Brian Kirk

A Journey of the Imagination

Guest on The Darkness Dwells Podcast

Gutted

I was recently a guest on The Darkness Dwells Podcast talking about my latest story in the Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories anthology, why mental illness and creativity are often intertwined, and what makes horror writers some of the happiest people on the planet. I hope you’ll check it out.

CLICK HERE to Listen

While there, be sure to check out the recent episodes from fellow GUTTED contributors Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Damien Angelica Walters, and Ramsey Campbell as well. Enjoy!

I Got Interviewed for GUTTED

I have a new short story titled “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, an anthology comprised of New York Times bestselling authors Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and Ramsey Campbell, and some of the genre’s top emerging voices, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, Mercedes M. Yardley, and more.

Praise for the collection has been extremely high, with many professional critics calling attention to my story in particular, which is certainly nice to see, especially considering the company. Here is the illustration that accompanies the story, followed by a sample of what critics have said:

Splinters

Art by Luke Spooner

“‘Picking Splinters From A Sex Slave’, pulled me/led me/dared me back to the wave of fear and awe and wonder I had upon my initial encounter with words so perfectly placed as to seem alive and moving across the page. In Kirk’s scant few pages of prose, I placed the book down at least four times: to recover, to reflect, to feel. To get it.”
-Unofficial Alan Moore

“Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk really sets the tone for this collection. It’s one of the darkest, saddest stories I have ever read, with the father’s inappropriate humor putting a perfect edge on the drama.”
-Beauty In Ruins

“Which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave”. A story that illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accommodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect.”
-Retrograde A

“One of the strongest stories in the collection, “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” by Brian Kirk. Kirk’s portrayal of a father desperate to help his daughter is at once alarming and moving, leaving you with a lingering disquiet.”
-Eden Royce

“Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters from A Sex Slave” kicked me upside the head, leaving me truly considering the lengths I would travel to help my own daughter.”
-Bleeding Cool

Author and book reviewer A.E. Siraki also had some kind things to say about the story in her review of the book, and offered to interview me to learn what inspired the story. Read The Full Interview Here.

Gutted

Thanks so much to the early readers for their kinds words. It’s a great book that I’m honored to be a part of. CLICK HERE to check it out.

{Guest Post} JG Faherty on His New Novel, The Changeling

I’m pleased to welcome multi-Bram Stoker Award nominated author JG Faherty to my website today, here to talk about his latest novel, a YA sci-fi thriller titled, The Changeling.

As Faherty discusses in his article, he is seeking publication through Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, where readers vote on the books they want to see published. Check out what inspired JG Faherty’s return to YA fiction, where he has experienced much success before, and then CLICK HERE to vote for his latest book and the chance to win advance copies.

Genre, Audiences, & Publishing – An Experiment in Decisions

by JG Faherty

Sometimes, you can go back home.

My guest blog today is all about returning to my roots.

Back in 2010, after several years of having my short stories published in various magazines, ezines, and anthologies, I had my first novel published. That was Carnival of Fear, a YA horror novel. I’d written it well before that, but submitting to publishers is a long and nail-biting process. My submission strategy was pretty straightforward and standard: send out query letter with synopsis and chapters. Wait for response and hope they ask for full manuscript. Wait for response and hope for acceptance.

After several rejections, it got accepted.

A few months later, while I was finishing my second novel, that publisher went out of business. So I had to begin the submission process all over again. That book was Ghosts of Coronado Bay, a YA ghost story. Ghosts scored me a 3-book deal with a publisher. Following that, I entered into a multi-book agreement with another publisher, who ended up putting out 7 novellas and a novel of mine.

So, from 2011 to 2016, I never had to write a query letter or pitch a book.

Then, my most recent publisher went out of business (it’s the industry, not me, I swear!). So suddenly I find myself in the position of putting together queries, getting pitches ready.

And this is where the whole returning to my roots idea comes into play.

My first two novels were YA; one straight horror, one a paranormal romance. Every book after that – 9 novellas, 3 novels – were firmly in the adult horror or at least paranormal thriller genre.

With my latest novel, I’ve returned to YA. The Changeling is a science fiction thriller about a teenage girl who is accidentally exposed to a military weapon and gains some unusual powers.

It’s also a homecoming of sorts for me because I’m venturing into new territory, publishing-wise. Back when I was trying to sell Carnival of Fear, I’d never pitched or submitted to publishing houses before. With The Changeling, I’m testing the waters of Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. This is a new direction in publishing, not only for me, but for the industry. Readers get to preview the first couple of chapters online, and then decide if they want to see the book get published. Based on votes and the opinions of Amazon’s editing team, a few books get selected each month to receive a publishing contract from Amazon.

