There’s something “Brewin” on fuonlyknew!
As promised, I have Brewin here today to answer some questions and tell us all about himself! He’s brewed up some good stuff, along with a fantastic giveaway, so lets get started!
Hi Brewin. I loved The Dark Horde and want to say thanks for doing this interview and for “brewin” up this awesome giveaway! Let’s have some fun shall we?
Thank you Laura for having me! I’ve been looking forward to this!
How did you get started in writing?
Well… How long have you got? Haha. Let’s just say that I consider myself fortunate (and unusual as far as I can tell) in that I knew from a very early age, about seven, that I wanted to be a writer. And basically over the years, I’ve spent a hell of a lot of my life in my room “shut-off from the outside world” you could say, creating stories and games. After now doing this for over thirty years, you could say I’ve accumulated quite a lot of material! And only some of it am I now beginning to share with the “outside world” J
But to tie-in with the next question, I first started to “write for the purposes of publication” when I was sixteen (1991) and I first began to write the manuscript for The Dark Horde with a well-known Australian author, Margaret Clark, as my mentor. With her support, I submitted the manuscript (then about 300 pages of what was to be about a 1000 page manuscript) to Penguin books in 1992 and got a three page letter back from them to say how great it was. That was in my final year of high school, after which I started uni, wrote a bit more of The Dark Horde the following year (up to about 700 pages), and then began writing Evermore: An Introduction instead: which I finished at about 700 pages but didn’t publish until another five or so years after that… It was about 2003 before I returned to The Dark Horde and rewrote it largely from scratch: packing into 300 pages what was once a story told over about 1000 pages. Which funnily enough is the opposite of what my mentor had been urging me to do when I was originally writing it. She had always wanted me to slow things down you see and spend more time filling out the story with descriptions of settings and characters, but after having done that and not feeling the “fast and furious fear” I wanted, I would go back to my original instincts when I revisited the story years later J -And as an aside, I also consciously did something at the very end partially because she said “whatever you do, don’t do this, cos that’s just too harsh a thing to do to that character”, which only encouraged me to decide that was exactly what I was going to at the end haha, because it would be another great shock that the reader wouldn’t expect. And so I did.
How did you come up with the idea for The Dark Horde?
The Dark Horde at the time I first began to create the story was actually “modern day” haha. It was 1989 when I was up at the Geelong Grammar campus called Timbertop, which is a year-nine mixed gender campus set up in the high country near Mansfield. It’s basically the same school as described in The Dark Horde (likewise Howqua Hills being based on Mansfield), and being isolated, quite an ideal setting for horror.
The germ of the idea, if I can pin-point it to an event, was when I wrote a “werewolf” kinda short story for English class. My teacher was so impressed with the way in which I’d structured the building tension / horror in the story that it was then used as a writing exercise for the entire year level. The exercise was that the story was cut into about fifteen different parts, and students had to figure out the right order the parts went in, based on the events and the elements of building tension. I guess that experience reinforced in my mind that I was onto something that was worthy and would be appreciated. I began writing this story, called “Canine Prowler” that basically had a werewolf among the students at Timbertop that were being slowly killed in various shocking ways… I only got to about 40 pages of that though…
Then at the start of 1991 (my second-last year of high school), I wrote another story called “The Visitor” about a bunch of farmers whose game of scrabble is rudely interrupted. My English teacher at the time loved it, and Margaret Clark wanted me to turn it into a novel… So I did. I took that chapter as the start and incorporated some of the earlier ideas for my “Canine Prowler” story to begin writing what was known even then, as The Dark Horde.
What was the hardest part about writing your book and do you have a favorite scene?
As far as the writing itself goes, in hind-sight I was probably say letting it go, and finally deciding not to re-write it, re-edit it, add to it etc. I rewrote it three or four times, and edited it maybe twice that number, before then having others in turn edit it. Ultimately there comes a point, when you have to just accept your work for what it is; something that will never be perfect or universally liked; and move onto the next thing. So considering this took me some twenty years to do, I think it’s fair to say I struggled with this haha. But having said that, it’s publicity / promotion that is by far the hardest aspect of writing overall though, and it’s an area I certainly need to improve in!
