Friday, 12 January 2018

A little Q & A with Dani Brown, my featured author of the month...


Dani Brown is a very boring person. She likes knitting. She often spends hours removing cat fur from her knitting projects. She wants Mayhem's drummer to show up at her house covered in chocolate sauce. That's about it. Oh, and she does not trust anyone who claims Velvet Underground as one of their favourite bands. She is also the author of several books that have earned her the honourable title, the 'Queen of filth', one of which, her latest release by JEA Press, is Night of the Penquins.

Night of the Penquins tells the story of Carla - a low-paid, bottom-of-the-rung zoo employee who has an issue with upper management and who lives in abject squalor through no fault of her own other than an insufficient lack of funds. One night, in total hunger and desperation, she decides to sneak into the zoo to forage for left-over food - even though there are rumours of bizarre disappearances and mysterious goings on after hours - only to find herself being cornered by a cult, led by some of the senior, upper echelons of management at the zoo, who intend to use her as part of their rituals.
What they don't realise, however, is that Carla has already been inseminated by a far older, and much more powerful God than that the cult follow and unwittingly, she is part of a much grander plan...

I spoke to Dani about some of her writing, and about her author journey so far...

Hi Dani, thanks for agreeing to answer my questions. First off, can I just say I’m really enjoying reading your work, and that you have a very unique style that is pretty much unlike anything else I think that I have ever read and I am looking forward to finding out a bit more about you and your work…

1) Firstly, both Broccoli and Night of the Penguins feature characters with, shall we say, less than favourable personal hygiene so, and please forgive me for asking something I expect you probably get asked a lot, the first thing I would like to know is are any of your characters based on reality, or real people that you know, or are they created completely from your own imagination?


That’s a tough question because it is a bit of both. With Broccoli, it was entirely made up. I tried to keep the character as gender neutral as possible. With Night of the Penguins, Spores was based on someone I knew. I didn’t know about his personal hygiene. I never stood close enough to him to smell him. 

I’m very squeamish in person and I notice bad smells and things like that. I have a lifetime of noticing this stuff to build upon. 

Whenever I need an example of bad hygiene, I think back to early childhood. I used this in “Seth” as well. And probably thought of it while constructing “Broccoli”. When we first moved to the USA, or specifically Massachusetts, I was walking with my mother. We walked past a neighbour’s house at the top of the road and she heard my mother’s accent. Turns out, she grew up in the same area of Britain as my mother. They became instant friends. 

The woman’s house was a mess. This woman wouldn’t have been the first hoarder I came across. My great grandmother was one too, but I don’t recall her house from early childhood. Over the years, her house became worse. Eventually, she loaded it with dogs. 

The house itself was huge, even to American standards. But everywhere was loaded with stuff. The woman never cleaned around all that stuff. 

The sink in the bathroom upstairs had layers of toothpaste. It was horrible. When my mother went into hospital to give birth to my brother, me and my sister had to stay with this woman. She wouldn’t let me have a drink at bedtime. I always have a cup of water next to my bed (or bottle these days, because kitties). This goes back for longer than I can remember. My throat gets dry and it can be painful. I had to get out of bed and drink with my hands from the dirty sink. 

 Years’ worth of grit accumulated on the floors. I don’t think she owned a vacuum cleaner. Children would run in and out of there. Children have sticky hands and snot dripping down their noses (I would have been no different). She didn’t wipe surfaces either. 

 The pool that she would make us go swimming in had white water and dead yellow jackets floating in it (I’m terrible of bees, wasps and hornets). That wasn’t ever vacuumed or skimmed. 

 We would have to go camping with her. Her caravan smelled of dog poo because dogs were everywhere and she never cleaned up after them. There wasn’t any relief from her and the smells were actually worse due to the confined space.

 One year, she had fleas. Really bad fleas. And of course, me and my siblings carried them home in our clothes to our two cats and one dog. I’m not sure if it was one of the years when flea treatment had stopped working, or if my mother was following this woman’s advice for getting rid of them instead of any functional person’s. I pressed on my dog’s spots one day (black spotted Dalmatian) and fleas crawled into his white fur. We were covered in flea bites. Clogs were the in-footwear. I was wearing a pair to the church my mother dragged me to, black suede ones. Fleas came out of them as I swung my legs in the pews. When flea treatments cease to work and the fleas need to be attacked from many angles, it is impossible to treat a house loaded with that much stuff. 

