Since I’m currently suffering a bit of the fiction block, I thought I’d start out the New Year by going over some of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis by friends, enemies, loved ones, hated ones, relatives, readers and writers on a variety of topics.
Why are you such a sarcastic prick?
I’m glad you asked that question. Sarcasm is, in fact, a skill that is difficult to learn and even harder to master. Before anything else, thanks for recognizing all the hard work and years of practice it’s taken me to develop it.
You would be hard pressed to find a writer of fiction that isn’t sarcastic (and even cynical to a degree) at least some of the time. It’s a skill we develop. If you don’t have a working knowledge of sarcasm you won’t be able to write a sarcastic character for shit. We also need that sarcasm when we look at our folders of dozens and dozens (or more) of rejections. The problem is; it’s hard to turn it off and on. After almost 40 years on this planet, I’ve found I rely on sarcasm as a way to laugh off the stupid things I see and hear on a daily basis. When you use sarcasm, you’re giving someone the out to laugh along with you at the silly thing they just said or did instead of coming right out and telling them just how silly the thing they just did or said was. Sarcasm also makes a great defense mechanism, and when you’ve used it for as long as I have it just goes off automatically. This has gotten me into more arguments than I care to count, and I do try to control it in certain situations. To friends, family and loved ones; I really am trying to control and mellow the sarcasm where it concerns you. Please, bear with me. To my enemies, hated ones and the reading public trust me when I say you want me to be sarcastic. You’d much rather me point out silliness and idiocy with humor than you would for me to come right out and be straight on the matter.
Why do you write horror, dark fantasy and zombie stories?
I’m glad you asked that question. I should clarify, though, that writers never, ever ask this question. Writers know the answer to this one already, and that answer is; because that’s the story we have to tell. It’s what interests us and by extension it’s what we feel most comfortable writing about. Nobody asks the people over at the Chicken Soup books why the publish tons of feel-good, heart-warming tales. Aside from the dump trucks of cash they make from them, they do it because somewhere within that company are editors and moneymen that want some good news for a change. I write horror and spec fic because the subject matter has interested me since early childhood, back in the days where my brother’s dog-eared copy of the unabridged Dracula and Channel 11’s Chilly Billy Cardille kept me up into the wee hours of Sunday morning with Chiller Theater’s double features. When you write fiction, you can pretty much do what you want within the realm of the real world. When you write horror and spec fic, you’re not just writing, you’re literally creating the entire world of your characters and not just writing about people in our own reality. Pretty heady stuff, though not so much when you consider that writers secretly (or not so secretly, depending on the writer in question) love playing God. By the way, if you ever attend an author’s reading, meet-and-greet or other function where you’re able to ask direct questions of the writer, don’t waste your one question with this one. They’re just going to give you some pat, rehearsed answer that they give to everyone that asks it. Ask them about their dog, or what music they like; anything except “Why do you write X?”
Okay then, just the zombies. What’s with the zombies?
I’m glad you asked that question. A part of it is still my answer from above, but since it seems the walking dead do pop up in a lot of my stuff, I’ll consider it a separate question. I like using zombies because they’re just so damn versatile. They can be shamblers or runners, they can be really, truly dead or just “infected”, they can be dumb as rocks or intelligent, they can speak or be mute… really just great fiction clay. They can also serve as a metaphor for pretty much anything you want; rampant consumerism, plague, rapid social change… you pick the situation and I can tell you how properly-applied zombies would improve the story. It’s also a great way to breed a huge number of enemies in a very short amount of time and serve not only as the enemy but a very, very creepy enemy indeed. But the best “zombie” stories aren’t really zombie stories at all. The best ones use the zombies to forward the real story the author’s trying to tell.
What’s with the name? How do you pronounce that?
I’m glad you asked that question. My name is often mangled, though I’m not exactly sure why. It’s “Lowther”. Think of it as the word “allow” minus the “al”(LOW…) and “father” minus the “fa” (THER). “Lowther”
When did you start writing?
I’m glad you asked that question. I’ve written for as long as I can remember, really. I also used to draw and sketch and wasn’t bad at that, either. I stopped writing and drawing almost completely through my twenties, and the only reason I picked it back up again was from being involved in a LARP (Live Action Role Playing) system. I started writing plots and character race concepts and got the bug again. I didn’t submit my first story for publication until I was 33 years old. It was a 10,000 word short for a zombie anthology. For that 10,000 words, I received my very first rejection e-mail. It was two words with no capitalization or punctuation, it wasn’t even a sentence; “no thanks”. That was it. “no thanks”. Luckily, I’m a bit more stubborn than that. Shortly after that rejection, I got my first acceptance for an e-zine called “Blood, Blade and Thruster” and from there I started picking up acceptances. Nothing big mind you. All of my successes have been in the small press. That’s not a bad thing though, and it’s something that any writer just getting his feet wet needs to do. If you’re reading this and you’re an unpublished writer that has been banging their heads against the walls of Tor, Viking, Cemetery Dance and the rest, I heartily recommend you take a step back, polish up your manuscripts and start checking out the small press. They’re always looking for stories, and though you won’t get the instant acclaim and paychecks of the big guys you’ll be able to build a good portfolio you can take to agents and publishers to show your work is indeed saleable.
