I was recently going through an old file on my computer and came across this interview from December 2011. I don’t remember who conducted the interview of me, but I do know it was never posted anywhere. In any event, I thought I would dig it out and post it here. If asked a couple of these questions today, I might have given a little different of answer, but overall, it’s still pretty dead on. Enjoy.
You are obviously a huge fan of the late Richard Laymon. In your personal opinion, would you say he was the future of horror? I mean, his writing was like no other in the genre before him.
I’ve been told by fans and peers alike that a lot of my writing has a very Laymon-esque feel to it. In fact, Bryan Smith (author of Depraved, House of Blood, Freakshow, along with several others), blurbed that my novella, DININ’ (Bad Moon Books, 2012), is in the same vain. 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 uniquely scary. His plots were made of the things that could really happen, his characters were believable and the dialog he used was reminiscent of the time period when the stories took place. The horror genre lost a great human being when he passed away in 2001. I wish I would’ve been able to meet him. Although, I have gotten the opportunity 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 website. So, yes, Laymon would definitely be the one author that inspires me the most.
When was it you had your “defining moment,” when you knew you wanted to become a writer?
In early 2008 I was working for a law firm. It paid the bills, but wasn’t all that exciting of work. I had also just read Offspring by Jack Ketchum and Cuts by Richard Laymon. One day I was sitting at my desk and thought “hey, I can write some sick stuff too” and away I went to pound out 100k words in exactly three months. Looking back it wasn’t very good writing, but that’s where I got my start. I’ve always loved the horror movies from the 1980s and after reading a few modern horror novels away I went into the great unknown.
Has it been difficult to write within a genre that has already been written in so many different ways and still keep it fresh?
Let’s face facts here. It’s not easy to come up with an original idea. Now, that doesn’t mean that the plot of the story itself is a rehash of the same old stuff that’s been done to death. No. Instead, it means that when starting a new story, the writer needs to find a unique component to exploit. Whether that is; their vampire has red, spiky hair and no fangs or a hairless werewolf. Who knows? You didn’t think I’d give away any of my future ideas, did you? Anyway, back to your question – is it difficult to keep it fresh? Hummm… Personally, no. But, that also might be because I don’t sit at the keyboard and just wait till a new idea comes to me. I’m not that type of writer. My ideas are usually spurred from something I read in the newspaper, hear on the news or see in the world around me. I then take that upsetting (or happy) event and turn it upside down. Twist it this way and that. I make it my bitch. To do my bidding. I order it to appear on the page like I want it to.
What is your overall impression of the horror genre right now?
I think it is alive and kickin’! All you have to do is turn on primetime television, a cable channel or visit your local movie theatre to see horror is creeping its way into our lives in different ways. Mix in the explosion of small press publishers that specialize in horror, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some good ol’ fashion fun. Horror (whether in the movies or books) has always had its ups and downs. The first tales told around the campfire were of the horror variety. If it was around then, before modern technology, it’ll be there in the future as well. Besides, it’s hard to kill off something that consists of stories about things that are already dead.
What’s a typical writing day like for you? Is there any certain process or ritual you go through to prepare yourself? Any certain mindset you place yourself in before tapping the keys?
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 to not find at least a hour each day to write” let me explain. Besides having a fulltime “day job” I have the same general life duties as everyone else. So do I write or edit every single day? No. But, yes, I 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. It really just depends on the deadline that I’m given.
As far as the process behind the madness, there really isn’t any. Well, that’s not entirely true. First, wherever I’m writing needs to be fairly quiet. I know a lot of writers that rock out their stories to music, but I’ve just never been able to do that. Next, I’ll read the last chapter I completed the day before. That tends to get me back into the flow of the story. Then I just start typing. There’s no better feeling than when you get “in the zone” and totally lose track of time and your surroundings. The next thing you know, its a few hours later and you’ve just written a couple thousand words. Love when that happens!
Do you think you put a new spin on a tiring genre with a particular book? A plot that made the reader say, “Wow…that was different!”
The Fields (Apex Publications, December 2011) was anything but typical. I had always wanted to try my hand at writing a zombie story, but didn’t want to just re-hash the “zombies are coming, we better blow their heads off” type story. No. I wanted something different, deeper, more thought provoking. 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 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 crazed zombie running around trying to find their next hot, skull-full of brains to munch down upon.
Any last words for the aspiring horror author?
I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to have a mentor in the very beginning. I’ve gotten where I am 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 climb out of the trenches, are always learning and adapting. I’d be amiss to say that many writers predicted 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, go out and start learning the business side. Believe me when I say, you can’t make it in the publishing world without a strong understanding of both things. Then go 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.