Ladies and gentlemen, bogarts and ghouls (yes, I went there), today I’ve had the marvelous opportunity to host THREE QUESTIONS with The Zombie Feed’s Editor-in-Chief Ty Schwamberger. Mr. Schwamberger has just come out with his new zombie novella, THE FIELDS. Per the press release:
Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family’s tobacco fields – and beat slaves – by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bringing wild ideas. He can help Billy save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory…by raising his father’s slaves from the dead.
Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm? Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn’t? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death?
Billy’s conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner’s son?
1. The Writing Question: What published story of yours was the most difficult to write, or the most difficult to sell?
I’ll start by saying this: I’ve been extremely fortunate and lucky – fortunate, because for whatever reason I’ve always been good at “pitching” projects to prospective publishers, and lucky, well, I think everyone needs a bit of luck at one time or another in this business. Some people don’t believe this when I tell them, especially with 4 books, 1 short film, and several short stories and articles already out there, but I didn’t start writing until early 2008. In fact, the first two “horror” authors I read that got me into writing were Jack Ketchum and (this won’t surprise a lot of folks) Richard Laymon. After those two novels, I just sat down, not knowing what the hell I was doing, and started pounding away at the keyboard. Three months and 100,000 (awful) words later my first novel was finished (and subsequently published, but I don’t talk about that one). After that, I just kept going. After THE FIELDS, there will be 6 additional books (novellas, a collection, anthologies I’m Editor on), a few short stories and 1 feature-length film that is currently in pre-production (there’s a few additional things in the works, but I can’t talk about them quite yet). And that’s all before the end of 2012. So, you can see, I really pushed myself in the beginning. Hell, I still do. Ok, that was a long ramble to one part of the question… In short, I don’t think I’d classify any one book as a “difficult” sell to a publisher. The publishing world is generally a slow-moving machine. That’s just the way it is. You have to keep forging ahead, blazing new trails, and never, ever, give up.
As for THE FIELDS… Jason Sizemore (owner of Apex Publications) and I met a few years ago at a convention. I quickly grew to love the catalog of quality books he was putting out, and ever since I have been trying to pitch something to him. Before writing THE FIELDS, I had always enjoyed zombie movies and books, but I didn’t want to just rehash the same stuff that’s already been put out there a ton of times. I wanted something different. Unique. Something that’s never been done before. So, it was around this time last year that I came up with the idea to write a zombie story, but place the “characters” in the middle 1800s. The middle 1800s, you ask? Yup, you got it. What could be more exciting than former slaves rising from the dead hellbent on getting back at the same people that made their lives a living hell. BUT, I didn’t want the story to be just about revenge. Oh no. I wanted something deeper. A lot deeper. I think Jonathan Maberry, whom wrote the introduction to the novella said it best: “It’s 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. The Fields is a morality tale. With zombies.
I’m extremely excited that it’s finally seeing the light of day…and I think folks are going to be pleasantly surprised they’ll get a lot more out of the book than just brain munching fun!
2. The Horror Question: Blood and gore: scary or not scary?
It depends. Is it integral to the story? Or is the writer just going for the gross out factor? Personally, I enjoy (if “enjoy” is the right word to use) a little slice n’ dice. But, again, it all depends on the plot. Back in the horror hay day of the 1980s, slasher films were almost always putting three common elements into each movie: action, gore and sex. When I first started writing (specifically, my first novel), that’s pretty much all there was. Well, that, and perhaps a little plot on the side. But, growing as a writer over the years, I’ve learned more about the business, what does and doesn’t sell, and subsequently toned down the sexual content in my stories (unless I’m contracted to write about it, of course…then money talks and bull–)…
Anyway. Back to gore…
For instance, THE FIELDS, has very little gore. Yes, there is some (you can’t write about zombies without mentioning their rotting skin or need for eating the living, right?), but not very much. As I mentioned before, I wanted THE FIELDS to be different. Very different. I wanted the reader to get more out of it than the brain-blasting, undead fun many of us enjoy. I think THE FIELDS is very scary, because the “zombies” in the story represent something a helluva lot worse than an ambling horde coming after you. It talks about racism, a young man’s love and respect for his father – even though he knows his father was wrong for treating the slaves like he did – and just how much one is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of man.
3. The Oddball Question: Barring family photo albums, religious books, cookbooks, etc.: If you could save only one book from your house because a blob monster was about to absorb it into its massive jelly-like girth, what book would you grab?
“The Bible” aka A Writer’s Tale by Richard Laymon. I’m fortunate enough to own a copy, and would throw a tray-full of ice cubes at a blob monster to slow it down long enough, so I could run and grab the book. EVERY aspiring author should do whatever they can to find a copy and give it a read. But, don’t ask to borrow mine, or you might just get bitch slapped.
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. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com.