Having just finished reading both a short story collection and a full-length novel by horror author Alexander S. Brown, I took some time to chat with him about his love of the genre, and he even shared some fun pix of himself! But first, here’s a brief look at the two titles I completed.
This collection is a generous serving of horror, offering up plenty of variety that ranges from classic gothic ghost stories to repulsive modern day body horror. It’s not easy to find single-author anthologies these days that feature such a wide range of horror subgenres, each wonderfully written with fully realized characters and devilishly good twists and turns. Here’s the breakdown:
“It’s All True” – A paranormal investigator comes to a building that was once a hospital inhabited by a man known as “Dr. Death.”
“Bloodlines” – A group of strangers is called to an old house to find a hidden treasure, but soon discovers greed has a price…and the dead are coming to collect.
“A Dead Ringer” – A woman living in the funeral home run by her husband has no idea her plot to kill him for his money will be a grave mistake…
“The Acquired Taste” – A woman in police custody believes sushi is a killer.
“Bliss Hill” – A family’s problem has just begun when a creature begins attacking its livestock.
“Feast of the Pigs” – A young man is arrested and fears he’s going to be an inmate’s play toy. He has no idea how much worse things are at this prison.
“Althea’s Last Dance” – A prostitute killer in New Orleans gets some ominous psychic readings.
“From Midnight to One” – Alone in her house, a woman is terrorized by witches.
“The End of Summer” – When a woman comes to clean out her dead aunt’s house, her man becomes obsessed with the occult paraphernalia they find.
“April” – A teenager turns to her sister for help when she begins having nightmares and then finds a knife under her mattress.
“House by the River” – A woman discovers she may have played a horrific part in her neighbor’s wrongdoings.
“Live Through This” – A gay psycho stalker takes an unwilling lover.
“Two Miles” – A mobster reflects on the vile things he’s done to others in his life.
“The God Complex” – A woman subjected to heinous abuse at the hands of a religious cult leader plots her escape/revenge.
“Zoe’s Swan Song” – After an encounter with a man who promises to make her as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside, a grossly narcissistic actress/singer’s life gets absolutely gross. EEK!
In this full-length novel, Brown offers a teen angst horror story that’s like Cursed, The Craft, and Carrie all rolled into one. My favorite kind of horror.
Syrenthia is the high school outcast, bullied relentlessly by the popular girls. But when another group of friends invites her to join them at lunch, she finds she shares the same interests. They’re all curious about a place in the woods with a notorious reputation. Some sort of terrifying creature supposedly lurks in the area around a particular waterfall, and the friends intend to go there and see it for themselves.
The excursion goes as badly—and bloodily—as could be. And when the survivors return home, they bring with them a curse that unleashes a vengeful, savage creature determined to destroy Syrenthia’s first taste of friendship and love.
There’s nothing playful or campy about this coming of age horror tale. It’s gruesome and tragic, and gets pretty sick at the end when the beast enacts some seriously grisly revenge. It’s the kind of classic horror narrative that makes you feel right at home!
AND NOW – A HORROR CHAT WITH AUTHOR ALEXANDER S. BROWN!
Boys, Bears & Scares: You are one prolific writer – and editor! What made you first want to become a writer, and why horror?
Alexander S. Brown: I started life not wanting to read, but wanting to tell stories. For some reason, even before kindergarten I wanted to entertain, and that desire never decreased.
I was perhaps ten years old when I became smitten with my aunt’s extensive library, which seemed more like a hideaway from the rest of her house. From floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall, she had nothing but hardback first editions. Each time I visited, I was seduced more by their feel, smell, and appearance.
Still in my preteen years, she encouraged me to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. One day, as summer approached, I read Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King. Ever since my eyes scanned that first sentence, I was hooked.
I spent that entire summer reading, becoming acquainted with authors such as King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, John Saul, and V. C. Andrews. It was then that I realized if I wanted to entertain and tell stories, writing would be my savior, and these authors would be the saints I would pray to, hoping someday to be just like them.
Such as my aunt introducing me to the world of books, my grandfather acquainted me with horror. As a child, prior to my love for literature, I would stay weekends at my grandparents’ house. Most Friday evenings, when Grandma was preoccupied with other hobbies, or duties, Grandpa would say, “Come on, boy. Let’s watch a movie!”
My earliest recollection of horror is the original Night of the Living Dead. After Grandpa realized this grotesque classic entertained me, our movie selection continued increasing. Come second grade, I was a full fledge horror geek, and I had my Grandpa to thank.
BB&S: Do you prefer writing short horror stories or horror novels and why?
Alexander S. Brown: I prefer short stories. They feel like flings. In fourteen pages – or less – I can sum up my subjects, conflicts, and metaphors. After spending a day editing my rough draft, I can deliver it to my publisher. Yet, my preference for short story crafting is due to time convenience, as writing fourteen pages takes little effort.
However, novel writing feels like a marriage. When writing a novel, a greater investment of time is required. It is something you have to become dedicated to, which makes all else feel like an abundance of mistresses.
With novel crafting, research is a great deal more crucial, as well as continuity, plotting, subplots, and character development. Novels allow me to elaborate deeper on an emotional level, so that I may connect with the reader. In the end, it feels more long term and solid.
If I had to choose one or the other, I would have to divorce myself from short stories over novels.
BB&S: To give readers an idea of what they were in for, I described your novel Syrenthia Falls as a combination of Cursed, The Craft, and Carrie. Would you say that’s an accurate comparison?
Alexander S. Brown: I’m flattered by your comparison, which I agree with being accurate. I grew up loving the book/movie Carrie, and the classic American Werewolf in London. Throughout elementary school, life was absolute hell. The bullying I experienced as a child is probably why I related with Carrie, excluding the psychotic mother.
