Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Dani Brown, 33. Technically my name is Danielle, but Dan Brown claimed that pseudonym already. Some people like to call me Miss Danielle. And every now and again, I get called Lizard Queen. Not because I’m super into conspiracy theories, but because, a long time ago, I got high and declared I was Jim Morrison in a past life and it has stuck over the years. It is probably the only nickname that has stuck around.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I currently live in Liverpool. I was born in Oxford, but I lived in the USA for about half my life. I still have the accent and identify.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Education wise, I completed a degree in Creative Writing in 2008. I’ve thought about going back to get my Masters in Experimental Writing, but I don’t really see much point in making time in my already over-stretched schedule. Before the degree, I did Media and Art and somewhere in there, I did four long years of journalism. (I do not have any intention of ever working in that field. There’s another Dani Brown who is a journalist, if you’re looking for that one, you haven’t found her.)
In terms of family life, I’m a single mother to one child. He gets uncomfortable with too much information being known about him, so I don’t talk about him much in interviews. Now to say something that seems to come up a lot in my life as single mother. As a single mother, I’m not lonely or depressed. Although my life isn’t perfect, I am perfectly happy with the direction in which it is going. I do not want or need someone to look after me. If I did have depression, a doctor would be better qualified to help with treatment above someone who sees himself as a knight in shining armour anyways. There have been incidents that have made these statements necessary.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Latest news? Hmmm…. The Dual Depravity I did with David Owain Hughes should be out soon from JEA. We each wrote two novellas to be included. My first one is called “The Previous Plastic Surgeon”. It follows a character called Jerusalem as he tries to construct his ideal woman. My second is called “God’s Fleshlight” which sees a character called Stacey being picked up by overlords and thrown into a prison called God’s Fleshlight.
Ketamine Addicted Pandas: Dawn of the Pandas has been accepted for publication. I hope everyone likes black metal and techno (yes, I know, I should have done trance, but I have some vague memories of one of my groups of friends blaring techno from the car speakers way back when we were teenagers). “Ketamine Addicted Pandas” must be one of the most ridiculous, yet extreme things, I’ve ever written. Look out for the flying saucer.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started with journalism in college after some creative manipulation by the tutor. I must say I hated every single minute of it. My mother then made it a bit difficult to go out and get interviews and everything else required of a journalist. It was easy to jump from journalism to creative writing at university. Although it is difficult to write when cut-off from the world, it was easier to do than journalism. I’m much happier writing fiction or working within experimental realms.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer the day I finished university. I don’t see the point in getting a degree with no intention of using it. I know that sounds a bit cocky, but when people constantly try to “help” by suggesting career changes, I need to insert some stability into my life and be very firm with what I’m doing. If other people want to bounce around in their careers, that’s fine, but don’t involve me.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always considered “Seth” my first book. It isn’t finished yet. That was the first piece I planned as a novel, which wasn’t so far into the experimental world that I would have an industrial album instead of a book. I’ve been working on it on and off for ten years now. The first section is on my website in its unedited form. I had been off university with the flu for about two weeks. During that time, a handful of writing exercises had been assigned. I was a bit groggy from the flu and very, very drunk (absinthe, beer and wine) so I combined them. The exercises included writing about sex, from the point of view of someone with a different sexuality and someone of a different sex. I then put on Mayhem to drown out the sounds of my boyfriend at the time and his friend having a party of two. I won’t say what Mayhem song came on which provided the ending because it’ll give it away, but the writing exercises combined with drunkenness and black metal created an interesting character. Once I had this character, I put on Kraftwerk to alternate with Mayhem (you try writing while listening to black metal). I’m not sure which contributed to the repetitive nature of the piece, which came across as Seth’s obsession more, but I can’t work on “Seth” without my trusty Kraftwerk and Mayhem records. Around this time, the class was assigned two books to read (out of three assigned the entire time I was at uni), The Story of the Eye and The Story of O. I didn’t like The Story of O but I loved The Story of the Eye. The Story of the Eye played a huge role, especially as I didn’t read 120 Days of Sodom or Necrophilia Variations until after university. I sometimes joke that Stephen King read The Lord of the Rings and wrote The Dark Tower, I read The Lord of the Rings and wrote Seth.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
