Some people feel that writing can influence their life, while others feel life can influence their writing, which do you feel suits you better?
Definitely, life influences my writing. I was raised in a Christian home, so faith in some kind of realm beyond our known reality was imprinted on my mind and soul early on. Always an avid reader, I was attracted to fantasy and supernatural fiction and this added to my fascination with “other-worldly” people and places. When my writing was in its infancy, I naturally took to these same genres.
As I have grown older and experienced much of the horror and tragedy that reality has to offer, my writing has become a place to work through tough times in a therapeutic way. I still write about supernatural and fantastic subjects, but my own life and that of those around me ends up distilled into the mix.
I noticed you like Poe and Lovecraft, I love their work. How has those two authors influenced your writing?
These two influences are huge and that is why I almost always mention them in my bio. Poe is perhaps the master of all psychological horror. He has no progenitor. Almost every work of supernatural or psychological horror he wrote is a flawless example of how to get it done. You may choose to write your tale in contemporary language and setting, but you will never go wrong using Poe’s examples of perfectly placed suspense and apprehension.
Lovecraft is not as strong a writer overall as Poe, but his prolific and wild imagination was a huge influence when I first encountered his tales in my youth. I was especially attracted to his Cthulhu Mythos and its consistent use throughout several stories. I am creating my own cosmology, The Fractured Realms, featured in the first two tales of my collection “On the Verge of Madness.” The concepts used to create this system is influenced by both Lovecraft and the world building techniques of writers of Epic Fantasy.
What do you think of the Horror genre today?
My answer depends on whether we are discussing film or fiction.
The business of horror films is in sad shape. So many remakes and sequels! I never thought I would see the day anyone felt it was necessary to remake “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and worst of all—I would go so far as to say heretical—“Psycho.” Why not just re-master and re-release the originals? The problem with these remakes is they often lack one or both of the key elements that made the original great: a superb director and a sociological context.
If you decide, as I have, to avoid all remakes and only check out a sequel if you really feel there is more story to be told, you are left with little to choose from, and sad to say most original screenplays are not particularly original or scary either. I do like many of the Japanese horror films of late (Ringu, Ju-On) and the American remakes of those are also effective.
Horror fiction, however, is going the opposite direction. The advent of self-publishing, e-books and online magazines has created a situation where new voices are constantly being heard. While King, Koontz and a few others still dominate the shelves, there are still lots of choices if you browse through a book store willing to expand their horror section to include smaller presses.
There are still too many vampires, werewolves and zombies out there for my personal taste, but I do feel right now there is a lot of variety available if you hunt for it, and a lot of amazing new talent being exposed.
How do you find time to write?
Well, I don’t think I will ever be happy with the amount of writing time available until my “ship comes in.” I write every chance I get. I have a full-time job and try to write at least something on the computer on all my days off. I write in notebooks, sometimes at lunch or if I am out at a coffeehouse. I also “write” in my head all the time when I am walking or my mind has permission to wander. Writing really has become part of my life.
If you had to pick one story out of all you wrote, what would be your favorite?
That is very difficult, some I would choose because they tell the best horror story, others due to their effective emotional or psychological impact. Since you’re making me choose, I will go with “Murmurers” from “On the Verge of Madness.” This story is Part One of “The Chronicles of Raven.”
Raven lives in an alternate future nearly devoid of human life. He is the veteran of three wars. Bitter and losing all hope, he simply wanders the roads of what is left of America. Along the way he saves a teenage girl from exploitation and they travel together, confronting strange creatures and other survivors.
To fully stay in Raven’s head at all times, I wrote the story in first person, present tense. This was the first time I have used this and probably never will again, except for the ongoing chronicles. (Part Two will be included in my next collection “Silhouette of Darkness”) It is a challenging mode but lends naturally to my purpose—Raven’s stories are both horror stories and stages in his ongoing journey back to humanity. Readers and reviewers often cite this as their favorite in the collection and I think that is why.
When writing screenplays, do you adapt them from short stories or books or do you write them new and how does that experience compare to writing short stories or even novellas?
I have done both adaptations and original screenplays. I am still a fledging, yet to sell a script, so I always choose public domain works to avoid any copyright concerns. I have a completed adaptation of Poe’s “The Gold Bug” which adapts that tale but also includes Poe himself as a character, as though he experienced the adventure first-hand. Another screenplay “A Bargaining of Souls” is a contemporary version of the Faust story. I have two other original scripts at various levels of development.
The main difference between screenplays and fiction is that you can get the first draft of a screenplay written very quickly. With Final Draft software, I was able to write “The Gold Bug” on my days off in a month. That would be unheard of for a novel, and a stretch for a novella. Like all forms of writing, however, the real work begins when it is time to go back through the first draft and rewrite. The old adage is true: writing is rewriting.
How has drive-in movies inspired your writing?
