Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Brian Martinez

Meghan: Hi, Brian. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Brian Martinez: Alright, well my name is Brian Martinez and I hail from Long Island, New York. I’ve written something like ten books at last count. Most of them are horror stories, or if they’re not horror they at least contain ingredients of horror. I love the dark stuff, although when I write it myself it tends to come out with a twist of humor.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Brian Martinez: Five? Alright, let’s see…

1) I’m a huge music fan, and by that I mean I listen to music almost constantly. For me streaming music is one of the greatest inventions of the last ten years or so. I mainly listen to Alternative and Electronic, but I mix in some other things as well. Lots of synth.
2) Nine Inch Nails is my favorite band of all time. I’ve been obsessed since the first moment I heard Trent Reznor’s music, so starting around ’92 or so. He’s one of my biggest artistic heroes in how he’s changed so much over the years, yet stayed true to exactly who he is.
3) I love animals, especially dogs. Sometimes more than people. In fact, if you see a dog in one of my books, that’s probably the safest character in the story.
4) I wake up at 4:30 every morning, almost on the dot, whether I want to or not. It started happening a few years ago, completely by accident. At first it was annoying and I tried to fight it, but I’ve come to embrace it. Now I get my best writing done before most people are awake.
5) I was on Sesame Street as a child, and I have proof.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Brian Martinez: Harold and the Purple Crayon. It’s a children’s book about a four year-old who makes his own world with a single crayon. So that obviously goes back pretty far. It sounds silly, but Harold was the first person who taught me I could create my own reality. It’s still one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned. Like most kids I was then totally scarred by the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, and a few ghost story books that gave me really bad nightmares. I think later on Dean Koontz was my introduction to more adult books, which always inevitably leads to Stephen King.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Brian Martinez: Tomie, by Junji Ito. He’s a master of Japanese horror manga who you absolutely must experience for yourself. His most famous work is Uzumaki, and it’s seriously a masterpiece of surreal horror. He has this way of making you feel uncomfortable, yet at the same time unable to look away. Japanese horror at its best.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Brian Martinez: I don’t usually read straight thrillers, but I picked up Killing Floor, the first Jack Reacher book by Lee Child, and was stunned by how well-written it was. Not that I thought it would be bad, I sort of expected the good action and fast pace, but I didn’t see the expert prose coming. Lee Child has a way with words and dialogue that makes the story sing. Other than that I do read bits and pieces of genres you wouldn’t think. I expect you’ll find that’s true of a lot of writers- we like to pop the hood and check out how the engine runs.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Brian Martinez: I started writing sometime in elementary school, for the simple reason that one day I asked my older brother what he thought I was good at, and he said writing stories. At the time I didn’t know what he meant, because I didn’t recall writing anything. Looking back I’ve found some old school papers in my parents’ attic and realized I had the habit of turning homework assignments into short stories, and usually bloody ones. I think it was inevitable from the start.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Brian Martinez: I have an office in my house that I do most of my writing in, although I do bits and pieces just about everywhere. To find the time to write you really have to be flexible. Five minutes here and there adds up to an hour pretty quickly if you keep at it. But at the same time having a routine is incredibly important.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Brian Martinez: I listen to music, all instrumental, so I don’t get distracted by lyrics. Mainly eighties horror soundtracks. Other than that, a lot of staring at the wall until it talks.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Brian Martinez: The whole thing is challenging. That’s probably why I keep doing it. The arts are weird in that every time you start a project, you’re essentially starting from scratch. You have the experience and the skills in place to create something, but you’ve never created THAT PARTICULAR something, so you never know how it’s going to go and where it might fall apart. If it was too easy everyone would do it, and it would probably lose its luster.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Brian Martinez: Usually it’s the short stories. There’s a certain purity to a really focused short story. Less words means less chances to screw it up. Short stories are almost like songs to me. Get in, do the damage, get out. I have a short story called “The Depths” that felt particularly good at the time.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Brian Martinez: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski comes to mind, because it’s a work of art and completely opened my eyes to what a book could be. Hunter Thompson and his ability to make something as meaningful as it is hilarious. As far as my writing style, he’s not an author, but I very often find myself trying to capture the feeling I get from John Carpenter movies. Whether you’re supposed to laugh or be scared, you just love that atmosphere he puts you in.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Brian Martinez: It can be so many things. Usually it’s a great character. In the end, though, it just has to deliver on what the tin says. I don’t watch Hot Fuzz for the same reasons I watch Saving Private Ryan or Alien, and yet all three are successful at giving you exactly the movie you wanted. They promise a certain ride and deliver it. Sometimes, though, what makes a story go from good to great is when it over-delivers. You expected to laugh, you did, but you cried somewhere in the middle as well. That’s a good ride. You still got what you wanted, and then some.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Brian Martinez: Being funny helps. Also they should do things, and not just think about doing things. And they definitely shouldn’t complain about doing things. Unless the complaining is funny. I don’t know exactly how I create characters other than letting them talk for a while and hearing what they have to say. From there I decide whether or not I want to keep hearing them talk. Characters are really interesting to me, you start off with an idea of who they’re going to be, a pre-judgment, but so many times they surprise you about who they actually are. That probably sounds full of crap but it’s completely true. As a writer, if you’re forcing a character to be who you think they should be, you’re doing something wrong. Part of the process is letting go of a certain amount of control.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Brian Martinez: Find the one who copes with life through humor, and that’s usually where you’ll find me.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Brian Martinez: I am most definitely turned off by a bad cover. It should at least be an okay cover, and then it better have a killer description. I just can’t imagine spending the kind of time it takes to write a book, to then turn around and slap a terrible picture on the front of it. Of course people should judge the story on the story itself, that’s obvious, but if you have an awful cover people will never get to read it in the first place.

