Brian Rella lives north of New York City along the Hudson River with his wife, who is far too good for him, and his two vivacious boys who challenge his light-saber skills on a regular basis.
In an effort to escape the cube farm where he works to pay his bills, Brian decided to follow his passion for writing and published his first book in 2015. He hasn't managed to escape yet, but he's patient, and chips away at his dream every day.
Where did your inspiration to write Queen of the Fallen start?
Queen of the Fallen, and the Second Death series, evolved from a short story I wrote in 2015 called, “Arraziel”. I included “Arraziel” in my first self-published short story collection and then immediately got to work on turning the story into a series.
In this series, I tackle the classic good versus evil theme from a Judeo-Christian, angelic-apocalyptic perspective, blurring the lines between pure good and pure evil. The good guys are all damaged in very personal ways by the bad guys, and they act with vengeance, which they perceive as justice for what’s happened to them. And so, there’s a darkness and muddy morality that underpins all the characters, regardless of what side they are on.
I’m intrigued by religious mysticism, the religious occult, and religious books that have been excluded from the mainstream religious traditions. I recognize threads of horror and science fiction in many religious books – the Old Testament plagues on Egypt; Noah and the great flood that cleansed the world; demonic possessions; the Crucifixion, etc. These all have elements of horror and the supernatural if you look at them from the perspective story-telling and set aside the religious aspects. In this way, they are cosmic and terrifying and epic – all of which captivates and inspires me. So, I created a universe for the series that mixes some real biblical books and history with some fictitious ones that I’ve imagined, and married those with one of my favorite horror universes.
Several years ago, I came across H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” I became hooked on the universe of creatures and the lore behind them that Lovecraft created. He was a poor man who lived in the early twentieth century and his imagination seemed way ahead of his time. His stories were very dark with epic backdrops. I kept reading more about his mythos of the Old Ones and the Elder Ones and loved the close intertwining of horror and science fiction in his story-telling. I think H.P. Lovecraft embodies the juncture of the two genres and that’s something I want to emulate with my own writing.
The Second Death series is horror fantasy with religious undertones. It’s my twist on the Fallen Angel theme, interlaced with the Lovecraft universe of cosmic evil and monsters. The Watchers (the good guys) are half breeds – part angel, part human – born of interbreeding between the two. They are more human than celestial. The Fallen (the bad guys) are fallen angels. They’re more monstrous than human in a Lovecraftian way. The two are at war and the prize is humanity.
What was the hardest thing about writing Queen of the Fallen?
Time is always an issue for me because I have a full-time day job and a young family, but for this book I also had a lot of trouble with one of the main characters. For some reason, Frank, who is a Watcher and is pursuing Jessie, a girl who is seduced by the King of the Fallen, was a struggle to write.
In my writing process, I plot an arc and basic framework, and leave lots of room to develop the story while writing. My storyboards will have 50-60 scenes with a few sentences describing what will happen in each scene and how the story moves from point A to point B. When I sit down to write a scene, I have plenty of room to work and develop the characters and story within the boundaries I’ve set.
In this book, I kept getting Frank wrong in all his scenes. His character is gruff, dark, and noir, but I kept writing him too soft or too mean or too whatever, and my editor would send me back the manuscript covered in red. It took four or five drafts to get him right which has never happened to me before. I’m still not sure why that happened, but it was a good experience to struggle and persevere to get the character right.
Writer’s block: How do you beat it?
For me, being blocked means I can’t move forward. When that happens, I force myself to move in any direction until I can move forward again.
I’ll do any number of things: change where I write, exercise more (or less), change the time of day I write. I will write “what if” statements in a notebook (“What if I killed Frank in this scene? What if I change this character in this way?). I’ll also switch from the computer to pen and paper (or vice versa). Sometimes, I’ll just write stream of consciousness, even if it has nothing to do with the story. If you looked in some of my notebooks, you’d see pages of “I don’t know what to write. I can’t think of anything to write. What the *&^% is wrong with me? Why can’t I think of anything to write!”
The trick for me is to keep moving, even if I’m not making forward progress and flailing around aimlessly. Eventually something clicks and I’m able to make forward progress again.
Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?
My favorite author is Stephen King. Favorite book is The Stand. I just finished reading the “author’s cut” of The Stand which is something like over 1000 pages.
