Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feature: Author Interview with Brett J. Talley, author of That Which Should Not Be

I am so excited to share this interview with y'all today!  Brett J. Talley's novel, That Which Should Not Be, won JournalStone's 2011 Horror Writing Contest.  He has also had some great short stories published online, one of which won the Absent Willow Review 2011 Short Story Contest.  

You can catch my review of That Which Should Not Be HERE.

Go back and check out what I had to say about the short stories HERE.

Besides being a fantastic author, Brett is a fellow Alabamian!!  Not only do we share the same home (and current) state, but I recently got to meet him!!  As you can see here, I am officially his favorite (Auburn fan)... :-)  Thanks, Bretty!!

Author Interview

Brett J. Talley

GL:  Please introduce your amazing self to my fantastic readers…  (Hey, what does the “J” in your name stand for?)

Brett:  Well, my name is Brett JOSEPH Talley.  I am a writer and lawyer from the great state of Alabama and my first novel, That Which Should Not Be, will be published on October 7, 2011.

GL:  Now, give everyone a little description of the amazing That Which Should Not Be… 

BT:  That Which Should Not Be is a Gothic horror novel set in the late 1800s.  It's the story of Carter Weston, a student at Miskatonic University who is sent by a professor there to recover an ancient book that has turned up in a small fishing village on the Massachusetts coast.  But by the time he arrives, a nor'easter has struck, and he is forced to take shelter in a local pub.  There he comes upon four men, each of whom has a story to tell.  As the stories unfold, Carter realizes that they are connected and lead directly to the object he seeks.  The novel pays homage to many of the great Gothic horror writers, and there are many Lovecraft-inspired bits as well.  It was a lot of fun to write and hopefully as much fun to read. 

GL:  From where do you typically draw inspiration for your writing?

BT:  I find myths and legends provide all sorts of fodder for the imagination.  The best stories are in our DNA.  They've been written over the last 5000 years of human history.  Some people run away from those stories because they are afraid to be called cliché or uninspired.  I think the best books take those stories that we all know and twist them to their own devices.  There was nothing particularly original about Dracula, but that telling of the vampire myth became one of the most influential novels of all time.  The vampire story has been slayed repeatedly by critics who claim nothing new can be done in that sub-genre.  But then you have books like Interview with a Vampire, True Blood, and Twilight.  Love them or hate them, they breathe new life into old legends.  And maybe even better, all of the sudden traditional ideas become new and different.  I know I'd kill for a vampire book where the undead are soulless monsters who aren't in need of a psychiatrist. 

I hope that my book can help to do the same for what I would call cosmic horror, that notion that there are entities who have ruled before who would rule again if only they could get mankind out of the way. 

GL:  When did you first seriously consider yourself a writer?

BT:  That's a great question.  I don't know.  Certainly publication had nothing to do with it.  I know plenty of people who are much better writers than I am that aren't published.  I guess I've always been a writer.  I wrote my first “book” when I was in second grade, which, incidentally, was about vampires.  No sparkles, though. 

GL:  I really don’t know what the big deal is about sparkling vampires….. :-P

GL:  If you had the Incendium Maleficarum, would you try to keep it for yourself or would you be glad to pass it on?

BT:  Well, I don't know if I can answer that question.  The rational answer is give it away, since anyone who disobeys the book ends up in pretty bad shape.  But I think the book affects different people in different ways.  It's not like the ring in Lord of the Rings; everybody seems to want that thing.  But the Incendium Maleficarum, some people want it and some people loath it.  The book grabs hold of something deep inside.  And as we learn, being a good person doesn't necessarily mean you are immune to the book's charms. 

GL:  I think I’d have to pass.  I’ll let someone else have that responsibility!  Same goes for the One Ring...

GL:  Which of your storytellers in That Which Should Not Be do you relate with the most?

BT:  I am going to cheat a little bit and say Henry Armitage, who while not one of the storytellers tells a story nonetheless.  He is a character who, as a much older man, is mentioned by H. P. Lovecraft in “The Dunwich Horror.”  I think Henry and I would get along.  Carter is a skeptic; I am a believer.  Like Henry, I want to know what lurks out there in the darkness, and I am fairly certain the shadows are not empty. 

GL:  Henry was actually one of my favorites!!

GL:  Who could you have not survived without during the writing/publishing process?

BT:  My girlfriend read every single page of the book as I was writing it, and without her encouragement there were many times I probably would have put it aside.  For a long time, I didn't think I could ever write a full length novel.  About 5000 words was my limit.  I'm still amazed, frankly. 

GL:  Did you learn any valuable life lessons while writing That Which Should Not Be?

