A few years ago I stumbled across a few different segments of a larger project and fell in love upon first read. Unfortunately, life happened and I’d forgotten about the stories until one day I found myself randomly wondering what on earth happened next in the story, but for the life of me could not remember what it was called. I took to Reddit and through the community was able to find the name of the book as well as the author. The Mountain and The City has become one of my personal favorites and I’m super excited today to be able to bring you guys an interview with the man behind the awesomeness, Brian Martinez.
HMS: Brian, thanks so much for answering my questions. Why don’t you start by telling the Horror Metal Sounds audience a bit about yourself?
Brian Martinez: Sure thing. Well, I'm a horror and science fiction writer who hails from Long Island, New York. I'm known mostly for my post-apocalyptic works like A Chemical Fire and The Mountain and The City, though I do jump around a bit into other genres. I tend to write what interests me, even if that goes against all the rules of marketability.
HMS: How did you first get into writing?
BM: It's funny, writing is something I've been doing for so long that I actually don't remember when I started. I do have a memory of being very young and asking my older brother what he thought I was good at. He told me I wrote good stories, which surprised me because I wasn't aware that that's what I was doing, but years later I was in my parents' attic and I found all this schoolwork my mother had saved from when I was small. Apparently I had a habit of turning my assignments into these dark stories to shock my teachers. I'm actually kind of amazed it never raised any alarms. I don't think it would have fared as well if I was growing up now. Anyway, over the years it evolved from something I did occasionally to something I do every day without fail and think about constantly when I'm not.
HMS: Why do you think you're drawn to the horror genre as a writer?
BM: It probably stems from getting screwed up at an early age by horror movies, or worse, horror scenes in non-horror movies. Like that damn robot scene in Superman III, or the witches in the original Clash of The Titans. How about those creatures in Beastmaster that digest people by wrapping their arms around them until they're a pile of bones? Does anyone else remember that? That aside, I also find horror really interesting. The fear is primal, which we can all relate to, and the worlds if they're done right tend to be textured and vivid. From a writer's perspective there's so much to play with, and it feels good to play around in your own fears.
HMS: I totally remember Beastmaster! So when did you know that you wanted to be a part of the horror genre instead of just a fan?
BM: I guess it was inevitable that the genres I loved would eventually become my focus. In the beginning, I was determined to be a serious, literary writer, like Denis Johnson or Craig Clevenger, or even Chuck Palahniuk, but at the same time, I've always seen horror as more than just scares and cheap thrills. Not that there's anything wrong with cheap fun, but horror always expressed fear and isolation in the most honest ways to me. Holing yourself up in an abandoned mall as the world died, trying not to die from exposure as your psychotic father stalked you, or as an alien took over the bodies of your friends and made you doubt who to trust. By the time I went to write my first book, I realized that was what actually held my attention and made me want to tell a story. So I set out to make a zombie story the way I wanted to see one, as a brutal metaphor for a guy who loses everything, and that's what A Chemical Fire became.
HMS: A Chemical Fire is obviously not your only dystopian book, what do you think drove you to continue creating post-apocalyptic worlds?
BM: Because of A Chemical Fire, I ended up being in touch with a bunch of apocalypse fans — websites, blogs, reading groups — and it fanned my obsession, which believe me, was already strong. At one point, one of the sites asked me if I'd be interested in writing a short story for them. I have this thing where I try to say yes to every opportunity that comes up, no matter how small, because at the very least it's a chance to learn something new. Almost without fail, you'll be rewarded for saying yes. That short story was The Mountain and The City. I never intended for it to be anything more than that, but the readers wouldn't let it die. It became a serial with six parts. Every time I tried to end it they yelled at me for more until it became a full-length book. Even now people have asked me to continue the story, which is really flattering. It's nice to be in a position when people want more from you and not less. I still have more ideas for apocalyptic stories. I don't think it's something that's been exhausted yet.
