Today’s guest is Patrick Freivald, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2014 World Horror Convention and then again at the 2014 Bram Stoker Award Ceremony. He’s helped me become a better writer and today, he’ll challenge my seven deadly questions.
Hi Patrick and welcome.
Thanks! Happy to be here!
1) Patrick, please tell us a little bit about you.
I’m an author, teacher (physics, robotics, American Sign Language), robotics coach, and beekeeper. I started writing with intent to get published eight years ago, and after three or four years hammering on my first novel late last decade, I’ve now submitted my fifth to my publisher, and have several short stories in a variety of anthologies. I live in the middle of 6600 acres of state forest with far too many pets, and grow most of my own food, including unreasonable amounts of hot peppers.
My writing tends toward the off-center: science fiction, fantasy, horror. A lot of “what if” goes into my scrawlings.
2) When we met, you were nominated for two Bram Stoker Awards, if I remember correctly, one for the category Short Story and the other for Young Adult. Would you tell us about each story?
Sure! SPECIAL DEAD is the sequel to my Young Adult novel, TWICE SHY. The books follow Ani Romero, a high school junior whose controlling mother has forced her to join the emo crowd because their fashion sense covers up that she’s a zombie. She sleeps in a formalin solution ice bath, and takes regular injections to suppress her craving for brains. Both novels are, of course, heavily informed and influenced by my time as a high school teacher.
SNAPSHOT appeared in the short-lived anthology BLOOD & ROSES, and is an exploration into the deadly sin of vanity. Understated compared to anything else I’ve ever written, it’s a slow burn about a family whose daughter is suffering from a debilitating disease that attacks her optical nerves.
3) At the World Horror Convention, we briefly talked about how you and your brother co-authored a novel. Would you mind sharing how that worked? (My brother likes what I write, but co-authoring with him would be a disaster.)
Very well, actually.
BLOOD LIST is about a serial killer evading the FBI while trying to save his father’s life. My first novel, I co-wrote it with my twin brother Phil—indeed, this whole writing gig was his idea, but when all was said and done I caught the bug and he didn’t.
We brainstormed, refined, tweaked, and then hashed out an outline that went chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene. That finished, we’d each pick something to write on the project, in any order we wanted, and upload it when we were done. We both went through and edited one another’s chapters, sufficient times that I couldn’t tell you at this point who wrote what.
I don’t recall any arguments or quibbling; we shared a vision and both worked toward it, and ended up with a damn fine story along the lines of CRIMINAL MINDS. Or so I’ve been told—I watch little TV, and have never seen the show, but most fans have compared it thusly.
My collaboration with Joe McKinney for the JADE SKY graphic novel in Dark Discoveries magazine was almost painless—he’s awesome to work with, a gentleman and a hell of a writer. (The comic is based on my gory, pull-no-punches supernatural thriller JADE SKY, the first in a five-book series.)
4) Is there anything unique about how you build your stories?
Here’s a typical novel-writing experience for me:
Come up with an idea, theme, setting, or what-have-you. Shelve it with the other ideas rattling in my cranium, let it percolate (or ferment) for weeks or months. Meantime, jot down tidbits, ideas, and character sketches. Flesh them out to full dossiers, with physical description, personality, motivations, and a list of “twenty questions” that dig into their psyche.
The creative blast comes when the ending flashes in my mind. At that point I hammer out an outline, starting with the ending and then working forward from the beginning to get there. This is where I burn most of my creative energy, and it doesn’t last more than a few days.
I then back off and tweak as necessary, ironing out plot holes and inconsistencies, ensuring that characters behave according to their nature rather than how I want them to—which sometimes changes the whole story, up to and including the ending. This can take anywhere from days to months.
The final act, writing the story, is 3-4 weeks of writing, leaving it alone for a month, editing, sending it to beta readers, then editing again. For me the outline is art, but the writing itself is craft.
5) Do you generally read your same genre, or do you branch out into arenas other than what you write?
I read nonfiction of the physics and history sort—I particularly like Lee Smolin and David McCullough in terms of books, but devour a good amount of scholarly articles by far too many authors to name here.