Eventually, my mother stopped making me and my siblings go there and came up with alternative childcare arrangements. Probably after pressure from functional people. The woman had a domineering personality and my mother, at the time, when her mental health started to fail, was an “anything for an easy life” sort. The woman dominated my early childhood. 

Obviously, that isn’t the only instance of bad hygiene I’ve come across over the years. 

Gross men trying to kiss me is another thing that really gets to me. 

Apart from the serious over-stepping of personal boundaries and general sexism and objectification that occurs, it is bloody disgusting if they haven’t brushed their teeth. The minefield that is online dating has turned up more than a few smelly men. 

False nails are another thing that gets to me. 

They look nice, if they’re kept clean. Underneath can harbour all sorts of nasty little surprises, especially if the woman wearing them don’t wash their hands. 

Anything that becomes a breeding ground for mould or bacteria really gets to me. I know my house isn’t the tidiest of places but beneath all the clutter, it is clean. I simply put the clutter back after everything has been disinfected for lack of storage and having a young child. 

In terms of actually basing characters on people, it does vary. Seth is entirely made up, but as that was the piece I handed in for my degree, I’m more of aware of the influences of his creation than other characters. I was incredibly drunk and recovering from the flu (great ideas of the young and hopeful lol) and listening to Mayhem to drown out the sounds of a party of two from my boyfriend at the time (Miserable Prototype Hipster) and his friend, while I caught up on some university work. A few writing exercises had been given out during my absence. One of which was to write from the pov of someone of a different gender. Another was the pov of someone of a different sexuality. I think I went a bit overboard in Seth who is a bit of a manwhore; he doesn’t consider himself gay because he sleeps with women, but only sleeps with them if these women look like his roommate, Terry.

I’m a bit of a prude so I guess I got the “different” part correct in creating a character very different to me. His obsessive nature comes from other people’s characters, like Gollum (Lord of the Rings) or Roland (The Dark Tower). His split personality could be Susannah (The Dark Tower) or could be me trying to work out what was wrong with my mother. The decline of her state of mind had sped up and I would read all sorts of psychology websites trying to work out what was wrong with her to get her, and the rest of the family, some much needed help. So, although made up, Seth has all these different elements to him. I don’t know what influence Mayhem had because I was so drunk. I can see a physical resemblance between Seth and Euronymous and Terry and Dead. I’m sure it made sense at the time. If interested in Seth, the first draft of the first section is up on my website now as I show no signs of finishing that this year and mention it all the time. 

With Reptile, out now from JEA, although a prude myself, I’m opened minded and as I write about sex, people from various communities would talk to me about it. 

In this case, BDSM. 

In a post-50 Shades world, the BDSM community was becoming overrun with lost souls thinking 50 Shades was what BDSM was about. It isn’t. It drove away a lot of people actually into BDSM, who would then complain to me about it. I didn’t see it as very fair. I did base characters in Reptile off these descriptions and people who I knew who behaved in similar ways. The basic lost souls, attention seeking variety, it didn’t have to be about sex. There was a time in my life when I would have to read the Daily Mail and the comment section of the Daily Mail to develop these characters. Reptile marked the change, I had met enough lost people in desperate need of a social worker that made it no longer necessary. 

With Sparky the Spunk Robot, TBP, I created the neighbourhood based on the people who wouldn’t let me pursue my dreams. There isn’t anyone in particular that stands out. This goes back to when I returned to live in the UK at the age of 16 and still had ambitions of becoming a doctor. That one is a bit more personal, although I’ve never played, nor have any intention of playing a keytar. It is a fictional version, with added body fluids, of what I’ve been trying to say for years. I find it sad when people give up on their dreams to work a job they hate. I refuse to conform, no matter how much proverbial shit is thrown at me. 


