Over the last number of years, one author who I’ve always been excited to see what world’s they create next, is Brian Fatah Steele. My first experience with his writing was ‘Your Arms Around Entropy,’ a cosmic-horror filled short story collection. Since then, I’ve read all of his new releases and been a big fan of each of them. Now, with some new works on the horizon and the launch of a new premade book cover based venture, I reached out to ask Brian a few questions.
Steve Stred talks to Brian Fatah Steele
Steve Stred: Hey, Brian. Thanks so much for doing this. Could you start off with a brief introduction about yourself?
Brian Fatah Steele: Of course, man! Thanks for having me. All my socials say I’m an author, artist, and a part-time chaos entity. That’s pretty much true. I have an associate of arts degree, live in Ohio with a grumpy cat, and spend too much time talking to my brothers about what we’re watching on TV.
SS: I’ve loved a number of your works, and while I still have a number of books to read, you’re really devoted to cosmic-horror and similar themes. What draws you to writing those books?
BFS: I love horror, but I’m also inspired by other genres. I adore comic books and anime, for instance, and find those elements often translate best into more cosmic-like stories. My work is kind of the opposite of “quiet horror,” whatever that may be. Sure, I want there to be character development and dread, but I want tales where the sky cracks open, cannibal gods rain down from other dimensions, and humans have to wield psychic weapons that can devastate the earth. Yeah, that’s a good taste of my nonsense.
SS: ‘Your Arms Around Entropy’ was my first experience with your work and was a really great short-story collection. You have a new collection in the works. Do you always set out to write a short story or novel, or do you let the story dictate that?
BFS: It depends. I guess I usually know if it’s going to be a shorter work or a longer one. (More on that below.) I don’t really have a preference when it comes to writing a length, but I do when it comes to the markets. Novels and novellas are easier to sell. You have to track down someone either willing to give you pocket change for a short story or a market that only wants big names. And none of the publishers really want collections, yet every regular person I’ve ever talked to has told me that’s what they’re looking for.
SS: I’ve described your writing ‘brain’ as being one of the most imaginative out there. Between you and Joseph Sale, you’re giving the great Clive Barker a run for his money with places and worlds and characters. With that in mind, do you plot out your work beforehand making sure you hit on the key points or go to the places you want to go to?
BFS: Short stories have become novellas and vice versa, while novels have become novellas. You know what I mean? Usually, I start out with an idea, a general concept. I let it ruminate in my head for weeks, building with characters and plot. Eventually, I’ll get the idea for its length.
If I’ve deduced there’s only enough there for a short story, I’ll likely just sit down and write it. Maybe I’ll have a few notes, but that will be it. If I’ve decided it will be a longer project, I’ll write out a Notes page with characters, locations, and key plot elements. I’ll then plot out the story chapter by chapter, each one with a rough paragraph summary. At this point, I’ll discover if there’s not enough there for a novella, or if that planned novella might actually be a full novel. I’ve done this for so long now, I know about how much information to put in a “chapter” so it comes out to approximately 1000 words (800-1200), and I can write one or two chapters a day. That may not be how I format it in the end, but it helps me in the draft process.
On social media;
SS: You’ve been outspoken on both the pros and cons of social media. How do you approach your social media platforms?
BFS: I love it in theory, hate it in practice. I’ve all but abandoned Facebook, and every time I scroll through Twitter I see our community freaking out about something new. As someone with severe Bipolar Disorder, I always have this fear that I’m going to have a manic episode one day, and say something that will get the pitchforks sent for me. I’ve joked with you before that I’ve thought about going “Full Ligotti” and disappearing from the Socials, but you can’t promote then. Plus honestly, I’m a pretty social guy. The massive Imposter Syndrome I carry around with me doesn’t help either. I worried about interacting with certain authors and them being like “Who’s this asshole?”
That said, I try to be active. I post on Twitter when I can, like and retweet often. I’m on Tiktok frequently, sharing posts on Instagram. I’ve dipped my toe into the waters of Twitch to see if it’s a viable marketing outlet, but I’m not sure yet. It’s like, sure everyone over the age of 40 is on Facebook, but if we want to reach younger readers, the genre is going to have to start thinking differently. Those kids love horror, they’ve just been getting it from Creepypasta, SCP, and r/nosleep.
SS: You’ve been one of the few authors I’ve really noticed actively trying out and using Tik Tok. How has that experience been?
BFS: It’s had its ups and downs. I started back in the spring and leaned heavily into horrortok and booktok. My numbers were all over the place. I took a break in the fall because I had to concentrate on getting a novel done, and when I came back after the New Year, I went with a different approach. My numbers are more stable now, but Tiktok changed the algorithm. I know I’ve sold a number of books thanks to the app, so I guess it’s been worth it.
