AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dani Brown

Meghan: Hey Dani… or should I say Queenie? Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. I’ve honestly never had a Queen on the blog yet… especially a Queen of Filth. Thanks for joining in this year’s frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Dani: Halloween in the United States and Halloween in the UK are two very different things. I lived in America from about the age of 3 until I was 16. I did have a last Halloween in America when I was 16. I went trick or treating with my friends. Americans go all out for Halloween with the decorations. I was too young for the American parties unless it involved a keg in the woods. When I was growing up, I was looking forward to the parties and nightclubs I was too young to attend. But the parties never happened and I’ve been to one club on Halloween (it wasn’t that exciting).

I know there’s parties about and clubs put on a theme night, but before having my son my mother wouldn’t let me leave the house or do anything a functional person might wish to do (society over here, instead of telling someone who had a traumatic experience, like my mother’s entire time spent living in the USA that it is over now and offering help to move past it, instead encourages people who have experienced trauma to never heal, so any time I went for help for her, it was always, ‘your mother had a rough time blah blah blah’ and of course, society likes to write off the children of these people regardless of whether we ended up traumatised by our experiences).

Then I had my son. I was sick after having him so I don’t think I dressed him up and took him trick or treating until his third Halloween. I don’t even think I had the energy for pumpkin carving before then (unknown post natal infection, lots of tests, lots of anti-biotics, virals and fungals but no diagnosis, I eventually mostly recovered). Children over here go as something scary instead of the latest Disney Princess or whatever comic book character. I would dress him up and take him trick or treating, but not as many homes hand out sweets as they do in America. I did find a cute pumpkin costume for him one year though. And a lot of British children aren’t allowed to ‘go begging at people’s door steps’ as some parents say. My son is too old for Halloween now. And unfortunately, he doesn’t really like it apart from the bucket of sweets and chocolates I buy for him (in one of those plastic pumpkin buckets).

These days, I usually carve a pumpkin and hand out sweets. I don’t really do much in terms of decorations, but that’s more to do with lacking in the time and energy. If I had the energy levels required, I would love to go to a themed night at a club now that some legal changes over here mean I’m away from miserable people. And a haunted hayride (I think we have those over here).

