Michael Bray is a best selling horror author based in Leeds, England. Influenced from an early age by the suspense horror of authors such as Stephen King, and the trashy pulp TV shows like Tales From The Crypt & The Twilight Zone, he started to work on his own fiction, and spent many years developing his style. In May 2012, he signed a deal with the highly reputable Dark Hall Press to print and distribute his collection of interlinked short stories titled Dark Corners, which was released in September 2012. His second release was a Novella titled MEAT. His first full length novel, a supernatural horror titled Whisper was initially self-published, and following great critical acclaim, was sold to Horrific Tales publishing - his first Advance paying sale which went on to be a #1 best seller.
How long have you been writing for, and do you remember the plot of your very first story?
I never really thought about perusing writing as something serious until the spring of 2012. The band I had been in for the last couple of years had split up, and I was looking for something to replace the creative process of making music. I had always wanted to turn my hand to writing, but for one reason or another, didn’t commit to it. As to the plot to my first story, I remember it well. It was about a down and out father who steals a toy from the grave of a child to give to his own son. From there, lots of supernatural stuff happened as the spirit of the dead child tried to get his possession back. It wasn’t very good, but it was the first one I finished (I still have it kicking around somewhere) and it gave me the confidence to try and make something more serious of it.
Describe your typical writing area, surrounds? Do you need total silence? Visual stimulants? Music?
To be honest it all depends on what I’m doing. If I’m editing, I need quiet and no distractions of any kind. If I’m writing, it depends. I don’t have an office or anything, although I do have a favourite seat on the sofa which seems to be the only place I can really get anything done. If I really need to concentrate I’ll stick the earphones in and write to music. Oh, and no matter what I’m doing I’ll need coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
If you could see one of your pieces as an adaptation which one would it be and who would you cast as leads?
I would love to see Whisper brought to the big screen for sure. I think would make for a very intense, claustrophobic piece with that added human drama element alongside the supernatural. As to who would play the characters, I think Zooey Deschanel would make a brilliant Melody. In fact I half had her in mind when I wrote the book in the first place. Maybe someone like Tom Hardy to play Steve and for Donovan, I think Vigo Mortensen would be brilliant. He has great intensity which that particular character needs.
When did you first show an interest in Horror?
I was quite young actually. I used to love the old Hammer Horror films as a kid. They always used to be on late at night on ITV and I’d sit up and watch them. The Boris Karloff Frankenstein was also hugely influential. From there I started to really get interested in the genre. I remember going to the local video shop on the corner near where I used to live and renting out all the gory stuff. (No I.D checks then) I remember watching stuff like Bad Taste, Slugs, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, House, and Maniac Cop. From a reading point, I saw my sister’s hardback copy of Stephen Kings Skeleton crew on the table one day as a kid. I was mesmerised by how big it was. I didn’t actually know it was a book of short stories at the time, but I’ll admit, I was determined to read it, so I stole it and hid it in my bedroom. I was hooked from that day on, especially on King. Even though I was pretty young at the time, I distinctly remember wishing I could give other people the same feeling of absolute immersion in a story. It’s what I strive for today in everything I write. I set out with every new story to take people into a world where they can be someone else, or experience things from the perspective of these people and the situations they are in. There is no greater feeling that receiving a message from a reader who tells you they had that experience for themselves. It makes it all worthwhile.
You've done a couple of co-writes which I have enjoyed personally, who would you love to co-write with?
The co-writing stuff was something I was uncertain about at first in all honesty. There is a lot to consider as far as if your own style would work with that of another writer, not to mention getting on the same page as far as plot lines go. The first collaboration I actually did still isn’t out yet as it goes. I have a novel which I’m really proud of called The Void, which I wrote with Albert Kivak. We initially had a contract with Permuted Press for it, which was pulled by us when they changed their business model. (With no dramas or problems from Permuted I might add. They were courteous and professional through the entire process) we are looking at options for that one and have one publisher who we are keen to work with looking at it right now.
