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the Dreams of the Damned

I write dark fiction and I'm something of a dreamer


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Gary W. Olson talks Brutal Light
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Today Gary W. Olson joins me to talk about his new horror novel Brutal Light, a book he describes as 'Philip K. Dick meets Clive Barker'...

All Kagami Takeda wants is to be left alone, so that no one else can be destroyed by the madness she keeps at bay.  Her connection to the Radiance--a merciless and godlike sea of light--has driven her family insane and given her lover strange abilities and terrible visions.  But the occult forces that covet her access to the Radiance are relentless in their pursuit.  Worse, the Radiance itself has created an enemy who can kill her--a fate that would unleash its ravenous power on a defenseless city...
 
Rhea Cole is also on the run, after murdering her husband with a power she never knew she had--a power given her by a strange girl with a single touch.  Pursued by a grim man unable to dream and a dead soul with a taste for human flesh, she must contend with those who would use her to open the way to the Radiance, and fight a battle that stretches from the streets of Detroit to a forest of terrifying rogue memories.

For the full interview and to read an excerpt from Brutal Light click on the link below:


Hi Gary - welcome to Dreams of the Damned!

LM: So what can we expect from Brutal Light (super title by the way)?
 
GWO: (Thanks!)  You can expect a lot of high-octane strangeness right out of the gate with this novel, as it plunges into a kidnapping that moves from the real world to one where the terrain is woven from dark dreams and darker memories.  My goal was to meld the atmosphere of weird fantasy with the pace of a thriller, and enough twists to keep readers guessing all the way to the end.
 
You can also expect a lot more than just Kagami's story.  I made it the focus of the story description and the book trailer, because it's central to everything, but others get their due as well.  Her lover, Nick Havelock, has to contend with the abilities she's given him, the dangerous secrets she's kept, and the memory of a dead boy who is not so dead in the unreal world.  Another woman she changed, Rhea Cole, is sought by the occult society that Kagami escaped from, because she may be the only one who can kill her.  And that's not even getting into the Creyts brothers, and the ways their twisted past takes on a life of its own in the present.
 
LM: Who is the book aimed at?
 
GWO: It's aimed at fans of dark fantasy, horror, and the surreal, particularly those who like works that blur their boundaries.  I always imagined that, if I ever pitched this as a movie, I'd describe it as 'Philip K. Dick meets Clive Barker.'  Whether it merits such a comparison, I can't rightly say, but that's as close as I can call it.
 
LM: The main character is Kagami Takeda. What is she like? And why a female protagonist?
 
GWO: Kagami is a very withdrawn person.  Her connection with the Radiance drove those near her--particularly her parents--insane.  She escaped an occult society that wanted to use her to her own ends and fled cross-country, finally ending up in Detroit.  Very few can be near her for a long time before losing sanity--Nick Havelock can only because the Radiance, acting through her, changed him, giving him an ability to find anyone or anything, within limits.  Which is not to say she's helpless, by any means--she works through online channels, and is very good at information-gathering--but she's isolated, and it preys on her.
 
The 'why' for a female protagonist is rooted in the history of my writing, going way back to the nineties, when I wrote for a shared-universe fiction group called Superguy.  One of my female characters gained a great deal of power and more or less went mad, and even though she survived being defeated, had a long journey ahead of her to regain her humanity.  I tried using that general story for several novel attempts, each time changing more and more, until this edition--always with a female protagonist.  So it wasn't really a deliberate decision; it just happened that way.
 
LM: The Radiance is an important concept in Brutal Light. What can you tell us about it?
 
GWO: The Radiance is a limitless expanse of light that most of us cannot perceive, but which a very few, such as Kagami, can.  It is also a source of unlimited raw, primal power, and as such it is of interest to all those who covet power.  Kagami doesn't covet it, but she doesn't always flinch from letting it act through her.  Sometimes it does what she wants, and sometimes it acts through her in spite of her wishes.  There's an open question throughout the book as to whether it has an intelligence of its own, or if its capricious ways actually reflect Kagami's subconscious ideas and desires.
 
One of the most fascinating books I've ever read was Stephen Pinker's How the Mind Works.  In one chapter, he discusses how someone might have a seizure-caused spiritual experience of such intensity that the one having it believe he has literally touched God, and what is actually happening in the brain at that time.  So I speculated--what if it's not an illusion, and what was being experienced was something that was, if not God as we conceive it, something nearly indistinguishable?  What if what enters the heads of prophets and madmen is this light that takes the shape of their ideas of God, and at times even seems to act through them?  At some point, this idea fused with the Cabalistic notion of the Ain Soph Aur--the limitless light--and idea of the Radiance was born.
 
LM: What gave you the idea for Brutal Light?
 
The history of the story goes way back, but it was a quote I read by Arundhati Roy that gave me the focus for this version.  It was, simply, "respect strength, never power."  It set me to thinking about the differences between strength and power, why we might have one while lacking the other, and the ways power can be used to mask a lack of strength.  Kagami is pursued in the book by those who want to use the power for which she is a conduit to their own ends; she's also not above the temptations of trying to use that power herself, though she well knows that any control she thinks she has is at best an illusion.  The rest of the story flowed from this--the temptations of power, the pursuit of power, and the consequences.
 
GWO: Brutal Light is set in Detroit. Why the Motor City?
 
It's set there mainly because I live in one of its suburbs, and I wanted to set the story in a contemporary urban environment I could describe with some confidence.  Previous attempts at writing this novel were set in more fabulous locations--cities in which the laws of physics had unravelled, fragmenting into multiple dimensions and letting out all sorts of strangeness.  Which sounded very entertaining to me in theory, but in practice became so consuming to describe that it took too much away from developing my characters.
 
