Every writer needs to find their own way down the literary path. As we each travel that road, we have to find the route that is best for us even though it may not be best for someone else. This time (and hopefully for a few other times), I wanted to highlight the work of another author and felt that starting with another horror writer was a great beginning.
I contacted Brian Johnson, author of Hell to Pay and the following are a few of the secrets he divulged.
Q. How would you describe your novel Hell to Pay?
A. A man who thinks he’s losing his soul, meets a man who has. Detective Michael Bailey is an ex-alcoholic police detective investigating a series of murders perpetrated by a man possessed.
Q. How did you develop the idea for Hell to Pay?
A. It started with a bad pun, one that runs through the entire book. Then I took this totally absurd idea and turned it into a horror novel.
Q. When working out ideas for stories, do you use any particular method?
A. I tend to write the highlight chapters first. This can be odd and out of order but then I go back and make the roads between them. Out of the 61 chapters in Hell to Pay, the ending was the 6th chapter I wrote.
Q. Do you use any particular method for developing your story structure?
A. I use the Writer’s Journey structure based on the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. This takes epic/mythological storytelling and breaks it down into a plotting format.
Q. Would you classify yourself as a pantster or a plotter?
A. A little of both. I don’t obsessively write outlines. Usually I try to tell the book to a couple of friends, maybe write a three page synopsis, but then I start writing. I keep some ideas and toss others to the wind. Since I do use a structure for my story, I’ll write about half of it, then start filling in the missing parts.
Q. Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so, how do you overcome it?
A. Oh yeah. I have hobbies, jobs, school, and family that moves my focus constantly. My one hobby, storm chasing, tends to dominate everything. I wish I had the dedication to set down every morning before sun up and write for an hour. Who knows, I may try that someday. I thought about giving up completely on sleeping but it lowers the lifespan so.
Q. Where did your characters come from? Where they built to fit the plot of the story or inspired by people in real life?
A. Both, the writer’s journey system has archetypes built into it. Almost stereotypical characterizations, my job is to take those characters and make them not typical. For that, I use people I know and have met. When I’m talking to people, especially large social events, I’m fairly intense on cataloging people for future reference. People tend to mask themselves in crowds and it’s interesting to see how they portray themselves.
Q. Do you have any new novels in the works? If so, can you give us a brief idea of the plot?
A. Yes. I am working on a Dark Epic Fantasy that I’m thinking about doing in novelette form or magazine form. I’m ¾ done with the first installment but look at having enough material for probably six novels by the time I’m done. For my writing, that’s a huge dedication. I may do a couple of other novels while working on this so my other ideas don’t die off.
The story is called Aristid, and is about a child of questionable origins being brought up by the church as a superweapon.
So Brian has used the Writer’s Journey methodology to develop a tension filled world around archetypal characters that he has fleshed out with realistic personalities. I can personally say that Hell to Pay is filled with nightmare imagery and quirky characters combining to make a fun horror novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When asked why a reader should consider purchasing Hell to Pay as opposed to Dean Koontz’s Odd Apocalypse or similar best sellers, Brian explained:
It’s a haunting story about the loss of one’s life, redemption, and personal sacrifice. This supernatural thriller is strongly based on Joseph Campbell’s epic storytelling and mythology. It’s like if Rick Riordan watched too much of the “Shield”.
So run out . . . or better, stay at home in your pajamas and wrap your mind around Hell to Pay. It’s available on Amazon at:
In addition, his story The Ballad of Mercy Tyler is available at Smashwords:
Next time I hope to highlight a writer outside the horror genre. Will it happen? Let’s wait and see!
If you would like to learn more about Brian and what he’s up to, you can check out his blog at:
Or his storm-chasing site: