Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “56 Seconds”, “Night of the Penguins” and the hugely popular “Ketamine Addicted Pandas”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more. New for 2019, “Sparky the Spunky Robot”.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I’ve been surrounded by people with either diagnosed or suspected personality disorders through most of my life, so I always thought myself to be pretty boring. Boring is good. Boring is stable. But it doesn’t make for very interesting answers for questions such as these. There’s only so much I can talk about my love of cats before it becomes more repetitive than the music I listen to. I also like goats. I’m hoping that maybe this will be the year I can finally have a pet goat.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
When I’m not writing or doing the single mother thing, I like to try to recover the skills I lost to years of intense stress. I guess stuff like drawing and planning huge multimedia exhibits classes as creating though. When I’m not creating or raising my son, I like to go on random, unplanned adventures, or adventures with a minimum of planning. Sometimes, with the minimum planning ones, there’s an objective. I also think I would enjoy hosting dinner parties. I don’t particularly like to cook, but they sound like fun. I’m not in a situation where I can do so at this point in time. I do attend a few parties though. I find stuff like that relieves any creative blocks I have, as long as it isn’t in excess.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
The Hobbit. I’m dyslexic and couldn’t read until I was ten. This was one of the earliest books I read that is marketed at children. Before The Hobbit, I would read stuff by Stephen King. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Luckily, in my late teens, Harry Potter was still being released so I made it to the midnight openings at bookshops to pick up my copy and had it read by seven in the morning.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
Die Mensch Maschine by Kraftwerk is my favourite album, but Placebo is my favourite band. Music plays a huge role in my writing. As Sparky the Spunky Robot has just been released, and I don’t want to give too much away so people can have a chance to read and form their own opinion with their own experiences projected onto the narrative, I’m going to leave that one out. I do put on Kraftwerk at the end of any piece I’m writing. It goes back to university and I wrote my entire final assignment with post-Autobahn Kraftwerk on repeat.
I talk about my playlist over on facebook.com/danibrownbooks and what impact it has on the stories I’m writing. If something seems really important to the story, I post about it on my website too.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
Candyman. I know it isn’t everyone’s favourite, but I like it. I enjoy the combination of the psychological and supernatural.
Lately I’ve been wondering if Trevor’s gaslighting, lies and affair would be enough to drive Helen into a psychosis. That is more for the purpose of my own writing. What’s being called Tainted Love/Push the Button or Queen of Filth Era Two focuses on abuse and crossing people’s boundaries. I tend to view it as the Candyman is real at any rate, or I did before embarking on a large group of connected stories. And I’m scared of bees, so it makes it a rather effective film for me.
KR: What are you reading now?
Twilight. I’m reading it as the abuse is presented in a positive light or normal and apart from its fanfiction 50 Shades I couldn’t name anything else where that occurs that is currently sat on my bookshelf. If I get too annoyed with it, I said I’d reread Rose Madder or 120 Days of Sodom. In Rose Madder, the abuse is presented as it is, awful. In 120 Days of Sodom, nothing the Four Friends do is presented as normal. I wanted the normality of abuse in day-to-day life carried into fiction. In my current group of stories, abusive relationships are things I’m exploring. I wanted to take a deeper look at fiction and how these things are portrayed and carry out in real-life. This is my first reading of Twilight, although I did read 50 Shades when that was released.
KR: What was the last great book you read, and which was the biggest disappointment?
I’m not really sure. I read a lot of great books. I know this is a short story, but “Foreign Bodies” by Adam Howe (I read it in The Year’s Best Hardcore Horror 3) has stuck with me. It was the whiskers twitching that got to me. I’ve been meaning to buy all of his books based on the strength of that story.
I do somewhat regular update my facebook page with what I’m reading. I think this particular short story ended up with a mini-essay of praise and maybe a bit of jealousy (I really never would have thought to make the whiskers twitch).
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback. The pages tend to be off white and I can bend the spine to make reading a lot easier. I struggle to read on an e-reader due to the dyslexia. I can read hardback, even if the pages are brilliant white with inlays but I only do this with things I must have on release, if paperback isn’t an option.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
I don’t really know who inspired me to write. I fell into creative writing very accidentally while at university. Moving back to the UK, I left my schooling behind and found myself in a media class with a teacher that insisted as the only girl in the class that I do journalism. I didn’t have much say in it, even though I wanted to do film and SFX. When it came time for university applications, I ended up in Creative Writing and Journalism. Turns out I hated journalism even more at university so I dropped that part. Writing, especially with Era Two, fills a need in me to create. Once I started looking at my stories as the diseases I wanted to cure in my teens (I had my heart set on a career in epidemiology growing up), it became something that is hard for me to put into words. These days, I can read a book and see how it is going to influence whatever I’m working on (hence why I post about them on my facebook).
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
Sparky the Spunky Robot did have an outline. It was one of the first times I used one. I’ve been using something that might resemble an outline for Era Two stories. It is more to make sure not too many ideas are explored in any given piece. It makes the stories too long and confusing that way. These outlines are mainly post-it notes stuck in a notebook. Or if I get a good idea for one of the stories while I’m out, I put it on an index card I carry with me. Some of the Era Two stories are more thought out than others. Often times, I’ve been finding, if I write the ending for one story, I end up using it for something else. I like working like that, with no clear plan but a vague collection of ideas and possible lines to use in a story. There will need to be a plan for Ketamine Addicted Pandas 2 though as so much has to happen in that book and it can’t contradict what happened in Ketamine Addicted Pandas: Dawn of the Pandas.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
With Sparky the Spunky Robot, I looked up how to play a keytar and home pregnancy testing in the 80s when those came up in the narrative. For Queen of Filth Era Two, I’ve been looking into bubonic plague and personality disorders and astrology before they appear in a story, but it is more trying to read articles on my phone while I’m eating lunch instead of making notes on it. Trying. Because reading on a screen is difficult. Any topic that looks like it might be useful. I have some conspiracy theories lined up for my next bout of research. I guess I’ve done that for a few different books.
Anything technical, like how to build a sexbot and how to dissolve human flesh, is looked into on a need to know basis, especially if I need to make notes for it.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style varies from story to story. 56 Seconds has a weird style that has been compared to “bible verses set to house music”. I can be a bit descriptive in my stories. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings far too many times, but I’m trying to be less descriptive these days. A lot of my stories from Era One are highly repetitive, so I’ve taken that into Era Two, but repeating the same sentences with a little change throughout the narrative of any given story. As the Era Two stories overlap, I’ve been purposely leaving stuff out of each story. I think it makes for a stronger text that way. I’ve been really concerned with how the words read on the page. It has become just as important to me as the story. I was like that in university as well.
Sparky the Spunky Robot follows a clear beginning-middle-end without getting distracted and ending up somewhere else. There are hints in the narrative that I used to write more experimental, poetic stories, a long time ago. It isn’t as immersive as 56 Seconds (which came after) or even Reptile (which came a few years before).
Then there’s stuff like Reptile (that’s the book you want if you enjoyed “Theatrum Mortuum” in The Year’s Best Hardcore Horror 3 or VSX). With Reptile, I was trying to be as extreme and vulgar as possible. I was also trying to explore what I later learned was narcissistic abuse in social settings. In Era Two, it became stuff like “out-narcing frenemies on social media”.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
These days, I don’t really stick to a schedule. I no longer write on demand. I had a few years of that, with waking up at 5AM and I think my writing suffered for it. If something isn’t working for me, I can go do something else until it does. I worked hard to make that possible, so I’m not going to fall back into the old routine which I resented. It isn’t a switch I can turn on and off. As a single mother, I don’t often have the chance to write long into the early hours of the morning if something is working for me. When I get that chance, I take it. I do keep a notebook next to my bed and my post it notes if something must be written down there and then. I also have index cards I carry in my bag or pockets, leave around the house.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
My favourite is usually what I’m working on at any given time, so right now, that would be The Daisies That Open at Midnight and Neon Dawn.
My favourite overall is Sparky the Spunky Robot. It isn’t my strongest story or even the most memorable, but it is a very special story to me. It was the last thing I wrote during the “bad times”. Even after waking up at 5AM day after day and having a very large amazon author account, people around me would still tell me what to do with my life and waste my time to the point I ended up in therapy. As some of the people would be official type people, like my son’s school, there wasn’t much I could do. I did one time ask if they wanted to pay back my student loans. But if people aren’t going to listen, they aren’t going to listen. If they’re intent on using stereotypes and projecting whatever their own agenda is, that’s what they’re going to do. Regardless of what proverbial hoops I jump through to prove otherwise. The goalposts constantly shifted during those dark times.
I knew I was writing something special with Sparky the Spunky Robot. I just needed the space to get it done. So I ended up having the inspirational toy robot tattooed on my arm. A bit extreme, especially considering I didn’t particularly want tattoos, but when you’re around extremists, sometimes you have to take extreme action. Shortly after I had the tattoo, the culture started to change and people backed off. Instead of having it removed, I’m going to have the rest of my forearm done as it was planned with Sandy and a little alien I drew. I can look down and remember how much things have changed and I no longer need to write in secret and strain myself physically and mentally to have a low-skill, low-pay day job that keeps the people intent on using stereotypes from trying to fix my life (which wasn’t broken in the first place).
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
I do if someone draws my attention to them. I don’t have the time to search them out. I might check out ones that are posted on amazon from time to time to see if there’s anything that can help with marketing on social media.
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
Due to years of stress immediately following university, my writing did not experience a natural evolution. In the end, I woke up at 5 in the morning to write before the day job and hoped there would be no drama in that day, so I’d get to sleep early and start it all the next day (some of the drama is detailed on my website). I was finishing Sparky the Spunky Robot when the #metoo movement first started. At the time, I didn’t think it would reach beyond work-place sexual harassment. I don’t think anybody did. At the time, I was wrapped up in trying to get people to back off and give me enough space to write Sparky the Spunky Robot so I wasn’t that aware of what was going on.
It changed the culture, at least over here. I know there’s a lot of work to be done still, but in terms of my own life, I now get left alone to write and do as I please.
There was a book a wrote in January and February of 2018 when my body was adjusting to having all the stress ripped away (Crackhouse in the Desert). Then I took a few weeks break and wrote 56 Seconds. During that few weeks break, I was still in the old habit of forcing myself to write. I ended up with notes for what will become Dream Princess (the Dream Princess sexbots are scattered throughout Era Two stories) and Smothered Hope (the most extreme thing I will ever write, but it isn’t ready to write yet).
56 Seconds, in terms of style, goes back to a style I had going on while at university. But with more confidence. With 56 Seconds and the short story I wrote just before I started 56 Seconds, “The Last Human” (out now in Where There are Dragons an Anthology of Mixed Emotions), I started calling my writing Queen of Filth Era Two, because this stuff was different to what I had published previously. As I get further into writing these stories, they’ve been bleeding together with the same characters and settings. I don’t know how long this will last. But, it is what I consider a more natural evolution than my older stuff.
