Tyler Nichols is a fiction writer, screenwriter, and Spider-Man super fan. He also runs YouTube channel Zombievictim, which you should check out after reading this interview:
What are you working on right now?
I’m about halfway through the sequel to The Crimson Summer titled, Crimson High. While the first book was essentially my own version of “Friday the 13th,” this second one is more my version of “Scream.” So, while it’s been a lot of fun to write, I also feel like it needs to be smart and logical, which can be tough since it’s set in an active town, not some camp in the middle of nowhere.
Cellphones are currently the bane of my existence.
When writing a slasher-style book like The Crimson Summer where no one is safe, were there any characters you still found yourself becoming attached to/rooting for?
Going into any slasher, there’s a certain expectation that most of the characters are going to die, so I didn’t have much of a problem offing campers in the first one. Although, I will say that I called an audible on the death of one of the counselors, mainly because I felt it would affect the overall story too much. Plus I really liked her.
And in Crimson High, there’s a character death that was really tough for me to write because I like the character so much, and had grown so attached to them. But, their death helps propel the story forward, so it felt essential. Because once you start killing off characters just to do it, you lose any impact.
What makes or breaks dialogue for you? What do you love about writing it?
As long as it sounds natural, then I’m all for it. Sometimes people can get too robotic with their dialogue and it may be moving the story along, but it’s not presenting the characters in any sort of realistic light. It’s probably why I have a decent amount of swearing in my writing, just because that’s what the people in my life (and even myself) sound like. Dialogue has always stuck out to me and affects all my writing. My prose is very conversational, which can be a bit of a detriment to Grammar sometimes, but I’d rather something come off naturally, than technically correct.
I love it because it’s the easiest aspect to write and often feels like it’s just flowing out of me. As long as I know the characters backwards and forwards, I pretty much just have to introduce the scene and then I just transcribe whatever plays out, almost like watching a movie and taking notes.
You've got a lot of really cool stuff going on with your YouTube channel including Franchise Chat, Insomnia Theatre, a few short films, reviews, gaming videos—plus you've got more projects coming up. What's involved in creating one of these videos (ex. equipment, storyboards, scheduling)?
A lot more work than you’d think. Equipment-wise, I have a DSLR, audio recorder, a boom mic, as well as a crapload of lights. It’s fairly professional for something I film in my bedroom. I don’t storyboard or even really script anything, because I want it to come off as naturally as possible. At most, there’s bullet points set up on my iPad that I can glance at occasionally.
I think I’m more charismatic when I can just hit the red button and go. But it also means a lot more editing. That’s where 90% my time goes to. The videos usually take between 5-10 hours to finish, sometimes twice that depending on the length and how many cuts/ancillary footage I have. But mostly I just do videos that interest me, because I think that makes the videos more entertaining, which is the main goal.
You’ve hinted at doing something different on your channel for Halloween this year—if you’re able to share any more details?
My plan is actually to do horror recommendations for every day of October. That way people can get ideas for stuff to watch, play, or even read to get in the spirit of the holiday. I always love Halloween so doing something special for October is always on my mind.
How would you say your experience working in film influences your writing?
It’s made me realize that you have to write to your own experience, not what you think will be popular. Hollywood is constantly chasing what’s “in” and I’d rather be the one to start those trends than to follow them. Which is why I do my own thing. The whole reason I wrote my first book is because I always wanted to read a slasher book, but those don’t really exist.
It also taught me that reality TV is the devil (though I think I already knew that).
Are there any horror tropes you love to hate? Hate that you love?
I’m actually a really big fan of tropes in horror because I feel like following them can help you establish the rules, and then show your creativity by subverting them. Because if you train your audience’s expectations, you can really shock them when the change happens. I genuinely love the trope of “The Final Girl” simply because so many of my favorite films feature them: Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Alien.
I will say though, I hate the “sad ending just because its horror” kind of finale. If the story is building to evil being defeated, and the heroes succeeding, then do that. Don’t bring the bad guy back just because you want to shock audiences. It’s a big reason why I love the film “Lights Out” because they avoid doing that, despite it seeming like that’s the direction they’re heading in.
With the remakes and reboots of movies like Child's Play and Halloween, what impact do you think these new installments have on their respective franchises? On the horror genre?
I think they’re great because they bring more people into the franchise that wouldn’t have otherwise. As much as I love some older horror films, I understand younger people not understanding them because they don’t understand the context for the era they were made in. The original Halloween may not illicit anything from a teen, but the new one just might because it’s more relatable to them. And honestly, I’ve never been someone against reboots/remakes. As long as it’s good, then I’m all for it.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
It’s been three years since Crimson Summer and I’m always being asked about a sequel so I guess I should touch on that. I’ve written half of the book and hope to have the rest of it done by the Spring. I’m shooting for a Fall 2020 release. It follows our survivors from the first book, Chase and Liz, as they enter their Senior Year of High School, one year after the events at Camp Watanka.
