The Beyond by Ken Brosky Genre: Horror, Thriller, Suspense
Moon Song’s brother has gone missing in the town of Blackrock, Pennsylvania. Worried that her brother has slipped back into addiction and desperate for answers, Moon hires private investigator Ben Sawyer to help her uncover the truth. Together they discover what the people of Blackrock refuse to acknowledge: something terrible has happened inside the coal mine that defies all logical explanation, and it threatens the lives of every single person in town. Bodies are piling up at the funeral home, and many others have seemingly vanished.
Moon’s only hope of finding answers rests in the hands of a local professor who knows the mine’s horrible secrets. But the professor has problems of his own, and unless he can confront the creature that’s hunting him, Moon’s chances of making it out of town alive are darker than a seam of coal.
Dive into Ken Brosky’s horror-fueled nightmare and find out what’s in The Beyond!
Ken Brosky lives and teaches in the great state of Wisconsin. In addition to having short stories published in magazines like Grotesque and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, he also writes regularly for Suspense Magazine. His favorite horror movie is John Carpenter's The Thing, his favorite band is Nine Inch Nails, and his favorite book is Cloud Atlas.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Oh man, here’s a wild story: I used to make comics when I was a kid, and I’d sell them to my parents. The price kept going up on every comic because I was investing so much into markers and colors and nice paper. I even bought this gold, fine-tipped marker to create “special editions” and charge more money. And here’s the thing: my parents bought EVERY SINGLE ONE. They always supported me, even when I transitioned into short stories.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I’ve been doing woodworking for almost a decade now. I love it, but I make mistakes constantly. I’m super headstrong and I jump into projects without a great plan, so I’m always having to improvise. Still, learning from those mistakes has probably made me better because it’s forced me to try new approaches. I’m OK with failing because woodworking teaches you that there’s always a solution.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
We took a trip to Galapagos and snorkeled every single day with iguanas and sea turtles and boobie birds and everything else you can imagine. It was the most incredible experience. In one of the bays, we followed a reef shark for a while … until it started getting a little sick of us and darted away. There are way too many horror movies about sharks that DON’T show just how fast they are in the water. When you see a shark move underwater for the first time, it’s terrifying.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I really, really don’t like listening to ignorant people. Clicking links on Facebook isn’t “research.” Please stop trying to convince me there’s a microchip in my vaccine. I just want things to go back to normal, for the love of God.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We lived across the street from a really great park. In winter, we could sled on the hill. In summer, neighborhood friends could play at the baseball diamond. If it was too hot for that, we could load up on Super Soakers and play War.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Probably just hang out with my wife. This is a depressing question!
Who is your hero and why?
Oh, I suppose my parents are the most obvious choices. Couldn’t ask for better parents. I try not to idolize public figures so much because you never know about their private lives. I guess Mr. Rogers is a safe choice, though. I like the people who emphasize empathy and kindness.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
The kind that sets up a democracy and then quietly retires.
What are you passionate about these days?
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Write! I’ve always got a story idea in my head. I’ll also occasionally play a video game, if the story is good enough. I’ve done a TON of reading over the past couple years. One thing I like to do is put the “Wolf Hall” trilogy on Audible and re-listen while I go on runs. I can’t get enough of that trilogy.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I only count cows and ducks as my children, and they are very disciplined.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
A very good writer.
Do you have a favorite movie?
John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s scary, it’s gory, and it’s got great characters. Also, it’s sort of a staple in our household. Me and my dad can put that film on anytime and enjoy ourselves.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I think THE BEYOND would be an easy one. Years ago, I wrote a YA series called The Grimm Chronicles that I still love, and I still think it would make for a great limited series.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Tiger. I loooooove tigers.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a Paperback From Hell … a real call-back to the 90’s horror books that I grew up on and loved. And I had this idea brewing in my head about a gateway to Hell that opens up inside a coal mine. All it needed was a solid injection of horror. So I did what, I think, any writer in this situation would do: I watched and read a lot of horror. I let the macabre wash over me until I was drenched in it. Then I got to writing.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve written a lot of mysteries, and I’ll always go back to those from time to time. But I have another horror novel bouncing around in my head. It’s almost there … I’ve been mapping out this little town in the middle of nowhere for the story to take place in. I want to make sure I get the setting just right, because I don’t want my characters to have any chance of escape.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I fleshed them all out right good. I like to fill out character questionnaires for all the main characters so I can figure out how they’d react in any situation.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in THE BEYOND?