“Seth” is the working title. I’m not sure what I’ll name it when it is finally finished.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t work in a specific genre, let alone have a style I stick to. A lot of what I write has a piece of “Seth” in it so some things have the high amounts of description, or the detachment (Night of the Penguins). Some things are simply disgusting (Broccoli and Toenails). Seth’s obsession (My Lovely Wife). Some things are disturbing (Stara and Reptile). No matter what I write, Seth is there. A lot of my characters are musicians. Not sure if that’s because Seth plays guitar or because I literally only seem to attract musicians, failed musicians and wannabe musicians into my romantic life and have decided to embrace it, more so after frightening one I call ‘Hot Tinder Guy’ away (I really regret that). I typically write what I feel like writing. The latest piece I’ve finished, Sparky the Spunky Robot, was a bit of a challenge to write. It was also a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve felt as happy writing in a while. Most of my stories are detached from me, or I’ll randomly insert people I don’t like into really awful situations. As I’ve had a good clear out of the people now, I’m left with wondering about their motives. What motivates people to be so awful and cruel towards others? Sparky the Spunky Robot was the first piece I really used to explore motivations. I did it to an extent in Reptile, but that story more focuses on the awfulness of the characters. When I was writing Reptile, I was still under a lot of stress trying to clear all the negative people and influences out of my life. While writing Sparky, I’d managed to clear out the rest of them, so it allowed me time to reflect and write something a bit deeper and not as outwardly terrible.
Broccoli stands out amongst my other books in that it is written in second person. It comes down to pure description. I wanted to make the reader feel their skin crawling.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Nothing I write is realistic. And in terms of the sex stuff, I like to think people don’t actually do some of the more awful things, which, as far as I know, are illegal. With some of the stuff I write about, BDSM, swinging, fisting, body fluids, etc are outright tame in comparison. Every now and again, I’ll open myself up to receive answers to some disturbing questions I ask.
When I first started writing “Seth” I didn’t realise what sorts of things people did in their bedrooms. I know too much now. Because I don’t live these things myself, with some of the tamer stuff, like swinging and BDSM, every now and again, I need someone from those communities to update the terminology I’m using. I started writing “Seth” in a pre-50 Shades world, but I’m still writing it now. I needed to reach out to people into the bondage thing for help. During that time, 50 Shades happened. The 50 Shades people started taking over bondage communities with their sheer numbers. Most of the people I spoke to who were into it before, weren’t happy about that. I wrote Reptile as a reaction to that. BDSM may not be my thing, but I don’t judge the people into it. It is their lifestyle. And then a bunch of people arrived who didn’t know what they were doing and were highly manipulative. Reptile takes a turn away from the realities of manipulative people and into cloning. But it was a bit unrealistic before that turning anyways, at least in my head. I started that story with an image of an overweight young woman slicing into her stomach and beads falling out.
I get feedback on “Seth” from time to time. A lot of that feedback involves being able to see him walking down the street. I know a lot of people daydream, I do when I’m at the day job, I specifically have a low-skilled day job so my mind can wander towards writing. Seth takes it to new limits. And obviously, all of his day dreams involve sex and his (maybe) partner Terry. I don’t know if people constantly day dream about sex. I never asked anyone. I’m sure someone is going to tell me now. I don’t think it is possible for someone to be as obsessed with another person as Seth is with Terry. Anything unrealistic in “Seth” needs to be told in the most realistic way possible. With the more extreme sex acts, I run into some problems in that I don’t want to talk to people into that sort of thing and like to think it has never happened in real life (bestiality, for instance).
Then there are other stories, like Night of the Penguins. Most people can relate to having a job they despise. I did actually work in a zoo at one point and hated every minute of it. I doubt management formed a secret club. They didn’t seem to get along, let alone be able to join a secret society together. I enjoy reading conspiracy theories, but don’t believe them. I know plenty of people who do though. Putting a bad job with low wages together with the Illuminati was fun, especially when Carla comes out on top. Penguins can’t fly though. It would be cool if they did.
I find people chewing on their nails disgusting, especially toenails. With Toenails, which took me about two weeks to write, I described something gross.
I make it a point to spend a lot of time listening to other people to add that little bit of realism into the bizarre, nightmarish settings I create. If something catches my imagination, I will roll with it. A lot of times it is from someone else’s reality.