His characters and storytelling are something I model my own writing on. He takes ordinary people and relates them quickly and easily to a reader. Then he puts them in horrifying situations and makes them extraordinary. I also love how prolific King is. He writes faster than I read I think.
I love The Stand because it’s a meandering good versus evil epic about ordinary people in an end of the world, dystopian scenario. The characters are deep and rich and layered. King embodies good and evil in his characters like I’ve not seen another writer do. Often times I find myself thinking about The Stand and the characters when I write. And sometimes, I’ll recognize a character’s idiosyncrasy in a real person and think to myself, “that’s something Stu Redman would do.”
That kind of stickiness – the long-lasting memories of a story or a character that stays with a reader – is something that King has mastered and is what I aspire to in my own writing.
What do you absolutely need in order to write?
A quiet space, a warm drink, and an idea I am passionate about. And of course something to write on, which at this moment is my MacBook Air.
What do you love outside of writing and reading?
I like spending time with my family, especially playing and talking about Star Wars and super heroes with my five-year-old and three-year-old. They love the lore behind the characters and test me all the time. We have light saber battles and make massive scenes with their action figures in the living room. Stuff I used to do when I was a kid. (Well I guess I still do it J)
I watch very little TV, but when I do, I’m a binge watcher. I love what Marvel and Netflix are doing with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Shameless, and the Walking Dead are other shows I’ve binged on.
I like helping people, especially other authors. One thing I love about the indie author community is the comradery and the feeling we are all in this thing together. It’s a movement and I’d like to see the spirit of the indie author community spill over into the rest of the world.
I also love to cook. I was a chef for a while, before I went into a technology career, and now I’m trying to write for a living. You could say being an author is my third career, but cooking came first and I still love it.
Before I go, I’d like to thank you, Emily, for taking an interest in my work, taking the time to ask these thoughtful questions, and allowing me speak to your readers. The writing community needs more people like you and I hope you inspire other writers to give as you do. And congratulations on Mud! Well done and well deserved!
SNEAK PEEK: QUEEN OF THE FALLEN
OCTOBER 21, 2015
New York, New York
Jack had always been a dreamer, even as a baby. At least that’s what his mother had told him. But he'd never had a dream this lucid or long before. It seemed to last all night…
In the dream, he was standing on a road that went on forever. He turned to his left, and saw the earth had been scorched black, burned to ash and soot. The trees… Some of the trees had been burned to stubs, and looked like cleats turned upside down. Others were still tall and stabbed into the ominous sky, like spears trying to pierce the blazing orange sun setting on the horizon. A thunderous heartbeat pounded from somewhere. He could feel the vibration through his Nikes and up into his body. He had never been so scared in his life than he had been hearing that sound.
A song came to him on a gentle breeze from his right. He knew the tune but couldn't place it. A lullaby? A church hymn? One of his first memories was his mother humming it to him as a toddler. He turned to gaze in the direction of the sound. To his right, lush green fields of grass and wildflowers spread across fertile land. Trees, as tall as skyscrapers, slow-danced on an easy wind. Far off, past the fields and trees, a majestic mountain stood stoic under a bright yellow sun. The sun breathed warmth on everything it touched. A tranquil calm came over Jack as the tune played on the wind, lifting his spirits into the scattered clouds that accented the deep blue sky.
Thunder boomed, startling Jack from his gaze on the serene scene. He turned left as lightning slashed at the blackening sky and the silhouette of something purple-black and thudding in the dead landscape flashed brilliantly for an instant. Jack was filled with dread that tingled all over his skin as the images came rapid fire, slicing through his brain. His jaw fell open and he screamed, but he couldn’t hear his own voice over the cadence that reverberated through him.
A purple heart…
An ice-breathing monster…
Tarek… Tarek is dead…
The name resounded in his head. He bolted upright in bed, wide awake, his vocal cords vibrating until they were raw and painful. He was vaguely aware his mother was holding him. That sound…that sound…The cadence was a terrifying rhythm; an endless thrumming.
His hands slammed over his ear holes and his voice was like a steel rake running through the inside of his neck. He tasted blood in the back of his throat. His mother held him to her bosom, and rocked him and hummed to him. The tune she hummed—it was the same tune from the dream. The words found him and his screams trailed off into sobs.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.