Ginger Nuts of Horror
Rebecca L. Brown is a British writer based in Cardiff, South Wales where she lives with her partner and assorted menagerie. She wanders through various genres (including horror, sci-fi, romance, humour and fantasy), forgets where she was supposed to be going and gets horribly lost on a regular basis.
Rebecca has a first class BA in Archaeology and a keen interest in languages, mythology and science. Her friends regularly discourage her from talking about fractals because things are better that way. Rebecca’s hobbies include martial arts, drawing, baking, weightlifting, leatherworking and music. She has also been known to knit an occasional fish.
Hi Rebecca, how are things with you?
Hi Jim; they're great, thanks for asking.
Can you please give the readers a little bit of background information on yourself?
Well, I grew up in the north of England and moved to Cardiff in South Wales when I was eighteen to study at Cardiff University. Three years later, I had a first class degree in archaeology and had somehow ended up running my own business!
What else? I still live in Cardiff with my partner and two cats. I'm not actually much of a cat person, but these ones won me over. I'm not usually much of a people person either, as my poor partner would tell you I'm sure. I can be painfully antisocial when I'm writing.
I'm an actively practicing pagan-slash-chaote, which probably isn't as exciting or interesting as it sounds.
Why horror, what is it about the genre that holds your appeal?
There's something very cathartic about writing horror, especially splatterpunk. I find that it's the genre in which I'm least likely to be asked to try and tack on a happy ending - although that's not to say that characters in horror fiction can't have at least a taste of happily ever after. I suppose I've always loved reading horror and so it was natural that I'd want to write it.
And what is it about the genre that you dislike?
That I dislike? I'm often frustrated because there are certain kinds of horror which are such a hard sell. Zombies are one of them. Vampires are another. Some things have been done to death - often literally - so that even if you have a fresh approach it can be nightmarish to get someone to take a look - unless, of course, they specialise in it. Then, your problem is often to convince them that you haven't gone too far from the norm!
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you and your writing?
I'd say its the people I know personally who influence me the most rather than the more well-known or established writers. T Fox Dunham is a particular inspiration of mine, although I'm sure he'll be horrified that I've said that. If you've read anything he's written, you'll understand why.
If you could give any book to someone who doesn’t read horror, in an attempt to change their mind, what book would you choose, and why?
That would depend on what they enjoyed reading I suppose! I've recommended David Wellington's Monster Planet series a few times, for example, but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. I've recommended Polidori's The Vampyre a few times too. I think there's something in the genre to suit everyone's tastes, it's just a case of finding it!
Can you remember what first motivated you to start writing, and has your motivation changed over the years?
I started writing when I was still in school - it was a way of expressing myself when there was a lot going on in my head. Initially I tried painting and drawing, but I just couldn't seem to get the results to look the way they were supposed to despite the best efforts of my poor art teachers.
I remember someone - I think it was a trainee teacher, although she wasn't the only one who said it - looking at something I'd painted and telling me that, like them, I wasn't much of an artist. I was probably only nine or ten at the time, but it knocked my confidence in my ability to create visual art for a long time - until at least my early twenties - and meant I focused on my writing. If they hadn't said that, maybe I'd have become a painter instead!
In a way, then, my writing has always been about expressing myself. It still is. There are ideas and stories which I want to share - my writing is how I share them.
Of course, it'd be nice to be able to pay the bills too. Being able to pay the bills is definitely up there on my list of motivations!
And how would you describe your writing style?
Varied - it depends heavily on the characters I'm writing, the setting and the plot. I like to think that I'm flexible and adaptable. I don't write my splatterpunk in the same style as I would a gothic horror piece, or vice versa... although it would be interesting to see what would happen if I did.
And what aspects of your writing do you think are the strongest and what do you think are the weakest aspects of your writing?
Again, it depends on the piece. If I've got a great plot idea, I have a terrible habit of rushing to the end of it and forgetting to put in little things like dialogue, description and characters. If I have a scene in mind, the plot might not be as strong as it should be - at least, not until I've re-written it a few times.
Let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of your writing. How do you go about the writing process? Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow? Do you have any rituals that you go through when you write?
Well, I can't write with socks on for some reason. I'm not sure why that is.
Usually, I'll be doing something - laundry or paperwork, maybe - and an idea will come to me. I'll write it down there and then in my little notebook and write it up as soon as I get home based on that. Other than that, I tend to just go with the flow for the first draft - if I plot it all out in advance, the finished story won't be anything like that plot. It develops from the initial idea as I write it.
How much research do you do?
Everything I do is research! Everything from worming the cat to learning to throw knives will eventually 'feed' one of my stories - although I've yet to write an archaeology-based piece.
In terms of other research, I'll admit that I have a lot of reference books. I also use the people I know as a resource - I'm lucky to know so many interesting people. If I need to know what it's like to, for example, jump out of a plane or reload a certain kind of gun, there are always people I can ask who have been there and done that.
How do you edit, do you edit as you write, or do you edit after each draft is finished?
I do both. If I have to leave a piece of writing and come back to it, I'll start my next session by reading through at least the last thousand words or so, correcting and adding as I go. Then, when I'm done, I'll read it all through again as a whole piece and make sure that it's cohesive and coherent.
You have a first class Ba in Archaeology, and a love of mythology has your love for these found a way into to your writing?
Of course! I've written a few pieces which either encorporated or were based on myths and specific mythologies.
Do you have a favourite myth?
At the moment, that'd be the Illuyanka myth. I accidentally wrote an epic poem based on it a little while ago which I doubt I'll ever publish.
Why do you think that even in this so call enlightened and scientific age, we still have a love for a good myth?
I think that myths have a place in any society, no matter how enlightened it is. A myth tells us where we came from and where we're going. It evolves to fit with our understanding and our beliefs. I don't think that science and myth (or belief) have to be mutually exclusive.
