Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with Author Anthony Hains


My guest author today is Anthony Hains, who wrote a great horror novel, Birth Offering.


Brian: Hi Anthony, welcome to my blog. Tell us about Birth Offering. What’s the basic premise? And what compelled you to write this story?


Anthony: Birth Offering is about a fourteen year old boy named Ryan Perry who has just recently lost his father. He and his mom move to his grandmother’s coastal home in South Carolina for a change of pace. Ryan isn’t thrilled with the idea, but what can he do? Not long after the Perry’s arrival, Ryan is haunted by a malevolent entity masquerading as his double. The hauntings become increasingly dangerous with Ryan suffering injuries. It becomes clear that this specter of ancient evil is intent on destroying Ryan. As if this wasn’t enough, Ryan encounters an additional threat: two menacing boys and their caretaker somehow connected to this other twin. Ryan soon realizes that in order to save himself and his family, he must confront this unimaginable evil head on.


My inspiration for Birth Offering came when we were vacationing on Edisto Island, South Carolina. We (my wife, daughter, and I) spent a week there in August of 1995. At the time, Edisto was not a crowd favorite like Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, and Isle of Palms. Whole sections were undeveloped with beach houses and one relatively small resort area. For all that I know, it may still be that way, which makes it the best kept secret of the South Carolina coast. I hope so. One day we came across the most beautiful road… unpaved and densely lined with live oak trees that were shrouded with Spanish moss. Beyond the live oaks, there were palmettos and other tropical kinds of bushes and trees. The impact of the vegetation was practically cathedral-like. The oak branches met across the road, and the sunlight barely peeked through the hanging moss. It was breathtaking. My wife proclaimed it beautiful, and the only thing I could think about was, “wouldn’t this be a cool setting for a passage in a horror novel?” I visualized someone on the road being stalked, and then chased by something in the vegetation which was gradually working its way towards the road. That imagery stuck with me for years, and ended up in Birth Offering – almost exactly like I had remembered it years earlier.


Brian: The islands off the coast of South Carolina sound intriguing. I’ll have to travel there and explore them. Is anything in your novel based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?


Anthony: Fortunately, the work is entirely based on imagination. Of course, there are minor personal experiences that make it into the book – like seeing the road in South Carolina which gave me the initial idea.


Brian: I’m always amazed what you can come up with when you tap into your imagination. What kind of research did you do?


Anthony: I tried to draw on my knowledge as a psychologist to inform the emotions and behavior of my characters. So, I didn’t have to research that aspect. For instance, my main character is a 14-year-old boy. I am a pediatric psychologist, and have spent my career researching various issues related to adolescence. However, when I came to sections of the novel that involved some aspect of the plot that couldn’t be addressed by psychology (and there were many), I was constantly searching the internet and trying some personal mini-experiments to see if a certain sequence of events was possible.


Brian: Do you have a specific writing style?


Anthony: Since I am a psychologist and a university professor, this means my writing style is that of an academic researcher. Specifically, for the past thirty plus years, I have been writing empirical research articles in APA format (American Psychological Association). In order to write fiction, I had to be on my guard not to slip into scholarly manuscript writing and instead wear my fiction writing hat. I am not sure what I would call that style – since I am still trying to master it.


Brian: What books have influenced your life most?


Anthony: The most significant influences in the realm of horror are probably the earliest ones. In my senior year of high school, two novels came out nearly simultaneously: The Other by Thomas Tryon and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. While I had always been a horror movie and monster movie fanatic as a kid, these two books more than any others initiated me into the joys of reading horror. I still regard them as classics. Since then I’ve enjoyed Stephen King for the most part, especially his earlier works and, strangely enough, his very recent works.


In terms of non-horror, I can rattle off a number of titles that moved me at the time I read them and still do today: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and In Cold Blood. Interestingly enough, I read these in high school as well. More recently, I have enjoyed the three ‘Colorado’ novels written by Kent Haruf. His latest, Benediction, is an emotionally powerful novel. Finally, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray is probably one of the best books about adolescents. It is simultaneously hilarious and troubling – and informed my fictional writings of teenage characters.


Brian: Describe your path to becoming a published author.


Like many others, this was something I always wanted to do, but I never saw it as a career. However, the initial “nudge” occurred way back in my senior year in college when I took a short fiction writing course. For decades after that class, I always tossed around plots in my head, and even attempted to write once or twice. But, I could never sit still long enough. Finally, about five years ago, I took the plunge and began writing fiction for real.


