On the lighter side of darkness, maybe …
Wilkes-Barre author Brandon Halsey is witty, intelligent and unique. A conversation with him is thought-provoking because you never know if he’s answering sincerely or just having fun with you. Halsey feels it’s his job as a writer to make you think, laugh and ponder. If you’re confused and considering the true meaning of his work in his newly-released collection, Assorted Poems and Purple Prose, then this 25-year-old author feels he’s done his job. He writes copy at JVW Inc. by day, he writes for fun at night, and in his spare time he’s formed Claw, an “avant-garde” band with a few friends who may soon perform in the 570 sans traditional musical instruments. (They will use household items to create music on stage). Redefining what we call “normal,” meet the one and only, Brandon Halsey …
When did you start writing?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I don’t think you choose to write; I think writing chooses you.
Do you remember the first piece you wrote that you were proud of?
I don’t remember exactly the first … some of the stories in the book go back pretty far because I would just write to write and I had no idea of ever collecting the pieces into a book or publishing them, or collecting them in an anthology, until about three years ago when I first became aware of the publishing-on-demand process. So, some of the stories go back almost 10 years. And then when I was serious about collecting them, I went back and re-read some of them and re-worded some of those stories and picked ones that were similar in theme so they would fit thematically with the rest of the book.
What do you enjoy more, writing poetry or prose?
I never really thought I would do either. If I wrote, I always thought it would be more along the lines of a novel. I didn’t think I really would be able to tell a short story or write poetry. If you read the poetry (in Assorted Poems and Purple Prose), it’s not really the first thing you would think of for poetry; it’s really more like stories of verse than regular poetry.
So, you’re surprising yourself.
Yes … the book ends up being what it wants to be.
I like that. You’re talking about the book as if it’s alive.
It is. It’s a living creature. It certainly has a life of its own. Other people will read it, experience it, and once you self-publish something, you give birth to it like a child. It goes out on its own and does its own thing.
How has the response to your book been so far?
I’m happy with the response and the sales. I found from talking to people I don’t even know who bought it that they like it, and after they’re done reading it, they’re giving their copy to a friend and saying “read this.” So, there’s very good word of mouth. I also understand there’s some dark subject matter in the book and it’s not for everyone. I was doing a reading once and afterwards a gentleman came up to me and he was so angry by what he had heard that he physically threatened me – he wanted to fight me.
Wow – that’s a powerful poem.
Yeah, I think it’s great. As a writer you want your work to inspire extreme reactions in people. And whether someone writes a review and gives it a five-star rating on Amazon or if they hate it so much they want to hurt me and challenge me to a fight, that means the same thing to me. It means that I’m having some sort of impact and I’m doing my job as an author.
Who is your audience for Assorted Poems and Purple Prose? Who appreciates it the most?
Anybody who loves to read and has an open mind and can appreciate writing without being turned off by something that’s just on the surface … there are a lot of great movies and TV shows that I watch and I recommend them to someone else and they say, “Oh, I was turned off by the sex or the violence or the language.” I think you’re really missing something if you just focus on what’s on the surface.
You said there is dark subject matter in the book, and some of it is, but then there are other pieces that are funny, like “Useless.”
Yes, it surprises me, or I surprise myself. I don’t think that’s the kind of person I am. Maybe people will read it and think that’s the kind of person I am – a very serious, dark, depressed person – but I’m not.
Can you explain how you choose the subject matter? Are you adapting stories that you’ve heard from friends or people you know, or is it all imagined?
The old adage is write what you know, but I don’t think that’s true. I think the greatest part about writing is that you get to inhabit characters that are completely foreign or alien to you and, by doing research, you place yourself into a lot of situations you normally wouldn’t be in, and it’s an experience. You have to experience life if you want to have a story worth telling. So much of writing is a solitary act; you have to go out. You have to live life before you can write about it.
Some people might ask, at 25, how much of a chance have you had to really experience life?
Well, that’s why the book is only 108 pages (laughs). I try. I put myself in foreign situations and meet foreign people (people living a life I wouldn’t live) and I think they influenced me. It wasn’t always fun and sometimes you put yourself in dangerous situations because this book isn’t necessarily about really good people. So you’re hanging out with people who you would normally be wary of, but I think it made me a better writer.
Since you write about dark things, but you aren’t dark, how do you describe your personality?
I think I’m perfectly normal and I’m trying to hide that by writing about people who aren’t normal.
There’s extremes, and I’m somewhere in the middle.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the novel tentatively titled The Disappointing Follow-up to Assorted Poems and Purple Prose. That name might change; it depends on how I’m feeling about it.
Assorted Poems and Purple Prose is available at brandonhalsey.com, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Anthology New and Used Books in Scranton, amazon.com and smashwords.com. To learn more about Brandon Halsey, and for updates on upcoming booksignings, visit his website or visit the Assorted Poems and Purple Prose page on Facebook.