Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Interview with the Fantastically Funny and Macabre Author, Timothy Long

To rehash yesterday's post, I am conducting a series of interviews with several authors at varying stages of their writing careers. My hope is to give fledgling writers some ideas on how to shape their career path and help them gain perspective on the process of getting published.

The first author in this series is Timothy Long, author of Among the Living and The Zombie-Wilson Diaries. I firmly believe you will be hearing a lot more about this author in the near future. He has one of the more original and refreshing voices in the zombie and horror genre.

Rhiannon: Why did you start writing?

Tim: To silence the voices in my head. I know that sounds funny but to me writing has always been about characters and I have always had oddball characters running around up there wondering when I would let them out.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I think for some people it is just ingrained, the need to jot a bunch of words on paper and thrust them at your friends. I also love reading and have often thought I could do a better job. But the reality is that no matter who I am reading or what they wrote I have the utmost respect for them for finishing a piece and putting it out there for the world.

Rhiannon: How old were you when you wrote your first piece?

Tim: 4th grade. I wrote a version of Little Red Riding hood where Red tortured and killed the wolf after running circles around him. My teacher was not amused. Also, since I was that young I didn’t really know how to do things like SAY “Little red riding hood stuck her tongue out and blew” and instead tried to spell out the sound. I’m pretty sure I got an F on that little endeavor.

Rhiannon: Your first two books are about zombies, but were also very funny. Do you see yourself as a horror writer?

Tim: I write across a lot of genres. I have stuff published as sci-fi and social satire but I really do like to write darker material. Even my humorous pieces have horror in them. I had a really amazing writing teacher last year named Michealla Roessner and she was the first one to encourage me to think about writing in the genre. I was reluctant because I honestly didn’t know if horror even sold – unless your name is Stephen King or Clive Barker. Go into a Border’s and walk past the Science Fiction / Fantasy section and you will see a cubby hole marked Horror. It is minuscule. What I did not consider was how large the virtual community at large is. There is a huge market for horror. I just had to find it.

There are scenes in my books that creep me out and I consider them horror but I don’t want to be writing zombies forever. Don’t get me wrong I love the genre a lot but there are many things to write about where I can experiment with the baser (and funnier) side of human nature.

As for the funnier side. There is a character in Among the Living that developed into a wise-cracking, vodka swilling drug dealer that had to be in for the comic relief. I have heard a lot of people say the book is funny and I’m glad because it offsets the dark tones of the rest of the novel.

Rhiannon: What was the first writing piece you ever published?

Tim: I did a lot of editorial work for gaming sites in the late 90’s early 00’s. I had stuff coming out every week and for a while I was even the game editor at Gamers Depot of GD Fest fame. I loved doing game reviews but mainly because I got free games and swag.

My first published story was "The Book of Dan" for Fantastic Horror It is a dark piece of social satire about a world where everyone is allowed to get away with one murder but they must wear a mark proclaiming them to be a murderer afterwards. The story centered on a road rage incident gone awry. I didn’t consider it horror but they did.

Rhiannon: How long did you have to submit before you received an acceptance?

Tim: A few months. They have a voting process there on the forum but they eventually caved in. I just hung out and pestered them long enough to get in.

Rhiannon: How did you come about writing for the Library of the Living Dead Press?

Tim: I was in a Borders looking at the tiny horror section for a new Robert McCammon book when I came across a bunch of zombie books by Permuted Press. I forgot why I was there and bought 3 of them on the spot. Wow a publisher that concentrates on zombies! How freaking cool?

So I looked them up and found out they had a very active forum with a lot of the authors hanging out. I had been working on my own version of a zombie novel and I was immediately thinking that I had found a publisher. Well it turns out that they were not taking submissions at the time.

I came across a sub-board for Library of the Living Dead and saw all of the open submissions. Well I sat down that night and wrote a zombie short story called "Time to Feed" which would become part of Among the Living. I was taking a writing class at the time and we had been discussing 2nd person point of view. Well I wrote a story from a zombie’s point of view as he died and came back.

I sent it in and it was accepted in less than a day. After that I started bombarding the publisher with stories over the next few weeks. Wow, someone that loves zombies and would buy my stories. I have written almost exclusively for them ever since.

Rhiannon: What is the hardest lesson you have learned about writing?

Tim: I think every writer can identify with this one. I hate that I have to eventually let my babies out into the world. I will pour over stuff over and over until I think it is perfect instead of letting others read it and offer advice or critiques. I once worked for a good 20 hours on re-writing a story over the course of three weeks and the story really suffered for it. I should have cut the cord after the third edit.

Rhiannon: How did The Zombie-Wilson Blog come about?

Tim: Zombie-Wilson was a little blog I started to advertise for my first book Among the Living. Another hard learned lesson for writers is that it is not enough to just have a book published. You have to work hard to get people to hear about it. It isn’t enough to just throw it out there and expect to sell a million copies, as a new writer you have to come up with creative ways to advertise. Contests work well but I am finding that nothing gets the word out faster than free stuff. Zombie-Wilson could have gone horribly wrong from the start, I was worried that it was too crass to put out there but at the same time I was giggling like a six year old every time I started writing it.

