Influenced by such notables as Stephen King, among others, Brian Keene is a horror writer who hopes to bring his readers a release from the horrors of today’s society. His latest book, The Conqueror Worms, is set to release in May. He shares with Genre Chick Alethea Kontis, his earliest memories of horror writing and the latest on his forthcoming works.
Alethea Kontis: What do you think is the appeal of horror?
Brian Keene: Our daily lives are filled with real monsters that fly airplanes into buildings and abduct eleven-year-old girls from behind car washes and butcher their pregnant wives and strap their own children with bombs and send them to blow up other children. These are dark times that we live in, and people want an escape. People are scared of everyday life, and sometimes, it’s good to curl up with a make believe monster, rather than the one outside your door. Make believe monsters offer us a release valve–an escape from the very real terrors that surround us.
AK: What got you into horror? What prompted you to start writing it?
BK: Like most boys, I loved monsters and scary stuff. Unlike other boys, I just never outgrew it. My first introduction was probably the same as everyone else: comic books and kids’ movies and kids’ books, and then graduating to adult novels and R-rated movies (although I still read comic books).
I’ve written as long as I can remember. My mother has stories I wrote when I was five years old. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my parent’s living room, watching Sesame Street and writing and drawing a little comic book where stick figure superheroes fought a stick figure monster. First time I got in serious trouble at school was over a story I wrote for Halloween, something about giant, mutant beavers eating a bunch of loggers. It was pretty graphic–especially for a fifth-grade assignment. Needless to say, the teacher didn’t like it.
AK: Who are your influences?
BK: Well, I don’t think we ever truly stop being influenced, but in general, my literary influences include Steve Gerber, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Richard Laymon, Graham Masterton, Robert E. Howard, William Hope Hodgson, Skipp & Spector, J.M. DeMatteis, Jim Starlin, and Alan Moore. And, of course, like every other writer my age, Stephen King. King has had such a huge impact on an entire generation of writers. He really is another Twain or Hemingway.
Cinema-wise, the original Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, and Phantasm. All three films were strong influences. I saw them at an early age and they had a profound impact on me.
AK: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
BK: As embarrassing as it sounds, The Amityville Horror. I read it at a very early age and it scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t sleep without a light on for weeks. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot also really messed me up–but in a good way.
AK: What’s next on your writing agenda?
BK: My post-apocalyptic/Lovecraftian/giant monster tribute, The Conqueror Worms, hits stores on May 2nd. As we’re doing this interview, I’ve just finished my next novel, Ghouls. That will be out in 2007 from Leisure. Other novels in the works (for various publishers) include: Ghost Walk, The Labyrinth, Alone, Love and Worms, and a few more I can’t talk about yet.