Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Dani Brown
Not being much of a quote person, the best I could do is:
“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” Stephen King, The Dark Tower.
It was either that or trying to find a good Stephen Hawking quote regarding One Direction.
I’ve been writing a lot lately. I have a huge stack of stuff to get through before next week so I’ve been listening to whatever my friends are listening to, so a lot of Fleetwood Mac, as well as the hipster band (apparently actual hipsters haven’t heard of them because they’re too modern – I won’t mention their name as I don’t want this getting back to them and upsetting them, they come across as a bit sensitive). I’ve been meaning to listen to The Kinks – one of my knitting friends is fond of them. I also listen to The Doors while I’m in the kitchen as it is the only thing on my iPod that doesn’t offend the ears of my small child (all my CDs are in storage following a house move – I’m sure they also offend my son’s ears).
Interview: Dani Brown
Book Name and Description: Reptile. I tell my personal friends it is my 50k+ opinion of 50 Shades and the fetish community wrapped into one. The back of the book blurb is a bit different however…
A kicking inside Ruth wakes her up in the middle of the night but she’s not pregnant. She had been out with the local Fetish Community the night before. They weren’t really her friends though. She tried to fit in with them. It seemed possible they had injected her with something. The Supreme Sub called all the shots. She didn’t like Ruth. Ruth was a threat to her and the way she set up the Fetish Community. Anyone with an actual fetish had been driven out long before.
Ruth didn’t want to go to hospital. They wouldn’t give her an ultrasound – they’d lock her up instead. The best course of action would be to cut it from beneath her layers of blubber herself. Her parents were light sleepers. She would have to move her form down the stairs and to the kitchen for her father’s best knives in silence – a quest Ruth always finds difficult. If successful, she can cut away her fat and sell it online. With a decent income source she can move away.
Beads pour out of the first incision.
What gave you the idea for (your book)?
I had the idea a long time ago with beads pouring out of a cut made into a person at the person’s own hand. It came as an image. Most of my stories are images. I felt a bit left out at university because my characters didn’t speak to me – I only saw them. It might explain my lack of dialogue as well (I’ve been trying to watch more TV to improve that). So I kept this image in my head for a really long time. I didn’t even write it down.
A bit of back information about me, I’m one of those people that others feel they can tell anything even if I disagree with it (I do ask that people don’t tell me about hurting children and animals). I find a lot of things disagreeable but I try to keep an open mind and adopt a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards others. This means people tell me a lot of different things (I really get to hear a good mix of everything).
A few years ago, people into sexual kinkiness and BDSM started complaining. Men were being too dominant towards women who weren’t submissive, even men who were submissive were putting on a display of dominance. This started before 50 Shades, although I think 50 Shades is a good representation of what it is like on the ground out there from what I’ve been hearing. It wasn’t kink anymore, it was abuse. Women weren’t being heard. They weren’t being listened to. But it wasn’t just the men in the community at fault, other women weren’t listening either. It accelerated. People not even into BDSM were involved. All these new comers were falling into a traditional men are dominant, women are submissive role. All the women were expected to be bisexual regardless of whether or not they are. Men were expected to bat for one team or the other. I tried to express all of that through Reptile. And the pain people actually into BDSM felt and the pain of those expected to fit in.
Sometime between the image of the beads falling out of a self-inflicted cut and sitting down to write, people started to resist fat-shaming (and rightfully so, it isn’t anyone’s business what weight someone else is). Being overweight can be caused by a lot of different things. But people who were overweight through their own self-indulgences felt a lot of hatred when they went onto diets. Dieting is hard and it sucks. These people needed support. They knew they had no underlying health conditions and weren’t on any medication that would make them that way. They spoke out but apparently, I was the only one listening. So, I made my character rather disgusting in that she’s overweight because she over-eats. She can’t help herself (which in some cases, is a health condition in itself but I can’t remember the name). It turned into a vicious cycle – the more she ate, the worst she felt. If she wanted to go on a diet, she would be fat-shamed rather than supported. Believe it or not, it is possible to support dieters without fat-shaming anyone.
