Thursday, October 17, 2013

Patrick Freivald Interview

The Horror Librarian: How do you approach a new writing project? Are you a planner or a panster?

Patrick Freivald: I'm about as far from a pantser as you can get. I start with an idea--which includes not only the general characters, but also the ending--and then I outline. My outline expands from rough ideas to chapters to individual scenes, and for a 75,000 word book, my outline is often around 5,000-10,000 words.

The outlining process takes me a month or three, and that's the meat of the creative process. Once it's done, I get the words on (virtual) paper over eight or ten weeks.

The Horror Librarian: Your recent YA horror duo, Twice Shy and Special Dead have been well received by fans and the greater YA community. Can you talk a little about how you developed your characters? How did you get into teenaged Ani's head?

Patrick Freivald: I'm a high school teacher. Ani started off as an observation that's true about some adults as well, but especially true of teenagers: they tend to trivialize the important, and obsess over the trivial. I wanted to make Ani three-dimensional, a real girl with hopes and dreams and perceptions about the people around her that may or may not be entirely correct, but above all I wanted her to have this tragic flaw, this underlying immaturity when it comes to what's truly important.

I also wanted her to have a solid, excellent relationship with her sociopathic mother. YA fiction is so full of parent/child conflict of a very stereotypical sort, and I wanted to instead show a strong, loving relationship that can survive even breaches of trust and life-threatening situations.

From there, I could have written a dreadfully serious book about a girl with a very serious secret.... Ani could have been a bulimic kleptomaniac lesbian with AIDS, and her social life would hinge on keeping others from discovering that. I thought it would be funny if instead I made it her life at stake instead of her social life, and made her secret something utterly unrealistic. The premise of a closeted zombie is absurd in the classic sense of the word, and I wanted to skirt the line where an astute reader might have a hard time deciding whether or not I meant to be ironic at any given point.

Devon, Mike, and Ani came entirely out of my head. The rest of the characters are shamelessly modeled on people I know, with names changed to protect the guilty (with Mrs. Weller and Mr. Cummings being the prime exceptions.) I cheated; it's easy to write genuine reactions to situations when you know the people you're writing.

The Horror Librarian: What is your dream project?

Patrick Freivald: I don't have one. I write because it's fun--same reason I keep bees and grow hot peppers and run a robotics team. I'd love to experience that Rowling-style life-altering success with my writing, so that's a dream I have about my projects, but it's not a "dream project." I just go where my ADD takes me, and enjoy the ride.

The Horror Librarian:  What are you working on right now? As an aside, can you tell us a little about what it means to "Boil it down," per your blog?

Patrick Freivald:  I'm polishing up my next near-future thriller for JournalStone. Jade Sky is about humans that have been augmented with superhuman strength, speed, regenerative abilities, and so forth, but at the price of possible madness from the murderous whispers that claw through their minds.

I'm also gearing up for the November 15th release of Blood List, which I wrote with my twin brother Phil. It's about a serial killer who's trying to save his father's life, and the FBI team hunting him. You can pick it up on preorder on Amazon now, but they don't yet have the cover or description up, so you'll have to take my word that it's awesome.

In a fit of irony, I'm going to ramble a bit about my blog, Word Soup. It's for writers, about efficient writing. I started it because, after doing some editing as favors, I keep getting requests from up-and-coming authors who want to pay me to edit their work--not rules and typos and stuff like that, but real, down-and-dirty edits. The problem is that I'm extremely busy, and my time is worth more to me than what they'd be willing to pay. (And besides, I don't want to rip people off even if they'd be willing to pay me that much.) So I started this blog to help people learn how to hone their craft.

The idea is that even when you know all your grammar and punctuation rules, and your setting and plot and pacing and characterization, and all those things that you need to know in order to write well, that doesn't necessarily mean that you know how to write well. It's possible to take a great idea, use proper English, and still tell a story badly. The most egregious thing I see is inefficiency in word choice.