For a while I did my covers with my own decent amount of Photoshop skills, but in the last few years I’ve come to see the importance of hiring professionals to do them. Not only are they better than you at it, they don’t have the emotional attachment clouding their vision. I still give my cover designer lots of ideas to draw from, and then give feedback for how to tweak the final image, so I’m definitely still involved. If you find the right person it’s a satisfying give-and-take process that makes everyone happy. A good cover draws people in, and it tells them you’re serious about this thing you’ve made.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Brian Martinez: How good it feels to finish a project. Writing any book, good, bad, mediocre, is a kind of marathon. People like to criticize certain authors or books, and I do it sometimes, too, but if you’ve ever actually written one, there’s always going to be a part of you that says, “Well, yeah, but at least they finished it.” I have a stack of books on my bookshelf that I wrote. That’s a great feeling. I think everyone needs that feeling in their lives in some form or another.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Brian Martinez: None of them have been emotionally difficult for me, if that’s what you mean. The first few scenes of any book are tough in that it takes a little while to find the voice of the story. Almost like warming up an engine. Once I do I usually have to rewrite those first scenes anyway, to match the feel. More and more I don’t sweat those first pages because I know how much they’ll end up changing. Editing is really freeing in that way. Nothing is permanent.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Brian Martinez: I tend to mix genres a lot. The Unseen, the series I’m writing now, is primarily a supernatural thriller, and yet it includes heavy amounts of horror, martial arts, noir, and even Lovecraftian elements. It’s selfish in a way, because I do it largely to keep things interesting for me, but I hope that translates to an interesting story that isn’t written how someone else would write it. The downside is it’s harder to market, but I have to accept that. I just hope that like-minded people will love it that much more.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Brian Martinez: Titles are extremely important. A friend pointed out once that titles are the one bit of your writing that everyone reads, and I agree with that whole-heartedly. That said, don’t sweat it too much. You usually know the right title when you see it. If not, write down as many as you can and try them out on people. You’ll figure out pretty quickly which one people respond to.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Brian Martinez: Novels by a huge margin. Short stories are great for those small bursts of accomplishment, which makes them great to write either between novels or when you’re feeling the drag in the middle. But like I said before, novels are marathons, and nothing makes you feel better about yourself than running a marathon. Or so I’m told.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Brian Martinez: I think what my books all have in common is that they dance in the place where genres meet. My biggest influence by far is growing up crazy about movies, and the ones I liked the most were always in a gray area genre-wise. Star Wars is science fiction but it’s kind of a western, too. Aliens is science fiction but it’s also horror. Predator is a monster movie but it’s a military action flick. Even Little Shop of Horrors, which I watched so many times I think I still know most of the songs, is a horror movie and a comedy and a musical and a romance all at once.