And my Youtube channel “Zombievictim” has a new video every Friday so if you love horror content, be sure to check it out.
Pick up a copy of The Crimson Summer here.
Follow Tyler on Instagram and Twitter and check out his site.
Photo Credit: Tyler Nichols
Jesse Lee Hockman, is an artist and illustrator based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. The best way to find his art work is either www.facebook.com/jessdrawingthings or www.instagram.com/jessdrawingthings.
In a Facebook post you mention that for the month of September you're challenging yourself to do a drawing a day. How has this been going so far?
Yes! It is going great! Well, minus one day. This past weekend I got a little sick and wasn't able to complete a piece on Saturday night. Not for the lack of trying though, I spent 3 hours trying to flesh out ideas but I couldn't make anything work. Otherwise though it has been fantastic. I've themed these drawings around the idea of children interacting with imaginary creatures. The creatures are constantly departing words of encouragement or advice to the child. These phrases that I use as titles are things that I constantly remind myself all the time or motto's I try to keep in my daily life. I hope that if I can keep this central idea through out the month i may be able to turn it into some sort of book and maybe kickstart it.
How did you learn your craft?
Drawing was something I have technically done since I was a child. At the age of nineteen I decided to take it more seriously and eventually enrolled in a liberal arts college. I graduated with a degree in art studio with a concentration in drawing and a minor in art history. Ultimately though, my greatest amount of learning came after college. I've devoured every tutorial art video on youtube that I felt could teach me something, it didn't matter if it was a technical tutorial, about the psychology of art or the business side. I really believe that greatest thing I learned about making art is that you have to slow down and enjoy the process more than the end product.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
At the age of nineteen. It was a rough moment in my life. I had been going to school for computer engineering at a state school and struggled to enjoy the subject matter. During my second year, my father passed away from an experimental treatment that was suppose to aid in fighting the brain tumor he had. The treatment was known to increase chances of blood clots and we believe one ended up in his lungs. With his passing I stepped back and asked myself "What do I really enjoy in life?". This question wasn't answered easily. It took me dropping out of school and moving back home for a while to figure out that art was the answer.
Your about section notes that you mostly work in graphite. What attracts you to this medium? How does it help you execute your ideas?
The thing that attracts me to graphite is it's simplicity. It is one of the simplest ways to make art but can lead to the most complicated pieces. I do enjoy other mediums but all my pieces start as a pencil drawing, when I sit down to make a piece all I have to do is grab a pencil and paper. There is no setting up paints and water and finding the right brush or prepping a canvas. It's just a piece of paper and pencil. It's also a very forgiving medium if you have a delicate hand. I can work though ten to twenty ideas on a piece of paper without having to worry about getting a new piece of paper because I can always either erase or incorporate any stray marks. This all culminates to the the idea that drawing is the most basic form of representational art and graphite is the easiest way to execute an idea quickly but maintain the energy of a gesture and the tightness of precision.
Do you face any challenges in translating your ideas to the page? If any, what helps you overcome them?
Any artist that tells you they don't is lying. Their reaction to those challenges is really what matters and probably determines their answer to this question. Personally, I struggle often and it is usually due to my state of mind or my environment. I've come to learn that having anything that will pull my mind away from the work at hand will cause frustration. To counter this I listen to music with only instrumentation and no lyrics and I don't leave the TV on or listen to podcasts during this part. The rendering portion of art making is much easier and I can listen to podcasts or watch television during this portion. Now on the subject of what people would typically call "artist block" or the inability to find inspiration. I'll be cliche and quote Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” In other words, if I can't get a concept to work I will pick an object and just draw it. This just gets the creative process moving and allows me to mindlessly draw while my brain can flutter between ideas to find a way to make it work. I also have 5 or more projects going at once typically and will just work on one of them if another is giving me problems.
At what point do you say “I'm done!” when working on a piece?
This is probably the biggest struggle with my artistic process. I'm a perfectionist at heart and have trouble leaving things a lone that bother me. I actually have a painting right now that has already been sold but I am struggling to find what bothers me about the piece in order to finish it. Often I ask "Does this effectively express the idea and emotions I want it to?" and "Is the highest level of quality and skill I'm capable of reached?". If I answer yes to both or just one of these questions I am usually willing to call a piece done.
Are you experimenting with any techniques, materials, or concepts right now?
I've recently took a dive back into oil painting. It's been a few years since I had really worked in this medium. I'm kinda bumbling my way through right now. I do have a plan to adjust my work flow to speed things up and come out with a better end product. I jumped right into painting quite a bit lately without fully fleshing out the ideas. This has lead to some frustration. My plan for future works is to fully flush out a drawing at the size of the intended final product and mount a copy to a board. This will allow me to paint directly over my drawing and not have find the proportions or have to render everything completely over again.