Things really took off when we became empty nesters. I was able to schedule regular times for writing and always had a plan to write a certain number of words a day. I wasn’t focused on publishing the book, believe it or not. I wanted to see if I could actually complete the task. Once I finished a first draft of Birth Offering, I thought “why not?” So I started investigating the idea of trying to publish the book.


Needless to say, I was naive. The process was long and time consuming – with tons of rejections for agents and publishers. Finally, Damnation Books said ‘yes’.


Brian: Is writing your career or a hobby?


Anthony: I have a career as a psychologist and professor. So, I cannot say I have a career as a writer too. When I think of the word ‘hobby’, though, I think pastime.  I wouldn’t say that either. I take it seriously, and plan to continue.


Brian: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?


Anthony: Like millions of others trying to promote their work, I have turned to social media. I’ve created a web page where I attempt to blog fairly regularly. I review other horror novels and novellas in my blog, in an effort to “give back to the field”.  I’ve joined GoodReads and try to take part in some horror-themed discussion groups. My only problem is that I do not have enough time to regularly contribute to those discussions. There are some very knowledgeable readers in those groups, and I have learned a lot from them. In addition, you will find me on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, etc.


Brian: Can you tell us something you enjoy doing when not writing?


Anthony: When I’m not writing, I enjoy relaxing with my family and reading (often horror stories, but not always).


Brian: Do you have any advice for other writers?


Anthony: I wish I had some profound advice for other writers, but I really don’t. The cliché responses are the best I can come up with. Stick to it, don’t give up, carve out time for you to write on a regular basis – every day if possible, set a goal… Those are the things that have kept me on task.


Brian: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?


Anthony: Thank you for taking the chance to read an unknown writer’s work.


Brian: Birth Offering was a great debut novel. Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.


Anthony: I just completed the editing process of Dead Works with my editor at Damnation Books. Dead Works tells the tale of a teenager in therapy because he is seeing ghosts. I realize this sounds like the movie The Sixth Sense, but the plot is considerably different. My professional life contributed a chunk of the source material. The psychologist character is a graduate student in counseling psychology who was working on his PhD. The young therapist is doing his practicum placement at the university counseling center and he is assigned a teenage client who is seeing ‘things’.  I regularly teach a Practicum course where the students are being supervised while they provide therapy. Much of the context for the novel takes place within the counseling relationship between the teen and the student therapist; the story is told from the graduate student’s point of view. The book was a lot of fun to write.


Brian: Sounds like a great story. I’m looking forward to when Dead Works releases. Anthony, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing about your books. For readers who have yet to discover Anthony Hains’ horror fiction, check out Birth Offering which is now available on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and wherever books are sold.


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Anthony Hains is a university professor in counseling psychology, with a specialization in pediatric psychology – his research involves working with youth who have a chronic illness. He is married with a daughter in college. Birth Offering his is first novel.  



Twitter:
@AnthonyHains

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Books Now on Sale for 50% Off



For a limited time, all of my horror paperbacks are now on sale direct through my publisher Samhain using the 50% off code: PAPERBACK50.

Go to http://store.samhainpublishing.com/brian-moreland-pa-1662.html


Offer expires soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beating the Writing Blues


Today, guest writer Claire Fryer shares some tips on how writers can avoid or get out of depression: 

Most professions come with at least some health and safety risks. Although many people wouldn’t immediately associate writing with danger, evidence suggests that it can be a risky business in terms of mental health with rates of depression and anxiety being particularly high among those of us in the writing community. There are many factors thought to contribute to this, including an isolated working environment, irregular pay and consequent financial worries. Not to mention the intense internal pressure that comes with a career in writing, such as self doubt, fear of rejection and the dreaded writer’s block that sometimes engulfs us all.

Depression can be a shattering condition for anyone, but for a writer it can seriously impair their creativity, motivation and sheer ability to write, which will affect their confidence and their career in a vicious cycle. For this reason it is important to stay positive and take action against things that may cause or worsen depression if you want to keep writing. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Create a healthy work space

Writers spend the majority of their time in their workspace – whether that be an office, a spare room or simply a desk. Because it is generally a sedentary job it is important to make sure that the environment, tools and equipment that you are working with are fit for purpose. Not only will this keep you physically healthy but it can help improve your mood too. Ensure that the area in which you write is well lit – ideally with natural light but if this is not possible opt for full spectrum lighting as this is more like natural sunlight than florescent lighting. 

Keep the font size and resolution on your PC (if you use one) as large and clear as possible to avoid eye strain and maintain a good posture by investing in a good quality, adjustable chair to support the back and arms. Many commercial office blocks now also include green plants in their offices where possible, as not only do they improve the aesthetic appearance of the office but they detoxify the air and increase oxygen too. This makes the air cleaner which will help fend off bugs and germs, as well as keeping you alert and motivated.

Take on extra work

When a writer is caught up in a novel it can be all consuming and highly stressful. Taking on more work and responsibility may not sound like an appealing thought but it can help you gain perspective by taking breaks from your novel whilst still ‘working’ and being productive. This will allow you to have a little distance from such a mammoth task while still honing your craft and building your portfolio. 

Take on extra freelance writing work if possible. Writing for wait.co.uk and other content providers often enables you to take on as much or as little work as you can manage, and this ‘no pressure’ approach can be ideal for working around your other commitments at your own pace and earning a little extra income, which will also alleviate any financial concerns. 

Remember that writing often begins as a hobby, so do not lose your love for it. Make time for the areas that excite or interest you even if they aren’t completely relevant to your workload. If you enjoy writing poetry for example then make sure you continue with it even if you are busy.

Take regular breaks

Lack of sunlight, little exercise and bad diet are all factors that can exacerbate low mood, so drag yourself away from your work at regular intervals and go outside! A brisk lunchtime stroll will increase the production of serotonin in the brain, and so your feel-good endorphins will start flowing and leave you pumped up and motivated for an afternoon’s work. 

The beauty of being a writer is that you can pick your own hours. But do try to work to some sort of a schedule that allows you to take time out for breaks and meals. It can be easy to snack at your desk, but maintaining a well balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein-rich meat will not only benefit your physical health but your mental health too.

Seek medical help

Lifestyle tips can go some way to relieving the symptoms of depression, but in all cases it is beneficial to seek professional advice from a counselor or doctor. Cognitive therapy and medication can often be necessary to help fight and manage depression in order to allow to you live a normal life and continue with your career. Be wary of taking any tranquilizers or mood suppressing drugs though as these may harness your creativity without effectively treating your depression.

Utilize support

For anyone suffering from depression, social support from family, friends or support groups can often help alleviate symptoms. Writing can be a very isolating career, and so once again it is important that you remember to take breaks and make the effort to interact with people. Conversation and interaction are proven to boost self esteem, reduce anxiety and consequently leave the sufferer feeling less stigmatized by their condition.

Special thanks to Claire Fryer for sharing this article with Coaching for Writers. I welcome guest writers. If you are a writer and would like to contribute an article offering tips about writing, publishing or marketing books to this blog, contact Brian(at)BrianMoreland(dot)com. Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Genre Debate

Today, guest writer, Claire Fryer, shares some interesting insights about genre writing:

The Genre Debate

A few years ago, that great juggernaut of Canadian literary fiction, Margaret Atwood, re-opened the can of worms regarding what makes “science fiction”…well, science fiction. Atwood’s discussion of the term “speculative fiction”, emphasized in its application to her best-selling Maddaddam Trilogy, fell under the category of what several writers and critics already believed science fiction covered – that is, challenging the social, political, historical, etc. modes which are presented in variations of their current modern context; literally to speculate. Utopian and dystopian alternate universes are one great example. 

Atwood possibly wished to disassociate herself from the mainstream understanding of science fiction as the spaceship-ridden galactic whimsy which has bridged the outskirts of pop culture with shows like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, rather than explore a more open-minded view of the genre. But the debate – regardless of how old – does raise a very important question about the concept of genre itself. Writers don’t just need to focus on being good writers – they need to have a fairly good understanding of the arena they are playing in too.

Audience Is Everything

Writers often say they write for themselves, and many can get by with this – by nature writers are curious, intuitive, and introspective, searching for answers and exploring for possibilities – and chances are, if a writer can portray this in an engaging way, they will share common interests with an audience. So where does genre come into this? 

The less sexy side of writing, a.k.a. the publishing industry, will say that it’s about marketability. Readers will flock to a certain section in the bookstore for a reason; choosy readers will immediately search for their author of choice. Some will even search for specific plot lines, archetypes, a stereotypical hero or one who breaks the mold – strong female empowerment, for instance.

