I’ve always loved to read. At the dinner table, mom would make me put my books away and I would end up reading all the labels on the condiment jars and ketchup bottles. By the time I was twelve, my cousin and I were publishing our own magazine, a knock-off of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
I really loved Ray Bradbury and this new guy named Stephen King, so I started writing short stories, none of which ever got published. As a musician, I was also writing my own song lyrics and doing a lot of recording. In fact, I still do that now!
I kept writing and refining my stories through high school, then stopped for a while when I joined the Navy. I picked it up a few years later and started writing articles for magazines and eventually internet websites. I got an article published in Famous Monsters of Filmland, which was a childhood dream of mine.
After I got married, I decided to go back to college. While I was there, I started writing a novel. It took about five years to finish it and get it polished to the point where I thought it was ready for submission. After getting rejected by about 85 agents and a dozen publishers, I finally received offers from two small presses. I eventually went with Nightbird Publishing, and DIABLERO was released in Oct. 2010.
For my next book, I wanted to go with a publisher that had a wider audience, and I eventually signed with DarkFuse for two books – LILITH and THE BLACK CHURCH. In between those two books, Crossroad Press published GOD PARTICLE, a young adult sci-fi thriller.
Recently, I was offered a three-book deal with Permuted Press, publishers of the book JOHN DIES AT THE END. They will be publishing the next two books in the LILITH trilogy, as well as a reissue of my first book, DIABLERO.
What do you love about being an author?
My favorite part is meeting fans, both on the internet and in person. I’ve met some fantastic people along the way. But I love the entire process, from the idea stage to the writing stage, to the publishing and marketing stages. It’s all great fun to me. I’ve never enjoyed a job so much in my life. I have my wonderful wife, who has encouraged my writing endeavors, to thank for much of my success to this point. It’s kind of funny, but even after five published books, I’m still considered a “newbie.”
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
I don’t know, Bilbo Baggins maybe? He certainly knows how to eat well. We’d probably have some homemade bread, cheese and really excellent wine.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
The lead character in my book LILITH is a man named Hunter Singleton, and he has a mixed-race heritage of Native American and Caucasian. I don’t necessarily think the actor would have to be exactly like that, but it would be nice. I haven’t been able to imagine anyone for that role yet. But for my first book, DIABLERO, I always imagined Vin Diesel as a reanimated Blackbeard the Pirate. He’d be perfect for that part. They would just have to say Blackbeard shaved his hair off at some point, kind of like Vin did in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK.
As a horror writer you are looking to scare readers – what scares you?
I’ll tell you what really scares me – ghost stories. Stephen King’s THE SHINING gave me nightmares for weeks. But one of the scariest lines of any book, to me, are the beginning and ending paragraphs of Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, where it says, “Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more…and whatever walked there, walked alone.” To this day, I haven’t been able to finish that book.
I always thought it would be cool to live in the late 1600s, early 1700s, about the time Blackbeard the Pirate was around. People were hardier and more self-reliant back then, mainly out of necessity. The average life span was only about 40, but it was a full life. Nowadays, people live twice as long, but we spend most of it in front of some kind of electronic gizmo.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
“Be patient – everything doesn’t have to happen today!” Believe it or not, I didn’t really hear a lot of that growing up. I probably would do a lot of things differently, but I don’t think things could have turned out any better than they have, because I love my life!
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Ever since I saw AN AMERICN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, I always thought it would be cool to be a werewolf, even though it’s considered a curse. I wouldn’t consider it that. I think it would be fun to run around in the woods and kill my food with my bare hands, then take a walk through the city streets and scare the bejeezus out of everyone.
Where do you write best?
As a full-time newspaper reporter, I wrote in a cubicle in the middle of a noisy newsroom, so I’ve learned I can write just about anywhere. But my two favorite places are probably at home in my man-cave, or at my local coffee house.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
The last book I finished was actually a DarkFuse book called WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY by Brian Hodge. It was a kind of nerdy-science meets the Twilight Zone type thing, very creepy and H.P. Lovecraft-ish. He’s one of those writers that make me think, “Man, I need to step up my game.” He makes eloquence look effortless.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I would probably write military thrillers, kind of like Brad Thor. I love that stuff. In fact, my book LILITH is very much like that, but with a nasty monster added to the mix. Edgar Rice Burroughs was great at doing that action/adventure science fiction stuff, and he was a big influence. But my books tend to lean toward the supernatural, so that’s where the Stephen King influence comes in. That’s why I call myself an author of high-octane sci-fi, fantasy and horror.
Where can fans find you online?
You can find me on my website at www.tobytatestories.com, which has links to my Facebook and Twitter pages. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter while you’re there.
Thanks for the awesome interview, Nicky – I love your blog!
THE BLACK CHURCH