Having Words – Bracken MacLeod

Bracken Author Pic

Don’t let his photo scare you, I know for a fact that Bracken MacLeod is one of the nicest guys around. We’ve crossed paths at a few cons, the most recent being last month at WHC in New Orleans.

Bracken MacLeod’s novel, Mountain Home, is creating a buzz, and it should. My most recent review rates it a five star read, as Bracken surpasses all expectations set out for a debut novel.

I messaged him to see if he was interested in doing an interview with me and he graciously accepted.

Here’s what came of my questioning.

Mandy: Let’s start off with “Who is Bracken?” as described by your friends and family. What are five words they might use to describe you?

Bracken: Way to start off with a hard question, Mandy. I suppose it’s difficult because in a lot of ways I’m a different man to different people depending on how close to the center of the Circle of Trust they come. I try to be honest with everyone about who I am, but there are people who get to see a deeper version of me than others for obvious reasons. To answer your question, however, words I’ve heard spoken about me are “sentimental,” “protective,” “obstinate,” “loyal,” and “over-educated.”

Mandy: Do you agree with them?

Bracken: I agree with everything but “over-educated.” I don’t believe in such a thing as over-education. There’s insufficient, sufficient, and exemplary. I feel sufficiently educated most of the time. You can never have too much knowledge.

Mandy: On that note… Could you educate us a little about your writing process? Do you keep to a schedule? How do you ensure you get the words out of your head and on paper/computer screen? Do you write with music or without?

Bracken: I do my best to keep to a schedule. Writing or editing, I don’t get up from my desk (except to limber up every once in a while) when that clock is running. There are a lot of times during the rest of the day that I have ideas and could easily sit down to work, but my day job doesn’t give me that kind of freedom. I carry a notebook everywhere I go so I don’t lose ideas, but it’s that structured time I’ve set aside to write, where it has to happen. The muse can’t come to me when she wants; unchain her from the dungeon and put her to work. Sometimes, I have to whip her.

As a result of my legal education, I’m also a compulsive planner. I create throughlines, outlines, flowcharts and detailed character profiles that I refer to in order to assure that what’s in my head comes out on the page the way I want it to. None of that is written in stone, however. Every once in a while, I realize that something or someone needs to bend or break in order for the story to work. In Mountain Home, for example, Lyn needed to be the one in control of her own fate. But I realized, getting deeper into her character, that she’d gladly take a back seat if a trustworthy person appeared to take the wheel. That meant I had to shoot a couple of characters I hadn’t planned on hurting as badly in order to keep her character arc moving forward. It meant rewriting about a third of the book.

Finally, I do write to music. Usually it’s a single album or artist that I think captures the mood of what I’m doing at that time. It really drives my wife nuts when a single song ends up driving a scene and I put it on repeat for two hours. I wrote Mountain Home almost exclusively to Swallow the Sun’s album, Ghosts of Loss. The Dead Kids so far is being propelled by Ihsahn’s Eremita.

Mandy: As I mentioned above, I just finished reading and reviewing, Mountain Home, and wow, well done. Now I want to read more Bracken… Do you have anything else available at the moment?

Bracken: Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. For people who want more, I have several short stories available in free web magazines like Shotgun Honey and Every Day Fiction and others in anthologies like the Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes and Anthology: Year One. I reprinted a favorite piece of mine called “Conscience of a Camera” as a $0.99 Kindle short because I wanted to present it in a slightly different way than it originally appeared. There are links to everything I’ve published at my blog (http://luxferre.wordpress.com/).

Coming soon, I’ll have stories appearing in Ominous Realities from Grey Matter Press, Shotgun Honey Presents Both Barrels: Reloaded, and Anthology Year Two: Inner Demons Out from The Four Horsemen at Shroud Publishing. I’m incredibly proud of this trio of stories and I’m excited they’re all coming out this year.

Mandy: So now that the first novel’s out of the way, what’s next for you?

Bracken:  First up, I’m working on a novella for Necon E-Books (http://www.neconebooks.com/) tentatively titled, God Bless All the Dead Kids. It’s a departure from MOUNTAIN HOME in a couple of ways. It’s a slower-paced, supernatural story about grief, second chances, and monster children. The way I like to think of it is as my riff on the atmospheric horror of Let the Right One In. 

After that, I’ll be putting together a short story collection reprinting some of the pieces I mentioned in your last question along with a few fresh pieces no one’s ever read before. I’m hoping to see both of those out in 2014 at the latest.

Mandy: Awesome, Ill keep an eye out for those. What about appearances? I know you’ll be attending Anthocon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in November, do you have any other cons or readings planned for this year?

Bracken: This year I went to World Horror Con in New Orleans, ReaderCon, and Necon (I’ll NEVER miss Necon), and that kind of tapped the budget, so I’m afraid I’ll be missing a couple of things I really want to attend like KillerCon and BoucherCon. I’ll likely be at Rock and Shock in Worcester, Massachusetts this October, and as you mentioned, I am already registered for AnthoCon in November (that one is another I’ll never miss if I can help it; it’s a great time with wonderful people). I’d like to set up a couple of readings at some local indie bookstores, but I haven’t got anything squared away yet. I’ll keep that updated on my blog and on the Mountain Home page on Facebook for my tens of fans to track.

Mandy: A few more off topic questions, because I like to do things like that… At least they are still relevant this time. First question: what scares you?

Bracken: Human cruelty scares me. Vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beasties don’t really rev my engine because I know they don’t exist, but there are bad people out there who believe shooting another human being is a proportionate response to bad manners or a way of cementing their political position\religious belief\social supremacy. I’ve seen a lot of up-close violence in my life and it never gets less frightening.

Mandy: Question two, not so serious this time: What’s the one book (well, maybe two or three) you can’t live without?

Bracken: Easy! Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I think it’s a beautifully hopeful book about people trying to preserve goodness in the world. The first time I finished it, I immediately turned back to the first page and started reading it again. I’d also say a short story (since they publish it as a stand alone book, it counts, damn it!) called “Patriotism” (Yūkoku) by Yukio Mishima. I’ve never read anything else about devotion and loyalty that impacted me as much as that.

Mandy: And last one: the world’s ended, zombies roam the streets… What’s your weapon of choice?

Bracken: Another difficult question. If the plague is blood-borne, you definitely want a mid-range distance weapon to avoid splashback. Something easy to find ammo for, with stopping power, and not a lot of need for pinpoint accuracy like a shotgun. But the noise from that might attract the attention of other Zeds. If you can only be turned by dying yourself or through a bite (our comet’s tail/Hell’s-too-full scenario), then definitely an arm’s reach weapon that’s durable, easy to wield, and quiet. Swords blunt and come with risks of self injury if used carelessly. And Max Brooks is full of shit–you’re fooling yourself if you think you can just figure out how to use a Shaolin monk’s spade and you’re fucked indoors. I’m strong, so I’d go for a sturdy mountain climber’s 32 oz. wall hammer with a shotgun backup.


*Be sure to check out the above links to find more of Bracken’s writing and to add “Mountain Home” to your collection of readables. (Available in paperback and ebook format).

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