Last week, I reviewed Michaelbrent’s latest book, Predators. This week we find out what drives him to write.
Me. Question 1. Predators is very female centric. Was that a deliberate choice on your part from the outset given the social structure of the predators themselves ?
M. ‘No. I knew I was going to do something with hyenas, because THEY FREAK ME OUT. But I didn’t really think “Hey, let’s make this a ‘female’ horror story.” In fact, the idea of some group running across Africa with hyenas at their heels sat for nearly two years until one day an image hit me: a woman, covered in mud, standing tall in the night with one fist raised to the sky and the other hand holding tight to a burning branch, screaming in primal power. I could not tell you where the image came from, but realized that this story was going to be about Women. Spotted hyenas (the explicit “monster” of the story) are a matriarchy, and suddenly I knew that this was going to be a story about nature’s most developed matriarchy vs. a group of women who have NO reason to want to survive, given the horrors they’ve already undergone in their lives, but who rise above their pasts and triumph. I love that our culture is becoming more aware of people who need help – groups that have been disadvantaged through no fault of their own, people who could use a helping hand. But I also think sometimes that helping someone – or a group of someones – is great, but only when we recognize the reality that they deserve help not because they LACK strength, but because that bit of help is all they need to let their strength shine. I think people are amazing, and most of the greatest influences in my life have been female, so every part of me KNOWS that women heroes are already a reality, and fiction that showcases that is just reporting something about which we should all be more aware and appreciative.’
Me. Question 2. Some passages do have a dreamlike quality but the horrors in this book are very real. Does this world scare you more than the prospect of what could be lurking outside of what we can touch ?
M. ‘Hmmm… that’s a GREAT question. I think the things around me scare me, because a) they’re immediate, and b) they HURT. Things that happen to my loved ones, those in my sphere, always worry me because part of being a good human is hoping the best for others, and feeling pain with them when they are hurt. And I’m a religious person whose beliefs point me to a place that I hope/have faith/believe better, kinder, fairer. The unknown is always a factor, the unseen always sends a frisson of terror up my spine. But things I can see, feel touch… they’re the ones that can hurt me now.
Of course, they’re also the things that can help me, can show me kindness, can show me the light. On the whole, the world is, I think, a place more full of light than shadow. Oddly, that’s the thing the best horror does – not just telling us there is darkness, but reminding us that bright things lay beyond that darkness. Horror is the language of hope, and hope is the single best facet of humanity.’
Me. Question 3. Screamfix is all about supporting indie horror. Do you have any advice for new authors, sources of support or inspiration you would recommend ?
M. ‘Don’t get hung up on “making it.” Success is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: no matter how far you walk, you’ll never feel like you really got there. Instead of “succeeding” as an author, set some concrete goals with realizable steps – and make those goals things that are intrinsically joyful and beneficial. Success is vague and inherently frustrating as a goal. But if you say, “I want to publish a book” – well, you can do that. Say, “I want to win a Bram Stoker Award,” and you have THINGS you can do to move you into that path. Say, “I want to be making a living as a writer,” and that opens a specific set of steps to take on that road (surprisingly few of which are ACTUALLY WRITING). And, above all, ask yourself this: “Am I happy?” If the answer is yes, then YOU’VE ALREADY “MADE IT.” Keep doing the things that make you happy, because you’re already ahead of the curve. A lot of people follow a dream right out of a life that was already good, and turn their happiness into a nightmare. Don’t get caught up in that. Stay attentive to yourself, find what works for YOU, then shine that thing up and stay in that good place. And never give up. Bad days come. That’s horror. Good days follow. That’s GREAT horror.’
Karen is a full time artist living in Whitby (perfect location for a horror fan). Her own monsters have taken over to the point where they actually have their own closet space and so she takes refuge in books and films, some of which she’d like to share with you.