Reviewed By Renee Washburn
Official Apex Reviews :
Traumatized, the new collection of short stories by Alexander Brown, takes the reader on a convoluted, eye-opening – and often disturbing – journey through a world of imagined horror. Each of the fifteen dark tales that comprise Traumatized features unsuspecting pawns who suddenly find themselves caught up in twisted games of terror and deception, none of whom are fully aware of precisely how they ended up there – but each knowing that, without a combination of quick wits and good luck, they won’t make it out alive. Consider, for example, the tale of four strangers summoned to the expansive mansion of a reclusive billionaire: as the last scion in his family bloodline, he is the lawful heir to its considerable fortune – only he has no idea where all the valuables have been stashed. After receiving his assurances that he’ll share the wealth with them (should they discover it), the strangers embark on the quest of searching the family home for the riches. Along the way, though, they discover that they each share a unique connection to one another, at the same time learning that blood must be shed in exchange for access to the family fortune – just whose blood it will be, though, depends on a gruesome conclusion that they each must reach…
Or the tale of April, the seventeen year-old high school senior who suddenly finds herself suffering from periodic blackouts: having no idea why the affliction has befallen her – or, for that matter, how to fix it – she turns to her sister, Amanda, for help. In return, Amanda shares what she believes to be the cause of the recurring condition, and she offers to “monitor” the situation, out of apparent concern for her troubled sibling. April eventually learns, though, that – for good reason – Amanda is the last person in the world that she should trust…
And readers are sure to be caught completely off guard by the tale of Craig and Victoria, a troubled husband and wife whose marriage is sinking fast, due to Craig’s worsening gambling addiction. When their counselor recommends that they move to a remote cabin in the woods to try to jump start their relationship, the couple agrees. What they don’t realize – until it’s too late – is that the cabin serves as the nexus point of a deadly ritual that is only conducted every 50 years – and their timing couldn’t be worse…
With the various twisted tales of Traumatized, Brown proves his absolute mastery of the horror genre. His skill at mixing the macabre and the mundane is unmatched, and he is a genius at the art of maintaining suspense. Each of his stories has its own unique appeal, and they all come together to form a powerful collection guaranteed to captivate the reader’s imagination and interest.
In the Prologue, Brown cites both Edgar Allen Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche, and, in the pages of Traumatized, he takes his rightful place as their literary next-of-kin. Anyone who is not currently a fan of horror fiction will surely be converted once they delve into the compelling world that Brown has created. Highly recommended.
Official Apex Reviews Interview:
Alexander Brown (Traumatized)
Thanks for joining us for this interview, Alexander. We're looking forward to learning more about your book.
How long did it take you to craft all the stories featured in the book?
Alexander Brown: Creating Traumatized took approximately five years to complete. It all began with “House by the River,” a short story I wrote for my high school creative writing class. From that point on, different scenery inspired other tales. When I vacationed in D.C. and New Orleans, “Althea’s Last Dance” and “Two Miles” were created. While vacationing in the Mississippi Delta and Memphis, the story “The End of Summer” was completed.
Over this five-year time span, I believe I kept my stories mature, but not too visceral. The last tale, “Zoe’s Swansong,” was the last story I created for “Traumatized,” and it took longer to complete than any other tale in the collection. The reason for the extra time was that I realized I would use this tale as the last story, and I wanted to make it the goriest because I needed to make a very strong statement regarding “inner beauty.”
Through the years, as I crafted Traumatized I noticed each story had its own rhythm or pace, and it took me a month after completion before I decided on the placement of the stories. Once everything was in order, the stories began to spiral from mild to extreme.
AR: In "Bloodlines," how is Draven able to discover his blood ties to the folks that he invited to his estate?
AB: In “Bloodlines,” I try to portray Draven as a magnanimous and mysterious character. I never really specified how he found the kin of the mansion because I felt the mystery would be more exciting for the reader if they had to draw their own conclusions.
Draven is a very intelligent and cunning man. Due to his sophistication and manipulation, the only response he gave for finding his lost kin was a lie. I believe he would rarely tell the truth.
AR: In "The God Complex," where did you get the idea for the inscriptions on the tombstones?
AB: I wrote “God Complex” around the time the Da Vinci Code hit theaters. At that time, I had swan-dived into numerology, and the result was the creation of a code of my own. It was a code normal people wouldn’t understand, only those of the congregation. A false date representing a scripture in “Revelation,” if one did the math, would be easier to hide the truth of the town if there had been visitors.