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Dani: I’m squeamish, but I don’t scare easily. I’m not keen on jump scares but that’s more to do with the people mentioned above who don’t want you to move on from your bad experiences (they’re more vocal than ever in using something bad that happened to you once, happened through no fault of your own and using that experience to define who you are) giving me a pretty nasty case of PTSD (please note, the PTSD is literally from dealing with people who decided to create every obstacle imaginable because all their books and websites said someone who went through what I did should be traumatised, it wasn’t the traumatic experiences of my childhood and very early adulthood, when my mother’s mental health took a worse turn, but the people claiming they were ‘helping’ who gave me the PTSD). I had to watch The Haunting of Hill House with the lights on and in short segments despite really enjoying it because the jump scares were pushing my physical responses to the point my body wouldn’t be able to handle it. But that applied to one of the Harry Potter films as well so it isn’t restricted to things traditionally seen as horror.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Dani: This is easy to answer, The Wizard of Oz. My American grandmother put it on one Thanksgiving as a treat and I’ve had nightmares about it since. I didn’t like that pink dress worn by the ‘Good Witch’. All of Munchkin Land was like what I would later describe as a bad trip. Even before Dorothy crash-landed her house on whatever Wicked Witch, her neighbour was horrible. I haven’t watched that horrible film since. But I did watch it in its entirety when I was a child, and the entire thing was unpleasant. I haven’t read the books and I think I’m going to have to give Wicked a miss. I have not put on the film for my son. I still can’t decide if I’m more frightened of the Good Witch, the Lion or the Flying Monkeys.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Dani: I’m not too sure. They kinda blurred together years ago, especially with the extreme stuff. Murder in itself is disturbing, so I guess they’re all pretty disturbing but you aren’t watching horror films for a happy ending or no bloodshed.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Dani: I’ve refused to watch Human Centipede. I’m too squeamish for that one, although I don’t think I’ve seen any advertising for that or any of the squeals. It obviously sunk into popular culture rather well. It seems everyone has seen it, except for me and I will keep it that way.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Dani: I would go with Scream. I had this horrible boyfriend in my late teens and early twenties who would call films like Scream ‘mainstream Hollywood slashers’ in the most derogatory way imaginable (but of course, the very violent Japanese films were apparently works of art). But Scream for me, was the horror franchise of my youth. I think I was 12, maybe 13 when the first one came out, so prime age for the beginning of a horror franchise. I saw the first few at the cinema. It is just one of those special things from childhood. Plus, Ghostface isn’t the brightest of killers, so I think I would make it out alive.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Dani: I’m not really sure. After getting away from my mother, I had to deal with people similar to her and then a society that did not want me to move on with my life, so I would say my life has played out like a horror movie until some legal changes took place in this country (and post pandemic, people that way inclined have shown that they want things to return to when there was a ‘pecking order’ and get back to bullying people who experienced adverse events that were beyond their control). Life in the United States is still that same horror movie for me though. Unfortunately, you can’t dissociate real life in the same way you can a film when the end credits roll and you are getting up from your seat.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Dani: I’ve never really thought about this. Does El Chupacabras count? It is more of a cryptozoology thing, but ever since I first heard the legend, I found them fascinating.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Dani: Probably more of a harvest thing than a Halloween thing, but I like what the American’s call ‘candy apples’ or what we call ‘toffee apples’. They’re available over here for the entire month of October. Unfortunately my expensive dental work doesn’t like them as much so I try to ration myself.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Dani: This is a tricky one. When you listen to Skinny Puppy, it is impossible to answer unless you move away from Skinny Puppy (this is really like asking what is your favourite Skinny Puppy song and you just can’t decide). So I guess, let’s pretend Skinny Puppy don’t exist and hop on over to a dark sci-fi theme and go with Gary Numan’s Down in the Park. I can pick a Gary Numan song that stands above the rest, but I can’t do it with Skinny Puppy. And obviously, there’s a lot of songs out there with darker and horror themes.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Dani: This honour goes to Adam Neville with No One Gets Out Alive. This influenced my own writing as well. But it was very unsettling to read. The sheer length of it ensured it took about a week so I was with that book for a week and it became creepier and weirder. I imagine him sitting there laughing when he came up with Black Maggie but I found her terrifying.

A close second goes to Clive Barker and his hybrid filmstar-exotic animal creatures in Coldheart Canyon. The creatures weren’t created in a lab but through sex. That was a bit unsettling. In fact, the way Barker takes the outright disgusting and distasteful and turns it into something weird and beautiful is unsettling and it is something he has done repeatedly through his career.

And these are my two most favourite books.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Dani: One of my childhood friends lived in a real life haunted house and sometimes in our teens, I’d stay with him overnight (needed a break from the family). I’ve seen some strange shit in that house when everyone else was asleep. His mother said they had exorcisms on it, but they obviously weren’t very effective. They eventually sold it when I was in my early 20s. But before it was sold, every night something would happen and sometimes I would be alone, sometimes not. I suppose you just became used to it, ‘oh that’s just the spirits’.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Dani: This isn’t something that has been on my mind since I was very little. I guess I used to like the Bermuda Triangle. I don’t know if science ever explained that. When you grow and get saddled with a bunch of responsibilities at too young of an age, you don’t really have time for unsolved mysteries.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Dani: I spent my formative years in New England. Those aren’t stories. It really is like that and everything is haunted. When I went back to my homeland, I thought it would be more haunted here, because you hear about the English stories growing up in America, but it was nothing like living in New England. I’ve heard so many it is hard to pick a favourite and at some point they all blur together. And when they aren’t really stories because everything and everywhere where you spent your formative years is haunted, I think I’ll go with something real life.