As someone open to hearing about the lives of others, I meet a high level of very manipulative people (also my mother was incredibly manipulative). From what I was hearing, there were high levels of emotional manipulation going on in the BDSM world between non-consenting people. It wasn’t a case of “if you love me, you’d do X”. That’s basic and easy to notice. This was like right out of some sort of how to be Charles Manson manual – not just in BDSM but in every group of people this was (and still is) occurring. I put the Supreme Sub as the key manipulator – a woman, who is presenting herself as submissive is in charge. Ruth is the actual submissive out of the entire community. Under the orders of the Supreme Sub, the others were driven off.
What got you into writing horror?
I was late to learn how to read (I’m dyslexic) but according to my grandmother, I was always telling spooky stories. When My Lovely Wife was published, she said she always knew I was going to be a writer. Because I was so late to learn how to read, I started with Stephen King. I was home from school sick and able to recognize basic letter formations into words and bored with daytime TV. A teacher had showed me how to use a dictionary a few years before. I grabbed a Stephen King book and the dictionary. Someone had left a bookmark in the book. I discovered if I put the bookmark underneath the sentences, they wouldn’t swim around. By the end of the book I no longer needed the dictionary. The following year, I ended up in advance placement classes (except history as I still can’t comprehend sequencing and dates). It took me a few years to read everything by Stephen King (and I’m behind once again) but that’s all I read when I first learned how to read. I didn’t read Narnia until college. I think the only other things I read while at school were assigned to us. I should note that I was tested for dyslexia until university when I did actually need some help with it. They said most dyslexics who use paperaides so the words don’t swim put it above the sentence.
Also, people tell me a lot of different things. I listen, that’s what I do. If everyone is given a voice, then maybe the world wouldn’t be so scary. I come across a lot of evil in the world, either in stuff people tell me, seeing it on the TV or experiencing it first hand. Writing horror, even in a sarcastic tone is my reaction to it all. I’d go insane otherwise.
How long have you been writing?
I didn’t start writing fiction until university. I have a BA (hons) in Creative Writing. Some people may find this odd. I had written the odd short story assigned in school or the odd bit of poetry. At college the tutor manipulated me into taking journalism when the rest of the class got to do film studies (I really wanted to do film). I ended up enrolling in Journalism and Creative Writing but dropped the journalism part as I hated it with every ounce of my being. I still hate journalism. I hate the way things are reported and spliced with the opinions of the writers and the newspapers. I’m glad I stuck with creative writing. I graduated with a First and an unfinished novel in 2008. The novel remains unfinished but it is getting there (should be in JEA’s inbox within a year). I’m the type of person to not do a degree without the intention on using it – something that gets lost on British people. There’s been a lot of times when people have tried to stop me from writing which is rather frustrating to say the least.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
My Lovely Wife (Morbidbooks) was my first published novella. I wrote it over the course of a few days then rewrote it over two days. Finding that first publisher is hard. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done but sometime between one and two years after writing, it was published. I thought people would treat me with a bit more respect after that but it turns out I was wrong so it is probably the only novella out in the world from me that I wrote before I lost my mind. It has that level of detachment I like to achieve. There’s a novel (Broccoli) with a very extreme level of detachment and written in second person but that is currently lost in publishing limbo. I do tend to forget about the stories after I write them. I get praised for writing from the point of view as a man. There are ‘sex’ scenes – if you want to call them that, it is the narrator abusing his wife for the most part.
