Sunday, April 28, 2013

Whisper by Michael Bray: Interview and Excerpt



How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your books?

Probably more than I realize! I’m sure that on some level, every character, from the main protagonists to the incidental side characters have a little bit of me in them. I have always been a very private person, so I find it great fun to write the larger than life personalities who do thing that I wouldn’t. Even if as a writer you try to make your characters truly unique, it’s impossible because even if it’s only subconsciously, there is still a little of the writer in every one of them. 

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing?

Many of my stories come from a single random idea, which more often than not pops into my head at the most inopportune times! My novella, MEAT for example, came about in its entirety from a boring trip to the supermarket. I was dutifully following my wife as she stocked up on goods, and as we passed the meat isle, I thought to myself how odd it would be if they stocked prepackaged human meat alongside the regular stuff. The idea grew during the rest of the shopping trip and I went home and immediately wrote it. 

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I have a blank canvas approach to my characters. I think it’s a mistake to try to influence them too much, and so I usually just throw them into whatever situation the story presents and watch as they deal with it. Certainly, there is no pre planning as such about how character A might develop his relationship with character B. I just toss them into the story and let them figure it out for themselves. They do grow and develop of course, but I consciously try to keep it a very natural, organic process. People who read my work might notice that I don’t tend to go too deeply into the physical descriptions of my characters. That isn’t through laziness, but is a very conscious decision to paint just enough of the character for the reader to fill in the blanks themselves. Although I see a character in a certain way, the reader may have a completely different idea of how they look. 

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Well, when I get an idea that I think would make for a good novel, I tend to try to work out a rough outline of the plot on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I don’t stick to it religiously by any means, in fact, when it comes to the actual writing, the story usually develops in ways I didn’t see coming, and veers off accordingly. The guide helps me to keep track of my initial vision for the story, and if need be helps to steer the story back to its intended finish. 

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I strongly believe that a story should take as long as it needs for the writer to say what he wants to say. I don’t pigeonhole myself into saying ‘this must be a short story’ or this should be a novella etc. I just write and see where the story takes me. For example, with Whisper, that was initially intended as a short story to go in my first novel, an anthology of short stories called Dark Corners, but almost immediately, I saw that there was a much bigger story that I wanted to tell, and so I shelved it until Dark Corners was finished and released, then returned back to it to explore the story in detail.  For me, there is no right or wrong time to end a story. I tend to rely on my instincts to tell me when to stop, and so far (fingers crossed), they have served me pretty well. 

Is there message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Not a message as such. I write in the hope that my reader will be entertained enough to escape from the real world for a while and live in the places that I create.  

What are you working on right now?

I’m around 30,000 words in on a new novel called From The Deep, which I’m really, really excited about. The story is pretty much writing itself at the moment, and I feel it could be my best work yet. It’s a twist on the classic sea monster story. I would call it part Moby Dick, part Godzilla with a little bit of Jurassic Park thrown in. Although at its roots it’s a monster story, it’s very character oriented. I’m hoping to have it finished later this year, then will be looking to place it with a suitable literary agency if it’s good enough. 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

It took a while to find out that writing was for me. I have always been creative, even as a child. I tried art, then graphic design, then music. I had tried my hand at writing on and off over the years, but never really committed to it until a couple of years ago. 

At what age did you discover your love of writing?

Following on from the previous question, it was a couple of years ago when the biting bug bit me hard. Up until then, I had been playing guitar in a band, and because we were so busy with writing, recording and playing gigs, it took up almost all of my time. It was only when the band split and we decided to go our separate ways that I found myself with nothing to do and a creative urge that needed to be satisfied in some way. I found some old half-started stories that I had started back in 2007, and read through them. Although there was nothing there worth saving, it sparked something in me, and I started to think about turning my hand to writing. I was watching the movie Pulp Fiction, when I thought how it would be fun to write a collection of stories which were separate, but interconnected in a non-chronological way. If there is such a thing as a eureka moment, that was it. The concept for Dark Corners had been born. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but it gave me something to focus my creativity on, and I started there and then to plan out the book. 

What was the first story that you wrote?

