Melbourne horror writer Brett McBean is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association. His published work includes the novels The Mother and The Last Motel, the novelettes The Familiar Stranger and A Question of Belief, and short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. His website is http://www.brettmcbean.com.
Q1. You’re currently working on a zombie novel that you first started in 2001. What made you return to it? Have the intervening years, during which you’ve published some very different work, changed your approach to the story?
It’s not so much a question of why I returned to the story, but why I stopped writing it in the first place. I wrote about two thirds (around 110,000 words) before I decided to stop work on the story – for the time being. I knew I would return to it one day, but at the time, the story was getting too big for me. Part of it was set in Haiti, the other in America, and I knew I needed to do a lot more research before I could finish the story. Also, the novel was only the third I had ever attempted, so I think the scope was too big for me at the time. The six-year gap has been immeasurable in terms of developing my writing to a point where I can tackle the subject matter and story with the proper maturity and knowledge. Reading over the first draft after all those years made me realise that I simply wasn’t ready in 2001 to develop the story to its fullest potential. I’m having a blast revisiting the characters and finally completing the story.
Q2. You’ve been nominated for the Ditmars and the Ned Kelly Crime Fiction Awards. How significant has this been in terms of raising your profile and reaching new readers? Is there anything that you wish you’d known, starting out as a writer?
I don’t think being nominated has had a dramatic effect in terms of attracting a great number of new readers – those people who are aware of such genre awards most probably would have heard of some of my work anyway. But being nominated certainly does look nice on the resume.I wish I had known that writing is a life-long learning process, that it takes years to develop your voice, and that success doesn’t happen overnight. Patience certainly is a virtue.
Q3. Where do you want to be as a writer in five years, and how do you plan to get there?
In five years, I guess I’d like to be writing full time, still loving the creative process, still pumping out the kinds of stories I enjoy writing and reading. How do I plan to get there? One day at a time. And by making sure I sit my arse in that chair and write every day.
Q4. Do you read much from the Australian spec fic scene? What are the best things you’ve read this year? Following on from your essay ”On Research, Dead Trees and Horror in Australia,” are there any pieces of writing that you feel really take advantage of the Australian landscape to create atmosphere?
I haven’t read a lot of Aussie spec fic this year (shame on me!). Most of my reading has been geared towards the coming-of-age and ‘last man on earth’ genres – research for the two stories I’m currently working on (the zombie novel and a novella). But as for which stories use the Aussie landscape to create atmosphere, you can’t go past the classic ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.
Q5. If you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be and why?
Well, there’s a particularly saucy temptress called Zoe, from the Steve Gerlach books ‘Love Lies Dying’ and ‘Hunting Zoe’ – she’s a sexy, feisty woman who could really give you a night to remember. Also, I wouldn’t say no to being stranded in the woods with the five gals from Richard Laymon’s ‘Blood Games’ (or any Laymon girl, for that matter).