The Dames are pleased to welcome author Randall Brooks to our blog today.
Randall, as you know, I recently read and reviewed Conversations at the Party. I must admit, I’ve never read a book like that before and compared you to the literary world’s version of Quentin Tarantino. You definitely write “outside the box”. I wonder, do you deliberately do this or is this just your own unique style?
You know, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought about that. Glad you asked, that is a good question. Oh, and let me say first off that I find the comparison you made to Tarantino to be one of the nicest, possibly the greatest compliments I think I’ve ever gotten about my writing, and I am very humbled by it, thanks. Now, back to the question, I don’t think I necessarily write outside of the box on purpose as much as just that since my style is what it is, it just comes out that way.
I found it quite unique, with a lot of psychological twists. Tell us about your latest book.
Well, the most recent book I’ve had published is my third collection of short stories, “The Maze”. It’s another collection of some more psychological mystery thrillers, and then capped off with a non-fiction piece at the end dealing with politics and religion. I think that may be a sign of some kind that I may need to maybe take a break from writing all these genre thrillers for a while.
I admire that you’re such a prolific short story writer. I find it much easier to write a full-length novel than one short story! Can you share a little about what you are working on now or what’s coming next?
Well, I’ve been slowly but surely putting together what is going to be my next novel, a comedic fictionalization of my band Von Wyck, a band that I formed in my high school days and worked with for a few years after I graduated. I’ve also already done the outline for my next short story collection, Phases of Travel, and already have one or two stories completed for it.
I love comedy. That sounds like a fun book. How long have you been writing?
I first started writing short stories sometime around my 8th grade year of middle school, back in 1981, and I started writing lyrical poems later during my high school years. Now, when I look back on a lot of the stuff I wrote back then, I don’t know if it actually qualifies as writing or not, lol. But I can see where I had the potential, and a lot of those older stories I’ve recently been able to go back and re-work some of them, and they are now featured in some of my published short story collections.
As I tell people who are just starting out, the best thing you can do is just keep writing, no matter how good or how bad, and it doesn’t matter what you write on. Use paper, receipts, paper towels, toilet paper, paper bags, anything that you can write on. I know that has definitely helped shape me as a writer, constantly going at it, getting in practice any chance I could get.
Sounds like you got an early start. I agree about practicing writing. I feel, well hope, my writing has improved over time and with practice. Who or what has been your biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Oddly enough, I know the typical answer would be naming some fellow authors but mainly my biggest influences and inspirations have been some very good filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, and John Carpenter. Oh, sure, there have been some really great authors that have helped influence and shape me as a writer, mainly Stephen King, Peter Straub, Mary Higgins Clark, and Jackie Collins.
And, you know, I guess the reason why would take us back to the first question you asked me, because they are artists that have always worked outside the box, so to speak.
Funny, I now live in the same area as where I grew up, Strawberry Plains. I can still remember right after I graduated high school I felt like I couldn’t get away from here fast enough and moved to Knoxville, a neighboring county, where I lived for about 20 years before moving back. And, I came back kicking and screaming about how I didn’t want to move back to Strawberry Plains, lol. But after the first night in my new house, I didn’t want to go back to Knoxville to get the rest of my stuff, because it is so tranquil, so nice and quiet and peaceful. And so beautiful! I wish now that I had never moved away in the first place, but I guess I maybe had to so I could appreciate living here as much as I do now.
We’re practically neighbors. Strawberry Plains is a beautiful area, and as you say, quiet and peaceful. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I guess I would classify myself as writer of erotically charged satiric psychological mystery thrillers. And, yes, lol, I’ve been told that is a very “unique” category, to put it nicely. I guess I could also fall under the short story category as well, seeing that I have 3 collections published and am in the process of working on a 4th one to get published. I also have written 4 volumes of lyrical poems, so I also fit in the poetry category as well.
And, funny that you should list paranormal as an option, because that is something that I’ve never felt that I’ve ever succeeded at writing, and am going to try to tackle that in one of my upcoming short stories in my new collection.
You’re what I consider a diverse and prolific writer. It will be interesting to see what you come up with in the paranormal genre. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I would like to think I am in control, being as how I am such a control freak in so many other aspects of my life, but honestly, when I start writing, sometimes it’s the characters that have control, and other times it’s the actual story that may take control of where things are going.
I think that’s the first time we’ve gotten an answer like that to this question. Usually, it’s one or the other. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Honestly, as I’ve mentioned to a few of my friends that are fellow authors, lately I’ve been having trouble reading a lot of mainstream authors that I used to love to read almost faithfully before I was published, people like Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Rice, etc, but for some reason ever since I’ve been published myself, I now see things in their writing that actually makes me cringe. I blame it on modern day editors and not the authors themselves, because what I seem to be noticing is the same in all their books, not just in one author, but all of them, and it’s the same thing that glares out at me the most in everyone of their books.
On the flipside, some authors that I have recently discovered and enjoy tremendously are Christy Tillery French, Mark Allan Gunnels, Steven Michael, and Andrew Wolter. These are some really talented writers, and why they aren’t more world-widely discovered is beyond me. Matter of fact, not only have I enjoyed their fiction for reading, I have found it (and them) truly inspirational to myself and my own writing, and they have been a big influence on some of my newer material.
I’m honored to be listed with such talented writers, Randall. Thank you! Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
Let’s see, I used to read pretty much anything from Laura Ingalls Wilder and S.E. Hinton to Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark. I think they all share in common helping me form a love for the written word, and in how to tell a story, and even how to lure the reader into something they may feel comfortable with, then hit them with some unpleasant surprises.
Honestly, oddly enough, most times I have found it in everyday life and/or in people who have been involved in my life path at one time or another. As you can probably guess from some of my writing, I most times like to take someone and put them in situations that would be the farthest thing from their real life counter-part. It’s also a very healthy and therapeutic way to exorcise some personal “demons”, if you know what I mean. And I try to tell people that have inspired characters in my work to take it as a compliment, no matter what the character says or does in the story, or the fate of the character.
Heck, I’ve even offed myself in a story or two, lol.
That’s funny! I agree it can be therapeutic – I’ve used writing for that very purpose. Thanks for joining us today, Randall!