Song lyrics are particularly inspirational with me. I don’t care what the song writer intended, and some of the time, I mishear them (maybe, on purpose) and I have based entire stories around that. Stef and Tucker, not yet published, started off that way.
I do sometimes get ideas from some of my stranger dreams. In a previous interview, I mention dreaming of receiving the same message, “I will not cause you stress” over and over again from Hot Tinder Guy. It was that dream that caused me to Google him and bounce ideas around with a friend. It doesn’t seem fair to base an entire character off him, but I don’t know enough about him to do that. I have a job title and that’s it. But I already had a character based on someone who did some vile things to me with the same job title. I was thinking of putting them both together in the same story though. I’ll need to create some background for Hot Tinder Guy. So I suppose, a character based off him wouldn’t really be him at all and that sounds much fairer. It may help me work through why this guy triggered a slight post traumatic response despite his messages to me being nothing but nice.
There are other times I’ll take little aspects from someone and put it into a story. Matthew’s keytar in Sparky the Spunky Robot comes direct from my boyfriend wanting a keytar. He wouldn’t masturbate over it though. Or screw a robot [depends on the robot – boyfriend].
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t need to travel. If I do go away, I will bring writing with me, but the settings in my stories stay the same.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Broccoli has cover art by IlanSheady from Uncle Frank Productions, http://www.unclefrankproductions.com.
My JEA (Reptile, Dark Roast and Night of the Penguins) covers are designed in-house by Michael Fish Fisher.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There aren’t typically messages in my books as a lot of what’s been published so far is pure filth written while I was under intense stress. With Sparky the Spunky Robot I hope people realise how fruitless and depressing giving up on their dreams is. I also hope they realise how they come across when they nag, hound and outright bully people until they give up on whatever it was they wanted to accomplish with their life. Life isn’t a competition, but the unofficial neighbourhood association in Sparky make it, with the prizes being something as mundane as lawn decorations.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
If you haven’t checked out DavCrabesTrafficking and a Sexual December, I highly recommend it. He should have a new edition out soon. It needs to be experienced.
I enjoyed Mayan Blue by the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Larson. I’ve been enjoying reading Adam Neville lately. There are so many authors out there, I wish I had time to read more of them. I have a few books that people have sent me that I haven’t had the chance to read yet. Really looking forward to some time off over Christmas to get some reading and relaxing in.
My all-time favourites are Stephen King and Supervert. I tend to read at night, in bed to relax. Stephen King is a nice, easy read. Supervert I came across while researching horrible things to do to Seth. I never did get a print copy of NecrophiliaVariations as the Stoya video (I can’t remember the name of the artist who put them together) happened while I was in recovery from a long-term illness and had no money to spend on myself.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The writing community has been very supportive. Also, my childhood friends and the few new friends I’ve met in the past few years. Without my friends, I don’t think I’d still be here.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Ever since I finished university, it has been the only career option I’ve considered. I’m one of those ‘choose one thing and stick with it’ type of people.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I just finished Sparky the Spunky Robot the day before answering these questions. It is still too fresh in my mind to want to change anything.
The book I wrote before that, Ketamine Addicted Pandas: Dawn of the Pandas I would change the panda cubs’ music preference from techno to trance. I have vague memories of being in some sort of drug induced haze in a friend’s car and he’d put on techno though, which is where I think the techno bit comes from. I didn’t realise that when writing the book. In writing, the word “techno” has a nicer ring to it than “trance”.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
With Sparky, the idea had been in mind for a while to have a group of lower middle-class people compete over petty things. I didn’t really need to look up much to do it. As my boyfriend hasn’t actually bought his keytar yet, I did need to look up what it needs to be run through to play.