BT:  During the writing itself, probably not, but definitely during the publication process.  I've never really had to deal with much failure or rejection, but trying to get a book published is failure after failure after failure.  If I could say one thing to the people who are out there trying to chase their dreams with their novel—never give up.  I know that sounds incredibly cliché, but it is really true when it comes to publication.  Writing is so subjective, and you can get a thousand rejections but it only takes one yes. 

GL:  Harvard or Miskatonic?

BT:  I loved Harvard, and I have many great memories there.  But Miskatonic.  If Miskatonic was real, man.  That would have been so cool I don't even really know what to say about it. 

GL:  Do you find that you prefer writing short stories a little more than full length pieces?  What do you think the challenges are with each?

BT:  At this point, I prefer writing books.  You can do so much in a novel that you can't do in a short story.  Of course, the challenge is that you need to develop your characters more fully in a novel, and obviously you need much more material than in a short story.  Short stories are challenging because you have to say a lot in a very short space.  Wasted words are bad in any piece of writing, no matter how long it is, but they are fatal in short stories.  You have to grab the reader immediately, and every page has to be magic.  I have a couple short pieces that I love but will probably never get published because they simply don't have enough bang for your buck.  Of course, the best thing about a short story is that if it turns out to be terrible you haven't wasted as much time on it. 

GL:  What are you writing now? 

BT:  I am currently working on another horror novel that is very different from That Which Should Not Be.  I wrote a short story recently called “The Substance of Shadow” that won the Absent Willow Review 2011 Short Story Contest, and the novel has a lot in common with it.  I'm not giving up on Carter though.  I will revisit him eventually. 

GL:  Is there any genre that you absolutely refuse to write?

BT:  Nope.  I started writing for fun, and one of the things I enjoy is to try writing completely different things.  And anybody who looks down on a genre is kidding themselves.  There are Nobel Prize winning authors that couldn't write Romance if their lives depended on it. 

GL:  If you could meet ANY author, alive or dead, who would you choose?  What would you like to talk about?

BT:  I'd like to go to the pub on the night Edgar Allen Poe died and have a drink with him.  I'd try to save his life, of course, but I think the truly great ones are destined for tragedy.  I'd like to hear what stories were still knocking around in his head.  He and Lovecraft died far too soon, and we will truly never know all the amazing tales that might have been told if they had lived longer. 

GL:  What was your favorite subject in middle and high school?

BT:  History.  I am a sucker for the stories of the past, and I think that fascination has helped me a lot with a book like That Which Should Not Be.

GL:  What made you decide to get a degree in history and philosophy?

BT:  History was a given as it was always my favorite subject.  I wanted to be a lawyer, and I figured philosophy would be a good subject to prepare me for law school.  It's a good thing it all worked out.  The old Philosophy degree doesn't exactly open a lot of career doors. 

GL:  My minor was philosophy for a while, but I merged it over into religion, which is basically the same thing!  It was obviously more for my own enjoyment than anything…

GL:  Would you ever leave your law career to write full time?

BT:  A lot of that depends on how many people buy my book!  You know, I actually really like being a lawyer.  I write because I love it, and sometimes I worry that if it became my job, some of that magic would be lost.  But I hope there is a day when my writing career has matured to the point I can make that decision. 

GL:  You have accomplished many great things in your life so far and traveled to a ton of interesting places.  Is there anything or anywhere that you were really excited about but found that it wasn’t quite as great as you expected?

BT:  Honestly, not really.  I try to maintain a positive attitude, so I typically find something to like no matter where I am in life.  Plus, I have been so blessed that complaining would be unseemly.  I mean, the food was terrible in Russia but it's not like I can whine about it...

GL:  Is there anything (money, fame, blackmail) that could entice you to yell out a big WAR EAGLE for me???  If I provided a ticket, could I convince you to go to an Auburn game? ;-)

If you get Guillermo del Toro to make my novel into a movie, I'll consider it.  So get on that!

GL:  Alright folks, you heard it here!  I consider this legal and binding! :-)  Now, does anyone have Guillermo's email address?   

GL:  Is all the attention you’ve gotten from us (your fan club) going to your head at all? 

BT:  Of course!  Haha.  I am just glad somebody actually likes my book!  But no, seriously I love every one of you.  I hope everyone will friend me on Facebook, and if there is every anything I can do for any of you guys, just let me know. 

GL:  See previous question! ;-)  I can assure you it is all much deserved!  Congratulations on publication, and we are all anxiously anticipating your future work… 

I told you guys that would be fun!!  Now, go stalk Brett everywhere, and BUY That Which Should Not Be!!!

Where to find Mr. Talley:

Where to buy the book: