10 Things You Didn't Know About Brachman's Underworld by Vlad Vaslyn

Vlad Vaslyn
Vlad Vaslyn


Vlad snuck The Tommyknockers by Stephen King out of the library on his sister's library card when he was eleven years old. Despite the nightmares, he'd stay up all night reading it, partly because he was discovering that there was pleasure in terror, and partly because he was too scared to go to bed before the sun came up. It took him all summer and some of the fall to finish it, but when he did, he immediately dug up another King book. His love affair with the creepy, bizarre, and thought-provoking had officially begun.

Vlad was raised in Groton, Massachusetts and now resides in Lowell, Massachusetts with his wife, Jordana. He received an Associates Degree in Journalism from Middlesex Community College, and after a few years of freelance writing, he decided to go back to school. He's now a proud member of the National Honor Society at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he's studying History and English.

He's a voracious reader, avid hiker, and can't watch enough documentaries. Seriously, he has a problem.

Visit Vlad on the web at www.thevlad.net.

  • 1. 10 things you didn't know about Brachman's Underworld

1) Brachman's Underworld is like seeing Alice in her dreams of Wonderland, but also seeing her awake and at home in the real world - her two distinct existences rely upon one another. In my novel, you experience Delilah Brachman's real life as she faces devastating challenges, and you step into her psyche as she navigates the strange and deadly world of Other Lowell, where demons jockey for position and power. Will Delilah's struggle against an idealist tyrant, a demon intent on supplanting God, and a disease that infects the food supply win her salvation, or will she succumb to her past?

2) Brachman's Underworld is set in my home town of Lowell, Massachusetts, and I really wanted Delilah's Lowellian background to be authentic. I spent weeks walking around the city taking pictures, and getting acquainted with the little nooks and crannies that I never would have noticed just driving around. Lowell is speckled with all sorts of leftovers from its industrial zenith in the 1800s, and it's the quintessential mill town. Walled-over doors, bridge pilings supporting nothing but pigeons and air, and staircases that end abruptly still exist, remnants of a bygone era. I thought, "what if they left an impression on reality that allowed me to use them after they're gone?" These ways of passage became the basis for the Nighthalls, the secret labyrinth that leads "behind the walls of reality" in Brachman's Underworld. They're based on some of the things that actually exist in the city, or did at one time.

3) Although I did take some artistic liberties with the geography of the city, I tried to keep it as authentic as possible. Locals will recognize places such as Lowell General Hospital, the Rourke Bridge, Christian Hill, Crosspoint Towers, The Old Court Pub, Majors Pub (in its former location), the old Sun building, and Etsogo Restaurant, among many others.

4) Other Lowell is an amalgamation of the city that existed in the 1980s and 1990s.

5) Many of the gritty flashback scenes are gleaned from my own experiences, or are based on stories I've heard. The Biking Game in particular is a good example. It was a vicious prank I'd heard about as a kid from a friend's older brother, concerning some kids in a neighboring town. Of course, he'd heard it from someone else, who had heard it from someone else. Still, the notion haunted me. For the rest of that summer and some of the next, if I was riding my bike, I'd cringe whenever a car passed me by. You'll see what I mean when you read that scene, and hopefully you'll experience the same sort of terror that I experienced.

6) The Cryth, a demon in Brachman's Underworld, was liberated from one of my nightmares. I was being pursued through a decaying maze by a half-faced, wheezing mad man, and I kept barely escaping. I guess he caught up with me in the end.

7) The premise for my novel is rooted in my interest in what happens after we die, and by the fact that certain common elements concerning the afterlife have emerged throughout the ages from so many different cultures. The concept of judgment has been of particular interest to me. Do you deserve to move on to a better place after you die, wherever that might be, or do you deserve some sort of punishment?

But what if you were to end up in a moral gray area instead, a sort of Purgatory, somewhere "In-Between?" I wanted to write about those people in the middle, how they got there, and who they were. When I added in their individual moral codes, or lack thereof, I knew I had some interesting dynamics to work with.

8) Brachman's Underworld in its original form was a "cutting-edge," online interactive book whose innovative approach I'd hoped would make waves in the indie world. The premise was simple: write a chapter each week, present the audience with a few choices, and then use those votes to shape the flow of the story, thus providing readers with an interactive experience. "Story Tokens" such as the Deus Ex Machina Token (overturn the majority vote) or the Sudden Death Token (kill off a character) would add dimension to the experience.

It didn't work, and halfway through, I canned the voting and wrote the story as I saw fit. My "brilliant" idea had some pretty obvious flaws. You see, when I pick up a book, I'm expecting to go for a ride. I don't want to do the driving, I want to take in the scenery. Voting negated that ability and brought readers in on the process of creation, thereby hindering their experience. People were interested in reading the story, but they weren't interested in shaping it in any real way. After all, it's a novel, not a video game. If only I'd realized that sooner!

9) Honest Jack has a knack for using torture to get his way. I wanted his hobby of fashioning old torture devices to feel real, so I spent hours looking at diagrams and imagery of medieval torture devices that were used during the Inquisition and the Dark Ages.

10) Brachman's Underworld took me about 10 years to write, from its inception as notes scribbled on some scrap paper, to its publication in June 2012.

Brachman's Cover final Cover
Brachman's Cover final Cover


Delilah Brachman just died and now she has six days to dodge her fate or she'll perish for all-time. She's become an "In-Betweener," someone whose judgment has yet to be decided, and she's drawn a ticket for the Tuesday Train, the most damning ticket of all. She struggles against the demon Noc, whose cunning mind masks a childlike loneliness it will do anything to quell, and against Honest Jack, the idealist tyrant who uses torture to get his way. Meanwhile, Delilah begins to care for a man that her real life never prepared her for. Will she overcome the demons in her past, or will the life she led condemn her for all-time?