AR: Is there really such a thing as methadone wafers?
AB: Yes, methadone wafers exist; they aren’t as big as communion tabs, though. Physicians prescribe this drug to people as a painkiller, mostly in extreme cases. An acquaintance of mine, who is now clean of addiction, used to fake pain so he could receive a wafer. This drug can be highly addictive, and, from what I was told, has similar effects to the characters who received a high in “God Complex.”
AR: Is it truly possible to be as "unhinged" as April's sister is?
AB: In the tale of “April,” it was possible to be a murderer or a murderess, such as Amanda, and not be insane. I have read that most females, especially serial killers, have a variety of motives, but the most popular motives are attention, fear of losing someone, or money. In “April,” Amanda claims her motive for drugging her sister and committing patricide was boredom. Amanda isn’t psychotic; she’s a psychopath. People who are psychopaths aren’t legally insane. They know the difference between right and wrong, and they are rational, intelligent, and charming. They seem perfectly normal; however, they are incapable of love, empathy, caring, or sorrow. Since Amanda isn’t suffering from hallucinations or delusions, she can’t be labeled psychotic.
AR: "From Midnight To One" is a heart-pounding, suspense-filled classic. Was it a difficult tale for you to create, considering how well you manage to maintain the suspense of the story until the very end?
AB: In “From Midnight to One,” the suspense came from being alone at night in the middle of nowhere. I wrote this tale in the matter of a few hours, during a storm, at night, in the winter...in the middle of winter. I thought the first thing to make Victoria vulnerable was to sever all communications, such as phone and even television. Seclusion was the next step to achieve. I did this with the intensity of the storm and lack of transportation. Just by using simple methods, Victoria is trapped with nowhere to go. Then, I set the story in motion with her wondering about that bump in the night and whether or not it was just a tree branch. Considering that this was written when I was without electricity and had a dead cell phone, it was not very difficult to create this story, especially with my overactive imagination.
AR: The cover of the book is quite the interesting concept. Who came up with it, and what does it signify?
AB: The cover of Traumatized was my idea, but it was designed by Jessica Pettis, a long time friend and great artist I grew to know in high school. The image on the cover is actually the metal, jeweled butterfly Althea wore in “Althea’s Last Dance.” I chose the iron butterfly because it shows both sides of the coin; it’s elegant, but disturbing at the same time.
AR: Our reviewer drew links between you and Edgar Allen Poe. Is he one of your chief writing influences? Also, who are some of your other favorite writers?
AB: Poe is a great inspiration to me, and I’m honored by the reviewer’s comparison. Other authors who have been a great inspiration to me are Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but mostly Clive Barker.
AR: Please share more with our readers about your publisher, Xlibris.
AB: I found Xlibris, my publisher, via the internet. What drew me to them were their great marketing skills. For the last three years, I have worked in marketing, so I knew what to search for in other agencies. When we collaborated on our advertising plan, everything worked out great, especially the chosen key terms we used with http://www.traumatizedsouls.com/.
AR: What are your future writing/publishing aspirations?
AB: As for the future, I have completed the first book in a fantasy, horror epic series, which is currently untitled. My next printing endeavor is the novel Syrenthia Falls, which delves into the teenage life with peer pressure, sex, drugs, and bullies. Although this sounds like a great drama, I promise the horror is equal to Traumatized.
AR: Do you plan to stick with short stories, or are you planning to explore other genres?
AB: I will always stick with horror. Short stories are fun, and I enjoy writing novels as well. I’m outlining another short story collection, which is actually a follow-up to Traumatized, but before this is published I want to complete Syrenthia Falls.
AR: Do you have a website where our readers can learn more about you?
AB: Yes, http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LnRyYXVtYXRpemVkc291bHMuY29tLw== and http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmRhbW5lZHNvdWxzY2x1Yi5jb20v, which leads to my MySpace account.
AR: Also, please share your contact information, just in case they'd like to reach you directly.
AB: Visit http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmRhbW5lZHNvdWxzY2x1Yi5jb20v or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AR: Any final thoughts you'd like to share?
AB: My final thoughts are thanks for the interview, and Google Alexander S. Brown for upcoming events.
AR: Thanks again, Alexander, and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors!