BRIAN KEENE INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Steve Pattee
Best-selling author Brian Keene writes horror novels for a living. It's not a bad gig, but it doesn't get him out of the house much. His books include “The Rising,” “City of the Dead,” “Terminal,” “The Conqueror Worms,” “Fear of Gravity,” and many more, several of which are slated for film, video game, and comic book adaptations.
HorrorTalk: Your first novel, “The Rising,” is about to—if it hasn't already—sell out its second printing. Did this surprise you?
Brian Keene: Actually, the third printing just hit stores. And the second printing of the sequel, “City of the Dead,” just came out as well. The success of both has surprised the hell out of me. I hope my new book, “The Conqueror Worms” (which just came out), is just as successful.
HT: What was the reaction from readers to “The Rising’s” controversial ending?
BK: There was a lot of cursing and gnashing of teeth. (Laughs.)
HT: Some people have accused you of ending “The Rising” the way you did in order to force sales of its sequel, “City of the Dead.” Set the record straight — was that your intention?
BK: Nope. I wanted the ending to be just as bleak, dark, and unsettling as it is. Like the ending to John Carpenter’s The Thing; it was up to the viewer to decide what happened next. That’s what I wanted to do with “The Rising.” But I blew it. It was a first novel and I wasn’t confident or skilled enough to pull off that style of ending.
Thus, a sequel.
HT: In addition to “The Rising” book, word is there are a movie, comic and video game in the works. When can we expect to start seeing these things?
BK: I actually killed the comic project, because I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the company that was doing it. However, the scripts and artwork will be published later this year by Delirium Books in a collector’s edition called “The Rising: Death in Four Colors.” As for the other tie-ins—you must have patience. All will be revealed.
HT: Regarding the movie, can you answer any of the following: Who’s in it? How close is the script to the book? Who’s directing?
The screenplay is 99.9% like the book (a few secondary characters were morphed into one character).
HT: Your novel, “Terminal,” was, I think, a much better written novel than both “The Rising” and “City of the Dead.” You yourself have said it's your favorite. What makes it your favorite?
BK: I think it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done, to be honest. It just sort of boiled out of me. I had a strong affinity for the main character, and telling the story from his perspective really seemed to give the book some extra heart.
That’s not to say I don’t like the zombie books or “The Conqueror Worms.” I do. In fact, I had more genuine fun with “The Conqueror Worms” than anything I’ve done before. I think readers will as well.
HT: At first, bookstores were shipping back unsold copies of “Terminal.” Recently, however, those same bookstores are reordering “Terminal.” Why do you think that is?
BK: Word of mouth plays a big part in it. And the sales of my other books have been very strong, so I’m sure readers of those are looking around for more.
HT: What is the best thing about writing in the horror genre? The worst?
BK: Best: I get to give something back to the genre that has given me so much. I’m still and will always be a fan at heart.
The worst? The fact that it’s a business, and when you’re doing it for a living, that thing you love becomes just like any other job.
HT: What authors should people be reading that are flying under the radar?
BK: I’m always hesitant to answer this question because I always miss somebody. But I think we’ll see big things from Wrath James White, Andre Duza, Kealan Patrick Burke, Mary SanGiovanni, Michael McBride, Steven Shrewsbury, Nick Kaufmann, Darren Speegle and David Wellington. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten 20 other people, and all of them are going to be pissed off, and I’m going to blame it on you. (Laughs.)
HT: Do you use music as a tool when you are writing?Do different scenes require different music?
BK: Not really as a ‘tool’ per se, but I usually have it on as background noise. Writing is a solitary act. A lonely act, sometimes. I like having something on in the background. Doesn’t matter what — Howard Stern or music or CNN — as long as it’s noise.
HT: What scared you as a kid, and what scares you now?
BK: Actually, the things that scared me as a kid are the things that scare me now. On the physical, visceral level, my fears have always been snakes, flying and the loss of a loved one. On a more emotional, spiritual level: the uncertainty that there’s anything after this — that when we die, we really are just dust in the wind, and there is no soul and no immortality.
HT: What's coming up?
BK: “The Conqueror Worms” is in stores now. “The Rutting Season” comes out in a few short weeks. “Take The Long Way Home” and “The Rising: Death in Four Colors” will both be available later this year, as will “Clickers II,” which I’m co-writing with J.F. Gonzalez. “Fear,” a graphic novel based on short stories from “Fear of Gravity,” comes out in December. Next year will see the release of “Ghouls,” “The Labyrinth” and an as-yet-untitled zombie novel. And I’m sure some other stuff will pop up between now and then.
HT: Which apocalyptic world, if forced, would you live in: “The Stand’s,” “Swan Song’s,” “The Rising’s,” or some other? Why?
BK: Oh, “The Stand,” without a doubt. No way I’d miss a chance to party with The Walking Dude in Las Vegas…
And you can find out what Brian is up to when he's not partying with The Walking Dude by visiting his website at BrianKeene.com. There can find his latest news, his next appearance or join his message board.
Want to comment on this interview? Head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.