By Dana Granger
Fans of dark, thrilling horror tales are in for a treat this December. That’s the release date of Brett Talley’s THAT WHICH SHOULD NOT BE. Set in the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft, THAT WHICH SHOULD NOT Be is the story of Carter Weston, a student of history and folklore at Miskatonic University. Carter is chosen by his professor and mentor, Dr. Atley Thayerson, to recover an important artifact—a once lost book of arcane lore, the Incendium Maleficarum. As Carter departs for the village of Anchorhead, a nor’easter descends upon the Massachusetts countryside, and he is forced to seek shelter in a seaside tavern. Inside, he meets four curious men. Each one has his own story to tell, and each is stalked by the same dark forces, forces that lurk in dreams and the black void just beyond man’s imagining. As these tales unfold, it becomes clear that the tie that binds them all is the very tome which he seeks, and that Carter, the student who started the night as a skeptic, may be the only hope for mankind.
Brett Talley, an author who also works full time as an attorney, was kind enough to find some time in his busy schedule to chat with me about THAT WHICH SHOULD NOT BE, what inspires him, and what his readers and fans can expect next.
Your latest work is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. How old were you when you first read Lovecraft? Was it for a class, or just something that appealed to you? What did you think of Lovecraft the first time you read his works?
I actually did not come upon Lovecraft until after I graduated from law school. I have always been a fan of horror, and how I managed to miss him, I am not really sure. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted Lovecraftian themes to feature so prominently in my novel is my hope that I can help to introduce Lovecraft to a new generation.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by ancient civilizations, both real and legendary. Atlantis, Lemuria, the Seven Rishi cities. I love that branch of folklore and esoteria that posits the existence of great societies before ours and knowledge that was lost when they fell. Lovecraft fit perfectly into that obsession. It’s just unfortunate that Lovecraft died at such a young age.
What’s your writing schedule like? How do you fit writing around work at a law firm?
It’s a challenge, but one that I think most writers face. Truth is, there are very few of us who can live off of our writing alone, especially in the early years. I write whenever I have an opportunity. I carry a tape recorder around with me as well, and on my commute to and from work, I get a lot of “writing” done. I write while watching television. I write while lying in bed before I go to sleep. I wonder sometimes if I’ll burn out eventually.
Do you write exclusively in the horror genre, or do you explore other genres as well?
I have dabbled a good bit in literary fiction. In fact, I have written two literary fiction novels, one that I finished right as JournalStone decided to publish THAT WHICH SHOULD NOT BE. I’ve put that on hold for now, since horror is obviously where it is working for me right now. But I do think they are good books. It’s harder to find a home for that kind of fiction though, so we will just have to see what happens.
Tell us about your protagonist Carter Weston. What is he like as a person?
The thing to understand about Carter is that he is a skeptic who feels the pull of belief. He wants everything to be rational, to have a reasonable explanation. But even in his own life he has experienced the supernatural, perceived that his life is guided by more than random chance. That aspect of his personality allows him to believe, if sufficiently convinced, and it allows him to change throughout the novel as he comes to know that there is more to this world than what he can see.
Is there a little bit of you in your protagonists?
You know, it’s an old cliché to write what you know, but I try and do that with most of my characters. There’s a little bit of myself in all my protagonists, but beyond that, there’s a little bit of all the people I have met in them as well. My friends often ask me if I put them in my books, and I can honestly say yes. I just don’t tell them when they are the bad guys . . . .
What do you do when you’re not writing or working at the law firm?
I am a huge Alabama football fan, so I spend a lot of my time either watching them play or reading about the team. I also try and read a lot of fiction. I think that the best writers are also big readers. I have also started a website, brettjtalley.com, where, in addition to keeping people informed on what I am working on, I plan on doing reviews of the books I read.
What are you working on currently (what’s your next book)?
I really enjoyed writing a book that was set in the past and had a lot of Gothic horror influences, but for my next book I decided to go out on a limb and write something completely different. My next book is set in the future where distant space travel is possible. But we have to basically rip the fabric of space time in order to do so. The book deals with what the consequences of that might be, and what dark forces might exist beyond our own plane of reality.
What sort of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of very random research for this book. Since it is set in the past and takes place all over the world, I had to do some checking to make sure I wasn’t dropping too many anachronisms into the narrative. For instance, at one point a character needs to light something on fire. I had to find out when matches were invented or whether he would have a lighter. One scene takes place on a ship, so I had to find out what sort of course across the ocean ships took in the late 1800s. Normally I don’t enjoy doing research, but for this project, it was quite enjoyable.
A native of the South, Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School. When people ask, Brett tells them he writes for fortune and glory. But the truth is the stories in his head simply refuse to stay put. Brett loves every kind of fiction as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose. There’s still magic to be found in fiction, and the light can always triumph over the darkness, no matter how black the night may be.