• Gaby Triana

An Interview with Horror Author BRACKEN MacLEOD

Today on the blog, I’m excited to be interviewing the amazing bestselling author of terrifying thrillers, MOUNTAIN HOME, COME TO DUST, and STRANDED. Please welcome BRACKEN MACLEOD!

WH: Hey, Bracken! Thanks for being here on the Witch Haunt blog. Could you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I am a former philosophy teacher, martial arts instructor, and lawyer. Presently, I am a full-time writer, raconteur, and all around scoundrel (I mean, as much of a scoundrel as I can be as a stay-at-home dad, which leaves me with not much time for scoundrelry, actually).

WH: Being a dad is the best kind of scoundrel there is, in my opinion. So if you weren’t writing amazing stories and making a career out of scoundrelism :), what other career would you have?

I’d likely still be a lawyer, and I’d still be hating being a lawyer.

WH: It’s amazing how many lawyers-turned-authors there are out there. I know a few in my critique group alone. What is your writing process like?

It’s pretty heavily structured. My time as a litigator conditioned me to be an outliner and a researcher. There aren’t many questions in a novel or a short story that I don’t already know the answers to before I begin writing. I’ve tried to be a discovery writer (i.e., a “pantser”), but it was a horrible experience, and I’m afraid that (for now), I’ve trunked the results of that experiment.

WH: I have always been a heavy outliner too, but the book I’m currently writing has taken the pantser approach for some reason (with the exception of a few plot points). I’m curious to see what mess I’ve made by the time I’m finished with the draft. Which of your written works are you most proud of?

Such a tough question, because I am fond of all the books I’ve published. If pressed, I’d say my favorite is probably COME TO DUST. It’s certainly the most personal of my work and it’s the one that I think is the most emotionally engaging for me. It’s a story about a man and the child he’s trying to protect from a world that’s turned against them. It’s a pretty personal book.

WH: Well, the reviews look amazing and it’s going on my TBR list right now. Hey, Bracken, if you could interview any horror author, gone or alive, who would it be?

I actually got to interview one of my literary heroes, Jack Ketchum, a few years ago. It was before we became friends (though we were acquaintances at the time), and it was such a wonderful experience to be able to talk to him in depth. He was gracious and unfiltered. It was a tremendously fulfilling experience. I’m not sure how to top that. I think if I had a time machine, I’d go back and have a conversation with Shirley Jackson. That would thrill me.

WH: I actually have a time machine. I’ll let you borrow it whenever you want, so you can go back and relive your moments with the amazing Jack Ketchum. So you’ve co-hosted the Three Guys with Beards Podcast a few times. What’s it been like as emergency sub?

That’s been incredibly fun. I’m good friends with all the Beards, so it feels as comfortable as slotting into a regular conversation with guys I love to spend time with anyway. I know I am definitely out of my depth when it comes to the deep tracks these three know about comics and pop culture—and I think I’m pretty damn nerdy. The only way I could baffle Jim and Chris and Jon is to take them down a Heavy Metal rabbit hole or maybe really pick into the minutiae of wine tasting. Once they start in on the Marvel Universe, I am as cooked as a Thanksgiving turkey. There’s no way I wouldn’t drown in a second on Golden and Brian Keene’s show, Defenders Dialogue.

WH: I would love to hear that heavy metal rabbit hole sometime. Use your superpowers--earn the Beard Birthright. :) Alright, what about Halloween? What’s your favorite tradition?

We’re the Halloween people in our neighborhood. We live it all year ‘round. So, breathing? Seriously though, my favorite part is taking my son trick or treating. He dresses up all year, but that costume on the 31stis special. It’s something he’s been planning and thinking about for months and the first time he gets to put it on is Halloween. I live to see the kind of creativity and freedom that children get to express when they are allowed to take on the persona of something or someone they love for a night. Every ninja and witch and superhero who comes to the door is telling you something about that kid’s internal life, if you listen hard enough.

WH: So true. The carefully-planned costume literally wears its heart on its sleeve. What is the witchiest thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?