I think you have read my bio—LOL. I was born in 1961—graduated from High School in 1979. So, I grew up in the last days of drive-ins. My family attended them when I was young and as a teenager my friends and I made it through the late 1970s and early 1980s cycle of slasher films and other B-movies. Many of them sucked of course, but there were the gems along the way. In my hometown, the second feature was often a film you would see nowhere else and sometimes they would be the more interesting than the main feature--flat out masterworks by Dario Argento or an undiscovered soon to be cult classic like Phantasm.
This was all a very exciting time for movies, so much innovation in Hollywood in general, not just in the horror genre. This energy is definitely lacking today. Also, since going to the movies then was much less expensive, you could take a chance on a double bill of possible crap and not feel bad about spending the money.
You write some poetry, what inspires you when you write your poems and how does it compare to other formats of writing?
I don’t write a lot of poetry, but generally the impulse to do so stems from intense personal experience. There is a group of poems I wrote (some of which are on Author’s Den) while in college on the theme of film theory. Aside from that one intellectual pursuit, I do write very personal poetry and very little sees the light of day. I have probably written more poetry directly to my wife than I have published in any public forum.
Can you tell us a bit about "Verge of Madness?"
In 2008, I had sold a couple of stories but had final drafts of quite a bit of short fiction and I decided it was time to assemble a collection. I looked at all the stories that were most ready to go, trying to find a common theme. All of the protagonists of these tales seemed to be involved in some kind of defining moment where circumstances forced them to choose one of two possibilities: belief in the supernatural or deeming themselves mad.
The lead-off novella, “Victor Chaldean and the Portal” and “Murmurers,” discussed earlier, are the selections involving The Fractured Realms cosmology I mentioned earlier. The rest of the tales follow the common them of madness.
What made you decide to self publish?
Basically, to get something published. Since it is now “free” to self-publish, I decided to give it a go instead of spending the time writing endless query letters. I will go that more conventional route once I complete a novel, but there are not that many presses calling out for collections.
Though I have not sold a significant number of copies, the experiment is a success. I have six very positive reviews (with others pending) and the book and my name are being disseminated on the internet in a way not possible by just having stories accepted into magazines and anthologies. The latter is important also, to build a bio of bylines, but I am very proud to have the book out there also. All my friends and relatives, coworkers, etc. bought the book and their critiques are invaluable, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when a total stranger, thus someone who is completely objective, validates your work with a positive response.
How do you market your work?
Since I self-published and thus have no agent or publishing company working for me, my primary means of marketing are word of mouth and the internet. I use Author’s Den as my web site. It is very reasonably priced. You can have a detailed bio there, download stories and other content, and include purchase links for any books.
I also have invested some money with Books In Sync. They offer a wide range of promotional services, including a book review and interview. This provides more exposure on the internet as well when disseminated.
I post my reviews on Author’s Den and my Facebook page, as well as announcing any sales to anthologies or magazines. This buzz has sold some copies, but the bottom line is you will not get rich from self-publishing unless you have a lot of money to invest in the marketing. My plan is to get good reviews and build some kind of reputation, without worrying about huge sales. Then, I am hoping this will help me when I query a novel later.
Any future projects in the works and can you tell us about them?
I am always working on several things at once. I find this beneficial. Writer’s block is part of life, so if I get stuck on one story or project I can usually move on to another. It is rare that I just can’t write anything. If that happens, there is usually something else causing the block.
I currently have a group of stories in final revision for my second collection, “Silhouette of Darkness.” Though not finalized, it looks like Spinetinglers Publishing will be publishing this for me, which will be a relief. I am no expert at book formatting and certainly not an artist. My wife is responsible for the photography used on the cover of “On the Verge of Madness.”
Once that collection is complete, I am also planning to self-publish a collection of my flash fiction that has appeared in many different web sites and anthologies, and then I will be completing my first novel. It has no working title, but for those who have read my book, it is an expansion of the novella, “Victor Chaldean and the Portal.”
And I have been named Editor for "Weird City"--a Static Movement anthology
I also have a couple of screenplay ideas I would like to develop, as well as adapting my own novel as a screenplay.
What would you tell you a new writer about rejection letters and any advice for them in going into publishing?
Never take it personally. Easier said than done, of course. Rejection is going to be part of life and if you find that discouraging, my advice is to write for yourself and not submit. You can’t please everybody and often the reason for the rejection is simply your story is not a fit for the project at hand. It is quite rare that the editor has the time to give you any actual feedback. I have submitted a story and had it rejected multiple times and then it will get accepted elsewhere finally without changing anything. My best advice is—you know what is right for the story. Don’t let the despair of rejection letters be the reason you revise a story you know in your heart is written well.
Where can people find more out about you?
The main site, as I mentioned earlier, would be Author’s Den.
