Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
The Dead 1-Robert Tozer
Coming not so live from British Columbia, Canada
The Dead is Robert Tozer’s first full length novel. He has graduated from the school of hard knocks, written award-winning fiction in his mind, and was not responsible for the viral outbreak which has decimated the world.
He currently resides with his wonderful wife, Jana, son, Hayden (who is a little monster but not a zombie), and two non-viral infected dogs, Baxter and Hunter, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Along with other survivors, he soon plans on acquiring a caravan of RVs and relocating to a different clime in order to escape the bloodthirsty zombie hordes.
Rob’s answers are written in blood, if you get queasy easy…
LOOK AWAY NOW!
Kev: What is your latest book about, Rob?
Rob: My novel, The Dead, is a zombie novel, but curiously the shambling dead are not the main reference in the title-the living survivors are. Each of the characters is screwed up/dead inside in some way or another. It’s those different and often times clashing and difficult personalities that I focus on.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
Rob: I was laid up due to a car accident a few years ago, and wanting to read some new zombie novels, I checked out the offerings on Amazon. After perusing the different reviews I came to the conclusion that I could write a better zombie book than most of the drek out there. I also took note that almost all of the negative reviewers and I shared the same grievances when it came to zombie plots-realism…realism in both the actions of the surviving people, as well as, the reason and cause for the zombification of the dead. I began to write out a story just for myself. After the first few chapters, my friends took a look and told me I should seriously consider finishing the story and selling it. I’ve always had a knack for storytelling and wanted a career change to boot, so I leapt in head first. I haven’t looked back since.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
Rob: I took a long time researching both the areas where the story takes place, the weapons, vehicles, and the virus (Japanese Encephalitis) that causes the zombification itself. The virus is real and does mimic the aggression that zombies are known for. It has also mutated from a simple pig virus and has jumped species to infect humans with an alarming death percentage rate.
I just mutated it a wee bit more.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
Rob: I had a host of challenges for this particular novel. From losing a marriage over it, getting ripped off $1200 for editing I never received from a very good liar and con-artist, writer’s block that lasted about a year, to some non-believers that were in my life that had a habit of trashing my dreams and telling me I’ll never get the book finished.
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
Rob: There are a few, but Spencer is the main one.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Rob: Spencer’s greatest weakness is that he is a loner who has a very jaded and callous view of the world. He has no friends (at first) and an overall lack of empathy with humanity.
Kev: Who is the main Antagonist?
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
Rob: David’s greatest strength is his mind and his mouth. He is very good at swaying people to his view, and excels at methodically planning out attacks in which he can overcome a superior enemy by out-thinking them.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taste?
Dawn arrived, revealing the beautiful colors of the world. Baby birds chirped for their breakfast while their parents hopped along the ground in search of worms. The bees began their daily trek, buzzing around the flowers and bushes. The wind rustled lightly through the trees. It was a glorious morning! The air had a new-day smell. It had rained earlier, and the droplets glistened on the grass. A misty haze rose from the puddles in the streets, hinting at the humid day to come.
The sun warmed Art, and he raised his face toward its brilliance. Closing his eyes in the harsh glare, he luxuriated in this often overlooked moment of beauty. Its embrace calmed him, and he drank in the sweet sounds of nature.
Then he remembered something: He was quite late, and he was also quite hungry. His belly rumbled, and his throat was dry. It seemed like ages since his last meal, but in truth it had been only twelve hours ago that he’d had a late night dinner with his wife. Nevertheless, he quickly crossed the street to peer into the windows of the small bistros and cafes to see the day’s specials.
Suddenly, it came to him: Work!
He was late for work—again. He thought it best to grab a quick bite and be off to the office before he found himself in trouble with his boss. His stomach was really growling now, and he realized there was a huge pain gnawing at his insides, as well. He really needed to catch a bite to eat.
It was well known to his friends and co-workers that Art had an unparalleled sense of style. He always impressed those around him, constantly receiving approving and envious looks from strangers of both genders. Today, Art was dressed in a well-tailored suit. It was a deep royal blue, accented with pale baby-blue pinstripes. An expensive gold watch complemented his look.