If you say something in ten words that can be said in three, then your prose is something that a reader has to slog through in order to get what you really want--the information. So in my blog, authors give me a 500-word sample of their work, and I boil out all the unnecessary words, and explain the hows and whys of it as I go along. The goal is to convey the same information, with the same tone, evoking the same imagery and emotions, but with as few words as possible. And when you do that, you find that you've become a better writer, and your work is a better read.

(And for the record, I'm better at it now than I was a year ago, and was better a year ago than two years ago. I expect to be better at it in the future than I am now. And also for the record, I made no attempt to boil down my responses here. I tend to ramble when writing informally, and break a lot of my own rules in the process.)

The Horror Librarian:  List 5 things that are currently on your writing desk.

Patrick Freivald: My writing desk is the dining room table, which The Redhead(tm) and I never use for actual eating--we eat in the dinette or the living room. Thus, things on the table include but are not limited to:
my brother-in-law's punk-ish CD "Lather, Rinse, Repent" (not bad, if too preachy),
a LEAP Motion controller (neat technology, but I'd hold off on getting one just yet),
a pile of mail (including a school board packet I haven't read yet),
a big fluffy cat named Gunther (she likes to sleep against my laptop),
a stack of index cards with story ideas scrawled on them (awaiting entry into my "story ideas" folder in my computer).

The Horror Librarian:  What question did you wish I'd ask and what's your answer?

Patrick Freivald: What's my least favorite part of writing?

I'm glad you asked! My least favorite part of writing is titles. I hate titles so, so much. Titles are the bane of my existence. I agonize for weeks and months over those few little words, and usually change my mind a gazillion times.

The Horror Librarian: Thanks, Patrick!

Patrick Freivald: Thanks for having me. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Patrick Freivald Bio

This week's special guest is...Patrick Freivald!  

Patrick's a fun guy that I had the opportunity to meet and hang with at BEA in New York City this past May.  We discussed books and writing and beekeeping (see below) and of course, zombies.  He also featured one of my short stories on his awesome blog:

I'm a busy guy. My "day job" is high school teacher--physics, robotics, and American Sign Language--in a tiny Western New York town. As part of that I put in 600+ hours a year running a FIRST Robotics team (, and I teach night classes at a community college. I'm on three committees at work (and chair one of them), sit on my local School Board, and am Vice President of the Ontario Finger Lakes Beekeeping Association ( I'm a self-employed beekeeper and, what brings me here, I'm also a novelist. I'm an outspoken, opinionated, unapologetic geek, fascinated by nature and people in equal measure.

I live in the middle of gorgeous nowhere and I love it here. You've heard of a one-stoplight town? We don't have one of those. What we do have is tens of thousands of acres of state forest, including two of the most beautiful lakes in the country, and great Buffalo wings.

The Redhead(tm) and I grow most of our own food (much of which she cans), I make my own wine (some of it drinkable), try to read at least one book a week (though lately it's more like one a month), and still manage to squeeze in the occasional game of Warhammer 40K with my friends. At home we have two dogs, a parrot, a cockatiel, six cats, and several million stinging insects. We're thinking about adding chickens. Maybe some sheep.

The question that this information usually provokes is, how? And more importantly, why? Why not just relax a bit?

Well, I'm a lazy, ADD-riddled workaholic. I guess what it comes down to is that I don't like being bored. I don't watch much TV, though when I do I tend to chew through entire seasons in a weekend--Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Dexter.... I wake up in the morning between six and seven, go to bed around midnight, and don't take many breaks in-between. I don't like being idle, I don't like just doing nothing, and (in the interest of complete honesty) I sometimes half-ass things like yard work, tend to neglect my friends, and don't have kids. (The Redhead(tm) gets neglected too, but that's the secret of our happy marriage--we try not to spend too much time together!)

