Ginger Nuts of Horror
Born in Ontario, Canada, Brian Malbon has been all across Canada as a professional driver – from bus to truck to heavy mining equipment. He is a former volunteer firefighter, video editor and film student (with a single credit on imdb.com), a husband and a father of two.
Brian has always had a passion for writing and creating new worlds, and a morbid fascination with horror movies. His particular terror of zombies coupled with his newfound worry for his baby daughter led to the creation of Sheila, his first novel.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
In the real world I’m a professional driver and heavy equipment operator from Northern Alberta, Canada. I’m the resident “Joke guy” in my group and I’m a monster at karaoke.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to sleep and drink coffee. I have two kids, so sleep and coffee are my real hobbies.
What’s your favourite food?
Pizza and beer. Or just pizza. Or just beer.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Is it weird that I hate Micheal Buble, but every time something big happens in my life he has a new hit song out that describes it perfectly?
Tell us a dirty little secret?
I talk to myself in the grocery store, and it’s a little awkward when I start arguing with myself.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Quit being afraid. There’s so many things I missed out on because I was scared to try them when I had the chance.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I got talked into wasting four hours of a Bahamas vacation on a sales pitch for a timeshare. When they picked us up to take us to the “Free breakfast” I thought we were going to be murdered. I had to leave my default mode and stop being nice long enough to make my escape, but it wasn’t easy. Sales-pitch friendliness is the most insidious form of manipulation ever invented by man.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I will read a shopping list from Stephen King or Joe Abercrombie. Lately I’ve been really enjoying the work of Christopher Buehlman.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Right now I’m halfway through The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and it is exceptional on every level. The last book to disappoint me? Under the Dome by Stephen King. A thousand pages of his best writing in years, undone by a gimme ending that reads as if he was just sick of writing it and wanted it over, any way he could.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Favourite horror novel, The Shining. Still terrifying after multiple rereads. Favourite film, Dawn of the Dead.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
“Hi Cheryl, as you know, we’re sisters and have been for many years. Oh God, a murderer! Run Upstairs!”
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Leslie Vernon would be the ideal neighbour. Quiet, friendly, funny, and I bet he’d be happy to lend me a posthole digger. My nightmare neighbour? Probably Harry Potter. I bet that guy could bring a barbecue right down. “I just got promoted at work!” “Oh, yeah, well I was chosen by prophecy to bring down the Dark Lord.” “Welp, look at the time.”
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
Alex Cross. I heard “Alex Cross Eats Breakfast” was a real pageturner.
And if you had free range what fictional character would you like to write for?
Iggy Parrish from Horns. The book read like a superhero origin story but ended with no possibility of further adventures. I’d give him some further adventures.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Horror isn’t just pulp anymore. There are some really talented writers out there today, and they’re gaining mainstream success, which means the general public is getting into it. The fact is, horror is everywhere, and every genre benefits from a little dash of the dark side.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing horror fiction right now?
Gore should be an accent to the story, not the whole book. Red is a great colour, but there needs to be more on the palette or there’s no painting.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
One reviewer compared Sheila to the first Ice Age movie. It was surprising to say the least, and while I was hoping to leave readers with a positive feeling at the end of the nightmare, I didn’t really imagine talking animals would be involved.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Writing dialogue. I have to go back and rewrite my characters’ lines at least a dozen times before I don’t think they sound like robots.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
This seems weird when my novel is about protecting a baby from zombies, but I just don’t feel comfortable writing violence against children. I have one rule: never kill the kid… unless you have to make the story better.
What do you think makes a good story?
Good characters. I’ll tune out of a terrific plot if the characters feel like cardboard, but I’ll read a group of people playing chess for four hundred pages if the characters are well-written.
How important are names to you in your books?
You need names you’re going to remember, but you just can’t get away with naming everybody Sapphire or Stone Matthews.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Coffee. Also, I love to read terrible books. Great books inspire me to rise to their heights, but terrible novels at least let me know, when I was struggling through my first novel and wondering if it was worth even trying, that worse writers than me have been published. Also, anger helps me drive forward.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Hold your characters’ secrets back as long as possible, but keep hinting at them along the way. Even if the secrets aren’t very compelling once they’re revealed, the reader will keep reading just to find out what they are.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
Nobody’s said anything demeaning yet. Maybe it’s because I’m such a nice guy?
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Facebook has been my best marketing avenue. I’m mostly running on word of mouth as far as letting people know I exist.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Becca, the take-no-prisoners, axe-wielding teenaged clubhopper. She very nearly ran away with the entire story and got the novel called Becca instead of Sheila. And she wasn’t even supposed to be there. She was an accidental addition to an early draft, a damsel in distress who turned out not to need rescuing, and the role model my middle-aged hero tried to be like, instead of the other way around.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I’m not pleased with my villain. He’s terrific in the few scenes he’s in and is a charismatic menace, but the way the story worked he kind of had to show up as a surprise. If I could go back I would write him at least a few more chapters being ominous and increasingly evil, and change his name from Steve to something a little more harrowing.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
In Sheila, the scene in the storage closet. If you’ve read it, you know.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
I wrote, produced and directed a forty-minute horror movie in high school. It was a gender-reversed Buffy knockoff, and the first person I showed the finished film to laughed from start to finish and remarked, “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen”. I remained inordinately proud of it for years after, but now I’m just embarrassed.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
My first book is Sheila: Baby’s First Zombie Apocalypse. I’m working on the second now. No zombies this time.
What are you working on right now?
An apocalypse horror story about a reality show winner facing real survival challenges, with a really unique monster I’m very proud of.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Why did you write a zombie novel?
Soon after my first daughter was born, I realized I was watching zombie movies differently. Instead of thinking “I could get through that” I started thinking “How the hell am I going to get my kid through that?” I don’t think a lot of zombie stories tackle that kind of situation, or if they do they throw it away (ie the Walking Dead – the baby is there when it needs to be, then forgotten about for entire episodes), and I wanted to write from the perspective of someone whose first thought has to be “What do I do with the baby?”
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