CHECK OUT MY MAIN POST FOR THE BAND OF DYSTOPIAN ZOMBIE BLOG CRAWL HERE (INCLUDING THE GIVEAWAY)!
Please welcome Authors Heath and Jessie Stallcup(JJ BEAL) to THE KATY blog today!
Heath Stallcup was born in Salinas, California and relocated to Tupelo, Oklahoma in his tween years. He joined the US Navy and was stationed in Charleston, SC and Bangor, WA shortly after junior college. After his second tour, he attended East Central University where he obtained BS degrees in Biology and Chemistry. He then served ten years with the State of Oklahoma as a Compliance and Enforcement Officer while moonlighting nights and weekends with his local Sheriff’s Office. He still lives in the small township of Tupelo, Oklahoma with his wife and three of his seven children. He steals time to write between household duties, going to ballgames, being a grandfather to five and being the pet of numerous animals that have taken over his home. Visit him on Facebook.com or heathstallcup.com for news of his upcoming releases.
JJ Beal was born and raised in Oklahoma. Having attained BS degrees in Business and Education and a Masters in Library Science, she has served over ten years as an educator. She still lives in southeastern Oklahoma with her family of seven children and five grandchildren. She steals time to write between household duties, going to ballgames, being a grandmother and being the pet of numerous animals that have taken over her home.
Heath: Well for me, it was always something I wanted to do but never really took seriously. I started and never finished probably 75 or more ‘great American novel’ projects before my first ‘finished’ work was ever done. I put quotes around finished because it was the first book in the Monster Squad series and the series isn’t done.
Jessie: I’ve always been an avid reader. It’s my escape. Others use television or movies, video games or whatnot. For me, reading was a gift and I enjoyed the gift whenever I could.
After Heath started writing, our girls asked him to be in a story. He had an idea but it didn’t sit well with them. They are avid zombie fans so I thought, I’ll give it a go. Possibly the only people to read it will be my girls and Heath. I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the reviews it has gotten. I’m sure that once I can put more time into writing and follow up with the sequel, I’ll see even more reviews.
Any books, movies, or people that inspired you to pursue your dream?
Heath: Wow, umm. No, I can’t say that I was inspired by any of that…at least, not in the beginning. What inspired me to write was my missus. She basically challenged me to do it, then teased me relentlessly until I started the project, but like all the others, I walked away from it. It was probably 9 months later that I stumbled upon the file on my computer and re-read it. I thought… “Hmm, this has potential.” And went back to work on it.
Jessie: I think my girls inspired me the most. I know Heath provided a lot of tips and hints and was always very supportive of my effort, but it was for my girls. I really wish my mom could have read it. I think she would have really enjoyed the story.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Heath: I started with a small press out of Oregon. They really got the ball rolling for me. In the beginning, Mark Tufo gave me a LOT of helpful suggestions, but I was so intimidated by the whole process that when I was offered a shot to go with a small press, I jumped on it. I did eventually break away and go full indie. That was more of a financial decision than anything. I know that the stuff I learned from the publishers was invaluable and I still call them with questions every now and then, but I made connections in the world and there are really a lot of good people out there willing to help, share knowledge, even teach you how to do things. Now that I am indie though, I still find myself calling on Mark and Tracy Tufo pretty regularly. Tracy is a marketing genius.
Jessie: I went full indie simply because Heath had paved the way for us. He knew what needed to be done by the time my manuscript was finished and he had all the right connections. I pretty much handed it over to him and let him run with it. I’m glad he had those connections, too because if I had been left to my own devices, I really don’t know if I would have seen it through.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
Heath: Definitely a seat of the pants writer. When I break ground on something new, I know the beginning and the ending. Whatever happens in the middle is just as surprising to me as it is to the readers.
Jessie: I’m kind of a hybrid. I have an idea in my head and I know that I want my characters to be at a certain point in the story by a certain depth into the book. I don’t write it down and plot, but I have it in my head. If the lead characters are going to be at Point A in the first third of the book, the rest of the action and dialogue has to match in order for them to reach that point. I still allow the story to develop its own twists and turns along the way, but I have to maintain momentum and remain on pace.
What draws you to writing about zombies in particular (along with other supernatural beings)?
Heath: In the Monster Squad series, there are very few zombie outbreaks and the few that do occur are quickly quashed. I knew that my girls were nuts about zombies so for Caldera I decided to delve into that world for them. All they had really been exposed to were the slow, shambling Romero type zombies. I wanted to give them something different. The rage-virus fueled zombie. True, they’re still technically human, but ravenous cannibals that never tire. Which, by the way, are the scariest zombie to me. In a Romero Z outbreak, I think my slow, out of shape self might stand a chance. But with FAST zombies?