You can also check out my author’s page on Books In Sync:
I have recently started reviewing horror books for The Horror Review. Follow the link below and you will find a section “GEORGE’S REVIEWS”
Here is the direct Amazon purchase link for “On the Verge of Madness”:
If you prefer to purchase a signed copy, you can do so at Author’s Den.
People have said a book can change someone's life by just reading it. Do you find this is the case with books you have read?
Absolutely; I feel the same way about almost any artform--I always think about a line from the Smith's song "Rubber Ring"--"the songs that saved your life". I've felt that way about many, many books over the years, that they not only improved my life and altered its course but literally saved it.
There's so much about his work that has really seeped deeply into my consciousness. Much of it is tonal, a particular way of viewing the world. When I first read Catcher in the Rye, and then Franny and Zooey and all the others, I thought--"That's exactly it--that is how I see things, all the phonies and frauds, all the tragedies and injustices, but also all the humor and the tenderness and the love." I guess for many people--especially today, where it seems there is a bit of a backlash against his work, especially by the young--it is considered a somewhat outmoded viewpoint, or an overly adolescent one, but it isn't one that I feel I've outgrown. And actually, I hope I never do outgrow it.
Also, it isn't by accident that my lead character from Generation Dead shares the name Phoebe with Holden's little sister.
Well, I've yet to return from the dead, but life always intrudes and hopefully enriches the writing. I don't think life experience manifests in the stories as events so much, but more in the settings and especially in the characters. Many of the characters end up expressing the emotions and thoughts I carry around with me.
Didn't someone once say "putting the words in the right order'? That statement makes sense to me. Nothing else stands out as being uniformly harder or easier in the writing process; there's an ebb and flow where sometimes I love copyediting, and then I hate it, or maybe I'm having difficulty keeping track of the chronology, or small character details, but none of that ever strikes me in the "Oh man--this sure is hard!" sense. I don't mean to imply that writing a story is easy, because it isn't; I think I'm very fortunate in that I enjoy every moment of the process so much that it doesn't feel like "work" to me.
People sometimes say one of the hardest professions to be is an author. Do you find this to be true? I guess it depends on what people mean by "hard". Writing fiction is, unquestionably, a hard profession to earn a living that will support a family. If they mean "hard" in the sense of taxing, I don't think it is nearly as hard as the large majority of jobs people have. I don't find the act of writing stressful at all--actually, just the opposite, writing destroys my stress. It is certainly nowhere near as stressful as the live I lead in the business world. If "hard" in the sense of challenging, then I would say yes--it is extremely challenging. I think being a professional author is akin to being a professional athlete--not very many people can do it, and very few are so naturally gifted that they get there without hours and hours of work and practice.
I wanted to write about people, young people specifically. Zombies just happened to be the most perfect metaphorical vehicle to tell the stories I wanted to tell. They're endlessly fun and adaptable--mainly because they are us, but dead.
The series concerns teenagers who come back from the dead as zombies, but they aren't zombies whose main goal is to devour your braaaiiiiiins or feast on your entrails. They just want to fit in. But many people in our society do not want the Living Impaired (or, to be even more politically correct, the DIfferently Biotic) to fit in, and will stop at nothing to prevent them from doing so, especially when a zombie and a living girl appear to be developing feelings for each other.
Any upcoming projects you wish to tell us a bit about?
The Generation Dead series is finally being released in electronic editions, and, as the owner of a brand new e-reader, I couldn't be more thrilled. Each knew edition will also contain a brand new Generation Dead short story, which were a lot of fun to write. All three drop on March 22.
What is the one thing you can suggest to new authors based on your experience?
If your motivation for writing has something to do with a love of writing and story, or that you have an unstoppable compulsion to write stories, then in the early going, spend as much time as you can on the work itself rather than on "how to get published". If you are fortunate to get opportunities to spend time, in person or online, with other writers or publishing professionals, use those opportunities to gain insight on how to improve the work. Ask questions about process. Don't worry about the business of publishing until your work is publishable. I guarantee you will be much happier as a writing professional if you primary reward for all your work is the work itself.
If your motivations for wanting to write come out of some other place, then my particular frame of reference is unlikely to provide any useful advice for you, because all I can think to suggest is that you might be happier trying something else.
I think that’s my dad’s influence rubbing off on me. Growing up, he had a bookshelf that spanned an entire wall in the living room and it was filled with names like Herbert, Asimov, Hubbard, and Pohl. Those were the books I would always grab when I needed something to read.
What made you want to start writing?
It’s funny, until more recently I never had the desire to be a writer. About five years ago I got an idea for a novel but never seriously intended to act on it. I wasn’t until after my first daughter was born and my life kind of calmed down from the chaotic mess it was that I began to really explore the possibility. Then as it turned out, the more I wrote, the more I loved it. Now I can’t stop.
What do you feel is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, it’s dialog. I tend to stray away from it in most of my stories, a lot of which have none at all.
Do you feel music and doing graphic art work has helped with your writing in any way?
I do, music especially. I’ve been playing in bands and writing music since I can remember and I try to bring that same kind of structure to my stories. Writing music and writing stories are very similar and a good song, like a good work of prose, should have the all same base elements: beginning, conflict, climax, and resolution. Most importantly, both should convey some kind of emotion.
Based on your experience writing short stories, what do you find the most challenging and what do you find the most easiest?
The most challenging is, again, dialog. I think the easiest is coming up with ideas. It seems like every time I finish a story, I have three more waiting to be written.
What is your favorite short story you have written?
The one that comes to mind is ‘Transmissions of the Mind,’ which is about an ex-soldier sent to a distant planet on a suicide mission to wipe out a conscious collection of bacteria that has possessed the colonists there. That one was published in Short-Story.ME! Genre Fiction back in August. I think the reason it sticks out is that it’s the one in which I really started to define my own style.
Where can we find some of these short stories?
As of now, I have stories accepted in over twenty different markets. I’ve published a lot of stuff with Static Movement. Other examples of my work can be seen in M-Brane SF, With Painted Words, Weirdyear, and Prinkipria, among others. I also have work forthcoming in Liquid Imagination, Title Goes Here:, Mirror Magazine Online, Golden Visions Magazine, and The Absent Willow Review.
Could you please tell us about your novel you are working 'The Fume?'
I’m hesitant to call it post-apocalyptic, but that is definitely an element of the story. Basically, it’s the story of an escalating conflict between two groups of people who are survivors of a catastrophic event that chanced the makeup of the planets’ atmospheres, all told in an ‘other world’ setting. My short story prequel entitled
“Assisted Evolution,” which takes place roughly one hundred years before the events in the book, can be read in a webzine called Aurora Wolf.
How do you handle marketing your work?
Initially, I really just tried to get my stories submitted and hopefully published in as many quality markets as possible. I recently came to the decision to market my name more, along with my work, in my blog and on Amazon.com.
What would you suggest to someone just wanting to get their work published?
Write your story how you think it should be written and don’t worry about what others will think or what supposed rules you’re breaking. If you read through the finished product and like what you have accomplished, chances are there is an editor out there that will feel the same.
Where can people find out more about you?
I recently started a blog at: jablonskijoe.blogspot.com and I have an authors’ page on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joe-Jablonski/e/B0048SPF96/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1294601217&sr=1-2-ent
What made you want to start to write and what are your biggest influences?
The first story I remember writing was when I was about eight. Sure, the story might have superficially resembled a certain episode of Star Trek, but I assure you the similarity was purely coincidental. As far as the why of it, I wish I knew. Perhaps I could harness it, refine it, bend it to my will. I can say, I drove my parents crazy with whys and what ifs. "Why doesn't Steve Austin's arm rip off his shoulder when he lifts the car?" "What would Dorothy do if the Lion ate Toto?" I've always been full of questions and imagined twists. Writing allows me to stop asking and start answering. My biggest influences/inspirations are people who simply will not stop, whether they be my parents, my wife, or writing legends such as Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, King and Barker. The list goes on and on.
Does real life ever impact your writing, as in characters, settings or even plot?
Every time I sit down at the keyboard, whether I'm writing about time travel or zombie apocalypses. I'm an electronics technician by trade so you'll find fixers of various types scattered through my stories. I served in the US Navy for eight years, so there's no shortage of military. I'm a husband and father of four so plenty of ideas come from family situations. I also tend to write my mood, so current events play a major role. As for settings--let me give you an example. We took a cruise recently and during our last night on board, I wandered around with a camera shooting every feature and angle just so I could accurately portray the vessel when the time came to destroy it. On paper, of course. Great, now DHS is going to be breathing down my neck.
You have been in several anthologies, what do you like about the shorter form of a short story?
I have so many ideas and I really enjoy the quick gratification. I can get in, get dirty, and get back out. Then move on to the next. At this point novels scare me. So much time and energy developing a single idea! That is my dream, though.
What has been your favorite short story to write?
I can't say all of them, can I? If I had to pick just one, I'd say the first I actually sat down to with the intention of creating a piece to cast out into the world, a time travel story called "One One Thousand." I don't remember the original prompt, but I do remember my interpretation was very loose and probably why it was rejected. It did go on to win a contest, receive an honorable mention from the Hubbard people, and land squarely in Northern Frights Publishing's Timelines anthology.
What anthologies have your short stories been in?
Several. Probably best to refer you to my blog and Amazon Author's page—links below. I'm trying to keep them as current as possible.
You are starting a novel soon, what made you wish to go into a longer work and could you share a bit about it?
