Please welcome fellow Musa author, Paul Stansfield, as the guest today on my blog. The author of Dead Reckoning (Musa Publishing), Paul shares his inspirations and experiences as an author.
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Q: What or who inspired you to become a writer?
A: Books and reading were big parts of my household growing up. As soon as I learned how I fell in love with reading. It’s wonderful—no matter how obscure your interests may be, there are magazines, books, poems, plays, (and now) blogs, etc., which deal with them. I’m one of those people who doesn’t even use the restroom without something to read. As such, I quickly wanted to emulate the writers I so enjoyed, to try my own hand at telling stories. Also, my father (Charles Stansfield) has published many geography textbooks, and later collections of folklore ghost stories, which also surely influenced me. And he and my mother directly encouraged and supported my aspirations to write.
Q: Do you have a specific genre you prefer?
A: Yes, definitely horror. This is my favorite genre to read, or watch, and it’s also my favorite to write. Some of my stories straddle several genres at once (i.e. Dead Reckoning has been categorized as mystery/suspense/horror), but they almost always have a horror or at least dark edge to them.
Q: How did you decide upon the title for your latest book?
A: As is typical for me, deciding on a title for Dead Reckoning was difficult, and I didn’t come up with it until well after I’d started writing the actual story. I thought that “Dead Reckoning” was appropriate, as it’s a common sounding expression which tied in nicely to my story. The “dead” in this case are the actors portraying undead zombies (or later, the killed, subsequent victims), and misunderstanding (or “reckoning”) these actors as being real zombies is one of the major plot points of the tale. Alas, I later found out that I chose too common a title—scores of other authors have used this same title. (For a more extensive discussion about titles, including the inspirations for famous titles, original titles of famous books, and lists of some of the most absurd but funny titles you’ve ever seen, check out my blog’s October 25 and 26, 2012 posts. Address is: http://paulstansfield.blogspot.com/2012/10/titles-part-1.html )
Q: What life events have most influenced your writing?
A: I started writing as a kid, maybe 12 or 13, and churned out a few short stories, and parts of imagined novels. But I didn’t take the next step of actually submitting much to magazines or publishers (I think I submitted maybe once, and then gave up). Two chance encounters in college helped spur me on. I recall talking to a friend of a friend, who was in a band, and he happened to ask me, “How do you express yourself?” Around the same time, an actual friend (Hi Sandor) stayed over at our apartment one time, and after learning of my writing aspirations encouraged me to keep at it. I sometimes wonder if I might never have gotten more serious about writing if these random events hadn’t influenced me.
Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A: Yes—finding the time to do it. Like most fledgling writers, I have a full time job, as a field archaeologist. There are many week days when I come back to our “home-tel” (thanks to Jenny for this word) exhausted from digging, and covered in sweat, dirt, blood (from thorns, etc.), and sometimes disease-ridden ticks, and I just want to get some dinner and veg out and watch sports, or something. So motivating myself to write can be challenging, and if I’m going through some writer’s block at the time that adds to the difficulty. (Incidentally, I don’t mean to complain too much. I realize that many writers have it worse—they might (day) work longer hours, need to cook dinner, deal with spouses and children, etc., and they still are probably more productive writing wise than myself.)
Q: Did you learn anything from writing your book?
A: Yes. I guess I bent the rule of “write what you know,” for Dead Reckoning, as I’ve never been involved in low-budget film making and have very little camping experience, which were two of the major themes/plot points. (For an account of my first ill-fated camping trip (at age 23!) you can check out my July 5, 2012 guest post at Long and Short Reviews, address is: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/uncategorized/guest-blog-paul-stansfield/ )Therefore, when I did my research, I did pick up quite a bit, about the movie making and especially some information about harder core, rustic-y camping.
Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
A: To borrow the Nike ad campaign tagline, “Just do it.” Don’t just daydream about it, or tell your friends about your prospective book ideas, force yourself to sit down and actually write. Grit your teeth, if necessary, and make it a regular practice, until you complete the story, or novel, or poem, or play, or whatever. And then, to paraphrase the lottery motto—“You have to play to win.” You won’t be a successful writer if you keep it hidden away—get eyes on it. So submit, submit, submit! And get used to rejection, and sometimes pointed and hurtful criticisms. And check out resources like “The Writer’s Market,” writer’s conferences, etc.—these all have a lot of practical writing tips. (By the way, I have to remind myself to do these things periodically, too.)
Q: Do you have a favorite character in your book?
A: For Dead Reckoning it would have to be Kurt Minnifield. His personality is the closest to my own, a (perhaps idealized) version of myself if I was trying to be an actor. He’s put through terrible conditions, and forced to take some pretty horrible actions, but for very good reasons. I think that most readers, if put in his situation, would react (or at least attempt to react) in a similar manner.
