Q&A With Author Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland is a damn good author with a damn good book out through Samhain Publishing’s new horror line. The book is called Dead of Winter and I was so curious about the man behind the book that I had to find him and pick his brain.  Enjoy the pickins!

1. Your latest book, ‘Dead of Winter”, will be out with Samhain Publishing’s horror line this October. It’s set in the dead of winter in Ontario in the 1870’s at Fort Pendleton. Tell us a little about the book and the amount of research that went into making it so historically authentic.

My latest horror novel is a historical story based partly on true events and an old Algonquin Indian legend that still haunts the Great Lakes tribes to this day. It’s also a detective mystery and even has a couple of love triangles thrown in for fun. The story takes place near the end of the 19th Century at an isolated fur-trading fort deep in the Ontario wilderness. The main character is Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective from Montreal who had recently captured an infamous serial killer, Gustav Meraux, known as the Cannery Cannibal. Gustav is Jack-the-the-Ripper meets Hannibal Lecter. Even though the cannibal is behind bars, Tom is still haunted from the case, so he decides to move himself and his rebellious teenage son out to the wilderness. At the beginning of the story, Tom has taken a job at Fort Pendleton to solve a case of strange murders that are happening to the fur traders that involve another cannibal, one more savage than Gustav Meraux. Some predator in the woods surrounding the fort is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—the victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. In Tom’s search for answers, he discovers that the Jesuits know something about this plague. My second main character is Father Xavier, an exorcist from Montreal who is ordered by the Vatican to travel to Ontario to help Tom battle the killer causing the outbreak.

2. The story, though fantastical, seems, in other ways, so real. How much is based on fact? Were there any actual odd occurrences at Fort Pendleton at that time?

 While indeed a work of fiction, I wanted this book to feel real. Throughout the story I interweave several facts I pulled from history books and an interview I did with a descendent from a Canadian Ojibwa tribe. During my research, I came across some unexplained stories that the Ojibwa and Algonquin tribes all around the Great Lakes region, including Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Minnesota, feared a supernatural creature that lives in the woods and stalks people every winter. They migrated every year because of this superstition. This legend also spooked the white fur traders, like the Hudson’s Bay Company, who lived in isolated forts all across Canada and traded with the Indians. Fort Pendleton is a fictitious fort named after one my characters, a tycoon by the name of Master Avery Pendleton. When the mysterious killings start plaguing the colonists living within his fort, Pendleton hires Tom Hatcher to solve the case. Tom teams up with an Ojibwa tracker and shaman, Anika Moonblood. She doesn’t believe the killer is a man or animal, but something much more terrifying. In the book, everyone in the neighboring Ojibwa tribe is spooked by the stalker out in the woods.

As I researched this legendary evil spirit even deeper, I discovered an article about a real isolated fort in Quebec where all the colonists went crazy and turned cannibal. In the late 1700s, a Jesuit priest who visited this fort documented the case in his journal, describing the deranged colonists as possessed by the devil. This is all factual and documented by the Catholic Church. I also did extensive research on the history of frontier life in Canada in the 1800s. During the long winter months out in the wilderness, cannibalism became a way of survival for isolated villages that ran out of food. And sometimes soldiers would arrive at a fort to find that everyone was dead except one man, who survived by eating the others.

3. What did you enjoy most about writing ‘Dead of Winter’?

 There are so many things. I had such a great time writing this one. My imagination was running wild at the time. I real love the cast of characters. While Tom is the protagonist, with Father Xavier being a second main character with his own story line, I also enjoyed writing the supporting characters, many of which have subplots that intertwine with Tom’s story. It’s a very complex book. I also enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold. When I write, I never know how a book is going to play out. I have a general idea that gets me started writing, but most of the time I’m trying to solve the riddle right alongside my detective. I also love writing scenes that have action and suspense and this novel has plenty of them. I wanted DEAD OF WINTER to be the scariest book that I could write, I didn’t hold back.

