James Brogden Writes Original New Horror Steeped in History

British writer James Brogden
British writer James Brogden

Everyone should read James Brogden’s fiction. It’s original, fun, horrific, and did I say original? You really should Start with Hekla’s Children, I suggest the Plague Stones next. And as soon as you can the latest, Bone Harvest. Or the other way around or in any order at all. He has even more fantasy fiction, but hey…we like horror.

What was the first book that scared you silly?

The Cats, by Joan Phipson. I must have been 9 or 10 years old, and I borrowed it from my teacher’s class library. This was in Tasmania. It’s a story about a kid who gets kidnapped by some local hoodlums and locked up in a shack out in the bush, where a colony of feral cats have made their home. Except that they’re a bit more than just cats – larger, intelligent, and malevolent. It scared me so much because it was set in the kind of place where I lived, which was unusual when so much of what I read and saw on TV came from the UK or the States, and it was a lot easier to imagine being followed by shadowy  presences with glowing eyes on my way home from school. What made it
worse was that one of our home cats had taken herself off into the bush previously, and I could easily imagine her being one of those feral beasts, watching me and planning to eat me. This is also why I find Church, the cat from Pet Sematary, easily the most terrifying creature in that novel.

What is your writing process, and what does Lego have to do with it?

I have a day-job teaching English, which takes a huge chunk out of the working week, so during term-time I tend to do the plotting and planning, and then when the holidays come around I do the actual word-slogging. Lego is just a thing I’ve enjoyed playing with since I was a kid, though it does help to
take my mind off the hook (some might argue that it’s rarely on the hook). I guess it’s a physical aspect of the same impulse for world-building.

What started you off on your writing career?

The generosity of others. A chap called Peter Coleborn, who was editing the journal of the British Fantasy Society at the time, gave me my first pro sale of a short story and introduced me to a thoroughly disreputable mob of genre writers in Birmingham who were friendly and encouraging. He also put me in contact with my current agent, which was when things started to take off.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?

The writing part of it. Which is to say, the self-discipline required to sit in front of this thing for hours every day putting one word after another when you’re convinced that it’s all terrible and everybody’s going to hate it.

Will there be a nice apocalyptic sequel to Plague Stones, or you’re just not into sequels?

I get bored easily, so I tend to want to get onto the next idea while I’m halfway through the current
one, which doesn’t make for effective sequel writing. The one exception was The Realt, which is the sequel to Tourmaline. At that stage I was writing purely on spec for my own entertainment, so there were no expectations, and I blithely suggested that there would be a third – because fantasy stories work in trilogies, obviously – but then I got an agent and had to grow up and be a serious professional writer. No publisher is going to pay for a third volume in a series that they don’t already own, so that trilogy idea is on a   permanent back-burner. I’m in awe of those fantasy and science fiction authors who can plan and execute multi-volume epics. The Plague Stones was commissioned as a one-off – but if someone wants to pay me for a series, I’m there!

Cover for book Bone HarvestBone Harvest, your brand-new book, I loved it! And it has allotments, they are uniquely British, we do have common gardens in the USA, but I don’t see them often used. What was your train of thought that brought them into a horror/fantasy novel? Did you start with them in mind or did the Farrow farm bring them along as you wrote the story?

Bone Harvest was always going to be about allotments. As you say, they are uniquely British things, the most harmless, gentle places for idle pottering you can imagine, so as a horror writer that’s obviously the kind of place you want to subvert and turn into a nightmarish hellscape of cultish human sacrifice. But that may just be me. It’s why suburbia is the perfect location for slasher movies– making the safe place unsafe.

Did the Colindale allotment murder cross your mind at all when you wrote this book?

That and so much more – people do some VERY weird things on their allotments.

Do any of the characters in the book, like Dennie and the volunteer policeman, have real-life alter-egos?

Not really. There may be some character traits or biographical details that have been inspired by people I’ve met or read about, but the main characters are always entirely fictional.

It seems to me that selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness are the main characteristics and motivators of your central villains, do you feel particularly bothered by those bad traits? For example, in Plague Stones; Esther didn’t feel so much the villain when compared to some of the village’s trustees.