So what’s the deal with your novels?
I’m glad you asked that question. I have two novels, Area 187; Almost Hell and Area 187; Almost Home that are with Library of the Living Dead Press. We were originally looking for the first book to be published in late fall, but due to circumstances out of my control over at the Library the date has been pushed back. I’m told now that Almost Hell could be out as early as late January 2011, and we’re in the final stages of getting the cover ready as we speak. The second book should be out shortly thereafter. The two books were originally written as one, but the damn thing just came out too large to be a single novel from a first-time published novelist, so after shopping it around as a single project for awhile and getting no response I broke the book into two. You’ll be able to read one or the other and get your fill, but you’ll want both to get the whole story. After I get a firm publishing date, believe me, you’ll be hearing about the books so much from me that you’ll get sick of it. I have other projects in the works as well, including an audio anthology I’ll be releasing for free sometime this winter.
So what about family and personal junk?
I'm glad you asked that question. Like many writers, I don’t choose to talk about my personal life. It’s nothing against you, Constant Reader, but I don’t feel the details of my personal life are necessary to either enjoy or revile my body of work. You could care less about my children or what color underwear I prefer as long as the stories I write don’t make you want to burn out your eyes with a curling iron. I’m a private person by nature, it’s just my way.
Why aren’t you active on Facebook? Come… join us…
I’m glad you asked that question. I do have a Facebook page, but I maintain nothing more than a name and a page. Quite frankly, I loathe Facebook and I only keep a page there so that I can visit the pages of various people and publishers that put information on their Facebook and only on their Facebook, though I did make a vow a year ago that any publisher who uses only their Facebook and not their own, professional site will never get another submission from me. I don’t have anything witty to say in the confines of Facebook speak, and as much as I may like my friends that use the site I have no desire to know what cute thing their cat did today or what the consistency of their last bowel movement was. More than that, though, is my problem with how people use Facebook. I have no desire to interact and really don’t want to be there, but because others want me to join the cult I’m constantly receiving friend requests and other errata even though I have a very frank and succinct disclaimer to the contrary right there on my page. If you’re my friend, you already know how to contact me. If you want to be my friend, I’m not hard to find even without Facebook. People also tend to be irresponsible with what they post and the pictures they put up. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be involved with Facebook or not, people will eventually force you to be.
So now you’re doing movie reviews on a podcast. Why not do your own damn podcast and stop riding everyone else’s coattails?
I’m glad you asked that question. I’ve been helping out with some movie reviews for the Witch’s Hat podcast and blog because Root Rot, the blogmaster and host of the Blogcast, is just a fantastic individual whose tastes in movies and humor run with my own. I love horror movies; good, bad, ugly. And since I’m a very opinionated SOB, reviewing movies seemed to come naturally. As to why I don’t do my own podcast, the reasons are many. First, I like what I’m doing at the Hat, and I’m told my spots hold up well with the audience of both the blog and cast. Second, I really like being part of the cast Mr. Rot has assembled. We all compliment each other well, just different enough so that when you put us all together we make something better than what we could do individually. Lastly, I just don’t have the vast amount of time running a regular podcast demands. So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I enjoy it, and I hope you do, too.
Okay, okay… last question; where the hell did the nickname biguglyhairyscary come from, anyway?
I’m glad you asked that question. As I said before, I used to help run a LARP group. One of my responsibilities was running the plot for our “undead town” and my Halloween events were highly anticipated affairs, if I do say so myself. I am also quite well known for needing coffee to function. Now, a lot of people say this. “I’m just a bear if I don’t get my coffee” kind of things. When I say I need it to function, that’s exactly what I mean. If I don’t have caffeine within the first hour of waking up, I will eat your children and make you watch while I do it. Knowing this, my players and staff would always make sure to send a staffer into the kitchen area to get coffee for me. A friend of mine’s wife was in the plot cabin one morning and witnessed me getting up and scrounging for anything that had caffeine, so she sent one of our younger players to go get some with the words, “Go get his coffee or he’ll get all biguglyhairyscary on us…” From then on, it just kinda stuck. It’s also very descriptive in that I am all of those things, and I have yet to have the need to add a “2” or other such nonsense when I use it as a screen name or an e-mail address.
Well, that’s enough soul-revealing for now. I’ll try to be back next week with some new fiction for you to chew on. So until then, just write, damn it.