Another great horror author has launched a collection of short stories recently, and I happen to virtually know this guy: AJ Brown worked on the copyedits of Tattered Souls volume 2, in which Misery of Me was published 🙂 So I decided to ask a question on each of the different stories you can find in SOUTHERN BONES. Enjoy ♥
The first story made me go back years, when I used to visit Chincoteague Island with my parents to see the wild horses…what inspired you to write this story?
AJB: Many people have said they thought Wild Horses iss based off the song of the same name by U2. Let me go ahead and clarify, it isn’t. Though I love U2, this story is based on a field along Highway 378 here in South Carolina. There were wooden fence posts that held up the old style metal fence that we often see in rural areas all over the world. There were trees opposite the road and in that vast field that stretched left to right (and vice versa if you drove the opposite direction).
One evening on the way home from work, I saw a horse running loose in the field. It caught my attention to the point of me pulling onto the highway shoulder and just sitting there watching this beautiful creature gallop and trot about without a care in the world. Later that night I sat with pen and paper and out flowed the story of Prince, the king of the Wild Horses.
Unfortunately, that field is no longer there, and niether is the horse (it has since been turned into a well-to-do neighborhood–oh the sins of progress).
If you had a star to wish upon, what would it change in your life?
AJB: I would wish to be smarter. No, seriously. Nothing has ever come easy for me. In school—and even now when I take classes for work—I would spend hours studying and would end up with a low C. I have to really concentrate when trying to learn or I won’t retain it. It’s the one area where I, admittedly, am jealous of my older brother. He can hear or read something once and never forget it. He can look at something for a minute or two and know how to fix it. He is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. I would love to have just a tenth of his intelligence.
I’m an atheist, so I never understand the devotion people have to religion – but if you had written your own bible, what would be its first rule?
AJB: That’s a good question. I can honestly say, I would probably go with something along the lines of the Golden Rule. Love one another, to love your neighbors as you would yourself. Yeah, I know it sounds like a cop out answer, but that would probably be my first rule.
Ugh, I used to have a neighbour that was just as annoying, but in a more creepy way – that man scared everyone in the neighbourhood…who inspired you to write about the woman in the red stucco house?
AJB: The Red Stucco House wasn’t inspired by a person. I had been walking down the hall at work one day and the first line–or at least the first four words–popped into my head. “She loved that house…” It’s not a profound thought, or really anything that would make most people think twice. But, you know yourself, as a writer, anything is fodder for a story. I chewed on the thought for a while, asking why she loved that house so much. In my head I could see a game show host like Bob Barker walking around with the Barker Girls pointing out all the different reasons she loved the house. I took Barker out of the equation and focused on the materialistic aspects and the story just kind of wrote itself.
There’s something utterly scary about extreme weather, as events throughout recent years have proven – have you ever survived a tornado, flood, etc?
AJB: The closest I’ve come to a major storm or weather event was Hurricane Hugo back when I was in my very early twenties. It tore up Charleston and much of the coast and even did significant damage in the little town I lived in at the time, but nothing like the damage seen from Hurricane Sandy or Andrew or Katrina. In South Carolina, most of the really bad storms seem to skirt by us. Every once in a while, though…
It’s always so comforting to have strangers to be the bad guys, but I’ve noticed you take a lot of family as center stage of your horror…care to explain why horror is always more scary when it hits close to home?
AJB: It’s easy to be afraid of strangers. You see someone walking down the street that may be a little shady in appearance and you cross the street hoping he doesn’t cross as well. You’re mindful of the neighborhood you just drove into because the houses may be a little dilapidated and there are people sitting in rickety chairs out on the lawn, smoking and just kind of looking rough, wearing old clothes with holes in them and they may or may not be dirty. It’s easy to see someone with a scowl on their face and have that nervous edge surface along your skin. It’s just easier to be afraid of folks you don’t know.
People tend to trust family and friends, they tend to let their guard down and even overlook some quirks that they would find disturbing–or at the very least uncomfortable–in other people. Most people can’t imagine a loved one hurting them or someone they know. They can’t imagine a spouse would try to kill them, or that their kids could become horrible monsters. Do you think Ted Bundy’s parents thought he would end up being a serial killer?
There’s an old saying, hold your friends close, hold your enemies closer. Even that little proverb suggests that the people that could harm you the most are not the people you love, but enemies or strangers for that matter.
Let me pose the question back to you and the readers out there: Which would be more disconcerting to you, a stranger who kills a child or a mother who kills her child? They are both horrible in their own right, but the mother who kills her own child would be far worse, in my opinion, than a stranger killing a child. The mother with her unconditional love or the stranger with no feelings at all toward the child? To me, the most horrific events happen within the family–and often those things are covered up by other family members, which makes it that much worse.
A.J. Brown is also a storyteller who dabbles in some of the darker words in writing. He is a southern gentleman who enjoys strawberry Kool-aid, Legos and The Walking Dead. Oh wait, did we say southern gentleman? Who are we kidding? He may be southern, but a gentleman? Nah. He’s a country boy from a redneck family. The southern accent is real. His new collection, Southern Bones, can be found online and in print format. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.