4. The horror genre is new to Samhain. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has the experience been?

 My agent and I were trying to find a good fit for my new book. I had finished DEAD OF WINTER in November of 2009 and was eager to sell it to a publisher right away. That’s how I feel after finishing a novel. I just can’t wait to share it with readers. But in 2009, publishing houses were shuffling their editors like Vegas dealer shuffling cards. My agent was afraid my book would get bought up and then lost in the chaos, so she told me let’s wait it out. It was tough to do, but we held out from submitting my book for over a year. I’m glad we did, because was were ready and waiting for the right opportunity. And then in January of this year my agent told me that Leisure Books was dissolving their horror line and that their editor, Don D’Auria had moved over to Samhain Publishing to start up a brand new horror line called Samhain Horror. Don wanted to start the line in October 2011 and was looking for submissions. We submitted my book within about two weeks of Don starting his new job. My agent sold me on Don, saying he was a legend in the horror business. I hadn’t heard of him, but I did a little research and discovered that he had been the editor for many of my favorite authors—Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, and Jack Ketchum, to name a few. On his blog, Brian Keene wrote a post about how much he loved working with Don D’Auria. I flipped through a dozen books by Leisure authors and read the Acknowledgements. Again and again, I kept seeing Don’s name being praised, many describing him as the nicest editor to work with. That sold me, so I told my agent let’s submit DEAD OF WINTER to Don at Samhain. Less than 30 days later in February, my agent called back and said that Don loves my book and wants it to be one of the first books to release in October. I was so excited. My first novel I had to wait over a year to see my book in print. With Samhain, my novel released eight months after we concluded the book deal. And working with Don has been a dream. Like everyone says, he is the nicest guy and very diplomatic in his style of editing. He made some great suggestions on how to improve my novel while keeping most of the book in tact. With Don and Samhain, I definitely feel like I’ve found a home to publish my future books as well.

 5. Full time writers, especially in the horror genre, are few and far between. What do you do to pay the bills when you’re not tapping away at your keyboard? Do you envision leaving the 9-5 world behind in the future?

It’s been over ten years since I had a typical 9-5 job, but I still have to work on client projects to pay the bills. I’ve been working as a freelance video editor for a handful of clients. I mostly edit documentaries, TV commercials, and corporate videos. For two straight years I got to travel with the USO and Tostitos to military bases in Baghdad, Iraq. We filmed the troops the playing a football game with celebrity football players. That was a cool experience. You can see photos from my trip at my blog (http://brianmoreland.blogspot.com/2010/01/traveling-to-iraq.html). In addition to video editing, I also have done some ghostwriting and edited and designed books for other authors. As I see more frequent financial success from my novels, I envision working fewer client projects and writing all these novels I have inside my head like caged beasts clawing to get out.

 6. What made you want to become a writer, and why horror?

 I’ve always loved monsters and the adrenaline rush from being scared. I grew up watching double-feature horror movies that aired on TV every Saturday. I collected monster toys and read lots of comic books. As I got into my teens, my reading turned to novels by Stephen King and other horror authors. I had an active imagination and, at age 19, I decided to try my hand writing and wrote my first horror novel. I discovered that creating my own fictitious worlds and characters was even more fun than watching movies or reading books. I can’t explain why I write horror, only that I write what I love to read. I just write and scary stuff happens.

7. You’re on a small boat fishing with Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Brian Keene. What do you ask each of them and who will be the best to share a beer with when the fish ain’t biting?

I would love to go fishing with such legendary authors. To Richard Matheson I was ask about how he came up with I Am Legend, one of my all-time favorite stories. Because I like to know how people achieve success, I’d ask how he got started on his path to being published and how he made a name for himself. This year I got to meet Brian Keene—a super nice guy by the way—and take one of his seminars. Sitting next to him at a conference table for four hours, I asked him all kinds of questions about the business and learned many of his success secrets. I would love to go fishing with Brian and just get to know him better as a person. With Stephen King, I would love to share a beer and as what his secrets are to being so prolific. I’ve read his book On Writing and that was the closest I’ve gotten to learning his secrets to being an author. But there’s something about hanging out and talking with someone in person that has a deeper impact. I’ve gotten to hang out with James Rollins and John Saul for greater lengths of time, and they both had a huge impact on how I approach my career as an author.

8. As many people will know, Samhain Publishing is named for the ancient tradition that became every horrorhead’s favorite festival of Halloween. What would make for your best ever Samhain celebration?

First, I’d have to have a killer costume. Ever year I struggle on what to dress up as. Then it’s all about the party. I’d go with my girlfriend and a group of friends to some exotic place that throws a great Samhain celebration like the French Quarter in New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Two years ago I was living on Maui, and a group of us went to a beach town called Lahaina. They blocked off the main street for a mega Halloween party and every bar was packed. I saw some of the craziest costumes and a lot of risqué ones too, where people are half-naked. Now that was a party to remember. What I’m really looking forward to doing in the future is meeting up with fellow Samhain Horror authors at a horror convention and celebrating the success of our books.

Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. He loves hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and dancing. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at http://brianmoreland.com/ or on Twitter @BrianMoreland.

Brian’s Horror Fiction blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com   

Coaching for Writers blog:  http://www.coachingforwriters.blogspot.com

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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

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