I apparently have two distant ancestors on my mother’s side of the family, John and Joane Carrington of Connecticut, who were executed as witches in 1651. They were indicted for “entertaining familiarity with Satan,” and hanged. My mother (who found them) is a lifelong Wiccan, as is one of my sisters, my brother, and my late aunt. I come from a whole family of witches, so it’s always been a part of the world around me. So much so, that when I was much younger, I knew a guy who insisted I was a warlock. He just knewit, and told me every single time he saw me. While I’m a skeptic and a very secular person, I do think there’s magic in taking ideas and using them to alter people’s emotions. When I write, it’s a form of witchcraft. I take my intention, put it into symbols on a page, and those symbols communicate and transmit my feelings to other people who then experience them. All artists who put a piece of themselves into the work like that are witches and magicians of a sort. Art is a potent kind of magic, if you want to think of it like that.

WH: That’s amazing history! Thanks for sharing. I used to think that magic was this mystical thing that only a few people had the power to wield, but more and more, I’m realizing it’s in the everyday, mundane things we do. All it takes is intention and connection, and I’ve been manifesting every dream that goes through my head left and right. Great reply, thanks.

So, I love this questios, because I feel like it tells us a lot about the person answering it, similar to the Halloween costume wearer: Who's your favorite Addams Family character?

I love Gomez Addams. I’ve often joked that Morticia and Gomez’s relationship has been my model for my own marriage (24 years this summer), but it’s not much of a joke. He’s eccentric and fun, devoted and passionate, and most of all, he’s a caring husband and father. Despite his other faults, he’s never dismissive or abusive toward his family. Gomez is, in a lot of ways, the opposite of what we talk about when we talk about Toxic Masculinity. He’s a model for engaged, caring manhood.

WH: And he embodies a childlike spirit like every good dad out there, including you, I’m willing to bet. So, back to books…what do you feel makes a scary horror novel?

Caring. The most important element of a scary horror novel for me is caring about the people in the book and what happens to them. It’s almost never the monster that scares me. It’s the loss of people I care about to anything—a monster, a car crash, or intentional violence. Doesn’t matter if you can make me care. That’s not the same as “likeability.” I think likeability is a very surface concern. Are these people similar to me or others whom I already like? Are they witty and personable? That’s likeability, and it’s not all that deep a connection for me as a reader. But, if you can take a person I don’t recognize, or one I might not be well-acquainted with in real life, and make me care about them and what they’re going through, then you can absolutely run me through the ringer emotionally by doing the same to them. I feel scared for the wellbeing of people I care about. If I know what they want out of life and it matters whether or not they get that, then I’m much more likely to feel scared for them.

WH: Exactly right. Paranormal author, ML Bullock, who I recently interviewed, said that writers sometimes forget that the readers are the main characters. If they’re not emotionally invested in the story at the same level as the protagonists, the book may as well not exist. What’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

Next on my plate is a home invasion novel I am finishing up. It’s a book a lot like my first, MOUNTAIN HOME, in that there’s no supernatural element in it. It’s all about the terror of home ownership. Thematically, it’s about ownership and control and male entitlement. On the surface though, the tag line for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre fits the book like a glove: “Who will survive and what will be left of them?”

Sounds like another great one in the works. Can’t wait to read it and thank you so much for hanging with me today, Bracken! To follow Bracken MacLeod, visit the following links:

* Website: http://brackenmacleod.com

* Amazon Author page: http://smile.amazon.com/Bracken-MacLeod/e/B0095ZKR5Y

* Latest release: I have a few novels out, but my most recent release is this novelette about dark magic: http://a.co/4nrKZgB

* Facebook: https://facebook.com/brackenmacleodauthor/

* Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrackenMacLeod

* Instagram: https://instagram.com/brackenmacleod/

Bracken MacLeod has survived car crashes, a near drowning, being shot at, a parachute malfunction, and the bar exam. So far, the only incident that has resulted in persistent nightmares is the bar exam. He is the author of the novels Mountain Home, Come to Dust, and Stranded, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and a collection of short fiction, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and son, where he is at work on his next novel.

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