I did really enjoy writing Ketamine Addicted Pandas. That one I kept the file open on my computer for the seven or so months I was working on it. That was the first one where I really started to talk about what I was writing. It was going to be more extreme than anything and more ridiculous, because they’re pandas addicted to (apparently non-addictive) animal tranquilisers that aren’t strong enough for them. And it was totally influenced by rumours about black metal. There was no way the people with their personality disorders surrounding me could top that. And it was making me happy to write it and talk about it. I would add 400 words here, 700 words there while dealing with drama and writing other things. I’m probably going to do the same thing with the second one, minus the drama bit. Although Ket Pandas has its own notebook. I will catch that new Lords of Chaos movie after I finish The Daisies That Open at Midnight and Neon Dawn. I think Ketamine Addicted Pandas reminded me of what writing and creating in general should be. That spirit carried over into Era Two. In terms of style, it isn’t immersive. It is just a story. The reader isn’t going to take anything away from it, minus a few hours escape into a world fuelled by drugs, torching things and murder and eating baboon brains. There’s no hidden meanings or special attention paid to how the words come out.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
Just write. Worry about editing later.
KR: What scares you?
Wasps. I’m absolutely terrified of them. Not so keen on bees and hornets either. Don’t like hummingbirds because they’re like hornets in reverse. Scorpions are a no. And I hate dolphins. I’ve never seen a wild one but I’ve seen enough on TV to find them creepy. And Michael Jackson gave me nightmares as a small child. If one of his songs comes on the radio, I might end up in a pretty foul mood. Also pretty scared of The Wizard of Oz.
I’m also scared that people will wrap me up in their drama, often manufactured, again. Or the cultural changes that happened that allowed me the space to write will be reversed.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Sparky the Spunky Robot, released February 2019, written in October 2017. It was meant to come out in 2018, but I had five other releases last year. I was exhausted. Two of those releases didn’t receive the promotion they deserved (Thr3 of a Kind and Crackhouse in the Desert). The publisher was kind enough to put the release back. I think I’ve mentioned the tattoo and a vague idea of what I was going through at the time.
The actual story is an idea from about 2013 when too many people were trying to fix my not-broken life and ended up breaking it (and my sanity in the process). I had scribbled a few things in a notebook basically questioning why people would go out of their way to stop someone from pursuing creative ambitions. I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was an adult. I thought the degree I had was all the qualifications I needed. I really didn’t understand. And these were people from all walks of life.
In summer of 2017, I had been reaching burn-out stage with short story after short story and finishing Ketamine Addicted Pandas. Plus people and their drama and bizarre interferences in my life (basically whatever their whims were, which, even from my son’s school, had long term negative consequences). One day, my son was playing with his robot toys on my bedroom floor while I finished off the last two stories. I had run out of ideas, reached down and grabbed a robot. I wrote about the robot (“Dayshift Rescue” to be released). I had also sent Burdizzo Books one of my “Chester and Lester” stories for their Sparks Anthology. They had previously rejected one of my “Chester and Lester” stories and I sent in the second one as a bit of a joke. The first story can be found in Rejected For Content 6, both rejection letters and the second story are up on my website. The “Chester and Lester” stories are about two brothers who make a lot of money selling products made with their own semen. I sent them an actual publishable story and they sent me a rejection letter. Later that day (or maybe a few days later, time blurred during the dark times), I had received really positive feedback about “Dayshift Rescue” so I took a picture of the toy robot. Posted it on my facebook page, along with my rejected “Chester and Lester” story and the rejection letter with the caption, “I’m going to write a story about a robot powered by cum”. Em Dehaney, who wrote the second rejection letter, commented “Sparky the Spunky Robot”.
In Dual Depravity 2, I have a story titled God’s Fleshlight. One of the characters has a thing for flamingos, including decorative garden flamingos.
Last element, someone who shall remain nameless but who has a striking resemblance to Balthazar Bratt (from those Despicable Me movies, my son loves them and I took him to see that third one a few weeks earlier) was going on about the keytar he wanted. Before the keytar, I had tried writing a serious story about a cum-powered robot. A few times. These were the dark times, so I wasn’t really able to go away and let an idea form like I can now. But each try, the story was awful. It just wasn’t there. So late September, early October, Keytar Guy is going on about the keytar he wants but still hasn’t bought (he spent the money on Blue-Rays, keytars cost about £600, or at least the one I picked did and that’s just for the keytar, amp isn’t included). I throw out everything I was writing in regards to Sparky the Spunky Robot and start again, this time with the idea from 2013, lawn decorations and a keytar. I’m dealing with other drama while writing this, but I’m writing. I wrote it in my notebook, long hand and then typed it up. It was about three weeks and a tattoo later that I sent it to Bizarro Pulp Press who happened to be open at the time.
