Ghost Bully: Review and Interview With Author Brian Corley

Ghost Bully by Brian Corley

Roommates can be hell.

Like when they’re late with the rent, late on bills, or constantly trying to kill you.

Jonah Preston thought he knew what he was getting into after signing the paperwork to buy his new home: yard work, a leaky pipe here and there, maybe the occasional squirrel in the attic.

He just didn’t expect to share that new home with a ghost.

Before all the boxes are unpacked, Jonah learns the previous owner, Willard Hensch, committed suicide in one of the bedrooms. It’s bad news, but Jonah and his (corporeal) roommate, Max, take it in stride. Jonah’s just happy to own a home and begin this new chapter in his adult life.

Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly short chapter.

Unhappy with his new roommates, the resident ghost quickly makes his presence known. Like, really known. When Jonah wakes up dead, he knows exactly who’s behind it.

Willard. Effing. Hensch.

For the newly deceased Jonah, that’s where his new chapter truly begins. He will befriend angels, fight demons, and take on a ghostly army in this comic-paranormal thrill ride through the freakish underworld of Austin, Texas. 

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I’ll start by saying this is not the typical book I’d pick up to read. As a rule, I like to stay away from anything with the potential to be scary and I definitely find ghosts scary.

But.

I have been known to make exceptions when the book just sounds too good for me to pass up. That’s why I ended up reading The Passage trilogy, The Dark Tower series, and the Gone series. Ghost Bully was much the same – the concept just sounded too fun, plus I got to meet author Brian Corley at the Superstars Writing Conference I attended earlier this year and learned even more about his creation.

Ghost Bully was a fun ride from start to finish. I only found one or two chapters near the beginning to be mildly creepy. Overall, the book elicited more chuckles than chills and absolutely delivered on the unique premise.

What really made Ghost Bully such a great read for me was that the world-building was on point. I think world-building is something I really care about in the books I read and I know the author has done a good job with it when I start wishing there were more books out so I could spend more time in the world they created. Or if I can imagine the story working as a movie or tv show, I know it’s become real to me.

All of the ghostly details were so fun and clever! It was a little bit like reading Harry Potter, where you’re given information you didn’t know you wanted, but once you have it, you can’t imagine the story without it. The world of Ghost Bully is clearly well-developed beyond the parts of it that appear in the text, which makes me excited for the possibility of there being more books.

The writing itself moves along quickly, delivering joke after joke. Not all of them quite landed for me, but I can be a little slow to get the joke.

Of course, the ultimate test of how much I’ve been enjoying a book is when I compare how many pages I actually read versus how many pages I meant to read. There were many nights where I meant to read a chapter before bed, but ended up putting the book down after three or four chapters because it was now super late. Considering I’ve been running around like a crazy person, you know the book was really holding my attention!

If you’re looking for the perfect book to tote to the beach or pass the time on an airplane, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of Ghost Bully this summer!

As one of my goals for the future of my blog, I wanted to do more author interviews…provided I could find any willing authors haha. Luckily, Brian and I are in the same writer’s group so I didn’t have to twist his arm too much to come answer some questions about his book and his writing!

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What inspired you to write Ghost Bully?

I had a beer with Jonathan Isaacs to talk about his haunted house story. I made a comment that ghosts don’t really think their threats all the way through. We’re afraid of ghosts because they’ll hurt or possibly kill us … but then what? You’d become a ghost too. What if you’re a naturally gifted ghost? Hey ghost, you thought you were annoyed at a guy kicking around the house for a few hours a night? Now you have to deal with this guy forever!

He thought that was a pretty funny take and told me I should write that book, so eventually, I did.

Who is your favorite character in Ghost Bully and why?

Hands down, Cat is my favorite character. I had a much different plan for her when I started the book, but she became such an interesting character during the writing process, that I just had to follow her and adjust the story as it happened.

Who was the hardest character to write?

Although some were definitely more fun than others, I don’t know that any of the characters were hard to write. I probably had more challenges with the scenes themselves. Once I worked out those out, the characters seem to know what to do.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Sure, a few actually. At first, Jonah made a lot of the same decisions I would probably make. I wanted to ground the first act/haunted house story in a little bit of realism. I’d try to make a real decision in the moment and then puzzle out how that would back fire on me, or just ask myself what I would do if faced with the same situation. Like I would totally spend money on an exorcism solution, then look for a free back-up plan as well.

Max makes the jokes in real time that I’d probably only think about once the conversation was over. He’s quick, and funny—and who I’d like to be in the moment (except stranding Jonah alone in the house—although leaving was clearly the smart decision).