His wife, Barbara, had almost insisted on purchasing the kitschy Rolex he despised, but she had finally given in and allowed him to buy this sleek, efficient, and enviable timepiece instead. He also happened to be wearing a pair of diamond-studded twenty-four-carat gold cufflinks that Barbara had given to him last June for his birthday. To round out his crisp outfit, Art had chosen a silk white tie with burgundy stripes.
His shoes were of the finest imported leather but had suffered a small amount of scuffing over his two-mile walk to work every day. This trend of exercising had begun when Barbara noticed the appearance of his love handles, coupled with a small paunch. They had dated for two years and been married for another five, but they had been having problems lately. Over the past two years, their marriage had turned boring and predictable in the bedroom. Evenings once spent cuddling on the couch and watching television together were now filled with redundant arguments, mainly concerning the direction of their marriage and their separate outlooks on life.
Having tried and failed for the past few years to create a little bundle of joy to lend significance to their lives, they had found their marriage devolving into a series of painful jabs and insults. Barbara frequently went out of her way to poke fun at him and constantly made silly comments pertaining to his new figure. The haranguing made him feel inadequate whenever he was naked around her.
The feelings of inadequacy caused their sex life, which hadn’t been glorious to begin with, to deteriorate. Barbara felt rejected, which fueled her domineering and emasculating attitude, but no matter how bad their situation got, Art would always love Barbara. After all, Barbara was the most beautiful woman in the world, and at the end of the day, they truly did love each other. It would just be a matter of time before things worked themselves out.
Barbara was blessed with the beauty of a model, and she was very much accustomed to getting her way. As a meticulous woman who liked things just so, it wasn’t hard for her to find excuses to torment Art. She didn’t stop at those few extra pounds around his midriff but mocked his outward appearance, as well.
Today, upon noticing that one of his shirttails was hanging outside his pants, Art scolded himself for being so unkempt. He quickly tried to tuck the shirttail back in before anyone else noticed his faux pas, but the damned thing refused to go in properly. He tried again, slowly this time. His wife would tear him a new one if she saw his lack of upkeep. She was always prodding him about how his disorderliness would make them look bad in front of their neighbor, Ben, an overly tanned, good-looking bachelor. Barbara was always going on about how Ben set a standard of style to look up to.
Initially, Art had believed Barbara was having an affair with him. Early one August at the beginning of their marriage, Ben had thrown a neighborhood barbecue, and Barbara had gone into the house to help him bring out some wine and more glasses from the kitchen. They’d found themselves alone, and Ben must have made some amusing remark, because Barbara had begun laughing that fake, hysterical laugh she used when she had too much to drink.
She reached for some wine glasses hanging on a rack above the counter. While her arms were in the air, Ben reached around and ground his crotch into her rear, brushing his arms against her breasts while retrieving a corkscrew. After taking the extra wine glasses, Barbara turned to face him. He had kept his arms around her and seemed to move in for a kiss, but she whispered something into his ear, and he quickly removed his arms.
Art had watched through a window on the far side of the kitchen. He had chalked it up as a drunken advance and a soft refusal.
However, there had also been that one time when they were shopping. Art had decided to peruse the electronics section while Barbara gathered the groceries. Art had picked out a DVD he thought Barbara would like to watch and went off in search of their cart. He found it parked at the end of an aisle, but, not seeing his wife anywhere, he decided to search the store. Six aisles away, he finally found her. She had met up with Ben, his empty cart parked in front of them. They looked like they were pulling back from what Art would call an intimate embrace.
That afternoon, when Art questioned her about it, she reassured him that it had just been a friendly greeting, dismissing his concerns.
“You know how I am, honey. I’m an extremely friendly person!” she said.
The entire situation stung Art, but, upon reflection, he imagined that was how everyone would describe his wife—overly friendly.
There had also been that time when he came home from work early and found that his wife wasn’t home. He called her cell but only got her voicemail. Art decided to see whether she was over visiting Ben. He heard giggling and splashing coming from the backyard, so he skipped the front door and walked across the lawn to the back gate. He looked over the fence and was shocked to see Ben and a topless Barbara frolicking in the pool.