Yes! , I begin a science fiction-horror novel based loosely on a short story published by Living Dead Press in late 2009. The short is titled "Scrap," but I'll be changing the title for the novel if for no other reason than it contains the word "CRAP." That can't be good for sales. Writing longer works has always been my dream. I wanted to try my hand at short pieces first to see if I could handle those before tackling novel lengths. 80K-plus is pretty daunting. I hope to move primarily into novels soon, but short works will always be a passion. There's just nothing like destroying the world in 10K words or less.
Which genre do you feel more comfortable writing in?
A blend of science fiction and horror. When I set out to write one, the other inevitably creeps in.
What would you suggest to a writer who wanted to try their pen at a different genre they were not used to?
Do it! My first short stories were science fiction. That was my niche and I was going to stick with it. Then I happened to come across a call for submission for a zombie anthology. I love zombie movies, so I thought, why not? Suddenly, I'm writing zombies in space, in the old west, in nursing homes and on children's TV shows…and loving it. In this world of cross-genre writing, expanding your horizons and looking for new twists is definitely the way to go.
Some people have said writing groups have worked for them, others say they don't work. Has writing groups helped you and would you suggest them to writers to help improve their writing?
Writing groups have definitely helped me. Feedback from editors is sparse at best--they just don't have the time--so I find my groups an invaluable resource for spotting my weakness of the day, be it a gaping plot hole or overuse of a particular pet word. Knowing I have an incisive analysis coming pushes me to try a little harder to minimize the scathing (yet loving) commentary. I guess that makes me a praise-junkie. I'm currently involved with three groups. Pandora's Box is small and personal and these people have all become trusted friends. Then there's the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Lots of members and therefore less personal for the most part, but the reviews are diverse and I've met some great folks there too. The third is the Café Doom Writer's Corner. I was introduced to these finely twisted folks after the Café's Sixth Annual Short Story Competition. My advice is to seek out a group or two. See if they work for you. Everyone is different.
How do you help market your work?
So far, I've been awful at marketing. I've begun to post announcements regarding my work on Facebook, but I'm one of the quiet ones. I might post a few times a week, but certainly not the multiple times a day many people do. I have resolved to post more, take my blog seriously, give interviews whenever anyone will listen, and pester my local libraries and bookstores. Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions!
What experience could you share with a new writer just starting out?
I still feel like I'm starting out! Advice, though? Wow. The same old tired advice everyone gets. Keep writing. Keep submitting. There are amazing resources out there for matching your work to publishers. Use them. A personal experience? In 2009, after my first few shorts tanked, I dropped back into flash stories, but didn't fare any better with those. An online mag was holding a flash fiction course, so I signed up with several pieces in tow for critique. One of those pieces was already out on submission. A few weeks later—on the same day—the host magazine decided they wanted to buy the piece. And the other publisher did too. In 2009, I went on to sell a few more. In 2010, about thirty. You've just got to stick with it. And give up sleeping.
Where can people find out more about you?
Right now, I'm a pretty elusive guy, but I'm working on it. The best places to find out about me are:
Reading. I was a voracious reader as a child. I was in awe of these wonderful people who could take me away to unimaginable places. EE 'Doc' Smith, Heinlein, Asimov, and Ian Fleming were some of the key names, along with many others who have sunk into obscurity like Hugh Walters and Brian Earnshaw.
About 15 years ago I decided to have a go myself. I wrote several novels, including a 140k word epic fantasy, but nothing really to submit. Eighteen months ago I got into podcasts, which led me into writing shorts. Since then I've written many shorts and a YA novel. The support networks for writers that exist now are amazing.
What genre is your favorite to write in and why?
At the moment, I'm writing mainly SF, and that's probably because its what I am reading most at the moment. I swing back and forth between SF and Fantasy (Eddings, Feist). SF is what I remember reading first, and I've always been drawn to it. I think I drifted away and into fantasy in the 80's and 90's when SF got a bit too abstract and psychological. I prefer SF with an element of Space Opera, which seems to be coming back into fashion. Having said that, I've also tried my hand at horror and crime, but SF seems to be where I feel most at home.
You have written short stories, what is your favorite character from any of those stories?
A nine year old boy called Paulie in 'Jack In The Box'. He's smart, cheeky and adventurous. Everything I wish I had been. He's also brave. I think he's would grow up into an interesting person
Has any of your stories been published and where can we find them?
I will be appearing shortly on 'Abandoned Towers' web-zine with 'A Light Touch on the Neck', and I have acceptances for two anthologies. The first is 'Jack in the Box' which will be in the Escape Velocity anthogy from Adventure Books of Seattle, and 'Black Rose' which will be in the Monk Punk anthology from Static Movement
Have you ventured into longer works and if so how do you feel that is different than short stories?
I enjoy writing both, but they are very different skills. Shorts have no slack, no space to linger over a thought or a person. The writer has to ruthlessly excise anything that is not absolutely essential to the story. That makes it so much more difficult to give a character any solidity, or to build a sense of a location or situation, even though both are still essential.. It is a strict discipline, but a fun challenge and good experience for any writer.