I started so many stories back in the day that went unfinished, that I was sure there would be a little nugget in there worth salvaging, but it was all pretty woeful stuff. At that time back in 2007, I hadn’t found a voice I was comfortable with, and so I started again. The first story I wrote and finished was actually for Dark Corners, and titled Every little helps. 

When were you first published?

I was lucky, as my first published work was actually Dark Corners. I really fell on my feet with it. 

How were you discovered?

When Dark Corners was finished, I submitted it to a few small presses in the hope that they might pick it up. I was contacted by Rhode Island based Dark Hall Press who expressed an interest in my sample submission and requested a full manuscript. Shortly after, I received a contract offer for the manuscript, which was an amazing feeling, especially as it was a debut piece. I feel honored that Dark Hall Press were willing to take a chance on me, and it certainly helped to boost my confidence enough to consider that maybe I would be able to make a success of being a writer. 

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

The editing process can be pretty taxing. I tend to write the entire first draft without editing at all, so when it comes to the time when I need to edit, it’s usually a hefty task. It’s a love hate relationship. Sometimes, I love finding new ways to rewrite passages of the book in a better way, but other times the entire editing process can become tedious, especially by the third of fourth time reading through the manuscript. It’s at this time I’m always itching to move on to a new project, and have to force myself to stay disciplined until the edits are done. 

What do you like to read?

I read a lot of different stuff. Of course, I read a lot of horror. I always have, ever since I borrowed Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew from my sister when I was twelve or so. I also really got into Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series, and Steve Alten’s MEG is another of my favorites. 

What writer influences you the most?

At the risk of sounding like every other horror author out there, I have to say Stephen King. He really is the best out there in my opinion. I just find his work so accessible, and so good at drawing the reader in that it’s easy to get lost in his stories. 

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters?

If Meat were to be made into a movie, I think Giancarlo Esposito would make a terrific Bernard. I thought he was spectacularly good as Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. For whisper, I think Gary Busey would make an amazing Donovan. 

Where can people learn more about you and your books?

I tend to post a lot of my news over on Facebook, which is over at:
My works are also available through my Amazon author page, which can be located here:
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books?

My latest novel, Whisper is out now in both Paperback & kindle through Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc. also, I am always looking to speak to people who like my work, so drop by on Facebook and say hi if you like J


It was supposed to be a fresh start, a place for Steve & Melody Samson to start their new life together away from the noise and crime of the city. However, their new home – an idyllic cottage nestled deep within the dense solitude of Oakwell Forest has a disturbing history, hidden for generations by the local villagers, who are desperate to keep their sleepy town free from potential media attention. As Steve and Melody begin to notice the strange and bizarre things that are happening to them, they begin to unravel the complex web of lies and deceit perpetrated by the locals.

Told both in a modern day narrative and flashbacks to the Buildings construction in the 1800s, we learn of the terrible things that reside within Hope House, and the reasons for the history of murder, suicide and insanity for the previous owners of the house.
As Steve and Melody delve ever deeper, they are plagued not only the malevolent forces that reside within the house, but also the very real attention of the increasingly unstable realtor Donovan, who has horrific secrets of his own that he will go to any lengths to keep a secret.



