsessed one as well.

Suzanne Robb –
Right, so keep an eye on you and sharp things too. Got it.

A.J. Brown –
Yup.

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