Author Interview with Jeff O’Brien
Where did the idea for Death Dance in the Woods come from; did it turn out differently than expected? – Death Dance was started so long ago I couldn’t possibly tell you where the idea came from. I started writing it almost three years ago, but due to other projects taking priority or complications in life, I ended up putting it on the back burner a few times. Finally, just a couple of months ago, I decided it was time to write a non-comedy horror story, and committed to finishing it. I think it helped that not long before that I read KILL FOR SATAN! by Bryan Smith, and it really inspired me. It’s probably the most, fun, straight-forward non-pretentious horror book I’ve ever read, which is pretty much exactly what I go for with writing horror. Just plain old fun. After reading that I felt like I could finally tackle horror again.
Where did Candy and Kendall come from? Is there a hero here, or just a pair of people tackling unexpected events? – Funny you should mention heroes. Since Death Dance is by far the most conventional story I’ve told, perhaps the ONLY conventional story I’ve ever told, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t generic. It’s not really for me to decide whether I accomplished that goal or not, but writing a story without a hero was something I kept in mind the whole time. I suppose you could say that “The Sisterhood” were heroes in their own way, but whatever. I had no intention of making Kendall the knight in shining armor.
You’re known for a few themes in your writing, goth girls, strange and irreverent plots, and antiheroes among them, what makes Death Dance stand out from your other books? – It’s the farthest I’ve strayed from absurdism. I never thought I’d write anything more serious than The Night Manager, which is a flat-out comedy, so I guess the serious tone that I keep throughout almost all of Death Dance sets it apart from the rest of my work.
Do you find it difficult to work humor into horror themes? Why or why not? – I find it difficult to do it in a way that I find satisfactory. Humor in any story is very much about balance. If a story is slapstick, it’s gotta be slapstick all the way through. When slapstick starts happening in a lighter comedy, it throws off the whole balance of the story and turns me off completely. So when writing humor, I’m scrutinizing every single detail.
Which of your books is your personal favorite? – Definitely BigBoobenstein. I think it’s probably my defining work. Lots of my books are a result of me trying something new, and sort of flying by the seat of my pants. When I wrote BigBoobenstein, however, I felt like an expert. Almost like I was telling my own life story, because I just knew what I was doing for once.
You’ve had some really great covers for your books, any tips for helping the cover artist create something that represents a book well? – Both of my regular cover artists: Kendall R. Hart and Justin T. Coons, receive my sketch of what I want the cover to look like before they start work on it. I send them a drawing that looks like something your toddler would scribble on the wall in crayon, and give them my best explanation of what I’m going for. The two of them have an uncanny ability to turn my scrawlings into gorgeous art.
Who are a few of your biggest influences for your work? Would you say your ideas are far removed from those who inspired them? – My influences are countless, and come from all over. Piers Anthony is a big one, as far as writers go. But I get just as much inspiration from watching awful low-budget movies from the 80s and 90s. Random things like abandoned malls and urban legends are big for my brain too. Conspiracy theories, alternative history, concepts like a Flat Earth. I don’t even know how to categorize the things that get my imagination working. I think my ideas are very much the actual things that inspire them, if that makes sense.
What are some other projects we can expect to see from you in the future? – Up next I’ve got a short book called John Titor is an Asshole which is kind of a sequel to Journey to the Edge of the Flat Earth. And I’ve got about 20 unfinished manuscripts I can pick up at any given time. I kind of like not knowing what my next move is going to be until it happens. So we shall see.
Jeff O'Brien has been self-publishing since 2013. He lives in New Hampshire. He loves death metal and basketball. You can find more about Jeff and purchase his books here:
Please continue to my review of Death Dance in the Woods below!
Review: Death Dance in the Dark Woods by Jeff O'Brien
Four out of Five Stars
Candy is a woman with a lot on her plate. She's been a stripper for a while, a good one, and she's gotten used to a lot of things being not so great in her life, her abusive boyfriend Rhino among them. She thought maybe she'd finally unloaded it all when she took a chance and ran off in her car, but then she hadn't intended to wind up in a sleepy little nowhere spot like Hollows Point tackling a very weird night that just keeps getting weirder.
Kendall didn't have it much better. He thought he was on the straight and narrow, trying to make good as an accountant after he left his death metal career behind him years ago, but then he lost his job and a bought of listless depression set him out on a meandering drive with no real destination in mind. That night he wandered into Hollows Point on foot expecting life to get quite a bit worse after even his car failed him- instead he met Candy and the pair of them came together to face the strange little town and the open road ahead of them together.
The thing is, can anyone really be prepared to tackle a place as weird as Hollows Point?
Do you know how some of the most interesting and genuinely engaging films are the ones you come across late at night when you least expect to really find anything that can grab your attention? Those flicks, say something like Halloween: Season of the Witch, that you aren't sure about until you start to link into the plight of the all too familiar characters and the events unfolding around them? Death Dance in the Woods is very like those movies, quietly engaging, funny, and interesting. You find yourself really liking the characters and moving along through the plot wondering exactly where it's going to come out with all the shifts and turns, and coming out in some interesting territory.
Highly recommended to b movie horror fans who like a mix of horror, humor, sex, and blood.