With longer works there is so much more scope to explore characters and situations in more depth. You are allowed so much more opportunity to develop a plot and to control the pace of the story.
Being a part-time writer, another big difference for me is the commitment. When I write at novel length, I'm investing up to a year of my writing time. I can write a lot of short stories over that same period, obviously.
You have a YA Science Fiction novel you have written, can you tell us a bit about that?
Previously, I had never even considered writing to the YA audience. The story had been noodling around in my head asking to be written for six months or so, but every time I tried to outline it it wouldn't settle, and felt too derivative. Out of the blue, sitting in a caravan in Wiltshire, I came up with Garret, who is the lead character, and who is only fourteen. The rest of the story outlined in three days and I never wrote a first draft so easily or so quickly.
Obviously, I don't want to give too much of the plot away. Garret lives in a tiny community of only 500 people, and his universe is only six floors deep and hour's walk across. That is all his people believe exists, and Garret hates the lack of scope and variety. Then he starts to hear a voice in his head, giving him the security code to an access panel in a far corner of his world. Nobody knows what the panel is for and where it goes, but their is a folklore tale that every hundred years a hero is chosen to go on a mission, from which none have returned.
In some ways, the style is similar to D J MacHale's 'Pendragon' Series, and it is currently out playing the submissions game.
What would you tell a new writer about the world of publishing based on your experience?
That's not easy to answer. I've learned so much in the past eighteen months. And so much depends on why you are writing. Three things stick out, I guess.
Aim high, but be pramatic would be the first. By that I mean that if you have a story that you honestly believe is good enough, start by submitting it to the pro market. But if it doesn't sell there, don't retire it. The semi-pro and 'for the love' markets still get you exposure, and you will learn something from every editor you can get to talk to you.
The second is to research the market before you submit to it. By that I don't necessarily mean reading the content of the magazine first - although that's always a good idea - but check the submission guidelines and follow them. I've heard the argument that you shouldn't to make your work stand out from the crowd, but in reality it just gives the slush-pile reader a quick excuse to delete you.
Third would be to treasure any rejection you get that isn't a form. Editor are busy, and that they liked your stuff enough to respond personally is a major acheivement in itself.
How important do you feel it is to market your work and how do you market your own?
If you want any kind of career as a writer then marketing is essential. And not just marketing what you produce, but marketing yourself as well. In the current climate, many small publishers are asking for your marketing plan along with your outline and first three chapters when you make a submission. Even if you manage to land a deal with a major house, do you think they are going to invest as many marketing dollars in an unknown as they will on someone like King? Probably not.
But I feel the marketing has to be appropriate. For example, there is no point in me phoning my local paper and trying to get them interested in me selling a short story, even to the pro market. I do, however, have a blog/website, and a Facebook page, and I shall be bragging on there. Different situation if I had sold a book, even to a small press, but still not earth shattering.
That's where 'for the love' publishing comes in, like many Static Movement anthologies, and the majority of the web-based magazines. You're being paid by getting your name mentioned, hopefully with a short bio or a link to your website, and that just might get someone who doesn't know you to look up your site and find the small-press book you published.
Conventions are good, too. I did my first ever con last year (NEWCON-5) and ended up on good speaking terms with a couple of writers and an editor. I'll be going to FantasyCon 2011 this year, hoping to expand that.
What are your plans for the future, any projects on the horizon?
I'm in the process of outlining my next novel. Unfortunately, I have two ideas fighting for precedence, so it will either be a SF/Vampire story, or a SF/Fantasy fusion of a tech-regressed society.
Of the nine shorts I wrote last year, six have found homes, so while I work on the next novel I shall be working on placing them and the YA novel I finished last year.
I have to be cautious about my targets. I have a fairly demanding full-time job in the real world, so I would rather set achievable writing targets than be overly-optimistic and disappoint myself.
Where can people find more out about you?
My blog is at www.robertharkess.com, and my facebook page is Author Robert Harkess
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My first ever story, which is long dead and hopefully buried, was a Conan wanna be fantasy yarn. I can’t even remember the name but I must have been around 12 years old. I worked on it in a ratty old notebook. If I wanted to change stuff I had to cross it out and draw arrows all over the place. After that I didn’t really write much until I was in High School.
How has the Gotham Writers Workshop helped you with your writing?
I took quite a few classes there. I liked the format of the online version. We had weekly writing assignments and discussions. One of the most unique things they offered was the critiquing part. When a piece is submitted, and we had to critique two a week, the story has to sit in a virtual glass booth. The other classmates critiqued the piece and I was often left a quivering piece of writer-wannabe. I have to say that I learned more from critiquing other’s work than from reading the reviews of my own work. This remains true to this day.
As an author, how much of yourself goes into your stories?
