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Books Around the Corner Q&A: Brian McAuley, author of Curse of the Reaper

"The bond between author and reader has always fascinated me. Without the reader's imagination, an author's words are dead in the dark. Only when you open their book do you make them come alive. It's like a spell. And you spread that magic because you talk about the book, post about it, or give it away to someone." - Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex & Echo.

Our next author featured in our series is Brian McAuley. I thought I'd leave it to a writer to explain why I am doing this series of author interviews and I couldn't have said it better than Thomas Olde Heuvelt above. 

You can order Curse of the Reaper on our website HERE (support indies). I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did. I am always pleasantly surprised by the Lightning Round. Our Virtual Horror Book Club will be discussing Curse of the Reaper Thursday January 26th at 7pm PST on Zoom. Details HERE.

Stephanie Rose: Can you take us through your writing process for Curse of the Reaper?
Brian McAuley: This story actually started as a feature film screenplay that I first wrote in 2011. Robert Englund had recently been replaced as the iconic Freddy Krueger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I couldn't help wondering what it would feel like to have your identity so inextricably tied to a fictional character, only to see yourself replaced. Having your whole sense of self and your legacy challenged felt like ripe territory for a horror story. I never ended up selling the screenplay version, but it opened a lot of doors as a writing sample in the film & TV industry. After years of working as a screenwriter-for-hire, I started to feel burned out on the industry and in need of a creative recharge, so I decided to adapt this story into my first novel. I'm so glad I did because it's been the most gratifying experience of my writing career thus far.

Stephanie: This is your first novel but you've done quite a bit of screenwriting. How did writing a novel vs a screenplay differ?
Brian: Whether I'm writing a novel or a screenplay, I use the same approach with plotting and story structure. In fact, not a whole lot changed plot-wise in the adaptation from script to novel with Curse of the Reaper, except for adding a character and a handful of new scenes. The earliest draft of the novel was a bare-bones scene-by-scene translation from script pages into rough prose. From there, it was an iterative process where I kept fleshing out the scenes from a sensory perspective while going psychologically deeper with the characters. That interiority is my favorite thing that fiction writing affords over screenwriting. I can put you directly in a character's brain, and that's invaluable for psychological horror in particular.

Stephanie: Do you listen to any music when you write? If so what kind?
Brian: I love listening to instrumental music when I write, especially movie soundtracks. I'll usually pick a tone or tempo that best suits the scene. Something slow and moody for emotional conflict, and then fast-paced tunes for action scenes.

Stephanie: What is the best piece of life advice that you've received?
Brian: I had a teacher in film school who talked about writing with "no attachment to outcome." To me, that means writing and living for the joy of the present experience. If you can't enjoy the creative process of writing, it's going to be a lot harder to endure the practical hurdles along the way. The same goes for living. I'm big on memento mori, keeping death close to my conscious mind so I remember to make the most of my limited time above ground.

Stephanie: Can you tell us about your upcoming horror projects? Any other adaptations in the works?
Brian: I have my first novella coming out in winter 2023 through Shortwave Publishing as part of their Killer VHS Series. It's a Christmas slasher called Candy Cain Kills, and I think anyone who enjoyed Curse of the Reaper will definitely dig this twisted tale. As far as adaptations go, Hollywood is a slow-moving machine, but I've had some very exciting meetings that I hope will manifest into more concrete news in the new year. It's been especially wonderful to see readers yearning for a screen adaptation not just of the novel, but of the entire Reaper franchise therein. I'd love to keep that meta-train rolling one way or another.

Stephanie: Any recent books, films, shows, or podcasts you want to recommend to our readers?

Brian: Red X by David Demchuk is an excellent example of deeply personal meta-horror that shattered my heart in the most beautiful way. I also just watched The Menu, which was my favorite kind of film. Pitch-black comedic horror with a satirical edge and some truly gasp-inspiring set pieces.

Lightning Round | Altered and Borrowed from James Lipton

Stephanie: What is your favorite word?
Brian: Monster.

Stephanie: What is your least favorite word?
Brian: Capitalism.

Stephanie: What is your favorite slasher movie?
Brian: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

Stephanie: What is your favorite horror book?
Brian: Whatever I'm going to write next because that's what keeps me going.

Stephanie: What is your favorite fictional killer?
Brian: Frankenstein's monster.

Stephanie: What sound or noise do you love?
Brian: A coffee pot brewing.

Stephanie: What sound or noise do you hate?
Brian: My dog secretly munching on wood chips when I walk him.

Stephanie: What is your favorite curse word?
Brian: Absofuckinglutely!

Stephanie: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Brian: Psychologist.

Stephanie: What profession would you not like to do?
Brian: Finance.

Stephanie: What is your favorite fall/spooky activity to do?
Brian: My neighborhood goes all-out for Halloween decorations, so I love taking pictures of my dog in front of them.

Stephanie: If you knew you were going to die and only had a chance to read one more book what would it be?
Brian: 11/22/63 by Stephen King.

Stephanie: You plan a movie night and can watch one movie with any one writer. What writer and what movie do you choose?
Brian: Stephen Graham Jones and some obscure slasher film that neither of us have ever seen (if such a film exists).

Stephanie: What author dead or alive would you want to spend the night in a haunted house with?
Brian: Franz Kafka.

 

About Brian McAuley


BRIAN MCAULEY is a WGA screenwriter and HWA author living and dying in LA. Brian grew up in Weird NJ on a steady diet of Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes. He received his BA in Creative Writing and Horror Theory from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study before getting his MFA in Film from Columbia University.

As a WGA screenwriter, Brian has written five films for the Lifetime Network in addition to writing and producing the award-winning thriller Dismissed for BoulderLight Pictures. He sold his TV series pitch Affliction to Syfy Network in a pilot development deal and penned an episode of Fuller House for Netflix.

Brian’s debut novel Curse of the Reaper was published by Talos Press and named one of the Best Horror Books of 2022 by Esquire. His short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Dark Matter Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, and Shortwave Magazine.

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