Q: What is the best stunt, lie, or practical joke you’ve ever been able to pull off?
A: I’m very staid and mild-mannered in general, but I do delight in saying outrageous and/or gross things, to (hopefully) amuse my friends and family. Sometimes this comes back to bite me on the butt, as evidently my dry manner can be very convincing. For example, a coworker of mine thought that my references to being a heroin addict (which to me was a screamingly obvious joke) were true, and until other coworkers told him how ludicrous this was, he was considering contacting my work superiors about it! And back in college, I told a close friend of mine that my home town was so boring that my friends and I drove around, looking for homeless people to run over. For unfathomable reasons, my friend believed, or at least half believed that I was apparently capable of psychotic violence against unfortunate innocent people.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: As I mentioned, I’m a huge horror buff, and I absolutely love the original “Dawn of the Dead,” the original “Evil Dead”, “The Exorcist,” “Silence of the Lambs,” and the 1982 version of “The Thing,” among others. However, oddly, my overall favorite is a 1985 romantic teen comedy, “Better Off Dead.” It’s about a guy (played by John Cusack) who becomes suicidal after his girlfriend breaks up with him. I find it hilarious. My friends and I still quote from it—“Two dollars!” “Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?” “It’s got raisins in it …. you like raisins.”
by Paul Stansfield
Kurt Minnifield is a fledging actor playing a zombie in a low budget horror movie. The director and crew decide to move their shooting to lovely and isolated Watkins State Park… only they don’t get proper permission.
Victor Newsome is a thirteen year old trying to both shed his nerdy image and learn outdoor skills at a special survival camp. After teaching the boys how to make shelter and kill their own food, the counselors decide to take a day trip to the neighboring state park—Watkins.
A series of ethical lapses, poor decisions, and bad luck lead to a colossal misunderstanding. Violence erupts as both sides fight desperately against a dangerous set of foes. Who will be more savage—the literal “monsters,” or the boys equipped with deadly weapons, and the knowledge of how to use them?
Excerpt from Dead Reckoning:
Kurt struggled to catch up as the unknown actor continued to track the other zombies. Now he saw that the other actors must have seen or heard the guy—they’d turned around and were advancing on him. The guy wasn’t Chris, or Rickey, or Gene, either, this was definitely some new actor. So what happens now? No one had any special effects things on that he could see, so unless this man ran away the unscripted, natural shooting was over.
The actor wasn’t fleeing. He raised his gun and aimed it at the zombie in front, Will. His hand shook for a second, and then he fired.
The crack of the shot was loud, and Kurt nearly fell over in shock. That was no blank! That sounded real! What the fuck? And then he turned his head to look at Will. Blood was running from a hole in his chest. Kurt gasped. Will had been the last zombie to be made up before Kurt—he was positive that T.J. hadn’t put any squibs on him.
Will had stopped, and his zombie claws went to the wound, and he stared at the hole wonderingly. The zombies nearest him—Tabby, Henry, and Ed, all dropped their arms down and were staring at Will too, and then back at the mystery man with astonished expressions on their faces.
The guy hesitated, and then raised his gun a little, and fired again. There was a second boom, and then Will’s eye broke up, followed almost immediately by the back of his head. Blood, and pieces of whitish skull and grayish brains splattered out, onto the forest floor, and even slightly on Tabby’s arm. Will fell on his side with a strange gurgling sound.
Holy Shit! thought Kurt. That was no squib either. This was real! This guy is psycho! He watched as Tabby took off, into the bushes to the side of the clearing. Henry and Ed crouched by Will’s body, and struggled to communicate with the alien assassin. They waved their arms wildly, trying to signal “Stop” with their palms held up. Their grunting was noticeably louder, but still inarticulate. Kurt started to walk across the clearing to join the group.
The armed man paused a moment more, and then aimed once again. The two zombies tried to duck behind Will’s slumped corpse. Two shots whined past, and then a third hit Henry in the shoulder. Just then he whirled in Kurt’s direction and fired again, just as Kurt threw up his hands. As soon as the gunman turned, Ed and Henry were in the bushes right behind Tabby.
Fire rushed through Kurt’s left hand, just above the wrist. He groaned as he saw blood, and tendons, and even bone through the hole in his mangled hand. He dove to the ground, just as another bullet hit a tree right where his head had been. And then he was gone, tearing through the bushes and trees almost without looking.
The man trotted up to Will’s body, and kicked at it curiously. He looked briefly at the spot where the hand-shot zombie had disappeared, and then he turned back and went after the first three zombies.
It hadn’t been thirty seconds when the first fly landed on Will’s destroyed head, took off, and then landed again. Soon a large crowd of them was jockeying for a prime position.
Check out and buy Paul’s book, Dead Reckoning: http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=7&products_id=183