Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally best-selling novelist and screenwriter who writes primarily horror but also dabbles in YA fantasy and hopes to develop superpowers someday. His next novel, Apparition, will be available soon, and all his books are available at Amazon or via the Michaelbrent Collings website. You can follow Michaelbrent Collings on Facebook or on Twitter @mbcollings. If you buy his books, he promises to save you from all harm when the Glorious Revolution occurs.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
MC: Probably the chance to attract babes. Because nothing is quite as cool as going up to a random stranger at a party, leaning nonchalantly against a wall, and then saying, “I dream about interesting ways to murder people for a living. You have lovely skin. Very… skinnable…”
Sigh. If only the world worked that way. High school would have been much better, and I would have spent way less time in the school therapist’s office.
Seriously, though, the thing that first attracted me to horror was my father. He was an English professor at a major university, and was one of the first academics to seriously argue that horror wasn’t just yucky stories but true literature. As a result he was for about a decade the premier expert in the world on Stephen King (and I’m saying that literally, with no exaggeration) which meant that every night I would go to sleep listening to the clickety-click of him typing about horror, or listening to the shrieks of someone being massacred on some horror movie he would be watching. I literally grew up with horror and was pretty much doomed from the start.
MC: Huh. I guess that depends who you talk to. I wrote a book called RUN that was a number one sci-fi and horror best-seller and had some really fun ideas. More recently I wrote a novel called The Haunted which was another horror bestseller that I really like. It’s kind of hard to talk about what your best, favourite or most notable work is when you’re a writer. Writers are the strangest mixture of cripplingly low self-esteem and egomaniacal narcissism, so whenever someone asks a question like that there’s a part of me that screams, “All my work is amazing, how dare you even ask?” and another part of me that wants to say, “Well, since it all sucks pretty much evenly…”
What are you working on now?
MC: I’m putting final touches on a book called Apparition which is due to come out July 1 (check out the trailer for Apparition). It’s a deeply creepy book about a family where the parents try to kill their own kids. Part of what makes it so scary (to me at least) is that in writing it I did a lot of research about filicide, and found out that it is insidiously pervasive. A child is killed by its parents almost every day in the United States alone, and many of the parents who do this then try to kill themselves. I took this series of facts (and some others I found) and tried to extrapolate a unifying reason behind all filicides… and found myself immersed in a deeply disturbing world.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
MC: Two people are tied for that spot: my dad and Dean Koontz. My father, Michael R. Collings, is also a bestselling horror novelist who has managed to turn some deeply tragic events in his life into some genuinely spooky tales. Plus, he’s one of my personal heroes. As for Dean, not only is he an amazing writer with a talent for crafting scary, suspenseful stories that somehow leave me feeling uplifted, he is an amazingly friendly person who has treated me with utter kindness every time we’ve interacted over the years. I’m on his Christmas card/holiday mailing list, so that’s cool too!
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
MC: Psychological stuff is definitely more my cup of tea. While I think that gore is very effective sometimes, I’ve also found that all too often it smacks of lazy writing: an author who can’t think up a way to truly terrify his/her readers, and throws a bunch of blood onto the pages. Gore, like pornography, is something that elicits an automatic, visceral, physiological reaction regardless of its quality: we’re hardwired to be excited by naked people having sex, and to be scared when we think of gobs of gore. So it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of talent to get a terror reaction when you traipse around in someone’s innards for a few pages. But make someone scared of what might happen, to terrify the reader because he/she is so involved in a (fictional) person’s life that the mere thought that something bad might happen to that character is anathema to them… that’s always tough. And always rewarding when someone pulls it off well.
Why should people read your work?
MC: Because my kids’ college funds aren’t going to fill themselves up. Hyuk.
Seriously, though… I guess I would recommend my work to people because it is a fun ride. I’m not out to discuss the central ‘Truths of Existence’ (though I admit to touching on them occasionally), but to give a reader some good ol’ fashioned escapism. If you like reading books that do their best to run you through a scary wringer and compel you to turn the page, then give one of mine a try. You might just find something you like, and I like nothing better than to sign onto my Facebook and see someone posting something about how freaked out one of my books made them.
Recommend a book.
MC: Well, since we’re talking horror, I’d probably say that if you’re interested in writing anything supernatural, you have to read The Haunting of Hill House. That book is a perfect example of how to induce spine-tingles while keeping the reader constantly guessing. Love, love, love it. Failing that, you can read just about anything by Richard Matheson and come out all right.
Or, if you’re really desperate for a scary read, I hear that Michaelbrent Collings guy is pretty good.
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