Welcome to our weekly feature,
If darker stories attract you, this week’s author AJ Brown won’t disappoint! On his website “Type AJ Negative,” AJ has categories such as “The Donor Center” and “The Blood Bank,” which only hint at what you’ll find within. So, check under the bed and lock your doors, then grab a cup of coffee or pour yourself a cold brew — beverages are always on the house — pull up a chair, and see if you’re brave enough to take a walk “Along the Splintered Path” – the name of AJ’s latest horror collection!
AJ, at what age did you first realize you wanted to write books and how/when did you first share this ambition with “the world”? I’m a late bloomer. I hated writing in school—I wasn’t very good at it. I’ve looked at some of the papers I wrote from back then and they make me want to vomit.
I guess it was in 2003—at the age of 33—when my wife, Cate, said I should try and get something published, that I thought about actually putting my work out to the world.
Who in your life and what authors you read had the most influence over your decision to write? My wife has had the most influence on me—she never lets me quit, even when I’m frustrated and want to. As far as writers go, Stephen King, Iain Banks, Roald Dahl. For someone who writes darker things, I’ve never been a fan of Lovecraft or Barker, though I enjoyed Poe.
What influence, if any, has your career choice had on your choice of writing subjects? None at all. Funny thing is my career choices and the jobs I’ve had have had very little bearing on anything I’ve ever written.
Your most-recently published book is a collection of short stories called “Along the Splintered Path.” Please tell us about these stories – what are they about and why you grouped them together. There are three stories in ATSP and they are all, essentially paths chosen and the results from doing so.
‘Phillip’s Story’ is really two stories in one and is about a homeless man who comes into some money and what he does with it. It’s also about two brothers who choose to do something and the end result is how Phillip comes into the previously mentioned money.
‘‘Round These Bones’ is about a guy who tries to rekindle his marriage only to have his wife ask for a divorce. Heartbroken and angry, he leaves their cabin in the woods and… well, I guess you could say driving fast in the mountains is always a bad decision.
‘The Woodshed’ is a story that hits close to home for me. It’s based on something my father told me when I was 14. It’s raw abuse and just how much can one kid take before he snaps. But there’s more to it than just that. The kid’s brother is a head case and the only way to deal with it, is to go home and face the demons of the past.
These stories fit together and progress from bad to really bad to uh oh, someone’s in trouble. If you look at life, the way it is in reality, everything you do is a decision and each one you make leads you down a different path, than if you would have made a different decision. Some of those paths can be as smooth as silk, while others are quite splintered.
To say that you’re a “prolific writer” of short stories is, we believe, a bit of an understatement. How many short stories have you published and what appeals to you about short stories as opposed to novels? Stories published: 176. Just a handful. I’ve written nearly 900 stories in the last ten years or so.
What’s appealing about the short story is that they can be however long I want them to be and I don’t have to try and write a novel. Really, I don’t. I’ve had four short stories turn into novels by the time I was done with them. For me, the short story has become kind of a lost art. So many folks write all action in their short stories. They forget to develop characters and scenes. And I understand that. We live in a ‘Fast food’ society where we want everything quickly and we don’t want to wait for it. What I would like to do is change that mentality. I want people to enjoy the short story again.
Think about how poorly short story collections do, even at Amazon. I want to change that. I want folks to love the short story again, like they did back when newspapers and magazines actually published them.
Do you have any other collections underway and what can you tell us about them — can you share some hints? Yes, I do. Southern Bones is in the works as we speak. The stories—13 of them—have been chosen and are out at a couple of readers right now. The cover art is being worked on and I have a tentative release date, which hopefully will be in August. The name tells everything. All the stories have some sort of southern tone to them, some a little more than others and they’re all dark, but honestly, I can’t say they are all horror, or really if any of them are horror, per say. The stories range from an overzealous religious man who thinks he is a god to tornadoes to baseball to prophets and even a story about a man who hears the devil screaming and pretty much everything in between.
Oh, and there will be a teaser at the end of Southern Bones for an upcoming novel. You’ll want to check it out.
Most, if not all, of your short stories appear to be in the horror genre. Is there another genre you’d like to try and what attracts you about that genre? I’ve dabbled in other genres, humor and fantasy and even a little bit of lit-fiction, but I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of humanity. Not that I’m all that dark of a person, but it’s hard to scare someone. It’s hard to make someone laugh as well. For me, it’s not about scaring folks so much as it is about making them feel the characters. Sometimes I succeed. Other times, not so much.
If you could pick another author’s character and use him or her as a character in a novel, who would that be and in what type of setting would you write about him or her? Oh wow, what a question. You have me scratching my head here.
Hmm… I think I would choose Edward Cullen or whatever his name is from that Twilight series my wife loves. And I would put him in something involving, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. Just saying.
You poll your readers and ask them to list five words that best describe your writing. What top five words do they list? I should try that. Thanks for the idea.
Let’s see: Dark. Graphic. Inviting. Casual (I love that word when referring to writing). Emotional.
Are you a dog person or cat person and what kind of canine or feline assistance with your writing do you receive, if any? Both, but for now we have only a cat, who occasionally hops onto my desk while I am working. She likes to chase the ‘mouse’ on the screen. That’s about all the help I get from her.
You’re admitted to heaven and you decide to throw a dinner party to celebrate your arrival. What five people, living or dead, are on your guest list? This is an interesting question. I’m a religious person, and not too long ago reaffirmed my faith in God. The first of these people would be Jesus. I would be in His house, after all. The other four would be my grandfather, my dad, my wife, Stephen King and Jim Morrison. Wow, can you imagine the story ideas that could come from that dinner?
Where can you and your books be found – please share your links.
AJ Brown Author Biography: Somewhere in the south sits a tired man at a tired computer. His fingers are nubs, worn down from years of tap-tapping on a keyboard (one that’s been replaced a baker’s dozen amount of times). His back is hunched and his eyes are rimmed pink, the whites riddled with red squiggly lines. On his shoulder is a little dude who constantly whispers in his ear, ‘hey write this.’ And he listens.
This is life for A.J. Brown. One day, when the little dude is no longer whispering, A.J. may get some sleep. Until then, he pens stories in hopes of making the little man go away.
You can find his short story collection, Along the Splintered Path, at Amazon.
The E-Pub PUB appreciates AJ taking time from dripping more blood on his keyboard to share his darker side with us!