I like Stephen King more than Dean Koontz--though Koontz's writing is tighter and cleaner--because King's fiction is messy in all the right ways. Koontz is fun to read, but [spoiler alert!] the good guys always win, even if they're quite worse off for the victory. George R. R. Martin beats out Robert Jordan, because Jordan's fight scenes are perfunctory--you know that nobody important is going to die, and no amount of well-written battle scenes will make a foregone conclusion as exciting as an unknown one. There's no script immunity in King and Martin (and Straub and Barker and so many others), and it brings real, visceral tension to their work. I've been known to sit through books and movies I don't particularly enjoy if I don't know how it's going to end up, and I'm usually glad I did.

I don't consider myself a Young Adult author, or a zombie author, or even a horror or thriller author. I write what I feel like writing, and I don't much care what genre other people decide it is. That said, I've always enjoyed things that are a little off-center. Fantasy and Science Fiction are great, and I do love them, but they don't have that certain something special you get from horror. Horror is a slight left-turn from everyday life. Horror is that feeling that we're all just one closet door away from the cenobites. Horror is that creeping, late-night sensation that everything might not be what it seems...and you don't want to know the truth.

Be sure to check back Thursday for the full interview.  And in the meantime, visit his GoodReads page or follow him on Twitter

Friday, September 20, 2013

In Hot Water

Well, this time I've really done it...and now I'm in hot water. 

Check it out: Horror Librarian Gets Boiled

The delightful Mr. Patrick Freivald, author of Twice Shy and fellow HWA member offers his editorial comments on the first 500 words of a short story he reviewed for me. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

MOOC to feature The Walking Dead

How do you get thousands of people excited about an online course in math, physics, and public health that will not earn them formal credit or any kind of certificate?

First, make it a MOOC [massive open online course].
Second, make the central text a popular TV show.
Third, add zombies.

This is a really fun concept that University of California at Irvine is rolling out this fall.  Professors teach math and physics concepts via Walking Dead examples.  For example, mathematical modeling is demonstrated via the Center for Disease Control's infectious disease containment procedures.

Read the full article here.  And take a look at the course here: Society, Science, and Survival.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Shared Worlds 2013: Hand in Hand

Talk about a fun publicity stunt!

This year the Shared Worlds Creative Writing Experience promoted their program by word of hand. Shared Worlds is a two-week summer residential writing program  for 8th -12th graders hosted by Wofford College, South Carolina.

 Joe Haldeman (my fav)

"Some days you just need a little nudge...a simple reminder that you're not alone on this path you've chosen.  Maybe you want help getting out of a plot hole or breaking through a block or you simply need to know that someone else has been there before --behind a different keyboard, holding a different pen, staring at a different blank page or screen.  In preparation for Shared Worlds 2013, we have asked some of speculative fictions finest artists, editors, and writers to write advice on their own hands and send us a picture." Says Shared Worlds Founder, Jeremy L. C. Jones.

Here are some of my favorites:

Neil Gaiman

Garth Nix

Patrick Rothfuss

Gene Wolfe

Jody Lynne Nye

Ann VanderMeer

Check out all the photos on the Shared Worlds Hand in Hand site.

Monday, June 10, 2013

BEA 2013

The Horror Librarian was fortunate to attend this year's Book Expo America in New York City.  Here's a photo-blog-bomb of her trip:

Arrival.  Walking to hotel and forgetting how humid NYC can be.  Luckily, I'm the one taking the photo so you can't see how sweaty my 'pits are.

Bibimbap in Korea delicious!  The proprietor, thinking I hadn't been introduced to the culinary miracle that is bibimbap, came over to my table and stirred the contents of my meal together and then mimed how to eat it with chopsticks.  Somehow, this made it even better.
Wandering around the city at night.  Everyone pointing their cameras and cellphones at the same sunset.  I'm not photographing the sunset; I'm photographing the people - aren't I original?
Early morning at the Javits Center.  The hordes of BEA-goers haven't yet been released into the aisles and wait in long lines outside the glass doors. 
This is what it looks like when people start to trickle inside.
The sort of crowd normally seen at BEA.
Yes, I did. And I waited an hour and a half to do it.

The HWA crew (left to right): Charles Day, The Horror Librarian, Jonathan Maberry, Ellen Datlow, Vince Liaguno, and Gary Frank.
 Left: Patrick Frievald, Center: The Horror Librarian, Right: Gary Frank.