The benefit to the readers? If a book they voted for gets selected, each person who voted receives a pre-publication copy of the ebook.

For me, it’s like starting over again. YA novel, no experience with this facet of the publishing industry. It’s kind of scary, but also fun. Of course, it will be more fun if my book gets picked up, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have learned a few things and then I can start submitting to traditional publishers. Another homecoming. As a writer, there is always something new around the corner, and yet you can’t help but remember the old adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you want to read the excerpt from The Changeling, you can find it here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3SNA1TEAOMD0F, and vote if you like it. There are other great books there as well – horror, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers; adult and YA. You can nominate as many books as you want, although only 2-3 per week. And Amazon tracks if you actually read the excerpt, just so writers don’t screw around with the system.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the talented JG Faherty and his catalogue of work.

First Review of My Latest Story

New story alert! My next work of fiction is coming out June 24th in the anthology, GUTTED: Beautiful Horror Stories, alongside some of my favorite authors, including Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, John FD Taff, Josh Malerman and more. The line up is ridiculous, and I feel fortunate to be included.

gutted

In addition to feeling fortunate, I was feeling anxious about how my story would stack up against this all-star line up. The editors gave me a boost of confidence when they placed my story, “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave,” in the lead spot (and yes, the story is every bit as harrowing as it sounds). And then the first advance review hit, which boosted my confidence even more.

Here’s a snippet:

Which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave.” That story illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accommodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect.

“Splinters” is followed by Lisa Mannetti and then Neil Gaiman. Both stories are good — not pedestrian, but are overshadowed by the excellence of Kirk’s piece.

Whew. Big sigh of relief. Looks like I might actually belong.

Here’s a description of the book, followed by a link to the full review. It’s going to be a doozy. I hope you’ll check it out.

A series of stories that explores the tension between beauty and horror, wonder and terror, sorrow and transcendence. It’s a book of scars, regret and loneliness. But through it all, it’s a book where hope can still exist and beauty can still thrive. This is GUTTED: Beautiful Horror Stories.

CLICK HERE to read the full review.

Get to Know a Bram Stoker Award Nominee

Soon after the Bram Stoker Award final ballot was announced, the governing association asked for me to complete an interview so that people could get to know a nominee. Time constraints may preclude these interviews from being posted, but since mine was already completed, they encouraged me to go ahead and share it on my own.

So, here it is: my thoughts on having We Are Monsters nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Please enjoy.

stokercon

Get to Know a Nominee, Brian Kirk

HWA: What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel We Are Monsters fits into (or helps give shape to) that ideal?

BK: Regardless of genre, my favorite stories are those that expand my idea of what’s possible and help me better relate to my predicament on this enigmatic planet.

When it comes to horror, I gravitate towards stories that make me feel vulnerable in some vital way. As humans, we construct these elaborate fantasies designed to make us feel safe. Governments, religions, borders, pension plans. We don’t like to face the fact that we’re all hurtling towards some unfathomable death that could come at any moment. But I find beauty in that stark confrontation. It’s what awakens me to the present moment and the magic of our existence.

You can’t have light without dark. There is no beauty without heartbreak. My goal in writing is to explore the inextricable duality between light and dark, to shine a compassionate eye on the evils that breed heroism, and to expose the howling void that surrounds us all.

HWA: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

BK: My best writing comes from a type of waking dream state. It’s basically when I fall into an immersive daydream that silences my rational mind and taps into my subconscious (at least I think that’s what is happening, I really have no idea). This mindless dream state is where the story unfolds, and my job is simply to bear witness and try and get it down on the page as clearly as I possibly can.

I, therefore, approach writing as though I’m preparing myself for bed. I prefer to do it in the same place, or type of place (a quiet room with a hard surface and minimal potential for distraction). I prefer to do it when all my paid freelance work is done, so that it’s not nagging the back of my mind. And then, like lying down to sleep, when I sit down to work I trust that my mind will shut off and the dreams will begin. This doesn’t always happen, of course. Just as we all have restless nights. But it’s my general approach.

When I’m stuck, it’s typically because I’ve involved my rational mind in some annoying way. It’s when I’m consciously trying to “write well” rather than just let the words flow naturally. This quote from Thornton Wilder resonates with me, “If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.”