Matthew’s band went on to make it without him when Karen found herself pregnant. They end up married and having more children. They own a house in Suburban Hell. All the residents of Suburban Hell give up their dreams for lawn decorations. The more they’ve given up to be sensible people with sensible jobs and hobbies, the higher tier garden decorations they’re allowed. They’re also granted extra BBQ privileges and allowed to go to more exotic locations on holiday. The residents are really controlling and really snobby, but they don’t really have anything to be snobby about. It is all petty things, like lawn decorations. Matthew goes out to the garden shed to jerk off over his keytar. He built a robot to take his load. One night, Sparky comes to life. He doesn’t have a voice. Sparky wants a voice. So he breaks into neighbouring sheds and uncovers Suburban Hell’s lost dreams. He meets another robot, Sandy, on the way.
KR: What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m finishing up The Daisies That Open at Midnight and starting Neon Dawn. The Daisies That Open at Midnight was one of my experimental pieces that wasn’t working but had an idea I couldn’t forget and a title I liked, so I’ve be rewriting it. It is a horror story set in the Forest of the Dead. The daisies sing. Men wander lost with eternal erections looking for their soulmates. Honey’s heart is bleeding out in Donnie’s front pocket. Creeps are trapped in the trees. Marcy takes Honey into the forest to get her heart back and sew it back in. Marcy is the Angel of Death, along the way, they meet the Tentacle Queen and the ones who carry her mark. They shouldn’t be in Marcy’s forest. And always, the men with eternal erections are there.
Neon Dawn was a short story that seemed to want to be longer. I’m not far enough into it to know where it is going. The Tentacle Queen has Faded Star trapped in the Neon Dream.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
- One fictional character from your writing.
Marcy. She tends to remain calm no matter what life or death throw in her way. She can reanimate things and travel between worlds. She might have some bright ideas about getting off that island. And she isn’t annoying and self-obsessed like her counterpart, Honey. I’m assuming Honey’s phone would have no signal on this island.
- One fictional character from any other book.
Roland Deschain. He can get out of bad situations. He’d probably build a raft out of something while Marcy convinces him the lobstrosities are safe to eat. Plus he can build a fire. He doesn’t appear as a creep in the books. I did consider Gandalf, but he’d want to turn it into an adventure. Doors appear on the beach…
- One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Who is that guy from that Born Survivor show? Him. That guy. If anyone is getting me safely off that island, it is him. And he’ll make sure I survive.
KR: Thank you Dani.
Facebook: facebook.com/danibrownbooks (best for real-time updates, be sure to click “follow” to not miss a post)
Sparky The Spunky Robot
Dreams die in sheds in Suburban Hell, traded for garden decorations so the neighbours can see how well everyone conforms. Matthew was a popstar, once. His band went on and made it without him, so now every night he goes to the shed to jerk off over his keytar, the one Karen wants him to give up so that she can get higher-tier garden decorations. But too much semen could break his beloved instrument, so Matthew builds Sparky, a robot that takes his cum.
One night, Sparky comes to life, but soon discovers he has no voice. And why would he? Matthew built him to swallow spunk, not to speak. Left in the shed after he serves his purpose, Sparky sets out on a journey to find a voice. Along the way he meets Sandy, a robot like him, only Sandy is powered by a different man, an evil man. Together, Sparky and Sandy scour every inch of their neighbourhood, breaking into nearby garden sheds, exposing the neighbours, all in search of a voice for Sparky the Spunky Robot.