 Left: Charles Day, Center: Ellen Datlow, Right: The Horror Librarian

An awesomely melodramatic group action photo...Charles Day, protector of horror writers.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Amy Marshall Interview

The Horror Librarian: You have referred to yourself as an "Alaskan horror novelist." Can you share with us what that means? (And related, can you tell us about your inspiration for The Fishing Widow?)

Amy Marshall: Alaska is a different creature, and Alaskans definitely are a little more skewed than people Outside. I dunno. Maybe it’s the cold or the dark, or the relentless light of summer, but something puts us all about half a bubble off plumb. I like the colors of light here. I like the stories here. I like the people here. There are such extremes of weather here that Alaska becomes a character in the story. The place is so evocative that you can see ten thousand stories just walking along a rocky beach or hiking a trail in the interior or while you’re cutting wood for the winter.

The Fishing Widow? The joke is that a character from another story who knew he didn’t have a hope in hell of seeing the light of published day freaked out completely (and I have pages of his freak out, they’re really quite chilling and funny in places) and sent his friend Colin over to tell me a story about the two of them before his gig in Cut Time (the novel that will never see the light of day). I was at the sink, washing dishes, when I heard (and this was an audible hallucination) Colin say, “I hear you tell stories good.” I turned and took a swing with a frying pan. Apparently, he ducked, but it was unnerving enough for me to think I was on to something. The crew of The Case in Point is based on every dive crew and field crew I ever worked with. I found myself looking up a lot of what Colin and Ethan (he was renamed) said. I didn’t really know what the Sitka herring sac roe fishery was. I didn’t know much about seine boats in particular. My mother became agitated early on. “You can’t write that! You don’t know ANYTHING about running a commercial fishing boat in Alaska!” To which I replied, “But, mom, I don’t have to. It’s Colin’s boat.”  

Once I started writing, though, everything moved. I mean MOVED; moved in a cosmic way that was positively mind-bending. When I became my small fishing town’s librarian after the initial draft was completed, you can bet there was snickering among my writing friends. But, that wasn’t even the weirdest of the “coincidences” that surrounded the writing of the book. It truly was like the Coelho story where the universe conspires to make your dream come true when you really want it. Things fell into place. If you read the book, there’s quite a bit of Tlingit language in it. Amazingly, whenever I needed a phrase, I was able to come up with it effortlessly. That’s the real deal in there. Like I said, a conspiracy of forces and I had no choice but to get the boys’ story out there.

The Horror Librarian: How do you approach a new writing project? Are you a planner or a panster?

Amy Marshall: It depends, really. I love pantsing. The Fishing Widow was a wildly pantsed novel. I love it when I don’t see things coming. There were a lot of things I didn’t see coming in that one, so readers aren’t alone when they say, “What the—” I found myself scrolling back through text to see if there truly was a breadcrumb trail, and, sure enough, all the hints are there. Even writing it, I didn’t pick up on it.

My fairy tale series is different. Since those stories are based on real fairy and folk tales, I pretty much know how it’s going to go. That said, there were some surprises along the way.

As far as the approach, I sit down with and get to know the characters outside their story. I know that sounds weird, but Colin and Ethan (and the rest of the crew) have a life beyond The Fishing Widow. They all agree it happened, but they’ve moved on. We sit around and talk and joke (Brett and Alex are hysterical together like that). Sometimes they argue like I’m not there. I had knock-down, drag-out yelling fights with Mike [Passarella] because he was so focused on fishing and making Colin’s boat and permit payments that he didn’t have “time” for the horror aspect. I think all that psychosis, and seeing the characters as living, breathing, walking around and trying to date your daughter people makes them real on the page. No. They can’t date my daughter. No way; not ANY OF THEM.

The Horror Librarian: What are you working on right now?