I suppose the spookiest experience I ever had was checking the travel reports before a day trip into London (this was when I lived down south, London is a bit difficult, although can be done on a day trip from Liverpool). I swear I saw that there were numerous problems on the Underground and decided against travelling to London on that particular day. We went to Oxford instead (this was when my mother would let me out every now and again, before her mental health really declined – I was allowed a boyfriend, but not allowed friends, minus letters sent back and forth to my childhood friends – this day trip was planned with the awful boyfriend mentioned above). A few hours later, I had a phone call from my mother asking where I was and I told her ‘Oxford’. And she replied, ‘there’s been some explosions reported on the Underground’. Turns out it was the 07/07 bombings. There also weren’t any reported problems on the Underground that morning. I imagined there were, or maybe it was foresight. It took a few weeks for how spooky that was to really sink in. I still swear it was reported on the BBC 24 hours news channel that morning that there were problems on the Underground. We didn’t go to London that day because of me watching the travel reports, which apparently didn’t exist in the way I saw them.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Dani: I would probably improvise and pick whatever is closest to me, it is the English way.

Meghan: Let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Dani: I like sleeping in the day, but also really like undercooked meat. I think I’d probably go with vampire, they have some table manners and are a bit more refined than a werewolf. I just wish there was some meaty texture to all that blood, like a blue or raw steak.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Dani: I’m going with zombie apocalypse. Their brains have decayed a bit, plus you know what you are up against so have a better chance than fighting the unknown. Not to mention, the aliens would need advanced technology to make it to an outside arm of the galaxy regardless of where they’re coming from, so they would obviously be much smarter than us.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Dani: This is absolutely disgusting, not to mention that embalming fluid is pretty toxic for consumption and if the body is fresh enough to be eaten, there’s still going to be a lot of embalming fluid in it, so I’m going with the zombie juice. Besides, I’m sure someone somewhere has invented something with a high alcohol content and dry ice and called it zombie juice.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Dani: I don’t recall watching either of these films, although I probably have seen both at some point, so I can’t pick. They’re probably as bad as each other, and possibly as bad as the house my friend lived in growing up.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Dani: I know some people like maggots jumping out of their cheese, but ewww that is disgusting. I’m going to have to pick bitter melon with chilies. I like chilies. A strong enough chili will override the bitterness of the melon and please note, I drink absinthe and regular gin – neither are known for their sweetness.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Dani: You don’t really know what it is that witch’s cauldron, but the spiders are known. However, I check my bananas to ensure there’s no spiders or cocaine in them, or worse, coked-up spiders and I’m pretty sure someone has invented a highly alcoholic drink also with dry ice like the zombie juice, shoved it into a plastic cauldron and called it ‘the witch’s cauldron’ so it’ll be witch’s cauldron.

Boo-graphy:
Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as Ghetto Super Skank, Becoming, 56 Seconds, Sparky the Spunky Robot, and the hugely popular Ketamine Addicted Pandas. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.

Jo-Jo needs attention from online lovers. Her baby cries from the box room. Her baby is sick. The online lovers shower her with sympathy and their bank account details. Old Woman Mabel downstairs doesn’t like the sound of the baby crying. She bangs on her ceiling with her broom handle. Comforting the baby takes Jo-Jo away from her computer screen.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Matthew R. Davis

