Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview with Robert Swartwood

Robert Swartwood, author and editor, has swung by to discuss ebooks, publishing, and the horror of Pennsylvania Dutch desserts. His most recent work is the excellent The Calling, which I reviewed here.

Your novel THE CALLING is in the vein of Peter Straub and Dean Koontz. Who are your other influences?

Stephen King, definitely. In fact, he's probably the biggest influence. My first King novel was INSOMNIA, which isn't the best book to introduce new readers to King. It's very long and complex. But I loved the complexity of the storyline, which I think is evident in THE CALLING. Straight-forward narratives seem to bore me most times.

Self-publishing has morphed into a great hulking beast over the past two or three years. How do you see it growing in the next three?

It will definitely become more common. Everyone wonders if major publishers and bookstores will disappear, and I don't believe they will, at least not completely. There will be few, yes, and they'll go through changes, yes, but they'll still be around. But more and more people are buying Kindles and Nooks and iPads and other devices to read e-books on, so the distribution is there. 

Are you looking for a traditional publisher, or going DIY exclusively?

I'm not opposed to still selling a novel to a traditional publisher, but if an offer was ever made, I would to have to think and consider a lot more than I ever would have before. Mostly because there's more longevity in e-books than there are in print books. Before, writers needed publishers to get them into bookstores; now, many of those bookstores are closing. 

In the world of self-published ebooks, many traditional roadblocks to publication have vanished. Do you think think an author runs the risk of market saturation if he puts out too many self-pub titles? Or is quantity an advantage?

Quantity is definitely an advantage. The more books, the better. Of course, it helps if those books are good. Many authors race to complete a new book so they can get it uploaded as soon as possible. They might have a friend or two look it over and get some feedback, but they don't give the work the proper time to stew before coming back and looking at the work with fresh eyes. So I guess I should say it's quality over quantity, but quantity definitely helps (look at James Patterson). 

Hint Fiction has become a phenomenon--almost a movement. Any worries about being pigeonholed as ‘that 25-words-or-less-guy?’

Not really. If Hint Fiction had been a major failure, then maybe I wouldn't be too happy with being only remembered by that, but right now I can't complain. 

You describe your upcoming book, THE DISHONORED DEAD, as a ‘nontraditional zombie novel.’ How so?

The novel isn't your typical zombie novel (i.e., there are no flesh eating creatures). It's about our world in the not-so-distant future which has begun to decay and most of the population has become the walking dead. Only a few have life, and those are called zombies. They are hunted down and destroyed by the dead because the Government has taught them to be afraid of the living. The way I originally pitched it was FAHRENHEIT 451 meets NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It's a thriller, very fast-paced, but definitely has some ... I guess you would say social commentary, too.

Anything else coming up you’d like to shamelessly plug?

After THE DISHONORED DEAD, I'm releasing THE SERIAL KILLER'S WIFE. That one is a straight-up thriller about a woman who has 100 hours to find her serial killer husband's trophies (the fingers he cut off each of his victims) to save her son's life.

And finally, from one South Central Pennsylvania boy to another: chicken pot pie or shoofly pie? Defend your answer.

Honestly, I don't care for either. But if I had to choose one, chicken pot pie. Because, man, shoofly pie just looks disgusting! 

Robert Swartwood’s work has appeared in The Los Angeles ReviewThe Daily BeastPostscriptsChiZineSpace and Time, and PANK. He is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer. Visit him at
The Calling: A Supernatural Thriller is available for an introductory price of 99 cents at the following places:

Robert invites you to join him on Monday, April 18, at 7 pm EST, where he will be doing a live reading at his website.

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