When I first started out, I was trying to write literary, post-modern stuff like Palahniuk or Clevenger, but I could never finish anything. It wasn’t until I embraced my love for genre fiction that my writing really took off. I realized pretty quicky that I could still say the things I wanted to say. My first book, A Chemical Fire, takes place in a kind of zombie apocalypse, but it’s also about a man destroying his world with drugs. The Mountain and The City is about post-pandemic life, but it’s also about how powerful mothers can be. And then there’s the Bleeders books, which are basically dark comedies about a major smart-ass dealing with the end of the world. And so on. The kind of people I write books for are people like me, who are unashamedly in love with the scope of what genre fiction can be. I just hope to give people a little escape, maybe a few laughs, and the sense that there are other people like them out there, either writing the books they’re reading, or running around in the books themselves.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Brian Martinez: I can’t think of any major deleted scenes of the stuff I’ve published. I do have a bunch of false-starts filed away, books I’ve gotten a few chapters into and decided the idea wasn’t quite cooked yet. That happened recently when I started writing a supernatural thriller set in the eighties called Passenger. It took me a little while to realize that what I was actually writing was a prequel to my series The Unseen. Once I understood that, I put it down and got back to work on The Unseen. But it did help me set up a bunch of backstory. Maybe at some point I’ll go back and finish it.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Brian Martinez: I actually do have a trunk novel. It’s one of those false-starts I mentioned, but it’s one I would still love to write. All I can tell you is it takes place in the future, and that I did a lot of research about parasites. Also it has one of the better titles I’ve come up with: Monstermouth Death Switch.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Brian Martinez: Right now I’m all in on The Unseen. It’s the most elaborate world I’ve created so far, with four major characters, each with a primary home town, crossing paths with creatures from something like ten different worlds. It’s been a complicated but interesting ride, and I want to see it through to the end. Somewhere along the way I have a few other series that have to be wrapped up, but beyond those I’m always looking for whatever comes. I’ve learned to keep an open mind when opportunities present themselves, and to say yes as much as possible when they do.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Brian Martinez: The main place is my website ** Twitter ** Instagram ** Facebook

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Brian Martinez: Just keep reading what you love to read, watch what you love to watch, listen to what you love to listen to, draw what you love to draw and write what you love to write. People who try to step on what you care about just wish they had something to care about as much as you. You’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to love things and be excited about them. Some people don’t want to admit when they like something, like it’s a sign of weakness, and maybe it is in a way, but it’s the best kind. It’s proof that you’re alive and you can be hurt. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Hold your favorite book up like a torch.

Brian Martinez is a science fiction and horror writer. He studied Film at Long Island University, and has been known to watch a John Carpenter flick on repeat until people grow concerned. He lives in New York with his wife Natalia and their pack of dogs. 

Martinez is known for numerous apocalyptic works, including A Chemical Fire, The Mountain and The City, and the Bleeders series. He also writes The Vessel, a Space Horror podcast on all major platforms. His works have appeared on screen and in print, as well as on Youtube and in audiobook. He is currently working on The Unseen, a major, multi-character Supernatural Thriller series.

The Unseen 1: Shallow Graves

He drinks too much. He can’t hold a marriage together. And he’s our only hope against the monster that just came to town.

Franklin Butcher is a young cop with a few rough years behind him. Freshly divorced, he decides to make a new start in the small town of Shallow Creek. What better place to coast until retirement than a town where nothing happens?

His plan doesn’t work. Soon people start disappearing, and Butcher is the only one who seems to want to solve the case. He believes a new couple in town are to blame for the vanishings, but the truth is even darker than he thinks.

Before he knows it, Butcher is drawn into an unseen world of supernatural creatures that has existed in secret for centuries. It’s also a world he has more connection to than he ever imagined. Because, like Shallow Creek, Franklin Butcher has a few secrets of his own.

The Unseen is a bold new take on familiar myths, from doppelgangers to vampires, to demons, monsters and more. This is a series that can’t be missed. But be careful- once seen, this world can’t be unseen…


Bleeders 1: The Read Death

Can the world’s biggest smart-ass survive the apocalypse?

All the news channels can talk about is the Red Flu, a nasty strain that came out of nowhere to wreak havoc on the population. There’s also something the government isn’t telling the public about the Red Flu- both the secret of its true effects, and exactly how it spreads. 

Brody Tate doesn’t care. He’s a young smart-ass living in New York City, locked in a dead-end job. His only concern is telling his boss where he can shove it. Besides, the news only exists to scare people, right? 

But something is wrong. There’s blood in his boss’s office. A woman is dead on the floor. 

His boss is eating the cleaning lady. 

He kills the man in self-defense- not that the cops believe him- and gets carted away for murder. As if his day wasn’t bad enough, his boss managed to bite him during the struggle. With the Red Flu tearing up his insides, Brody finds himself in a self-destructing New York, lost in the horrors of a crumbling city while fighting to stay alive. 

The question now is, if the Red Flu doesn’t kill him, and someone with it doesn’t, what will be left of him? What will he become?


The Mountain & the City

An epidemic has killed off most humans, turning the rest into beasts with sharp nails, keen senses and an insatiable hunger. Now, years later, a solitary survivor hides in a trailer above a dead city. This is life with the door and windows taped shut, where survival comes down to two, simple rules: stay quiet, and protect the air. 

One day, a visitor comes up the mountain. It’s a meeting that leads to a fateful decision, and a sacrifice that will change everything. 

Collected here for the first time, The Mountain and The City is a post-apocalyptic serial that has kept its faithful readers on the edge of their seats time and time again.

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