An interview with Brian Kirk

Written by / Interviews

Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Brian Kirk.

Brian Kirk lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife and rambunctious identical twin boys. He works as a freelance writer in addition to writing fiction, and is currently working on the second book in a planned trilogy. We Are Monsters is his debut release. Feel free to connect with him online. Don't worry, he only kills his characters.

We Are Monsters will be published on July 7th, 2015.


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- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

I’d rather use my Mom’s words, as she thinks highly of me. But I’ll use mine.

Aside from writing fiction, I’m a father of five-year-old identical twin boys: the rarest form of human offspring (a very technical term for kids). Only fraternal twins are hereditary; identical twins are a random anomaly. So it came as quite a surprise. In fact, the first thing I did when I found out was Google search the phrase, “The best thing about having twins.” I needed a pep talk.

Actually, it turns out I didn’t. We were blessed with wonderful boys. Raising them has been a special privilege.

- Your debut novel, We Are Monsters, will be published by Samhain Publishing in July 2015. What kind of a novel is it? What can readers expect from it?

I would classify We Are Monsters as psychological suspense. It’s labeled as horror, and while it certainly has some horrific elements, it’s not a horror story in the classic sense where the primary aim is to elicit terror or dread.

Fellow author, Mercedes M. Yardley, said this about the book: “We Are Monsters is a smart, elaborate novel that weaves together the best and worst of us. Complex, terrifying, and still humane, this book moved me to both horror and compassion, and that's a difficult thing indeed.”

I think that’s an accurate summary of what readers can expect.

- What inspired you to write We Are Monsters? For how long did you work on it?

I’ve always been fascinated by mental illness. The idea that our own brains can turn against us is terrifying. It’s the ultimate enemy; it knows our deepest secrets and it’s something we can’t escape.

I also have a great deal of sympathy for people who suffer mental heath disorders. I’ve dealt with OCD all of my life, which produces chronic anxiety, negative thought loops, and periods of depression. No fun, I’ll tell you. And I feel that mental disease is misunderstood by our society at large. In fact, many people who are mentally ill are often labeled as evil, which I feel is unfair, and precludes us from exploring proper treatment options.

I suppose I found the subject both fascinating and deeply personal, and I wanted to explore it further, so I wrote about it.

The time between writing the first word and submitting the manuscript was about two years. Amazingly, I was offered a contract in about two weeks.

- Have you always been interested in dark fiction and horror fiction? Have any authors, novels or stories been an important source of inspiration to you?

Yes, my imagination has always veered into dark places. Since as early as I can remember. Which is strange, as I’m generally a cheerful and optimistic person. In fact, most authors of dark fiction are. Conversely, many comedians tend to be somber and depressive. There seems to be some counterbalancing agent at play. Maybe we’re so cheerful because we exorcise our demons, and comedians are depressive because they export all their joy.

While I read broadly, and have been inspired by a spectrum of authors, the biggest influence has been Stephen King, who I was fortunate to meet a few years ago. I literally ran into him at the entrance of a hotel in Atlanta. I was so stunned that, without thinking, I reached out, took his hand and said, “Mr. King.” Equally stunned, he shook it. If I were thinking clearly I would have left it at that. But I wasn’t, so I started to blab, “I’m an aspiring horror writer who has published a few short stories and just started writing my first novel. I owe all my inspiration to you.” More gratuitous praise followed, I’m sure.

He received the praise graciously, untangled himself from my grasp, and started to stroll away before a crowd could form (it was just the two of us). Then he stopped and turned. “Hey,” he said, catching my eye. “Good luck with your work.”

Not story, not book. But work. That was a fine moment.

Other favorite authors include, Richard Matheson, Larry McMurtry, Joyce Carol Oates, Mercedes M. Yardley, Cormac McCarthy, Ray Bradbury, David Mitchell, Roald Dahl, Flannery O’Connor, Philip K. Dick, Jonathan Franzen, J.K. Rowling, Robert McCammon, Joe R. Lansdale, among many others.

Gillian Flynn, John F.D. Taff, and Jonathan Moore are a few of my new favorites.

- How would you advertise We Are Monsters to readers?

A thrilling rollercoaster ride through the full spectrum of human emotion. Or something like that. Here’s how we advertise it on the back cover:

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He is the hospital's newest, and most notorious patient – a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity's dark side.

Luckily he's in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a medicine that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don't have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

- You've written several short stories. Will any of them be published in a short story collection in the near future?

No, probably not. I wouldn’t mind putting out a collection of short fiction, but would likely create new material for it. I started writing short fiction as a way to hone my skills and seek early validation. I really didn’t find my voice until I began work on the novel, however. While I’m happy with some of those short stories, and pleased that editors found them worth publishing, I don’t feel like they represent my best work. So I would likely start from scratch and work against a unifying theme.

- What are you currently working on? What will you write next?

I’m currently writing the second book in a trilogy of dark thrillers. The first book is completed and currently being considered by various agents. I hope to be able to share exciting news on this soon.

- Dark fiction has become increasingly popular among speculative fiction readers during the last decade and there are people who have mentioned  that this is the new golden age for dark fiction. How do you feel about this statement?

I don’t know. I feel like I’m always reading statements like that. And if I go back through the annals of time I find similar statements being made then. I feel it’s almost like a recurring meme in a way, kind of like the end of the world mythology. The end of the world is always imminent, and has been for the last 100,000 years.

Humans have been telling scary stories since the beginning of time. I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate danger or fear from our existence. Therefore, there will always be a place for dark fiction. It’s hardwired into us, and will be difficult, if not impossible, to flush from our genetic code. We’ll always be scared of the dark.

There are probably just periods of better and worse fiction, which drives readership up and down.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

I would just like to say thank you for allowing me this interview. I appreciate the time and support. If you, or any of your followers, would like to connect and start up a virtual friendship, I can be reached through the following channels.