The thing with Hester is, as much as she is a monster she’s also a victim, and I wanted the reader to feel simultaneously sympathetic and appalled by her because we’re all monsters, given the right kind of conditions, aren’t we? We harbour grudges and commit acts of revenge – though admittedly, Hester’s at the extreme end of that. Nash is a victim of sorts, trapped by the expectations of his family and upbringing, hopefully more than just a mustache-twirling villain. Even the Gwrach Clefyd isn’t so much evil as an implacably destructive force of nature. So far as my limited understanding goes, true evil is the  exploitation and victimisation of the weak, and in that sense yes, Nash is a
bigger villain than any supernatural entity.

Any hints at all about your new book (hoping it’s horror!)?

So far it involves a small coastal village on the verge of destruction from erosion, climate-change, and post-covid economic recession. There may also be a huge, mysterious black dog involved. And Viking treasure. Because why not?

What is your favorite fictional horror experience?

Getting introduced to the work of James Herbert at the age of 15. I’d been reading science fiction and fantasy pretty solidly up until then, and my family moved to England where I met my adult cousins for the first time since I was a baby. One of them loaned me his copy of The Rats, and I devoured everything of Herbert’s that I could, and that led on to Clive Barker, and everything followed on from there.

And have you ever met a ghost?

That’s unlikely, since they don’t exist. Sorry to sound facetious. They’re great fun to write about, though!

What was your favorite part about writing Bone Harvest?

Writing Everett and Ardwyn’s story. At first, I only intended to throw in a few flashbacks to explain who they were and what they were doing, but when I realised it had to go all the way back to the trenches of World War 1 I knew that flashbacks weren’t going to cut it and they needed their whole story to be told. So what started out as a short prologue expanded into the first 20 thousand words
or so, which can come as a bit of a surprise if you read the blurb and are expecting to start off on the allotments. They’re a pair of Bonnie & Clyde, Micky & Mallory type loved-up psycho cultist killers and I was having way too much fun with them.

Where else can you find James?

Pumpkin the cat

James’ author page on Amazon
James’ on Twitter
You’ll find pictures of the amazing Pumpkin on this twitter stream, so go! Go there now and say Hi to James and Pumpkin. Grill James about his awesome books.

The Sword of St. Michael, new from D.C.P. Fox!

Image D.C.P. Fox Sword of St. Michael promotional material

A new zombie book out? Of course, we’d want to know about it! And if you are on this site, chance are you do too.

D.C.P. Fox has a brand-new book out, And he took some time to answer our questions. Find out about
The Sword of Saint Michael
!

What motivates you?

I believe I am motivated by a burning desire to create enjoyable stories, self-confidence, a healthy work ethic, and being in a good place, emotionally and physically.

What is your writing process?

I plan, plan, plan. Before I begin the actual writing of the novel, I have developed characters, settings, and plot, including a list of scenes. Then while I write the novel, I constantly revise those plans as the creative process takes me in directions that I didn’t originally intend. I have a beta phase where my best readers give me feedback, and in the end, I get the manuscript professionally edited.

I wake up at 1:30 a.m. every day. On most days, I write from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., sometimes even longer. I start with light editing of my previous day’s writing, then I make sure I have the outline in place for the day’s writing (usually done the day before), and then I write. From 5 to 7 a.m., and then at various times throughout the day, I either keep writing, or I work on story ideas, characters, plot, settings, outlines, blogs, newsletters, and/or general marketing.

Occasionally during those wee hours of the morning, and I try to do this every Sunday, instead of writing I engage in deep self-guided meditation to come up with writing ideas or anything that I need in order to prepare for the daily writing. Because of this tool in my toolbox, I never suffer from writer’s block.

There are so many zombie books out there, and so much repetition. What makes your book stand out?

Many apocalyptic novels deal with a scarcity of resources, but what about the scarcity of antipsychotic medication? Jocelyn Radomski, our heroine in The Sword of Saint Michael, is haunted by what she has become (violently psychotic) without that precious resource during the stress of a zombie apocalypse, and the only redemption she sees is that her immunity to the zombie pathogen could lead to a cure. As the novel unfolds, she emerges as a superhero, with shamanic powers she didn’t realize she had, zombie-like powers from her infection, and wielding a tenth-century sword, blessed by the archangel Saint Michael, forged to fight zombies. But no matter how powerful she becomes, her psychosis persists and threatens her and everyone around her.

How many more books have you planned in this series?

While The Sword of Saint Michael is great as a stand-alone novel, there will be at least two more books in the series, which would make it a trilogy. I have enough ideas for at least six books, though. Spin off novellas are a possibility, too.

What has been Self-publishing biggest lesson for you?

