Sometimes I get the pleasure of interviewing an author that I am a HUGE fan of his or her work. Bryan Smith is one of those writers. I have some of his work on my physical book shelf. And while I have hundreds...nay, thousands of titles on my various Kindle devices, I own physical copies of books by authors that I really dig. So, hang with him for a few minutes, then perhaps cruise on over to his Amazon Author page and pick a title or two.
What is your favorite part about being a writer?
I enjoy being able to actually make a living from writing. I wrote my first stories at eight yearsold, so it was what I always wanted to do. From the creative side of it, I most enjoy those times when I get so lost in the story that I’m almost not even aware of the physical process of writing. It’s almost as if I’m tapping into an alternate world where the events I’m describing are actually happening. That’s the best.
What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?
When I was younger, I never imagined I might one day become as cynical as I can sometimes be about some aspects of the business.
What can you share about your writing process?
There’s not a lot of structure to it. I don’t adhere to a rigid schedule where I write at the same time for the same amount of time every day. When I’m working on a novel, I do try to write every day. And when I’m doing that, I try to get in at least 1,000 words a day. That’s the only real rule I have.
You have been witness to vast changes in the landscape of literature, care to share your favorite ‘war story’ from the ‘days of yore’??
During those decades of being an aspiring writer, I was always consumed with the idea of either getting published the “right way” or not at all. And by the right way, I mean submitting my work to mass market publishers in the hopes that one of them would see fit to publish it. Self-publishing or “vanity” publishing (as it was then largely known) was not an acceptable substitute. I would never have considered it in those days. I accepted the stigma attached to that approach back then and would sooner have voluntarily cut off a limb than to have gone that route. Eventually, I did get published the way I wanted, more or less. Leisure Books was mass market, but their advances were small. Still, I did get the satisfaction of realizing that lifelong dream, and it was a hell of a kick seeing my books in airports, supermarkets, and all the big book chains. But as we all well know, things have changed dramatically in publishing and Leisure Books wound up being a victim of that (well, that and their own mismanagement, but that’s another story). Now much of the stigma attached to self-publishing has vanished. I’ve been putting out my own digital editions of all my old Leisure books, and the irony is that I’m earning far more from those books now than I ever did when they were originally released.
What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
Traditional publishing needs to accept that their business model is outmoded. They need to drop ebook prices to a level closer to what indies charge. There’s no reason the digital edition of a major new release should cost nearly as much as its hardcover equivalent. There are no printing costs, no warehousing or transportation costs. When I see a new digital release from one of the majors priced at $16.99 or higher, all I can think is, “You greedy assholes.” Indie authors should do whatever they can to ensure the product they’re producing is on a par with that being released by the majors.
The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up? Solutions?
I don’t have a good answer for this one because I don’t participate in the online writing community to any significant degree, other than the occasional interactions with my peers on Facebook and Twitter. I also don’t travel much and only attend the occasional local con. And like many other writers, I’m not the most outgoing guy around, to understate considerably. I do enjoy the company of peers on the rare occasions when that happens. It’s just not often enough to speak authoritatively in any way on this subject.
The social media is…
A potentially great tool for promotion as well as a sometimes fun way of interacting with fans and friends. The downside is it can sometimes suck up your time. But I struggle with keeping myself off the Internet in general when I should be focusing on writing.
Share some information about your work with us: (feel free to be as in depth as you like)
Since I was a teenager, I’ve had a deep affection for gory, low-budget B horror movies, and that has been frequently reflected in my books. I’m happy to leave subtlety and allegory to other writers. There are some who deride the notion of movies as an influence on fiction, but I say the hell with that and to hell with genre snobs in general. You are welcome to your densely, tediously rendered evocations of ghostly apparitions and chill February winds. There’s a place for that, of course, but give me armies of shambling, rotting walking dead, mutant circus freaks, backwoods cannibals, sexy goth chicks, and thrill-seeking spree killers on the loose over that stuff any day. Having said all that, I’ve had numerous books published at this point and my writing has evolved over time. The crime fiction I read has had more and more of an influence on me, as evidenced in particular by The Killing Kind and Depraved. I still deliver the gore when called for, but I’ve become more interested in portraying characters and their motivations in a realistic way, and in a more hard-hitting, almost noir way. This is only natural. You’ve got to grow and get better as you go along, otherwise you’re just treading water, and I don’t want to do that. I have ideas for many different kinds of stories—crime stories, satirical stories, sci-fi stories, horror stories, you name it—and I’m looking forward to exploring as many of them as possible.
What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
Will you read my manuscript? I’d love to never see that one again. And it’s nothing personal. I just don’t have the time, and I’d prefer to devote my leisure reading time to things I actively really want to read.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
I ignore the hell out of that shit.
How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
No, a writer cannot excel at his or her craft if they don’t read. No writer worth anything ever gets anywhere before having first read widely, by which I mean reading classics and contemporary literary fiction in addition to the usual genre stuff. There needs to be a well-rounded foundation before a writer can start producing work other people will want to read or be excited about. I try to read every day, but the amount varies depending on how busy I am with my projects.
When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?
Well, I rely on self-promotion to help make a living, so I’m going to do a certain amount of it every day regardless of whether it occasionally strikes someone as a “nuisance”. I do this mainly on the usual social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. This has been a successful means of marketing for me and I’ll continue to do it as long as that’s the case. The one thing I would never do is go to someone else’s Facebook “wall” and post my promotional materials there. I only do it on my page. If anyone gets tired of seeing those posts in their news feed, so be it. They’re welcome to unfriend me and a few probably do, but the low rate of attrition is nothing against the sales my posts are bringing in.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a novel right now called Go Kill Crazy!, which will be my second novel for Samhain Publishing. My first Samhain book, The Late Night Horror Show, comes out in March.
What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
Probably that I don’t read much horror at all and very little from my contemporaries. It’s not that I don’t like horror. I do. I read horror almost exclusively in my teens and twenties. And I still consider myself a horror fan. I’m always up for a good horror movie. But as a reader I felt compelled to go in other directions for various reasons. I will make exceptions now and then, mostly for Stephen King and a few other long-time favorites.
Amazon recently unveiled their “Author Ranking” list. You stay consistently in the Top 100 for horror writers. Do you see any benefit, or is it much ado about nothing?
Well, if nothing else, I guess it’s an indicator that people are buying my books on a steady basis, but I already know that from looking at my daily sales figures. I do see some benefit to it. There’s a little bit of a viral thing that happens with that. The more you make that list, the more people become aware of you. Same with when a bunch of your books start showing up in those “other people who bought this item also bought this” sections of Amazon book listings.
Any ambition to see your titles on the big screen? If so, which one(s)?
I would love to see any of them adapted to film, but I would particularly like to see film versions of The Killing Kind or Depraved.
What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
Right now I’m reading Riptide Ultra-Glide by Tim Dorsey, the latest in his comedic crime series about a trivia obsessed serial killer and his stoner buddy. After that I’ll read a crime novel by Chelsea Cain called Evil At Heart, the third in a series. Then maybe a couple of Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake’s) Parker novels. In general I read a lot of vintage pulp crime and hardboiled Noir paperbacks from the 40’s and 50’s. And I always read any new Stephen King that comes out.
Links to the paperback and Kindle editions of The Late Night Horror Show, my first novel for Samhain Publishing, due out in March:
The Killing Kind ebook: