Two guys with no lives and a multitude of books between them. Bringing you the finest reviews of books, whether they be new, old or out of print. Genres in which reviews will be offered: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and anything that catches their fancy.
A few months ago, Ty Schwamberger asked around for people interested in reviewing his novella The Fields. I of course, jumped on the chance. There's nothing I love more than sitting down to read the works of a newer name. After finishing The Fields, I contacted Ty once more and asked if he would be interested in stopping by for a bit and answering a few questions.
Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he's had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, 'Cake Batter' (released in 2010) and 'House Call' (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association. Ty is also the Managing Editor of The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Publications. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com
So, without further-ado, here's my interview with Horror author Ty Schwamberger:
SFG:The Fields isn't your typical zombie novella. Care to share what it's about?
Ty: You're absolutely right. The Fields is anything but typical. I always wanted to try my hand at writing a zombie story, but didn't want to just re-hash "zombies are coming, we better blow their heads off" type story. No. I wanted something different, deeper, thought provocating. But first I needed an atypical setting. That's when I came up with the time period of the mid-1800s on a southern plantation after the slaves were freed. From there, I didn't want it to be: Billy (the main character) sees his tobacco plants are dying and digs up some dead former slaves and reanimates them. I needed a sinister element. That's when I came up with the character, Abraham, which incidentally looks a lot like Lincoln. Once a day, Abraham knocks on Billy's door; offering salvation for the farm and Billy. Billy then must decide if he's going to be like this father (an angry land owner that beat his slaves while he was alive) or let the fields continue to wither away under the hot, southern sun.
To quote a part of the introduction by Jonathan Maberry: “[The Fields]…is part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense.”
When I go back and read the story now, it almost took on a commentary on yesterday and today's social climate. I didn't exactly set out to do that, but I think that's what happened. THE FIELDS is truly terrifying because it deals with real-life issues, not just a crazied zombie running around trying to find their next hot, skull-full of brains to munch down upon. In fact, I think fans of the zombie subgenre, even just general horror buffs, will dig the story a lot, if they give it a chance.
SFG: With The Fields, you've managed to combine history with zombies. Is that what you originally set out to do: combine a genre and a sub-genre to create a story?
Ty: I graduated from college in 2000 with a BA in History. It was really the only subject I ever liked in school. Of course at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do with it (in reality, unless you go into teaching, it's a pretty useless degree). During my history classes, I always enjoyed reading historical fiction. In fact, one of my favorite non-horror books is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. As I said before, I didn't want this to be a "normal" zombie story. So, I took my two loves -- horror and history -- putting them together to make a somewhat-believable story that has real-life implications planted within its pages.
SFG: How different is editing from writing? Is there anything you've found yourself applying to your writing that you probably wouldn't have if you had not had the experience of being an editor?
SFG: You've recently been appointed to run The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Book Company. What has it been like for you since you said yes?
Ty: That's correct. First, I'd like to make something clear. Yes, I am the managing editor for TZF, and yes, THE FIELDS is being published by them, but I actually finished writing the novella and it was accepted by Jason Sizemore at Apex about a year ago. It wasn't until a few months ago that Jason asked me to come on board to run his zombie imprint. I've known Jason for years and was excited when he asked me to get involved. Apex is a great company, with some great writers and a very bright future, and I'm honored to be part of it. It's a lot of hard work, but I've always enjoyed the business side of the publishing world. In fact, I love the entire process: from the initial pitch through publication, when you can hold the finished product in your hand. It's a great feeling for everyone involved, most importantly for each TZF author.
SFG: When it comes to writing, was there a specific catalyst for wanting to put pen to paper?
Ty: People are always surprised when I tell them I've only been writing since early 2008. It was right after reading Offspring by Dallas (Jack) Ketchum and Cuts by Richard Laymon. I started by pounding out 100k words in exactly 90 days. Looking back now, it wasn't very good, but that's where I got my start. That's when I knew I found my calling in life. Since then, I've went blitzkreig on the horror genre, getting into editing anthologies, writing everything from novels to short stories, getting stories adapted for film, writing articles and running an imprint at a small press. I have a "vision", a goal to all this fast-paced madness. The truth of it is; I feel VERY fortunate to have come as far as I have so quickly. I have a lot of people I've thanked along the way. Horror writers/publishers are some of the best people I've ever met in my life and I feel lucky to give back to a genre I've loved since being a little kid and watching 80s slasher films back in the day. Not sure all that specifically answered your question of not. For the short version, I'll borrow the following quote from Richard Laymon: "I love writing. I have to write. If I'm away from it for very long, I start longing to get back into action." Yup, that about says it all.
SFG: When it comes to putting pen to paper, what does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have a schedule you keep to, or write whenever you can get time?
Ty: To those on the outside it might seem like I’m writing or editing a project every single day. I mean, who puts out five or six books in a year and isn’t constantly sitting behind the keyboard. But the truth of the matter is; I just don’t have the time. Now, before someone stands up from their chair and starts yelling “there’s no excuse not to find at least a hour each day to write” let me explain. Besides currently having a fulltime “day job”, I’m a writer, editor, I run an imprint at a small press, and have the same general life duties as everyone else. So do I write or edit every single day? No. But, I do do at least something writing related each and every day. Whether that’s research the current publishing trends, promotional work (which can really take on a life of its own), helping a fellow writer with something, updating websites, spending time answering questions from fans, pitching new projects to publishers, etc. Now, you might be asking, “Then, Ty, how do you produce as much as you do?” Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. I’m blessed with the ability to produce very quickly. For example, there was one particular publisher that needed a completed novella in two weeks. My novellas are usually around 25-30k words, so they’re fairly easy to write in a small amount of time. Since he needed it quickly, I pounded it out in 2 weeks. I once wrote a 100k novel in exactly three months. It just all depends on the deadline that I’m given. Give me a little or a lot if the money is right I’ll be on spot. Harhar…
SFG: In your opinion, what makes good Horror?
Ty: Personally, I’m drawn to interesting and well fleshed out characters. Probably because I tend to write my own stories in a very character driven fashion. When I read or write a story, I like to get in the mind of the character, find out what makes him angry, sad, frustrated, happy, whatever. Besides, we’re all humans. What better to relate to in a story than a good character from the same species that’s holding the book.
SFG: Are there any authors, filmmakers, or musical artists that inspire you?
Ty: I've been told by fans and my peers alike; that a lot of my writing has a Richard Laymonesque feel to it. That wasn't by design. Although, Laymon is my favorite horror author. I think I've got all but one of his novels at this point. I love the way he took a simple idea and made it really scary. The horror genre lost a great writer when he passed away in 2001. I wish I could have met him before then. Although, I've gotten the chance to get to know his wife, Ann, and daughter, Kelly, and they're very friendly and special people. In fact, every year Ann donates some of Richard's books for my annual "Richard Laymon Book Contest" I host on my site. 2011 is the 3rd such year. Before this year is out, I plan on putting up another one of his novels for folks to enter to win. So, yes, Laymon would definitely be the one author that inspires me the most. Though, there are a ton of other folks that I love to read, as well.
SFG: Reading and writing are two different monsters. Do you read outside of the Horror genre, or do you try and stay up to date with what's being published within your genre?
Ty: “They” say you should read in a wide variety of genres, especially if you’re a writer. But for me, I’m so drawn to horror, that when I do have time to read for pleasure, that’s the only thing I pick up. Sure, there have been times when I’ve picked up something for research (which I rarely do), but for the most part I read books with a horrifying element. That’s what I look for when buying a new book. Right or wrong, that’s what I dig.
SFG: What are you currently reading?
Ty: I just finished Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse. It was a fascinating collection and one I highly recommend.
SFG: What books do you have in your TBR pile that you're looking forward to cracking open?
Ty: A few books by some fine folks: Jonathan Maberry, Simon Clark, Deborah LeBlanc, Richard Laymon (this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as I own almost his entire catalog), along with some others. I’d have to get up off the couch I’m currently sitting on while answering this to have a look at my bookshelf, and honestly I’m just too damn tired right now to do so.
SFG: I'm always curious to hear author's takes on the current e-book explosion. As a new writer coming into the field, what's your opinion of e-books? Which do you prefer?
Ty: I work on a computer all day. I write and edit on a computer a ton. The last thing I want to do is then read a book for pleasure on a screen. But do I understand that the majority of folks that do read for pleasure aren’t writers and do enjoy reading a digital version of a book? Sure. That’s one reason I try and make sure all my stuff is available in eBook format. In fact, I’ll be experimenting with two novellas next year (one in February and the other later) that I’ll be putting out myself as eBooks. I’ve always went the traditional publishing route, so I’m looking forward to trying something new for these particular projects. The other four books coming out from me next year will still be released by traditional publishers.
SFG: As someone who is in an interesting point in their writing career, is there anything you wish you would have known then, that you know now? Any advice that benefit aspiring writers?
Ty: I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to have a mentor in the very beginning. I’ve done what I’ve done with hard work and dedication to my dream of writing fulltime one day. Have I made plenty of mistakes along the way? Of course. Would I take any of them back? No. Publishing is a constantly evolving universe and all writers, whether at the top of the mountain or fighting to dig out of the trenches, are always learning and adapting. I’d be amiss to say that many writers didn’t see the digital revolution before it happened. I sure didn’t. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did see it barreling down the tracks, but resisted it as long as possible. Of course in the end I let the train hit me and let my limp body go along for the ride.
So, what can the aspiring author do to make it in this business? First and foremost, learn the craft of writing. Once you’re able to start stringing coherent sentences together, then go out and start learning the business side of writing. Believe me when I say, you can’t make it in the publishing world without a strong understanding of both things. Then go out and mingle with those you admire. Go to book signings and conventions. Meet and talk to the same authors, editors and publishers you enjoy reading. If you’re lucky, you’ll not only make a great business contact, but a helluva friend as well.
SFG: With the warpath you've blazed in the last few years, and the pace with which you're still going, there must be some big things in store for 2012. If so, care to share what those might be?
Ty: Each year seems to get more and more exciting for me, and 2012 is no exception. As of right now, there are six books (from novellas to anthologies I’m Editor on -- available anywhere from hardcover to paperback to eBook) and one feature length film that should be released. There’s also two other surprises (one of which might not happen until 2013) for the new year I haven’t announced yet. One of which will be unveiled in very early January and be available soon after. Shortly after the new year, I’ll then start working on pitching to publishers for 2013. It’s a never ending process, but one I highly enjoy.
SFG: Is there any last comments you would like to add?
Ty: Yeah… GO. BUY. THE. BOOK.
SFG: Thanks for your time, Ty! I look forward to reading your future works.
Ty: Thanks, Rodney. There’s always something new just around the bend.