Middle Age Rae of Fucking Sunshine (Morbidbooks) was my second published novella. I remember starting it. I was still sane back then but I was pissed off. Someone had upset me during my busiest writing period of the year following a few months of life wearing me down a bit more than usual. I was in high spirits because it was Christmas. I sat down to write and I was angry. But I still had my sanity. I wrote quickly. Half of it was done in a few days. Then shit happened. Who I refer to as Psycho-woman came and implanted herself into my life. Rae went to my writing pile which became dusty as Psycho-woman kept messaging me telling me what to do and how to live my life despite me telling her to leave me alone. She had a child in the same class as my son and I didn’t want to cause any problems for him by blocking her. If I didn’t respond to her messages, she would keep sending them until I did. I ended up with a case of the flu and somehow bringing myself to the library where I didn’t have phone signal to try to write. Eventually, I lashed out at her. I couldn’t take it. I thought I’d be left alone to pick up the pieces and get on with my life but I wasn’t so lucky. Weakened by Psycho-woman, Eurovision Skank came along directly after. I didn’t just lose hope for humanity, I lost hope in my writing and in my own future. This is probably where the pre-PTSD symptoms became actual PTSD but I wasn’t diagnosed until a year later. Rae wouldn’t leave me though. And in the ultimate night of Eurovision just before my brain finally fractured, I wrote a short story called 50 Shades of Gnome (to be published eventually by Fireside Press) as a way to try and hang onto the last threads of my sanity. It remains one of the best things I’ve ever written even though not many people have read it yet (due to it not yet being published). It gave me some hope on the darkest night of my life. Over the next few days leading into months, life got in the way and trying to move on from who I used to be to what I was in that time (I felt like a blank canvas for people to project all their insecurities and hatred onto – no one was letting me have a voice and therefore, I was beginning to feel that I didn’t have a mind of my own). I finished Rae a few months later as a way to hold onto myself. I tried to write other things as well – one of which I recently finished (I will finish them all). I had so little faith in it, I sent it to Morbidbooks without sending it to my editor. It started off as a great story. I didn’t like what it became. My readers did however. It remains, to this day, the only story I have were feedback is one hundred per cent positive.
Welcome to New Edge Hill (Morbidbooks) I think was the first thing I wrote after Reptile. I wrote it mainly on post-it notes because I’m naturally not an organized person and had just finished some treatment for PTSD. I was trying to build a bridge between what I was long ago and when I finally snapped (although I can pinpoint the night of when other people’s problems and people not listening to a word I have to say became too much, this was ongoing). It was a hard one to write. I was originally going to send it to a different publisher with a lot more restrictions than Morbidbooks but I was up for the challenge. I find hipsters to be amusing and I’m always wondering where they get their money from. Wages are pretty damn low and these folks seem to have a lot of leisure time available to them – how on earth do they afford the nice things they like? A lot of these things are handmade. There’s a hipster barbershop in the city centre. I walk past it sometimes and it is so expensive. I thought I’d give two of them actual decent jobs. I went with law enforcement because there’s been a lot of police bashing (some of it is deserved, in my opinion) and not all cops are bad folks. I love Chupacabra. They must be my favourite cryptozoology creature. I had scrapes of Edge Hill as images in my head much like the beads from the self-inflicted incision in Reptile. I thought the ones I selected worked well in it but I can’t remember which ones. If I thought people would leave me alone to write and move on with my life, I still came across people who refused to treat me like a human being during the time of writing this. I’m not sure if that shows. I was trying to get a balance of my natural detached writing style with expressing some of my own emotions in it.
Toenails (Morbidbooks) was my reaction to toning myself down for Welcome to New Edge Hill. I wrote it over the course of two weeks direct to my laptop while on public transport. During those two weeks, I was able to detach myself from my writing which made me happy. I was being disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. I hope I made someone vomit and brought a little bit of nasty into someone’s day.