In high school, my group consisted of those who were mostly rejected from what we considered a normal society. We were the outcasts. People who had been shunned by our peers, came from broken homes, or both. For me, writing Syrenthia Falls was a cathartic experience that allowed me to pay homage to classics that I grew up loving.
BB&S: So, when writing, you do take inspiration from favorite movies or books, and attempt to pay homage to them. Do you ever finish a story and then realize when rereading it that you’ve incorporated elements of works that have had an impact on you without realizing it? I know I’ve done all of the above with my writing.
Alexander S. Brown: I do try to pay homage to classic horror movies and books. Although I like contemporary entertainment, very little of it is influential. With my work, the question of what I can pay homage to is what brings my villain of choice into play. Once settling on a maniac, or supernatural being, I utilize lesser-known history and to try to create new material, such as Syrenthia Falls.
A few times, I completed work where I unintentionally incorporated elements from other pieces. I just consider that the subconscious is a wonderful thing, and continue forward.
BB&S: Of course, since this is Boys, Bears & Scares, I must ask about gay content in your work. There were a couple of stories in Traumatized that featured gay themes and characters. Do any of your other books touch upon gay subject matter?
Alexander S. Brown: Briefly, yes. In Syrenthia Falls, a bully refers to Syrenthia as “Dyke Dog.” I did this because I wanted audiences to question if the bully was closeted. In elementary school, I was frequently bullied by other boys, who would slander me with derogatory gay phrases. In high school, there was a more developed understanding of sexuality. Yet, there were a few people who did bully me for being gay. Later, I discovered some of them were closeted. To me, the psychology of being closeted opens up a whole new world, which I hope to explore in a future novel.
BB&S: Have you thought about writing an all-out gay horror novel, or a novel with a gay protagonist? If so, do you imagine that you would approach the story as a thought-provoking examination of gay identity, or would you prefer to just make it a fun and campy terror tale?
Alexander S. Brown: Since I grew in the GLBT community with struggles and acceptance, I want my novel to be serious.
With future Havensburg novels, different aspects of the town will emerge. Syrenthia Falls elaborates on broken homes in a Caucasian themed suburbia and lower class families. The sequel will feature a more poverty stricken neighborhood, which will acknowledge the struggles occurring within the African American community. I have brainstormed on a third Havensburg novel, and it will elaborate on issues within the GLBT community. Creatures for both novels have already been determined.
BB&S: Are there any horror subgenres you want to take on that you haven’t yet?
Alexander S. Brown: Horror erotica, sci-fi horror, and bizarro have been trapped in my thoughts for the better part of a decade. I’m still mulling ideas over, but nothing has congealed yet.
BB&S: Okay. Time for the horror quickie session. Who are your favorite horror authors?
Alexander S. Brown: Clive Barker, Stephen King, Anne Rice, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Joe Hill, Gillian Flynn, Chuck Palahniuk, J L Mulvihill, H. David Blalock, Kimberly Richardson, Kalila Smith, and recently Daniel W. Kelly.
BB&S: Ha! Don’t worry, I still would have posted this blog even if you didn’t include me. What are your favorite horror subgenres?
Alexander S. Brown: Animal, Splatterpunk, Psychological, Surreal, Noir, Paranormal, Occult, Erotic, Neo-Noir, and Revenge.
BB&S: What scares you most in horror movies or books?
Alexander S. Brown: It takes a lot to scare me. But what unnerves me more than fiction, or viscera, are realistic possibilities. I know a clown from hell isn’t going to pop out of my oven and kill me. But I don’t know for a fact if my house is really empty when I come in from a long day.
BB&S: Horror mixed with comedy. Yes or no?
Alexander S. Brown: I love horror comedies. Previously, I have attempted merging the two together in my writings and I can’t successfully achieve the correct formula. These works are in my junk pile.
BB&S: Sex and nudity in horror. Yes or no?
Alexander S. Brown: Yes, sex and nudity are both natural and can be horrific. I do feel it’s unfair to exploit a specific gender though. I think if the female’s anatomy is to be glorified, the man’s anatomy should be as well. Otherwise, it feels misogynistic.
BB&S: Final girl or final guy?
Alexander S. Brown: I have always praised the final girl. To me, she is a symbol of rebellion, liberation, and determination.
The final boy is also enjoyable. But, due to their portrayal, it is almost expected that they succeed. Unless the final boy is an underdog, a minority, or gay/bi/ trans, I feel like I’m being cheated by a steroid driven idol we knew would win.
BB&S: Who are some of your favorite scream queens?
Alexander S. Brown: Linnea Quigley, Heather Langenkamp, Barbara Crampton, Katherine Isabelle, Angela Bettis, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
BB&S: Favorite iconic horror baddie?
Alexander S. Brown: Freddy Krueger. He’s creative, evil, and humorous.
BB&S: What are some of your favorite horror TV shows?
Alexander S. Brown: Monsters, Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside, Masters of Horror, Salem, Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and American Horror Story.
BB&S: What songs or artists might be on your Halloween party playlist?
Alexander S. Brown: Well, I have a 100 + song list for Halloween music on Spotify. Would you like for me to share a link?
BB&S: Sure. I shall share it right here so everyone can check it out. Finally, back to your writing. What are you currently working on?
Alexander S. Brown: I am wrapping up Traumatized part 2, rewriting a fantasy/horror novel, and I have outlined and completed research with the Syrenthia Falls sequel. I am also working on a collection of spoken word.
BB&S: Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Alexander!
You can see a full list of Alexander S. Brown’s books here.