To begin, let me share my experience in meeting this AWESOME writer. I first met him at the 2011 WHC convention in Austin, Texas. He had a huge responsibility as a co-chair organizing the event. Although it was my first WHC, I’m proud to say his efforts helped make it a huge success. I also noticed that we went to the same barber…but I digress. I had heard the name Nate Southard from Brian Keene and others, but had never read any of his work. I immediately corrected that oversight! I discovered his talents with one of his novellas titled A Trip to Rundberg which evolved into the novel Scavengers. If you haven’t read it you should. Today, I’ve tracked him down, pinned him against the wall and threatened him with the Ninja death touch if he didn’t share his accomplishments with us!
Here at deadburiedandback.com we go for the jugular! (and if you believe that I’ve got a Ponzi scheme for you to invest in) No, actually he graciously took time out of his busy schedule to do this interview so enjoy!
JF: Nate it’s great to finally catch up with you. How have you been?
NS: Great to be here. It’s an interesting time. I’m coming off a three-year streak that’s been amazing from a professional standpoint and horrible from a personal one. Right now, I’m trying to build myself back up. I want to attack 2012 with everything I have, so I need to get my mind right, for a change. Other than that, it’s a pretty typical Monday.
JF: Nate why’d you choose the horror genre?
NS: I’m not sure I’d say I ‘chose’ the horror genre. Don’t worry. I’m not going to say something lame like, “It chose me!” I just always loved a certain kind of story, and those happened to be the scary ones. Eventually, I wanted to write my own stories, so of course I started writing the sorts of things I loved reading. From there, it was just a matter of strengthening my chops and developing my style. The sad truth is that I’m never going to be as good as I want to be, but that’s a truth just about every writer worth their salt needs to face. You can always get better.
JF: What publishing company gave you your first break?
NS: Thunderstorm Books, without a doubt. I suppose I could go back a little and say Michael McBride. I’ve had a lot of help from some great writers and friends over the years, but Michael’s the guy who first read Just Like Hell and then gave it to Paul at Thunderstorm to read. Paul liked it, but suggested a few changes. I went through and saw what I felt worked and what didn’t, and he offered me a contract. I can’t thank Michael enough for recommending me, and I can’t thank Paul enough for taking a chance on an unknown and giving me my first book.
JF: So for those who aren’t familiar with your work what should they read first?
NS: I’d say it depends on your preferences. If you’re in the mood for something brutal, I’d recommend Just Like Hell. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever written certainly the most important in terms of theme and message but it’s not something you should read while eating. For something fun but less nasty, I’d go with This Little Light of Mine, a fun little monster story which Burning Effigy released as a chapbook and just entered its second print run. If you want something longer and don’t mind zombies, grab yourself a copy of Scavengers. It’s a thrill ride with that ‘carrion in the sun’ scent!
JF: Every author has his/her favorites. Which ones were the most fun to write?
NS: I think I enjoyed writing Lights Out the most. It’s always fun to take a good set of characters and put them through the ringer, and Lights Out has some of my favorite characters ever. I can’t wait for folks to meet people like Anton Ribisi, Maggot, Diggs, Tree, Sweeny, and Ramirez. They’re all some wonderfully terrible people.
JF: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Everyone’s on the zombie train! For writers is this a one way ride Nate? Do you think the zombie trend will derail sometime in the future?
NS: I’m not sure it’s going to derail, but I do think it’s going to change. Hell, it is changing. For a long time, a lot of the zombie novels out there were just action romps, most of them with a bit of ‘Man is the real monster’ philosophy thrown in. Some of your big guns The Rising and World War Z, for instance did something better with it, but most of the zombie books I see are excuses for a high body count and little more. Scavengers is an action movie with a little ‘Hey, maybe mankind deserves a shot’ in the mix. It’s a fun book, but I won’t claim it will change lives or anything. That said, we’re now starting to see writers do new things with zombies, and it’s a great thing to see. Alden Bell wrote a literary zombie novel with The Reapers Are the Angels, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Dan Waters’ zombie young adult novels are loads of fun. There are other things out there we can do with zombies. We just have to discover them.
JF: Ok, onto current events. Tell us about LIGHTS OUT. What motivated you to write it and how did you put a different twist on vampire theme?
NS: Lights Out is what happens when vampires attack a maximum security prison. I wanted to tell a story where vampires were monsters again, just these terrible, feral things. They eat, and they destroy. There’s nothing else on their social agenda. Now, they’re monsters fighting a building for of murderers and other criminals. I’m a big fan of OZ, which I think is one of the best television series in history (well, at least the first three seasons). I love the idea of all these horrible criminals finding their own levels of humanity, and I thought that idea was a fun backdrop for a monster story. Most of society would consider the characters in Lights Out monsters, but if you throw something even darker at the audience, all these fun shades of gray start appearing.
JF: Alright, here we go. You knew this one was coming Nate. I need your take on self publishing. For a novice writer is this bad ju- ju?
NS: Aw, hell. I really don’t know, anymore. For a long time, I was all for self-publishing, but that’s because I was trying to break into comics. Whenever I talked to an editor for Marvel or DC or Dark Horse, their answer was always, “Publish your own stuff so we know you’re serious.” For the longest time, that didn’t work for prose. In fact, the opposite was true. You avoided self-publishing in order to show how serious you were. Now? Everything’s changing, and nobody even knows which way is up. I’m not personally interested in self-publishing, because I don’t want to do all the work. And really, if you’re not going to it everything you’ve got, make sure you have a pro-looking cover and hire an editor to go over everything (and then there’s everything else that goes into book design, etcetera…), then I just don’t see the point. Sure, it’s worked for some people, but those cases are so few that all the folks running after them might as well have said, “Hey, that Leonardo Dicaprio did well for himself. I’ll act, too!” I just really wish all the people preaching one method or the other like it’s the means to literary salvation would shut up. There are shades of gray everywhere, folks.
JF: last question Nate. Conventions. Where will Nate Southard be in 2012 so we can meet you and buy SEVERAL copies of your books?
NS: I’m still trying to sort out my 2012 con schedule. I know I’ll be a guest of honor at Mo*Con, May 4-6 in Indianapolis. (http://www.mocon.indianahorror.org/) After that, I’m not sure. It’s possible I’ll decide to hit World Horror or Killer Con, but I just won’t know for a while, yet.
JF: Nate thanks for sitting down with me and doing the interview. I wish you all the best with Lights Out and look forward to seeing you in the future. Be well my friend!
NS: Thanks, man. It’s been a good time!