Happy Friday the 13th everyone! What? You didn't realize it was Friday the 13th? Well, just remember: don't walk under a ladder, break a mirror, or let a black cat cross your path. Concerning black cats, I am bloody doomed. We have four black cats... good thing I don't believe in luck.
Anyway, I have a very special guest today who fits right into the horrors of Friday the 13th.
Today, I am pleased to present to you Christian Horror author (yes, that is a thing!) Zach Carpenter!
I was first made aware of Zach through another author friend. She told me that he was a young author who wrote Christian Horror. When I heard the term Christian Horror I was like "No way..."
I finally got to meet him at a local book signing. When I walked into the library, I spotted him right away and knew exactly which author he was, because he was in character. He was sporting an emo style haircut and was wearing a trench coat... that's right, a trench coat.
But now, I think I better let the author speak for himself.
Give a round of cyber applause for Zach Carpenter!
Mr. Carpenter, I am really glad that you were able to join me! I am SO psyched about this interview! Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have pets? Family? Imaginary unicorn friend?
Zach Carpenter - Well I’m from Liberal, Ks. born and raised *sigh*. I have 3 dogs, 3 cats and two turtles named Raphael and Michelangelo. I love turtles… because Ninja turtles were my childhood heroes. I will never be too old for ninja turtles.
Every time someone says "Ninja Turtles" around me, my brain instantly flicks on the switch that starts playing the Ray Stevens mock-up song Teenage Mutant Chickens. That song does things to the brain that cannot be undone. *twitch, twitch*
Tell us a little about your writing. When did you start writing, and why?
Zach Carpenter - Well, I like horror… obviously. I try to be scary but I’m not sure if I pull it off well, or if I’m trying too hard. But that’s what the editing process is for, haha. I’m also trying my hand at fantasy as well. But because I love dark horror scary things my fantasy is heavily laced with darker horror elements that hopefully will serve to kind of marry the two genres. I started writing when I was 13. I had read a book by Frank Peretti called, “This Present Darkness,” and that got me inspired to write.
This Present Darkness is one of my favorite books! I was so enthralled with it, I stayed up late at night reading it. I only did that once because, by the time I had convinced myself to go to bed, I did not want to walk across the house to my bedroom. I was creeped out!
Do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
Zach Carpenter - I write horror. I have another series called Broken Mirror that is a cross genre of fantasy and horror!
Cool beans! Finish it already, man! I want to read it!
Are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Zach Carpenter - I have to plan everything out, and then I just change things as I go, because I can make a buncha plans but sometimes those don’t work with the direction the story ends up moving in, so while I plan as meticulously as I can, I’m also flexible enough to make the changes when they need to be made.
Flexibility is very important, especially for those demanding, persnickety characters.
What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
Zach Carpenter - Well aside from creating things that make people’s skin crawl, I also like to write redemptive stories. I like to write about characters who are very driven and have hard hearts. Usually through the course of the book, as events unfold, they start to see the other forces at work behind the scenes that cause them to realize, “I am screwed if I can’t find help to combat this threat!” and through that ultimately end up turning to God and end up kicking some ass. Yes… I said ass… it’s a donkey.
I never fail to relate to redemptive stories. There have been so many times in my own life where I come to that point where I am powerless to do anything but make a simple choice: let it drag me down, or call on my Creator for help. I am so glad that He never fails to aid me when I call on Him.
By the way: Kids - kicking some donkey is not recommended. Believe me. Donkeys kick back. So do mules. No lie.
So, Zach, where do you find inspiration?
Zach Carpenter - Usually I listen to creepypasta on YouTube while I’m at work. I love playing video games. I’m a survival horror fan as well as a fantasy rpg fan. Those are some of the big places where I get my inspiration from.
RPGs (Role Playing Games) have provided me with a lot of random inspiration as well, merely because they get my creative juices flowing better than anything else.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you and what is the easiest part?
Zach Carpenter - One of the most difficult parts of my writing is trying to answer tough questions the characters find themselves faced with. Because they are questions I find myself wrestling with. Questions such as, “Why didn’t God answer this prayer when I needed him to the most?” In Soul Hunters 2, I address some of those issues because the main character ends up going through a crisis with his new faith. Not only that, but trying to go back through the whole thing and fill in little plot holes that may have slipped passed my notice, when I’ve gone back and revised the plot so much to make more sense. As far as the easiest part? I can’t really say there is an easy part for me. Finding time to actually write whenever I get the itch can be challenging too.
Making sure that your message is strong and well embedded in the story is HARD, especially in Christian Fiction, because we don't want to be preachy to the people reading, but we do want to message to be clear.
Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write?
Zach Carpenter - I listen to music when I write. I’m actually listening to Babymetal right now as I’m answering these questions. They are a metal band from Japan. I listen to metal when I’m writing the fighting scenes. I listen to horror movie/game soundtracks when I’m writing the super suspenseful/tense parts.
A metal band from Japan? Huh... I'm actually having a hard time with that. Samurai play music?? *gets a weird mental image*
Sorry. I know... I know... I'm weird.
So, is there a message conveyed within your writing?
