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Sunday, October 2, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 2-- Becky Interviews Horror Grand Master Brian Keene

Back in the August Issue of Booklist I had this interview with Brian Keene, but due to space constraints, some of it had to be cut.

Today, I am running the full text draft that I turned in to my editor. You can also click here to see the post I did about all of the special coverage in that issue of Booklist which was the spotlight on Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror.

Thanks to Brian Keene for graciously answering my questions. He is an amazing writer, a champion for the genre, a mentor for new writers, and just an all around great person. [even though he tries to play the grumpy old man card, but he is too nice of a person to pull it off.]

I asked Booklist if I could profile Keene because with this summer’s publication of Pressure, his first hard cover, major publisher release in many years, he came back on the radar for the average public library worker. [Pressure was also on the Booklist Top Ten Horror of the Year list.] Keene is an author who is great for libraries. Many of his books are published by independent presses [by his own choice], and as a result, many libraries haven’t been collecting them.

Well, I am here to remind you about Keene. Please enjoy the interview [below], and check your catalogs to see if you have any of his books for your patrons. If not, they are all readily available on Amazon in paperback. Order some of the most popular ones, suggest to horror fans, and watch them fly off the shelves. Hordes of horror hungry patrons will be very satisfied with your services.

Here’s the interview....

Sitting here in 2016, it maybe hard to remember a time when zombies did not dominate the horror mass media landscape. At the turn of the century, vampires seemed like they would suck the entire genre dry, but then in 2003 three independent but forever linked tales were released, three works that are frequently cited at as the origin of our current pop culture obsession with zombies-- the film. 28 Days Later, the first issue of the graphic novel, The Walking Dead, and a novel entitled, The Rising by Brian Keene.

From that moment until today, Keene has steadily built himself from debut author to World Horror Grandmaster with over 40 books to his credit. Already this year Keene has released two new books, The Complex, a paperback with independent publisher, Deadalite Press, and Pressure, a hardcover [note my star review in June issue] with Macmillian. Keene is a fantastic storyteller of bloody fast-paced horror filled with diverse protagonists you want to root for, and it doesn’t hurt that few can describe the dismemberment of bodies better. But arguably it is his work on behalf of the genre as a whole where Keene has left his biggest mark. Recently, I interviewed Keene about his work, horror, and how to make it as a writer in the 21st century. 

When I asked Keene what “Horror” means to him and why he has devoted his life to it he immediately mentioned its universality, explaining how it speaks to to the uncertainty and fears we all collectively face, regardless of gender, religion, race, age, or political persuasion. “Alongside love, it's THE [his emphasis] primal human emotion,” Keene proclaimed. This broad appeal of the emotion of horror can be seen in Keene’s own widely varied influences like, Hunter S. Thompson, the Splatterpunks, Stephen King, Steve Gerber, J.M. DeMatteis, Richard Laymon, Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, and Alan Moore. 

But it is when Keene talks about the new, up and comers in the genre that he is at his most animated sharing, “Some great new writers I've just read for the first time are, Gabino Iglesias, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason. One I wish everyone was reading is Jonathan Janz.” [see my star review of Children of the Dark]. Keene not only actively promotes and mentors new authors, but he is also a strong and vocal advocate for them, helping them make sure that they retain the rights to their own intellectual property, especially when an independent press they have worked with closes. Unfortunately, Keene learned all about this horrific real life situation through experience back in 2010 when Dorchester Publishing, who had published the aforementioned The Rising, under their Leisure Books imprint, went bankrupt. After twenty years in the business as a successful midlist author, Keene has seen it all, both good and bad, and wants to make sure his experiences assist others. But he also hopes that the authors he is helping today will in turn help the next generation of writers just as those Keene grew up reading helped him.

Along with promoting and mentoring talented but lesser known authors, Keene also consciously works with small horror presses. I note that this is a hot button issue for libraries. Since the major publishers do not put out a lot of horror, we need to look to smaller presses to develop our collections, but we also know that not all small presses are created equal. Since Keene has worked with so many over the years I asked him to share his current favorites to which he replied, “I could spend the entire interview singing the praises of Eraserhead Press (for trade paperbacks) and Thunderstorm Books (for high end hardcovers). They're both wonderful.”
Keene’s newest venture is in a new medium, the podcast. As the host of Project iRadio’s The Horror Show with Brian Keene, Keene spends an hour each week interviewing his friends and colleagues from the business, from writers to publishers to movie directors, Keene prides himself on asking his guests the questions they always wished someone would ask them during interviews, the things they never get the chance to talk about when they are out promoting a specific project. Plus, as he told me, he is having a great time promoting, “a genre I love” and connecting writers to readers in the process.

Keene is still going strong as a writer of pulp horror perfect for our public library audiences, but it is his experience with and knowledge of the genre that makes him a wonderful resource for all of us as we try to match readers with their next terrifying read.

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