Barbara was leaping at Ben, giggling like a teenager. She unsuccessfully tried to cover her bouncing breasts while she jumped. She was attempting to retrieve the bra of her swimsuit from Ben, who was swinging it above his head as if he’d just won a prize. They moved about the pool, him stopping to dangle the bra over her head every once in a while. He would quickly move backward, just out of her reach, each time she made a lunge for it.
It carried on until they caught sight of Art gawking at them. Ben mumbled something unintelligible and resignedly tossed the bra back to Barbara, who was humiliated, her face crimson.
Over dinner that evening, she explained that she had lost her top while diving into the pool, and Ben, ever the saucy one, had retrieved it first and decided to have a bit of innocent fun while she was caught in such a predicament. She went to great lengths to reassure Art. “It’s just a bit of innocent flirting, that’s all. Honest, love,” she said.
After a lengthy inner examination, not to mention a consideration of her continued threats that their marriage was over if he didn’t trust her, Art dismissed any thought of her having an illicit affair. He convinced himself that while his wife was a lot of things, his Barbara wasn’t a cheater.
He was still attempting to push his uncooperative shirttail back into his pants. This wasn’t the first time he’d had problems completing a simple task, and he realized he’d been having quite a few issues with his motor skills lately. Confusing thoughts flashed through his mind until a terrifyingly clear idea solidified: Perhaps I’m having a stroke.
He’d read somewhere that people often suffered confusion and a loss of motor skills during a stroke, and he was having an exceptionally hard time collecting his thoughts this morning. His mind cleared the moment he heard a door open a few shops down as a woman and man left a store. Art politely raised his arm, directing a friendly nod of greeting toward the couple.
His stomach rumbled, and he returned his mind to the prospect of food. Looking back to the window of the diner, he saw his reflection. His hair was in quite a state: scraggly, with little tufts blowing every which way. Embarrassed, he looked back at the couple and gave them a timid smile. He awkwardly wiped at his hair, trying to smooth it down. His reflection also looked rather peaked. Putting his hand to his cheek, he leaned in closer to have a better look. He hoped he wasn’t coming down with something.
Art cocked his head. That’s strange . . . since when did I—
A bullet entered his right temple and exited through his left.
Chunks of his brain splattered across the window and painted the walkway. He blinked once in confusion, then crumpled lifelessly to the pavement.
His final conscious thought was that Barbara and Ben would certainly have something to say if they could see the state of him now.
That was, if he hadn’t dined on them the previous evening.
Kev: Favourite author’s book, and what lured you to it?
Rob: I have many favourite authors and books, but I’d say that both Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea along with John Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men are my favourites (I can’t pick just one from the two). There is something magical that happens when I read those stories, or any stories by those authors. Along with Daniel Defoe’s, Robinson Crusoe, I get a sense and feel of wonder and awe at how beautifully these author’s can describe and tell a story. How intriguing and enriching Hemingway can spin a yarn about an old man who fishes. Can you imagine if you told that to your agent today? Well, my new novel is about an old man fishing by himself. The agent’s smile would droop and he’d answer, “That’s it? No explosions, no sex, no action? – Pass!” With how the world of publishing is today, I believe Hemingway would not be known and forced to live a different career.
Kev: When you write, do you write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula?
Rob: I write off the cuff, but there is a plan to my writing. I have an end goal where the characters need to get to, but to my consternation they often end up writing themselves, usually screwing things up along the way.
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block?
Rob: Funny enough, I watch movies or television. It relaxes me and I find that after a bit my mind just cuts in with something to write, and off I go back to the computer again.
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night?
Rob: Night seems to be the best time for me to write. I guess it’s the quiet. Having everyone asleep, and crappy shows on TV helps by having less distractions to my concentration. And for some reason, my work flows smoother and everything comes together when I write at night.
Kev: What is your process for editing your work?
Rob: I’ll begin by editing a chapter I haven’t read for a while and then re-edit it by reading it out loud to myself in a southern accent. The reason for this is because when you read out loud in a different voice you can trick your mind into thinking it’s being read to you by someone else and your mind (at least mine does) concentrates better to the listening aspect of it. This allows you to hear where something doesn’t sound right or you can hear the flow of the sentence go off kilter. After finishing with the paragraph where I’ve read something that sounded off, I’ll go back and change it, and then re-read that paragraph again with the changes made and continue on from there.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers?