My “favourite” (to use UK / Aus spelling as I do) scene, if I had to pick one, is simply the chapter that’s come up most when readers have commented to me on their most memorable parts of the book, for the way it builds the horror up to an unexpected and graphic shock that is hard to forget. That’s the chapter where Bruce wakes up on the couch at Aaron’s place with a hangover. I also submitted this same chapter (link: http://kimkoning.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/coffinhop-the-winners-are/ ) for a horror short story competition (after checking it was eligible) and was told just today that it won first prize! J
I loved that scene! I’m not surprised it won 1st prize. Well done.
* A week later * Oh gee… Sorry it’s taken me so long to finish this! But actually I can add to the above now, with something even better: The Dark Horde has just won an Honorable Mention in the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Awards (Genre Fiction category), and with something like 3,000 entries, that’s pretty significant hey? -I’ve now won or been a finalist in 3 out of 4 writing competitions I’ve entered this year (the one I missed being the annual Windhammer gamebook competition)… Which tells me I really should start entering more of them haha. Oh and get better at telling people what I’m doing / have done J
Will we be reading more about the horde?
Haha yes. And not just reading but listening too! One of my current projects is a “musical” album you see, i.e. a story with narration and sung lyrics set to music. That musical album has the working title “The Calling” and it’s basically the back-story to The Dark Horde: it ends where The Dark Horde starts. I’ve had this in mind for a long time now: the album being something that I’ve worked on with numerous musicians and with numerous versions for the last er, thirteen years or so. And the idea is that the album reveals things not revealed in the first book, and together in turn they set up the second book, set in the far past, and the third book to be set in the near future. It’s also because of the album that I decided not to include the full prologue in the published version of The Dark Horde, as that’s a story to be told in more detail on the album. Anyway here’s a sample of some of the sung lyrics from the start of the album:
TO KNOW THE FUTURE
IS TO KNOW THE HORROR TO COME
TO KNOW WHAT STALKS US
CALLING FROM THE DARKNESS INSIDE
i’ve seen the naked truth
been burned by the flame
sealed is our fate
only hell awaits!
now my world’s a dark void, where no hope exists
And despite my efforts, only the dark persists
The Dark Horde will soon win, that I clearly see
and then these words shall be all,all that’s left of me
Take my hand, render me blind
Hide from me the fear that grips my mind
I want to live, I want to be
No longer want to know nor see
I wish to erase from my mind, all THAT I know
delude myself and forever, dwell in truth’s shadow
But I know it’s useless, for our souls they’ve already won
So let these words be a warning: WARNING of what’s to come!
…The type of music for the album I guess you could say is “heavy metal”, and probably something in the flavour of the book trailer (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZl2uZNvj5c) for which the music is done by Liam Wagener: the same friend I’ve got doing the album with other established Australian musicians. But the idea of it is not to have it as something that only metalheads can appreciate, more so that the drums , guitars and keyboards will give it that “horror” kinda edge. It’s important too that the narration and lyrics can be easily understood, so that the listener can play the whole album through and follow the story the whole time.
I like the idea of listening to your story with music and songs. That’s a new one for me. Lovin the lyrics and so happy to hear there’s more Dark Horde coming.
Do you listen to music when writing and if so, do you have any favorites?
That I do. And funnily enough, it’s “heavy metal” haha. But since that’s actually a very broad label (like “classical music” say is), I tend to write to something that is more background and conducive to the writing process: melodic music with indistinct vocals works well for this purpose (as occurs in “melodic death metal” say), but also “power metal” tunes work well for writing fantasy or sci-fi and darker “progressive metal” or “ambient instrumentally orientated” tunes work well for horror. I do like “classic heavy metal”, “thrash metal” and “hard rock” a lot too, but these are less conducive to writing as I’ve found (particularly if there’s “anthemic” choruses that can be distracting).
Would you tell us about other books you’ve written?