Unfortunately, there’s some of me in Willard as well. All the bad stuff, but none of the backstory. I can only hope that some of the people in my life are as forgiving as Jonah.

The city of Austin is practically a character itself. Why did you choose to set the book in such an interesting city?

I just took the “Write what you know” advice. There are a million obstacles to writing your first book, and I figured I’d remove the story’s setting from that list. Also, I’ve lived in Austin for close to twenty years, and love living here.

Not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book, but if you suddenly woke up as a ghost like Jonah…what would you do? Would you take your door? Or hang around for a little while?

That’s a tough one. The door shows you everyone you’ve lost so far in your life as well as the prospect of rest on the other side. Jonah lost his father and could see him there, however, he’d also just had his life cut short. At twenty-five, he didn’t have a lot of money, and he hadn’t quite figured out what to do with his life. He was mostly potential—and Willard stole that from him. So he’s dealing with all of that as well as the promise of revenge he made to Willard.

Me? I’d have a hard time passing up the opportunity to catch up with my dad and grandfathers, plus I’m really big on naps.

Had you written a book before this one? Nope, this was my first one. I was a songwriter a long time ago, and wrote a lot of those, but this was my first book.

What authors have inspired you on your writing journey?

I show my hand in the book here too, but I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Terry Pratchett. Also, Brandon Sanderson has his BYU writing classes on YouTube, and I think I’ve taken four years worth of his classes. It’s an incredible resource, I’d recommend it to anyone.

What was your writing (and rewriting) process like?

I had three weeks between jobs last May and felt like that was about one week too long to just sit around and sleep all day, so I gave myself a temporary job—to finally sit down and write the damn story I’d been thinking about for a couple of years. Surprisingly, I was able to crank out a rough draft during that time, but it looked a lot different than it does now.

I did three major revisions before handing it over to a developmental editor who taught me a lot during the process. Everything from basic formatting, to major structural issues, he was great to work with.

I received some additional input on the first act of the book that spurred another major rewrite to opening chapters. Ghost Bully had four different beginnings, I think. A couple of characters didn’t even exist until two weeks before I handed in the manuscript for a Copy Edit. All in all, there were about twelve different revisions over six months.

TL;DR: three weeks for rough, about six months for everything else.

Do you use a computer or write by hand before transcribing?

Computer for writing, I type much faster than I write by hand, but I’m constantly jotting down ideas for the story on scrap pieces of paper.

I hand write the outline as well as character sketches on paper, though. Something about pen on paper, feels a little more creative for me in that part of the process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you like to listen to?

Not really, my mind starts looking for patterns in what’s playing instead of focusing on the page.

That said, there were some nights when I listened to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis while editing. In particular, the scenes with DeeDee and Jeremy as well as (weirdly enough) the scenes where Jonah and team tried to psych themselves up for battle.

What did you edit out of this book?

Tons.

Writing, for me especially, is rewriting. I think I took around thirty thousand words out after the developmental edit, and put forty thousand back in. The first two beginnings of the book started at the title company with Jonah meeting Max for Tex/Mex before going to the house, and now we begin at the house. I kept getting feedback that people just aren’t interested in title companies … can you believe that? People don’t want to read about the process of closing on a house? I kid. It was obviously great advice!

Nicole Alvarez wasn’t in the original plan, but I’m glad she’s there now, and the cemetery scene as well as Masephson’s “Tour of Heck” were also added … and I’m glad. Those are a couple of the more memorable scenes for me.

Biggest takeaway from the journey to become a self-published author? [do you prefer the term indie?]

Definitely prefer the term indie. It’s kind of an Austin badge of honor—from Willie Nelson to Rick Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, we just go for it.

I’m still on the journey, in my opinion, but my biggest takeaways so far is to be the biggest student of the game as you can. From writing to marketing—find out everything you can. YouTube is an incredible repository of knowledge, and talking to other authors has been tremendously helpful as well.

Ghost Bully has only been out for a few months, but what has been the coolest moment so far of having a book out in the world?

Probably like any creative endeavor, it’s just nice to see people enjoy the work.

What’s next for Jonah, Cat, Max, and the Psy-Kicks?

Plenty! Thanks for asking. Ghost Bully is book one in a series of five books, and there will be a series of short stories as well. Hope to have one of the shorts out this summer, and book two out in early 2019.

Where can people find out more about you and your upcoming projects?

On my website, www.brian-corley.com or on Twitter and Instagram as @nicebookbrian

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