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