The below interview originally appeared in UK-based Tales of Obscenity Magazine (Issue 1) in April of this year. It was the same issue that featured my novelette, “Suck On This, Bitch!”, an article co-written with my wife, as well as a review by Sheri White of my novella DININ’. It was one helluva issue. (You can still pick it up on Amazon.) In any event, I got permission from SST Publications’ owner, Paul Fry, to share the below interview with all of you. Hope you enjoy.
INTERVIEW OF TY SCHWAMBERGER
BY JOHN EVERSON
I’ve never met Ty Schwamberger, but at the same time, I’ve known him for years. Ty blew into the horror genre like a Gulf storm, “Ty-ing up the genre” with a rapid-fire series of stories, novellas, anthologies and columns. In just four years he’s become a name in more than just his own household, and already has had a couple of his tales optioned for film adaptation. Visit his website for the up-to-the-minute scoop at: http://tyschwamberger.com. I caught up with him at the end of 2012 (still virtually!) and got a few answers that I hope will convince you to delve farther into the work of this naturally horrific force:
JOHN EVERSON: At book signings, when bookstore browsers run into a horror author, they frequently ask: “What draws you to write about ‘the dark’?” Some people ask, because they assume you must be a little psycho yourself to write this stuff. And others simply ask because they want to know what secrets drive the authors who come up with the twists and turns they love. So I think it’s a good question to start with—what is it about the dark that calls to you?
TY SCHWAMBERGER: I’ve had the pleasure of answering this question quite a few times over the years. I was fortunate to have parents that were pretty lax in my viewing material while growing up. I was a child of the 80’s so I enjoyed Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and the like. I’ve always enjoyed a good slasher flick. That’s the background of it, where my love of the horror genre came from. The reality of it, and I’ve said this many times in the past, is that writing in my chosen genre is no worse than watching the news about a true event where something horrific happened in the world around us. Some folks tend to think horror writers are strange birds, and shouldn’t write about disgusting things. Interesting enough, these same people read columns in the newspaper or watch the news or true life TV programs where bad things happened to real people, not just a made up story by a (horror) fiction author. But I digress. I’ve always enjoyed watching and reading horror. It gets the imagination flowing and the blood pumping. It’s a rush. Something you know could likely happen in the real world, but has been safely confined to a piece of paper or inside the TV screen.
JE: I can’t imagine ever being allowed to see Chainsaw by my parents as a kid, though I do remember being at a sleepover and seeing one of the Friday the 13th movies on HBO! Is the slasher / giallo genre your favorite subgenre of horror? If so, what is the pinnacle for you there? And if not . . . what other horror subgenres get your blood pumping?
TS: To watch, I’d say it’s still a slasher flick. However, most of my own stuff is more in the survival subgenre. However, I truly do enjoy watching and reading a wide range of stuff. A lot of folks say if you want to be a good writer you need to read in a variety of genres. Eh, I don’t know if I totally buy it. I think you can pull “experiences” contained in other genres relatively easy from your own life and the world around you. But that’s just my humble opinion.
JE: You started your career straddling the line between short horror fiction and non-fiction, first penning reviews and then writing a column about horror. Which came first, the author or the horror scholar/journalist? And have you moved away from writing about the genre as you have begun to write within it?
TS: When I started writing, I didn’t have a mentor. I had to learn the business as I went along. I think there are positives and negatives of going this (unchosen) route. Not having a mentor forces you to learn the business side of writing, but having one might make things a little bit easier in the beginning. There are pros and cons to both sides of the discussion. In short, I used to write reviews namely because I enjoyed reading, then started the column on Hellnotes, “Ty-ing Up the Genre” (which included your article, John, “Why Do You Wanna Write Horror,” in August 2010) which discussed writing and publishing in the horror genre. That monthly column ended in April 2011. I then went on to write a few articles for Morpheus Tales magazine, which concluded in July of 2011. Since then, I’ve answered a few interview questions about writing and publishing, but haven’t really written another article until, “Opposites Attract: Different opinions of sex in the horror genre” (co-written with my fiancée), which actually appears in the same issue you’re holding in your hands right now. In short, I really started writing fiction and non-fiction around the same time. I enjoy doing both.
JE: You edited a handful of horror anthologies (including Relics & Remains and Fell Beasts—which include stories of mine, thanks!) before you sold your first novella or novel. Why did you decide to focus on being an editor first, and an author later?
TS: My role as an author/editor really happened about the same time. I wrote a few stories before the first opportunity to edit an anthology came about. However, since getting something published is often a slow process, a few anthologies came out before my fiction really started to get out there. I still toggle between being an author and editor. I try to be as diversified as possible in this business. It’s the only way to go.
JE: You’ve written a handful of novellas, including Dinin’ from one of my own publishers, Bad Moon Books. The novella as a literary form has had an up-and-down history; for a while, magazines would run them as serials, and there were a few that had the space to run them in a single issue. But for a long time, it seemed as if there were very few markets for a story of that size—longer than a short story but not long enough to be a novel. What drew you to work in this form, which seems to have been making a comeback of late, especially with the growth in popularity of eBooks (where the odd size isn’t a problem)?
TS: Novellas are definitely my favorite length to write. They’re short enough where you can write quite a few of them in a short period of time, but still long enough to develop a good story arc and depth of the characters. I’ve also personally found; it’s a helluva lot easier to get a novella pitch accepted by a publisher than them taking a chance on signing a contract for a novel length manuscript, which is more costly for them to edit and release.
