Author Interview: Brandon Applegate

a bookshelf with different sized boxes; text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Mostly paperback. I like the flexibility of being able to bend it, shove it into spaces, etc. Most of my paperbacks look like they’ve been through a war, haha. These days, though, ebooks are more convenient because I can read in bed while my wife sleeps without turning on the lights. 

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Horror! I have to make myself read outside of the horror genre. It’s always been that way for me. 

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

I mean, I remember my parents reading Little Golden Books to me when I was five or so. The Monster At The End Of This Book, the one with Grover and he’s terrified of getting to the end of the book because there’s supposed to be a monster there, and every time you turn the page he tries harder and harder to stop you from doing it again, was a big hit for me. Turns out Grover himself was the monster at the end of the book. This turned out to be my favorite horror trope, too.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Probably Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz, although only a few of the stories still stick with me. It was mainly the drawings by Stephen Gammell that hit me. I’m very visual like that. I love an illustrated horror book. And those drawings are INTENSE for a kid’s book. It was like a little piece of contraband that got passed around when I was in school—like if the grownups knew what was inside it and not just the age range on the cover, it would get taken away. I used the rent it from the school library until my aunt (who had a massive hardback horror collection herself) bought me the whole set for, I think, a birthday.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I tried to start a whole bunch of times but never stuck with it long enough to find a voice until my late twenties. I think it was being a first-time dad that did it. There’s so much fear that comes with that situation, and because I write horror stories mostly, I finally had something to say.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

Reading makes me want to write. Almost nothing forces me to get in front of a keyboard like being genuinely moved by a piece of fiction. And yes, most of the time if I can’t write, it means I’m in a reading slump.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I’m incredibly proud of my debut collection, Those We Left Behind and Other Sacrifices. It’s made up of stories I wrote before and during quarantine and contains stories in a number of genres from dark fantasy, to body horror, to magical realism. 

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Yup, my debut collection, Those We Left Behind and Other Sacrifices, came out on November 23, 2021 and is available on Amazon and you can get signed copies on my website, bapplegate.com.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one collection. More to come soon, hopefully.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I mostly write horror, but I also dabble in fantasy, magical realism, and adventure. 

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Almost entirely in my head unless there’s something that’ll make me sound dumb if I write it wrong. I focus on character more heavy than any kind of technical detail, usually, because I find that, on most occasions when I explain how a technical system works in a story, I end up cutting it anyway. Research really only serves the purpose of making sure your characters sound competent, so I only usually do enough for that.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

For a first draft, I’m not a planner. I throw in every detail I can as I run with the plot. That gives me a lot of things that can be important later, lots of Chekhov’s guns, and later I go back and take out the ones I didn’t fire and emphasize the ones I did. 

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

For my first collection, I chose to self-publish. I had a whole bunch of stories I’d written that I believed in (still do) but that had seen little success in traditional publishing, and I wanted to put them out there and let people see them alongside each other. Context is everything. When you submit a story to an anthology, they’re not just looking at some objective quality standard and everything above a certain line gets in. They’re looking at fit with the other stories they’ve selected, tone, a ton of different factors, most of which you as the author can’t control. This is a fine thing! That’s how you put out a good anthology or magazine! But I wanted to bypass that gate and get my work out where people could see it. In the future, that’ll probably be my methodology. I’d love to be successful in traditional publishing, so I’ll continue to submit stories and keep my fingers crossed. And if I have something I believe in that isn’t getting traction, I’ll find a way to get it out there.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Definitely nothing in horror! No thank you, please! Honestly, I’d probably go for something with plenty of silliness or good food, like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (I’d love to try a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster and tool around in a ship with an improbability drive), or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series (magical swords, comfortable living, and REALLY good-sounding food—when you’re not dealing with the odd warlord attack). 

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I have several. This is my downfall. I always start a bunch and then it takes me forever to finish them. I have two novel/novella projects and something like four short stories I’ve started. Somebody, stop me.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

The character of Merle from my story “The Last Days of the Old Man” is a character I love to pieces. He’s an old cowboy type with a weird, magical, dangerous past who is just trying to retire in peace, running his bookstore. I identify with that pretty strongly. 

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Whatever I’ve finished most recently. I try to get better with everything I do. And by “better” I mean more to my own liking. The most recent thing I finished and submitted was a short called “Ants Go Marching,” and I think it may be the pinnacle of my family horror stories. You won’t find it in this collection, though. Maybe the next one.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I’ve only written one love story, about a man who’s a shift foreman in a coal mine who is in a secretive relationship with a member of his crew. It’s a love story in that the romance exists, but you don’t get to see much of it because the mining crew disappears at the very beginning of the story, and it’s really about the lengths that the foreman will go to to find his lover. 

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Sometimes, but there absolutely cannot be lyrics. My favorite writing soundtrack this year has been “Breathing” by Electric Youth, which is actually the soundtrack to a movie that never got made. It reminds me of some great old 80s/90s horror soundtracks like Poltergeist.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

The cover of my book is actually an original oil on canvas I commissioned from artist Christopher Castillo Díaz that illustrates a scene from one of my stories. The guy in the spacesuit is named Marcus. I’ll let you read the story to find out about the kid.

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21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

I can’t give just one piece of advice. So here’s a few, rapid-fire: Keep going. Seek community. Read. 

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I entered a microfiction contest once, and placed high up in the first round and got to move on to the second round! I was pretty happy about that. Then I got to round two and froze up and couldn’t write the piece. I ended up dropping out. I am awful with pressure. There’s only so much I can stand before my brain just freezes and I toss whatever it is I’m working on. I don’t really do contests much anymore, and I try to stay away from tight deadlines. If I’ve got a month to crank out a story, I’ll probably say no. If I’ve got a few months, well, I might be able to work with that. And I’ll probably get it to you early.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Okay, I’m gonna do ten and divide it up between established and indie. Also, this list changes week to week so if you hold me to it, I’ll deny it. Also, no Stephen King because 1) Duh, and 2) everyone in horror says that. Okay, here we go:

Established:

– Paul Tremblay (“A Head Full Of Ghosts” is a visceral gut-punch).

– Stephen Graham Jones (“After The People Lights Have Gone Off” and “Mapping The Interior” are some of my favorite stories ever written).

– Cormac McCarthy (“The Road” made me cry and absolutely nothing does that).

– Toni Morrison (“Beloved” is a beautiful, horrible, haunting novel).

– Shirley Jackson (Many don’t know her beyond Hill House, We Have Always Lived In The Castle, and The Lottery which are brilliant landmarks, but Jackson is a master of questioning social norms and living with the horror of others’ expectations).

Indie:

– Elford Alley (Writes short stories and novels that are as funny as they are heartbreaking. “The Last Night In The Damned House” is my favorite so far.)

– Joshua Marsella (A self-published author who has written some incredibly moving stories in “Scratches” and “Severed”).

– Eric Raglin (“Nightmare Yearnings” is essential reading, and the story “When Mothman Came To Queer Lake” is the best kind of touching).

– Laurel Hightower (Struggled with whether to call Laurel indie or established, but Crossroads is phenomenal and terrifying and heartbreaking).

– Matthew M. Bartlett (A self-published author with a shared universe bent. “Gateways to Abomination” is brilliant as is “Rangel” and most anything else set in Leeds).

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Amazon | Signed copiesGoodreads | Twitter

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