Nope…I’d be zombie chow.
Jessie: I’d been a fan of zombie stories for some time and noticed a certain lack of Young Adult Zombie stories. Using teens as the lead characters, cut out most of the profanity, innuendos of drugs or sex and the unnecessary violence. Trying to pen a YA zombie story was challenging, but from the reviews LTZ has gotten, I think I’m at least headed in the right direction.
What do you see as a future?
Heath: More writing. I want to branch off into other genres and have actually broken ground on a political thriller that I hope will measure up. I have some very informed and well trusted betas that will let me know if I’ve achieved the mark or not.
Jessie: Just finding time to write would be nice. It seems that even when I do find a few moments, there’s always something else that needs to be done. I actually wanted to hold off on publishing LTZ until I had the sequel penned or at least a major portion of it done. Heath wouldn’t let me. He insisted that we get it out and let people start reading it now.
Are zombies a possibility?
Heath: If you ask my girls, not only is it possible, but it’s how the world will actually end.
As for me? Well, yes. I think it’s a possibility. Either through some natural procedure or man-made chemical warfare or…whatever you want to call it. Especially the rage virus type. I think that’s a lot closer to being the zombies we would see than anything.
Jessie: I remember as a young girl watching the Serpent and the Rainbow. That movie scared me more than anything I had ever seen. Do I think it’s possible? Wasn’t that movie based on a true life story? So, you tell me.
Do any of your characters represent you as a whole or someone you know?
Heath: In my Monster Squad series, most all of the characters are based off somebody I used to know. In Caldera, I did the same thing. I took real people, changed their name, put them into the situation and wrote it. I think it makes it easier to keep your characters separate from each other if you have someone to fall back to…someone they are based on.
Jessie: My story actually is centered around my twin girls and their friends. It was a lot easier to write their stories because I let them each display the traits they already have.
Do you have a favorite zombie book or movie?
Heath: Wow…um…The Walking Dead is a good one to fall back on.
Mark Tufo, Shawn Chesser, John O’Brien, Joe McKinney, all excellent writers. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are others, but I couldn’t begin to list them all.
Jessie: Walking Dead, definitely. We DVR it and can’t wait until we hit the 20 minute mark so we can jump through the commercials. Every episode we swear that there’s less ‘show’ and more commercials. It’s one of the few shows that all of my kids watch. My girls claim that it’s a training video for surviving the ZomPoc!
Do you have an advice for aspiring writers?
Heath: Write what you care about. Don’t try to write to the whims of others. If you write about something that YOU care about, that quality will shine through and you’ll have a better finished product. “If you build it, they will come.” That premise holds true with writing, too. If you produce a quality product, they will find it. Then they will tell others about it.
If you just pump out blah after blah because it’s the ‘in’ thing to write about, it will feel like every other cookie cutter production out there and people will dismiss you.
Jessie: If it’s something you really want to do, don’t let others talk you out of it. Surround yourself with positive people who will help inspire you and uplift your efforts. I’ve heard expressions like, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” To me that means, if you really want it, create the time, create the habit, create the story. Give it your best shot. You’ll never know what you could achieve if you don’t try.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
Heath: I’ll soon be releasing Monster Squad 8 – Specters. It closes out the second saga in the Monster Squad series. I’m also working on a political thriller and I have either the first in a new series or I may just let it be a stand alone book about a Vampire Hunter. Of course, I’m working on the sequel to Caldera. And a King-ish type story about a fellow who can see the sins of others. It’s getting a bit darker than I am usually comfortable with, but, I might tone it down a bit.
Jessie: Oh heavens…I have started the sequel to Lions & Tigers & Zombies, but with my work schedule, it will have to wait until after the holidays before I can put any real effort into it. Being the music director for Pre-K through 12 and with the Christmas season quickly approaching, I have no time to spare.
Heath: I figured an autographed copy of Caldera would be fitting.
Jessie: I’m offering up an e-book copy of LTZ to a winner in the Continental US.
We are excited to hear about it! Ok, really important question here. What are you going to be for Halloween?
Heath: I’m going to be that grumpy old man who sits on his porch and yells at kids to ‘Stay off my lawn!”
Actually…I’m that every day. The only difference with Halloween is, as they’re running away, I’ll throw candy at them instead of rocks.
Jessie: I don’t dress up for Halloween any more. I have more fun taking the grandbabies around to Trick or Treat.
Thank you for joining me on THE KATY today, Heath and Jessie!