Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to welcome Bracken MacLeod to our author spotlight this week! Bracken is the author of Mountain Home and White Knight, and is work has appeared in Sex and Murder Magazine, The Siren’s Call e-zine, twice in Every Day Fiction, and most recently at SHOTGUN HONEY. He also has stories in the anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes, Anthology: Year One, Femme Fatale: Erotic Stories of Dangerous Women from Go Deeper Press, and the New England Horror Writers anthology Wicked Seasons.
ABSW: Welcome, Bracken! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
BRACKEN MACLEOD: I’m a former martial arts teacher, former college philosophy instructor, and former attorney. It took me the better part of twenty years to admit to myself that I don’t enjoy fighting as much as I thought I did. I’ve been writing longer than I’ve done anything else, however, having started back when I was in grade school. I’ve told the story a couple of times about how I approached a holiday writing assignment in the fifth grade by crafting a splatterpunk battle royal between Santa Claus and H.R. Giger’s xenomorph (SPOILER: Santa kicks the hell out of the alien). Fortunately, I grew up in a different time, and was only sent home with a sternly worded note about what I should be allowed to watch on television. Today, I suspect I would have been expelled, arrested, and put in counseling.
ABSW: For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your forthcoming novella, WHITE KNIGHT?
BM: My work is cross-genre, straddling lines between horror, thriller, and crime. I like to think of myself as a “Secular Horrorist.” Some of my short stories are supernatural, but made-up beasties and indistinct specters don’t scare me like real world terrors like mass shooters and people who pleasure in and profit from others’ suffering. I don’t believe I can make a reader feel an emotion if I don’t feel it first while I’m writing. Therefore, most of my work is firmly rooted in reality. WHITE KNIGHT is seasoned by my horror influences, but I’d be lying if I said it was anything other than a straight up hardboiled crime thriller.
ABSW: What was the inspiration for WHITE KNIGHT? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
BM: WHITE KNIGHT was inspired in part by my very first legal job. I’ve been reluctant to write about my experiences in criminal law mainly because I feel those people’s stories are not mine to tell. But this book is told from the point of view of a young prosecutor who is learning that the reality of the job is nothing like what he’d imagined. Burn out, heartbreak, and disaffection with the law is definitely my story. When I was a new attorney, I started out picturing myself strapping on armor to slay dragons. At the end, it felt like I was tying my own noose every morning. This is not a memoir, however. It’s fiction. The first three chapters are as close to me writing anything informed by my old career. From there, I was inspired by my favorite crime writers like James M. Cain, Eddie Bunker, and Andrew Vachss.
ABSW: What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out WHITE KNIGHT? How did you overcome that challenge?
BM: The biggest hurdle was to make the story go the places I wanted while steering clear of the more clichéd notes in hardboiled fiction. A lot of crime novel protagonists start the story at rock bottom. I wanted my character to be growing world-weary, not already a bitter self-medicating drunk. He’s happy in his marriage too, which goes against type. Unlike the character who wakes up alone in a rathole hotel with a pounding hangover and a burning sensation when he goes to the bathroom, my protagonist still has everything to lose. He’s not climbing out of a hole as much as he’s racing toward one he can’t see.
As far as challenges in putting out the book, there haven’t been any yet. Ron Earl Philips at One Eye Press is a pleasure to work with. Between working with him and my other publisher, Books of the Dead Press, I am a very lucky writer indeed!
ABSW: How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
BM: I am a New England man; Massachusetts lives in my heart and imagination like few other places do. That said, while White Knight takes place in the greater Boston area, my novel, MOUNTAIN HOME, is set in northern Idaho. For that book I required a setting that fulfilled all the physical and spiritual needs of the story. I suppose I could written it to unfold in rural New Hampshire or Maine, but having once lived in the Gem State I also felt a special kinship for its unique beauty. Although Idaho and I are not always on speaking terms, there is a lot to love there–there is a lot worth fighting for there. I suppose that’s what’s most important for me as a writer when it comes to setting–do I love the place strongly enough for that to come across in the book? I want to write about universal themes and relatable situations, but I also want the setting to say I cared about where I put my characters. Where they are is important. Yeah, New England is important to me as a writer, but so is anyplace that says something about the story and the struggles that the characters are enduring.
ABSW: What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
BM: There is never enough time to do everything, but I don’t think a writer who doesn’t make time to live is going to have anything worth saying to a reader. I have a lot of interests including camping, travel live music, wine, and tattoos. If it weren’t for camping in Northern Idaho, I wouldn’t have had the idea to write Mountain Home. In that regard, my tattoo artist (Jason Loui at Iron Works Tattoo in Portsmouth, New Hampshire) has been working on a piece on my chest for the last two years now, so that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. (I thought I knew pain until the needle hit my sternum, by the way.) My novel in progress–tentatively titled, “Marked”–is in part about tattooing and what it means to wear your stories and secrets on your skin
ABSW: Where can people find your work?
BM: After looking in Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, natch, people can find my free work at http://brackenmacleod.wix.com/author-site#!free-stories/cb9o and my novel and anthologies at http://amazon.com/author/bracken.macleod.
ABSW: How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you very much for joining us, Bracken! Good luck with all your writing work.