Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family's tobacco fields--and beat slaves--by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bringing wild ideas. He can help Billy Save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory... by raising his father's slaves from the dead.
Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm?
Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn't? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death? Billy's conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner's son?
Welcome to The Fields
Interview conducted 10/20/11
BKE: Some writers aren’t comfortable with historical pieces. “The Fields” takes place in a Post Civil War setting. Had you always wanted to write a story during this era? Was any research involved?
TS: Even though this time period isn’t my overall favorite, my degree is in history (which, in truth, is fairly useless), so I already had a general understanding of the mid-1800s. I did have to look a few things up to make sure I remembered them correctly, but no “real” research was involved. I always enjoyed historical fiction in college, my favorite being The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Hell, Sinclair’s book isn’t even categorized as “horror” but it still contains some of the nastiest content I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read it, check it out, just be warned that you’ll never look the same at that big, juicy hamburger sitting on your plate ever again. But, I digress. I wanted the setting for this zombie tale to be something different, something unique. That’s really why I picked the time period right after the slaves were freed.
As far as those zombies. I’ve always enjoyed a good zombie flick or book. But, again, I didn’t want to just rehash what’s already been done a bunch of times: people come back from the dead, they start munching on people, a group of survivors band together and start blowing their decaying heads clean off. No. The zombies in The Fields are really a metaphor for something bigger. I think Jonathan Maberry said it best in his introduction for the book:"[The Fields]... is part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense.” Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty “dead” on.
BKE: I’d like your opinion. Now that you’ve had your go at Zombies, and a quite brilliant, fascinating take it is, how close are zombies from going undead to absolute dead?
TS: First, thank you. That means a lot. I had tons of fun writing this one, almost an out-of-body experience (seriously, it was quite strange), and hope hordes of people enjoy reading it. Now, to your question… I think it depends, really. I think a lot of the general public that aren’t “horror fans” enjoy “The Walking Dead” because of its different take on the subgenre. It’s not all about zombies biting on people’s skulls with their rotted teeth. It has a “real” plot to it, a storyline, something that keeps the viewer engaged and rooting for the survivors to keep up the good fight. That’s what it’s going to take to keep our fellow undead brethrens ambling around for a longtime to come – new twists and takes on one of the genres favorite characters. Having said that, the different subgenres in horror always have dipped up and down depending on the time, and zombies are no different. They might begin to stagger in the years to come, but they’ll always return, ready to come after another hot, skullful of tasty BRAINS!
BKE: As a writer, I often wonder how other writers go about their process. Which are you most likely to begin with, story or character?
TS: A story idea always enters my head first. I might even jot it down on a piece of paper. However, that’s just the beginning. The story usually ends up writing itself. If I do try to make notes on a future scene or whatever, it ends up changing nine times out of ten anyway, so I’m not sure why I even attempt it. Now, with characters that’s something different. I’ll usually develop the character before I start writing the story. Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll have pre-planned everything about them, but I do make sure to keep notes on what hair or eye color, what kind of clothes (and if they change mid-way through the story), if they have an accent, etc. I won’t map out their actions. Although, if I want them to start as a “good guy” and end up a “bad guy” I’ll make a simple note of that. I guess what I’m trying to say; my writing is pretty organic. It just comes as it comes, besides the initial idea, of course. Other than that, I just wing it.
BKE: What brought about your character of Abraham?
TS: There are really two main characters in the story – Billy (son of a former slave owner) and Abraham. This not-so-honest, Ab, is the true evil in the story, not the zombies. While Billy struggles to bring the now-dead fields back to their former glory, a stranger by the name of Abraham appears at his front door. He tells Billy the only way to breathe life back to the farm is to resurrect his father’s dead slaves. Reluctantly, Billy agrees. But, of course, Abraham wants a little more than to just help out.
Having said that… Yes, there are zombies in the story. But, it really isn’t about zombies. I needed a presence in the story that is even more frightening than the undead toiling away in the fields under the hot, southern sun. This is why I came up with Abraham. He’s more or less the Devil’s messenger. I don’t want to give too much away, but to say that Abraham knew Billy’s father quite well and is coming back to collect what is rightfully his!
BKE: Tell us about your next projects!
TS: By the time this interview comes out, my short story collection, FOR AFTER MIDNIGHT, should be available. Early next year will see the release of my novella, DININ’ from Bad Moon Books. Also in early 2012, a signed, limited edition hardcover anthology I’m editor on, CADENCE IN DECAY, will be released from MHB Press (UK). Going into the middle of 2012 will see the 3-novella collection, THESE HALLOWED HALLS, by Mike Oliveri, Gord Rollo & Myself from MHB Press, as well as, a few other books and a film the later part of next year. There’s also a few other items that are in the works, but I just can’t talk about quite yet. Busy, busy, busy! Fans can always keep up to date on my current release schedule at http://tyschwamberger.com
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