Rob: I designed the cover myself and will do so again with the next one. I have a vision of what should be there and draw little stick figures and explain what the scene is and what I want in it to the artist. He’ll draw a short sketch and send it to me, where I’ll add any changes that need be done and then send it back with my approval to flesh the picture out more.
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important?
Rob: A book’s cover ranks number two as the most important area of a book. You need something eye-catching that draws the potential reader/buyer of your book in-something that sets it apart from the thousands of other novel prospects out there. If you’re wondering about number one…it’s getting your book professionally edited.
Kev: Which publishing platform do you prefer and why?
Rob: I prefer hardcover printing as opposed to digital or softcopy. I may be old-school, but I like to hold a solid book in my hands-feel its pages and enjoy the smell of fresh paper while I read.
Yeah…that doesn’t sound crazy, does it? (Kev: stares at Rob’s sticky bloody finger he’s been writing with… Err, no Rob, not at all… gulp!)
… moving on:
Kev: Do you face any daunting obstacles during the publishing process?
Rob: The hardest part about the publishing process is the small adjustments that you have to keep on top of while transferring your novel to the printers. There seems to be endless annoying quirks that have to be ironed out formatting wise that eat up large chunks of your time. It takes so much of your time away from writing, and your nerves get upset with each delay.
Kev: What methods do you use to promote your work?
Rob: Well, I like the guilt approach. I’ll find someone and then show them the book. If they don’t want to buy it, I’ll go on and on about how long it took me to write the thing and that it took “x” amount of time away from my family, and how my child will lack a proper education unless I sell all these books…
But seriously, I’m trying the cold calling of places like Indigo, and my local bookstores to start. I’ll be making personal appearances and signing books at the Vancouver Fan Expo 2015, Comic Con, and the Victoria IFCon 2015 horror convention this Halloween.
I’ll also be setting The Dead up on Amazon, iBooks, and Good Reads before long.
But I just hope I can sell a lot of books so my son can go to college and won’t turn out to be a slacker writing books for a living. Come on-you gotta buy one…please?
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Rob: 1: Don’t let people get you down by saying you can’t do it.
2: Work really hard at making your story the best it can be. This includes spending money on proper editing and cover art. You can scrimp on a lot of things if you are financially challenged, but those two things are not to be thought of as things you can do yourself. You wouldn’t drill your own tooth or hire yourself as a lawyer, so it is with editing your work and making your cover art.
3: Write for yourself first.
4: Don’t take criticism too seriously. There will always be people who won’t like your story. But there will also be many more that will enjoy and get something from it.
5: There are some authors I know who have four or even more stories on the go at one time. Pick one and finish it. Then you can move on to the next one.
6: Don’t give up. Push on through even if you’re stuck in the worst case of writer’s block hell.
7: Don’t rush to get it out. Take your time, do your research, care about the quality of your novel, both in its physical appearance and the story itself. After all, your name is going on the front cover. – You know, my editor and a few other people told me to chop my book in half (it sits at 360 pages), use cheaper paper, tighter margins, and smaller font size in order to sell twice as many books. I disregarded all of their well-intentioned advice in order to please my readers (myself included). I wanted to be able to hold my novel in my hands and be proud and impressed with what I saw-and I am.
Kev: Which social media platforms do you use the most?
Rob: I use Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robert.tozer.7399
and Twitter: https://twitter.com/ROBSTHEDEAD
although I suck at both.
Social media and I are not close friends-yet. #Damn you social media!
Kev: Do you have a blog or dedicated website for your books?
Rob: The curious can find me at: www.thedead.us
I also feel the stick prodding me into a blog site soon. So keep your eyes open for that and a Kickstarter project for, The Dead – Metamorphoses Book Two that I’ll be lining up in the near future.
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Rob: You can find my other works in some really kick-ass anthologies available on Amazon. There are links to them on my website. If you order The Dead – Colonies Book One and email me that you saw my awesome interview from Kev, I’ll refund $2 back to you.
Kev: Hey, what about my two bucks?! 😉