Brandon Massey sold his first short story in 1996 to a speculative fiction magazine. Three years later, he self-published Thunderland, his first novel. After managing to sell a few thousand copies on his own, Kensington Publishing Corp signed him to a deal and republished the novel in 2002.
Since then, Massey has published up to three books a year, ranging from thriller novels such as The Other Brother and Don’t Ever Tell, vampire fiction such as Dark Corner, and short story collections such as Twisted Tales; he’s also edited multiple anthologies in his Dark Dreams series, featuring the short works of acclaimed authors from Eric Jerome Dickey to Tananarive Due.
Massey currently lives with his family near Atlanta, GA, and continues to write every day.
To stay posted on his latest book news, be sure to visit his website at http://www.brandonmassey.com and sign up for his free newsletter.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Brandon: I have been seriously writing since I was fifteen years old, and have always been an avid reader (necessary for really learning how to write). I enjoy the act of creation, from initial idea to final draft. I always get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I reach the end of a story, whether it is published or not.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Brandon: I write stories about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that require them to discover a fundamental truth about themselves in order to survive. Some of these circumstances might be supernatural; others might be more reality-based. But the characters always are pushed to the limit—physically, psychologically, emotionally.
My website at www.brandonmassey.com has descriptions and samples from each of my books.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
Brandon: As strange as it may sound considering the nature of my stories, I always draw inspiration from real life. Oftentimes, I will pull some facet from my personal experience and weave it into a story.
Just to use one example from a recent short story of mine, “The Host”: my family has rented a condo in the past for vacations, and the property host provided free WiFi. Naturally we signed our electronics into the free network. It was fine, but it got me to thinking one day: what if a hacker used that gateway to infiltrate our lives during this vacation? To dig into our most closely guarded secrets? What would that look like? The result was the story.
On top of that, I think I am a pretty good listener and observer of life—whenever I go out in public, I tend to pay very close attention to those around me. These observations, or snippets of conversations, always find their way into a character one way or another.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
Brandon: I have a full-time job, so I like to work on my writing in the morning. I usually get up around 4AM and work for a couple of hours. Sure, this requires getting to bed at a decent hour the night before (usually around 10PM), but I’ve accepted that if I want to consistently get work done, I need to follow a structured approach and make a few sacrifices.
I create a detailed outline of each book. It helps me stay on track and avoid getting lost in dead ends. The end product is usually a little different than the outline but I like having that predetermined route. It’s like having a map on a long road trip.
I am currently working on a new thriller that I hope to publish later this year.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
Brandon: I can’t recall the very first book that moved me emotionally, but I can recall a book that had a profound effect on me: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This man changed the course of his life, and history, primarily through developing his intellect, embracing his own raw intelligence. The message for me was that anyone could do the same thing if they chose to follow the path. It was tremendously inspiring.
My favorite author to read is Walter Mosley. I’ve read so much of his work over the years.
I am currently reading three books. A recent book I read that I highly recommend is Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s non-fiction, an insightful treatise into how we fail to communicate effectively with one another.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Brandon: I’ve been self-published, traditionally published, and self-published again. I’ve been a full-time writer and a part-time writer. My most significant achievement is that I am still writing almost every day. This isn’t a dash; it’s a marathon. It’s important to keep moving forward, despite setbacks.
I don’t necessarily have career goals to make X amount of dollars or sell X number of books. My goal is to stay healthy, focused, and productive; everything else flows from this. If I am healthy, focused, and productive, I will achieve whatever is within my reach, and that is enough for me.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing in terms of traditional and self-publishing?
Brandon: I dealt with ten years of rejection letters before I self-published my first novel, Thunderland, and eventually sold that book to a traditional publisher. Rejection is a part of life for a writer. All it means is that a particular person didn’t enjoy your work, for whatever reason. Learn whatever lesson is there for you to learn and move on.
In terms of how the industry is changing: I applaud the changes and how, at last, a determined writer can find a respectable level of success without having to appease industry gatekeepers. I still think a trade deal is needed if you want to experience certain benefits—wide, visible distribution of physical books in stores, for example—but it’s good to see how writers finally have viable options to build a career without following the old channels.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself?
Brandon: I enjoy reading my own work from time to time. I am always trying to improve my craft, so I need to read with a critical eye and determine areas for improvement.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Brandon: First of all, I think you’d have to define: what is successful? Selling a certain number of books? Earning a certain amount of money? I think you have to define that for yourself, first. To me, just finishing something of which I can be proud is success. I don’t think you’re ever too old to accomplish a goal like that.
Also, writing is one of the rare professions where, as you age, you actually get better. This is because you accumulate life experience, wisdom. I’m 46; I’m a much better writer than I was at 26 because I’ve seen so much more of life and have a deeper well of experience to draw from in my work.
Some of the most popular writers in the world right now are well past traditional retirement age. Look at Stephen King—he’s in his seventies and still pumping out a couple of books a year. Dean Koontz is in his seventies and he’s incredibly prolific.
So long as you have good health, it’s never too late to start writing.
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Brandon: I think you can exorcise some demons, so to speak, through your writing. I grew up raised by a single mother, with limited contact with my father, and that theme of an absent father, and the impact it has on a young man, was something I wrote about quite a bit in my earlier works. It helped me deal with the experience, and I don’t feel the need to write about it anymore.
With that said, I know from interactions I’ve had with readers that sharing that sort of life knowledge has helped others deal with similar situations. It’s gratifying to learn that something you wrote helped another person get through, so to speak.
That is the real power of our words; you can literally change someone’s life when you write from the heart. It’s an awesome responsibility.