Featured Author: Todd Zack is a delivery driver, writer, and musician living in southwest Florida. His alternative rock band, Tape Recorder 3, composes soundtracks for independent films and documentary’s. Todd’s journalism and fiction pieces have appeared in Thrasher Magazine, Red Fez, Crimson Streets, Jersey Devil Press and Ink Stains Anthology 2018. He is an avid skateboarder and collector of vintage comic books. Mr. Zack lives with his wife and daughter in southwest Florida
Featured Author: Todd Zack Interview
- How long have you been writing?
- What/who inspired you to be a writer?
- What genre do you prefer to write in?
- Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
- What is your daily routine as a writer?
- What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
- Do you have a set number of words each day or a goal?
- How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
- Do you prefer short stories or full-length novels in your writing?
- Can you give some us some insight into your story?
- What advice can you give other writers?
LHP: How long have you been writing?
Todd Zack: I began writing stories in grammar school (maybe third grade), King Kong Vs. Godzilla type things. By high school I was penning slightly more inventive stories as well as pop cultural essays in a kind of adolescent HL Mencken style.
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
Todd Zack: I enjoy writing in genres that allow great imaginative license- suspense, horror, fantasy- most any of the ‘marginal’ genres.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
Todd Zack: The self illustrated comical story books of Shel Silverstein were a big boon to the development of my imagination; as well as the Sunday newspaper funnies, specifically Bloom County by Berke Breathed.
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
Todd Zack: I’m a visual thinker, so usually an image will accompany an idea and that image arrives as a still frame from somewhere within the story. I outline stories modestly, usually with slivers of character dialogue. Rarely will I simply fly through a story by the seat of my pants without placing some kind of diagrammatic leads for myself.
LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?
Todd Zack: When I’m working on a story I need to do something with it every day, either by writing the first draft, editing or redrafting. When I’m not working on a story, I read. I don’t force myself to write every day when I don’t feel like it because I found that, for myself, time spent writing just for exercise is time better spent reading, experiencing the real world, absorbing fresh information and allowing new ideas to gather and gestate.
LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
Todd Zack: A dictionary and Google. Google is a marvelous tool for a writer.
LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
Todd Zack: Organizing one’s time productively is a challenge. Also, as I’ve gotten more experience under my belt I’ve become more deliberate with my writings. For me writing get’s more difficult with experience, certainly not any easier.
LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?
Todd Zack: I almost always find myself running behind whatever time tables I set for myself. Despite this fact, I continue to set time tables on each project because, without them, I’d be doubly lost.
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
Todd Zack: I’ve been laboring through two novels for ages and can say, without reservation, that short stories are far easier- and therefore more fun- for me to write. I view my own short stories as the literary equivalent of the 25 minute Twilight Zone episode and I approach their design with that mindset. But, I’m sticking with the novels too. They’re coming along!
LHP: How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
Todd Zack: I spend a few hours each week researching markets and reading other writers work in publications I might be interested in being published in. I also stay in touch with certain editors or publishers who have rejected my work with encouragement or praise.
LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story?
Todd Zack: My story is called, “The Lifeboat.” I was thinking firstly about dreams; thinking with a sense of wonder about the fact that I’d never committed a heinous act (say, murder) in a dream, unprovoked. I don’t know about other people’s dream lives, but for me, this was interesting because it suggested that whatever it is that we call ‘morality’ is not just some superficial civilized facade but goes deep down into our unconscious, or at least subconscious minds. This led me to thinking about precognitive dreams, premonitions. If someone were to have these talents in a reliable way it would open up an entire galaxy of moral dilemmas. In fairness, this idea has been explored before- in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone for example- but in “The Lifeboat” the end result is very different and the moral considerations much more ambiguous and open ended.
LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
Todd Zack: My advice to fiction writers would be to read in genres in and outside of the ones you most prefer. Also, try to read the entire oeuvre of at least a few different authors so as to see how they’ve developed themselves over time in terms of subject and style- what they add to their writings, what they remove- this can be very educational. To young writers; be as imitative as possible until you find your own style or styles, because sooner or later ‘your own style’ will happen. Lastly, for a technical crash course in narrative technique- watch daytime soap operas!
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Todd Zack recently authored “The Lifeboat” for Terrors Unimagined on sale now.