Currently I’m working on a short story series called “Between the Pages.” It’s an original idea on how a zombie virus gets started. Each “book” is around 9K words long and focuses on a character in a city in Texas. I’ve finished “Chapter One: Carrie” and it’s live on Amazon. I’m just finishing up “Chapter Two: Jenny” and working on “Chapter Three: Jamal.” I have three more “character” books to do, then I bring them all together for however many books that takes. They all live in Texas and meet up in their travels. My son, a graduate of the Art Institute and an author himself, is doing all the covers. Can’t let that degree go to waste. Haha.
What gave you the idea for Between the Pages?
Many zombie books always seem to be the same when it comes to how it starts. I wanted something to write something completely different. And when the idea hit me, it was like a ton of bricks smacked me in the face. I had to do it! I’m learning to flesh out my characters more and I think devoting a book to each gives me the chance to do that.
What got you into writing in this genre?
I love to write and read all kinds of horror, but for some reason I’ve always loved zombies. I’m not a huge werewolf or vampire fan, but there’ve been a few books and movies involving them that I adore. With zombies, it’s like a battle you can’t win. So you can do what you want. Plus I like to get into the blood and gore. If someone reads my zombie books and complains that too many people die and it’s too bloody, then duh. It’s zombies. If there ever really was a zombie outbreak, we’d never make it. Honestly.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was a child. Back in the 70’s I was addicted to the Nancy Drew series. In late elementary school and junior high, I started two different “teenage detective” books of my own. Hand written (no computers back then – and I didn’t take typing until high school). I wrote ten or twelve chapters before I stopped. And I can’t even remember the reason I stopped. I used to have those notebooks somewhere but I don’t have a clue what’s happened to them.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
My first short story published was “A Very Zombie Christmas.” It was accepted into the antho with the same name. They chose the book name after it was accepted so they shorted my title to “A Zombie Christmas” to avoid confusion. After that I was hooked. When I realized I might actually be good enough to be accepted, I kept at it.
I have shorts in 19 published anthos (yes, I call them anthos, not anthologies – my little quirk) and there are 5 others in anthos currently in the process for publication. All of them horror of one style or another.
I self published a novella, “Chalk Outline,” in 2015. It’s a crime novel set in Houston about homicide detectives trying to sold a child serial killer. They meet a woman who can lay in the chalk outline and see the last few seconds of the victim’s life. She learned she could do this because her young daughter was a victim of this serial killer. In fact I just had it made into audio a couple weeks ago.
My first full length novel, “Salvation,” was published in 2016. It’s based on a Collectable Card Game called Survive (yes, zombies of course) and the creator of the game hired me to write a book based on their world. It’s set 17 years after the zombie outbreak and my book is based in the wastelands. With radiated fallout, some of my zombies are mutated and much different than an average zombie.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?
I don’t really outline. Usually when I have an idea for a book or story, I just type all the information I want to remember. Then I keep pushing to the bottom of the document as I type my story. As I finish writing something that was in the “info area” I delete it. Also I don’t always write in order. I wrote the last chapter in “Chalk Outline” when I was about 3/4 through. And I’ve been known to swap chapters around.
I used to write a lot at work. I always get to work at 7am to avoid traffic (it’s a 23 mile commute each way in Houston traffic – it sucks!). I’d write until 8am to start work, then I’d write during my lunch hour. I could get a lot of writing or editing (part of the writing process for sure) done in two hours. But lately it’s been so busy at work I’ve been working at least 10 hours a day. I don’t take a lunch but work through and eat while I work. I’m in the Oil and Gas industry and it was down for a few years. It’s picked back up with a vengeance, so I’ll take the OT whenever I can.
So now I write at home. Usually in the evenings but I get more writing done on the weekends.
I do come up with ideas all the time on my drive home from work so I have a USB voice recorder I carry in my purse all the time. I turn it on and just spit out everything I don’t want to forget. I do have to remember to charge it up though. The last time I used it I plugged it in my laptop to download what I said and found it hadn’t recorded anything for over a year. Ooops. Luckily I remember that day’s ideas but I wonder how much I lost. Note to self: charge up recorder on a regular basis.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?
Favorite: Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Epic! It’s post apocalyptic (no zombies), which is my favorite genre to read. In fact I actually prefer my post apoc to have no supernatural in it. I want realism and gritty brutality. I want to see what a person will really do to survive
Disappointed: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. I think it’s because rather than reading the book then watching the movie, I did this in the opposite order. I loved the movie and when I read the book I kept saying to myself how much it wasn’t like the movie. If I’d never seen the movie first I’m sure I would have loved it.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Microsoft Word. I know some people use Google Docs but I’m not as familiar with it and I don’t think it’s as user friendly. I also have my options set to include grammar issues, not just spelling. I’ve used ProWritingAid for minor editing but found if you set the options right on Word it will do the exact same things. For longer books, I use Microsoft OneNote. It’s just a reference programs. You set your book, make tabs for whatever you need (Timeline – a MUST have), and then you copy/paste anything to it. Literally anything. Words, pictures, links. It’s just handy way to keep track of everything. I used it when I wrote “Salvation.” It was so easy to reference anytime.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
One of my newer stories: “The Nanny.” I’d been working on bettering my characterization and I felt I’d nailed it on this one. It’s in the “Triggered” antho that was published earlier this year. As a woman I tried to imagine what I would do in her position, how far would she go. I really think it’s one of my better works.
What are you doing next?
Continuing on with “Between the Pages.” So far I have 6 Chapters planned but it will go on past that. I haven’t decided if after that I will continue on with Chapters or go on to a full size novel yet.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Never, ever give up. No matter how many rejections you get, don’t let it get you down. It’s okay to be disappointed but keep at it. If a story gets accepted, send that puppy somewhere else. It doesn’t mean it’s bad writing, it just wasn’t what they were looking for. I’ve had a story that had been rejected four different times finally get accepted. Every story has a home out there, sometimes it just takes a while to find it.
Veronica Smith once fancied herself the next Carolyn Keene when she was but a pre-teen. When she reached adulthood, she wanted to be the next Stephen King or Anne Rice. Now that she’s older and wiser, she realizes it’s better to want to be herself and morphed into The Mistress of Horror. Besides writing, she developed an obsession for all things horror, and even started many petitions to make Halloween a year-long holiday. Despite the support of several Senators and a retired US President, the bill was vetoed in the House. To her chagrin, Halloween still remains a one-day holiday only. But she decided to improvise, putting out her Halloween decorations in the yard at Christmastime as well. So far no one has had her arrested for it. She and her husband live in Katy, Texas with their son and several pets, including a small horse-sized mastiff.