Nothing is more important than writing your next good book. I’m focusing a lot of energy on the sequel to The Sword of Saint Michael.

Henry Snider, Renaissance Man and Writer

Crack head vampire

Henry Snider portrait with Colorado landscape

What got you into writing?

My maternal grandfather loved telling stories and had a few published in a local paper. My father always wanted to be a writer but never really pursued it. When I was a kid, my dad got me hooked on comics, then on short stories, and when he introduced me to Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars I was hooked on not only reading, but the concept of storytelling.

Should the reader grab a copy of Darkness Wired ASAP?

Of course! Horror is fun. Science fiction is fun. Dark science fiction with Lovecraftian horrors is always a good time.

What do you like about Darkness Wired?

I think it’s the concept of science horror ala a modernization of the old monster movies meeting in some cases with deities and lifeforms having dire consequences

You have brand new fiction in “Terror at 5280.” Tell us all about it!

Actually, I have four coming out over the next month. I’ll start with Terror at 5280’ and go from there.

Terror At 5280 Cover

Taste (TERROR AT 5280’) – “Taste” was a bit of a funny story in the making. I’m a media specialist by trade, and was out with a friend shooting her 40 and fabulous photoshoot for fun. Between her, my wife, and my suggestions, it turned into a vampiric crack whore photoshoot (yes, kiddies, you read that right). All the effects were added on the back end in Photoshop. We all loved the photos and they came out creepy – just like vampires should be. I’ve always hated what’s become of the monsters which scare me. Blood sucking beasts from hell are now nothing more than redirected glittery teenage angst. The next thing I knew, I had a horror story that chilled me. We’ll toss in a link, but the image, and the story, is on the south side of safe for work.

Skewed Perceptions (DARKNESS WIRED) – I had a lot of fun with this one. Ever since I read “Window” by Bob Leman (some of you may know it by the Night Visions episode “A View Through the Window”) and saw XTRO 2: The Second Encounter, I’ve been enamored with parallel worlds and alternate dimensions. Science and incompetence often go hand-in-hand. Darkness Wired allowed me the opportunity to explore another realm with the type of tech and mistakes we would probably make.

Fellowship (BLOOD & BLASPHEMY) – Fellowship is a bit of a Maine double-whammy for my wife and I. I originally wrote this couple story about making a wrong decision in an overly-religious back woods town in Maine before taking the family to the state for a vacation. We went to a little restaurant in Dover-Foxcroft for lunch. Once seated my wife gives me a death-glare and hits me with a menu. Josh, our son, and I are a bit baffled. Without a word she motions to the restaurant with her hands. As I look around, I see what she’s talking about – the tables, the chairs…hell, even the napkin dispensers (and truth be told, one or two of the patrons) appeared to be right out of the story. It’s the only religious horror story I’ve written to date.

Someone to Watch Over Me (BULLETS, BOMBS & BOOGEYMEN) – I’m a history buff. I was challenged to write a story in the 1920’s. Never one to turn away from a challenge I ended up with a story about a flapper named Elsie in 1925 who meets a British WWI veteran. I ended up modelling a few characteristics from family members I’ve heard stories about. For instance, my paternal grandfather (also my namesake – and, yes, I’m a “third”) was mustard-gassed in WWI. It ate most of the flesh off his skull, leaving him bald at a very young age. When WWII came around, he signed back up – even with his disability. He took the only job they’d give him, riding the boats over with the new recruits, explaining what to expect, and riding the same boat back, guarding the dead soldier’s bodies. He had a hard life. I touched on the key points to bring one character to life. In this story, the locations, the river island, even the Indian burial mounds are all real places. I don’t do many ghost stories, and this one focuses on the ghosts of war, but not in a metaphorical sense.

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How do you feel about the need for writers’ groups?

This question is a two-edged sword. There are tons of writing groups. Let’s start by identifying the groups, most of which I can put into one of three categories – and all three serve different purposes writers need at different times. Please note, I don’t take credit for these classifications – I honestly don’t remember where I originally heard them, but they’re accurate. First is the “Fluff” group. Here you could turn in your laundry list and everyone will fall over themselves telling you how good it is, offering only positive criticism. This is amazing for your ego, but usually does squat for your prose. The second is the “Literary” group. In this group they’ll compare whatever you’re writing to similar authors and make suggestions to enhance that style. Again, this is also good for knowing who your influences are, but it really doesn’t get you, J. Doe, to writing like yourself. The third is a “Destructive” group. Sound scary? It is! In a destructive group it won’t matter if you are Stephen King, they’re still going to do their best to content edit your piece. When you’re ready for publication, this is the group you want to find.