It wasn’t until about the tenth entry when I decided to put a stat tracker on the site. Up until then I was writing it, posting about new entries but I was getting very few responses. I didn’t think anyone was even reading it. In fact there was a two week period where I just sort of forgot about it.

So I put a stat tracker on and I was shocked to see that about a hundred people a day were visiting. By September I was getting about 3000 people through a month.

Rhiannon: Did you pitch the novel to the publisher, or did he come to you?

Tim: Well, the first time Doc Pus read one I think he broke out the recorder and did one for the podcast. He loved it from the start and said “This is gonna be the next book.” But it took me a while to get it through my thick skull that there were people enjoying it. I wrote it sporadically but as I got deeper and deeper into it an entire book unfolded. What started as a joke had taken a life of its own. We talked about doing it as a novella but I thought it would work better if I expanded it. So that is how the full book came out. I also promised the publisher that I would fully flesh out each day for the book and put in missing entries. The finished product runs about 10,000 words longer than the blog and makes a hell of a lot more sense.

Rhiannon: At Horror Realm, your blog was the most talked about story at Horror Realm. All the authors were discussing the latest blog entry and laughing. Have you found a lot of support among your fellow writers overall?

Tim: Really? I didn’t know that but I am very flattered.

The thing about writers is that we work alone. It isn’t unusual to lock myself away for days and only peruse message boards that I usually hang out on. If I am in the writing groove pretty much nothing else can get in the way. I think over all the small and independent market is filled with wonderful people that go out of their way to help each other out. It’s kind of like being the cool kid on the block - and yet we are content to work for hours without the thought of another human being around us.

I know one of the best emails I ever received was an acceptance for a story in Eric S. Brown’s collection Wolves of War. He loved it, raved about it and when you hear that from a fellow writer it is like a burst of inspiration. You feel like you are really on your game.

Rhiannon: What sort of writing career do you envision for yourself?

Tim: I would love to write full time but I know the realities of the business. It is very hard to make enough money at it. I have a great job that pays the bills and I am content to write and see where it takes me.

Rhiannon: Are you happy being published by a small press? Are you aiming for a bigger publishing house soon?

Tim: I love my publisher. How many writers can email their publisher and get a response the same day? I won’t say that I haven’t dreamed of a big publisher getting interested in my stuff. Every writer wants that.

I have a tremendous publisher in Library of the Living Dead. He is a one man army that is on his way to the top. I see nothing but good things in a future with them.

Rhiannon: Who are your favorite authors?

Steven Erikson for showing me what epic really means.
Neal Stephenson for writing serious novels that make me laugh out loud.
Richard Morgan for putting the noir in sci-fi and dark fantasy
Stephen King for being the first writer I developed a genuine love for at a very early age (love him or hate him, he is a master story teller)
Robert Jordan and G R R Martin for the fantastic worlds they create
Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett for making me laugh.
Peter F. Hamilton for his sweeping space operas

(Rhiannon's Note: Damn, I'm not on the list. Much...try..harder!!)

Rhiannon: Where do you find your inspiration?

Tim: I watch a lot of movies. In fact Zombie-Wilson sort of grew out of Shaun of the Dead and this really bad movie called Survival Island about three castaways on deserted island – one being a ridiculously hot girl whose hair was always perfect.

I read about a book a week and certain people like Robert Jordan I will read over and over again because I love his books. I listen to my friend’s stories. I just have to look at my kids and wife when I am feeling uninspired. Somehow they bring out the crazy in me, but in a good way.

Rhiannon: How do you feel about me editing your book? (Yes, this is a trick question.)

Tim: I'm thrilled and honored to have you on board for The Zombie-Wilson Diaries. You have been a big supporter from the beginning and your encouragement was one of the driving forces behind turning the diaries into a full book. It is one thing to have a popular story online but it is quite another to have such a well know genre writer behind it. I think you have a keen eye for detail and will help me take the book to the next level.

(Rhiannon's Note: Hehehehe...I guess I need to do a good job editing now!)

Rhiannon: What advice would you give anyone trying to become a writer?

Tim: Have you exhausted every other avenue of employment yet?

The first rule is to set a daily goal and do it. Don’t come up with excuses to write, just write. Even when you don’t feel like writing or you feel uninspired, just write. Did you write 500 words yesterday? Shoot for 1,000 tomorrow. Persevere. Even if you think no one could possibly enjoy your writing you will find an audience. Trust me, every writer goes through this and it is all part of the normal creative process.

To reiterate – Just Write.


There you have it. Our first author interview. I hope it gave you some food for thought and inspired you to keep tapping away at your keyboards.

You can purchase Timothy Long's first novels at the publisher's store or You can also read the rough draft of The Zombie-Wilson Diaries here. For more information on Timothy Long and his upcoming projects, check out his website here.

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