Here’s the thing, I see a lot of authors on there that do nothing but pimp their books. Nobody cares. It’s kind of like Twitter in that regard. If you’re thinking about getting on, you need to build a following about something interesting and engaging. Think Adam Cesare on Youtube, who mostly does movie reviews and only occasionally talks about his books. Do comedy, writing advice, how to run a podcast, cooking, mythology, cars, whatever, and plug your book every 10th video.
SS: You used to do a really awesome 7 Questions author interview series, but retired that last year. Did you gain much insight into approaching different aspects of writing from doing those?
BFS: Yes, that organizing writers is much like herding cats. (Did Brian Keene say that once?) Seriously, I tried to do one every week and it was incredibly stressful. You’d be surprised at how many authors blew off free promotion. I just grew tired of chasing people down. I made it a point to interview huge names and those starting out alike, as well as a mix of gender, race, sexuality, nationality, everything I could. It didn’t matter. Authors never got back to me, some never promoted their own interviews. I guess the insight I gained is this job is harder than it looks and it wasn’t for me.
On Dimensionaut Media;
SS: Dimensionaut Media is your newest venture (www.dimensionautmedia.com). A pre-made cover website where you partnered with the fantastic cover artist, Don Noble, to offer a wide array of pre-made options. What made you decide to start this?
Don’s not a partner, just a very gracious mentor. I’ve joked many times “I want to be Don Noble when I grow up,” then I got to meet him at Scares That Care. He was kind enough to offer me advice multiple times as this project was coming together.
I’ve had this art degree for years and done nothing with it, content with being a writer. However, a number of things happened at once. I got my hands on an iPad with Procreate and then I was able to put the US Stimulus money towards the legal stuff needed for starting Dimensionaut. I spent four months churning out covers along with the help of my freelancers. I think we made over 160, cast out the one’s that didn’t meet the cut, and came to 105.
SS: I’m surprised when I scroll through your gallery of options, to see just how wide of genre options there are. Was that done on purpose? I think many people would expect to just find horror-based covers or dark fiction covers.
BFS: Yeah, I definitely wanted more than just horror. Granted, I’d say 70% are horror, but I purposely went in with the desire to create sci-fi, romance, fantasy, thriller, and ones that just couldn’t be clearly classified. There’s a whole series that use photographs from my time working at a Haunted House attraction, and then I have a gang of models that are happy to play dress up for me. I’d say only about 15% of the covers use stock imagery.
SS: What’s next for Dimensionaut Media? It mentions on the site about no commissions, but surely there must be other exciting options you can share!
BFS: Right now we’re not open for commissions, because 1.) I don’t have full access to my models during the pandemic, and 2.) I’m not confident enough yet in the Procreate software to build something to someone else’s specs. I think the pre-made covers are a pretty reasonable price, and I’m hoping with everyone struggling right now, this can help out a few authors. On that note, I have linked over a half dozen incredible cover artists on my Dimensionaut resource page if someone does need a commission piece. Don Noble is first, of course.
I should also add, in case anyone is bored and looking to blow cash, a number of chosen designs ended up going on some merch.
Dimensionaut has a store over at RedBubble – www.redbubble.com/people/Dimensionaut/shop .
There are 19 designs, each design available on a wide variety of products from apparel and home décor to stickers and mugs. Half of it was created with authors in mind, the other half just cool.
SS: Thank you so much for doing this Brian! I’m really excited to see how Dimensionaut Media takes off and what you’ve got in the pipeline for releases.
BFS: Thanks, again Steve! Check out www.dimensionautmedia.com if you’re looking for quality and affordable pre-made covers for your new book! My novel of cosmic/folk horror DIRE BRANCHES will be out in the next few months from Alien Agenda Press, and my cosmic horror collection VIOLATION HIVE later this summer.
Brian Fatah Steele
BRIAN FATAH STEELE has been writing various types of dark fiction for over ten years, from horror to urban fantasy and science fiction. Growing up hooked on comic books and monster movies, his work gravitates towards anything imaginative and dynamic. Steele originally went to school for fine arts but finds himself far more fulfilled now by storytelling.
Steele lives in Ohio with a few cats and survives on a diet of coffee and cigarettes. He spends his time still dabbling in visual art, vowing to fix up his house, acting as a part-time chaos entity, spending too many hours watching television, and probably working on his next writing project.
DIMENSIONAUT MEDIA specializes in quality and affordable Pre-made Artwork for Book Covers that can be tailored to a variety of genres. Cover styles include hand-illustrated work, stock image manipulation, and original photography.
You can follow Brian on Twitter @brian_f_steele
You can follow Dimensionaut Media on Twitter @DimensionautM
You can visit Dimensionaut Media’s Official website here
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here