December 21, 2011

An interview with Ty Schwamberger: author of "The Fields"

It's pretty easy to declare the zombie genre dead, pun intended, but it seems there is always an author who will come along and offer some new perspective, some new twist, on the well-worn walking dead. TySchwamberger is the latest to step up to the plate with The Fields, which promises to be a stand-out in a crowded room.

Here's some info on the book courtesy of The Zombie Feed:
Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family’s tobacco fields–and beat slaves–by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bring wild ideas. He can help Billy save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory… by raising his father’s slaves from the dead.

Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm? Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn’t? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death?

Billy’s conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner’s slon?

Welcome to The Fields.
Now, on to the interview:

Gef: Your new novella, The Fields, takes a rather unique twist on the zombie genre by delving into post-Civil War era subject matter. What prompted you to go there?

Ty Schwamberger: I wanted something different. I didn’t want to rehash the same old “zombies are coming after us, we need to blow their heads off” type story. I didn’t do much outlining before starting the story, but did do some character sketching. I’ll usually jot down a couple things I’d like to see happen, but more often than not, the story takes on a life of its own and leads me to a different ending. Nine times out of ten, it comes out better than originally planned.

Having said that… I think Jonathan Maberry, whom wrote the introduction for the novella, said it best: “It’s part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense. The Fields is a morality tale. With zombies.” I wanted something deeper, more meaningful, but also something at its core would scare the ever-living hell outta people. I think it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

Gef: Do you find in your reading and writing that there is a setting or time period where zombies just don't seem to work as a storytelling device? Or are the undead buggers a one-size-fits-all kind of monster?

Ty: Well, I’m sure writers have placed the undead in all different time periods, but I think it takes a little extra effort to effectively pull it off. In the movies, we more or less see zombies in present day, not in the past. I’ve heard from a few film production companies that have read the manuscript that they love the story, but it would be difficult to adapt it on the screen. I don’t take this as a negative. No. I take that sort of reply that I hopefully wrote something so unique, so special, that putting it on the “big screen” just wouldn’t do the story justice. At least I like to think that way.

Gef: Now that you're working with The Zombie Feed, are you a little zombied out yet? Or is your appetite for zombie tales an insatiable one?

Ty: Good question. First, I’d like to mention that Jason Sizemore (owner of Apex Publications) actually picked up The Fields almost a year before I took over as managing editor of The Zombie Feed Press. Having said that, The Fields is my first zombie story. Again, I didn’t want to rehash what others have already done, so I wanted to wait till I had an original idea before pounding out a story. I’ve always loved zombie books and movies, and I love the business side of publishing just as much as the creative side, so when Jason asked me to take over TZF it was a logical next step for my writing/editing career. I’m definitely having fun with it all!

Gef: Aside from zombies, The Fields also tackles the whole father/son dynamic as your main character inherits his family's tobacco fields, and it doesn't sound like his dad was the best moral influence on him. Is he a character you had in mind before the thought of zombies entered into the fray?

Ty: Below was my thought process behind The Fields:
  • “Wouldn’t it be cool to write a zombie story?!”
  • “I need to come up with an interesting setting for the story…ah, the middle 1800s after the slaves were freed.”
  • “I need to come up with an interesting way to bring them back to life…ah, how about a stranger wanders onto a plantation, where the tobacco fields are dying, and offers up an incantation to bring them back to life to help out in the fields.”
  • “The son of the former slave owner would probably be dealing with his inner demons on whether to save the land or let the dead slaves remain underground and in peace…”
  • “What does the stranger want from the farmer?”

Those are the questions I asked myself prior to and while writing the story. I don’t want to say too much else or I might give away the farm, err, the fields.


A big thanks to Ty for stopping by the blog and for the interview. You can follow Ty on his blog tour, as his next tour stop will be at Hunter Shea.

You can purchase The Fields and learn more about it by visiting: Apex Book Company or Amazon.com.

Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he’s had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, ‘Cake Batter’ (released in 2010) and ‘House Call’ (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com.

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