Ty SCHWAMBERGER: “The need to be scared is already deep inside you, wanting to escape”

Ty Schwamberger is an award-winning author & editor in the horror genre. He is the author of a novel (Deep Dark Woods), multiple novellas (The Killing Club, 2013, Grave Intentions, 2012, DININ, 2012 etc.), collections (For After Midnight, 2011, A Warped 6yh Grade Mind, 2012) and editor on several anthologies (Dark Things II, 2010, Fell Beasts, 2011 etc.). In addition, he’s had many short stories published online and in print. Three stories, “Cake Batter” (released in 2010), ”House Call” (released in June 2013) and DININ’ (optioned in July 2013), have been optioned for film adaptation. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com.

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Mircea PRICĂJAN: When did you start to write and what made you approach the horror genre?

Ty SCHWAMBERGER: I was born in 1977, so I was a child of the 80s slasher films (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, etc). Fortunately, my parents were pretty lax with my viewing material, so I grew up watching these modern classics. I actually wrote my first horror story in 6th grade. In fact, it was the basis for a short story called “In The Woods” which is part of my short story collection, For After Midnight. This short story then turned into the prologue and epilogue for my novel, Deep Dark Woods, which is being released early 2014 by UK-based, Crowded Quarantine Publications.

But that’s jumping a little ahead of your question.

While I continued to watch horror movies, I didn’t start reading or writing the stuff till early 2008. It was right after reading Offspring by Jack Ketchum and Cuts by Richard Laymon (who is my favorite author, btw) that I said to myself, “Hey, I can write some sick stuff too!” Away I went to pound out 100k words in exactly three months. Looking back, it wasn’t very good writing, but that’s where it all began. Fast forward five years and I’ve had released over 10 books, audio books, films based on my work, non-fiction articles, short stories, etc. It’s been one helluva ride, but I’m only getting warmed up.

M.P.: What kind of horror do you favor, both as a reader and as a writer?

T.S.: I mentioned Richard Laymon is my literary idol. His style is the one I enjoy reading the most. There are, of course, countless other authors I enjoy, but his stories have always been my favorite. Many folks have compared by writing to his. That’s purely accidental. I never set out to write like him. It just came out that way. It’s a humbling comparison that still blows my mind.

M.P.: What do you think is, now, the most neglected theme in the field of horror?

T.S.: Funny enough, I was just speaking with a publisher a few weeks ago about this. He mentioned that there aren’t enough mummy stories out there. I thought about it for a bit, then agreed with him.  It lead to signing a two-book deal, one, of which, will be a mummy novella. The official announcement should be made shortly.

M.P.: What gives you more satisfaction while writing: the short story, the novella, or the novel?

T.S.: This is really a three-pronged question. 1) What should aspiring authors start with first? 2) What is my favorite to write? and 3) What length will further one’s career the most?

I’ll answer these in order:

1) As I mentioned, my first piece of writing was a novel. It was long and not very well written. My next piece of fiction was a short story. I sort of went in reverse with my belief that a beginning writer should start with a shorter work, then expand into something longer, once they’ve started to get the hang of writing effectively.

3) Here’s the real kicker. Some writers like short stories, some like novellas. But the real answer of the hour is, especially if you want to write full-time, is you HAVE to write novels. A novel will potentially get you a higher advance, better royalties and bought by a higher number of readers. It may take longer to write a novel but getting paid more for your time is definitely better than what you’ll receive for a novella or short story. It really comes down to writing for the pure enjoyment of the craft or if you’re trying to make a career out of it.2) I enjoy writing novellas the most. They’re short enough that it doesn’t take a very long time to write, but still can contain all the elements of a longer work, just not as detailed and fleshed out as novel length.

M.P.: Some of your works have been optioned for film. Please tell us a few words about how this happened. What stage are these projects in? I know that some have already come out.

T.S.: So far, three have been optioned, two released straight to DVD. The first was a short story entitled “Cake Batter” which was adapted into a short film and released in early 2010. This tale is about a wife’s revenge on her supposedly cheating husband. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. The next was my novella “House Call” which was released earlier this year. This is a feature-length film about a couple kids home alone and the terror they endure when two bad men break into their house. There’s a nice twist ending to this one. The third that’s been optioned is my Bad Moon Books novella “DININ’”. This was just picked up by Cinder Path Productions a few months ago. If all goes well, filming should begin in 2014.

Film adaptation and book publishing are two totally different worlds. I’m still learning how the film side works.

M.P.: You have also edited horror anthologies. Tell us, please, something about this process. Are you planning on doing some other in the future?

T.S.: In early 2010 a publisher approached me and asked if I had ever considered editing an anthology. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, then did three more after that. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the same folks who I enjoy reading. However, writing and editing are two totally different hats. When writing, all you have to worry about is your own stuff. But, when editing, you have to ensure someone else’s work really shines. That’s pressure right there. Being an editor also comes with dealing with contracts, and sometimes even payment inquiries from contributors, which can be difficult for both parties. My last anthology came out in late 2012. I did have another planned after that with some REALLY great talent, but the publisher went under and I couldn’t get it picked up elsewhere.

As far as editing another anthology in the future… I’ll never say never, but the situation would have to be pretty perfect for me to throw my hat in that ring again anytime soon.

