on Feb .17, 2015
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WHEN WORN-OUT MUSICIAN DAN FERRY decides to take a shortcut back to the band's hotel, he picks the wrong dark alley to go down. Within days of being attacked by a bat-like creature, he becomes consumed with the need to drink human blood. Terrified of what will happen if he doesn't get his fix--and terrified of what he'll do to get it--he turns to his best friend and bandmate, Ray Ford, for help. But what the two don't know as they try to keep Dan's situation quiet is that the parasite driving Dan's addiction has the potential to wipe out humankind.
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CR: Are you a planner or an organic writer?
ZR: I often put together a synopsis of what I think the story’s going to be before I start writing it, basically telling myself the bones of it along with any little details I don’t want to forget. Not that that’s necessarily how the story turns out, but it gives me something to work with. It would be nice if planning, for me, cut down on the amount of revisions, but no. It just makes it easier for me to get going on the story. So maybe I’m a planner who does planning wrong, or maybe I’m just an unrepentant tinkerer.
Now, I used to do this all in my head—when I wrote the first draft of Suckers back in 2007, I thought up the synopsis and just referred back to the mental plan as I worked on it. I didn’t end up writing all the scenes for that draft then: November—and NaNoWriMo—came to an end, I had my 50,000 words, and I moved on to other things. It was another six years before I pulled it out and finished the story, and I still had the whole plan in my head!
I could probably still do that with stories today, but why risk it? Evernote is free.
CR: Do you use other forms of art/music as inspiration for writing?
ZR: If I do, it’s not consciously. I’m not consciously trying not to take inspiration from art/music either. I just don’t think about it one way or another. I do listen to music a lot; about half the time when I’m writing I have headphones on or a record going, depending on how clear or scattered my brain is on a given day. I love music. I’m just not aware of any of it inspiring my writing.
I have, on the other hand, been inspired by musicians and other artists as far as I how treat my work and my career. There are creative people who are kind of a touchstone for me when I’m struggling with a decision or when I feel like I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. It’s not so much that I try to emulate them; they’re just a reminder of where I want to be grounded. If that makes any sense…
CR: Are there genres or types of stories that you feel more drawn to tell? Why do you think you are drawn to those?
ZR: I’ve always been drawn to male relationships—any kind of male relationship: platonic, familial, romantic, mentor/mentee, collegial, competitive, adversarial, etc. So I explore that a lot in my writing. My husband worries people will think I’m a one-trick pony—“Why don’t you write about a relationship between a man and a woman sometimes?” But you know what? Lots of people write about that. Let them. I write what intrigues me. And it’s what intrigues me as a reader too. Some of my favorite books are about relationships between men: William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold (friends), Christopher Priest’s The Prestige (competitors), Thomas Mullen’s The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers (brothers, obviously), Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove books (colleagues), Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist series (mentor/mentee), James Smythe’s The Echo (twin brothers), just to name a few off the top of my head.
For genres, I lean toward horror. Maybe that’s a “write what you know” thing. I grew up in the 70s/80s horror boom, and we always had mass market horror paperbacks around the house. We also had an old set of little Poe books my parents got at an auction when they were young and broke. My mom used to read me bedtime stories from those. So horror’s comfortable and familiar, which makes it a nice framework for exploring the other things I want to explore.
CR: What is one genre that you don’t think you could write, and why?
ZR: Historical because I’d be so anxious about getting the details right. The 1970s are about as “historical” as I feel comfortable getting, but that’s because I partly remember that time period, and anything I’ve forgotten, I can double-check with my husband, family, or friends. (Especially my husband, whose memory for the 1970s is amazing. The 1980s are a big fuzz for him, but the ’70s are crystal clear.)
I’m a little insecure about science fiction too because, again…I’m terrified I’ll screw it up, and I don’t want to disappoint fans of science fiction stories. I do have an idea for one, though. It riffs off The Deerhunter in the sense that three friends are caught up in an uprising on a foreign planet, they become separated, and they have completely different experiences that change them—and their relationships to each other—in very different ways. Maybe someday…
CR: Do you utilize writing tools, such as scrivener, or do you go old school and use MS-DOS like George R.R. Martin?