Zach Carpenter - Yes. My faith in God shows up in my writing a lot. However I try to write my books in a way that anyone from any background can read them and not feel like they are being targeted by an agenda. Yes, I have a message to share of Christ, but that is expressed in the journey the characters find themselves on, and I do my best to present it in a way that it is relevant to the story telling and the circumstances they find themselves in. So that way it makes sense, and regardless of what background a person is reading it from, hopefully, as they get to know the characters, they can see that it is a necessary part of their journey. My message is that there is a battle being waged over our souls, and that both sides, God and Satan, are active in this war. God for the purpose of revealing Himself and restoring a person’s heart, and Satan in an attempt to get at God by killing, maiming and ruling over the very object of God’s love, which is us.
Amen! That is my goal with my books as well.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading?
Zach Carpenter - Well I am currently reading the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. He is a genius. Sometimes I think he might have been high but, other than that, he’s a freak'in beast. He was onto something. There are creatures in the Oz books called the Scoodlers. They are slender creatures with two fronts, so to speak. They have a face on each side of their head and their limbs bend both ways and they take their heads off and throw them at you. Yeah… I love the Oz books because even though they are fairy tales, there is a certain level of creepiness to them that the movie (while a classic) didn’t do justice to.
I have a friend who talks a lot about the Oz books. He's not much of a fantasy reader, but he says he really likes them. So they've been on my "To-Read" list for a while.
Can you name your favorite traditionally published author?
Zach Carpenter - Ted Dekker. I like him for 2 reasons:
1: he is a master at those "wtf!!" moments. I like his suspence.
2: his love stories actually have a manly side to them so I don't feel so awkward reading them!
Very cool! I need to read his stories and pick up on his trick with the romance (this chick is devoid of romance. Like, seriously, can't write it to save my life and I barf when I read it... okay, well, not really, but you get the point.)
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
Zach Carpenter - A crap ton… One of these days, a crap ton will be an actual measurement…. I hope… But anyway, yes I have to do quite a bit. Because even though I’m writing fiction, I want the world it is set in to be believable. Especially with Horror, because the more credible you can make things in your world be, the more realistic and believable the outlandish sounding things (like vampires, ghosts, werewolves) become. And fantasy certainly allows more freedom to do more outlandish things because you are dealing with a realm where magic is a common occurrence. BUT! I’ve found with my fantasy/horror series, Broken Mirror, world building was SOOOOOOO much more complex than with Soul Hunters. Soul Hunters, though set in a fictional city for the most part, takes place in the United States. In Broken Mirror I had to build the world from the ground up basically. I had to make up kingdoms, history for certain geographical regions, the different cultures, backstories for different races of creatures…*stops to breath* I had to design my own version of weapons and how they work, I had to think on a larger scale because the world of Broken Mirror is at war, so I had to think of tactics that all sides would utilize. I had to even invent a couple different religions for that world. I started Broken Mirror in 2010, and I’m just now half way through chapter 36… yes people… build your world. Use them mental Legos.
Mental Legos: I instantly envision that scene in The Lego Movie where they are in Emmet's "voraciously empty" mind. Hahaha...
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case?
Zach Carpenter - Eh… I do some editing, yeah, but ultimately I like the feedback from editors because then that helps me to know what I can improve on. It sometimes takes someone who isn’t as invested in the project as you are to notice things that could hinder the communication of your messages in the writing.
Exactly. Need fresh eyes to make sure that everything is smooth... unless you are like me and have next to no editing skills at all. Then you just need a separate pair of eyes and a brain to check it all.
Ahem! Moving on!
What was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
Zach Carpenter - I had help, yes. A lady at my church published through Tate Publishing and so she got me in touch with them. They were the second place that I sent Soul Hunters to. The first company I never heard back from. No rejection letter or anything. It was like I had never even contacted them. But anyhow, my experience with the first book was great. I had a great editor, great concept artists who designed the cover, and a good author representative.
My experience with the second book however hasn’t lived up to the standard the first book set. The company has undergone a lot of changes. While the quality of the book is still top notch, the people working on it are hard to get a hold of now and it’s like pulling teeth just to get someone to answer an email when I have a question. So, after Soul Hunters 2 is released and has been out for a couple months, I’m getting all my files from them and going to republish Soul Hunters 1 and 2, as well as all my other books, through Create Space from Amazon.
We CreateSpacers will welcome you into our dark brotherhood with open arms.
Did you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
Zach Carpenter - Yes marketing can be tough, but I use word of mouth and facebook to market my books. So far those are the only two things I find even remotely effective. And it also helps to know certain people too. Philip Lee from the library is an awesome dude. He informs me of writing events at the local library and that helps me get some more press.
Mr. Lee is the bomb. And I have found that word-of-mouth is one of the best marketing tools as well. And Twitter as well. *falls down at the shrine of Twitter, sitting next to the shrine of Gene Roddenberry*
If you have more than one published work, which book or series was your favorite to create?
