Every year Horror Writers Association gives the Bram Stoker Awards ™ to the literary works representing that year’s best achievements in horror. This year Idaho resident Michaelbrent Collings has been nominated in two categories: Superior Achievement in a Novel for his book The Deep, and Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel for The Ridealong.
In addition to being doubly-nominated this year, Collings’ books represent a rarity on the ballot – both of them are self-published, appearing alongside traditionally-published works by bestsellers like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Jonathan Maberry.
As one of the new breed of writers who forego traditional publishing in favor of directly marketing their books, Collings has become a top seller Amazon, Nook, and in the iBookstore in dozens of countries. “Self-published books used to have the stigma of incompetence attached,” says Collings. “I’m glad to see them gaining more and recognition – both from audiences and from bodies like the HWA.”
The Horror Writers Association, the body that nominates and votes for works for the Bram Stoker Awards ™, permitted self-published professionals that meet certain earnings criteria to join their ranks for the first time in 2014. “The HWA recognized that publishing has changed,” says Collings. “They’re allowing professionals into the mix, wherever they come from. And I’m thrilled that The Deep and The Ridealong were seen as worthy nominees this year. Whether either wins or not, having explicitly self-published works on the ballot is always a great thing.”
Other members of the HWA echo excitement for greater acceptance of self-published writers. “I love the idea,” says Joe McKinney, a popular horror writer and himself a past Bram Stoker Award ™ winner. “And I also love that the HWA has stepped up to include those mavericks…. [T]he fact that the HWA is willing to consider those new venues for inclusion in its highest award, is a sign that the organization has a finger on the pulse of the industry as a whole, and hasn’t merely hooked its wagon to a dying star.”
Another rarity: Collings is both a bestselling horror novelist and produced screenwriter and a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a Mormon. Collings sees no contradictions or problems in straddling these two worlds. “I don’t see being Mormon and being a horror writer as at all conflicting,” says Collings. “There are lots of kinds of horror. Some are dark for darkness’ sake. Others show us that difficulties can be overcome, and that’s the principle message of my religious beliefs, so they fit perfectly well.” New York Times bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International series Larry Correia agrees, “Latter-day Saints talk about mortality and the meaning of life for fun. Of course Mormons can write dark works. Our history is all about facing tragedy and coming out the other side.”
Collings’ readers seem to appreciate the point of view he brings. As one of the United States’ most popular indie horror writers, his fans read books about zombies, ghosts, demons, monsters, and madmen – any and all infected with their own mix of darkness leading to light. Correia is unsurprised at this popularity, “Mormons writings often deal with concepts like freedom and accountability, sacrifice and atonement: themes that appeal to a wide audience. Combine things like that with somebody with Michaelbrent’s talent for telling a compelling story, and people are bound to notice it.”
As for Collings, he is excited to see who will win both awards. “I really don’t worry about winning. I know several of the people on the ballots, and they’re all talented, generous people. It’s a great year for writing, and a great time to be a writer.”
The Bram Stoker Awards ™ will be announced at the StokerCon horror convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2016.