ZR: I have Scrivener. In fact, I switched to Mac back in 2008 just because I wanted Scrivener so badly, and it wasn’t available for Windows. I call it the most expensive piece of software I’ve ever bought. I still use Macs, but I hardly ever use Scrivener. I just—it does so much, and it’s really cool, but I’m never able to settle into the interface comfortably for some reason. So I use Microsoft Word for the writing and Evernote for organizing my notes. Every now and then, if I’m having a hard time with a project, I’ll bring it into Scrivener just for the change of scenery, but it only ever lasts one draft, at most.
CR: Is there an author, alive or dead, that you would love to collaborate on a book with? Why do you think you would be a good fit together?
ZR: I would be a terrible person to collaborate with. I have no patience, I have control issues…I wouldn’t wish me on any author, alive or dead.
CR: What are you reading right now?
ZR: Skylights by Luther M. Siler, though I’ve only just barely started it. I’m also listening to the audiobook of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. The narrators are great.
CR: Do you read in the genre that you write in? If you do read it, do you think it helps or hurts your own story?
ZR: I read any genre, and I read whatever I’m in the mood for at any given time, so I can wind up reading a horror novel while I’m writing horror. It doesn’t bother me. Reading always helps my writing in one way or another.
I do try to stay away from books that might come a little too close to what I’m doing. Like I got Stephen King’s Revival in early December, but at the time I was working on the final draft of a manuscript that features a rock guitarist in the 1970s. Revival’s main character is a rock guitarist, and the story takes place from the 1960s (when his character’s a kid) onward. I wouldn’t crack it open until I finished my book. They’re not anything alike, but I didn’t want to risk second-thinking how I handled my character just because I was reading how King handled his, you know?
CR: Do you read books based on fan recommendations? How do YOU choose what to read next?
ZR:Choosing what to read next is so stressful! Back when it was paper books, there were only so many hanging around the house at a given time, especially when I was younger and didn’t have much of a book budget. Now I’ve got an e-library crammed with books, and I add more all the time. I almost hate finishing a book because it means I’ll have to go through the whole, “Oh my effin’ god which am I going to read now?” thing again. Do other people have that problem where they’re like, “Okay, this book. This is the one I’m going to read,” and then halfway down the second page this voice is going, Maybe you should have picked the other one. I wonder if you’d be enjoying it more. I wonder what’s happening on the second page of that book? Or is that just my neurosis? I wish I were a faster reader, because I think that would alleviate a lot of the problem. I could find out if the other book would have been better tomorrow instead of two weeks from now, you know?
CR: What are your reading pet peeves? (Things like: over used words, and phrases. Lack of research, infinite ammo, or lack of editing.)
ZR:Have I mentioned I don’t have a lot of patience? Don’t get me wrong: I love to really sink into a story and its world. But wordiness that adds nothing to the reading experience—wordiness that’s just a failing on the author’s part to go over the story one or two more times to trim the flab. I won’t get past page two of the book. I just can’t. My internal editor kicks on, and suddenly I’m not in the story; I’m revising it.
I also need to be engaged. I need to make connections, draw conclusions, bounce a little in my seat as I think I’ve figured something out and speed forward to see if I’m right. Not just mysteries—any story. Every story is full of all kinds of mysteries, but a lot of books…the mystery has been written right out of them. Everything’s explained to the reader. I can make it about three chapters in one of those books before I start wondering why I’m so bored.
CR: What is one book that you enjoyed so much that you recommend it to everyone?
ZR: One? One? Oh goodness. I guess the most recent book I’ve been recommending in general (as opposed to based on people’s specific tastes) is Andy Weir’s The Martian, which I don’t think is the greatest book ever or anything, but it was fun, it was edge-of-your-seat, it was very well done, and I think I appeals to a broad audience…so it’s an easy go-to recommendation. I’ve also been pushing the audiobook of The Girl With All the Gifts on everyone—Finty Williams did an amazing job narrating it. M.R. Carey’s story and writing are very good, but Finty puts it over the top. (The audiobook for The Martian is good too, but since I had read the book before listening to it, I had that horrible disconnect where it was like listening to a total stranger. THAT’S NOT WHAT THE MARK WATNEY IN MY HEAD SOUNDS LIKE!)
M&M’s or Skittles
Coffee or Tea
Music or Silence
Depends on the state of my brain. I do love both.
Morning or Night
Morning, because all the hours are still ahead of me.
Cold Weather or Hot Weather
CR: Thank you Z. for doing the interview!!! I loved reading through all of these answers!!!!