THE SMELL OF DEATH hung heavy in the morning air. The child ran through the forest, snatching quick glances over her shoulder as the Gogoku elder followed, crashing through the undergrowth in pursuit. She veered to the left, ducking under a gnarled, overhanging branch, and hopped over a protruding root as she tried to put some distance between herself and the elder. Her bare feet were bleeding, but in her fear, the child barely noticed. Her only concern was her pursuer, and ensuring that he didn’t catch her. She angled back towards the village, her instincts driving her back toward her home, even though she knew it was now a place for the dead. The elder was closer now; she could hear him grunting as he drew closer. She snatched another quick look over her shoulder, and as she did, her foot twisted under her, sending her sprawling to the ground. The pain from her twisted ankle was explosive, and although the child tried to scramble to her feet, it was too late.
He had found her.
The Gogoku elder stood above her, breathing heavily, and streaked with the blood of his fellow people. His eyes glared with fury from behind his painted face. The frightened child scrambled backwards, for the time being, the agonising pain in her ankle forgotten, her eyes were instead fixated on the spiked club held in the muscular Elder’s hand, which was matted with sinewy clumps of flesh and slick with blood.
He followed her gaze and unleashed a bloody grin, his yellowed teeth filed to points as was customary for Gogoku elders. They were supposed to be the village protectors, guardians and hunters, but something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. A shallow breeze pushed through the trees and the elder blinked, casting his eyes to the dense canopy, his brow furrowed as he listened.
The child also looked, the fear within her for the time being replaced with curiosity at the absolute silence which had fallen over the forest. She glanced back to the elder, her brown eyes full of fear, horror and betrayal. The elder looked back, and smiled.
He had done as they had asked of him, and now all apart from this one child were now dead. Another breeze moved the trees, and this time, both child and Elder heard it. The trembling child closed her eyes and waited, as the elder reared back and brought the club down hard with a guttural roar of rage.
1.  HOPE
THE HOUSE WAS CALLED Hope, and Melody loved it as soon as she saw it. She threw her arms around Steve’s neck, in the way she always did when there was something she really, really wanted. He smiled awkwardly as she released her grip and grinned at him.
“It’s perfect. It’s exactly what we were looking for,” she said, turning back towards the building.
Steve was not convinced. He wrinkled his nose, and gave the place a cautious once-over.  The agents had said the house was early eighteenth century, and to Steve, it appeared that it hadn’t been repaired or renovated since. It stood like a faded white slab against a backdrop of orange and brown autumn leaves, which had left the surrounding trees looking bare and gnarled. The house looked tired and grubby, and Steve wondered when it was last given a bit of TLC..
The single lane private road which led to the house snaked through the trees, and as it winded its way deeper into the depths of Oakwell Forest, it narrowed so that eventually the overhanging canopy was close enough to brush against the roof of their blue Passat.
As they neared their destination, the road had opened up and gave into a driveway of sorts, which in turn opened to the front yard area of the property.
The house was set a little further back behind an overgrown garden abundant with weeds, which like the house itself looked tired, unloved, and in some way forgotten. At the periphery of where the forest and the boundaries of their property began stood a rickety awning which was somehow still standing despite its dilapidated appearance. A sign hung limply from its underside and bore just a singular word carved in an old, swirling script. 
Steve’s hope—as he eyed the sagging, patchy roof and rotten window frames—was that it wouldn’t cost a fortune to cover the repairs and to keep the place warm in the winter months— if they decided to make an offer on it at all. He supposed he could do a lot of the work himself, but by the state of apparent disrepair (evident even from some distance away), he could see it being more trouble than it was worth and perhaps now understood why the asking price had been so low.
A gust of wind made the trees whisper in unison, and he shuddered involuntarily. It was certainly a unique selling point— a house in the middle of the forest— but as a city boy through and through he wasn’t quite sure that he was ready to make such a huge leap from the concrete jungle to the literal one. The trees continued to sway in unison, leaving mottles of diffused mid-morning sunlight skittering across the ground. Melody turned to Steve and grinned, and he knew then by the excitement which shone in her eyes that he would be fighting an uphill battle to talk her out of making an offer on the place right there on the spot. He felt a pang of discomfort, a strange unease that stirred him as he looked beyond the house at the dense tangle of oaks and birches, which seemed to stretch ever upwards in their quest for sunlight. He suddenly felt very small and insignificant.
The Estate agent, a greasy, bird-like fellow by the name of Donovan saw Steve’s discomfort and with the graceful ease of a serpent, slithered his way over and leaned in close, invading Steve’s personal space.
