A warm welcome to author Brian Moreland. He's my guest for Authorsday and I ask him the tough questions.
1. Describe your book.
Shadows in the Mist is a supernatural horror novel set during World War II. It is part suspense thriller, part war story. It starts off in present day, when war hero Jack Chambers asks his grandson to deliver a war diary to a general at a U.S. Army base in Germany. The diary reveals a secret burial ground of U.S. soldiers who went missing in action back in Germany sixty years ago. Also buried in the graveyard is a Nazi relic that Chambers doesn’t want to fall into the wrong hands. Most of the novel takes place in October, 1944, where we relive the nightmares Lt. Chambers and his platoon faced when they crossed into Germany on a top-secret mission with a rag-tag squad of O.S.S. soldiers. Lt. Chambers and his men soon discover that something evil in the foggy woods is slaughtering both German and Allied soldiers. As the platoon is being stalked, they take refuge in an abandoned church and discover a Nazi bunker where the horror was unleashed. The thriller is based on the Nazis’ true fascination with the Occult. In 2007, Shadows in the Mist won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an international contest.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started dreaming about being a writer when I was in high school. I loved books. I remember going to the paperback racks at the grocery store and just staring at all the book covers. The artwork inspired me to imagine the stories inside each book. I saw books as parallel worlds you can travel into, escape from every day reality. In high school I wanted to be the next Stephen King. I attempted my first novel, writing by hand on a yellow tablet. My wrist got tired, so I quit after about five pages. My freshman year in college I learned to type on Microsoft Word and that made writing much easier for me. At age 19, I wrote my first full-length horror novel and the feeling of accomplishment was such a rush. It was like this story just poured out of my soul. I had so fun just letting my imagination run wild and making up this imaginary world. I created a group of characters who were like real people to me, living in an alternate universe. After writing all semester and completing my first novel, I was hooked. A novelist was born. I changed majors from business finance to creative writing and screenwriting. From that day on I was determined to make a living writing and publishing novels.
3. How long have you been writing?
Going on twenty years now. Hard to believe. Before Shadows in the Mist, I wrote three other novels that never published and a number of short stories. I also ghost wrote a health book for a doctor and edited a few non-fiction books for other authors that did publish. Editing helped me learn how to structure a book and think like an editor.
4. How did you pick the genre you write in?
Even though I write mostly supernatural horror and suspense, I love writing cross-genre novels that include mystery, romance, and history, as well. My first novel, Shadows in the Mist, which is set during World War II, is very much a war novel interwoven with a supernatural mystery based on the Nazis and the Occult. There are scary moments, as well as an adventure story about an infantry platoon leader and his platoon who have to cross enemy lines to fulfill a top-secret mission. I also included espionage and conspiracy theory to drive the plot, so it’s very complex. I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz who is a master at mixing genres and giving his readers a multidimensional book. That’s my aim, as well. While my publisher categorizes my novel as horror, the story encompasses much more than just your typical horror novel. I’ve been surprised by how many readers who don’t read horror have told me how much they enjoyed the book. I think of Shadows in the Mist as more of an adventure novel with a supernatural mystery and lots of suspense, and hopefully a wider audience that includes men and women can enjoy the book.
5. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I do a little of both. I originally started out writing the entire first draft organically. I just started with a sense about where I want the story to go and ran with it. I never knew what was going to happen until I threw my characters into a scene. That way the story unfolded for me and the reader at the same time. I’d write purely from the heart. My characters took on a life of their own and led the story into all kinds of wild directions. But I kept having plot problems with this “organic” method and it was taking me literally a year to two years to sort out all the places my story got off track. On my latest novel, I developed a new technique. I still write the first 100 pages organically. This helps me discover my characters and the story. The difference is now when I get stuck, I switch to writing the synopsis, outlining the book scene by scene. Each paragraph of the synopsis represents a scene. This helps me see the bigger picture. I can plot the book more efficiently and save myself from writing a lot of unnecessary chapters. Then I just alternate back and forth between my manuscript and synopsis. I flesh out the scenes that I’ve plotted, then read the synopsis to see if the story is heading in the direction I want it to. I can also gage the pace this way. Since I write thrillers, I want my stories to move at break-neck speed. I move a lot of scenes around, trying out different scenarios to see which sequence of scenes works best. This method of alternating between writing the manuscript and writing the synopsis has saved me months of writing time.
6. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
In college I wrote a 120-page horror novel called The Degba Dynasty. After a couple drafts I submitted it to a literary agent. He rejected it, saying it was too short and I needed to improve my craft. But he told me he liked the story and my writer’s voice and to keep writing. I wrote and revised this novel several times until it was over 400 pages long. I resubmitted it to a list of agents over a span of two years, and received rejections from every one of them. I finally shelved the book, deciding it had served me to learn the process of writing a novel. Then I started to write the next novel. I believed eventually I’d write the one that got published.
7. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?
I had the privilege of meeting three bestselling authors who gave me some great advice. Robert Crais told me, “Never give up.” James Rollins told me, “Aim to write three pages a day.” And when I was struggling with Shadows in the Mist, John Saul told me in a very blunt tone, “Just finish the damn book!” Those became my dominant voices that continue to push me forward.
8. Who is your greatest cheerleader?
That would be my mom. All my life she has been an avid reader and turned me on to books. She loves horror and anything supernatural. When I wrote my first novel in college, she got all excited and read it right away. She loved my book and encouraged me to keep writing. That was important to me back then, because I was insecure about my writing and not sure if it was worth all the time I spent alone at my computer. When I first published, Mom spread the word to everyone she know and probably sold a couple hundred copies all on her own. She knows books and I value her opinion. As I’ve been writing my next novel, I send her chapters and ask her opinion. She’s not only my cheerleader, she’s become my sounding board, as well.
9. You offer services to writers. What kinds of coaching do you provide?
I offer one-on-one coaching by phone to all writers looking to be more successful. My coaching is very customized to fit the writer. Every writer is at a different stage. Some need motivation to finish a manuscript. Others need to advice on how they should go about getting their book published. Authors who already have a book published may need a sounding board on how to better market their books. My specialty is helping writers get clarity on their goals, identify and remove obstacles, and feel motivated to take action. As writers, we can get caught up in life’s distractions and our writing gets put on hold. I find that having a coach helps writers stay on track and accomplish their goals faster. I also offer consulting about the business of publishing. Before I landed a literary agent and mass paperback deal with Berkley/Penguin, I originally self-published Shadows in the Mist. To writers looking to publish, I offer the experience of self-publishing and working with a traditional publisher based out of New York. Anyone interested in coaching can reach me at Brian@BrianMoreland.com. I also write an advice blog, “Coaching for Writers.” http://www.coachingforwriters.blogspot.com/
10. What will your next book be about?
My next novel, Dead of Winter, is nearly complete. I’ve been writing and doing research on it for two and a half years. It is also a historical horror novel, this time set in Ontario, Canada in 1870. It’s the middle of winter and a remote fur-trading fort is isolated by a series of blizzards. There is something evil in the storm that is stalking the fort villagers and spreading a vicious disease that turns people into cannibals. The novel is based on a Native Canadian legend and an event that really happened to a fort in Quebec. My main character is a British detective from Montreal who teams up with a French priest who is also an exorcist. Both men have past connections with the evil that’s behind all the killings. The epic mystery is very complex with numerous characters and subplots. There are plenty of twists and turns and white-knuckle moments. My goal is to have it in print by late 2010 or 2011.
Brian Moreland is a writer and success coach to writers living in Dallas, Texas. In addition to novel writing, Brian writes two blogs: “Coaching for Writers” and “Adventures in Writing.” He also works as a video editor and producer. He wrote, produced, and edited a WWII documentary about his grandfather, Return to Normandy. Brian originally self-published Shadows in the Mist and then sold it to Berkley-Penguin/Putnam for a mass paperback deal. Brian is a world traveler and frequently visits Hawaii and Costa Rica.
Official Website: http://www.brianmoreland.com/
Coaching for Writers blog: http://www.coachingforwriters.blogspot.com/
Adventures in Writing blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com/
Some bones won’t stay buried …
World War II hero Jack Chambers has kept a dark secret buried for more than sixty years. A secret he never told the Army. Never told his wife. A secret so bizarre, so potentially dangerous if fallen into the wrong hands, that Chambers made a pact to take the secret to his grave. But a brush with death convinces Chambers he must dig up the truth. Contacting his one ally inside the Army, Jack Chambers reveals a dark confession: “This is the untold story. The real reason my entire platoon vanished in October, 1944.”
Thank you for stopping by Brian. I wish you all the success.