Mythology grows and changes along with our understanding. Maybe one day, people will look back at our 'modern' beliefs and call them myths - and is that such a bad thing?
Tell me about fractals? What’s so bad about them that your friends actively discourage you from talking about them?
Oh! They don't let me talk about it because I could keep going all day! I love the idea of repetition of form on a micro and macro scale, the way that no matter how close or far away you are you are always seeing 'the big picture' - and the small one. It changes the way you think about things because you realise how patterned even the most apparently chaotic system can be. You start trying to apply a trend or idea in ways you would never have otherwise thought of:
A man is angry. Is his culture angry? His species? Are his cells angry? Does his behaviour fit into a pattern which works on a bigger or smaller scale?
The beach is a part of a coastline. The grains of sand are a part of that line, just on a smaller scale. And, smaller than that?
I should probably stop before I get carried away or start on the actual science and mathematics of it!
Looking through your writing credits, there is a huge number, but one that really suck in my mind was your credit for Simply Woman Magazine, without meaning to be rude, you don’t look like someone who be a Simply Woman, type of woman. How did you get the gig, and could you tell us what your articles were about?
Originally, I was brought onto the team to do features on gardening and crafts. I may not have the 'Simply Woman' look, but I can grow basil and make bunting with the best of them. Ultimately, I left the team because most of the assignments they were sending my way weren't a good fit. I just couldn't write with enthusiasm when it came to shoes or fashion.
Out of all of your published stories do you have a top three, And if so why?
Top three in terms of the result or the writing process? I've never really thought about it if I'm honest!
Thralls' Sacrifice is one of my favourite outcomes, but it was written while I was going through a really difficult time in my personal life. I remember writing with angry tears in my eyes several times whilst I was working on that and I think some of that comes across in the story itself.
More recently, I wrote Shadow of Ragnarok for a publication called Sword and Sorcery. I wrote the story for a close friend and we were both really pleased with the outcome. I never expected anyone to publish that one and I was delighted when it found a home where it did.
A third... maybe Camden Blood? Camden Blood is a short story I wrote after a trip to Camden Market with another close friend. The main character is very loosely based on her. Re-reading that story brings back a lot of great memories, despite the plotline!
It may seem like you have had a great deal of success, but going behind the scenes, how much work have you had to do to get this huge amount of publishing credits?
I write almost every day for at least an hour, usually much longer. My partner worries constantly that I'll overwork myself, but I never do. Writing is a passion for me and I enjoy it - these days, at least.
I'm lucky to have a huge amount of support these days from my partner, my friends and my fan base. They make all the hard work feel worth it.
What would you say is the most important lesson you have learned since you first started submitting your stories?
A story rejection isn't a personal rejection. Just because someone doesn't like this story it doesn't they won't like the next or that they're rejecting me - either as a writer or as a person.
Up until now you have been primarily a short story writer, was this something you decided on deliberately?
I find writing shorter stories easier than longer pieces. It's a different kind of writing - more precise and to the point - and I usually prefer it. When I write longer pieces, I have a bad habit of cutting them down to short fiction length in the editing process (one story which started off as almost forty thousand words ended up as a four thousand word short!) because I think I've rambled on too much.
I've written some longer pieces which I'm not happy enough with yet to submit anywhere. I suppose I'm just not as confident with longer fiction - yet.
You are currently gearing up for the release of Fever in The Blood, can you tell us about this novella?
Fever in the Blood is about vampires, addiction, romance and dependency. The story is set in the same 'world' as Thrall's Sacrifice but with new characters and a few new ideas. I think that Fever in The Blood is less romantic and idealised in some ways.
In Thrall's Sacrifice, I explored the idea of vampires who feed on other vampires. Fever in The Blood has allowed me to develop that idea further and explore the way a different group of characters cope with their needs and limitations as a species and as individuals.
Vampires have been rather diluted down in recent years, where on the spectrum do yours’ stand?
In Fever in The Blood and Thrall's Sacrifice, I've tried to take the idea of the vampire and move it away from the more usual depictions - both traditional and recent. They're more removed from non-vampires in terms of their needs and maybe even their social interactions. The vampires in both of those stories - and in some of the writing I'm working on at the moment - need their own kind to sustain themselves. Non-vampires are neither a viable love interest or a free lunch. They're a threat and in some ways a necessity.
None of my characters sparkle. I promise. In sunlight, they burn. When threatened, they attack.
Do you think the book has a unique selling point?
I'd like to think that the way I've approached the vampire concept is relatively unique.
It is set in the same universe as Thrall’s Sacrifice which was published in the Their Dark Masters anthology edited by Mark Crittenden, what was it about this story that made you expand on the original idea?
I always intended to write more stories set in the same world as Thrall's Sacrifice. I had so much more that I wanted to do with the ideas which went into the story that one would never have been enough!
Will there be any future books based in this world?
Yes. I have plans for several stand-alone books set in the world, a short series and a collection of shorter length stories in the future. If Fever in The Blood is as well-received as Thrall's Sacrifice was, that is!
Can you tell us about any future projects?
I'm working on all kinds of things at the moment!
There's already been some talk about me writing another book along the same lines as Fever in The Blood and Thrall's Sacrifice. I've also successfully pitched an alternative zombie novel I've been planning for a while and there's a historical novella set in ancient Rome I've been meaning to write.
I'll keep readers at my blog up to date with news as and when I have it.
Thanks for popping over for a chat, do you have any final words for the readers?
Thanks for reading - and, if you're interested in finding out more about my writing, you can visit me over at my blog: rebeccalbrownupdates.wordpress.com
Take care, Jim!
Rebecca's book is now available on Amazon
Fever In The Blood