Spotlight on Horror: An Interview with Ty Schwamberger

For this edition of Spotlight on Horror, a chat with friend and fellow horror writer Ty Schwamberger. I owe a lot to this guy, as he has helped me get my feet wet in the publishing world. Hope you enjoy this interview, and be sure to check out Ty’s work. If you like visceral horror, you WON’T be disappointed. Let the spotlight fall!

Ty door small

Dean Harrison: With an impressive catalogue of published works and even a few independent films under your belt, you’ve established yourself quickly in the horror community. What important steps did you take to get where you are now?

Ty Schwamberger: There are three: I write/wrote a lot. I’m genuine with fans, publishers and fellow authors. I’m constantly looking to make new contacts in the publishing and film industries.

DH: Which of your stories have been made into films and did you have a hand in that creative process? Do you feel the movies are true to the stories?
TS: “Cake Batter” (released on DVD in 2010) is a short film based upon a tale in my short story collection, For After Midnight.
“House Call” (released on DVD in 2013) is a feature-length film based on my unpublished novella, House Call.
DININ’ was just optioned for film development a few months ago by Cinder Path Productions.
I haven’t yet ventured into writing screenplays, but the folks who adapted each story did share the screenplay and ask if I had any input. Both films are very close to the original stories, which is always a plus.
I do plan to try my hand writing a screenplay in 2014. The book business is rapidly changing, so it might be time to focus on something that’s still thriving.

DH: For those not familiar with your work, how would you best describe your writing style?

TY: My stories tend to be character driven. For example, in my novella, The Fields, there are zombies in the story, but it’s really not about zombies. It’s more about the trials and tribulations of the main character, a farmer, whose crops are dying and he is desperate to find a way to save them. There’s nothing better than some undead farm hands to help you out!

I also love taking an everyday situation, put unsuspecting characters in the middle of it, and see what they do when a bad situation presents itself.

DH: Which of your books would you recommend to a first-time reader?

The Fields_front coverTS: The Fields, if you want to experience a very atypical zombie tale (folks better get it quick, as it goes out of print on 10/31!).

DININ’, if you dig reading brutal shit.

DH: Like many other writers, you have to keep a day job to help pay the bills. How do you manage to stay productive while having to carry the burden of a 9-5 job?

TS: It’s all about being dedicated to your first love – writing. If you want to be a writer, you’ll find the time to do it. Believe me, I know how busy life can get when you have kids, a significant other, family obligations, everyday household duties AND a day job on top of it all. You have to learn how to prioritize or you won’t get anything written. You’ll put off finishing that story or novel because you’re just “too tired from the day job” or “kids are stressing me out” or “(insert whatever else you like HERE)”.

Don’t bitch about it. Shut up, sit down and write.

DH: You’ve helped many beginning writers, myself included, get their feet wet in the publishing world. What would you say were the challenges you’ve faced as an editor of such anthologies in which many of those writers were first featured (Fem-Fangs, Fell Beasts, Relics & Remains)?

TS: I didn’t have a mentor when I started out 5 years ago. I had to go through the good and the bad on my own. I’m sure it would have been a lot easier to have someone to ask those burning, beginning writer questions, but I didn’t. I’m glad it worked out that way, though. I’ve learned a lot along the way.

But, because this business can be cruel to the beginner, I have lent a helping hand to quite a few since that lowly time. And I honestly enjoy it.

For the most part.

There have been a few instances along the way where I’ve been taken advantage by being the “nice author guy.” The last time was only a few weeks ago. You see, besides being an author and editor, I’ve also had two stints at running imprints for a couple publishers. So I know the ins and outs of how to typeset a book, doing the layout for cover art, uploading it onto Amazon, etc. I was contacted by a friend of a friend who wanted to self-publish a children’s book. Ok, not my genre, but that’s fine. I was very upfront about the costs for something such as this. She said she would think about it and let me know. However, during the ensuing days, she asked all sorts of questions and I politely (answered) them. Then I was notified she had posted something on her Facebook wall about putting out the book on her own. I politely posted on her wall that I don’t have a problem with her doing it herself, but to let ME know first before making a public announcement of such. Needless to say, she didn’t get it. She ended up deleting my comment and removing me from her friends list.