Working with Matt Shaw was one of those times where everything just clicked between us. We found this brilliant working vibe where not only do we instantly ‘get’ the vibe the other is trying to bring to the story, but the actual writing is really complimentary style wise. ART was a bit of an experiment. Matt had put a post on his Facebook page looking for someone to work with on a new project of his. I had been aware of him for a while and he was already a writer I had huge respect for, so I dropped him a message. I think we completed Art in around eleven days or something, just writing and emailing chapters back and forth, sometimes a couple of times a day. It was an absolute pleasure. We recently got together again for another project in progress titled ‘Monster.’ We were curious to see if our experiences with Art were just a one off, but to our surprise, we found things were just as good if not better this time around. This story is really intense, and I think people will see a more mature partnership between us writing wise. I’m really excited about it.
As far as who else I’d like to write with, there are so many names out there who I have huge respect for in the genre. I’m a huge fan of Graeme Reynolds, both as a person and as a writer and publisher I can’t say a bad word about him. I would love to work with him on something one day. I would also love to do something with Gary McMahon. He’s another author who I have huge respect for and would love to get together with in order to see if we could work together.
Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
Oh, there are a few actually! I like to keep busy as an author, and despite promising myself I would take on a bit less work this year, my project slate is already filling up. I just finished the third and final book in the Whisper trilogy for Horrific Tales publishing, which I don’t mind admitting I’m incredibly nervous about. The pressure to deliver a satisfying end to the story is high, and I only hope the readers like it. I knew I was in trouble when the sales of the first book started to go mad. Suddenly, I was there with a bestselling book with readers demanding a follow up. As is my way, I dived in with both feet and pencilled out two further books to bring the story full circle and give it closure. I’m excited to see the reaction to this last part, I just hope people like it!
In addition to that, I’m also working on a new collection of short stories for a publisher who I can’t name yet. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a huge fan of the short story format, and try to put out a new collection every year. This will be my third, and biggest so far with twenty six stories. I’m hoping to finish that one by spring/summer.
The biggest project that I’m excited for though is the huge scale apocalyptic novel I have been working on for more than a year. It’s by far the biggest and most ambitious thing I have ever attempted. I don’t say it lightly when I tell you I have put everything into that book. It’s a harrowing, tragic, horrific, exciting story about a global event which is beyond anything mankind had ever experience. I really went big on this one. Multiple characters with sub plots which take place all over the world. It’s already almost 600 pages long with a little bit still to do. (Although that might well come down during edits) I already have a publisher for it who is just as excited as I am to bring it to press. I genuinely can’t wait to get it out there.
At what point in an author's career do you think it would be appropriate to call them famous?
You know, I don’t really have any interest in fame. It’s such a subjective thing anyway. I would much rather be respected for my work and know that it has an audience. If that audience grows as I hope it will, does that mean I’m famous? I don’t think so. So far, I have been fortunate to get a decent following for my work, but I still do the same as everyone else. I go shopping, I pay bills. I go to work. Just the fact that I have a core of people who enjoy what I do and gets something from it is enough.
I think any author out there who is looking for fame is doing this for the wrong reasons. If the question was would I like to be successful, then the answer is yes. Would I like to be remembered for giving the reader an experience to take them out of their own life for a while? Again, yes. As for fame, I’m quite happy not to have that. I like to be able to walk around without being bothered all the time.
As to the initial question, I think ‘fame’ would come when an author has mainstream popularity outside of the writing community. I for one don’t know how I would adjust to that if it ever happened. As someone who likes his privacy I don’t know if I’d even like it!
What are your musical tastes?
Pretty broad as it goes. I have a pretty diverse collection. Everything from old school rock like Guns N Roses & Iron Maiden, to Green Day, Nirvana, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Klaxons, Two door Cinema Club, Foo Fighters, Royal Blood. Pretty much anything that has real people playing real instruments is acceptable. It entirely depends on my mood.
Favourite Horror book and film?
Ooh, tough one. My favourite horror book is actually a series. The Necroscope books by Brian Lumley are, for me, the absolute best vampire books on the market right now. I remember getting the first one and completely losing myself in it. The rest are just as good. I can’t praise them enough. Horror film wise, it’s hard to define a favourite. The original Poltergeist movie left a huge impression on me when I was a kid (and was solely responsible for my fear of clowns) but probably isn’t the best film I’ve seen in the genre. I still rate the Twilight Zone movie as one of my favourites. I’ve seen it dozens of times, yet if it happens to be on TV, I’ll sit and watch it again anyways. Again, it probably won’t be a popular choice, but I really like it.