How many writer groups, and what types, have you co-founded and run?

I’ve co-founded two. The first, the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group  was founded in 1996 by my wife – Hollie Snider, John Irwin, and myself. The CSFWG’s mission statement was “To make good writers better.” I was president and webmaster for 13 years to-the-month before retiring in 2009, but continued as an officer for a while longer before becoming part of the chorus of members. In 2012 several writers and I formed Fiction Foundry , focusing on publication prep. Since 2012 over 30 member novels have gone into print through various avenues. I’m proud to be a part of this. While still offering critique groups, the focus is more on publication and sharing skills to attain that goal. In Fiction Foundry I’m still the web-designer, clunky as it may be.

You’re married to a loving, in-house editor who’s not going anywhere, can you tell us about that?

Not for fear of reprisal! Seriously, though, it’s a bit of a fairy tale. I met Hollie in a college writing class. I transferred in on March 30, 1995 (don’t worry, you’ll understand the dates in a minute). We hit it off arguing about horses. I knew she had a boyfriend and stayed respectful. Once I found out she also loved The Dark Crystal I offered to buy a copy and we could watch it at her parent’s place. We spent the afternoon pausing the movie every few minutes to chat. Then she excused herself for a bit (don’t get your hormones up, it’s not “that” kind of story). She came back and we watched another ten minutes or so of the movie. Then, out of nowhere she said, “That’s long enough,” and kissed me. I was baffled and started to ask about her boyfriend. Hollie stopped me, saying, “I left to call him and break up.” This was on April 1st, 1995 – April Fools Day. We were attached at the hip since then. On April 8th I proposed. Yes, after only knowing each other 10 days. She said yes before the entire proposal was out. Then came the twenty-minute lecture about why didn’t I propose the day we met because, “She just knew.” I’d love to give her flack about it, but we’re 24 years in and she’s either the best prankster ever, or she was/is right. We married three months to the day after our first kiss, had our son the following summer, and haven’t looked back since. Our passions match enough to fit together like cogs in a machine, but have enough that are different to keep the relationship fresh. Advice…keep dating the one you love!

Henry and Hollie

And you also write with your son, I believe. What’s the experience of co-writing like for you two?

Josh is actually the current president of Fiction Foundry. We don’t write together, though. We’d kill each other…and he’s bigger than me. He first published poetry at 15 and is now actively pursuing genre fiction.

You had your own publishing house, can you expand on that experience?

Strigidae Publishing. Yes. We created a small publishing house much the same way we created the writing groups. First thing, we went to the writers and asked them what they wanted in a house. After compiling everything we put it together in such a way that we went from opening to being in the black in less than 90 days. We stayed that way until a Wednesday afternoon in 2016 when I went in for my middle-age checkup and was scheduled for a heart-cath on Thursday. 4:30PM that day I was informed I’d be getting a double bypass (we’re talking a full on crab-cracked chest) at 5AM the next morning. While I was lucky not to have any heart damage, they said I couldn’t run three businesses anymore and had to cut back at least for a while. I had to choose the business that paid the bills best, so the house closed. In early 2019 we started to revive it, only to have me yet again struck with another health issue. We closed again before even officially opening and have stayed that way. The health issue is resolved, but I think we’re both taking this as a sign to focus on writing and not the business of publishing.

Can you tell us more about your work with high schools and teens in prisons?

Over the years I’ve pursued, both on my own and through our writing groups, educating and encouraging teens. We started with giving basic lectures and contests to local high schools, then branched out into the juvenile detention centers offering full creative writing classes. Realistically, 95% of the kids are there to fill time, but the other 5%…just to watch their excitement, participation, and growth is more than worth it. I feel like it’s coming on time to do it again.

Fizzgig

Supposedly you have a cat name Fizzwig…But there are no pictures of you two together? Does he really exist?

It’s Fizzgig – like the toothy pet from The Dark Crystal. She’s a half Ragdoll / half Himalayan beast, almost 17 and cranky enough to keep our three rescue dogs (a Husky – Kira, a Pit-mix – Mina Harker, and an Aussie mix – Elvis – see the photo of them I took in frustration while “trying” to edit) in terror of her wrath.