The landmarks of Detroit don't actually play much into the novel--there are no scenes set at Comerica Park, or any of Detroit's casinos, for instance.  I do, however, allude to Detroit's population decline, and hint at reasons more sinister than the downslide of the automotive industry and political corruption.  These reasons will be explored more fully in the succeeding volumes of the series.
 
LM: Brutal Light is your first published novel. What were the biggest challenges you've faced in bringing it to the bookshelf?
 
GWO: The biggest challenge, apart from actually finishing the damned thing (an epic tale in and of itself), was in finding the right home for it.  I had always had the idea that it would be through a big publisher, that I would measure my success by seeing it on a Borders or Barnes & Noble bookshelf.  Of course, while I was busy dreaming these dreamy dreams, the publishing industry was going through some radical changes, and the 'traditional' model of get-an-agent-publish-through-a-New-York-publisher-put-paper-on-bookshelves was (and still is) breaking down.  Once I understood that I didn't have to measure my success in this way, that there were alternatives that were much more in line with where things appear to be going, I was able to explore these alternatives.
 
When I read the submission guidelines for Damnation Books, I had a strong feeling that this was where the book would end up.  Not just that they would accept it, but that it was where it fit best.  I think it was this line that did it: "If someone's ever told you a story's too dark, we'd love to see it."  Happily, they did.
 
LM: Did you do much research for the book?
 
GWO: Much of it drew from books I'd previously read, on topics ranging from alchemy to mythology to neurological trauma.  I did look up some works on occult history to flesh out the background of my world, and reread some of the original inspirations to see if what had fallen out of my head was really even close to what they had described.  Not that it mattered if it was far off, really, I just wanted to know if it had.
 
LM: What are you writing next?
 
GWO: I've done some plotting work on the sequel to Brutal Light, but before I dive into writing that I'm going to take on Entering Cadence, a science fiction novella set in a jungle settlement on an alien world.  It'll be a pulp adventure with some very dark elements to it, and should be a lot of fun to write.
 
LM: In general, as a reader what do you think good writing is?
 
GWO: Good writing, to me, is writing that bridges the gap between the page and the space behind my eyes where what I read comes to life.  It doesn't matter if the writing is stripped-down or poetic; it may not even matter if it's fact or fiction.  If I'm engaged by the story, or the subject matter, or the idea, and not thinking primarily of the prose itself, then to me it's good.
 
LM: Your Kindle is broken and you can only have one book (not your own) on there. What would it be and why?
 
GWO: The collected Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels.  They have high re-readability value, and never fail to bring a smile to my face.
  
*
 
Excerpt from "Brutal Light":
 
Alice couldn't rise from the forest floor. Her body, no longer cherry red with energy, felt more like flesh than at any point since Kelly consumed her. The trail dirt was hard-packed and dry to the soles of her feet. There were no leaves in the trees, and only a silver dagger of a moon in the sky.
 
On the path before her was a massive gray wolf. It watched her, as if expecting a reply to an unvoiced question. She couldn't remember it being there before, though it looked like it had been waiting for a long time.
 
Her hand moved from her side to her chest without conscious thought. Her skin, now cool, was sharp and silver. There was clothing on her body--a light T-shirt and blue jean shorts--and boots on her feet.
 
The wolf moved closer. It looked up at her, and she looked down at it. Life burned behind its eyes. Soon it would collapse, and she would take its energy for her own. It would taste sweet and bitter, and she would never need moonlight again.
 
It was her own memory, from a forgotten long ago. Her body was virginal; she could barely perceive her awakening hormones.  She had been at a camp, and had slipped out because...she couldn't remember why. Maybe because there was a path, and where there were paths, there were wolves. A truth she hadn't needed the guidance of the Melissae to learn.
 
The gray wolf didn't collapse. It merely watched, a question in its eyes.
 
She couldn't move.
 
The wind screamed.
 
"It is not yours."
 
Alice's eyes would've shot open if she had control. She felt the thought's invasion, and there was no doubt it came from the wolf.
 
Not just from the wolf.
 
It came from Havelock, and...someone else.
 
Then it leapt.
 
She landed hard in the dirt. The wolf's weight was enormous, more than a wolf this size could carry in the physical world. It pinned her body, which still refused to acknowledge her instructions to struggle and scream, and pushed its jaws close to her throat.
 
*
 
Brutal Light is available now to buy:
 
Amazon.com (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/Brutal-Light-ebook/dp/B006EVZYIC/
DamnationBooks.com (.mobi, .epub, .lit, .pdf, .pdb): http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615725380
Links for of all other vendors (continually updated): http://BrutalLight.GaryWOlson.com
Print ISBN (for ordering paperback via bookstore): 978-1-61572-539-7
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-538-0
 
*
  
Gary W. Olson grew up in Michigan and, despite the weather, stuck around.  In 1991 he graduated from Central Michigan University and went to work as a software engineer.  He loves to read and write stories that transgress the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, while examining ideas of identity and its loss in the many forms it can have.
 
Away from working and writing, Gary enjoys spending time with his wife, their cats, and their mostly reputable family and friends.  His website is at http://www.garywolson.com, and features his blog, A Taste of Strange (http://www.garywolson.com/blog), as well as links to everyplace else he is on the Internet, such as Twitter (http://twitter.com/gwox), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/gary.w.olson.author), and LiveJournal (http://gwox.livejournal.com).
 

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