Massey, Brandon 1973–
Brandon Massey 1973–
Horror fiction author Brandon Massey is a pioneer in at least two ways. Often noted has been the fact that he is one of only a few African Americans writing in the horror genre. “It was discouraging to look at the bookstore shelves and not find a single book that was anything like mine,” he told an interviewer from the MPB Network website. But as his debut novel, Thunderland, made the transition from homemade, self-promoted product to a strong seller backed by a major publishing house, it became clear that Massey was breaking new ground in another way as well. He was becoming a master at using the Internet era to promote his writing. “The e-publishing revolution finally kicked my career into gear,” Massey told Black Enterprise.
Brandon Massey was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on June 9, 1973. He grew up in nearby Zion, in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Education was considered important in his family. “Laziness wasn’t tolerated,” he reminisced in an interview with the SisterDivas website, “and neither were excuses.” He received books as gifts as a child and, as he commented on his own official website, “I was the kid in class who always participated in the spelling bees, the child who always sat around the elders, listening raptly as they spun their yarns about the ‘old days.’” Harboring a desire to become a writer, Massey began to act on that ambition at age 17, setting out to write seriously during his senior year in high school.
Massey turned out stacks and stacks of unfinished projects during his many early writing attempts, and one of his first projects was an early draft of the novel that would become Thunderland. As a teenager Massey had admired the novels of best-selling horror author Dean Koontz, and when he was 19 he sent the Thunderland draft to Koontz, hoping that the author would suggest an editor who could offer constructive criticism. To Massey’s surprise, Koontz agreed to read the manuscript himself, and marked up the first 25 pages with detailed suggestions. “I always tell people that that was when I finally got a handle on the fundamentals of fiction,” Massey told the Buried website. “I’m convinced that Koontz’s critique saved me at least ten years of trial-and-error.”
Still, it took several more years of writing and numerous rejections from publishers and agents before Massey
At a Glance…
Born on June 9, 1973, in Waukegan, IL.
Career: Published “Dead to the World” in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine, 1996; computer systems administrator, 1990s-; self published and promoted novel Thunderland, 1999-2002; author, 2002-.
Awards: Gold Pen Award for Best Thriller, Black Writers Alliance, for Thunderland, 2000.
Address: Home—P.O. Box 674193, Marietta, GA 30006.
sold his first work of fiction, a story called “Dead to the World,” which was published in June of 1996 in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine. Collecting the sum of $200, Massey experienced “one of the most exciting days of my life,” as he told the Eternal Night website. He also made another useful friend in the writing business: the editor who bought “Dead to the World,” veteran science fiction writer Algis Budrys, also offered a critique of the evolving Thunderland.
To finance his writing efforts, Massey undertook computer training and began working as a systems analyst, continuing in that occupation even after signing a publishing deal with Kensington Books. In 1999 he fled Chicago’s cold winters for the Atlanta area, and by that year the first of several versions of Thunderland: A Novel of Suspense had already appeared. The book’s odyssey through the publishing world showed Massey experimenting with new forms of book distribution, and demonstrated his penchant for persistent self-improvement: each new version of Thunderland that appeared was slightly revised from the previous one.
The first publication of the novel was with a “print-on-demand” company called Writers Club Press. Print-on-demand publishing, a development first made possible by the advent of digital imaging in the 1990s, involved creating copies of a book as orders for it came in, avoiding the investment in an initial print run and the warehousing costs incurred by traditional publishers. Massey subsequently reached a similar arrangement with another print-on-demand company called iUniverse, and though he told SisterDivas that print-on-demand publishing was “a miserable experience,” it deepened his knowledge of book promotion and distribution.
Fortunately, Massey believed in his tale of a teenage boy named Jason, who finds the word “remember” written in red on a mirror, and is soon drawn, along with his friends, into the world of a mysterious stranger who can open up a parallel universe called Thunderland. The development of Massey’s suspenseful premise relied on his exploration of the dynamics of Jason’s family—a plot structure that might be seen as distinctively African American, standing in contrast with the often absent parents in white-penned horror tales. Setting out to make his name more widely known, Massey contributed a piece to the black erotica anthology After Hours, began contributing writing to various websites, and started BrandonMassey.com, his own website.
“It baffles me when I meet new authors who don’t have sites,” Massey told Buried. “That’s like leaving money on the table, man!” Massey imaginatively used dynamic content on his website, publishing web-only short stories, offering prizes such as autographed books to readers who signed up for his monthly Talespinner newsletter, and collecting some of his earlier writings into a free e-book. With that operation underway, he issued a new version of Thunderland, publishing it himself and taking on printing and distribution costs.
That effort didn’t put the novel in every bookstore, but it did put copies of the novel into the hands of bookstore owners and magazine editors. Massey won the 2000 Gold Pen Award for Best Thriller from the Black Writers Alliance, and African-American horror book fans and publishing insiders began to take notice of the young author, who was one of just a handful of black writers at work in the horror genre. With sales of Thunderland topping 4,000 copies, Massey was signed to a two-book contract by Kensington Books, a publisher with a growing catalog that encompassed African-American literature as well as other genres.
Kensington reissued Thunderland in 2002, and Massey once again put the Internet to work in order to promote his book, which, as the work of a first-time author, might otherwise have received little publicity from its publisher. He urged readers of his website to buy the book from web retailer Amazon, with the result, he recalled, that its sales rank on the Amazon site changed from 1.3 million to 3,000 in a six-hour period. Massey then faxed the Amazon web page containing this information to Kensington. Massey also benefited from a round of author appearances and interviews that appeared in on-line horror zines. The novel attracted readers from a variety of backgrounds, with the result that readers both black and white, male and female, were represented in sales figures for the book.
As of 2003 Massey had completed a second book, a vampire novel titled Dark Corner, slated to appear in early 2004. He was also at work on a third novel, a horror thriller called Fear, and had received feelers from producers interested in turning Thunderland into a film. Massey’s future as a writer looks bright—not only because he has found a rare commercial niche as an African American, but because he has shown an ability to use a variety of resources in order to connect with his readers.
Thunderland, Kensington Books, 2002.
Dark Corner, Dafina Books, 2004.
Author of short stories, including contributions to Tomorrow Speculative Fiction and After Hours black erotica anthology.
Black Enterprise, April 2001, p. 49.
New York Times, August 9, 2001, p. E9.
Publishers Weekly, November 25, 2002, p. 43.
“Brandon Massey, Author of Thunderland, Interview by Tonya Y.T. Howard,” MPB Network, www.mpbnetwork.com/lounge/books/20021125_bmassey1.asp (June 10, 2003).
“Brandon Massey,” AuthorsDen, www.authorsden.com/brandonmassey (June 10, 2003).
“Brandon Massey,” Nghosi Books, www.nghosibooks.com/pages/brandonmassey.htm (June 10, 2003).
Brandon Massey Official Website, www.brandonmassey.com (June 10, 2003).
“Brandon Massey,” R.A.W. Sistaz, www.therawreviewers.com/WritersBlock/OneOnOne/brmassey.htm (June 10, 2003).
“Exclusive Interview with Brandon Massey,” Buried, www.buried.com/interviews/brandon_massey.shtml
“Interview with Brandon Massey,” SisterDivas, www.sisterdivas.org/bmasseyinterview.htm (June 10, 2003).
“Questions and Answers,” The Eternal Night, www.eternalnight.co.uk/chronicle/c25/masseybrandon.html (June 10, 2003).
—James M. Manheim
"Massey, Brandon 1973–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/massey-brandon-1973
"Massey, Brandon 1973–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved March 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/massey-brandon-1973
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