Happy to! Evermore: An Introduction (link: http://www.thebrewin.com/works/evermore-an-introduction) I first self-published in 2001 (in Melbourne only), again in 2003 (across Australia) and again this year (in North America and Europe). You could say it’s an “experimental” novel with elements of fantasy, philosophy, biography and even “interactive fiction” in that the reader comes to control the story. It’s a book that I went out of my way to make it such that you couldn’t actually sum up what it was and you may not be surprised to know that it was hard to market, but also that when it was initially published, the Australian National Library weren’t sure how to categorise it either and put it into (what was then) it’s own category. I personally distributed a handful of copies of the 2001 edition (about 30) around stores in Melbourne, but this was surprisingly enough to get a following, and even have a magazine start-up for which the two editors told me Evermore was their inspiration. So I self-published it through Brolga in 2003 with Australia-wide distribution through Pan Macmillan. The book ended up on bookshelves and in libraries in everything from “General Fiction” to “Fantasy” to “Sci-Fi” to “Philosophy” to “New Age Fiction” to “Australiana” and even, erroneously, “Young Adult Fiction” (poor kids!) and I sold enough (close to 2000 copies) to break even thereabouts. Being the sort of book it was though, some thought it was one of the most amazing books they’d ever read (including well-known Australian authors like Margaret Clark and Anita Bell), whilst others hated it. It, like everything I tend to do, wasn’t like anything others had read really: and it certainly “pushed boundaries”, cos that’s what I’m driven to do J
I’ve also released a third “book” this year called Infinite Universe (link: http://www.thebrewin.com/works/infinite-universe). -It’s actually a science-fiction digital “gamebook”, where it’s a story you buy through the Apple App Store to read on your iPhone or iPad (other platforms, including Android, PC and Mac are to come soon I understand). It’s a story where you’re the main character, and like a “choose-your-own-adventure” story, you’re the one making the choices about what the main character does. There’s dice too: you have a character sheet with stats, skills and items (like in a role-playing game a la Dungeons and Dragons) and at certain points in the story you have to roll dice: either to make a stat or skill check, to fight something, or simply as a random roll. It’s digital because you can shake the device to roll the virtual dice, the program tracks all the necessary rules and items and injuries you collect, plus there’s illustrations, music, achievements, and unlockables like star-maps and encyclopaedias. I didn’t do any of these components (just the design and writing, and some of the editing and playtesting), but a whole bunch of awesome people were involved and it’s published by Tin Man Games as part of their Gamebook Adventures series: four other titles of which I edited, re-balanced and re-wrote parts of. Again it pushed a lot of boundaries. Infinite Universe was also like everything I seem to do: not really like anything others had seen before, completely different from anything else I’d done, and again saw a wide divergence in opinion. -For some it was their favourite in the Gamebook Adventures series and they raved about it, whilst others; particularly in the American market as it happens; thought it was the worst in the series. (Which largely I put down to it not being what they were expecting: it’s sci-fi with a lot of “Australian” humour, and the elements of sarcasm and self-depreciation don’t seem to translate so well when blended with sci-fi comedy, unlike how it seems to work with horror). -Regardless, I don’t think too many thought it was like anything else they’d read
I’ve written another book, er “gamebook” this year as well, which was for the annual Windhammer gamebook competition I mentioned earlier. It’s called Trial of the Battle God, and you can download a pdf copy for free here. (link: http://www.arborell.com/trialofthebattlegod.pdf) –Again it pushed the boundaries, in this case what you could do in a gamebook. It’s basically a fantasy deathmatch between multiple champions in a dungeon (a la something like Hunger Games though I’ve not actually read or seen it). The things in particular that make Trial of the Battle God quite different though are that it features at least seven other opponents that are moving around the dungeon just as you are; acquiring items and injuries and fighting each other; plus it can be played with between one and six human players. I’ve written a lot more about the design of this here. (link: http://www.thebrewin.com/blog/entry/deconstruction-of-trial-of-the-battle-god) –I plan to expand on this sometime “soon-ish” (probably as some kind of “gamebook / board-game hybrid”).
Are you working on something now?
