Bracken MacLeod has worked as a martial arts teacher, a college philosophy instructor, at a children's non-profit, and as a criminal and civil trial attorney. While he does his best to avoid using the law education, he occasionally finds uses for martial arts and philosophy. His work has appeared in Sex and Murder Magazine, The Siren's Call e-zine, twice in Every Day Fiction, and most recently at Shotgun Honey He also has stories in the anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, Anthology: Year One, and Femme Fatale: Erotic Stories of Dangerous Women from Go Deeper Press. More anthologies are coming soon.
His first novel, Mountain Home is available from Books of the Dead Press
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
My background reads like the story of a man who is difficult to work with. I’ve been a martial arts teacher, a university philosophy instructor, and a lawyer in non-profit, public service, and private practice. The common thread, of course, is that all of those jobs require more than a passing interest in combativeness. It’s better now that I write full time. My wife appreciates my lower blood pressure and reduced startle response.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I like to think of what I do as “Secular Horror” although my novel also fits in the thriller category. I’m not a huge fan of the term Dark Fiction although I suppose it fits what I do. I like the idea of writers unselfconsciously owning “Horror” and working hard to rescue it from its bad reputation. I can’t write Weird. I’ve tried and I stink at it.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Cormac McCarthy, Andrew Vachss, Albert Camus, Jack Ketchum, Bret Easton Ellis, Joyce Carol Oates. I could go on and on, but those are the ones I always go back to when I don’t know what to read next. Even though among them only Ketchum is an out and out horror writer, I think there’s an undercurrent of revealing darkness in all their work.
What are you reading now?
Aftershock by Andrew Vachss. He’s a crime writer, but he and Camus are the two authors who inspire me to keep horror grounded in reality. They can both scare me more with a single real person than anyone else possibly could by unleashing legions of monsters from beyond the grave.
Which book do you wish you had written?
I’d say it’s a tossup between McCarthy’s The Road and John Mantooth’s Shoebox Train Wreck. The latter is a collection of some of the most beautiful dark fiction I’ve ever read. I met Mantooth recently and was doubly frustrated by the fact that he’s such a friendly, warm person. It’s impossible to hate him or his work. I dare anyone to try.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
I’d steal the Hole-In-The-Wall Club from the end of Jack Ketchum’s novella, The Passenger. It’s a dangerous, decadent place where you can have and ruin anything or anyone you want. I desperately want to set something there.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I drop my son off at day care, come home and check my e-mail, and then I get to work until it’s time to pick him up. I don’t have any other rituals or routines. If I’m not parenting, then I sit down and write or edit. The only habit I have is that I like to write to music. I usually pick an album or two that fit the mood of whatever project I’m working on and I listen to them over and over until the piece is done. MOUNTAIN HOME was written almost exclusively to Swallow the Sun’s Ghosts of Loss.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
My novel, MOUNTAIN HOME. That’s a work that is entirely my voice.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
The hardest was not being self-conscious about treating a scene of violence honestly on the page. As soon as I broke free from timidity and allowed myself to sit in a truly dark space for a while (but not so long that it loses impact, of course) everything came together for me. In my opinion, you can’t write effective horror unless you’re willing to be confronted by it and let it get under your skin. I don’t feel like I can scare a reader unless I’ve scared myself a little first.
What do you like to do to relax?
Like most writers, I read to relax. Letting a good storyteller take me someplace I haven’t been (ideally, in a skin I don’t inhabit) is how I really let go. I like to camp too. Being in the woods recharges me when I get what I call “city poisoning.” Also, I drink.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My novel, MOUNTAIN HOME, was recently released by Books of the Dead Press. It’s about a young woman, Lyn, whose life of inertia is set in unexpected motion by an act of prolonged violence. It’s a book about interpersonal (as opposed to political) terrorism. What a person experiencing violence sees as random and meaningless has meaning, however distorted, to the person on the other end of the rifle. And that meaning is often supplied by a long chain of cruelty, injustice, and indifference to suffering. Succinctly put, the book is about how we make our own monsters.
My next project is a novella tentatively titled, God Bless All the Dead Kids. It’s about grief and letting go of the past. It’s also about soul-eating monster children. In single malt terms, it’s horror served neat, no chaser.
Publication Date: May 31, 2013
Lyn works at an isolated roadside diner. When a retired combat veteran stages an assault there her world is turned upside down. Surviving the sniper’s bullets is only the beginning of Lyn's nightmare. Navigating hostilities, she establishes herself as the disputed leader of a diverse group of people that are at odds with the situation and each other. Will she - or anyone else - survive the attack?
"Bracken MacLeod's MOUNTAIN HOME hits like a Claymore mine and cuts with the emotional precision of a scalpel. Ferocious and tender, painful and real, it shows that the worst horrors are those we create ourselves, and that this world offers no shelter from evil, not even for the innocent. A powerful and thoughtful first novel."
~ Chet Williamson, International Horror Guild Award winning author of Soulstorm
"Bracken MacLeod's MOUNTAIN HOME is a superb page-turner that deserves such merit. What makes the story so compelling is MacLeod's willingness to cast aside cliches and stereotypes, his meticulous attention to facts and details, and his unflinchingly honest characters. His writing is layered with moments of elegant, heart-wrenching prose and pure diesel-fueled suspense, creating a novel that, quite simply, I couldn't put down until I finished the last page. It's THAT good."
~ Peter N. Dudar, author of A Requiem for Dead Flies
"In MOUNTAIN HOME, Bracken MacLeod finds the horrors and fears that are in the human heart and rips them out for all to see. When you start this book make no plans for the rest of the night - and don't expect to get any sleep. Hardboiled terror with an wonderfully eerie touch."
~ John French, author of Paradise Denied
"Bracken MacLeod brings heart and muscle to this taut siege thriller."
~ Nicholas Kaufmann, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Chasing the Dragon
"Bracken MacLeod's debut novel MOUNTAIN HOME opens with a shot and never looks back. It's a great character study of people locked in a small space facing death. MacLeod is able to keep the tension taut throughout, and the story barrels towards a bloody ending. I'm interested to see what MacLeod has up his sleeve next."
~ John F.D Taff, Author of Little Deaths
"MacLeod’s gripping and heartbreaking story proves that evil isn’t always born, sometimes it’s crafted, insult by insult, injustice by injustice, and trauma by trauma. A kick-ass debut of page-clicking suspense!"
~ Jan Kozlowski, author of Die, You Bastard! Die!
"Confident and perfectly paced, MacLeod's novel is at turns heart-pounding and heart-rending, tender and vicious. A grade-A thriller."
~ Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen
"Bracken MacLeod’s Mountain Home is a thrilling tale that took me places I never expected. With an explosive storyline that keeps you on your toes, the real surprise turned out to be his characters; real, growing, and full of vitality that you both love and love to hate. Joanie and Lyn’s intertwined stories are inspiring and horrifying, and after reading Mountain Home, it is astounding to consider the impact just one person can have. Please read this novel, but be prepared. This is a tale of personal passage—of gateways to change, for better or worse."
~ Weston Kincade, author of A Life of Death
“Mountain Home is double barrel shotgun blast of violence and pathos. Clean, deft writing and more than enough narrative drive to keep you buzzing along, this debut marks the beginning of a very promising career for Bracken MacLeod.”
~ John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm and Shoebox Train Wreck