Zach Carpenter - Nope, just Soul Hunters so far. Broken Mirror isn’t finished yet. But Soul Hunters is awesome because it gives me a play ground to explore the creepy/deranged parts of my mind. I love creating characters that the readers can get attached to, and then dashing their hopes to the ground by putting those characters through as much emotional, psychological hell as I possibly can. The themes of self hatred, innocence being tarnished, trust betrayed, and hopelessness are things that I have faced in my own personal life, and I get to play those out in a way that make sense for me by putting my characters through those same scenarios. Horror serves as a breeding ground for those themes as well. Because, with horror, it’s not just about the monster that you think is following you in the dark hallway, but it’s also about how that monster exaggerates those past hurts and traumas. All the monster has to do is make its presence known in some small way or another, and if it’s done right, that monster can become an embodiment of everything you hate about yourself, and then suddenly, it’s now you against you. While you’re sitting there in the dark tearing yourself apart, that monster can blend into the shadows and whisper softly to you, “I’m not here…this is all you.”
...I'm a little bit creeped out right now... wow. I think you hit Horror right on the head. I had never thought of it like that, but you are absolutely right. I will see Horror in a different light from now on!
What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Zach Carpenter - Soul Hunters 2: Demon’s Gamble is my latest book… which does not have a release date yet…
*Hopes dashed* Aw man! Well, I guess we will have to keep up with your Soul Hunters Facebook page to watch for that release date!
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
Zach Carpenter - Well Soul Hunters is set in a world where the greater majority of the population knows that monsters exist. It’s not like most horror stories where only a handful of people know about these things, and the rest of the world either doesn’t care, thinks their crazy, and just go on about their business. I wanted to do something different. In Soul Hunters there are special government divisions that are devoted to researching and hunting monsters.
Soul Hunters is set in a city called, Broken Edge, Ks. The world found out in the early 90’s that monsters existed. At first it was treated as a hoax, as most everything related to this kind of topic is usually treated, but sightings kept persisting. When there are occurrences going on not only across the nation, but worldwide, the authorities and the media can only keep something contained and quiet for so long. In 1995 an event known as the Broken Edge Massacre took place, in which monsters were running loose in the streets, tearing people apart. Other events like it happened in various places all over the United States, and in many different parts of the world as well. Soul Hunters is not by any means a post apocalyptic story. Similar to 9-11, after the rampage of various types of creatures died down, many went back to living their normal lives as best they could. The trauma sort of numbed, and even though many people realize that monsters may or may not be stalking the alleyways of their cities, the greater part of the population has managed to push it to the back of their minds… they just have to find a way to cope when there is a feeding or werewolf attack reported on the news.
I really like the fact that monsters are not so "exclusive". It really gives the story a different feel from other stories like it. The reader does not feel like they are being choked with all the secrecy and ignorance from the rest of the populous in the book!
Are your characters ever based on real people?
Zach Carpenter - Yes! The main character of Soul Hunters, Detective Mick Johnson, is based on my best friend Mick Mages. Many of the monster hunters in these books are actually based on my friends from my old church youth group.
That is really awesome! Turning the youth group into monster hunters is the best idea I've heard yet!
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?
Zach Carpenter - Actually, no. If I don’t like someone I will not even use them as a character in a book. Not even to kill them off. Why waste the effort? If I don’t like them then they aren’t even worth being tribute fodder for the monsters.
Awww... well, but it would be so much fun to torture them and kill them slowly, one chunk of flesh at a time... MWahahahahaha! *Coughs, chokes, wheezes, gags*
Ahem. Well... anyway. What formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
Zach Carpenter - For now they are just available in print. Tate Publishing said they did an e-book for them but I can only count on one hand how many people have found Soul Hunters as an e-book. So when I start using CreateSpace I’m definitely wanting to expand the formats they are in, and make E-books available to more people, because that is the direction the market is moving in.
I think you will find that the expansion will be the easiest thing in the world, once you switch to CreateSpace, because it automatically does that. Of course, I am biased. But I still swear it is easier than opening a jar of molasses.
Would you give a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book?
Zach Carpenter - There is a character in Soul Hunters, named Jack, who is a demonically animated scarecrow. He is actually inspired by the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. I live down the street from the Land of Oz park in Liberal, Ks. and I go down there to think and, pray and kill time and I got the idea on one of my visits to that place.
That is so awesome! How many people can actually say that they live down the street from the Land of Oz? Granted, it's just the park, but still...
I live roughly 90 miles from Liberal Kansas and have been to Liberal several times... I have yet to visit the Land of Oz park. I spend all my time at the Mid-America Air Museum. *Facepalm* What can I say? Airplanes turn my crank...
Well, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Mr. Carpenter! I had a lot of fun (even though I was hiding behind my pillow during most of it... just as a safety precaution).
For the rest of you reading this, PLEASE check out Zach Capenter's book, Soul Hunters 1. And please stop by his Facebook page, hit the "Like" button, and keep an eye out for his second book!
My large, scaly dragon friends will be hanging around all of the exits, randomly inquiring if you have had the time to inspect this awesome book...
Amazon: Soul Hunters by Zach Carpenter
Facebook: Soul Hunters Facebook Page
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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