Where publication is concerned a writer must be prepared to put a label on their work, and be familiar with the audience they are writing for – or perhaps more importantly, hope to write for. This shouldn’t dictate the overall narrative or style of the text on a huge scale, but can work as a source of inspiration rather than another commercial confinement. 

For instance, a writer might decide to take some of the norms of the genre and work freely within them and subvert them – take the work of Neil Gaiman, for instance – who blends science fiction, fantasy, and hysterical fiction to create highly entertaining novels and short stories which are adapted for the screen. This kind of creativity can enhance the genre and expand its horizons (think of the innovative work of Frank Herbert, especially Dune) or even give birth to an entirely new genre on its own, but one which will still appeal to a target audience.

Getting It Right

So how does a writer distinguish between a fine line of diversifying a genre or defying it completely? Well, these are things that an intuitive editor should be able to help out with, but as always, a writer’s gut feeling is the most important. There are different ways to approach a genre, just as there are topics. Approaching a genre can be the same as finding different ways to explore a study – take education for instance. It can be examined on a technical point of view, as well as a social and cultural one, even political. But there are several aspects in which a perception of education as an issue can be viewed. 

A genre, just like a story, can be approached in much the same way – if genre is going to play an influential role in the story, then it’s important to consider what and how you want to treat it, and to explore its subgenres as well. Will you introduce a new kind of character type? Will you change the dynamics of traditional story layouts? Are you going to critique or parody the genre, celebrate it, make it accessible to more readers or narrow it down to a few niche connoisseurs?

However you decide to treat genre, just make sure it is purposeful. Although some of the greatest literary ideas have occurred by accident, avid readers tend to be very critical about how a book adheres to or usurps different themes – so whether you choose to untangle a genre or follow it closely, just be sure that it’s intentional – even if you leave a little questioning to the audience. And of course, it’s also okay to cross into more than one genre at a time as well. As with everything, remember that while focus is the key to a great work, you have the freedom to explore endless possibilities until you get there.

Special thanks to Claire Fryer for sharing this article with Coaching for Writers. I welcome guest writers. If you are a writer and would like to contribute an article offering tips about writing, publishing or marketing books to this blog, contact Brian(at)BrianMoreland(dot)com. Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Terror in the Canadian Wilderness




People often ask me why I’ve set two of my novels in Canada while I live in down south in Texas. I guess the simple answer is I love the remote wilderness and Canada has plenty of it. It is also rich with Native American legends about mysterious creatures that inhabit those woods. My novel Dead of Winter is set in Ontario and builds an epic mystery around the Wendigo legend.

My new novel The Devil’s Woods is set in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. In the novel, there’s an ancient forest that exists at the back of a Cree Indian reservation that is completely unknown to most of the world. But the Cree people have feared it for centuries. They call it Macâya Forest. Animals stay clear of it too. The townspeople of a nearby logging town called Hagen’s Cove know that those woods are responsible for the countless people who have been disappearing around those parts since the 1800s.

My story’s main character is Kyle Elkheart. He’s half Cree and was born on the reservation. When he was a child, his parents got divorced and his white mother moved Kyle and his brother, Eric, and sister, Shawna, to Seattle to live with an abusive stepfather. Now, all three of the Elkheart kids are adults trying to make it in the world. When they learn that their Cree father has disappeared, Kyle and his brother and sister fly a seaplane to the Canadian wilderness. Traveling with them are Eric’s girlfriend, Jessica, and Shawna’s boyfriend, Zack. When the five arrive at the Cree village set deep in the wilderness, Kyle begins to see clues to an unsolved mystery that spans decades and he learns the real reason why his tribe fears Macâya Forest.

As for why I write about Canada ... well, while living in Texas is nice, we don’t have mountains here and there are no ancient forests where man has not tread. I once traveled to British Columbia, visiting Vancouver and Whistler and I’ve hiked around the Rocky Mountains. The mountain country north of the U.S. border is breathtaking and a beautiful place to visit in my mind as type at my keyboard in Dallas. The Canadian wilderness is also so vast and remote that it’s ominous when you find yourself far away from civilization. The native tribes feared the legendary creatures of the forest. And if you enter the Devil’s Woods, you will discover there are some places in the world where man is considered prey.

The Devil's Woods is now available at Amazon and everywhere books are sold.