For those of you who haven’t read it, go check out Bill Braddock’s Brew for a fast, fun, and frighteningly good time!
Bill Braddock, Author of Brew
“BREW is a keg of dark fun and Braddock pops the thing like a shook-up bottle of Bud. It’s got brains and it’s got heart. The late Richard Laymon would have loved this one. Me? I gulped it right down, with no hangover in the morning.” – Jack Ketchum, four-time Stoker Award winner and author of The Girl Next Door and The Lost
~ Welcome, Bill! I haven’t seen you around before. Can you give us a little background info? Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
Hi, and thanks for having me. I live just outside Philadelphia in West Chester, PA, on a tract of land that once served as the British approach to the Battle of the Brandywine. I’ve had many, many jobs — dish washer, line cook, bartender, bouncer, stone mason and several others — but now I write full-time.
~ Do you feel you were born to write or was this something you realized you wanted to do over time?
I started writing complete stories in third grade. During middle school and high school, I poured my need for storytelling into poorly drawn cartoons and sweeping Dungeons & Dragons adventures, but I continued to write the occasional odd, often dark tale. Most were vignettes, really, just random scenes, but I dug writing them and shared them either with no one or just a couple of friends. Truth be told, I believed what the English teachers told me. I was an okay writer, but the stuff that interested me? Better leave that in the darkest drawer. During college, I took a couple of writing classes. The first one punched my aspirations in the face. The instructor was literary all the way, and while I’ve always respected good literary writers, I’m really a genre guy at heart. The second class, however, was much more inspiring. That instructor, the great Robert C. Downs, liked my stuff and encouraged me to keep going. So I did. Right after college, I started writing basically every day. Soon after, I started sending stuff out, getting rejections, making adjustments, and sending stuff back out again, until at last, my stories started selling. Early on, I had written an abysmal novel that went straight in the trunk. After selling a couple dozen stories, I decided it was time to write another book. That was BREW.
~ What’s your writing process like? Plotter or Panster?
A little of both. I can’t work from a straight outline — that would kill the fun for me — but I also know better than to trust myself solely on the fly. I like to think a book through, get some ideas down by thinking on the page, rough out some scenes, and get writing. Once the beginning is set, I want take a crack at the ending. If I can get those two in place, even a loose plan will do. I’m far less likely to waste my time or yours if I have the ending in mind before launching into the middle. I actually learned this from BREW, for which I did very little planning. It took a long time — three years — and it was an education.
~ What have you found to be the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
The hardest thing about writing is not getting distracted by stuff. The easiest part is coming up with ideas. They’re always there in my head, pushing and shoving, waving for attention.
~ Can you tell us about your journey to getting published?
I started publishing in the university press, then scored my first I-don’t-know-the-editor publication with a very small mag called BARBARIC YAWP. The editor sent my acceptance on a torn scrap of yellow paper. It was glorious. They paid one copy, and I was over-the-moon excited. From there, I went on to publish thirty-some stories, most of them sales, and finally ended up writing BREW, which at least started as my homage to the late great Richard Laymon, with his wonderful ONE RAINY NIGHT as an obvious influence. When I started writing BREW, I had his publisher, Leisure, in mind, but at almost the same moment that I’d finished my manuscript, Leisure went under. I was devastated at first, but then I looked around, thought it through, and realized that the best market for BREW was still going strong: Permuted Press! I sent them a copy, and Jacob, the head honcho at the time, was very encouraging, held onto it for a long time, then finally passed. This time, I really was devastated. Oh well, I told myself, it was only took me three years to write and another six months to gather rejections. I tossed it in the trunk. A couple years later, my friend Tim Waggoner told me I should try the Angry Robot Open Door Month. Since Tim is never wrong, I gave it a shot, throwing BREW their way. This was a new experiment for AR. They ended up with something like a thousand submissions that month, and the plan was to pub one, two, maybe a few. Long odds… and a long time. BREW held on and held on, surviving multiple rounds over what I believe was ten or eleven months. During that time, Jacob got back in touch, asking if I’d ever sold the book. I said I hadn’t, explained what was happening, and thanked him for asking. He wished me luck and told me to let him know what happened. I said I would, not thinking much of it. We had clicked instantly, and he seemed like just the type of cool, thoughtful editor who would check up on close calls. BREW went all the way through the AR competition, making it through the “open door” to editorial, where it was ultimately struck down by the Robot Overlords, who said nice things about it but explained that their horror slots were full. After weeping softly into a hankie, I shot Jacob an email, sharing my sad news. Minutes later, he responded with the offer to buy, explaining that he hadn’t been able to get the book out of his head after passing on it all those months ago. Talk about an amazing day! I went from pit to peak in a space of perhaps fifteen minutes.