JE: I’ve always been more of a “short, sharp story” or “let me live in the world for a long while novel” kind of reader. Are there some novellas that you’d point to as “perfection in the horror form?”
TS: Shit! You’re really putting me on the spot! I do enjoy novellas, but for the most part stick to reading novels. Although, there are a few folks’ shorter work that I do always enjoy: Joe McKinney, John R. Little, Gene O’Neill and Lisa Morton, to name a few.
JE: Left of Center Question: If you could have dinner with a real vampire, werewolf, or zombie, which would you choose, and why?
TS: Vampire. At least they wouldn’t be drooling all over the place, or rotting away at the dinner table, while trying to enjoy a nice rare steak and a glass of red wine.
JE: Your first novel, Deep Dark Woods, is coming out this spring. Can you tell us a little about what the novel is about, and how you came to write it?
TS: DDW is a character driven creature story. As the title suggests, it takes place in the woods, and has a blood thirsty monster running amok, but really focuses on the character’s relationships with one another and how they cope with being chased by a blood thirsty beast. Though I’m not going to say what kind of monster it is, folks will likely be able to decipher what it is, shortly after the story begins. However, as with a majority of my stuff, this monster has more on his mind than just hunting and eating its victims.
JE: Your monster doesn’t have a relationship with the Blair Witch, does it? Because she hung out in the woods a lot . . .
TS: Hehe . . . Ya know, this is probably as good of time as any to unveil the description on the back cover:
Jake thought a camping trip to the Southpoint Campsite would be a great way to reconnect with his wife, Samantha and daughter, Alexis. But when Jake mysteriously disappeared after going to fetch some firewood, Sam and Alexis were left alone to search the dark woods for their loving husband and father.
Four college friends were on their way to spend a weekend in the woods for a college research project, and perhaps a little partying. But as they neared the destination, they were run off the road by another car, where one is killed on impact. Now the remaining friends must find a way back to the safe confines of their school.
Park Ranger Carl Stevens had been on the job for eight long years, through good times and bad. One day, his normally boring life is turned upside down when he almost hits a young girl, who’s running out of the woods and into the middle of the road. Unfortunately, that’s the least of his worries after hearing what she’s been running from.
Can an everyday Park Ranger save the girl and everyone else they encounter?
Because not everyone can survive what’s lurking inside the deep dark woods.
JE: Frequently authors are driven to explore the fictional tales they tell due to certain things in their lives that really helped form who they are or influenced their worldviews. This can lead the author to create stories that all deal with some comparable themes or life issues. Is there a certain theme that you find yourself dealing with repeatedly in your work?
TS: Honestly, I’ve never really thought about it. But, sitting here and thinking about it, I suppose there is the common theme of betrayal that runs through a vast majority of my fiction. I’m not sure where that comes from or if it’s just a great theme that draws readers into a story. Although, I can say, the main character who’s in my short story, “Suck on This, Bitch!” that just so happens to appear in this same issue of Tales of Obscenity, was derived from a former boss of mine. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for her. (Insert evil laugh here.)
JE: Okay, Left of Center Question #2: If you were going to be dropped on a desert island that miraculously had electrical outlets and an entertainment system, what CDs and movies would you take to live with . . . for the rest of your life . . . and why?
TS: A Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction CD and a Walt Disney Cinderella DVD. This may seem like an odd combination, but the CD contains my little one’s favorite father-and-daughter song, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Cinderella, because, well, my daughter is daddy’s little princess. Having these two items I could then always imagine she’s listening or watching the same thing as I am at that particular moment. Horror writers aren’t always about violence and gore!
JE: You’ve had a couple of your stories draw film interest. Can you talk about the process of seeing your thoughts-that-became-words-on-a-page become films?
TS: It’s pretty damn cool. My short story, “Cake Batter” was adapted into a short film and came out on DVD in 2010. I also have my unpublished novella House Call which was adapted then filmed in the summer of 2012. This feature-length film will come out on DVD early 2013. I’d love to see Dinin’ get made into a movie, and while I’ve had some discussions with a few film makers about it, there’s nothing concrete about it happening quite yet. With the little exposure I’d had to it, the film industry is vastly different than the publishing world, and one I find fairly confusing. But, I’m learning. We’ll see what the future holds.
JE: What is “next” from Ty for readers is Deep Dark Woods . . . but what is after that? What are you working on now?
TS: I just started working on some notes for a new psychological thriller. Ideally, it’ll be of novel length. We’ll see. It centers on the spirit of a long-dead inmate of Alcatraz who’s trapped inside an almost-fatally injured family man.
JE: Left of Center Finale: If you could choose who you were going to be trapped with in an elevator on the 13th floor of a New York high rise for a night . . . who would it be, and why? And remember, this can be anyone from Jenna Jameson to Dario Argento to Clive Barker!
TS: My fiancée. (Note: she’s sitting next to me right now.) (Update: Sheryl & Ty were married on June 15th, 2013.)
JE: I think that’s what they call a “cheat ending” . . . but we’ll let you skate this time. Even if you didn’t answer why. But she is your fiancée, so I s’pose we could take a pretty educated guess. Hopefully she won’t pull a knife on you in the elevator. Because then you might not survive to tell the story . . . Congratulations, and keep the scares coming.
TS: Thanks for the questions, John. I had a lot of fun with them!
John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of six erotic horror novels, including Covenant, Sacrifice, Siren and his most recent, NightWhere. When he’s not watching Jean Rollin and Dario Argento movies, he experiments with culinary jalapeno abuse and occasionally writes more dark stories of his own. To catch up on his books, music and art, visit johneverson.com.