In the fall of 2008 I happened across Brian Moreland’s novel Shadows In the Mist. I picked it up, read the back cover, thought it might be okay since it combined two interests of mine, horror and World War II. I put it back on the shelf and bought something else. Twice I did that. I finally bought the book and read it. And I instantly wished I had bought it the first time I saw it.
Out of the fifty books I read in ’08, I picked it as my favorite book of that year (I wrote reviews for a different, now defunct, site at the time). Set in the German forests, Shadows tells the story of Jack Chambers and how he lost his platoon in the war against the occult-minded Nazis. It’s action, it’s horror, it’s a great novel. Moreland accomplishes something in the story that has become almost rare in the realm of the horror novel: it’s good throughout, and it never loses its humanity.
Texas native Brian Moreland’s inspiration to write the novel came from his own grandfather, World War II pilot Captain Dawson “Hank” Moreland. Visit Mr. Moreland’s website to read his grandfather’s story; it brings a new, deeper, meaning to Moreland’s debut novel. Mr. Moreland has a documentary up on his site detailing the discovery of the plane his grandfather flew in the war, and his grandfather’s reunion with it in France.
Mr. Moreland was kind enough to take time away from writing his second novel, Dead of Winter, to answer a few questions.
Literal Remains: Your curiosity about your grandfather’s war years influenced Shadows in the Mist, and, as you say on your website, life began to imitate fiction with the discovery of the Douglas C-47 your grandfather flew in WWII. Have you considered writing a non-fiction book about your grandfather?
Brian Moreland: I have, actually. While I was writing and producing his documentary, Return to Normandy, my grandfather told me story after story of all his amazing missions. This got me thinking about writing a non-fiction book or perhaps even writing his real-life story into a novel. I may write it one day, but for now, I’ve got several supernatural horror novels in my head that need to be written first. I’d like to publish at least four novels under the horror genre before I write a purely WWII story.
Literal Remains: A lot of authors, and the public, have a tendency to romanticize World War II and that era. Even for the fantastical elements in your book, you don’t shy away from the realities of war. Was it difficult at all for you to keep Shadows in the Mist as realistic as it is?
Brian Moreland: I went to a lot of effort to make sure the story felt like a serious war story. I spent two years doing research and even traveled to Germany. I interviewed a number of soldiers, both U.S. Army and German Wehrmacht soldiers. I got their first-hand experiences, and they were anything but romantic. The soldiers who fought in the Hürtgen Forest—where my novel takes place—experienced terror and death on a daily basis. They watched their friends die. None of them felt heroic or happy to be fighting. When I saw the brutal opening scene of Saving Private Ryan I was in absolute awe. My aim was that the battle scenes in my book give readers that feeling of being a soldier surrounded by chaos of flying bullets and explosions. The supernatural horror element of what’s stalking the soldiers in the fog only adds to the terror and very real horrors of war.
Literal Remains: Have you had any thoughts of writing a sequel to Shadows in the Mist?
Brian Moreland: I’ve played around with some ideas. I’ve had a number of fans write me that they love the Jack Chambers character and would love to see a sequel. The way my novel is structured, starting in the present, and then flashing back to 1944, I have some challenges of getting a sequel to work. But it’s not out of the question. It will probably be a couple years before I attempt a follow up to Shadows in the Mist.
Literal Remains: You’re currently working on your second novel. Are there any lessons you learned writing your first novel that have helped in writing your second?
Brian Moreland: Yes, I’ve learned to outline my novel as I write so I can keep a bird’s-eye view of where the plot is headed. While writing my first novel, I lost track a few times and spent months doing rewrites to get the plot back on course. Also, after working with three very talented editors, I learned how to write tighter chapters with better cliffhangers. Writing my next novel, Dead of Winter, has gone much faster.
Literal Remains: I admit I am a major fan of Shadows in the Mist. My copy is nearly worn out from lending it to friends. It’s one of those books I thought while reading it, this has to be made into a movie, even though I’m fearful it would be butchered by Hollywood. But I have to ask, has there been any interest in adapting it to the silver screen?
Brian Moreland: Thanks for passing my book around to friends. I love hearing that people are reading it. A lot of fans write me and say that they can see my book as a movie and hope Shadows in the Mist gets made into a blockbuster movie one day. That would be a dream come true for me. I’ve had a couple of Hollywood producers read the book and I’m still waiting to hear back from one of them. One producer offered to option the story, but I declined because he didn’t seem like a good fit. As for now, the movie rights are still available for option. My goal is to attract the right production company that will adapt the novel to the big screen with an awesome director and big name actors.
Literal Remains: When, or if, you get to a point in a story that you feel you’ve hit a wall, or that you’re at a standstill, that the whole thing seems to be threatening to just fall apart and come crashing down- what keeps you going and determined to get it done?
Brian Moreland: That’s an excellent question and very poignant, because I’ve hit that wall many times with both books. In fact, just last week I was feeling that way about Dead of Winter. I hit a rough spot in the plot that’s been challenging me for months. I’ll sit down to write a new chapter and no fresh ideas come forth. A few subplots seemed to be tangled into a knot. With my inner critic nagging me to produce great writing, it’s easy to think that I should just give up on a story. But I keep telling myself, the inner critic is only a voice that likes to sabotage creativity. It is not out for my best interest. Fortunately, it’s not my dominating voice. I’ve built into my mind a whole counsel of positive voices that cheer me on and remind me why I was so passionate about this story to begin with. I just have to reconnect with my muse and I’ll get rolling again. I also focus on the great feelings of accomplishment that I will feel when I get to the end of the book. Completing a long-term project is highly rewarding, especially when you share it with others and see how it impacts them. I had the privilege of meeting three bestselling authors who gave me some great advice. Robert Crais told me, “Never give up.” James Rollins told me, “Aim to write three pages a day.” And when I was struggling with Shadows in the Mist, John Saul told me in a very blunt tone, “Just finish the damn book!” Those became my dominant voices that continue to push me forward.
Literal Remains: What do you hope your readers take away from your work?
Brian Moreland: I write primarily to entertain and to take readers on a rollercoaster thrill ride. I’d love them to feel like they just read an exciting page-turner. I’d love them to feel the full spectrum of emotions and fall in love with my characters like I do. My aim is for my writing to be experiential, meaning the reader feels like they are inside the main character and everything that is happening to our hero is happening to the reader, as well. Ultimately, I’d like readers to experience the joy I feel when reading a novel that is so fantastic I feel like I’ve been transported to a parallel universe that is more exciting than my own. If I can accomplish this, then hopefully they’ll return for another thrill ride when my next novel releases.
A big thanks to Mr. Moreland for this interview.