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5 Questions with Brian Hodge on WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY and the Shirley Jackson Award

[NOTE: This part of a series of Q&As with the Shirley Jackson Award nominees.]

Brian Hodge, called “a writer of spectacularly unflinching gifts” by Peter Straub, is the award-winning author of ten novels of horror and crime/noir. He’s also written well over 100 short stories, novelettes, and novellas, and four full-length collections. His first collection, The Convulsion Factory, was ranked by critic Stanley Wiater as among the 113 best books of modern horror.

He lives in Colorado, where he also dabbles in music and photography; loves everything about organic gardening except the thieving squirrels; and trains in Krav Maga, grappling, and kickboxing, which are of no use at all against the squirrels.

Brian kindly answered a few of my questions…

Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the Shirley Jackson Award nomination! Will you tell us about your novella and what inspired you to write it?

Brian Hodge: Whom the Gods Would Destroy is a train wreck collision of cosmic horror and science fiction, about a grad student in astronomy who gets pulled back into all this hideous family drama that he thought he got free of when he was a boy. On a personal level, he comes to the understanding that his fascination with space isn’t as much his own thing as he’s always thought it is. And in the bigger picture, he has to deal with the fact that DNA is the perfect interstellar probe.

The seed of the idea lay in the characters, and this messed-up family dynamic. It was like I started channeling this guy who was looking back on his earliest childhood memories of his mother immolating people on trees. Only he was ostracized from all this, growing up, while she lavished her attention and love on his brother. It all spiraled out of that, all 32,000 words of it.

KC: What, or who, have been some of the biggest influences on your writing, and why did you first begin writing?

BH: Writing was something that I felt compelled to do from a very early age, even before I knew the alphabet. It felt like an urgent physical need. I was at it by second grade and never stopped. Today, I’d say some key influences were Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Glendon Swarthout, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, John Irving, and Cormac McCarthy, but any list is going to be hopelessly incomplete. And I probably derive just as much nutritional value from music and visual art and so on.

KC: If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?

BH: Maybe Peter Straub’s Shadowland. There are books you remember, and then there are books that hit you at just the right time, so you remember the experience of reading them. You remember exactly when it was and where you were. You can recall yourself in a particular room, sitting on a particular chair or lying on your bed. That’s the way Shadowland is for me. I was in college at the time, and it took me away for days. It would be interesting to see if it hit me the same way again.

KC: What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award?

BH: It’s very gratifying, very flattering. Any nod from readers and peers makes my day, and I appreciate it a lot.

KC: What’s next for you?

BH: We’re a few weeks out from Cemetery Dance releasing a nice fat hardcover edition of Dark Advent, my early post-apocalyptic novel. Several new short stories and novellas are cued up waiting for their projects to see print, and others I still need to write. Through DarkFuse, I just put out Worlds of Hurt, an omnibus edition of the existing works of the Misbegotten story cycle I’ve been returning to for years, and I’m gearing up to take another trip into that universe. And there’s still this quasi-historical novel called Leaves of Sherwood that I’ve been working on way too long, and that I swear I’ll finish by the end of the year.

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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