            “Don’t worry about the trees. They just take a bit of getting used to,” he said, nodding towards where Steve was staring, “The last couple who lived here were in this house for many happy years before they decided to sell up and move to Australia.” He flashed his wide, salesman grin.
Steve didn’t like Donovan, and only hid his contempt for the horrible little man for the sake of Melody, who he loved more than anything.  He chose not to respond for fear of putting the gangly idiot in his place, and without missing a beat; Donovan saw this as his signal to continue his pitch.
“It has everything a young couple could need, Mr. Samson. And of course, needless to say you won’t have any noise from the neighbours”  
Donovan said it with a chuckle, which he quickly killed when he saw that Steve wasn’t joining in. He cleared his throat and reverted to what he knew, which appeared to be grinning at Steve with a mouth which seemed to contain too many teeth.  Melody called out from behind the house; her disembodied voice carried on the wind towards them.
“Steve, come take a look at this.” She yelled excitedly.
Donovan rolled his eyes in a clumsy attempt to build some rapport. Two guys together, best pals to the end. Steve's disdain for the man grew a little more as he walked towards the back of the house to look for his wife.
The rear of the house was bathed in blazing sunshine, causing him to squint as he rounded the corner. Donovan had produced some cheap looking sunglasses from the pocket of his even cheaper looking suit, which only served to add to the general ridiculousness of his appearance. Steve saw the reason for Melody’s excitement and felt a dull gnawing in his gut which he couldn’t quite explain. Maybe it was just anxiety or the fact that he was out of his comfort zone. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.  Melody would have laughed at him and called it the heebie jeebies, which was as good a description as any that he could muster up. Although he hadn’t been able to tell as they approached by car due to the impenetrable density of the trees, it was now clear that Hope House sat on the lip of a gentle sloping hill. The back of the house  led on to a long, narrow garden at the end of which was a wide, gently flowing stream which cut directly across the bottom of the boundary to the property. The view from the house was stunning, giving the three of them a beautiful panorama of the immense forest which seemed to have swallowed the house some years ago as it had spread outwards. Steve was not one to be easily impressed, but even he couldn’t help but draw breath at the view.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Donovan said as he removed his idiotic sunglasses and slipped them into his breast pocket. Steve chose not to reply, but Melody could barely contain herself.
“I love it!” she said, as Donovan flashed his salesman’s grin at her. Steve also noticed that their slimy host helped himself to a quick glance at her chest before continuing with his pitch.
“Your wife has impeccable taste Mr. Samson,” Donovan said around the grin that seemed glued to his face.
And lovely tits, 
Steve imagined the smarmy salesman adding, but Donovan said nothing. Instead, he helped himself to a second lingering glance at Melody’s tight T-shirt.
“We haven’t even seen the inside of the house yet.” Steve said, for the time being, content to ignore Donovan’s ogling.
“It will be perfect. I just know it!” Melody said over her shoulder as she walked down the garden towards the stream for a closer look.
“You hear that Steve," said Donovan, clapping his hands together. “It seems your lovely wife approves.”
Steve nodded, noting that Donovan seemed to think they had now switched to first-name terms.
He smells the sale. Steve thought to himself as he watched his wife explore the garden.  He had a sudden desire to take her in his arms and hold her close. To protect her from— from what? Donovan? No. Donovan was an asshole all right, but he was harmless and certainly not Melody’s type. He couldn’t place it but something bristled within him to shield her, to protect her. He watched as she brushed her hair away from her face, and he knew without doubt that she wanted the house, and if that was the case, he would go with it. Not because she would kick up a fuss if he didn’t—he knew that she wouldn’t force him into the decision—he would agree to it because she wanted it more than anything, and if he could give her something that made her so happy, then he would do it without question. As if reading Steve’s thoughts, Donovan leaned close.
“How about we go and see the rest of the house and fill out some paperwork?” he said smugly, walking away before Steve could protest.
Steve glanced up at the house and couldn’t shake the feeling that it was watching him. Shrugging it off, he waited for Melody to join him. Then arm in arm they followed Donovan as he led them to see the inside of the house.

Michael Bray is a Horror author based in Leeds, England. Influenced from an early age by the suspense horror of authors such as Stephen King, and the trashy pulp TV shows like Tales From The Crypt & The Twilight Zone, he started to work on his own fiction, and spent many years developing his style. After completing his debut novel in May 2012, he signed a deal with the highly reputable Dark Hall Press to print and distribute the book, which was released in September 2012.

A brand new anthology titled FUNHOUSE is scheduled for a 2013 release.


Sylvia Kerslake said...

Thank you Laurie for a brilliant interview with Michael :)

Michael Bray said...

Thank you so much for hosting me during the blog tour. I really appreciate it! :)