~ Where did the idea for Brew stem from?
BREW grew primarily out of two sources: my years at Penn State and my fear of random tragedy. Penn State was crazy, one big party for me. Loved it. But sometimes, when I was out roaming the streets or standing in a bar or a party, shit spun rapidly out of control. Again and again, both as a partier and, more lucidly, as a bartender, I witnessed absolutely bat shit crazy events: fights, people having sex in public, people rioting on Beaver Ave while some girl stripped in a apartment window several stories above, and one time, a beer keg flying maybe ten stories off a balcony, hitting the parking lot, and bouncing twenty feet in the air, spraying foam. Insane. At no time was the mania more pronounced and the violence closer to the surface than in those packed nights following a big football game. College Heights is Penn State, simple as that. The second source, my fear of random tragedy, came both from paying attention to the world and from my personal experiences. My mother, who was just an incredible person, passed away very young from cancer. I was twenty-five. It made no sense, as did the death of a twenty-four-year-old friend two weeks later. Through the years, I was increasingly aware that tragedy struck anyone at anytime. When I was writing BREW, my father was in the midst of his four-year battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here was a guy with an IQ floating around 180 — that’s the truth, though I know few will believe it — a 6’3″ powerhouse who, though, he’d spent his life as a blue collar factory worker, could out-debate anyone I’d ever met, a certified genius, and a physcical phenom… and he’d been reduced to a hollowed out shell. Heartbreaking. Put these things together, throw in a love for Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum, and you get BREW.
~ I enjoyed Steve and Cat’s blood and guts journey. What made you choose Cat to grow as a character?
Great question, and its answer circles back to plotting versus pantsing question. Cat surprised me. I hadn’t plotted her fate or Steve’s. Both occurred to me while I was in the trenches, writing, and I was certain they were right. Honestly, I love Cat. Like so many people I’ve known, she’s far stronger than society would have her believe. It only took the right — or in this case, the wrong — set of circumstances to help her recognize her own potential.
~ In Brew, Herbert was unrelenting in his madness and his revenge. Is there a possibility for a sequel?
I’m definitely tempted to write a sequel, and I am perhaps even more tempted to compile a collection of short stories that all go down that same, horrible night in College Heights, with a fuller novella to anchor everything. If it comes to fruition, I’ll call it MICROBREWS.
~ What are your favorite genres to read?
I read widely — fiction, nonfiction, basically everything, whatever is in my path at any given time. Most commonly, though, I read horror, thrillers, and science fiction. My favorite writers are Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchum.
~ What’s next on your TBR (To Be Read) shelf?
I’m reading (and loving) Stephen King’s DR. SLEEP right now. After that, I’m not sure. Probably Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, Craig DiLouie’s THE RETREAT #1: PANDEMIC, or an ARC of Nick Cutter’s THE TROOP, which I picked up at WHC and have been wanting to read ever since.
~ If you only had one movie to watch over and over again, what would it be?
Galaart! What a cruel question. Um… SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
~ What tip would you give writers that are just starting out?
Have fun. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.
~ What can we expect from you in the future?
I have a couple of things in the works, including a longish short story I’ve wanted to write for years. Hopefully, I’ll have news soon!
~ Would you like to say anything to your fans or potential readers?
First of all, since BREW is my first book, it’s been AWESOME hearing from people who’ve enjoyed it. I’m not comfortable thinking of people as fans, but I have to tell you, nothing has made me happier than to hear from these people. It’s crazy. I love it. And social media being what it is, a couple of honest-to-goodness friendships have grown out of BREW. Very, very cool. I’ve been similarly blown away by the kindness of all the people — including you! — who’ve been reviewing BREW on Amazon, Goodreads, and across the blog-o-sphere. To all of these people, I would say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! To potential readers, I’d say if you like extreme horror, and especially if you’re a fan of Richard Laymon, please check out a sample online and see if BREW suits you. It pulls few punches and tenders no apologies, but I did my best and had a blast writing it. Hope you like it, too!
~ Thank you for taking the time to chat with us here at RR, Bill. We wish you much success!
Thank you so much for having me! Cheers!