With Ketamine Addicted Pandas, I had to look up about taking ketamine as a party drug. I can’t say I ever had any desire to take something that is used to tranquilise horses. No one I know who has taken it would tell me about taking it.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I haven’t considered my books being made into films. Some of them wouldn’t easily translate to the screen.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t let the world tear you down. And focus. Focus on one thing. Make it clear to people that writing is what you want to do.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Even if I can’t respond, I appreciate all your messages. If you like my books, leave a review and tell your friends.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading The Human Santapede by Adam Millard. It has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now and as it is close to Christmas, I thought I would take it down, dust it off and give it a read.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I read from cover to cover was Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King. I’m dyslexic and couldn’t read until I was ten. I was off school sick and my mother had a few of his books, so I took a book, a sheet of paper folded up so I could run it under the sentences to stop them moving and a dictionary so I could look up words I hadn’t seen before (pretty much all of them, as nothing in text would stick in my head). Stephen King and my technique worked much better than anything the school tried. At the time, the school system in America was quick to write-off dyslexic students. I think I had run out of art supplies to keep me busy during the day. I’m not one for day time TV, even as a child.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Lots of things make me laugh or cry. I cry most when people either trigger the post traumatic stress I suffer with or add to it. Post traumatic came about after I finished university and people wouldn’t let me write and would try to get me to follow different career paths. A lot of the people doing this can’t be described as stable and I don’t get why they were taking their instability out on me. I knew writing and making a career out of it would be difficult, but to me, spending the rest of my life working a job I resent would be worse. It takes a lot of time to get any career off the ground. Even if I did a medical degree, I would only expect to have an entry level job straight out of university. That’s the way the world works. You have to prove your worth and hone your skills. I haven’t kept the main source of it a secret. I find it immensely frustrating that people say “oh you had a bad childhood, that’s why you have post traumatic stress” hmmm… no, I just told you why I have it. I did have a bad childhood, but I kept my head down, worked hard, graduated university with a first and lived for a time when I’d be able to work at having a career. That kept me going through every horrible thing that happened in childhood/early adulthood. I still can’t comprehend why when I graduated people wouldn’t let me be. I explained to them that I knew what I was doing with my life. Why they, and when I say they, I mean people who would implant themselves into my life, wouldn’t leave me alone to write my books and market my writing. I sometimes cry at my own bitterness. My mother wouldn’t let me leave my room half the time, so I used to imagine a nice world where people weren’t like her, but since she died, I’ve come across some of the worst that humanity has on offer. I know there’s nice people out there. My friends prove that. My functional family members prove that. But I guess I’m not ready to attract many of them into my life. Obviously, I’ve made a few friends since returning to the UK but for every one of them, there’s been about ten horrible people.
Right now, I’m focusing on me and getting rid of these hang-ups of the past nine years and figuring out who I was in what I call “the before”. When me and my boyfriend got back together after a brief split, I had become reacquainted with some of the music I listened to in the past. I started with Kraftwerk as that’s pretty well documented in the notes for “Seth” (shows how long it has been since I worked on it), hearing Die Mensch-Maschine for the first time in years reduced me to tears.
I find I laugh a lot more now that I seem to have finally detached every single soul-sucking negative, instable person from me.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
This is where I’m meant to put Genesis P Orridge, isn’t it? Well, I’m not going to.
While me and my boyfriend were split up, I had a tinder account. On this tinder account, at the bottom of my profile was “no musicians”. I had it there for a reason. My romantic history consists nearly entirely of musicians with personality related issues, typically BPD. One day, I updated my profile and forgot to include “no musicians”. Of course, my first match (or was it a super like?) was with a musician, if that’s some indication of how I seem to attract musicians. In my defence, I did read the profile before swiping, he was hot. Very hot. Or had really good command of filters. I didn’t use tinder often so I didn’t realise the little blue star meant super like, I’m not even sure if it comes up on the other person’s profile while swiping, so how was I meant to know he would match with me?
While me and my boyfriend were going through the breakup phrase, I said I was going to become a full-time Placebo fan girl. I love Placebo. His songs really help me relate to other people. From there, it was decided I would marry Brian Molko due to my dating history (not to imply my boyfriend is unstable but he is a musician). I need to make sure I can tolerate being in the same room as Brian Molko before the wedding can take place. I figure, if I only attract musicians, I should be with one whose music I really like because I’m going to have to hear it. Possibly constantly, possibly not. But I wouldn’t mind hearing Placebo on continuous repeat.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
In terms of hobbies, I really enjoy knitting. I used to love to paint. I’m slowly recovering my drawing skills, lost to stress, so I can paint once again. I’m still recovering who I was in the before. I spent the summer enjoying live music and parties and more is starting to come back to me. I used to love ballet, but my feet are too shot to take that up again. I did keep that up well into the post traumatic stress. My sister recommended pole dancing instead, but I haven’t tried it yet. I used to enjoy horse back riding as a kid, there’s a little trophy with my knick-knacks, I don’t know if my body will let me try that again, but once I find a style of dance my feet are cool with and get back into shape, I’m going to try.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
In terms of films, I have a soft spot for shitty B-movies. They all blend in together after a while though.