Editing involves more of the rational/critical mind than composing, but I still consider it a creative process. I spend as much time rewriting as I do writing the initial draft. Every pass seems to help flesh out character and setting, while cutting extraneous fluff. There is a point of diminishing returns, however. It’s like tightening a screw. At first there’s such little resistance the screw turns easily. Then, as it gets closer to the end point, each turn produces a satisfying tug, like it’s all coming together. But go too far and you strip the grooves.

HWA: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

BK: First, don’t listen to me, as I’m as clueless as anyone else. But, if forced, I’d say the following:

Never settle for something that feels safe. Always strive to surprise yourself. Try and make yourself laugh, gross yourself out, make yourself mad. Write stuff you’d never want your parents to read, then send it out. Write what you fear is way too strange or personal to be published and then make it as good as it can be. Know that everyone secretly believes their work sucks but they keep doing it anyway. Rebel against your inner critic.

HWA: If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

BK: What I’m looking forward to the most is spending time among fellow horror enthusiasts. When I started writing horror fiction, I did not know a single other person who shared the same compulsion. At times, I felt alienated. At times I wondered what was wrong with me (as did many of my family and friends!). There is a particular feeling of belonging that only comes when surrounded by fellow horror writers. It’s a feeling of coming home. That’s what I can’t wait for.

As far as the awards go? Art is so subjective. At times I feel like it’s silly to objectify something as subjective as art with an award. And the process is impossible to perfect, so “worthy” pieces undoubtedly go overlooked, often making people feel cynical or dejected.

The positive effect I believe awards can have, however, is to bring more attention and potential readership to a particular genre, or books in general. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to tout the work of other authors that we’ve really enjoyed, so that when new readers are drawn in by an award, they become exposed to a host of other fantastic authors whose work they may enjoy as well.

HWA: What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to? 

BK: The thing that scares me the most is the thing I work hardest to accomplish, which is the collapse of my own personal identity. This includes both how I view myself, and how I view my place in the world.

I am horrified to think that one day my core identity will be stripped away and/or that certain perceived talents which help construct my sense of purpose will be diminished.

I’m frightened to think that the people closest to me may change in such dramatic ways as to sever the relationships I hold most dear.

I am terrified to think that I am nothing more than a mistake of random evolution and that nothing I think or do has any importance or permanence whatsoever.

So I work very hard to lose my attachment to all of these thought structures and free myself from the fear they bring. These are all themes I tend to explore through my writing.

HWA: What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about? 

BK: That changes all the time. I have fairly eclectic tastes and enjoy all types of fiction. The best way to see what I like to read would be to friend me on Goodreads and peruse my bookshelf. I’m always looking for good book recommendations as well. Specifically, however, here are my favorite reads from last year (despite many titles being published previously) listed alphabetically.

  1. A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
  2. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Read my essay on it HERE)
  3. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  4. Close Reach by Jonathan Moore
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  6. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  7. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  8. Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones
  9. Slade House by David Mitchell
  10. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Thanks for the interview, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Vegas!

If interested in purchasing a copy of my Stoker Award nominated work, you can do so through any of the following outlets (and I’ll thank you kindly):

Amazon

Barnes and Noble 

Kobo 

{Guest Post} Catherine Cavendish on The Birmingham Poltergeist

It’s an honor to welcome back to my website esteemed author of Gothic horror, Catherine Cavendish, this time with an eerie story about a widespread haunting that I had never heard of before (and I’m a sucker for these kind of stories). She’s making the rounds to get the word out about her latest novel, The Devil’s Serenade, which has received much early praise. I hope you’ll check it out.

Meanwhile, enjoy this little-known story about a string of houses that all experienced the same paranormal assault.  Take it away, Catherine..

Continue reading

2015 Bram Stoker Awards Ballot

Had a hard time sleeping last night. Partly due to our dog using my legs as a hammock. But it was also due to a realization I had around 2 AM that the final Bram Stoker Awards ballot was being announced today, and We Are Monsters had a shot of making the list.

Well, the lack of sleep was worth it. I am pleased to announce that my debut novel, We Are Monsters, has made the final Bram Stoker Awards ballot for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

Nominated for Superior Achievement in a First Novel

The reception We Are Monsters has received so far has floored me. Having it blurbed by authors whom I’ve long admired, including Mercedes M. Yardley, John F.D. Taff, Jonathan Moore, Bob Ford, and Brian Keene.

Receiving stellar reviews from some of the horror industry’s most trusted review sites.

Having it wind up on several best of the year lists.

