For her next interview in the ‘Someone Else’s Writing’ series, Rebecca was lucky enough to interview horror writer Patrick Freivald.
Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any ‘quirks’ or habits? Is there anything which stops you from being able to write?
Story ideas usually generate with a premise and an ending. The details bounce around my head for a few months or years, during which I’ll create character sketches (background, physical description, personality profiles) and make a rough sketch of the plot. When I’m ready to write, I take those details and turn it into a scene-by-scene outline, and then flesh out each scene in that outline. Once done, all that’s left is to write the book!
The actual sit-down-and-write goes quickly, two to four thousand words a day, assuming I have the time. I wrote Twice Shy in twenty two days.
Time is the only thing that interferes with my writing. I’m a school teacher, an instructor at a local community college, I run a competition robotics team, I’m on my local school board, and I’m vice president of our regional beekeeper’s association. Finding time to write is a challenge, but a necessary one.
When and why did you start writing? Have you always been creative?
I’ve made up stories my whole life, and wrote a lot of (generally awful) short stories in high school and college. I didn’t focus on writing for an audience until, oh, around five years ago. I’d been talking with my twin brother Phil about writing a novel for years, and he goaded me into just doing it–so we did! Our co-written crime thriller Recovery has experienced a hitch in the publishing process that I don’t want to get into at the moment, but it should be resolved soon.
Are you working on anything in particular at the moment?
My high school novel with a zombie twist, Twice Shy, is only just now for sale. I’ve been working on a sequel, Special Dead, for six months or so and have just gotten through the “bouncing around in my head” stage, have finished the outline, and have started writing. I anticipate the rough draft will be done by the end of November, at which time I’ll turn it over to beta readers to pick apart so that I can make improvements in time for a spring deadline.
Is there a piece of your work which you are especially proud of? What makes you proud of that piece in particular?
Twice Shy. I wanted to write something that was superficially one of those Twilight-like paranormal teenage angst tales, but underneath the surface isn’t that at all. Judging by the different reactions I’ve received from reviewers and readers, I think I nailed it. Different people have taken very, very different things away from the story — some the satire, others the personal relationships, and others still the allegory to very real problems in the world. Even some of my more critical critics have highlighted things I hoped that people would see — that the world outside our teenage protagonist’s immediate experience might as well not exist except insofar as it impinges upon her reality, that world-changing events (like 9/11 or, in this case, a zombie virus outbreak) are assimilated into the teenage mind and become yesterday’s news, and that in her mind everyone else is more of a caricature than a real person.
Everything is flavored and filtered through Ani’s perceptions, just like real life. Even those who hated it seemed to pick up on that, even if they thought it was unintentional on my part.
…and as for people hating it, I figure that if everyone likes something I’ve written, I haven’t written something worth writing.
Do you have any favourite authors? What was the last thing you read? Would you recommend it?
I try to read about a book a week — which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t. I love Stephen King, Peter Straub, George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, Tom Clancy, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, F. Paul Wilson, Aaron Demski-Bowden… So, no, I don’t have any favorite authors — but I do have a lot of authors I like!
The last thing I read was Blasphemy by Douglas Preston. It wasn’t awful, but there wasn’t anything that really gave it that oomph. I’ve read excellent books from Mr. Preston and would recommend him as an author in general, but this one was too predictable — I’d figured out the ending within the first twenty pages, and that makes it hard for a thriller to be engaging.
Finally, do you have any hints and tips for other aspiring writers?
I think it would be a mistake to assume I know what I’m doing at this point, and I’d certainly never presume to tell someone HOW to write, because it’s a very individualistic process and what works for some doesn’t work for others. That said, I’ve got one personal and one professional piece of advice..
On the personal: shut up and write. Blogging about writing and talking about writing and researching for your writing and all that stuff might be valuable, but it isn’t writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to be writing.
On the professional: Writing is a passion, but publishing is a business. There are a lot of scammers out there who will screw you over any chance they can get so of course you should watch out for them, but there are also a lot of well-intentioned people in the publishing industry (agents, small presses, editors, etc.) that just suck at their jobs, and it can be hard to figure out whether or not you’re dealing with someone who’s great or someone who’s just awful. The shift to e- and POD-publishing, especially on the small press side of things, has really changed what “smart business decision” means to a publisher, and it certainly doesn’t coincide with what’s a smart business decision for an author. I’m lucky enough to have landed a wonderful publisher, JournalStone, who as far as I can tell is doing everything right and really wants each and everyone one of their books and their authors to succeed — but I’ve also been on the other side of things, and it’s not a place you want to be.