Posts Tagged ‘psychological horror’

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Brian Kirk, the author of the psychological horror masterpiece We Are Monsters (review) which is out now through Samhain Horror. I was hooked on We Are Monsters from the very first page and was highly impressed with Kirk’s complex characters, reality-warping plot and stunning prose. This is one of the most impressive debuts I have read and easily my favorite book of 2015. Kirk’s post takes a look at what makes a human monster and the questions that helped him create We Are Monsters. We Are Monsters is a truly remarkable book and I hope this post encourages you to grab a copy and experience the journey for yourself!

Before I turn over the blog to Brian, I want to thank him and Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour dates and enter the giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

What Makes a Human Monster

By Brian Kirk, Author of We Are Monsters

we are monsters

Most horror stories feature a monster of some sort. Oftentimes this is a supernatural creature divined from some malevolent origin intent on causing death and destruction. What’s interesting about these stories is how the humans typically defeat these monsters in the end, implying, whether intentionally or not, that we are actually the scarier and more ferocious of the two creatures at war. We are more intelligent, more cunning, more ruthless and relentless. We are the superior killers.  

Perhaps that’s why I’m so fascinated with monsters of the human variety, and spend perhaps more time than I should studying them. Let’s think about this for a second, who are the most dangerous among us? The ones who commit the vilest and most barbaric acts?

Politicians, you say? Oh, you’re killing me!

Seriously, though. If I were to create a list (so saying as I proceed to create a list) of the most heinous of our kind, I’d include the following, in no particular order: pedophiles, serial killers, rapists, and cannibals.

These are the people you definitely don’t want living next door. But who are these people? How did they get this way? What turns an innocent toddler into a monster that feasts on human flesh?

It’s difficult to say. Some of it’s nature, some of it nurture. Some people are born with abnormal brains, while others have their minds altered through prolonged exposure to trauma or violent environments. One thing that may be safe to say is that no one grows up wanting to become one of these perverted, and violent predators. I don’t think anyone with a normal, healthy brain and upbringing consciously decides to begin engaging in these acts rather than, say… go to dental school.

It’s an innate calling, an urge. An irresistible compulsion that defiles our dream that we’re all basically good. That evil does not exist in this world. That we’re more than hairless monkeys born of violence and blood-thirst.

What do we think when we see violent and heinous acts? When deranged killers walk into elementary schools and gun down innocent children? Evil is what comes to mind, isn’t it? Insane.

But not insane like an illness. Insane like a demonic possession.

I wonder about that. Is insanity more like an evil possession, or more like a disease?

Some may say, “Who cares. What’s the difference? The acts are evil and should be punished.”

While I absolutely agree that people with irresistible pedophiliac urges cannot be allowed to roam freely in society, I wonder what should be done with them. What if, instead of being deviant predators, these people were otherwise normal human beings afflicted with a disease or deformity that could be corrected or cured? What if it was your brother who inexplicably had these urges, or your son?

Let’s say we could identify and diagnose the people with this disease before they ever acted upon its urge. Would we send them to prison? Would we kill them? Or would we quarantine them while we worked to develop a cure? The same way we would treat someone who inadvertently contracted small pox and was now a health hazard to the rest of humanity.

Heck if I know. I’m just intrigued by the question. I’ll tell you this, though. If the urge to harm others is, at times, caused by a “disease” or deformity of the brain, much like how the mutation of a cell can lead to cancer, it is by far one of the worst diseases that can afflict an individual. And its contagion is among the most damaging to society as a whole.

These are difficult questions involving an uncomfortable subject. They are questions that inspired the nature of my debut novel, We Are Monsters.

In We Are Monsters, a troubled, yet brilliant psychiatrist is working to develop a cure for schizophrenia. At first, the drug he creates shows great promise in alleviating his patient’s symptoms. It appears to return schizophrenics to their former selves. But (as you may imagine) something goes wrong. Unforeseen side effects begin to emerge, forcing prior traumas to the surface, setting inner demons free. His medicine may help heal the schizophrenic mind, but it also expands it, and the monsters it releases could be more dangerous than the disease.

This novel asks challenging questions. As the venerable review site, Ginger Nuts of Horror said, “Parts of the story are heartbreaking, parts will make you angry, and the whole story will have you examining the human race as never before.”

But I believe they are questions worth asking. I hope you’ll check it out.


Purchase We Are Monsters: AmazonSamhain PublishingBarnes and NobleKoboOmnilit 

Thanks for having me on your site! Here’s my contact info in case anyone is interested in forming a virtual friendship.

Brian Kirk

 Twitter

 Facebook

 Goodreads

We Are Monsters tour graphic (1)

This guest post originally appeared on Hunter Shea‘s blog. Hunter is an incredible writer and another one of my favorite authors, be sure to check out his books too!

