An Interview with Ryan C. Bradley

Hey, there avid readers! I have a special treat for you. Ryan C.Bradley who I’ve had the great pleasure of working with here on Cyn’s Workshop is now a published author. Check out this interview here and don’t forget to look out for his new book, Saint’s Blood. Happy reading everyone!

Cyn’s Workshop: What first inspired you to write? Why Horror?

I got rejected from every music school I auditioned for. I always liked reading, so I thought I’d try writing.

It turned out that I loved it and that a lot of the skills I’d gained playing guitar translated. Nothing with the hands, but I’d learned how to listen to music analytically to pick up techniques. That skill translates directly to writing. When I read a scene or story that I love, I’ll type it out and write myself an essay on how I think it’s working and let that sink into my subconscious.

As for the horror, it’s what I grew up reading. Firestarter was my first “adult” book in third grade, and I was on a steady diet of Stephen King after that.

CW: Outside of horror, are there any other genres you enjoy? If so, would you ever write something in another genre?

I try to read as widely as possible. In college and grad school, all of the teachers pushed me to literary fiction, though I think domestic realism might be a better title, so I still read a good amount of that. Especially the authors I fell in love with—Karen Russell, Colson Whitehead, and Jim Shepard stand out for me.

Lately, I’ve been branching more into nonfiction. I got a copy of Icebound by Andrea Pitzer about three trips to the arctic to try to find a nonexistent northeast that I’m very excited to read when I get a free minute.

I might eventually write something in a genre other than horror, but I’m not sure if or when. I’m not married to any genre, though my style has pretty much stayed the same since day one of writing.

CW: Is there a particular author or story that inspired you?

Definitely Stephen King. Between his wonderful On Writing and all of the books of his I read in middle school and high school, he’s my North Star. People make some valid critiques of him, but the voice in his writing is incredible across the board. Even in his bad books, his writing feels like someone talking to you.

CW: You’ve done a lot of writing on the side as well as editing, was it a challenge to flush something longer out?

Yeah. So I’ve been writing articles online since 2014, starting with Action Figure Fury, and worked on a couple of anthologies and magazines as an editor or reader. In some ways, it was a challenge. When you’re writing something shorter with a deadline, it’s hard to justify working on something longer, especially when the shorter thing is guaranteed money.

But all of that shorter writing, especially the reviews I wrote for you at Cyn’s Workshop and some of the other places I’ve reviewed books and films, shaped my sensibility as a writer. It was invaluable for me to articulate why a book worked and didn’t work.

CW: Saint’s Blood is your debut, what was the process like in terms of writing? Was it a challenge? Did you ever want to quit?

It was definitely a challenging process. I think some of the things I was writing about—being a white person with Mexican ancestry, for example—felt like it was hitting a nerve. But honestly, it’s scary to write about anything openly and honestly.

I started writing the book in 2016 or 2017. I put it down a couple of times not being sure if I would come back to it, but I never consciously thought that I was quitting. I don’t think I had a finished draft until 2018. The draft that’s out there now didn’t get finished going through my workshop until maybe 2019. Then I sat on it for a year wondering whether or not I should even try to publish it. I’m glad I did!

CW: What gave you the idea for Saint’s Blood?

I have a great uncle who was canonized as a Saint when I was in high school. The idea that we shared blood and someone else might consider that valuable hit me one day when I was walking through the Emerson library in 2015. I played around with it before I decided it was a failed concept. The rest fell into place when I moved to Tulsa. The new setting was the other half of the equation to make the story come alive.

CW: You’re a father now (congrats by the way) how has parenthood been?

Thank you! Parenthood is great. When I realized that the baby and the book were scheduled to arrive in a two-month period, I decided I would tell people who asked for advice not to publish their first book during the first month of their child’s life. But actually, the opposite has been true. Sydney keeps me grounded. The reception for Saint’s Blood has been great. It’s gotten a couple of glowing reviews and actually hit number one for New Releases in Dark Humor on Amazon the day it came out, #22 Overall in that Category below My Year of Rest and Relaxation and above A Clockwork Orange.

Having the baby is great, because all of that goes straight to my head. When I change her diaper or feed her, it grounds me.

CW: Do you think parenthood changes how you look at literature? I, personally, have found that I read books now with this lens of “how age appropriate is this,” which came as a surprise for me.

Definitely no Firestarter for the baby for a couple of years.

Sydney is a little too young for me to have me worry about what I can read to her yet. She’s still learning to hold her head up still.

The way she’s really transformed my reading is by cutting into the amount of time I read, and when I read. I used to wake up at 8 am, read for an hour, and then write until it’s time to workout before lunch. Now it’s wake up when she wakes up. Read—but rarely for an hour straight—when she naps.

Audiobooks are my saving grace. I can listen to them while I’m working out, doing chores, or driving. It’s how I’m going to be doing most of my reading for a while.

CW: Any other plans for writing in the future?

I have a couple of things cooking at the moment. There’s a long novella/short novel that’s got maybe one more round of revisions before I start sending it to publishers. I have enough stories for a collection, but I’m questioning whether I should try to place more of them in magazines before I start shopping it around. Then there’s a longer novel I hand-wrote most of a year or so ago that I’ve got to finish and type up to see if it’s actually any good.

CW: Lastly, favorite books as a child? Favorite book as an adult? Last great book you read and why?

Childhood seems like a fever dream looking back now. I read a ton, squirreled away in my room. For print books, probably Firestarter. It’s been twenty-five years and I can still picture some of the scenes, vividly, in my head. And I remember that the Dad would get horrible headaches after he used his psychic powers, which had a huge influence on my writing. I love the idea that everything has a cost.

As an adult, it’s tougher because I’ve read so many incredible books and they all do such different things well. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and Experimental Films by Gemma Files are in the same vein and up there for me. Edgar Allen Poe is phenomenal, and when I read his horror stories I get jealous of how he taps into something so elemental in his work. And of course, Shirley Jackson captures loneliness like no one else has. My local library has the Sue Grafton alphabet series in their audio library, and I’m a huge fan of those books, which are hysterically funny.

When I’m reading short stories, I’ll alternate between a couple of collections, and my latest pair was Everything has Teeth by Jeff Strand and The Danger of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, which are both great in very different ways. Strand combines slapstick dialogue with gristly murder and it has the feeling of extreme Looney Toons. His writing is a ton of fun. Meanwhile, Enríquez writes horror stories from different angles that recontextualize them in fascinating ways, like how does an exorcism affect the person who gets hired to film the ceremony? What is their life like after they see what a demon does to a person? They complimented one another nicely.

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