Having it optioned for film development by the producers of The Messengers, Role Models, and Lone Survivor!

And now to have it nominated for a Bram Stoker Award just about pushes me over the edge.

I almost quit on this novel. Like any other writer out there, I feared it was terrible and nearly threw it away. And insecurities still haunt me. I guess they always will. But I’ll never quit on the work. Because I now know, no matter how terrible it may seem at the time, that if you keep grinding, and pushing, and dreaming as large as you can, good things are bound to come from it. And that’s a wonderful lesson to learn.

Thanks to all who have supported and guided me along this amazing journey. And congrats to the other authors on the Stoker ballot! See you in Vegas!

Anyone interested in picking up a copy can do so HERE. And I’ll thank you very kindly.

We Are Monsters Goes Hollywood

There has been a ton of work going on behind the scenes, and I am happy to report two exciting developments that have resulted from it.

1) I have accepted an offer of representation from literary agent Lane Heymont with The Seymour Agency. I was referred to Lane through another writer whom I respect very much, and am thrilled to have him on my side. We are currently working to put the final touches on my latest novel, the first book in a trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers that we plan to submit to publishers very soon. Our first order of business, however, brings me to announcement #2.

2) Lane played an integral role in helping negotiate and finalize an offer to option the film rights to my debut novel, We Are Monsters. That’s right, We Are Monsters is in the process of being made into a movie! The production team that purchased the rights has an impressive list of film credentials, including The Messengers starring Kristen Stewart, Role Models starring Paul Rudd, and Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg.

 The MessengersRole ModelsLone_Survivor_poster

We are currently selecting screenwriters to help adapt the screenplay. Some exciting writers/directors have expressed interest, and I look forward to announcing names as soon as I’m able.

I continue to be amazed by the attention We Are Monsters has received, and am excited for the potential of it reaching new audiences through the big screen. I won’t lie, I’m also just a tad excited to see these words: Based on the novel written by Brian Kirk.

WeAreMonsters_Print Thank you to everyone who has helped keep the momentum going: readers, friends, and industry professionals. This is a nugget of proof that anything is possible. Stay tuned.

Best Horror Novels of 2015

2015 was a special year for me. It marked the release of my debut novel, We Are Monsters, which is something I’ve been dreaming about most of my life. What makes it even sweeter is the warm reception the book has received from readers and critics alike.

As the year ended, and reviewers began to create their “Best of the Year” lists, I was honored to find We Are Monsters on many of them. Here are links to several “Best Horror Novels of 2015” lists that included We Are Monsters alongside many of my favorite reads from the year as well.

I read 39 books in 2015, although most of them were published in year’s prior. I’m always playing catch up. Here are my top ten favorite reads from last year, listed alphabetically.

  1. A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
  2. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Read my essay on it HERE)
  3. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  4. Close Reach by Jonathan Moore
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  6. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  7. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  8. Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones
  9. Slade House by David Mitchell
  10. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

There are many exciting developments going on behind the scenes right now that should make 2016 another exciting year. Stay tuned.

A Recap of Reviews

I am humbled and immensely pleased with the amount of (mostly positive) press We Are Monsters has received so far. Here is a recap of some of the reviews that have been written about my debut novel, starting with my personal favorite – a short and sweet one from industry icon, Brian Keene.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 7.54.23 AM

Professional Reviews

  • “Not only is this one of the most impressive horror debuts I have ever read, I am confident in placing We Are Monsters firmly in the number one spot for the best horror novel of 2015. I was absolutely blown away.” – The Horror Bookshelf (Click for Review)
  • “It takes not a reviewer, critic or literary analyst to see this writer has a most brilliant future ahead of him. I encourage anyone who is a fan of horror that resonates within the psyche long after the fact to embark upon this gem of a read.” – Horror News (Click for Review)
  • “A complex telling with stories within stories, you’ll find that you can’t put it down. I can’t praise this book enough!” – Horror Novel Reviews (Click for Review)
  • “A tightly woven tale from an author who has a heart, and that makes me excited to see what else Kirk has in store for us. The whole story will have you examining the human race as never before.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror (Click for Review)
  • We Are Monsters is a knockout punch for Kirk and I think this is a book–and an author–that we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the future.” – Shotgun Logic (Click for Review)
  • “Cleverly told. Psychologically complex.” – Scarlet’s Web (Click for Review)

Reader Reviews

Reader reviews can be found at Amazon and Goodreads.

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read and review the book. I’m happy to see how many of you have enjoyed it.

 

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