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about We Are Monsters! – #WeAreMonsters #asylum #mentalhealth #psychologicalhorror

We Are Monsters Synopsis

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum. 

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

Praise for Brian Kirk

“Keep an eye on Brian Kirk. His ambitious debut, We Are Monsters, is a high-voltage thrill, like watching Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor and Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners on split screens. ” — Jonathan Moore, Bram Stoker Award nominated author of Redheads

We Are Monsters is fantastic — a frightening and intense thriller and one hell of a debut novel. I was blown away. Brian Kirk is exactly what readers need — a talented new voice with original, awe-inspiring ideas that can push the genre forward.” 
Brian Keene, best-selling author of Ghoul and The Rising

“Brian Kirk’s debut We Are Monsters is a smart, elaborate novel that weaves together the best and worst of us. Complex, terrifying, and still humane, this book moved me to both horror and compassion, and that’s a difficult thing indeed. Easily the best book I’ve read this year.”  – Mercedes M. Yardley, author of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy.

“A tightly woven tale from an author who has a heart, and that makes me excited to see what else Kirk has in store for us. The whole story will have you examining the human race as never before.”  – Ginger Nuts of Horror

“Brian Kirk’s debut novel We Are Monsters is a sure bet. A hippy-trippy jaunt that goes deep into the baser things we keep bottled up… and what happens when they’re freed. Highly recommended!”  – John F.D. Taff, Bram Stoker nominated author of The End In All Beginnings.

“A disturbing, gets-under-your-skin debut novel. I expect to read much more from Kirk in the future.” – Robert Ford, author of The Compound and Samson and Denial.


“Cleverly told. Psychologically complex.” Scarlet’s Web

“A gorgeous display of conceivable terror that resonates long after reading.”  – Ranked as one of the Top Ten Horror Novels of 2015 by Best-Horror-Movies.net

About Brian Kirk

brian kirk

Brian Kirk lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife and rambunctious identical twin boys. He works as a freelance writer in addition to writing fiction, and is currently working on the second book in a planned trilogy. We Are Monsters is his debut release. Feel free to connect with him online. Don’t worry, he only kills his characters.

See more about Brian at: http://briankirkblog.com/ 

Follow Brian on Facebook and Twitter. He’s found on Twitter at @Brian_Kirk and looks forward to connecting with you.

Giveaway

Click the rafflecopter link below and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Brian Kirk! You can perform several tasks for entering each day here or at each stop that posts the giveaway link. Best of luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI1/?

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we are monsters

BOOK INFO

Length: 308 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Release Date: July 7, 2015

I have heard nothing but great things about Brian Kirk’s We Are Monsters from other bloggers and some of my favorite authors, so the hype around this book reached monumental proportions for me. It took me awhile to finally read We Are Monsters, but I can safely say it was definitely worth the wait.

Kirk’s We Are Monsters is a psychological horror story that takes place in the Sugar Hill mental asylum led by two brilliant but very different psychiatrists, Dr. Eli Alpert and Dr. Alex Drexler. Dr. Alpert is plagued by self-doubt and haunted by the demons of his past, events that shape how he interacts with his patients. While he is not opposed to using modern medicines to treat his patients, Dr. Alpert tries to use more humanistic and less invasive approaches whenever possible and treating his patients with dignity and respect. His holistic approach makes him unpopular with the board despite his sterling reputation for helping patients reach high levels of recovery. They see him as stubborn and refusing to adapt to modern times and would rather see him utilize medications more in treatments. Dr. Drexler is more willing to utilize medication in the treatment of his patients. He has been testing an experimental drug in secret without his mentor and boss Dr. Eli Alpert’s knowledge. Dr. Drexler hopes that his drug will be able to cure his patients that are battling mental illness, but his medicine has not been performing up to his standards as of late as he is on his fifth trial patient and his backers in Philax Pharmaceuticals are quickly losing patience. Although he views Dr. Alpert as a mentor, they are often at odds with how to treat patients, which adds tension to their relationship.

The arrival of a new patient known as the “Apocalypse Killer” plunges Sugar Hill into a state of chaos and violence that brings these tensions to the surface. The board of Sugar Hill feels Dr. Alpert is losing control of the hospital, and turn to Dr. Drexler for help. They know all about his secret project and force him to use it on a patient through implied blackmail in an attempt to gain positive press. However, Dr. Drexler’s cure has horrifying side effects that will change the lives of everyone at Sugar Hill forever.