But that’s Ok.

Someone like that won’t get far in this business anyway.

DH: It’s clear social media has become an important tool for writers to build readership and relationships with publishers and editors, but it  can also come with a price. It can serve as a distraction from a writer’s work or even hurt his/her career. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of social media?

TS: With the near extinction of brick-n-mortar bookstores, it’s becoming more and more important for authors and publishers to market their brand online through social media. However, there are so many out there, it’s pretty easy to get bogged down with all of them.

However, I think the idea of being ‘distracted’ by social media or the internet in general is bullshit. It’s just laziness. If you really wanted to write something, you wouldn’t have clicked the little ‘E’ icon on your desktop. Instead it would have been the ‘W’ for Word. You wouldn’t be Tweeting or updating your Facebook status about the book you’ve been working on for the past year, you would be finishing the damn thing.

Let’s look at it like this:

6 months is roughly 180 days, right? If you write only 500 words each day for 6 months you would have a novel length manuscript. Pound out 1,000 words each day for three months and you have yourself a novel.

There’s no excuse to not be able to average 500 words a day during any given 6 month stretch. That is, if you are truly serious about finishing that ‘epic’ novel you have dancing around in your head.

DH: What challenges does the up-and-coming writer faces in today’s complicated market?

TS: Visibility. Each day it’s getting tougher and tougher for a new writer to get their work, not only published, but seen by the general reading public.

DH: What can the beginning horror writer do to overcome some of the challenges they might face in today’s market?
TS: I’m going to be brutally honest here. If you really are dead set on getting into the writing game, then make sure you diversify yourself as much as possible (novels, novellas, short stories, film, audio books, non-fiction, etc). Only a very small percentage of writers are able to do it full-time (if that’s your goal). If you are in it as a hobby, more power to you. But, if you are in it to make enough money to support you and your family without a ‘day job’ then you better get ready for a long, rough road ahead of you. Writing may look glamorous on the outside looking in, but it’s anything but. It takes blood, sweat and tears to make it in this game. Hell, look at me for example. I might have 10 books, a slew of short stories, non-fiction articles, a few films, audio books, etc, and am still slaving away at a ‘day job’. I feel like I’ve paid my dues in the small press world and need to move onto bigger and better things. Now, that’s not to say that working with small presses isn’t a good way to go. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some fine, award-winning publishers over the years. But the time has come for me to venture out and try to break in with the Big Boys. Who knows, perhaps one of the many proposals I’ve been pitching to them will stick and I’ll be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel once again.

DH: What’s new on the horizon for Ty Schwamberger?

TS: 2014 will see the release of my creature novel, Deep Dark Woods, an original mummy novella entitled, The Desert, a yet-to-be-announced reprinted novella, along with three audio books. There will also be some non-fiction stuff mixed in there as well for a UK magazine.

DH: Halloween is approaching fast. Just for fun, what is your favorite Halloween memory?

TS: Making a costume from a cardboard box and wrapping it in aluminum foil. It made for the perfect robot.

DH: You’ve made no secret of the fact that the late Richard Laymon was a major influence on your writing. What was it about his style that was so influential, and what is your favorite Richard Laymon novel?

TS: I’ll take the proverbial cop-out here by saying I enjoy all his work. Seriously. It’s all THAT good.

But, yes, his work is a major influence on my own writing. In fact, I would say all but one of my books is in the same vain as his style. That isn’t by design, mind you. It’s just the way it comes out. Simple, concise, excitingly graphic writing. I dig it.

DH: I’ve asked you this before, but it’s become a standard question in these “Spotlight on Horror” posts of mine, and I think the reason is fairly obvious. What, for you, is the appeal of horror fiction?

TS: As a writer and watcher of horrific stuff, I love how someone can take an everyday setting or event, then turn and flip it this way and that to make it downright scary.

DH: Another just for fun question, what is your worst fear?

TS: Not fulfilling my ultimate dream of one day being able to write fulltime for a living. It scares me to imagine myself being 65 years old and having to still go into a day job.


For more information on Ty Schwamberger and his work, visit his website at

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