Friday, October 21, 2011

Interview: Brian Moreland, author of Dead Winter

Welcome, Brian Moreland.

What inspires your stories?

I would say historical events that are strange and unexplained. My first novel, SHADOWS IN THE MIST, a supernatural thriller set during World War II, was based on the Nazis’ real practice of the occult. It is widely documented that Heinrich Himmler formed an occult group called the Black Order and practiced strange rituals at the Wewelsburg Castle in Westphalia, Germany. They also had scientists go on expeditions to prove they were descendents of an Arian race. All that is strange on its own. What’s mysterious is that we’ll never know everything that went on inside the castle that was nicknamed “Nazi Camelot,” because Himmler had it blown up just before the Allied Forces reached it. I found all these historical facts fascinating and built a fictional thriller around it.

My latest novel, DEAD OF WINTER, is also a historical novel, only this time set at a fur-trading fort in Ontario, Canada during 1870. During my research, I came across some unexplained stories that the Ojibwa tribes all around the Great Lakes region, including Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Minnesota, feared a supernatural creature that lives in the woods and stalks people every winter. They migrated every year because of this superstition. As I researched this legendary evil spirit, I came upon a story about an isolated fort that went crazy and everyone turned cannibal. In the late 1700s, a Jesuit priest who visited this fort documented the case in his journal, describing the deranged colonists as possessed by the devil. This is all factual and documented by the Catholic Church. I also did extensive research on the history of frontier life in Canada in the 1800s. During the long winter months out in the wilderness, cannibalism became a way of survival for isolated villages that ran out of food. And sometimes soldiers would arrive at a fort to find that everyone was dead except one man, who survived by eating the others.

From all these historical findings, I came up with a mystery that involves an isolated fort that is being stalked by a predator that’s spreading a disease that turns its victims into cannibals. An Ojibwa tribe fears a supernatural beast. Inspector Tom Hatcher, a detective from Montreal, believes the bodies showing up are the work of a serial killer like the infamous Cannery Cannibal he put behind bars two years ago. But soon Inspector Hatcher realizes he’s dealing with more than just a single killer as a strange outbreak spreads across the fort, turning people, and even the livestock, into flesh-hungry cannibals. Tom’s only hope to battle this evil plague is to join forces with an exorcist from Quebec, Father Xavier, who has a vendetta against the Devil.

What genre do you gravitate toward and why?

I’m most drawn to supernatural horror, because I find those stories thrilling. They tend to combine mystery, adventure, and suspense with other-worldly creatures. I also enjoy a good love story—and lusty sex scenes—woven into the horror plot, as well. It keeps the heart-rate thumping.

What are your work habits like?

I’d like to say I write every day, but truth is writing is still a part-time job for me and I have obligations to work on client projects that can take my focus off writing for days and sometimes weeks. I’m also pretty compulsive, so everything I do, I do in bursts of productivity. For instance, if I get inspired to write and I have the time to work it into my schedule, I’ll write for eight to ten hours straight and all weekend long, only taking breaks for meals and sleep. If I’m in between client projects, I might write around the clock for a week or two and churn out a couple hundred pages. It’s hard for me to write for just an hour or two a day. It takes me awhile to get in “the zone,” and when I finally sync up with my muse and the ideas are flowing, I don’t want to stop until I type it all out. My best writing happens early in the morning before dawn. I’ll get out of bed and go straight to the computer. Before my eyes are fully open, I’m typing, and the stuff that flows out of my stream of consciousness in the early hours I rarely have to edit. I’m working toward one day being a full-time novelist where I can have a more structured, daily schedule. Until then, I’ve got to work writing in with all my other activities.

What do you consider your best work?

Definitely my new novel DEAD OF WINTER. It’s my pride and joy. I spent two years researching and writing this book and was meticulous about making it the best book I could put out. I went through countless re-writes and read it out loud to a group of writers whose opinions I trust. I’ve also continually study the craft of storytelling so that each book gets better than the last. In DEAD OF WINTER, I love the characters, the setting, the supernatural elements, and I love Tom Hatcher’s story—a true hero’s journey. I hope my fans and readers love it too.

Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?

