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The Man Behind the Madness: Up Close with Steven Shrewsbury

Attention, brave adventurers! 

Today, we’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Steven Shrewsbury, the mastermind behind “Red Waves of Slaughter,” a brand-new tale featuring Robert E. Howard’s lesser-known but equally fascinating character, Bran Mak Morn.

In this interview, we’ll explore what drew Shrewsbury to Bran Mak Morn, how he captured the authentic spirit of Howard’s writing while infusing the story with his own creative vision, and what readers can expect from this pulse-pounding adventure. 

So, sit back, grab your weapon of choice, and prepare to be transported to a realm of brutal battles, ancient sorcery, and the indomitable spirit of a people fighting for survival. Let’s dive in!

1. What drew you to write about Bran Mak Morn in particular out of Robert E. Howard’s characters? What aspects of Bran’s character and world did you find most compelling to explore?

I always enjoyed the Bran tales where I saw them intermittently as a kid in my brother Mark’s books and then collected later on. Questions always loomed in my mind as to what else Bran encountered, what he was up to, his family, folk, and particularly the specter of the DARK MAN where his soul came to reside. Clearly devoted to his dying people, even unto death, I’d love to explore just why.

2. How did you approach capturing the authentic voice and spirit of Robert E. Howard’s writing style while still bringing your own creative vision to the story?

I’ve been told my style is similar to his, but I don’t really try and go out of my way to sound like him. It just rolls. Perhaps it’s cliché, but it kinda felt like a tale being dictated. 

3. The setup involving Dr. Blackthorn and the psychometric archaeology is an intriguing frame story. What inspired you to use that device to capture the events of Bran’s battle against the Romans?

Blackthorn appears in tales of mine and it’s a fun way to SEE the past through him, as he touches objects and the rest is history. Plus, I have a larger idea at play dealing with modern times and Bran, so it was a way to link that concept up.

4. Gonar the sorcerer plays a key role with his plot to ritually sacrifice those of royal blood. What was your process for writing this villain in a way that felt true to Howard’s Pictish setting while driving the story forward?

Gonar was the wizard with Bran in the Howard tales, and then a thousand years later when the Dark Man is encountered by Vikings in another Howard tale. Is he the same guy? Is he immortal? Howard himself jokes about this and I will let the reader decide. As with good villains, he doesn’t see himself as such. I always fall back on the idea that no matter where we are in time, flawed people abound even with modern technology or ancient magicks.

5. How did you approach portraying Bran and Gallam’s bond and why was that an important element to include?

The love of Bran for his son would be a paramount thing in such a culture, as it should be now. I’m very close to my sons John and Aaron, and that was easy enough to convey…down to the horror of such a loss. It was important as well to show they wanted their folk to continue and the love for each other went beyond life.

6. You paint a visceral, brutal picture of the battle between the Picts and Romans. As a writer, how do you immerse yourself in those bloody clashes to convey the savagery and stakes on the page?

It’s good to know one’s weapons and history, but the fighting? Well, that pops out naturally. I have always found it easy to plant myself in such a situation and how a body would react etc. Not many people have been in a real fight much less a battle like this. One gets in a state and it flows, so to speak.

7. The story description teases that Gonar’s ritual will “send arcane ripples down through the centuries.” Without spoiling too much, can you hint at how this story’s events might connect to Howard’s broader mythos and world?

Gonar seals the spirit of Bran in the Dark Man idol, as was hinted at by Howard. We got to see how he did it here. Gonar has plans for his King, his people and revenge on a scale not yet revealed. Both in Howard’s other characters, his mythos as it were clashing with the twenty first century…an intriguing possibility, no?

8. How did you weave the themes of civilization versus barbarism and the twilight of the Pictish race into this story while charting new ground?

Indeed. The hatred of Rome for invading their realm is always a stickler for a barbaric stripe. The implication of what could be if the Dark Man is realized in modern times, one has to ask, who would his enemy be? To where falls the blame for the fall of the Pict people? And who are they now?

9. Compared to Conan, Solomon Kane, and some of Howard’s more well-known characters, what untapped potential do you see in Bran Mak Morn for future stories? 

Oh, the ultimate suggestion of this tale would be a great yarn. I’d like to write about Bran and his folk dealing with horrors in his own time. I’d enjoy exploring his family and what a barbarian king’s court might look like. There are things Howard hints at in his tales I’d run with as well.

10. What do you hope readers take away from “Red Waves of Slaughter” and your interpretation of Bran Mak Morn? 

I hope they like the veil I lifted and want to see more of this idea. If this is one’s first intro to Bran, please seek out the other stories. Howard and others have

barely scratched the scab off this character. 

All in all, I hope they are entertained and interested in what else came come from a character like Bran. He always fascinated me more than Conan, more vulnerable and true to humanity, perhaps. It’s always a writer’s desire to entertain and make the reader travel to another place, be it bizarre, broad or simple. Escape the world if only for a while and be entertained.

Wow, what an incredible journey into the mind of Steven Shrewsbury and the savage world of Bran Mak Morn! 

From the intriguing narrative framing to the pulse-pounding action and the tantalizing hints at future stories, it’s clear “Red Waves of Slaughter” is a must-read for any fan of epic historic fantasy.

If you’re ready to be transported to a realm of ancient sorcery, fierce battles, and the twilight of a proud people, then you won’t want to miss this thrilling tale.

So, what are you waiting for, adventurers? 

Grab your copy of “Red Waves of Slaughter” today and experience the savage world of Bran Mak Morn for yourself! Trust us, you won’t be disappointed. Happy reading!

Written by Heroic Signatures
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