Favourite non-Horror book/film?
Away from horror, I really like to watch comedies. In truth, I don’t really watch a whole lot of horror at all film wise. My favourite non horror is too close to call. I like silly comedies. The first Hangover film is one I can watch again and again, so is Superbad, Role Models, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man, Hot Tub Time Machine. All brilliant films which I have seen countless times.
My favourite non horror books are often biographies. I like to read about interesting people. Richard Pryor’s is good, as was the one about Jim Morrison of the Doors title Nobody Here Gets out Alive. I also like factual stuff. Mythology, anything about the unexplained, or aliens, or space. I know. I’m a nerd.
As I am currently whizzing through this, what was your inspiration behind From The Deep?
I wanted to write a modern version of the classic sea monster story. I had this idea of this huge creature surfacing and the impact it would have on the modern world. I’ve always been intrigued by the ocean. I love the fact that it is so large and filled with things we don’t understand. Of course, there needs to be a certain suspension of disbelief in a story like this. I’ve had a few reviews say the science doesn’t work, to which I respond and tell them this is a work of fiction. It’s a fictional story designed for entertainment, not a science journal. I personally like the story. I like the characters. I wanted to make the human protagonist a really despicable individual, and hope I achieved that with Russo. I always get a kick out of writing the bad guys. I like to see how far I can push with them.
Have you ever experienced anything horrific in real life, if so, and you're willing to share, what are they?
Nothing horrific has happened to me in real life so far. I did almost get run over recently by a car speeding through traffic lights. That gave me a bit of a wakeup call and motivated me to finish whatever book I was working on at the time before the grim reaper came to find me!
What or Who would you send in to Room 101 and why?
Can I have two things? If not it’s going to be a toss-up between Mushrooms or Spiders. Let’s go with Mushrooms, as at least spiders serve a purpose. (Just keep out of my house/ bath/ bed and we will get on fine) Mushrooms on the other hand have no redeeming qualities, and deserve to be banished to the depths of hell for being evil in every way. (As you might guess, I don’t like them!)
How do you think the world will end?
The sun will eventually expand and one by one swallow up all the planets. We have a miserable few years of searing temperatures and agonising pain as the surface of the earth becomes too hot to live on. Eventually everything we know will be erased from existence and everything we have ever done or ever known will be gone. We will be okay though, as everyone who reads this will be long dead by then anyway. Still pretty bleak though, isn’t it? J
Have you ever had a brush with the supernatural?
I think so, in that something happened to me which to this day I can’t explain. Not only did it happen to me, my sister experienced the exact same thing independently at the same time which we pieced together when we spoke later on.
It happened when I was around fourteen or so. My parents had gone on holiday, leaving me and my sister to look after the house. Anyway, one particular night, my sister is in her room, I’m in mine on the opposite end of the hall. The rest of the house is locked up. As I sit there, I hear footsteps on the landing heading towards the bathroom and the light turn on (it was one of those pull string switches) and the door close. Thinking nothing of it assuming it was my sister, I went back to my book. The light turned off and the footsteps came back again towards where my room was, then turned back again to the bathroom, where I heard the light go on again and the door close. This happened three or four times and although I thought it was odd, it was never in my mind to really question it. The next day, I’m up and eating breakfast and my sister walks in. she sits down and asks me what I was doing the night before. I asked her what she meant and she said I was driving her mad by walking back and forth to the bathroom and turning the light on and off. Obviously it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t her either, leaving it to be a case of something completely unexplained. I can’t even blame sleeping or anything, as this was fairly early in the evening, definitely no later than 10pm. I’m still baffled about it to this day, and so is she!
What are your religious beliefs?
You know, I don’t follow any specific religion. I have no problem with people that do, and have a very strong ‘live and let live’ ethic. I like the idea that nobody really knows the answer to the whole religion thing until it’s their turn to see what comes after death. One last little surprise to send us to somewhere or nowhere depending on what you believe
Do you think it's still possible to write an original story?
I think so. There are only so many truly unique ways a story can be told, however for me, the job of a writer is to find new ways to do just that. Personally, I like taking something completely ordinary and mundane which everyone can relate to and flipping it on its head into something strange and unusual.
Here's a Tardis.. You are free to travel Time and Space to round up six people for an episode of Come Dine With Me,who are you going to pick?
Ooh, interesting. Let’s see, first up, I’d choose Jim Morrison. I think he would make the night an entertaining one. Second, I’d go for Richard Pryor. Comedy value. Also Rik Mayall. The man was an absolute legend. Who else? Hmmm Stephen hawking and Albert Einstein for the interesting conversations and to top it off, we would have to have Mr-T. Would be one hell of a party!
Where in the world is your favourite place to visit?
I haven’t actually travelled around too much, so this is going to be a list of places I want to go eventually. I’d love to see the Mayan ruins in Mexico, and I quite like the idea of looking around Chernobyl. I quite fancy Pompeii too. Pretty much anywhere there are things to see. A beach holiday really doesn’t appeal to me at all.
What scares you?
Some completely random things in here, but let’s see: Spiders, heights, drowning, lightbulbs (don’t ask) Balloons (again don’t ask) clowns, premature burial, flying. Err, I think that’s it.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a glass collector in a working men’s club! Easy money and good fun. Made some great friends there. I sometimes go back from time to time for a quick drink and I swear, the place never changes. It’s creepy.
I'm hungry and on a diet. Describe to me your ultimate pig out food?
Ha! I’m also on a diet, so I feel your pain! If we forget about eating well for a second, and I had a freebie day, I think it would have to be lasagne, or a nice big casserole for me. Anything hearty like that is always welcome in the Bray house. Or at least, it used to be!
What's your tipple?
I don’t really drink to be honest. I might have the occasional beer if I go out somewhere, but usually I just don’t bother. On the rare occasion I do decide to have one or two, I don’t really go in for spirits at all. Just beers/ lagers.
Tell me a joke.
Err, I’m not sure the one I have is suitable to post in a public forum. I’ll send it to you privately later through Facebook!
In the deepest depth of the all the oceans there's a box, what's in it?
A window. Beyond it is everything you ever wanted, everyone you ever lost, everything you ever wanted to be.
What do you hate the most about writing?
The time between having final edits signed off by the publisher and waiting for the book to be released. You know that it’s out of your hands at that point. No more tweaks, no more changes. It’s completely at the mercy of the reader. Until the first reviews come in, it’s a nervous time.
Do you have any other talents aside from writing?
I play guitar and was in a fairly successful band a few years back who put out a couple of singles and toured the UK. Haven’t played for a while though, but I keep promising myself I’ll pick it up again, as it used to be a great way to unwind.
Do you judge a book by its cover?
Usually. It’s the first thing to draw me in to look at other aspects of the book. If the cover catches my eye, I’ll read the blurb. If the blurb is good, I’ll read the sample. If the sample draws me in, you have yourself a sale!
Who is your favourite character out of your work and why?
This one is easy. Donovan from the first Whisper novel. I think it’s because he just kind of created himself and became part of the story when there was no intention of him ever being anything more than an incidental character. His sole purpose when I first made him was to get the protagonists to Hope House. I really did enjoy how smarmy and cheap he was, the way he tried too hard. (I saw him like Gary Busey’s cop character in Deuce Bigalow when I first created him) I realised after his first appearance in chapter one that I wanted to see more of this character, and gave him the dark and violent back story which was marmite to the readers. They either loved it or hated it. For me, it was a no brainer. I have no regrets for adding him in.
Which, if any, of your characters do you most relate with?
I don’t think I directly relate to any of them as far as their actions or motivations, having said that there must be a little of me on a subconscious level in each of them since they were my creations so who knows? It’s quite disturbing really, as I have created some pretty nasty characters over this last couple of years. (Grant from Something in the Dark immediately springs to mind)
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Something has awoken.