Tony Faville has worn many hats over the years - military, culinary, etc. - and in 2009, he donned a writer's cap* when he self-published his first novel, Kings of the Dead. He agreed to take some time away from getting ready to attend a horror convention to answer a few questions in this inaugural installment of a new semi-regular writer-interview feature here at Plan D called Throwing Down the Words.
*I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not Tony actually wears a physical "cap." He's probably more of a Real Deal Brazilian tarp hat kind of guy.
Plan D: What led you to first put pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard?
Tony Faville: I first wrote a few stories back when I was wooing my wife in the late 90s, but I never really did anything further with it. It was not until 2009 that she told me about this writing competition that takes place every November, and if I "won," I could get a free proof copy of the piece of work I did. So, I thought it would be cool to have a book on the shelves with my name on it, and set to work.
D: And this led to Kings of the Dead. What can you tell us about Kings…?
T: Kings of the Dead was written in the journal format, and yes, before you even say it, journals have been done to death. I agree. They have been done to death, and they have been done wrong. How many times have you written a journal where you entered all of the dialogue from everyone you interacted with in your journal at the end of the day? Yeah, I didn't think so. No, this one is written in a more pure journal format than any of the other zombie journals out there. With that out of the way, it is a journal written by my protagonist and it keeps a record of the events of his group of survivors that called themselves the Kings of the Dead. Problem is, they forgot about the human factor, and what living day to day life in a land of the dead will do to you, mentally and physically.
D: How would you describe your next book, Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead?
T: Avery Nolan is a homage piece in recognition of the pulp fiction, hard-boiled detective stories of the 1950s and 1960s. Written in the classic noir style, I created a character that is a Lucky Strike-smoking, scotch-drinking, hard-fighting, straight-shooting former Marine from World War Two that went on to become a New York City Police Officer, and then ultimately a Private Investigator/Detective (also referred to as a Private Dick). Avery is hired by a woman to find her father who has gone missing. While on the case, he has a run in with zombies, the KGB and the FBI.
D: Why zombies?
T: Because zombies are cool, man! And because they are the best universal bad guy that can be placed into any situation, and work.
D: What is your zombie background? Favorite books or stories? Favorite movies?
T: I have been a fan of the zombie genre since I was a young kid, like 11 or 12, when I first saw Dawn of the Dead. A few years later, Night of the Comet caught my attention, and it just grew from there. These days, I find myself more drawn to the original Day of the Dead from 1985 for a favorite because it gives us all of the elements that makes for a really great zombie story. As for stories or books, I am a big fan of Jonathan Maberry's work, and World War Z by Max Brooks is a fantastic story as well. With that being said, any respectable zombie collection is not complete without the fantastic The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman.
D: How have these favorites influenced your writing?
T: You know, it's mostly with the basic concept of the zombies themselves. There has been such a huge influx of zombie tales in recent years that you can hardly write anything without someone else already having thought about it and done it.
D: You're an independent author. What lessons have you learned producing your book and making it available for purchase?
T: Make sure you have your work edited, and not by someone close to you, but by someone that actually knows what they are doing. That is the number one thing that consumers will crucify you for, having an unedited book. Add in the fact that there are still some short-sighted individuals out there that are not willing to accept the whole self-publishing concept and are clinging desperately to what is a floundering publishing industry as being the ONLY way to release a book. Now, let me clarify why I say floundering. Can you really respect an industry that gives someone like Snooki a publishing contract? Sure, it was smart business, there is no doubt they made a buttload of money off of that deal. But if the publishing industry cared as much about books as some consumers would lead us to believe based on their views on self-publishing, then people like Snooki would NEVER get a publishing contract.
D: Kings of the Dead, started as a self-published book and has since been published by Permuted Press. What led to this, and how would you describe the difference between writing/publishing independently and working with a publisher?
T: Well, after about a year of selling it as a self-published title, a friend of mine contacted Permuted Press and suggested they take a look at the book. A short time later I received an email from Permuted saying they had heard about Kings..., and wanted to know if I would be interested in publishing it through them if they found it to be something they would like. Now, Permuted is actually the ONE publisher I had told my wife I would sign with if they ever came knocking. So of course I said yes, and talked to them about it. They asked if I would be willing to do a rewrite of Kings..., since they usually go for books that are a little bit bigger. I started rewriting it, and after a few weeks of enlarging it by over 30%, I sent it off to my editor. When she was done, she forwarded it over to Permuted, and a few weeks later I received a copy of my first publishing contract in the mail. Since that time, the audio rights have been picked up by audible.com, and they are hard at work turning Kings... into an audio book.
D: What is the strangest reaction you've had to either Kings of the Dead or Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead?
T: Honestly, I think the strangest reaction has been with Avery Nolan..., and that is the fact that people are not taking a chance on the story. Every person that has read it, has loved the concept, loved the character, loved the story, and hoped for more from Avery Nolan. Problem is, sales have been incredibly disappointing and I am at an absolute loss as to why. What I have noticed though, is that there have been more than a few people that had a "problem" with the word "dick" in the title. And that tells me that they have completely missed the entire concept of the book. In a noir, or hard-boiled detective story, Dick means Detective, so calling someone a Private Dick is nothing more than calling them a Private Detective. If that is truly the reason why Avery is not selling, then I will just have to live without the sales because I will not change the title in order to satisfy some weird obsession with the word "dick."
D: What are you currently reading?
T: I have to admit, I have very little time for reading other zombie books, and instead have been spending some time revisiting a series of books from my childhood, Don Pendleton's "The Executioner" series. Yeah, I know they were trash action books, but by God, I loved them.
D: What is your writing process? Do you outline, or fly by the seat of your pants?
T: When I first wrote Kings..., it was purely by the seat of my pants, and I found that to be a harrowing experience. Since then, I attempt to at the very least have my base cast of characters laid out along with key events including the basic ending. Once I have that ground work laid out, then it is time to write. However, I still find myself jotting down things that come to mind during the day that I think would be a nice touch to the story.
D: And what's next for you writing-wise?
T: I have a handful of works in progress that I really need to nail down the time in order to finish them. Life has been hectic lately with a serious hospitalization of my wife a few months ago, and I have not sat down and made any true effort to write anything. With that being said, I do have another Avery Nolan story I am working on with a start that throws one heck of a twist into things, but also blows some doors open for me in the Avery Nolan universe. Now I just need to get the motivation in place to make it happen.
Tony can be found online at Tony Faville, A boy and his blog at http://tonyfaville.com/, and this weekend, he can be found at Seattle's ZomBCon where he'll be joining his fellow Permuted Press authors. Kings of the Dead and Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead can be found online in both print and e-format; they can also be found at/ordered through some traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores.