Interview – Tracey Lynn Tobin, author of Nowhere to Hide
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Tracey Lynn Tobin, author of horror novel Nowhere to Hide. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Tracey.
Tracey Lynn Tobin: Thanks for having me!
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
TLT: Well, I’m a 30-year-old industrial instrumentation technician by trade, but I’ve been writing since I was in the third grade; it’s always been my passion, and though I’ve dabbled with many other things over the years, writing is the one that I always stuck with because it makes me happy. I always knew that I wanted to eventually be a published author, but even if that dream had never become a reality I would still be writing because I love it that much. I love to write in a variety of genres, but my favourites are horror and fantasy.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
TLT: Perfect writing conditions? Oh my goodness, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced perfect writing conditions! Ideally I would be curled up on a super-comfy couch with my laptop, a cup of tea, and absolutely nothing to worry about or distract me. But since I’m a wife and mother with a full-time day job and all that those things entail, my “perfect” writing conditions are more akin to hiding under the covers with my bedroom door closed while I pretend not to hear my name being screamed from downstairs. Also, my job is a fly-in, fly-out situation in which I live on a work camp for two weeks at a time and work 12-hour days, so a lot of my writing ends up getting scribbled into notebooks while I’m on breaks/on the bus/eating lunch/etc.
As for how often I write, well, I try my hardest to write something every day, whether it’s a scene in a novel, a blog post, some random thoughts that have been passing through my head, or what-have-you. Of course, things don’t always work out that way, but I make an effort to make sure that I never go more than a day or two without writing.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
TLT: Well, I knew that I wanted to be a published author since I first started writing back in grade school. It was so much fun to make up these fantastic stories, and the idea of having them published and read by people all over the world was so romantic. Some of my older relatives used to see me scribbling in my notebooks and make comments about how maybe I’d been a journalist someday; it would make me so mad! I didn’t want to be a journalist; I wanted to be a novelist!
As I got a little older and my expectations became a little more realistic I began to realize that this wasn’t exactly an easy path. Self-publishing wasn’t really an available option yet, and as I approached career-age it occurred to me that becoming an author was akin to becoming an actor…that is, an extremely difficult field to break into. And so I became a technician instead, to ensure I would have some kind of financial stability in my life. However, I always continued with the dream of publishing my writing, and I saw the opportunity present itself with the onset of self-publishing. As this trend began to grow and grow I happened to be working on a zombie story that I thought was the perfect novel to test the waters with. Since traditional publishing tends to take such a long time, and I didn’t want zombies to be “out” by the time I got my novel into print, self-publishing seemed like the perfect idea.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style/genres that you do?
TLT: My entire life I’ve loved fantastic stories. When I was a kid it was all about the Ninja Turtles and the Transformers, then the Power Rangers and Spider-Man. Eventually it became Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then Star Wars, and so on and so on. I’ve always loved the stories with epic battles, crazy monsters and brave heroes, magic…basically anything unusual and different that generally does not exist in real life. So, growing up, I would try to emulate those kinds of things in my writing. I loved to write about seemingly-regular kids with extraordinary abilities who find themselves in outrageous situations. Everything that I wrote was a kind of fantasy adventure.
I still love writing those kinds of stories (and I’m working on something like that right now, actually), but as I got a little older I started to get into horror as well. These kinds of stories are darker, grittier, and give you the chills, but they can also have some aspects of what I described above; they’re fantastic stories that force people to become heroes if they want to survive. I love that kind of stuff and I think I probably always will.
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us all about your debut release Nowhere to Hide?
TLT: At its core, Nowhere to Hide is a zombie apocalypse story, but I also like to think of it as a bit of a look at the human condition. The main character, Nancy, goes through a hell of a lot through the course of the novel, and not all of it is the direct result of the mindless monsters roaming the streets. When I began writing Nowhere to Hide I wanted it to be hide-under-the-covers creepy, but I also wanted to show the many myriad ways that folks react in an emergency, with the intention that it makes you think about human nature a little bit.
SPS: What would you say best differentiates your zombie story from others out there?
TLT: It’s difficult to really say too much without ruining the story, but let’s just say that whereas many zombie creators before me have used such excuses as toxic waste, military bio-weapons, or absolutely no explanation at all for the dead rising to life, my monsters come from a very different place.
SPS: What can you tell us about your protagonist, and where did your inspiration come from?
TLT: Nancy is a very average young woman. She has no living family, so she takes care of herself by taking classes during the day and working at night. She’s at a bit of a strange point in her life because she’s barely scraping by but has no idea what to do with herself. In a way, the zombie apocalypse almost saves Nancy from living out the rest of her days just doing the same thing over and over again. Although I’m sure she would have preferred the drudgery to all the death and destruction!
As far as inspiration goes, I really just wanted Nancy to be this super-ordinary person who just happens to have the inner strength to press on. She’s not based on anyone in particular, but I’ve always been a fan of female leads who are really put through the ringer. Does that make me sound creepy?
SPS: Is it a story of sole survival, or does Nancy team up with others along the way?
TLT: Nancy teams up with several people throughout the story. In the very beginning of the disaster she’s on her own, but she finds companionship, as well as a few enemies, along the way.
SPS: Is the story a standalone one, or do you have future instalments planned?
TLT: Nowhere to Hide is a standalone story, at least for the time being. There’s the possibility of a sequel, but I’m not certain it would work well, so at the moment I’ve got that put on the furthest back of the back burners.
SPS: How did you set about creating the cover art?
TLT: First, let me say that cover art is not easy, so I really appreciate the fact that self-publishing sites like CreateSpace (which I used) have options to hire artists to create your cover art for you. For a lot of authors who are thinking about self-publishing I’m sure that cover art might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, so it’s great to have that option to get someone else to do it for you. That said, I’ve got a tiny bit of skill with Photoshop and a father with a really nice camera, so I thought I’d try to save myself some money and create the cover on my own.
I started with a photo my father had taken of a building in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had looked through many of his photos for something that I thought might work for the story, and this one called to me because it appears to be a kind of a dingy-looking apartment building, and Nancy’s apartment is where the real chaos first begins in the story. I used a little bit of trial and error to darken the photo and to give the moon the red, blood-like glow, and then things got really fun. I used Google to find a photo of a random actor in a trench coat, turned him into a silhouette with glowing red eyes, and added him in to the top of the building. His choice of hangout spots may seem a bit odd for a zombie story, but believe me when I say that he will make sense once you’ve read it! Finally, I played with a ton of different fonts and colours before settling on the red and white combo that you see on the final product.
All in all, I’m sure that a professional cover artist could have created something more professional-looking, but I am actually very happy with the way the cover turned out, and it’s nice to be able to say that everything about the book from cover to cover was entirely my own creation.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for Tracey Lynn Tobin?
TLT: Right now I’m working on Book One of a four-book fantasy-adventure series that I’m tentatively calling, The Other World. It just so happens that there’s a call out for manuscripts right now from a local publisher, so I’m going to try sending them the manuscript first, but if things don’t work out I definitely plan to self-publish again, hopefully by the end of the year, if not early 2016.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
TLT: Honestly, until a few years ago it never really occurred to me that this was an option. When I was a kid I always imagined being picked up by one of the big publishers, and even as I grew older and a little more reasonable I still imagined that traditional publishing was the only real route. It wasn’t until more recent years, when self-publishing began to get a lot bigger and some authors even had some major successes with it that it began to occur to me that, hey, this is actually a serious option that real writers are choosing. I still had my doubts for a while, and I did a lot of hemming and hawing over what I was going to do, but in the end I decided that the average timeline for a book to be traditionally published was just not something I was willing to deal with. I decided that I’d give self-publishing a try, and I’m very happy I did!
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
TLT: We all hope and dream and imagine that we’re going to be some kind of runaway, overnight success, of course, but as far as good old fashioned reality is concerned, yes, the experience has been pretty much exactly how I imagined. Things are slow going – marketing as a self-published author is hard! – but I’m just so happy to be able to say that I’m a published author, and that people have purchased my book. The one thing that I’d say was a major surprise was my very first sale; someone from the UK purchased an e-book copy, even before my family members had gotten around to ordering their physical copies. This both surprised and amused me, since I assumed that my first x-number of sales would all be friends and family looking to support me. So whoever you are, random UK Kindle owner, thanks!
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
TLT: There’s a lot of advice that a person could give when it comes to writing. Personally, the thing that I’d tell people is to make sure that you learn the basics and the most important rules, but also understand that rules can be broken. Trying to follow the rules too stringently creates boring writing, and just because a famous author says that things should be a certain way doesn’t mean that he or she is necessarily right all of the time. Learn the spelling, the grammar, the sentence structure, the story structure, but also don’t be afraid to experiment, have fun, and create something in your own voice. Writing is art, after all, and not everyone sees art the same way.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
TLT: I could easily turn this into a huge speech, because I definitely have lots of people I’d love to mention, but for the purposes of this interview I want to send a super-special shout-out to my friend and beta-reader, Ashley Whitt. She is a fellow writer, so she and I decided to trade manuscripts so that we could act as beta-reader for each other. She did an absolutely amazing job of picking apart my manuscript, and even when she was disagreeing with something or making suggestions to add/remove aspects of the story I never got upset with her because everything she said made sense. She made the editing process so much easier and helped me end up with a completed manuscript that I was proud of.
Ashley’s own manuscript is still in the editing process, but I’ve been waiting with bated breath to be able to buy my own copy. It’s an awesome story set in a world where men and women have been segregated for generations. It’s called “The Fairer Sex”, so keep an eye out for it!
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Tracey, and all the best for the future.
TLT: Thanks so much; it’s been a blast!
SPS: For more information on Tracey Lynn Tobin and her work, please do visit her Showcase Author page here.