CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
BJS: About the time I was five and I had a nightmare that I was walking through a tall grassy meadow and I stopped to find a butterfly on my hand and I lowered my face down to get a good look at it and it opened its mouth to show me a neat little row of tiny sharp teeth. Well that, and the fact that I intravenously fed myself every horror movie I set my sights on mostly Freddy and Jason, “Mother-Nature gone bad” movies like Kingdom Of The Spiders, It’s Alive, Island Claws, and the like. I didn’t have many friends but the friends that I did have were in the books I read which were mostly comic books and those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, as well.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
BJS: If I workout before I write, I get up at 5 am to let my dogs outside and then have breakfast but I don’t start writing until 7:15 and I go until 2 p.m. If I’m not working out, then I start right after breakfast.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
BJS: Yes. I think it’s all about the music. I listen to rock music, mostly Metallica, CCR, Godsmack, Disturbed, Shinedown but if there’s a new episode of King Falls AM then I’ll listen to it while I’m writing. I’m also writing everything out in pencil before I bleed on the word processor. I don’t know many authors who write everything out in short hand but I always use pencil because my scribbling looks like a doctor’s.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
BJS: A little bit of both. I like short stories because I’ve always considered short stories to be like a short visit with a good friend. You want to stay there for a while but you know you can’t. Novels are like a long visit with a dying family member that won’t end no matter how much you beg and plead. I’ve done more short stories than novels but I hope to change that sometime soon.
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
BJS: It’s the only flu bug my brother (the author J.R. Smith) and I enjoy having. We like different things when it comes to horror. I like my horror movies like I like my coffee: strong and dark; zombies, ghosts, creatures and as much blood and gore as insanely possible. He likes his gore but up to a certain degree before he feels uncomfortable about it.
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
BJS: I’ve tried using outlines but every time I do one I go off it so I just gave up on them. I let the characters take me where they want to go. If I were to have something happen in a chapter, my character ends up telling me, “We’re gonna do this instead so just shut up and write all of this down” and I do what they say. I’m whipped when it comes to my characters but it irks the hell out of me when they don’t talk to me.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
BJS: I didn’t start writing stories until I was 13 and the only reason I did it was because I was too shy to talk to people so I poured my thoughts and feelings on paper to cure my boredom in between classes. It wasn’t until I published my first short story at the age of 26 and although it was good enough to be an audio file (thanks to the kind folks at Drabblecast for doing so) I thought it could’ve been written better. I began to take it even more seriously because I knew I had to continue my writing career.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
BJS: I think there are two things that make a good horror story. 1: if you have a character that resonates with the reader (single mother making ends meet, teenager dealing with personal issues or a person dealing with the death of a loved one) then you’ll have their attention because there’s something about that character that connects with them. When I wrote my novella Dark Avenues, the fact that Kevin Perkins was still doing the headstone rubbings because of his wife was based on the things I’ve continued after my mother’s death. I still cook certain foods we enjoyed, I still watch certain movies and shows that we enjoyed watching together and I still go to certain restaurants we used to enjoy going to and there are probably a lot of people who do the same thing. 2: taking an everyday situation and turning it upside down. Whether it be between breaking down on a lonely stretch of highway, recovering from a breakup, recovering from an unexpected loss, something is always happening to magnify that into a life-or-death situation. When you think about it, all horror stories start out with everyday situations.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
BJS: I’m writing some new short stories for a collection I hope to get off the ground soon and I’m also polishing a zombie novel in between. This spring I’ll be starting on a dark noir novel I’ve already written the outline for about a year ago. I just recently finished a short-story collaboration with the wonderful and talented author Lenore Sagaskie; it’s my first ever with another author but I’m really starting to enjoy it.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
BJS: I’m currently reading The Four Sworn series by Lenore Sagaskie. After that I’ll read A Hell Of A Woman by Jim Thompson, Stinger by Robert McCammon, A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
BJS: A toss between Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and The Complex by Brian Keene.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?
BJS: I have many favorites but I’ll give you my top four:
Night Of The Living Dead (’68 not 90’)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
Kingdom Of The Spiders
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
BJS: I never really put much thought into that. Sorry.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
BJS: I am, and always will be, a Bud Light man.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
BJS: Hemingway because he always wrote with passion and he always had a way with his characters. If I had a roundtable of authors I’d like to have a beer with, I’d have to say Hemingway, Poe and Ketchum so that I can pick their brains.
Brian J. Smith is the author of numerous short stories featured in numerous e-zines, magazines and anthologies in both the horror and mystery genres. He currently resides in Chauncey, Ohio with his brother and four dogs where he cooks the hottest food known to man, doesn’t own enough books, watches Ohio State football. He can be found on Instagram under buckeyefan37 and on Twitter under BrianJSmith913.