Sunday, July 31, 2011

Interview with Zoe Whitten

Thanks for joining, Zoe. Wow, 27 books? Can you tell us, out of all of your novels, which one is your baby and why?

I don't have any one book that's special, no. I have stories that I wish I could spend more time promoting, but no one story stands out as the one I'm most proud of.

Because I have a library this large, I came to a decision that I needed to focus on two titles and try to court readers of fantasy and sci-fi. So for the fantasy group, I'm pimping Peter the Wolf, and for the sci-fi crowd, I'm pushing my "dueling novellas" release from Belfire Press, The Life and Death of a Sex Doll.

Along the same line, which would make the best movie?

Probably one of my sci-fi stories, either Wake Up With the Kimellians or Dead End, the first book in my high tech sci-fi zombie trilogy.

Now, could you tell us a little bit about your current werewolf book? I've read a bit about it and it looks great.

Peter Holmes is a lycanthrope who doesn't know it. There's a lot more to his story than that. He's a survivor of long-term child abuse, which ended only after the death of his twin sister in a snuff film. Peter turned in his parents in a desperate bid for freedom, but the effect of all his abuse have made him unfit for normal people, who shuttle him around to a few foster homes.

Peter arrives with his fourth family after a stay in juvenile detention, so he's got a bleak view on life at first. That changes when he discovers gymnastics and begins training. But even as he's trying to get his life sorted out among the normal people, his animal nature makes every day a struggle. Things get worse when he starts to suffer lunar madness and get visits from spooks. Then Peter's life with his family and friends is threatened when his mother escapes from prison looking for revenge.

Do you ever draw from your real life experiences for your writing?

Yeah, or from experiences borrowed from other people. Back when I was a young'un, I used to run into a lot of people who had suffered some kind of abuse. Some of them suffered so badly that it made my life seem downright pleasant by comparison.

A lot of what I wrote in Peter's book isn't covering me, but the experiences of a close friend who was forced into early sex by her parents, and then her grandmother after her parents abandoned her. I drew a lot on her past for this, and on her problems with flashbacks and random daily triggers. A lot of the time, she was more like a frightened and wounded animal than a complete human. So I think mixing her history with a werewolf metaphor can maybe help to show normal people something of what it's like to keep an inner animal caged.

What did your drill sergeant tell you, just as they were driving you home?

Oh, cheating! But no, I'm going to give a different answer with a short story. When they let me into the Army, there was a rule about checking out tattoos and what they mean. I didn't know this but having tattoos over both knees or both elbows is a signal to some groups, "Hi, I'm a racist." Er, supremacist. In any case, I have a hand made Van Halen tattoo over my left leg, which is up side down, and a another tattoo drawing of Grendel's head (Hunter Rose, I was a Comico fan.)

So my drill sergeant pointed to the upside down tattoo and asks, "What the hell is that?" I said, "It's Van Halen. Uh, they're a band." My senior drill sergeant got a look like he was sucking a lime and went, "I know who they are!"

So, fast forward to the day that he had to drive me off of Fort Sill and over to the bus stop for the ride back to San Antonio, and the sergeant loads up For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The moment the electric drill started up, I grinned at him, and he grinned back and said, "See? I told you I knew who they were."

Did you like your experience in the military?

I was a slacker, and probably not the best person to go in for the military life. But the vast majority of base life was okay. The food was decent, aside from the coffee, and I like the guys I hung out with among the "broke dicks." (A title that now amuses me even more after "the surgery." Yep, I'm totally a broke dick now.)

If you could change one thing about today's society, what would it be and why?

I would get rid of prejudice. We would be so much better off as a society if people didn't always need a punching bag to blame.

I heard you once got fired for dying your hair blue. Could you elaborate?

Oh, I was doing phone tech support for my very last tech job ever. I was already unliked because I was supposed to be referring problems up to level two techs, and instead I was handling the simpler jobs and writing up a resolution. Apparently doing my job pissed some managers off.

