INTERVIEW: AUTHOR BRAD C. HODSON ON “DARLING”
Brad C. Hodson with fans at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
Horror fiction writers beware, there is a new kid in town, and his first novel DARLING is now available. We had the opportunity to speak with author/filmmaker Brad C. Hodson about his terrifying book (reviewed in FANGORIA #322), a dark, shuddery story of two friends who, after a tragedy, end up in an apartment that is consumed by a none too friendly spectral entity.
Hodson is in fact a former stand-up comedian proving truth in what they say: funny people are indeed dark…
FANGORIA: How did you get the inspiration for this novel?
HODSON: I’m from East Tennessee originally and my Grandma used to tell me stories about the folklore of the area, things that were just bizarre and haunting. So growing up, I guess I just associated the entire area as being weird and evil. I’m also a huge fan of haunted house novels (such as The Shining) and I’ve always wanted to play with the haunted house motif, too. I tried to do something radically different but, in a way, DARLING is a love letter to Shirley Jackson, King, and Richard Matheson.
FANGORIA: Who are the characters based on?
HODSON: They started off being based on the strange dynamics in my group of friends but, in the end, all of the characters ended up being aspects of me. (laughs) Considering how screwed up they are, I’m a little scared of what that says about me…
FANGORIA: When did you start writing DARLING?
HODSON: 2008. The book took me two and a half years to write. It’s my first novel and, every time I sat down to work, my thoughts were “Wow! Am I in over my head” and the idea of pounding out hundreds of pages became quite daunting. When I finally finished, I sent the first draft out for feedback, then for a few months I did other things; writer’s bootcamp, I wrote some short stories as well. When I came back to the novel I had grown as a writer and was a little embarrassed with it (laughs). I hacked the first draft to pieces. I streamlined the language and took out some of the more gratuitous sex scenes. There’s also a lot of senseless rape in horror (like in the torture porn subgenre) and, in my rewrites, I didn’t want to contribute to the whole “rape as titillation” thing. Not that you can’t write about rape, but rape is (and should be) horrifying.
FANGORIA: Did you use real folklore in the novel?
HODSON: Much of the folklore in the novel’s based on actual folklore. The black dog myths that the Irish and Scottish brought to East Tennessee, for instance, have a strong role. The Crossroad Killers in the novel is also based on the bizarrely high number of brutal murders in the area. I kind of threw everything I’d heard growing up into the blender of my brain and this book is what I vomited up (laughs).
FANGORIA: Is Raynham Place, where the core of the story takes place an actual building?
HODSON: There is a place called Waverly Hills in Kentucky that used to be a tuberculosis hospital and shows up on all those “Ghost Hunter” shows pretty regularly. It forms one basis for Raynham. There are all sorts of real ghost stories that folded into it. I was on a ghost tour in New Orleans and heard a story about a socialite who kept his Creole mistress hidden away in the French Quarters. When he ended the relationship, she killed herself. I used that as the backdrop for Darling’s twisted doctor and his mistress.
FANGORIA: When did you start writing?
HODSON: I was in 2nd grade when I first remember writing. I started scribbling what was essentially Stephen King fan fiction, a bunch of short stories about his Gunslinger. I guess I’ve always written, but I took a detour in my early 20’s and got into comedy. I started a sketch comedy troupe, but I didn’t really like being on stage and I didn’t like rehearsal. I did, however, love writing the material. So I went back to writing short stories. In 2007, I moved to Los Angeles and I began writing more, really taking it seriously. I quickly realized I needed to go far beyond pure talent and needed to work hard to improve my writing. It became a bare-knuckled boxing match with my ego. Eventually I started getting shorts published. I‘ve had some shorts published in the past year or so alongside work by George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Chuck Palahniuk, so I’ve been riding that high quite a bit (laughs). I hope to keep improving. DARLING is my first novel and was released on October 27th, 2012, so it’s been a long ride.
FANGORIA: Does having a comedy background help you write horror?
HODSON: Definitely. I love the horror genre. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. Any topic can be explored, not to mention the inherent escapist element. One can tap into primal emotions and use them as a very powerful way to deal with heavy topics. Like in “The Shining” which, at its core, is about alcoholism. In reality the author of the novel, Stephen King, was an alcoholic, so in a way, he wrote about his own deep seeded issues in that novel and it’s had far more resonance and staying power than if it had been a simple and realistic story about a father who just drank too much. I write in every genre, but I always come back to horror. To write horror, you have to look at the world in a different way. The same thing holds for comedy. Having a comedy background certainly helps me write horror. Writing and performing sketch comedy also helped me develop an ear for dialogue, for what sounds real, for developing different voices. Both comedy and horror also rely heavily on pacing and timing. If your timing is off, a punch line won’t be funny. If your pacing is off, a scare won’t be frightening. They twist into one another nicely. It’s weird, though, that most comedians I know are pretty screwed up people, whereas most horror writers I know are boringly normal.
FANGORIA: Are you working on any horror novels right now?
Hodson: I’m currently writing a historical mystery that morphs into a horror novel as it goes. I’m really digging it so far. My other novel is a kind of comedic-romantic-adventure. Hopefully both will be out there soon.
FANGORIA: Are there any projects you have completed that Fangoria readers could watch?
Hodson: We made a film called “George: A Zombie Intervention,” which is available on Amazon and iTunes. It’s a horror comedy about addiction starring Lynn Lowry, Brinke Stevens, Lloyd Kaufman… Tom Devlin (Poultrygeist) did the make-up. He was awesome. There’s gore everywhere. It’s great.
FANGORIA: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Hodson: How much time you got? (laughs) I guess don’t rush your life. Slow down. In our culture, we feel we’re in a race against time, whether it’s fear that the world will end or that someone will write your book first or what have you. I have to remind myself to take a deep breath, slow down, and just focus on the work. Writing should be enjoyable on some level, or at least fulfilling. These interviews are fun, too. (laughs) I’ve been a fan of Fangoria since I was a kid. I’m really just hoping people will pick up “DARLING” and love reading it as much as I loved writing it.