My characters tend to be very off the wall while I am a down to earth normal Joe. I have read reviews of my work where the reviewer said something like “This writer must have issues because his character Kate likes to chop up men.” The fact is, I don’t have anything in common with my characters. They are made up figments of my imagination. Characters tend to write themselves in my books. It’s like they have the pen in hand and just guide me along.
You have written short stories, what would be the most challenging about writing short stories based on your experience?
Keeping them SHORT. I went through a phase where I did flash fiction just so I could keep the stories shorter. When I was writing a lot of shorts they would end up in the 7,000 to 10,000 word range. Well there isn’t anything short about that. Sometimes it is nice to read a short story in ten minutes and be done with it. It took me a long time to figure out a nice balance between the two.
How has Bizarro fiction been adapted into your writing style?
Not as much as I would like. I like to read bizarro but it is hard for me to write. I prefer to have characters that are a bit more logical and grounded in reality. I don’t know if I will ever try to write in the genre again it doesn’t come as naturally as I had hoped it would.
Can you tell us a bit about The Apocalypse and Satan's Glory Hole?
It’s just about the best book about the end of the world, Satan, and gloryholes ever written! So Jonathan Moon and I set out to write a short book about the end of the world and these two guys that communicate via a bunch of weird little toys. We were going to write it like a pair of blogs.
Somewhere along the way we wrote a 300+ page book about the four horsemen (as you have never seen them before) coming to Earth and losing their way amid the chaos. Jesus kicks a bunch of butt. There is a whole troop of militant lesbians … it’s an insane book.
How was it to work with Mr. Moon?
It was great. He and I tossed ideas back and forth like crazy. It was a great experience working with him. We chat almost every day even if it is just via short messages. I find Moon’s work to be dark and disturbing and I suggest readers check out his work right away.
There has been a bit of controversy about The Apocalypse and Satan's Glory Hole content and title, how do you feel about that?
I think most of the controversy was self-generated. Mr. Moon and I wanted to make it look like we were in trouble for it. See, that’s the genius of ‘us’ in action. We went for shock value with the title. The most common thing people say is “I want to read it just for the title alone” which makes me smile.
Where can we find The Apocalypse and Satan's Glory Hole?
It is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other online sites.
Can you tell us a bit about The Zombie Wilson Diaries?
This book asks the eternal question. What would a guy do if he was stuck on a deserted island with a really hot girl? I’m sure men everywhere will give you an answer. Now – what if the girl is dead. Not just dead but a zombie? The book is the chronicle of a man stuck in that very situation for thirty days. I had a lot of fun working on this book and wrote it as an online blog. My publisher really pushed me to turn it into a book and it has done very well. The book had a series of local newspaper reviews and it was even named one of the best zombie books of the year on Barnes and Noble’s website.
Where can we find The Zombie Wilson Diaries?
Head over to http://www.zombie-wilson.com to read the first 10 days. I am also working on a sequel and post new chapters as I finish them. You can purchase the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Any future projects in the works?
I do have a new series in the works but I can’t really talk about it right now. I have an offer and my agent (that is a new development!) is helping with the negotiations. As soon as I can, I will spill the beans.
How do you handle marketing your work?
Mainly social networking and conventions. I find that the cons get me in front of a lot of people and word of mouth builds around that. Plus I always see sales increases at cons. I hand out a business card to anyone that will make eye contact. Con’s have led me to meeting a lot of interesting people from crazy fans to big name writing and movie stars. At zomBcon in Seattle in October, Ted Raimi walked over to my table, shook my hand, looked at my books and we chatted a bit. You just never know who is going to stop by.
Where can people find out more about you?
I have a blog that I sadly, don’t update as much as I should. It’s at http://timothywlong.blogspot.com. I tend to hang out on Library of the Living Dead’s forum as well as the Permuted Press forum. I spent a lot of time on facebook and welcome any new friends. Facebook is quickly becoming the best way to reach people.
What made you want to start writing?
I’ve always had a love for stories. When I was a child my mother would often read to me, and I learned how to read at a very early age while my father use to make up stories to tell me before bed. I always had an active imagination as well. When I was a kid all the other kids would want to play things like Tag or some sports while I wanted to comb through the Amazon looking for a rare species of killer piranha that was terrorizing the Natives.
I was a bit of an odd child, comes from having a father who was a biologist who studied wolves. I can honestly say that I was raised with wolves. He also did comic art as a hobby while my mother was an avid reader. So I grew up around weirdness and it brewed some fantastic stories.
I always liked story telling, but as a kid I was pushed more towards science by my teachers because I was good at it. Not to mention I am dyslexic and had trouble with spelling, which at that point growing up was mostly what was taught in . It wasn’t until I reached Middle School and had Creative Writing where I had a wonderful teacher named Ms. King who showed me how wonderful writing could be.
So I started to write.
Then two things happened: I found a young adult book series by L.J Smith called “Night World” and ’s started airing and they inspired and changed me.
I’ve been writing ever since Middle School and never looked back.
