Barbara will award one randomly drawn commenter at every stop a backlist eBook – it could be City of Brotherly Death, Twilight Healer, or one of her Night to Dawn magazines, and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will receive a $15.00 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, winner's choice.
by Barbara Custer
1.What or who inspired you to start writing? Back in the 1980’s I got into Stephen King and really loved his books. Then I went back to college and in 1990 my mother died. I took her death really hard, and my English instructor recommended that I journal and start writing to turn over my grief. I loved the dark fantasy genre so much that I tried writing short stories and later, books. A lot of my protagonists grieve over dead parents.
2.How did you come up with ideas for your books? Ideas can come from listening to the news. For example, a report on a sinkhole inspired my short story “Walter’s Matrix.” Sometimes ideas come from nightmares I’ve had. Sometimes after I sketch the character, he or she will give me ideas for the book / short story.
3.What components are necessary for the genre of this novel? Steel Rose is cross genre science fiction / horror. Any horror tale will involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or entity. It will play on the reader’s worst fear or nightmare. The supernatural can be involved, and the ending is often grim. The elements of science fiction include a spatial setting, travel in outer space, or on subterranean earth; aliens, androids, or mutants; futuristic technology such as ray guns; paranormal abilities, and other universes. Steel Rose included many components from horror and science fiction genres.
4.What expertise did you bring to your writing? I work full time as a respiratory therapist, and my medical background provides grist for stories. In Steel Rose, Alexis and Johnny are respiratory therapists, and it’s easy to write realistic scenes around the hospital.
5.As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans? I expect to complete Blood Moon Rising, the sequel to Steel Rose. I hope to do more good things with the Night to Dawn projects, and write more books.
6.If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why? It’s a toss-up between Cassie, the lead character in my novella “Echoes from a Distant World” (Alien Worlds) and Alexis of Steel Rose. Both women display a lot of spunk when they face renegade soldiers. Both of them look out for their relatives, and they get to collect a lot of Mylar balloons. I think though that Alexis might be braver because she’s contending with a disability.
7.Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing? I’ve belonged to several critique groups and found that they have helped my writing. In particular, they’re great with short stories, and the short stories wound up getting published. I found the groups helpful with my novels. By bringing segments of the novel, I’ve built continuity with the readers. I have to do a lot of work on my own but the critique group can point me in the direction I should go.
8.When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step? I first submitted my work to micro-magazines in 1992 with the encouragement of Ann Kaler, my English instructor at the college. This happened after she did a lot of critiquing on my first short story.
9.What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing) The best advice I got came from an online authors’ forum when the editor of Night to Dawn Magazine retired. I’d been sending stories there, and she was looking for someone to take over the magazine. My writer buddies advised me to go ahead and give Night to Dawn a go. That happened in 2004, and I’ve never regretted it. The worst advice pertains to my publishing the NTD books. It came from people who recommended lowering the price of an eBook from $4.99 to $2.99. The sales on that book tanked after that. Sometimes low-balling the price on an eBook can send a negative message.
10. Do you outline your books or just start writing? I’d have to call myself a pantser. I never outline, and if I try it’s harder to write. I never know the ending when I start a book. So I start with a scene and sketch the characters. After a healthy study of the character, he or she will sometimes tell me where to take the book. When I sketched Alexis and Yeron, I know straight off that those two would become attracted to each other. A lot of times I’ll start with a scene that happens later in the book and write around it.
11. Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you've gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books? My all time favorite hobby involves my Mylar balloons, and boy, do they float into my tales. Example, while recuperating from her injuries, Alexis keeps a squadron of Mylar balloons at her bedside, hoping that the helium in them will discourage renegade soldiers from attacking, for helium is poison to the aliens of Steel Rose. Alien Worlds has a story, “Echoes from a Distant World” featuring a heroine who loves balloons.
12. Do you have an all time favorite book? I don’t have any one favorite book, but can call out several books that were sure-fire hits: Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin Series and Patient Zero; Stephen King’s Green Mile, From A Buick 8, Misery, among others.
13. Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book? In Blood Moon Rising, Alexis, Yeron, and the other survivors hunt the renegades responsible for making the zombies. Alas, a Judas in their group tries to steal their weapons. Two people die, and Alexis gets kidnapped.
14. Do you have any family traditions or recipes you might like to share? I have Italian recipes gotten from my mother. My favorites include Italian lemon drop cookies, i.e., lemon-flavored cookies with frosting and decors. Alexis, being of Italian descent, would enjoy this kind of cookie and other treats my mother made.
15. Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book? Steel Rose has a lot of black moments, but the one most poignant for me happens when the renegades break in Matilda’s home, and come after Alexis and her younger sister Robin.
16. If you were a casting director for the film version of your book, who would play your lead roles? I’d choose Brad Pitt for Yeron because his soft quiet demeanor would enable him to portray Yeron’s melancholy. Shannon Elizabeth would make an ideal actress for Alexis. She looks a lot like Alexis, and she’s done quite well in horror films.
Sometimes they come back. At least the Kryszka aliens do. Their leader injects captured humans with a drug, turning them into zombies. Yeron escapes the Kryszka colony, hoping to practice medicine on the humans that fear him. Alexis, a patient, is afraid, too, until his seductive attentions arouse her. Despite his experimental drug, severe arthritis leaves her too weak to handle most guns. The Kryszka troops and zombies who break into the hospital are hungry. Very hungry. How will she fight them?
Shattering glass. Plodding footsteps. IV poles crashed to the floor. Glass shards tinkled, punctuated by low-pitched groaning from the rear elevator, the exit Hoffman had claimed to seal.
“Dear God, help us.” Alexis reached for her gun.
“What are you doing? Guns are forbidden on this floor, and…Oh, my God!” Ms. Grese cupped her hands over her mouth. Her authoritarian demeanor vanished, replaced by horror-stricken pallor. “Where are the officers?”
“You think our visitors give a shit?” Alexis scuttled toward the door, feeling vulnerable. The vest didn’t protect her face or hands, but the intruders wouldn’t care about that either. She shoved Ms. Grese ahead of her, pushing with her mind, Yeron beside her. “Run!” she hollered.
As the creatures poured through the ward, a stench crawled down her throat, the stink of things many days dead. Moaning drowned out the sound of Ms. Grese’s cries, a continual chant of “hungry.”
Skeletal figures in tattered rags skirted around Mark, who fired at any who got too close. Their tendons flashed gray against cold cobwebs of rib and knuckle. The flesh that quivered through widened skin tears had the sheen of rotting meat. The skin resembled cracked leather. Weeds sprouted on some of the figures’ necks and hair, the way they did in her nightmares. They made their way to the desk, where two nurses sat. The two women jumped up, both screaming. One of them opened fire with a Glock.
The armed woman was her mother.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. Her short stories have appeared in numerous small press magazines. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.
Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer and City of Brotherly Death. She’s also coauthored Alien Worlds and Starship Invasions with Tom Johnson. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.
To contact her, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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