So we’ve got three main characters. Moon Song is the sister of a coal miner who’s gone missing. She’s stubborn and feels a little protective of her brother. She wants desperately to find him, which is why she hires a PI named Ben Sawyer. Ben used to be an engineer before his family’s health issues took precedence in his life. Both his parents declined so quickly that it caused a bit of a breakdown. He works as a PI because it’s easy and he’s not quite sure whether his parents’ health issues will hit him, too. This is the hardest job he’s ever taken, and it becomes obvious that he and Moon will need help. They find it in the form of Professor Saladin, who works at the local community college. He’s experienced some weird stuff in town, and the more he digs, the weirder it gets. It isn’t long before he realizes something horrible has happened at Patriot Coal Mine.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I started with a simple premise: what if our country’s weak environmental rules accidentally opened up a gateway to another world? And from there, man oh man, it just came so easy.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really let the creative juices fly. All I could think about while writing the most intense scenes was “What would ratchet this up a notch?” I was looking for inspiration everywhere I could look. I remember renting a horror game—I think it was one of the Resident Evil games—and this monster came crashing through the wall and I thought to myself, “Yes! I’ll do that, too!” This book was fun from start to finish.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. I have an idea for a sequel, but it’s not necessary. Everything ties up nicely at the end, which I, as a reader, prefer.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes! I realized something really important: I love writing horror. I shied away from it for ten years, trying to write “literary fiction” so I could be taken seriously. But guess what? I don’t really have anything very “literary” to say. And I never really enjoyed writing “serious fiction” to begin with. So in the future, I’m going to do it very sparingly. I’m going to write horror and mysteries and sci-fi because that’s what I love to write.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A young Kurt Russel would be perfect for the PI named Ben Sawyer. Andrea Bang would be perfect for Moon Song. Alexander Siddig would be perfect for Professor Saladin.
How did you come up with name of this book?
It’s a callback to a famous horror movie by director Lucio Fulci. There’s even an Easter Egg or two in the novel that harkens back to the movie. I think Fulci’s “The Beyond” was probably one of the first niche horror films I saw when I was young. It’s wasn’t mainstream and the movie itself is a little wacky, but there’s a scene toward the end … holy smoke, the FX are incredible. I don’t want to spoil it. You just have to watch it to truly understand the Italian contribution to horror.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part is the chaos at the end. I think I was subconsciously channeling a little George Romero for it, because I just re-watched DAWN OF THE DEAD and it’s pretty wild how chaotic everything gets toward the end. In a moment, this little group’s bubble of protection inside the shopping mall gets popped by a bunch of jerks who show up.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I think if you grew up watching horror movies from the 80’s and 90’s, this book is going to be a blast to read. It’s got an alternate dimension. It’s got monsters. It’s got zombies. It’s got a creepy mortician and a sinister town and a black chapel and fire and brimstone. But it’s also got a twist that you won’t be expecting … something special just for horror fans.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Oh, God. Tons. This is a rough business.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
What did you edit out of this book?
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’d love to sit down with Josh Malerman and talk about how he visualized BIRD BOX. That, and the sequel, both take a special level of skill.
What book do you think everyone should read?
“Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell and the “Wolf Hall” trilogy by Hilary Mantel. Neither are horror, but they’re both so incredible.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was 15? So 25 years.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I have to build them from scratch. Usually, the basic plot arrives first, and then the setting. Then I get real excited before remembering I need to put people in the story. So then I have to sit down and figure them out.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
This is one of my favorite parts. I wrote a mystery novel that takes place in a big cat sanctuary. I did so much big cat research I felt like I’d earned a zoology degree. And I loved every second of it. If a tiger ever escapes from a nearby zoo, I feel 99 percent confident I could track it down and safely capture it.