We Are Monsters has a very interesting structure and it is one that readers will either love or hate. Personally, I loved it. A majority of the novel is spent introducing readers to the cast of characters that help give this story life. We learn about their history, their desires, the darkness that haunts them and both major and minor characters are brought to life in an incredibly vivid way. Kirk’s characters are complex and it is in many of these scenes that We Are Monsters truly shines. A great example of this is Dr. Drexler. He comes off initially as a man driven by greed and as being cold considering his early interactions with his wife. However, flashbacks about his relationship with his parents and his schizophrenic brother Jerry show that while he may have faults, he isn’t that easily categorized.

These chapters of character building set up the events that unfold throughout the course of the novel and despite being loaded with flashbacks and switching from various view points, Kirk’s attention to detail and lyrical prose keep the reader hooked and it is never confusing. As a horror fan, I love getting to the parts where things go off the rails and whatever creepy monster, creature or event is finally unveiled in all of its terrifying glory. However, in the case of We Are Monsters, I was just as intrigued by the back story and the events that led to these scenes. I loved this approach because when elements of the supernatural are finally unleashed in the back half of the novel, their impact is that much more visceral.

I don’t want to get too much into the details of  what exactly the effects are of Alex’s drug are because it would ruin the discovery for new readers and that journey is part of what makes We Are Monsters such a great read. I will say that I thought the way Kirk introduces the more supernatural elements of the novel was brilliant and even with the reality-warping events that take place, the explanation for them was fairly plausible.

 I started reading Kirk’s debut with the thought that “Oh, I’ll just read a few chapters to get started”. That plan of attack quickly went out the window as I found myself hooked on We Are Monsters from the very first page. Any time I had to put the book down, I couldn’t wait until I was able to once again immerse myself in the world that Kirk created. I am glad I was able to read We Are Monsters before the end of the year because not only is this one of the most impressive horror debuts I have ever read, I am confident in placing We Are Monsters firmly in the number one spot for the best horror novel of 2015. I was absolutely blown away by the emotional resonance of the novel and the stunning quality of Kirk’s work. One thing is for certain, whether Kirk continues to write exclusively horror or branches out into other genres, I will be first in line to read his works. Regardless of what types of book you like to read, We Are Monsters is a book that belongs on your bookshelf.

Be sure to check out the giveaway below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Brian Kirk’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase We Are Monsters: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

We Are Monsters tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about We Are Monsters! – #WeAreMonsters #asylum #mentalhealth #psychologicalhorror

We Are Monsters Synopsis

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum. 

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

Praise for Brian Kirk

“Keep an eye on Brian Kirk. His ambitious debut, We Are Monsters, is a high-voltage thrill, like watching Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor and Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners on split screens. ” — Jonathan Moore, Bram Stoker Award nominated author of Redheads

We Are Monsters is fantastic — a frightening and intense thriller and one hell of a debut novel. I was blown away. Brian Kirk is exactly what readers need — a talented new voice with original, awe-inspiring ideas that can push the genre forward.” 
Brian Keene, best-selling author of Ghoul and The Rising

“Brian Kirk’s debut We Are Monsters is a smart, elaborate novel that weaves together the best and worst of us. Complex, terrifying, and still humane, this book moved me to both horror and compassion, and that’s a difficult thing indeed. Easily the best book I’ve read this year.”  – Mercedes M. Yardley, author of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy.

“A tightly woven tale from an author who has a heart, and that makes me excited to see what else Kirk has in store for us. The whole story will have you examining the human race as never before.”  – Ginger Nuts of Horror

“Brian Kirk’s debut novel We Are Monsters is a sure bet. A hippy-trippy jaunt that goes deep into the baser things we keep bottled up… and what happens when they’re freed. Highly recommended!”  – John F.D. Taff, Bram Stoker nominated author of The End In All Beginnings.

“A disturbing, gets-under-your-skin debut novel. I expect to read much more from Kirk in the future.” – Robert Ford, author of The Compound and Samson and Denial.


“Cleverly told. Psychologically complex.” Scarlet’s Web

“A gorgeous display of conceivable terror that resonates long after reading.”  – Ranked as one of the Top Ten Horror Novels of 2015 by Best-Horror-Movies.net

About Brian Kirk

brian kirk

Brian Kirk lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife and rambunctious identical twin boys. He works as a freelance writer in addition to writing fiction, and is currently working on the second book in a planned trilogy. We Are Monsters is his debut release. Feel free to connect with him online. Don’t worry, he only kills his characters.

See more about Brian at: http://briankirkblog.com/ 

Follow Brian on Facebook and Twitter. He’s found on Twitter at @Brian_Kirk and looks forward to connecting with you.

Giveaway

Click the rafflecopter link below and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Brian Kirk! You can perform several tasks for entering each day here or at each stop that posts the giveaway link. Best of luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI1/?