Outside of drawing, how do you fuel your imagination?
The easiest way to fuel the imagination is to experience life and what others have to offer. I step away from the art. Travel, hiking, rock climbing(my other love in life) or experiencing new things is the only way I know to inform my art better.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I'd just like to reiterate that if you spend all of your time working and not experiencing what life has to offer then your art will suffer for it. As an artists we are typically the more introverted types and would rather sit at home or in the studio and just work. But getting out and meeting people that have similar interests or very different ones can help a lot. Art is a form of communicating our experiences and emotions for the world to interpret in a visual way. If you don't have those experiences you can't communicate effectively.
Photo credit to the artist.
Arly Carmack is a fiction writer and author of novel Nineteen. She's an author to keep an eye on with more books to come.
Your site hints that you have a follow-up to Nineteen in the works called Twenty-One set to be released this December. How has this been going?
Thanks for asking! Twenty-One is complete and I’ve edited it twice. Now I’m working on a final edit and sending it off to a beta reader. Editing is an odd thing for me. I will procrastinate for a while, then I’ll get a huge chunk done. When you are so close to something, especially something that has taken five years to make, it’s hard to look at it objectively and slice out things that don’t bring any value to the characters or the story. But with Nineteen, I found that process to be satisfying when I got the end result, so I need to keep that in mind while I’m editing Twenty-One.
As you've been working on this project, has the current version changed much since you've first started? Has anything surprised you about it as you've been writing it?
In the original version of Nineteen, there were a few dumped storylines that delved more into Cameron’s connection to music and being a musician. The main purpose for my final edit of Twenty-One is to make sure I didn’t miss any references to things I ended up cutting. I also added a new character who was meant to be miserable, annoying, and a bit of an antagonist, but it took a turn and I ended up enjoying him tremendously. I’m hoping the readers will embrace him, too. He’s going to be a major player when the series wraps up.
In addition to Twenty-One, you have several other projects in the works—including a novel, novella, and an untitled project. What helps you keep your momentum? Do you find yourself balancing several projects at once, or do you prefer to complete one before starting another?
Being able to choose what you work on is the lovely thing about being an independent author. I can put something to bed for a while and work on whatever I’m feeling passionate about at that moment, or start something new. If I get bored with my writing, I just open another project and see if I’m feeling it. If I were a traditionally-published writer, I’d probably adopt a process of making outlines, creating timelines, and setting goals. I would have to be more efficient and methodical because I'd be answering to a publisher. For now, writing is my escape, so I don’t want to turn it into another thing to check off my to-do list. My violin teacher always tells me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” so that’s going to be my motto for writing as well. It’s a journey and I don’t know exactly where I will end up.
What is your experience writing first drafts like? Do you have any advice for fellow writers working through round one?
I try to write the first draft like it’s going to be the final draft. The less I have to change later, the better. My first drafts seem to be about twenty to thirty thousand words heavier than they need to be, so most of the editing I do is eliminating redundancy, dropping dead plots, and making sure the voice of the project stays consistent. I think writing is like almost anything else. Do it your way, do what works for you, and if something doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to change the process. Writing is an art and there is no right or wrong in art.
When you have a story idea, at what point do you know what form it will take on?
I’ll admit it – I’m a pantser! I don’t outline anything. For me, a story is like a little plant in my head. I water it, wait to see if it grows. Some ideas take a much longer time to grow than others. The story itself isn’t my main focus. Once I have a solid character, I can usually take off from there. My stories aren’t plot-driven, rather character and dialogue-driven, so it flows fairly well because I know what my characters are going to say and do. I just have to put them in situations. Then the characters and dialogue are driven by the situation, and it all works together. I start every project by getting to know the main character. For everything else, I fly by the seat of my pants.
What appeals to you most about writing fiction?
Satisfying my inherent need to understand people. I have an obsession with wanting to know what motivates people, and most of what I write is born from that.
When you aren't writing, what are you up to?
We have a great park system where I live, and I enjoy walking around and taking pictures with my vintage cameras. I like to develop some of my own film. I’ve been slowly purchasing darkroom equipment and am hoping to get that going soon. Aside from that, I like to go to thrift shops. That’s always fun. I’ve also been studying the violin for a little over a year. I have a wonderful teacher.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I appreciate their support and that they’ve taken the time to read my book. It means the world to me when I hear that someone has enjoyed it. There will definitely be more to come and I welcome their feedback.
Pick up a copy of Nineteen here.
Find Arly on Instagram and check out her website.
Photo Credit: Arly Carmack