Today's guest on the 5 Minutes with series is Toby Tate. Toby's latest novel Lilith, has just been published by Dark Fuse. Lilith is a brilliant mix of action, horror, and science fiction. Toby Tate has been a writer since about the age of 12, when he first began writing short stories and publishing his own movie monster magazine. He is a freelance journalist and writer with dozens of pieces published on sites like eHow.com as well as in The Pedestal Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Scary Monsters Magazine and more.
An Air Force brat who never lived in one place more than two years, Toby joined the U.S. Navy soon after high school and ended up on the east coast. Toby has since worked as a cab driver, a pizza delivery man, a phone solicitor, a shipyard technician, a government contractor, a retail music salesman, a bookseller, a cell phone salesman, a recording studio engineer, a graphic designer and a newspaper reporter.
Toby's first novel, DIABLERO, a supernatural thriller, was published by Nightbird Publishing in Oct. 2010. A songwriter and musician, Toby lives near the Great Dismal Swamp in northeastern North Carolina.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
My father was in the military, so I moved around a lot as a kid. When I became an adult, that trend continued until I joined the Navy and came to the east coast of the U.S. I’ve been here ever since. I’ve always loved telling stories, even when I was little. My cousins and I used to try to scare each other with ghost stories. When I was about twelve or so, I started writing my own short stories, mostly horror fiction, and even had my own movie monster magazine at one time. I just always seemed to gravitate towards the dark side for some reason, even though I’m a pretty optimistic and happy person. I guess the psychologists will have to figure that one out! I also grew up in a musical family and play several instruments. I write songs, mainly pop rock, and learned about studio engineering on my own. I have a couple of CDs out that you can find on my web site.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I don’t know that I particularly like any one term. They all have different connotations for me. I think that weird or dark fiction doesn’t always have to be horror, it can be weird fantasy, or dark crime fiction. My publisher, DarkFuse, uses the term “dark fiction” because they publish most any genre, as long as it’s dark, whether it’s crime fiction, thrillers, mysteries or whatever.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Stephen King rates up there at the top, though I don’t always agree with his politics. King knows how to bring characters to life on the page and how to tell a story in a way that drags you in and doesn’t let go. Even long, wordy books like The Stand are just mesmerizing to me. The man is a master. He is probably one of my biggest influences as a writer. I also love reading thrillers by Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, James Patterson, James Rollins, Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Nelson DeMille, and all those guys you see on the bestseller lists, though I know that’s supposed to be passé. I don’t care – they’re good. I love the writers at DarkFuse and have read several of them – Michael McBride, William Meikle, Ronald Malfi, Greg Gifune, Alan Ryker – they have such a great stable of writers over there. I also love older works by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Rod Serling, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and I could go on forever.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading The Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. I just finished reading Michael McBride’s Snowblind, an excellent creature thriller.
Which book do you wish you had written?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess it would have to be Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I mean, what a concept – man brings an entire species of extinct creatures back to life in the 20th century and then totally loses control of it. There’s quite a lesson in there for us. I think that book should be considered a classic.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
I’d like to do a story where Hunter and Lisa Singleton, the two main protagonists in Lilith , end up meeting Scot Harvath from one of Brad Thor’s books, or maybe Mitch Rapp from one of Vince Flynn’s books. It would be kind of funny, actually, because Hunter is such a smartass, they would get along perfectly. Or they might kill each other. Who knows?
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I usually get up and get my daughter started with her home school after breakfast, then check my email, check the social media and see what’s going on with my books. Then I look over what I wrote the day before and start plugging away at the next chapter. I wouldn’t say I have any unusual habits, other than the fact my home office is in a closet. It does have a window, though, so I can look out at the world and get inspired. Right now, I’m watching it snow.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
That would probably be my latest novel, LILITH. I did so much research and so many stops and starts on the manuscript, I’m just happy that I actually finished it!
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
Probably the fact that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. I wrote for small magazines, websites, blogs, newspapers and everywhere else before I got my first book published by a very small, but awesome publisher called Nightbird. I must have sent out a hundred queries before I finally got my first offer. It can be pretty discouraging. But I decided I wasn’t going to give up until it happened, and eventually, it did.
What do you like to do to relax?
Believe it or not, I usually read! I love spending time with my family, going to the beach, going shopping, to a movie, a museum or whatever. If I’m not doing that, I’m watching a DVD movie or playing music. I rarely watch TV. Except for Sponge Bob.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book, which was also my first, was a story about a married couple who get mixed up with a supernatural being called Diablero, which is also the name of the book. An underwater archaeologist discovers the wreck of an old ship called the Adventure, the command ship of Blackbeard the pirate. What they don’t know is that the bones of Blackbeard himself are resting near the ship, and someone has used an ancient spell to bring them to life. But the bones are also inhabited by a demon, the Diablero, who has plans of his own. He eventually becomes fully human, and has terrifying supernatural powers. For instance, the Diablero, which is an old Sonoran Indian legend, can change itself into an animal. A group of people, including Hunter and Lisa, are trying to stop him from opening the gates to another dimension and releasing all sorts of nasty demons. It’s kind of H.P. Lovecraft-ish, but it’s also an adventure that follows Blackbeard and his pursuers from North Carolina to South Carolina to the Caribbean. It’s a lot of fun.
I just finished writing two books: a horror novella and a young adult sci-fi thriller. The novella is about a lawyer who inherits an ancient prayer rug from his father, who was mysteriously burned to death in his own back yard. Soon, he is having bizarre dreams and visions and the people around him start dying as he begins to realize that there is a dark, malevolent force at work within the carpet. You’ll never look at prayer rugs the same way again! I’m waiting to hear back from DarkFuse on that one.
The sci-fi thriller is about a 16-year-old physics prodigy named Chloe Johansson who is attending MIT when her father, a physicist at the CERN labs in Switzerland, suddenly goes missing. He was one of the scientists who discovered the Higgs boson, also known as the God Particle, and he has invented a device that allows the human brain to tap into the particle itself. It’s a pretty wild ride that goes from Boston to Geneva, Washington D.C., Iran, Israel and back to D.C. There are a lot of bizarre surprises in there that I think people will find pretty cool. I had fun writing that one and it’s set to be published by Crossroad Press, who publishes books by Steven Savile, Tom Piccirlli and other great authors.
If you would like more info on me or my books, just go to my Amazon Page.
Thanks for the interview, Jim, it has been an honour!