In fiction I tend to read speculative varieties—be that fantasy, science fiction, or horror—and thrillers of any sort. Some of my favorite authors include George R. R. Martin, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, Robert Jordan, Dan Simmons, Clive Barker, Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, Tom Clancy, Jack Ketchum, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Heather Graham, Ramsey Campbell, John Sandford, Peter Clines, Dan Abnett….
One of the cool things about becoming an author is meeting so many great writers—big and small—and getting to read their works, and I’ve loved the opportunity to read Jeff Strand, Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Rena Mason, Brian Matthews, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Brad Torgersen, Kate Jonez, and lots and lots of others.
6) Do you like games (sports, board, video…) and which are your favorites (teams)?
I play and have spent far too much money on Warhammer 40,000, and also enjoy a game of Scrabble or Carcassonne when I have the time. In the fall I watch football with my friends, but don’t really care who wins. I love—absolutely love—video games, so I don’t play them. I’ve wasted so many hours of my life on video games and have nothing to show for them, so I avoid them like a junkie staying away from smack.
7) What is the toughest part about writing? How do you get past it?
I don’t find any part of writing to be “tough” per se. By that I mean that it takes time, attention to detail, diligence in the use of language, knowledge of theme and tone and so on and so forth—you have to know what you’re doing, and make sure that everything you put on the page serves a purpose, and that can be difficult to do well—but I only write if, when, and because I want to.
It’s fun to tell stories that other people want to read. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t do it!
An excerpt from TWELVE KILOS, in the anthology QUALIA NOUS by Written Backwards (edited by Michael Bailey):
Bright red blood squirted between blazing orange polyfiber strips, and Darren’s stomach growled. He twisted the mop again and cursed every droplet that escaped the bucket, destined for the rusted metal grate in the floor. Two, maybe three milliliters spilled per job. Sixteen jobs a day, seven days a week didn’t add up to much, but it did add up. A liter a month might move his family to a higher level, further from the heat of the core. But this month he wouldn’t even keep his family from the tithe, and he had no one to blame but himself.
Jacelyn heaved the last body onto the autoloader and wiped her red-stained hands on its shirt. He hid his envy. Damned meaters never had to worry about spillage. Meat wouldn’t flop down the drain, wouldn’t soak into clothes and mops and hair. One, maybe two meaters a month didn’t buy out their tithe. A life of luxury.
The body flopped over onto its back, and Darren sighed as he recognized its face. Hal couldn’t have been more than sixteen, and he and Darren’s daughter Felicity had been friends of a sort. A kid that sloppy never should have been a harvester in the first place; lost a kidney last week, a good six feet of intestines the month before, and that’s no way to buy out. A matter of time, this.
His stomach rumbled again.
Jacelyn’s smile distracted him from his reverie, rotted teeth behind pale lips in a face that might once have been pretty. It held more pity than scorn, and he didn’t need a meater’s sympathies, no matter how well intentioned. Sure, blooding came hard, and harder still to those with mouths to feed, but an honest day’s work took effort, and let it never be said that he didn’t try his best. To break her gaze he pulled his lunch from his pocket, tore open the pouch, and squeezed the gelatinous contents into his mouth. The vegetal, hydroponic slime drowned out the iron tang of blood-stench for two gulps.
His muscles strained as he lifted the bucket onto the hover lift, and he held his breath in anticipation as he swiped his finger across the bar code. He knew, but he didn’t want to.
“Thirty-nine point four kilograms,” the mechanical voice read, dispassionate in its pronouncement. The lift disappeared into the ceiling and he turned around, shoulders slumped. The priest emerged from the wall, a tangle of wires and tubes in a parody of humanoid form, three yellow glass eyes glowing too bright from clusters of internal LEDs.
He bowed his head in fear and shame, and shivered as the cold metal fingers ran through his hair. It took his mother’s voice, as it always did, but none of her tone. “Blooder Darren, your monthly tithe is fourteen thousand four hundred kilograms. The counters tally fourteen thousand three hundred eighty-eight kilograms. Do you acknowledge the discrepancy?”
How to find Patrick–
Main page: http://patrick.freivald.com