I showed up with blue hair, and the manager took me to the office and said "We're letting you go because unnatural hair color are against company policy." I, being one of the few people to actually read employee manuals, said, "I don't believe there is, actually."

This led to two hours of me watching a manager flip back and forth though our phone book manual before finally going to the front page and pointing to: "A manager can dismiss an employee for any reason." So, I was right, and I won the fight. Still didn't stop me from being fired.

What is your opinion of traditional publishing versus self-publishing? Would you say an author should try to get traditionally published?

I don't really trust publishers at this point. They take a lot of money for their services, and yet for new authors, what do they do? They tell us to go do our own promotions. They have us run our ad campaign ourselves, but they don't give us the marketing department's cut of the royalties. Many fired off their art departments and now do ugly stock photos. And if your book has a minority main character, you have to watch out for a "white-washed" cover. Even established companies are writing in sneaky contract clauses in attempts to grab more rights from writers, and they've collectively decided to piss on the growing emarket with outrageous prices. So they're making pure profit with these higher prices, but, they don't think I should get more than a pittance out of this deal. After all, I'm just the writer. I didn't do so much for the package or the product.

But, having said that, I think every writer needs to come to terms with what they want out of their writing. And for some people, a publisher may be the right decision. It isn't right for me at this time, but there may come a point in the future where I find a publisher that I really want to work with. Before I reach that point, I suspect I'd have to develop a title with a strong enough following to require a large publisher's distribution infrastructure.

You stay at home, being disabled. Have your disabilities ever gotten in the way of your writing? How do you persevere?

Oh yeah, I've often had fatigue attacks or days where mood swings made focusing on the words impossible. Some days, there is no persevering. There is just laying on the couch and waiting for my problems to pass.

But I'm not a quiet quitter, and I never have been. On my bad days, I may be stuck on the couch. But on my good days, I'll edit a few chapters in one WIP, write 1,500 words in another, and then get in a good plyometric workout to try and get my back and stomach muscles back into shape. I also take care of a balcony garden and practice guitar. (I'm a total newbie to both hobbies, though. This is my first year gardening, and I've only owned my Ibanez Gio Sparkle, AKA: Lili Home Wrecker, since April.

I never really stress out about lower writing output when my illness puts me down for a bit. I mean, in four years of dedicated practice, I think I've totally earned the right to call myself prolific, yanno?

Thank you for the interview, Zoe. We really appreciate you stopping by and hope your books do well. You can find out more about Zoe here.


Jeffrey Beesler said...

Awesome interview, Draven and Zoe! I'm glad someone fought back against the lack of policy that one company had, even if the end result wasn't the desired one.

Michele Shaw said...

Great interview, as always, Draven. I love to be introduced to other writers, and your blog is constantly providing me that opportunity. Hi, Zoe! Wow, 27 books? Astounding! Best of luck with all of them:)

Katey said...

Speaking of, it's past time I went and grabbed my copy of Peter.

Great interview!

Draven Ames said...

Jeffrey- Thanks for stopping by and reading. Zoe has a lot of character and I was glad to interview her. I can tell her writing is great.

Katey - Stop by and let us know what you thought of it. Maybe you could do a guest spot, reviewing the novel?

Michele - Always glad to have you. She has written a whole heck of a lot of books, hasn't she? I can't wait to have a library like that.

Zoe said...

I actually lost quite a few jobs because my mouth operated faster than my tact circuit. But this was one of those times where I didn't feel guilty in speaking up.

Yep, 27, and quite a few of them favorably reviewed. Thanks very much for the kind wishes and for commenting. With luck, by next year, I'll be near 40 releases. =^)

I hope you like it! Thanks for checking it out, and for leaving a comment! =^)

Jeff King said...

Awesome interview...

Judy Winchester said...

A great interview, and Zoe's comments about traditional publishing confirm that self-publishing is no longer a last resort, but a viable alternative.

E.J. Wesley said...

Awesome interview,Draven and Zoe. I think Zoe's thoughts on publishing are frank and refreshing, plus her work sounds amazing!

I'm new to the blog and really looking forward to more!