2) I know you are often referred to as The Queen of Filth, but I was wondering is this a title you came up with yourself, or did somebody else first give you this nickname? 


My now ex-boyfriend came up with the name. There’s a few writers with the name Dani Brown already (possibly because Dan Brown has used Danielle Brown). I needed to be different from the other Dani Brown’s. He added Queen of Filth. I’m not sure he understood the Cradle of Filth reference when he did it. I get the occasional Cradle of Filth fan looking for the other Dani Filth. We also have crossover fans. I bought the teeshirt, not because I like Cradle, but because of the name. One day, I will post Cradle of Filth links to my page. 



3) Having read both Broccoli and Night of the Penguins, I was just curious, what genre would you say your writing best fits into? And who would you say is your target audience?


I think it depends more on the book. Night of the Penguins, I consider to be horror and target the horror market with it. It is also the book I recommend people start with. From there, if they message with what parts they liked, I can point them in the direction of what other books of mine they might like. I will, one day, put this up in a big section on my website but it is going to take a long time to put it together. 

I have a lot of unpublished things and a lot of fragments. I write in every genre, except fantasy. That has more to do with a bad memory than anything else. With my sex writing, it leans more towards porn-lit and away from romance subgenre, erotica, with the exception of my erotic bizarro.

I’m not going to rule out writing romance though. 

Broccoli, who knows? That has a bit of everything, except sex. 

I have trouble writing sex from a gender neutral pov

Stuff like Stara, I would call extreme horror. 

There was a review of My Lovely Wife which addressed it as brutal torture porn, I think that is fair. I write what I want, pretty much when I want to write it. I prioritise based on deadlines and when slush piles are open for publishers I would like to work with. This year’s writing is lined up to be a year of extreme horror, body horror and experimental (cut-ups and chance, hopefully with some sounds and samples, etc). Next year, I would like to get at least another section of Seth done, I consider that to be porn-lit. 


4) Tell me about your writing career so far. What are some of your other titles, how did you first start writing, and what made you decide to write the kind of stuff you do?


I graduated with a first class degree in Creative Writing from the University of Bedfordshire in 2008. As already mentioned, I handed in Seth for my final degree piece. I could have done experimental writing, but lack of equipment to do it the way I wanted prevented it. And the desire not to step on the Miserable Prototype Hipster’s toes. He would have been upset if I handed in something that could have been marketed as an industrial album for my degree. I spent that summer in the USA, trying to finish Seth, but the people around me caused some stress. I was an adult and did not want to be told what to do, especially if a little short- term hardship would prevent extreme hardship in the future. 

Upon my return to the UK, I had my son and started to write Broccoli when the contents of Seth were used against me. I also continued work on the text of my main experimental piece, The Panda Says No (a massive found cut-up, put together by chance with role-playing dice). Unfortunately, after my son was born, I fell seriously ill and was in bed for about six months. After a long-term illness, the risk of depression is very high and I kept falling asleep over my writing (it was still another year before I returned to normality). The doctor sent me outside for gardening and on a low-level writing course to prevent more illness. My immune system was still letting everything going around in. Gardening, a small child and being sick didn’t leave much time for writing. I started to network during this time. But on top of my health problems, I was living with someone with borderline personality disorder. Every time I would feel good after not sleeping during the day and accomplishing a bit of writing, he would take it upon himself to follow me around the house shouting about how I should do something else. Writing, as with a lot of things, has a very delayed gratification. It is years before it begins to pay off, unless you are very lucky or know someone. I wasn’t either of these things. I’m one of those decide on one thing and stick to it people though. Eventually he moved out. Still interfered with my life though, in telling me what to do. That seems to be common in Britain though, as he was the first in a long line of many people doing it, which didn’t create good conditions for writing. 

 Eventually, I wrote My Lovely Wife and found a publisher for it. Middle Age Rae of Sunshine followed shortly after, but not without a bunch of proverbial shit (there’s author notes for both of these on my website). After the proverbial shit being flung at me while writing Rae, I was left in a state of shock and in therapy. 

From there, I kept my head down and wrote an awful lot. 