Meghan: Hey, Matthew! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books… or (Holiday) House of Books because, technically, it’s December… but I’m just not ready to finish with Halloween, as you can tell. Thanks for joining in our annual frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Matthew: The fact that we celebrate all that is spooky and dark! While the day has come a long way from its roots, it’s broadened to include all kinds of horrors, and so naturally I love the aesthetics and the focus on peering into the shadows.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Matthew: Ah, I don’t really have one. In Australia, we don’t get out on the streets as much as other countries – I’ve never been trick or treating, though at one of my previous homes (Ghastly Manor) we did put out some props and hand lollies over to groups of roving children. I do like to get out and celebrate the Spooky Season – there are usually a few goth events on, my partner and I attended a double bill of Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead a few years back, and last year a dearly departed friend had his final, posthumous exhibition opening on Halloween night.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Matthew: Again, it’s all about the celebrations of horror and the macabre. The trappings of Christmas are an annoyance to me – carols and tinsel, chintzy decorations indulged in just because It’s What We Do, the religious angle – so Halloween provides a much-needed balance.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Matthew: Pretty much nothing. I’m an entirely irreligious person, and while I keep an open mind, I don’t believe in the paranormal – which is perhaps an odd attitude from a horror writer whose work is so often supernatural! I guess I’d like some of the stories to be true, for these hints of further worlds to be genuine, because then there’s so much more to explore and it might also mean there’s something else to come after we shuffle off this mortal coil – and while I don’t think there is, I have to admit that the idea of an afterlife beyond the codified legends of religion, freely entered without having to follow some deity’s laws of conduct and devotion, is an appealing one. I believe we get one life and we need to make the most of it, but I won’t feel too bad if I’m ultimately proved wrong… so long as I don’t end up consigned to excruciating and unjust torture for all eternity!

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Matthew: I tend to wince when I see yet another meme or image that wheels out the pop culture horror big guns like Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead, Ghostface, Regan McNeil, Pennywise, Leatherface, etc. There’s so much more beyond these figureheads! That said, I am a fan of most of those characters, or at least some of the movies in which they feature. (My hot take: The Exorcist is overrated Catholic propaganda.) But I prefer standalone films with one-off monsters or villains, and having said that, now I have to think of some in order to actually answer this question! Here are some notables: the witches and their associates from Suspiria (original and remake), the titular woman from The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the ghosts of The Haunting of Hill House series, the creepy doubles from The Broken, the grotesqueries that appear throughout In the Mouth of Madness, the demons from, well, Demons, the haunting at the heart of Mungo Lake… and so, so many more!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Matthew: I don’t know if I could pick just one! Some cases are so intriguing that a solution is craved if only to satisfy the onlooker’s curiosity, but then, so much of their interest is predicated on them remaining unsolved. I hope they are unraveled so those close to the victims can gain closure, but the mystery is always more satisfying than the solution. It may be a little ghoulish to find titillation in the unsolved disappearances and deaths of strangers, but why shouldn’t we be curious? Nothing is ever learned without someone applying thought to the situation.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Matthew: I’m not credulous and I don’t scare easy, and most legends are fairly humdrum and ridiculous anyway, so I guess… none. I do find them interesting, though, and I occasionally include one in my work. A pair of 1960s teenage spree killers inspire a schoolyard ditty in my novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love, and rumours of their visit to the titular Chapel lead others to try and find the place.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Matthew: None. Fuck those people. I don’t have a favourite rapist or a favourite thug, so why should I have a favourite murderer? While I am intensely curious about serial killers and love to read about them, I don’t ever glorify what they do – my interest lies largely in my inability to understand how people could do such atrocious things to others, and in the processes by which they can be profiled, identified, and captured. I want to know what causes some people to kill and I want to know how we can stop them. Accordingly, I find great interest in books by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, who set out their stall with Mindhunter.

Meghan: I guess I should have worded that question differently. I did not mean “favorite” as in one you idolize, but “favorite” as in the one that intrigues you the most. But I digress… How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Matthew: Okay… I don’t know for sure, but I remember seeing bits of a movie I now know is Cruise into Terror (1978), including an Egyptian sarcophagus that started breathing, and that was quite creepy when I was so young. The only movie I ever turned off was The Masterson Curse (aka Scared Stiff, 1987) when I was ten, because I couldn’t stand the tension building up to a well-telegraphed jump scare – something tells me I’d find that movie very mild going these days!