M.P.: Which do you think are the main markets for horror around the globe?

T.S.: Three countries come to mind that love their horror: United States, Great Britain and Japan. If you look back through the years up to present day, you’ll notice these fans can’t get enough of the macabre. Australia, believe it or not, has a good horror following. So does Germany. I’m not sure if it’s a society thing, that some cultures don’t like scary things, or that it just hasn’t spread to other regions yet… Yet being the key word. I think the majority of people like to be scared. In a safe way, of course.

M.P.: In Romania, horror literature is still perceived as something weird. Do you think that the appetite for the macabre is inbred, something passed on from generation to generation, or it can be cultivated, gained? Are some cultures drawn to the dark side of things more than others?

T.S.: I find this fascinating. Especially since Romania is the birthplace of arguably the most popular monster of all time, Dracula. Having said that, I’m sure society as a whole has something to do with it, what’s more acceptable to some, might be taboo to others. However, as I mentioned above, I think, at least to some degree, that people like to be scared. They like to feel afraid, but be assured that nothing bad will actually happen to them. Perhaps introducing the right sub-genre (vampires, zombies, slashers, thriller, whatever) to a place would work. Something the people can relate to in some way. A tale the reader can really sink their mind and teeth into…one that doesn’t bite back!

M.P.: In our current issue, Romanian readers have the opportunity to read one of your stories, “One Brew Too Many?” What can you tell us about this story?

T.S.: I like taking a normal setting and twist it around to something scary. My short story “One Brew Too Many?” is a perfect example. You have a teenage girl that’s having fun drinking with a couple of her closest friends. They’re talking about the normal stuff; who’s popular in high school, teachers, grades, boys, etc. But as the subject of boys comes up, the main character knows she has to tell her friends, and eventually her parents, the secret she’s been hiding. Shortly after telling her friends what’s going on in her life she jumps in the car and drives home. That’s when things really start to take a turn for the worst. She’s being followed by another car and the secret she’s been hiding is about to become her ultimate nightmare.

M.P.: A final word to those who are still skeptical about what horror literature is and means.

T.S.: If you look up ‘horror’ (a noun) in a dictionary, you’ll find something similar to the following – an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror (I particularly like the dictionary’s example of something horrific).

But, I think horror, true horror, is something that is embedded deep within the human psyche and can be different from person to person depending on past experiences you’ve gone through.  This also explains why some people like watching or reading scary stuff, while some do not.

Let me explain.

I think, at least to some degree, that all people like to be scared. It is just part of human nature. Have you personally or ever notice someone cover their eyes when watching a scary scene in a movie? Sure you have. These people act like they don’t want to see what is happening, but are still looking through the spaces in between their fingers. Some people say we, as humans, are inherently good.  Overall, I believe that is true.  But, at the same time we all have a ‘bad’ side. It is that bad side that comes out when we watch the news or almost marvel at the destruction that some mad man just caused on the highway or in someone’s living room. If we didn’t like hearing about other people’s misfortunes we would turn off the news, press the off button on the DVD player or put down the book. But…we don’t. Instead we just shake our heads and think (and never or rarely ever say out loud) “I am so glad that it didn’t happen to me.”

Personally, I like writing scary stuff simply because that is what I have always been into (I grew up watching the slasher films from the 1980’s). I like how a horror writer can make pretty much anything into something scary.

Simply put: Don’t be afraid of horror books and films, because the need to be scared is already deep inside you, wanting to escape. So you might as well give in to these secret desires. Who knows, you might just find something you enjoy… a lot!

M.P.: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I wish you best of luck with all future projects. Maybe someday Romanian readers will find your books translated in their native language also. Fingers crossed on that.

T.S.: Thanks much for the interview. It was fun!

Despre Mircea PRICĂJAN

Mircea PRICĂJAN a scris 74 articole în Revista de suspans.

Născut la 2 septembrie 1980, Oradea; absolvit Facultatea de Litere, Universitatea Oradea – promoţia 2003, cu o teză despre Stephen King; masterat „Literatura română în context universal”, Facultatea de Litere, Oradea, cu o disertaţie despre literatura fantastică – 2004; în 2002, la Editura Universităţii din Oradea, apare romanul în 2 volume În umbra deasă a realităţii; articole, recenzii, interviuri, proză scurtă, traduceri din limba engleză în mai multe reviste din ţară (Familia, Vatra, Tribuna, Observator cultural, Orizont, Ziarul de duminică, Dilema, Prăvălia culturală, Luceafărul, Flacăra, Lettre Internationale, Respiro etc.) şi străinătate (Taj Mahal Review, Double Dare Press, Distant Worlds, Muse Apprentice Guild, SFFWorld etc.); tradus în jur de 50 de cărţi din limba engleză, apărute la editurile Aquila ’93, Millennium Press, Tritonic, Nemira, RAO, Polirom, Humanitas, Curtea Veche, All, Art, Trei. A fost redactor de carte la editura Curtea Veche. A fost editor-colaborator la revista FLACĂRA. A condus în intervalul 2003-2004 revista electronică IMAGIKON cu apariţie în limba engleză. Între 2010 şi 2012, a fost redactor-şef al revistei on-line SUSPANS. Din 2003, este redactor la revista de cultură FAMILIA. Din 2012, este editor al REVISTEI DE SUSPANS.

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