ML: I greatly enjoyed reading “Darling”! It seemed very reminiscent of Stephen King’s earlier works. Is Mr. King one of your influences when it comes to writing? Who are your biggest influences?
BH: King is definitely one of my influences. I think it would be difficult to write horror fiction today and not be influenced in some way by him. “Darling” was heavily inspired by “`Salem’s Lot” in its structure. I’ve always loved how King was able to tell a core narrative in that novel while taking little side jaunts to introduce you to the other inhabitants of the town and how the evil there slowly sinks its hooks into them. In “Darling,” I wanted to do something similar and show how the residents of Raynham Place were drawn into depravity, hopefully giving the story a larger scope and bigger impact than it otherwise might have had.
Like King, I was also influenced by Shirley Jackson and Richard Matheson. While not really a haunted house tale, “Darling” certainly plays with the conventions of the genre. “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Hell House” top the list of definitive haunted house novels.
ML: This is your first novel. Prior to “Darling” you wrote several fiction and non-fiction short stores. Can you tell us more about your early career? When did you first put pen to paper?
BH: I’ve written in some capacity since I was a kid. Most were little shorts that were derivative of whatever I was reading at the time. When I was a teenager, I started experimenting with screenplays, sketch comedy, stand-up, you name it. I got derailed for a few years thinking I wanted to perform. I did some plays and founded a sketch comedy group. It was fun but, ultimately, I hated rehearsing and juggling egos (mine included) and all the extra stuff that goes along with any type of performance. What I loved about it through the entire process was the writing. So around the time I moved to Los Angeles in 2006, I really dug in and started taking writing seriously.
After that, I started selling short fiction to larger and larger markets. Some of my favorites are my stories in John Skipp’s “Werewolves and Shapeshifters” anthology, HWA’s “Blood Lite 3,” and the charity anthology “Horror For Good.” Not only do I dig those stories, but it’s very gratifying to see your work in a Table of Contents alongside some of your idols. It almost makes up for student loan debt and the late afternoon calls from bills collectors.
ML: You’re from Tennessee and it seems that your Southern roots definitely influenced this work. Being from the South myself, I know that there’s a different version of Southern living for everyone depending on where you live (football country, Southern gothic country and so on and so forth). Which South did you grow up in and how did it help shape your creative and future endeavors?
BH: I grew up deep in football country but wished it was Southern Gothic country. I’m originally from Knoxville, home of the Tennessee Volunteers. Working as a bouncer in bars around campus quickly beat any love for the Vols out of me. Literally, in some cases.
A lot of my family lived in the foothills of the Appalachians. They were railroad workers and coal miners and farmers, good ol’ country folk who liked to tell all the stories they grew up hearing. Some of them still had outhouses and a pump in the backyard that you had to manually operate to get water. It was definitely a different culture from Big City Living out here on the West Coast.
I’ve also had a long standing love affair with the Old South. When I move again someday, I’m going to end up in a place like New Orleans or Savannah, some grand ol’ place with ancient cemeteries and Spanish moss dangling from the trees. I can sip bourbon on the porch while listening to Robert Johnson. That sounds like a little slice of Heaven, I do declare.
ML: Was “Darling” based around actual real life tales or were the tales in “Darling” strictly of your own creation?
BH: It was a mix. There is certainly some real folklore in there. The story of the doctor and his Octoroon mistress is based on a true ghost story from New Orleans. Raynham itself is based somewhat on the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky. There are shades of Andersonville prison and some of Key West’s history thrown in there, too. There’s quite a bit of dark, bloody history and folklore in the region.
I used these as jumping off points for some of the other stories in the book. The primary reason behind the “haunting,” as well as a lot of the individual tales, are wholly of my own creation. Once the reason for the “haunting” was in place, it was a hell of a lot of twisted fun to play in that setting and see what types of weirdness could spring up.
ML: How long did it take for “Darling” to come to fruition?
BH: I wrote “Darling” over about two years. I was able to cram in a little writing at my job at that time every day but, honestly, was scared stiff at the idea of writing a novel. That was the biggest hurdle to jump, just getting over how intimidating the idea of writing a novel was. I also wrote “Darling” in the infancy of finding my voice, learning how to self-edit, and discovering what good writing really is. So, after a long break from the book, I probably spent another year re-writing it. It’s interesting to read it now. I dig the book, but it’s very, very different from my writing today.
ML: What are you planning to do next and for future books, will you stay in this town and geographical area for future novels or will each one take place in a different setting?
BH: My next novel is a comedic adventure about conmen in modern day Rome. I have another novel that’s about necromancy and set immediately after the Arno River flood in Florence in 1966. There’s a definite love affair with Italy I’m exploring. But I also have a novel I’m working on that’s a mystery set in Knoxville and deals with the meth trade in the area. That one’s dark and doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of the region. I’ve sketched out one after that that will be a Southern crime novel, something fun and humorous, more like Elmore Leonard or Chuck Palahniuk than Dennis Lehane or James Ellroy.
ML: What do you find key to the art of writing?
BH: Practice, practice, practice. You have to work toward mastering the craft of writing. If you practice, write every day, learn to edit your own work, develop as discerning an eye as possible, read as much as you can and especially outside of your genre, then you can let the art flow. The art of writing, to me, is like riding a wave. It hits you and you have to be able to let go and ride it out. But, in order to effectively do that, you have to have the foundation down. If your board is cracked and your core is weak, you’ll never ride that wave to its conclusion without wobbling and crashing.
I guess that makes sense. I’ve never surfed so I’m just making this up as I go…
ML: What advice can you give to people who are writers but are struggling to complete their first novel or get published?
BH: Just get the first draft done. Forget rewriting and editing and making it perfect for now. Writing a first novel is incredibly frightening. It’s like standing at the base of Everest and wondering how in the hell anyone has ever made it to the top. But you just have to power through it. When your first draft is completed, then you can edit.
I always equate it to sculpting. Until all of your clay is piled up, you have nothing to sculpt. Your first task is to load that clay up. Once you have a nice pile that’s roughly shaped into what you envision, then you can chisel away at it, strip away the inessential until the truth is revealed. You can edit and rewrite until your heart’s content. But, trust me, if you try to do it while you’re writing, you’ll never finish it.
Of course, I’ve never sculpted, either, so…
ML: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience about yourself or any other projects you’d like to mention?
BH: I’ve got a number of appearances and readings lined up this year. I’ll start posting them on www.brad-hodson.com, along with the periodic article on things I find weird or funny or horrific. You can find where to pickup my work, whether novels, short fiction, or films, by clicking on the “Bibliography” tab at the top of that website.
Also: carry the number to a trusted bail bondsman in your wallet at all times. Trust me.