As for books… I read one of Guy N. Smith’s Crabs books before I should have, and that was pretty heavy going. The Choose Your Own Adventure books got quite grim sometimes, and then there were darker variants like the Plot Your Own Horror Story series. The only one I own is Grand Hotel of Horror (Hilary Milton, 1984), which snaked under my skin with its anything-goes terrors and eerie illustrations, and other entries saw you trapped overnight in a mall, a haunted house, and even a space museum. In fact, Space Age Terrors has one of the best back cover taglines I have ever seen.

It is programmed to destroy.
It can walk through locked doors.
It is looking for you.

Brrr!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Matthew: At the risk of sounding repetitive and dull, it’s rare for a book to actually scare me. Sometimes it’s individual pieces that get to me: some of the seabase scenes in Nick Cutter’s The Deep, the exploration of an abandoned flat and subsequent entry of Black Maggie in Adam Nevill’s No One Gets Out Alive, the increasing religious mania of the father in Ramsey Campbell’s The House on Nazareth Hill and the concomitant persecution of his daughter that leads to a truly shocking climax. Sometimes it’s the creeping mood and atmosphere that lingers after the covers have been closed, like in Laird Barron’s The Croning, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, or Stephen King‘s Pet Sematary.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Matthew: See above, but to avoid repeating myself: Jaws (1975), which I saw far too young and instilled in me an instinctive fear of water deeper than I am tall, not to mention a lifelong phobia of great white sharks! My brother, who watched those films with me (and was two years younger to boot!), recently went cage-diving amongst the great whites of Port Lincoln, and man, let me tell you – it is exceedingly unlikely I would ever even contemplate doing the same!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Matthew: Nothing I’ve ever worn, as I’ve never dressed up in full costume for Halloween. I’ve seen some great ones, though! (Not Great Ones, thankfully.) Let me give a shout out to my partner, who did this great little goth vampire thing a few years back complete with fangs and creepy contacts. As for me, I was wearing a skirt and steel-capped boots – perhaps scary, but not in the same way.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Matthew: John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, naturally; “Halloween” and “Halloween II” by Misfits; “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare All)” and “All Hallows Eve” by Type O Negative. I can’t think of much else that is explicitly about the season, but I’m a big fan of dark, creepy music in general – I could put together a playlist for Halloween that would kill.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Matthew: Chocolate. Not chocolate.


Boo-graphy:
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia, whose novelette “Heritage Hill” (found in Outback Horrors Down Under: An Anthology of Antipodean Terrors, edited by Steve Dillon, published by Things in the Well Publications) was shortlisted for a 2020 Shirley Jackson Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. His books are the horror collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (Things in the Well, 2020) and the novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love (JournalStone, 2021). Find out more at his website.

Midnight in the Chapel of Love
THE MAN: Jonny Trotter has spent the last fifteen years running from tragic memories of the country town where he grew up—but the black envelopes pushed under his door won’t let him forget, and now that his father has died, he can run no more.

THE TOWN: Returning to Waterwich for the funeral and wake with his partner Sloane, Jonny must confront old resentments, his estranged best friends Brendan and Coralie, a strange, veiled woman the locals call the White Widow…and the mystery surrounding the fate of his first lover, Jessica Grzelak.

THE GIRL: A morbid and reckless city girl banished to the country to live with her aunt, Jessica loved to push the limits and explore the shadows—and no one has seen her since the night of her high school formal, the night she and Jonny went looking for the Chapel.

THE CHAPEL: Rumored to be found in the woods outside Waterwich, mentioned in playground rhymes about local lovebirds Billy and Poppy and their killing spree in 1964, the Chapel is said to be an ancient, sacred place that can only be entered by lovers—a test that can only be passed if their bond is pure and true.

THE TRUTH: Before he can move on to a future with Sloane, Jonny must first face the terrible truth of his past—and if he can’t bring it out into the light at last, it might just pull him and everything he loves down into the dark forever.