What is the strangest thing you have ever written?
A fanfic that will not be named. It’s too embarrassing and I wrote it ten years ago . . . However the dang story still gets comments from fanfiction.net.
Do you let your family read your stories?
My husband is actually my proof reader/editor. Like I said, my mother is an avid reader and she’s been bugging me to write a romance novel series for years. I’m this close from cracking.
My grandmother, who hates horror, wanted to read the first real story I got published. I’m terrified to find out what she thinks of it honestly.
If you had to pick a favorite genre to write in, what would it be?
Dark I write about mystical forces hand and hand with normal people and how they deal with the modern world. I write about vampires using guns and the internet and so on and so forth. .
However I am not afraid to admit that I write erotica and romance. Honestly, the first piece of fiction I had ever published was an erotic short. It has a market and there’s nothing wrong with it. Not to mention sexuality is healthy. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it and there are all sorts of health and mental problems that occur when you deny your libido. And if reading some vampire romance novel helps you with that, then hey I’m all for it! (Hell, writing said vampire romance novel helps out my libido.)
Do you feel emotions play a part when writing a story and how much of you do you put into your writing?
Yes, my emotions play a huge part in my writing. I often joke that if I didn’t write, I’d go insane. It’s a huge stress relief.
Bad day at work?
Well there’s the Big Bad that needs to be taken out in a ferocious battle.
Not to mention there are parts of me and people I know scattered out through my characters. I have one character that I am writing a novel about who is a sociopath. He doesn’t care what people think of him and he’s also brilliant. He’ll say what’s on his mind, when it’s on his mind and to hell with the consequences.
So he’s the part of me who wants to be a raging asshole, and man there are times where it feels good to write him.
Now the heroine from my Fem-Fangs story “Night of the Suck” is a lot like my mother. Well, my mother if she was an ancient vampire who took a level in badass. So I guess my love for my mother drives the love for that character, who I’ve written about for years.
How do you compare writing fan fiction to regular fiction writing?
Honestly, writing fan fiction is a lot easier than regular fiction writing. With fan fic you have an universe already created with mythology, history and already established characters to play with. I’ve written my fair share of fan fiction in the past, even won a few awards for it, and it can be a lot of fun. However it can be good practice as well to learn structure, form and characterization.
Also with fan fiction it seems to be more of a social thing as well because most people post their stuff on line and other fans comment on it. Regular fiction writing is more internal and more of a solitary process. Of course with regular fiction writing, if published, there’s the editor reading the story and so forth as well. Not to mention most people really don’t email an author of a story in an anthology, so there’s not as much rapport with their readers as there is with fan fiction.
Now I will say that writing original fiction is more satisfying on a personal level. There is more of you going into it than a fan fic. It’s also a lot more work, but that adds to the satisfaction as well. And if you get published, then it just makes everything that much sweeter.
You have written some short stories, where can we find some of these?
Right now I’ve been published by Pill Hill Press for their anthology “Fem-Fangs” for my story, “Night of the Suck”, which you can see more here http://www.pillhillpress.com/books.html and through DFE Quarterly, which is an imprint of Pill Hill Press for their “Daily Flashes of Erotica”. My name’s even on the cover, which you can look at here http://www.pillhillpress.com/shoppe-dfequarterly.html.
How do you feel about working with the smaller presses?
I like working with small press actually. One thing you don’t have to go through the middle man of an agent, and they’re generally a lot nicer to work with. They’re writers too and understand the process. First and foremost they are in it for the love of it and not just the Bottom Line.
How do you handle marketing your work?
Honestly, right now I’m pretty new to the game. I do have a Facebook page where I put up updates and the like, and I’m part of several online communities that I constantly post to. I’ve also let the publishers know of review sites that I’ve worked with in the past, written articles and the like.
Not to mention I have friends in the horror community who do podcasts and have their own websites that get high traffic.
Once I get more stuff out there, I’ll start hitting up conventions, do local book fairs, signing events and hopefully I’ll have my own website soon.
Are there any short stories or longer writing in the works?
I have several short stories in the works. I have a weird western about a pack of werewolves terrorizing a former mining town, the succubus madam of the local brothel, a half Indian sheriff trying to cope with what he had done during the Civil War and a vampire gunslinger in the works to submit to Pill Hill. Then I have a story I’m submitting to their “Dark Heroes” anthology that I shot them the idea for starring the heroine from “Night of the Suck”.
I also have a novel in the works called “Scream Queen”. It takes place in 1986 and features the heroine from “Scream Queen” trying to see “Evil Dead 2” on opening night, but things don’t go as planned. It’s pulp fun full of 80’s nostalgia and lots of love for horror movies, movies in general, and Bruce Campbell. Then again, who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell?
Where can people learn more about you?
Well, I can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to answer questions! And you can look me up on facebook, I’m under Jennifer L. Barnes there.