Q & A with Author Bryce Gibson
Bryce Gibson is a farmer by day, writer by night. He’s lived in South Carolina his entire life, grew up on a farm, and when he’s not writing, that’s where you’ll find him. Though he was a voracious reader as a teenager, he doesn’t really remember any “wow” books he read, however he does remember when he began to make up his own stories. Eventually, he began writing some of them down. With a typical teenage interest in horror movies, it didn’t take long for him to start visualizing his ideas more clearly and create more complex characters and plots. His first book was published in 2014.
Q : What was it that made thriller/horror novels so appealing?
A : I’ve always loved this genre and have been drawn to scary books and movies for as long as I can remember. I still have all of the horror stories I wrote when I was a teenager. I wrote them on notebook paper, drew the covers, and stapled the pages together. Through my college years, I worked on a horror novel that has never seen the light of day. The manuscript is a mess with lots of different plot threads and rewrites. It never fully came together, but it was my first true attempt at writing a novel. It was good practice. After shelving that book, I didn’t try again for several years.
Q : What made you decide to focus on writing for young adults? How would you describe your novels?
A : I think my natural writing style fits the teen market very well. I tend to focus on characters that are from rural and small town areas of the South. My books are mainly marketed as horror and thriller, and a lot of people are turned off when they hear that. They think of horror as nothing but blood and mayhem. Really, there’s a lot more to it. Underneath all of that stuff, there is a story of personal growth in each of my books. Perennialsis a coming-of-age story, the lead character in The Reading Buddy is fighting social anxiety, and Mackenzie from The Resort longs for a “normal” life away from his family’s isolated island resort.
Q : What kind of research do you do for your books?
A : I like to write about places and things that I already know pretty well, so research is something that I don’t really spend a lot of time on. However, there are times when I have to do it. For example, the protagonist in my latest book is great at zip lining. I’ve never been on a zip line, and, prior to writing The Resort, I knew virtually nothing about it. I had to look up certain terminology and details just to make sure that I had all of that right. I’ll research things like that and facts related to plants, folklore, weather, and that kind of thing.
Q : Your books are set in the South, which is also where you live. How important is it for your stories to take place there and to showcase the real South?
A : To be honest with you, I haven’t thought about writing a book that takes place anywhere else. Most of what I write is set in South Carolina, a place that I know very well. I want my books to present an authentic version of the South, and I believe I do a good job at that. I think anybody from the South could pick up one of my books and feel familiar with the locations. At the same time, I want readers from all over to be able to read my books and feel like they are getting a realistic version of what life is like here.
Q : Since you write thrillers, we’re kind of afraid to ask this, but do you use moments from your life to spark book ideas? (laughing)
A : I think all of my story ideas come from real-life moments in some way or another. My books are very plant heavy, and I’m sure all of that comes from my interests in gardening and working in agriculture. The idea for Perennials came out of the blue. I was doing yard work, planting Dusty Miller plants, when I had the initial idea. It was a love story between two teenage characters, Dusty Miller and Nandina Bush. Then, almost immediately, I had the idea of a serial killer who is targeting people that share names with plants.
Q : Teenagers can be both maddening and inspiring. Can you tell us about your inspiration writing for them?
A : I try my hardest to make my teenage characters feel real. I get a lot of positive feedback saying that my characters are well developed. That’s something I’m really proud of. I love writing about characters that are on the cusp of making really big life decisions, and what better age to show that than seventeen? I think young male characters from rural and small town South are very much misrepresented in teen fiction. Lots of times, when the characters do turn up in books, they are just a stereotype. I want to write stories that teens from the South, both male and female, can easily relate to.
Q : Your latest book is set at a resort? Is it based on a real place?
A : The private island in my book is entirely fictional, but people that have read the book tell me that it feels like a real place. In the book, I mention that the island is located off the coast of South Carolina. There are some real places that played a factor in my visualization of what the resort would look like. If you’ve ever been to Fripp or Tybee Island, a lot of the inspiration comes from both of those.
Q : You wrote an adult thriller, Unclaimed Acre, that was very well received. Do you plan on writing more adult novels?
A : Unclaimed Acre came out before my teen books. Even though the novel follows Levi Stanley as an adult, the story hinges on his high school years. So, through flashbacks, a big portion of the book is also set around teenage relationships. As of right now, I don’t have any immediate plans to write another adult book, but it’s something that I might go back to one day. Currently, I feel like I’m on a roll with my Young Adult novels. As an author, I’m happy with people associating my name with Southern teen thrillers and horror.
Q : What are you working on now?
A : This fall, I’ll have the release of my first middle-grade book. I actually wrote it several years ago, before Unclaimed Acre. The title of the book is Mortimer. It’s a spooky story set in small town South Carolina. Currently, I’m working on the first draft of my next teen book, Tethered. It’s a novel that’s really different from what I’ve been writing. It’s dark and sad, but it also has a lot of important messages and a protagonist that I hope readers will fall in love with.