Amy Marshall: In Dark Places: Set in an interior Alaskan copper mine in 1912, it’s a completely different story than The Fishing Widow. The voice is different, the telling is different. It’s not “cinematic” in the least. That’s what happens when you meet new people, I suppose.

The Soul Cages: That’s the second story in Vol. 1 of Dark Soundings. The first story, Salt, was completed last Fall around the time of Coffin Hop (an annual horror blog hop in which I am a habitual offender).

Untitled (sorry): A prequel of sorts to The Fishing Widow that goes back to 1791, the Spanish mission on San Angelo Island, and the origins of the creatures.

The Horror Librarian: Who are your writing heroes?

Amy Marshall: Writing heroes? I love Haruki Murakami, I’m a fan of Douglas Adams. My heroes, though would have to includes Chris Baty (the founder of NaNoWriMo) because of his commitment to the creative potential of every person on the planet, followed by Grant Faulkner (current Executive Director of The Office of Letters and Light) because his soul is so good and his heart follows that, and Hugh Howey, not because he’s so wildly successful as a writer, but because he’s so wildly successful as a human being: he’s approachable and funny, he doesn’t take it all too seriously and he understands that imitation is the greatest expression of fandom. I guess I’ve got this thing about people who genuinely love and support other people. Baty makes me laugh because I believe he really does not realize what he’s done with NaNoWriMo and the full impact of the program.

The Horror Librarian: List five things that are currently on your writing desk.

Amy Marshall:
1. Deftones Koi No Yokan CD
2. A Jump Drive with Tim’s Salt Chuck [Copper] Mine Report that’s waiting for my editing.
3. Lucky Black Bog Cat sculpture from Ireland (make sure you touch the kitty before you leave the house!)
4. A small, green, ceramic turtle (that came from a box of Rose Tea) because Chris Baty once told me that a Green Sea Turtle is my writing totem.
5. A varnished sea urchin fossil. No clue why, but it’s seriously cool.

The Horror Librarian: Do you keep rejection letters? Why or why not? (And if you're feeling brave, how many did you amass before The Fishing Widow)?

Amy Marshall: I have them. I got my first set of rejection letters when I was 15 (after writing my very first EPIC FANTASY NOVEL). They’re all sorts of awesome, but, when I was 15, they were completely and utterly soul-crushing. They’re hand-written notes from the Chief Editors of Ballantine and Del Rey and Daw. They’re full of encouragement and advice. They never came out and said anything like Snoopy ever got. In the end, they realized I was very young, but they also called me “talented,” and that they couldn’t wait to see how I developed. But, the answer was still “no.” and I put them away. And, I put fiction writing away. For years. 

The Fishing Widow wasn’t much different. I sent a cold query to St. Martin’s Press and was staggered when I was invited to send the first three chapters and a synopsis (Oh! The Horror!), but then, the silence was deafening. I received encouraging words (words like: “You should really poke at them!”) from Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry (The Book Doctors), but I didn’t poke hard enough (apparently). Since St. Martin’s never told me no, I choose to have my hand hesitate on the lid of that particular box; my Publishing Kitty is still alive and well in there (until I look … kind of like Schr√∂edinger’s Cat). I received rejections from Pyr (but only because the genre wasn’t quite a fit for them) and two agents (one of whom nearly started a riot in Craig by asserting that her problem with the story is that “it’s all weather, emotions, and mannerisms.” Of course, when I mentioned this to the REAL fishermen, one of them chuckled and said, “Shit, Amy … that’s all we ARE.”)

But, I’ll tell you this. I met Curtis Ebbesmeyer. He’s a scientist who studies ocean currents and debris fields. He came to Craig for Whalefest in 2012. We talked for HOURS about a bunch of things, and then the book came up. He told me about his path toward traditional publishing (want to talk horror? A world-renown and respected scientist who, with an agent, pitched TWENTY-FIVE publishers. He heard back from exactly TWO). He told me how he and others would consider self-publishing over the traditional route. I talked about my beta readers and the feedback I was getting as well as my market. He sat there for a moment and then said, “Really, what are you waiting for?”

Thanks, Amy!