Stara (out from Jaded Books Publishing). I don’t really know what to say about Stara. When I was pregnant, there was some pressure to have an abortion. Turns out, after years of listening to various stories, other women have undergone similar experiences, varying from the pressure I felt to outright manipulation. Add to this, I have a handful of pro-life friends (this becomes relevant in a few sentences). I really don’t think people have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies but I did wonder why so many women were told to have abortions if their lives weren’t at risk, they hadn’t been assaulted and there was nothing wrong with the baby. I couldn’t come to any sort of conclusion so went with the sickest and most horrible. I wrote it by hand in my notebook (it actually ended up being across two notebooks). A new publisher was looking for authors. An author I admire had already signed with them and said I should join them. I must admit I was curious about this publisher and someone else I knew had released a book through them. I said I would try and leafed through my notebooks until I found something nearly finished that would hit their word count. When I typed up Stara it was about 15000 words and had no ending. Also I knew nothing about abortion procedure (and still know nothing). Sometimes my pro-life friends post pro-life propaganda pictures on their social media accounts – I thought I would base what abortion procedure I could on those pictures because they are really fucking disturbing. I’m pretty confident the pro-life propaganda is a far cry from what is a routine, if heartbreaking medical procedure (due to Ireland’s abortion laws, we get a lot of women travelling from Ireland to Liverpool to undergo the procedure and they are always so heartbroken). I thought Stara should be under the orders of a teacher so I combined every little piece of information my brain could produce about various human sacrifice rituals and Elisabath Bathory (history and religion are not by any means my strong point and I listen to a lot of people with differing opinions about things like ancient religions) and came up with the guru. My usual editor wouldn’t touch this story so a friend of mine with a strong stomach read through it before I submitted it and a few weeks later I had an acceptance.
Stef and Tucker aren’t yet published. When the first book is released, I will have something to say about them.
Dark Roast, released a few weeks before Reptile from JEA will get its own little set of interview answers.
Night of the Penguin to be released by JEA will also get its own set and possibly an essay about the middle management characters.
Seth and Fellatio Raptor are both being worked on right now and will appear in my Why Horror and writing process essay.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
My day starts at five. I put on the coffee and do yoga. Then, still in my pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand, I write. I write until it is time to get my son ready for school. Then I get dressed and get ready for the day job. I may not have another chance to write that day. People still like to tell me what I need to do to be happy. It wears me down. It triggers the PTSD. It reduces me to a crying shaking mess. I want to be left alone to write. I wouldn’t have to wake up at 5 when the world is still quiet and sleeping if people would leave me alone to write. I can’t not write. Writing is my life. It is my future. I thought a degree and published books would mean people would leave me alone but I was wrong. If these feelings haven’t worn me down, I may get another chance to write after the day job but before I pick up my son. Unless I have a looming deadline, I like to have time to spend with my son every day. Due to how early I wake up and how much trouble I have falling asleep (natural insomnia combined with PTSD), I tend to go to bed early and like to avoid electric devices once my son is in bed. If I didn’t finish everything I intended during the week, then on Friday afternoon I put on a pot of coffee and try to write then. Typically, if I haven’t finished, it is because people have been bothering me again and I have trouble writing when that is the case.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?
The Dark Tower is my ultimate favourite book. I was obviously going to choose something by Stephen King. This series ties in with a lot of things he has written and with other great books like Lord of the Rings (another favourite of mine). I can’t wait for the film.
What are you doing next?
The future holds a lot more Stef and Tucker, Seth and a story based on my opinion of men’s rights activists, pick up artists and men telling me how I feel based purely on me not having a cock.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing until it is done and published. Write in secret. Jealousy does horrible things to people. People you thought who would be supportive won’t be no matter how much evidence you have backing you up. And then there are the “I would write a book” crowd. Yes, you will need people to read what you’ve written when you are starting out. A google search will bring you to places with like-minded people where you can post your writings in safety.
Born in Oxford but raised in Massachusetts, Dani Brown is the author of “My Lovely Wife”, “Middle Age Rae of Fucking Sunshine”, “Toenails”, and “Welcome to New Edge Hilll” out from Morbidbooks. She is also the author of “Dark Roast” and “Reptile” out from JEA. She’s the person responsible for the baby blood bath that is “Stara” out from Jaded Books Publishing. She has written various short stories across a range of publications. There’s always more coming soon. As of writing this, “Stef and Tucker” haven’t been released but they will be soon (if “Dancing With White Walkers” hasn’t happened by the time you read this).
When she isn’t writing she enjoys knitting, fussing over her cats and contemplating the finer points of raising an army of dingo-mounted chavs. She has an unhealthy obsession with Mayhem’s drummer and doesn’t trust anyone who claims The Velvet Underground are their favourite band.
You can contact Dani on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DaniBrownBooks/.
Official and sometimes updated website http://danibrownqueenoffilth.weebly.com/