It was the only thing that kept me sane. 

I also started to consciously include stuff from life in my writing. I didn’t do many interviews. I guess I was shamed and embarrassed over what happened to me. In order to include anything from my life in the interviews, I would have to jump back to a brief bit of time between the ages of 12/13-15/16 when I had some stability in my life and more nice people around (kudos to my childhood friends and the new friends I made along the way for sticking around through all the horrible people). Just wrote, had it published. Went to the day job, looked after my little boy. Eventually, it all started to pay off, in I had a voice and could finally get out a bit

People were starting to respect me. 

In that time, I had Reptile and Dark Roast published by JEA and Stara published by Azoth Khem. Welcome to New Edge Hill and Toenails were published by Morbidbooks (who also published My Lovely Wife and Rae). I had a lot of short stories published. I wrote things that have yet to be published. By the time Night of the Penguins and Broccoli happened, I was booked in for Liverpool Horror Con and giving interviews. I was getting out and doing the things I have been waiting years to do. Although I’m always in fear of another Rae-style shitstorm, I’ve come far enough now and have enough proof of what I’m doing to be confident that people will lay off me a bit and if they don’t, there’s other people out there. 

My most recent published book is 3 of a Kind. Three stories in one book. With the publication of this, I started to post author notes on my website. I didn’t realise how much people cared about these things until I started getting asked questions about where my ideas come from. It was following an incident at Thanksgiving 2017, cumulating Christmas 2017, that I decided to be a lot more open about what had happened to me as it was impacting my writing. It is still too early to say how supportive people will be. As I’ve mentioned Hot Tinder Guy in previous interviews (and numerous times on my website), would say to me “honest and open” and although he never made it to be a part of my life physically, I carry that with me. 

I didn’t start writing fiction until I started the creative writing degree at university. 

Until then it was all journalism and essays. It wasn’t really until my second year that I had any confidence in doing so. I was off sick, as usual (or sometimes, my mother wouldn’t let me physically leave my bedroom, but in this case I was off sick) and in bed. After a few days, I was still too unwell to get out of bed but I could sit up and write. I was stuck for ideas for an assignment and started looking around my room for inspiration. A copy of The Chronicles of Narnia stared back at me. I wrote a story, a dark story, about talking animals and a plague. I received very positive feedback on it. That’s when my confidence grew and I knew this was what I wanted to do. My American grandmother tells me she always knew I would be a writer. An old friend got in contact through facebook and said she always knew I would be a creative. 

 With the vivid and sometimes relentless descriptions in my writing, this can be traced back to Seth. I think I was trying to get around using a penis and between reading Lord of the Rings so many times (Tolkien really knew how to describe things), I would start writing it and writing it, until it seemed right. I still do that. 

 Most of my stuff either starts off as a line, an idea or a song lyric (misheard or otherwise). Sometimes, the original idea doesn’t make it into the final story. With Night of the Penguins, it started off as wishing the overpriced water bottles at the zoo I worked at would turn to blood, but before any of the awful customers noticed. I’m guessing I had watched a documentary about Biblical plagues as I fell asleep. Something very basic. Water into blood. And I built a story around that. Based in the zoo, because that’s where I wanted the water to change. I drew in more elements from the zoo. The animals. The general creepiness of the place when customers weren’t around. 

 Ketamine Addicted Pandas, TBP, started again with a basic idea. Murderous pandas. A picture of black metal band Immortal graced my Facebook newsfeed. Not to insult Immortal’s corpse paint, but they do resemble pandas. So I have black metal pandas. Pandas in a zoo in Norway. They like dance music. Let’s give them some party drugs. Ketamine is a horse tranquiliser, non-addictive and probably not strong enough for a panda. And that is Ketamine Addicted Pandas. It draws on black metal, which is always fun because I’m not sure if those guys know what the truth is, so there’s thirty-odd years worth of rumours to work from and dance music, because why not? And where there’s black metal, there’s Satan and Nazis (or rumours of Satanism and Nazism). Dance music brings its own rumours. 

