Today I'd like to welcome T A Sorsby. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.
I’d describe myself as a moderately alternative, passionately nerdy bloke in his mid-twenties. I’m engaged, just bought my first house and my day-job is in a pharmacy. My book is called Left Behind, and is an undead-themed action/horror title, with a heavy emphasis on characters and their interactions, not just gore. But you know, that’s there too.
T A, what got you into writing?
Perhaps not directly, but video games certainly got the ball rolling. The main culprit was probably Heroes of Might & Magic – a fantasy themed strategy game about commanding armies of various thematic factions, like Conan-esque Barbarians or Sylvan Forest types. I played the third and fourth games a lot, and still revisit them. They sparked an interest in mythology and history, and made learning about such things more fun than school could. Knowing about all these great monsters and legends from world culture then inspired me to start writing stories of my own. How that manifested into writing Left Behind is a mystery.
That's interesting, but when you think about it video games really are just interactive stories, or at least a good portion of them are. Will you share a short excerpt from your novel.
This part is from early on in Left Behind, where the characters see their first zombie.
We must have only been driving for ten minutes when we came to a roadblock. It wasn’t military, not a checkpoint. It was a crash, with one of the cars still pouring steam from under the bonnet. One car straddled across both lanes, the other two had somehow crashed into it, making it a sandwich of sharp metal.
Neville rolled his sedan to a stop maybe ten yards back and unbuckled, while I did the same. It was the sort of thing that makes you want to get out and have a look. As we straightened up, a foul smell caught our attention. We glanced at each other over the roof, making sure we were both smelling it.
You don’t forget that smell. The rotten, clinging scent of death. Scrub all you want, trim your nose hairs, and put on some of Neville’s powerful aftershave, but that smell’s only going away once you’ve gotten used to it. Someone had died in that crash. Died bad.
I moved closer. The nearest car had both its doors on one side open, and I could see dark brown stains – blood – on the seats. It looked like there were two people in the back, one unconscious man, and a woman trying to rouse him. Or so I thought.
‘Hey, you okay?’ I asked.
I wish I hadn’t. The woman’s head snapped towards me, her hair covered in blood and grime, obscuring her face. She kept rheumy eyes on me while she crawled backwards out of the car…when she stood up, that’s when I could see her properly.
From her chin to the top of her nose was a mask of fresh blood and bared teeth. But her teeth weren’t showing because of some animalistic gesture…her top lip was torn away, just gone.
She staggered towards me and reached out with both arms, taking in a ragged wheezing breath and letting out a low moan. The moan carried everything dark; pain, hunger, sadness, and it struck a chord right at the base of my spine that froze my feet for a second. I stared into her eyes, white and glassy, and felt my throat tighten.
As a fan of zombies, I really enjoyed that. It gives us just a taste. I am curious to know what happens. Neville better get out of there, or figure out how to kill one quick.
Since you started on this journey, have you been given any helpful advice?
My writing tutor told me to always “Show – Don’t Tell”. It’s advice I pass on to everyone, from Twitter hashtags to doing critique on DeviantArt. Don’t tell me how someone’s feeling – show me! Have your characters slam doors, stare into the distance, or wipe away a single dignified tear. Paint me a picture, in words.
Simple but powerful words, what great advice. Can you tell us a little bit about your main characters
They’re an eclectic bunch of people, and I tried to give them all the development time they deserved. I also tried to turn traditional character associations on their head. The main character isn’t your typical “audience association everyman”, the teenage girl isn’t a tagalong-kid-liability, and the police character doesn’t take charge of the group. Every story, no matter how original, has a few familiar tropes. I just aimed for the more interesting ones.
I also gave every character their own unique voice. Damian speaks with what in our world would be a slight Patois accent, and Laurel’s dialogue often incorporates aspects of Aussie slang – or at least, my attempt at it. I’ve also been told that Lucile’s southern-American drawl is pretty good, but so far I haven’t been fortunate enough to have more than a few American readers.
Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?
Left Behind will be part of a series. There will be at least one more full length novel, though most likely two. I’m also working on a short story set alongside Left Behind, from the perspective of an important character who didn’t get much page-time.
What brought about the idea for your book?
Basically: shouting at people in horror movies. “Don’t go in there alone! Why haven’t you brought a flashlight? Grab a bloody weapon!” – That sort of thing. I wanted to write a story where the characters were more believable – they think their actions through, try to play it smart. It doesn’t always work out, but I think it makes them more relatable than other characters in the field. I faced the problem however, of where to set it. If it was in the USA, firearms would be too readily available, while in the UK, firearms would be too difficult to get their hands on. I took this as an opportunity to blend a few western cultures together, and create an entirely fictional setting.
What was your biggest challenge when writing? Did you have any writer’s block? If so, how did you work your way through it?
My biggest challenge was finding motivation to continue. I started writing Left Behind when The Walking Dead was still a comic series, not a major TV phenomenon. My story was more a tribute to the now late George A. Romero, but after TWD hit the screens, I think people began to get a little zombie-fatigue. It made me wonder if it was worth carrying on in such an undead-saturated market. But then I thought – how many fantasy series are out there? Hundreds. If your work’s good, there’s no reason it can’t stand out from a crowd.
I, as I’m sure everyone does, also suffered from writer’s block. I think the advice that helps me get through it is remembering that every first draft is utter crap. You need to write your way through it, even if what you’re writing is garbage. When you find your voice again, when you’ve broken through the block, go back and re-write the dud passages. I don’t get stuck half as much as I used to.
Iagree sometimes you just have to push through, a lot of times as I continue to write inspiration strikes and I can go back and fix those sections that I was less than thrilled with. What are your hobbies aside from writing, if any?
Board and tabletop games are a big hobby of mine, particularly anything with a social/co-operative element, like Dungeons & Dragons or Dead of Winter. My fiancée and I don’t go out to the pub so much anymore, but we like to have people around for a game or two. I actually used to write for a website called Geek Pride, doing board game reviews, but I had to drop my commitment there to focus on my fiction.
In your novels, which character is your favorite?
That’s a really tough call! I can say my favorite character arc to write was definitely Morgan’s though. If Left Behind was an 80s movie, you’d expect her to be the standard child character, someone there to burden the rest of the cast, get in the way, and probably need to be rescued before the end. But she’s smart, fierce, determined, and she gets her time to shine.
Which is your favorite book?
Currently, it’s a novel in The Dresden Files series called Changes. You see the titular hero, Harry Dresden, at both his most powerful, and his most vulnerable. The supporting cast are fantastic as well, essentially comprising of an Avengers-like setup from some of the series’ most entertaining and engaging characters. I’m a huge fan of the series in general, but Changes has to be my top pick.
Since you wrote in this genre, do you think you will ever write in other genres?
Most definitely. I wasn’t drawn to write horror because I like horror novels, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. I’ve read a fair way into the Anita Blake series, but I’m not sure if that counts as horror beyond a certain point. I just ended up writing horror because, well, what other genre do you put the shambling undead in? Somehow it worked, and people told me they were tense when reading it, or couldn’t read before bed. It’s hard for me to tell how frightening a scene will be because I know how it’ll end. I’m really a fantasy author in disguise. Don’t tell anyone. Eventually I hope to write something more in that arena, but Left Behind, and the rest of the Suburban Dead series, will have to take priority.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today T A. Find out more about T A Sorsby and Left Behind at these links:)