Do you see writing as a career?
Nope! I gotta keep the bills paid with a day job.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
It’s tough for a writer, but amazing for a reader. The novels coming out now are so much more diverse than I remember as a kid … that’s a good thing. There are creative minds like Arkady Martine and Kali Wallace who are breathing fresh life into genres and taking them places they haven’t really explored yet. But for a writer, there’s fewer books being professionally published, so that’s tough. Doesn’t help that everyone and their grandma are self-publishing half-baked stories.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I think it’s a tie between mystery and horror, with sci-fi taking up the rear. I’m a huge fan of Jane Harper … I think her mystery novels are fantastic. I love Arkady Martine’s sci-fi series she wrote. For horror, I’ll always pick up Rachel Harrison. Right now, I’m back to an oldie that I never got around to finishing: The Stand, by Stephen King. Got it on audiobook. What a hoot!
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I throw on Nine Inch Nails and once I’ve had enough of that, I move into even darker atmospheric stuff. Lots of movie soundtracks. They keep my creative side chugging along.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I usually stick with one at a time. But if an idea strikes me, I’ll happily start collecting notes on a second project.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer! I need the spell-checker, for the love of God.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
I’m a huge fan of the gunslinger from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He was so iconic, and you know he’s not gonna die. But he was built with such care that it’s so easy to lose yourself in his story.
A day in the life of the author?
Get up, make coffee, go to work. Teach students how to write, attend meetings, grade homework. Come home, do the farm chores, shower. Play a couple games of chess. Maybe start a TV series with the wife, maybe just watch a movie or cozy up with a book. Where does the writing take place? Anywhere I have time. Whether it’s half an hour or ten minutes, I’ll make the time to write.
Advice you would give new authors?
READ. I know how cliché it is, but Lord God I’ve never met so many people who think they can do something without even bothering to understand what they’re doing. It’s not just about supporting other authors. It’s about osmosis. Absorbing the language, the way stories flow, the development of characters. It’s about growing to understand all the subtext that lies beneath the surface.
Describe your writing style.
I can’t pull off a dead-serious tone of voice. My writing style always has a layer of sardonic humor hidden in the text.
What makes a good story?
Characters who feel like people. I think you can get away with a lot when it comes to the plot as long as the story is filled with people. Not characters. Not tropes (usually).
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I write an outline first, which of course turns out to be nothing more than a rough blueprint. The moment my characters get going, I’m more than happy to abandon the outline! Let ‘em roam, I say. But here’s the weird thing: I still always do a full outline nowadays. Because sometimes, I let my characters roam a little TOO far. And when that happens, I can go back to the outline and take a look at the big picture. What’s the ultimate destination? Knowing that, I can usually bring my characters back into the plot. Usually.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Really, not having enough awareness of good writing. A lot of this happens by osmosis. There are somethings writers can do to improve their writing, though. One easy approach is to read a lot of a single author, then try to mimic that author’s “style.” A good starting point is Hemingway. Because his style is so unique and easy to pick up on, it’s good practice. Once a writer starts to get the hang of this, they can develop their own style.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Green or red? I think I get a little too distracted by Twitter. But I like to take breaks when I write. It just helps me re-focus.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to write what I want. I know that’s part of my problem, for sure. But I just can’t bring myself to jump aboard the latest trends. Like right now, “domestic suspense” is a huge seller. I don’t even know what that is, and I don’t want to know. It doesn’t interest me even slightly.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
There’s gonna be some hard times, man. Lower those expectations.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Oh, a couple months. Then the hard part: revisions. That’ll take a few more months.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I don’t get it, but I believe other writers when they talk about it. It sounds horrifying.
Follow the tourHEREfor special content and a giveaway!