 Stef and Tucker, not yet published, is based on misheard song lyrics. Once I finish one of the stories, I look up the song to see how wrong the lyrics I came up with were. 

 Broccoli. My mother’s over-cooked frozen broccoli being squeezed out of pimples. 

 While drunk at a party, not like this is that common of an occurrence, I blurted out Sugarbabes only sing about masturbation. Way, way back, when I was in college, one of their songs was on the radio at least once per hour and when recently trying to describe Gary Numan to my sister, I used one of their other songs to do so. The Sugarbabes were pretty fresh in my mind. Proceeded to write it on a sheet of paper and arrived home with that paper in my bag. That’s going to make an interesting story. I’m guessing the story itself has been working its way from the back of my mind since hearing the same damn song once per hour on the radio all those years ago, long before I could write. I haven’t written about a pop band yet. Although Stef’s wife in Stef and Tucker is based on a pop singer. I think it is going to be my ‘angry’ story, like Stara was. And just write scenes of torture. Then put in a story around them. Then merge the two so the torture doesn’t stand out. 

 My Lovely Wife was a line, “I had to have her…”

Rae, I detail on my website. 

 Toenails, I wanted to write about something gross and horrible after trying to write about something pleasant. 

 Dark Roast started with genetically modified plants and vines. 

 Welcome to New Edge Hill, I can’t fully remember. I think I came up with the idea while the Rae-shitstorm was occurring. 

 Reptile, a young woman slicing into her stomach, instead of blood pouring out there’s beads. 

 Stara, nightmares about pro-life abortion propaganda. 

 God’s Fleshlight was trying to perfect Gingerbread. Both to be published. A woman was using Anton LaVey to bully me. I have those books too. I should probably re-read them at some point, but I read them a long time ago and only vaguely remember them. LaVey was a man with a sense of humour. I remembered that. And he was a bit gross, probably not as bad as Crowley, but I’ve never made it through anything by Crowley. 



5) What difficulties have you faced as a writer, and what would you say is the hardest part of writing a book?


What difficulties? I detail these on my website. I get a lot of proverbial shit flung at me which instead of allowing me to write and do something constructive with my life, takes my attention away from everything except whatever is happening. I have mental health related problems from it. All I want to do is write and raise my child and support myself. That’s a bit too much to ask, I guess. 

I wish I could say something like the hardest part of writing is motivation or similar. But it isn’t. I have endless ideas. I have no problems getting out of bed (unless I’m sick, but I have notebooks piled next to my bed just in case). It is, for me, literally, getting people to back off and let me do with my life what I want to do. I don’t see what business it is of anyone else’s anyways. So, I work a crappy day job so I can pay more attention to writing. I’m not the only creative who makes that sacrifice. I would rather try and fail, than not try at all. What is the point in life if I give up and arrive at my death bed without ever having tried? The trying is fun. Or at least, it would be, if people would back off. 


6) What advice would you offer to any potential writers out there?


Just write. Don’t wait for the right time. The right time is now. Don’t have the time? Bring a notebook with you everywhere. Instead of letting your eyes glaze over glancing at your phone, write. Eventually you’ll have a story. It might even be good. It might need a lot of editing. But it is your story. The more you write, the better you’ll become. 


7) Considering the kind of stuff you write, where do you find your inspiration? And bearing in mind the general tone of your writing, is there anything that actually turns your stomach and makes you feel ill? And is there anything you are particularly afraid of?


Inspiration comes from everywhere. I have answered some of this already in the interview, without realising it. At risk of repeating myself, I’ll say something not yet touched upon. If I have a vague idea, or not even an idea but see something I find amusing, sometimes I’ll message back and forth with a friend. And eventually, an idea will be born. I’ve done this to develop a character based on Hot Tinder Guy. As my dating history is littered with musicians, I like to google them. I need to make sure they have their own equipment, are who they say they are, can function in the music world without me, etc. His actual google search was boring. One hundred per cent work related. His google image search was so interesting, I had to message my friend with pictures. The guy had lost a lot of weight. But there weren’t any pictures of him being between overweight and underweight. The first story I did on him, although I didn’t realise it at the time, was The Practicalities of Body Swapping with a Slimmer Man, which is in 3 of a Kind (out now from Morbidbooks). The notes are on my website. 

Pretty much everything turns my stomach. I’m squeamish and prude. The worst though, that would be body fluids. Blood makes me faint. Poo and ear wax come in at second, in I don’t faint but I do gag. Vomit and cum are in third place (I flinch and my stomach bubbles a bit). Phlegm and snot in fourth (stomach bubbling)Pee being the least offensive to me. It is probably why I can describe all these horrible things in gross, vivid detail. 

I don’t like seeing videos of real life violence, or reading stories of it. I used to watch crime documentaries when I needed to murder a characterbut I have enough deaths now that I no longer need to. 

 Due to my mother’s mental health issues going from her mid-life right until the end, and being surrounded at times, by people with mental health illnesses or personality disorders, I tend to read a lot about these. I like to understand people and have a general idea of where they’re coming from when they say or do something. Instead of saying such and such a character suffers from anxiety, it is better to describe anxiety in the course of the narrative. Descriptions of any mental illness can be found with a quick google search and looking under symptoms. Same with personality disorders. Side effects of prescription drugs. Health problems. Diseases. Always go with the symptoms. 

 As I seem to have a habit of dating musicians with borderline personality disorder, a lot of my characters have symptoms or are musicians. Sometimes both. 

 ,I am absolutely terrified of bees, wasps and hornets. It is winter, so the can of Raid I keep with me has been put away. This is a fear that goes back to childhood. I detail that and other childhood fears in a previous interview, which can be obtained from the press and pictures section of my website, under 2017 interviews. 

I’m also pretty damn terrified someone is going to come along and tell me what to do with my life, or implant themselves into my life somehow. When that happens, the people are really difficult to get rid of. I’ve detailed it in the notes for Rae on my website. It does leave a lasting practical impact upon my life as well as the mental impact. Less work done when I’m dealing with all of that, means more debt and being pushed back. It means I can’t get out and make up for the life I missed out on growing up or give my child the things I didn’t have. This sort of thing took ten years of my life (only considering post-degree, it took more in delaying my education) already, I want it to stop happening. It has stopped for now, but I’m so nervous about it, that I’m not the person I should be. I want to move forward with life, not back. I don’t see why people think that because I’ve had a bad childhood and past, that I can’t move on with my life and have a future. 


8) What are your plans for 2018? Where do you see your career going next, and what can we expect to see from you this year?


2018 will see the publication of a Dual Depravity with David Owain Hughes. Two authors, two novellas each,in one book. God’s Fleshlight and The Previous Plastic Surgeon are my contribution to this. It will also see the publication of Ketamine Addicted Pandas. I have notes for a sequel, if people want another one. I have other things out on slush piles now. Including Sparky the Spunky Robot. 

 In terms of what I’m writing. I have some very extreme, very sick horror planned. I come up with my ideas for the year in the autumn of the previous year. I also have some weird things planned. And it might be the year, I write something a bit more accessible and traditional in terms of horror. Although that is what I plan, sometimes, when I go to write the story, it turns out entirely different. 

 I would like to see a return to my experimental writing. I need to see what equipment I can get for this. But for now, until I can get a new computer, it’ll be just text as I get used to putting together cut-ups again (I do this manually, I know some people use programmes for it). 

 I won’t be writing as many short stories as I normally do. 

Life has calmed down enough for more novels andhopefully a return of my short-term memory. I wrote a lot of short stories at the end of my creative period in the summer. Those will be coming up for publication and should last well into next year. I will write a few. I enjoy writing them while I cook. 

 It would be nice to write another section of Seth. I’m not sure if I’ll get around to it this year. I want Seth to be the next thing I self-published. 


Dani Brown’s books can be found on Amazon here:

And her Facebook page/ website can be found here:

Or follow her on Twitter here:  @danibrownauthor and Instagram here: dani_brown_author


Thank you once again, Dani, for taking a little time out of your busy schedule to talk to me about your work, and more reviews of Dani’s work will be appearing on this Blog over the next couple of weeks so please, watch this space…


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