TV shows? I’ve been watching South Park since it came out. When I didn’t have a TV or have been too busy to watch, I’ve caught up on it because I like it that much. It does influence my writing. I also enjoy Game of Thrones. I used to love Ren and Stimpy. Over the summer, I started to introduce my son to it. Sometimes I’ll catch a bit of Ancient Aliens to have on while I’m knitting and if I find an idea interesting, I’ll make a note of it to look into when insomnia kicks in. I know the stuff from Ancient Aliens comes out in my writing but I don’t really know how. When my writing included more violence, I would watch random crime shows.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favourite foods are burritos and mac and cheese. My favourite colour is purple. I’m fond of gin and absinthe.
And obviously Placebo is my favourite band. I have a lot of Doors merchandise and records/CDs that people have given me over the years due to my claim of being Jim Morrison in a past life. Weird lyrics appeal to me and Jim’s were out there. I like Skinny Puppy more than I like Nine Inch Nails (don’t tell my friends).
I am a huge black metal fan. There’s a bit of a story that people find rather interesting. A long time ago, I had a boyfriend who found my taste in music to be too mainstream. Black metal seemed to piss him off the most and he lost his argument. It seems to have gained in popularity over recent years though. I don’t search out the really obscure stuff and trade records/tapes/CDs like I used to. I still listen to it. In particular, Darkthrone and Mayhem.
I listen to music while I write, each story gets at least two set bands to listen to, minus Sparky, which had a synthpop Spotify generated playlist. Some glam metal and death metal bands have been suggested for the story I’m currently finishing up, but I might find a playlist on Spotify instead. I started it while listening to Steel Panther. For glam metal, they’re amusing. And inspirational. I don’t like glam metal – I call it ‘Butt Rock’. My mother used to listen to it, a long time ago, before she went crazy on everyone. Then she’d put on Duran Duran or A-Ha when she thought no one could hear.
Seth is Kraftwerk and Mayhem. Broccoli was Placebo and The Doors, with some Kraftwerk towards the end. Reptile was Nine Inch Nails (obviously) but I can’t remember the other band on the playlist. It wasn’t Skinny Puppy. I honestly can’t remember for the rest of my books, except the yet to be published Stef and Tucker stories. But I’m not going to say what band.
A lot of people around me like metal, so I hear a lot of metal. This includes my eight-year-old. I took him to see Iron Maiden with my boyfriend while we weren’t together because my son loves Iron Maiden so much and my boyfriend had paid for the tickets. My radio is tuned to Planet Rock because I don’t know any other station.
I’m still working out what I liked in the before. I did actually track down a compilation CD me and a friend would get high to when I was in my teens. From that I worked out that I like Gary Numan. Can’t say much about the rest of the CD though. I gave it a few listens. I did, in a previous interview, mention what I listen to when under intense stress, although I think in that case, it was a wasp that caused it. It is too embarrassing to mention again. I can assure everyone that my parents never listened to that particular band, or maybe my mother did, a long time ago and I don’t vividly remember it. It wasn’t on the one compilation I tracked down from when life was normal and no one projected themselves onto me (still attracted musicians though). So I have no idea where I would have first heard it. I’m sure there were mix tapes and more compilation CDs from that time, but I can’t remember.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I fought so hard to remove people from my life, and get the ones that remained to leave me alone to write that I can’t imagine a future where I don’t write. Instead, I picture parallel universes. In one, I became an epidemiologist. In another, I got a degree in engineering and work in demolition.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’m not too sure. Actually, “I’m not too sure” would look quite good wouldn’t it?
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/DaniBrownBooks/
Twitter is danibrownauthor
And my website, which includes links to interviews from 2017 and the first section of “Seth” as well as free short stories, pictures and other fun things is https://danibrownqueenoffilth.weebly.com/