HMS: The Mountain and The City is one of my favorites. Where did you get the idea for it? And can you tell HMS readers a bit about the story? (No spoilers)
BM: I'm really glad you like it. The genesis of the story was as simple as, "What's one way a person would go about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world?" It started off small, with a solitary person holed up in a trailer, but as it went along it brought up all these questions that needed to be answered. "Why do the doors and windows have to be sealed up?" Because there's something in the air, obviously. "Why the need for silence?" Because something out there is hunting people. What came from it was this person who has lived so long in this strange way, basically the most selfish way you can exist, that it's warped them and made them forget what it is to be human. So of course a visitor comes along and throws that way of life into danger. Then it becomes a question of, "At what point do we stop being selfish to help someone else, even if it means losing everything?" It's amazing to me that a story I never set out to write in the first place became the thing people gravitate to most. It also helped that D.J. Molles mentioned it in an interview saying he really enjoyed it. He wrote the popular Remaining series. Through that I got in touch with him and some other horror authors who were all really cool people. They've even mentioned wanting to collaborate in the future if the stars align. All that from saying yes to one website. It was just the right place, right time in a lot of ways.
HMS: Awsesome, now tell us about your upcoming release, Hot Dirt.
BM: Well, it's the third in a series of books I call The Obscured about parallel worlds and the Gods and creatures that inhabit them. Essentially it's a war that has been building for years and years, going back to before recorded history. But the catch is, our world is the only link between them all. So we're stuck in the middle of this escalating, all-out war between races of monsters, some evil, some just trying to live. It's Dark Urban Fantasy ultimately, but it mixes a lot of other genres, too, most definitely Horror but also Science Fiction, Martial Arts, all with a dose of humor. This book, Hot Dirt, has more of a Film Noir vibe. It's about a hitman who gets into trouble, leaves the business and goes into hiding in the desert, only to find himself wrapped up in even worse trouble. As a hero he's pretty screwed up, but he's also built like a tank and about as easy to stop, so you'd definitely want him on your side if you had the choice. I hope people give it a chance and stick with the series. I have some big plans in store and it just gets bigger and bigger and hopefully takes people on a crazy ride. It's the most ambitious thing I've done and I'm having a good time with it.
HMS: You say you have big plans, are you able to elaborate on what's in store?
BM: Let's just say the scale will continue to increase for everyone involved. The first four books are an introduction to a main character, the story of how they're drawn into this secret war. From there we'll start to see the four of them meet up, and some of them won't get along too well. They'll have to decide whether they want to kill each other or fight together against these larger and larger threats, which they may not be able to face by themselves.
HMS: So do you feel like you've perhaps created a horror/superhero crossover of sorts?
BM: I don't think it's a superhero crossover, per se, in the same way Hellboy or Buffy aren't necessarily superheroes. They have some innate, inhuman abilities and a lot of prophecies dangling over their heads telling them they're supposed to save the world, but maybe all those prophecies are just so much smoke, and the path they're on leads to death and tragedy for them and everyone they love.
HMS: When it comes to horror, one often has to have a suspension of disbelief. Do you think that's why many times horror, sci-fi/fantasy go hand in hand?
BM: In my eyes, horror and sci-fi both come from a place of asking, “What if?" They just go about asking it in different ways, and often answering it in different ways, too. So it stands to reason they would share some similarities, and some fans. At times I don't know what category to put one of my books into when it's finished. And again, that's probably a mistake from a marketing perspective, but I don't always see the distinction. Movies like Aliens and Event Horizon, or more recently games like Dead Space… can you honestly put them one hundred percent in one genre? I don't always feel comfortable drawing such solid lines.
HMS: I feel the same. So what would you say is the genre that scares you the most? Slasher? Haunting? Apocalyptic? Or something else entirely?
BM: I haven't found a book yet that really scared me, though I'm always open to one. As far as movies, Japanese horror definitely gets under my skin like nothing else. The Eye, Audition, those messed me up pretty bad. A good ghost story can do the trick. I think it's a sense of feeling defenseless, like not even a locked door will save you. I recently read Uzumaki, this brilliant manga series by Junji Ito. That one creeped me out a fair amount. It was so bizarre and it just didn't stop getting crazier and crazier. I loved it.
HMS: So for my final question… if you had to choose an end of days scenario to be thrown into, what would you pick and why?
BM: Man, I get to pick? Well, I know it can be rough going, but I think it would still have to be zombie apocalypse. I wouldn't want to deal with anything intelligent like aliens, plagues are just too much of a constant threat, and anything having to do with a natural disaster tends to ruin water and plant and animal life. Zombies seem like the thing where if you play it smart and follow some rules you might make it out alive. Destroy the stairs, people. Plus it would be nice if all this daydreaming turned out to be useful someday.
Big thanks once more to Brian Martinez for taking the time to answer my questions. To find out more about Brian and his work, make sure you check out his Amazon Author Page and his website