I definitely do my best writing on the fly. I might jot down some notes and a rough outline, but generally it all changes once I get into the writing process. I’m always discovering new details about the characters as I journey along with them. I don’t always know how the book is going to end. Sometimes I steer the story, but mostly I allow my characters to completely take over and see where they take the story. There are often plot twists that completely surprise me. After I’ve written a 100 pages or more and I’ve gotten to know my characters, I’ll write a chapter by chapter outline so I can have a bird’s-eye view of the story and keep on track of where it’s going. The best stuff, though, comes from writing without an outline and catching fire from the sky.

What experience do you want for your readers?

I want them to feel exhilarated, like they are on a non-stop thrill ride, where there are unexpected surprises at every turn. I want them to feel like they are there in the scene, inside the body of my character. I want to evoke the reader’s emotions and make them feel. If the lovers in my story are feeling lust, I want the reader to feel lust too. Or dread or elation or a deep connection with my characters. Ultimately, I want readers to enjoy a really good story, feeling satisfied by the end of book and also hungry to read my next book.

Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?

Yes, heroes and heroines tend to be yearning for something—love, happiness, peace of mind, freedom from their demons. For instance, in SHADOWS IN THE MIST, Lt. Jack Chambers, who has lost most of his platoon in the bloody Hürtgen Forest battle, yearns to get his last survivors—“the Lucky Seven”—out of the war alive. Chambers also wants to get back to London to his sweetheart, a British Red Cross nurse, but he’s trapped behind enemy lines and something sinister is killing off his men.

In my short story “Chasing the Dragon,” Nick Meyers searches the most shadowy parts of Hong Kong for a girlfriend who mysteriously vanished. He yearns to be with her again and refuses to believe that she could be dead. At times I’ve felt these deep yearnings. Or their inner struggles might match the inner struggles I’m going through during that period of my life. My heroes tend to have some of my traits, at least their philosophies and how they handle conflict, how they figure their way out of a mess. My female characters, who are love interests to my heroes, always have the physical traits that I’m attracted to. Often they are a collage of women I’ve dated.

What are your most significant challenges when you write?

Staying focused when I haven’t yet gotten into the zone of creative writing. Sometimes it takes me a couple of days to get where I can write freely. If I sit at the computer and no ideas are coming on how to start a scene, my mind starts wandering and looking for other things to do. Suddenly taking out the trash or organizing my closet sounds like a fun project. Or I’ll just piddle around checking emails and surfing the net until my muse finally shows up for work. Once she does and the ideas start rolling in faster than I can type them, I can write happily for days on end. Then my challenge is making myself stop to eat and sleep and step out into the sunshine. Like I said earlier, I can be very compulsive, and when the writing is really fun, hours pass like minutes.

What are you currently working on?

So many things related to publishing. Now, with two books out and a third on the way, I’m very busy these days. I’m constantly promoting my brand of horror to spread awareness about my books. I interact on multiple social media sites directly with fans, readers, and other writers. I do radio interviews, guest blogs, and write on my posts for my own two blogs: Dark Lucidity ( and Coaching for Writers ( In addition to promoting, I have a mission to keep releasing new fiction each year. I’m currently working on some short stories, a novella about a ghost detective, and I’m over 300 pages into my third horror novel, currently titled THE DEVIL’S WOODS, which has some wicked monsters in it. Stay tuned for this book some time in 2012.

Do you have any writing advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?

Yes, define whether writing is a hobby or a profession, because they are two very different mindsets. If writing is a hobby, just have fun with it. Write when you feel like it and if nothing flows, go out and do something else you enjoy. Let it be that quiet place you express yourself. Your secret escape. Writing as a hobby can be a wonderful outlet for creativity, expressing pent-up emotions, solving problems, and self-discovery. It’s very cathartic.

If you are writing to be a published author, then fully commit to it. It’s not a hobby, it’s your profession. It’s what you do. Write daily if you can—I’m still working on this one— even if your muse didn’t show up for work. Make writing a daily, or at least weekly, habit. If nothing flows, organize your chapters or promote yourself as an author on the web. Make the business of being a writer a high priority in your schedule, because it’s easy to let life get in the way. Every successful author I know has two common traits: persistence and tenacity. They believe in their writing and they don’t give up until they see their writing is in print. No matter what roadblocks you face on your journey as a writer, you can move past them. Ever day is a new day to write and accomplish your goals. Just commit fully to being a writer and stay persistent.

Author Bio: Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. He loves hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and dancing. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at or on Twitter @BrianMoreland.

Brian’s Horror Fiction blog: for Writers blog:

Dead of Winter is available on Amazon


Barnes and Noble

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