Suffice to say, I’m never not working on something haha. I’m working on at least three projects (depending on how you count) with Tin Man Games for their Gamebook Adventures for instance, plus there’s The Dark Horde album, and then there’s a least another three projects of mine (two of which are games) in various stages of development. (And then, heaven forbid, there’s the demands of the “day job”!) -Some of these projects are due to be completed in the near future, but I don’t want to suggest a specific time or say too much about them just yet
Tell us something quirky about yourself!
Haha where to start? I think I was about eight when the thought occurred to me: “I’m really not like anybody else am I?” -A thought which was almost immediately followed by the thought “And gee, I really don’t want to be either. Being ‘normal and fitting in’ would be so boring!”
Throughout my life ever since, I’ve never really tried to fit in (and consequently never really have): I’ve mostly lived inside the worlds of my own imagination. I don’t think of this as a negative thing (I wasn’t retreating from or traumatized by anything), it’s more just that imagination was much more interesting to me than what “others were doing”. -I could go on, but how much “quirk” do you really want to know? Haha. Besides that Evermore: An Introduction goes into detail about the freak I am, so you could always read that to find out… In a nutshell, there’s very little about me really that isn’t quirky haha.
Is there anything else you’d care to say?
Hmmm… Thanks for listening to my dribble?
Five Fun Shorts!
1) Scariest movie you’ve watched?
The Amytiville Horror (the original 1979 one). It’s actually the only movie I can think of that really actually “scared the sh*t out of me”. I used to go out of my way to challenge myself, to try to find something that really “got me”. I watched The Exorcist and Alien alone at home late at night with all the lights out when I was about 13 for instance, and I got a good buzz out of that, but The Amytiville Horror (which I watched when I was 9 I think?) was the one that got me most. Why? Cos I believed that it was based on what had actually happened, and was able to watch the movie as if it was “real”. The Devil doesn’t scare me cos I don’t believe in him, but ghosts and spirits can scare the sh*t out of me cos I believe they’re real (and have numerous experiences of my own, but that’s a tangent!)
2) Scariest book you’ve read?
Hmmm. Tough one. It takes something special to really “get me” in a book, but I know I’m kinda desensitized. (I’m glad though how many people have reported that The Dark Horde really scared them cos I self-critique myself at times and sometimes think “is that even scary what I just wrote?”) -Anyway, the book that comes to mind for me at the moment, isn’t actually a horror really at all: it was a Young Adult Fiction book by Gillian Rubinstein called Space Demons that I read when I was um, 12 I think. It’s basically about a computer game that these kids play, that starts to take over their own reality and allow these evil Space Demons into our world. With my imagination, these Space Demons began to overtake my reality, and I began to imagine seeing them everywhere, taunting and playing with me. Space Demons catalysed many of my own ideas for The Dark Horde.
3) Three things you can’t live without?
Being able to create (stories, games, etc) is definitely the most fundamental thing for me: it’s what I exist for. Second to that is probably playing games: whether that be alone or with friends. Third is probably music: particularly “metal”.
4) What is your worse fear?
In terms of “something I want to avoid” I’d say it’s not achieving my life’s goals. In terms of “something that causes terror/anxiety” it probably is the occult / spirit world, which is also what fascinates me about it.
5) If you could be a real supernatural being, what would you be?
I have always liked werewolves haha. The sense of freedom, of power, of unrestrained passion, and even closeness with the natural world. But also their sense of community, of allegiance to one another… But I wasn’t just going to write another werewolf story now was I?
Tell Santa what you want for Christmas?
I reckon more time would be just about be the most useful thing to me right now haha. And he seems to be pretty good at manipulating that! So perhaps if he could just show me how he does some of his tricks to get more things done in the time available, I’ll let him off having to give me anything for the rest of this lifetime J
Good answer! I could use some of that myself.
Thanks for answering my questions Brewin. It’s been fun!
It certainly has been fun! Thank you so much Laura for the opportunity!
To purchase The Dark Horde click on image in my sidebar.
For my review go here .
And now for the giveaway.
I have Three signed copies of The Dark Horde to giveaway thanks to Brewin!
To enter, please leave your email address and answer this question, “What was the title of the first horror book or movie that really scared you?”
Not required, but I’d love it if you followed my blog.
Contest ends December 14th.
Happy Holidays from me to you!!