Thursday, October 15, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: S.G. Lee


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hello!!  Welcome to The Gal and thank you SO much for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

S.G. Lee:
I am, what I like to call, a displaced Philadelphian.  I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in the suburbs.  I had always assumed I would die there of old age (or heartbreak because I might not live to see the Flyers win another Stanley Cup or the Eagles finally win a Super Bowl), but with the impending apocalypse, it seemed like a good idea to head for the hills.  Well, more like the mountains ... of West Virginia.  Culture shock and Pittsburgh fans aside, we (my mega-supportive and always encouraging better half, and our dogs) are enjoying the change of scenery.  It really is quite beautiful here, but the City of Brotherly Love will always be home in my heart.
            Aside from being a rabid sports fan, I've always had a passion for reading and writing.  Even as a child, my imagination was my defining trait.  Books are magic to me.  Each time I open a cover or turn on my Kindle, I am instantly immersed in that world.  I don't hear or notice anything around me when I'm reading - same goes for my writing.  The only thing more important to me than my writing is my family.  I have the distinct pleasure of being married to my best friend and soul mate.  I'm often surprised anyone can tolerate living with me.  We are joined by our little monsters; although, I understand most people refer to their dogs as fur-babies.  Somehow, "monsters" seems to be a more accurate and better fitting title.  I inherited a love of horror from my father and an obsession with grammar from my mother.  Having survived a childhood stuck in the middle of my two brothers, I am convinced I will survive the zombie apocalypse.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

S.G. Lee:
1) I am deathly allergic to cats.  I'm talking full of anaphylaxis, not the sniffles or watery eyes.  My throat swells and I can't stop breathing.  If someone wanted to kill me off, they'd only need to bring a kitten.  2) Even though I'd nearly drowned when I was five, I love the ocean.  I'm not crazy about swimming pools, but the water is so magnificent and awe inspiring.  From the time I was in diapers until I went to college, every summer we went to Wildwood, NJ for vacation.  3) My childhood home was haunted.  The ghost/spirit/whatever you like to call them was not malevolent so it wasn't really a big deal.  He did like to mess around with my stuff and hide things.  4) I actually hate talking about myself and am uncomfortable being in the spotlight.  I will talk your ear off about books or writing or any other subject, but when it comes to myself, I try to steer the conversation elsewhere.  As an Indie Author, I understand I need to connect with readers, and interviews are a great way to do it, but I'd rather talk about books.  That being said, I do love to connect with readers and I respond to messages via social media or from the contact form on my blog.  5) I have been known to take requests and write stories based on said requests.  For example, a good friend asked me to write a story about the ocean.  The simple request spawned my next novel.  Usually, requests end up as blog stories, but sometimes blog stories are later expanded and turned into a full novel.  Of course, the request has to be in my genre.  My mom has been asking me to write a lovely romance for ages, but I don't see that happening any time soon (as in, never!).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?  

S.G. Lee:
The first book I remember reading on my own was The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone.  Anyone else sensing a theme here?  Of course, I was raised on childhood classics and I was a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but those were always read with my mom or grandmother.  I was so proud that I read The Monster at the End of This Book aloud, all by myself without any help.  It was the summer before I started Kindergarten.  As a side note, I bought that book for my nephew when he was little and I was sad to see they'd changed it and added in Elmo.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

S.G. Lee:
I recently finished William D. Prystauk's heart pounding, hardcore crime thriller Bloodletting and the spellbinding The Amazing Mr. Howard by Kenneth Harmon.  I am currently devouring The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski.  In fact, it was hard to put that down to finish this interview.  Also, because I always have more than one book going at a time, I'm reading short stories by the other contributing authors in two charity anthologies: Bite Size Offerings: Tales and Legends of the Zombie Apocalypse and At Hell's Gates.  The two anthologies are jam-packed with great stories from equally amazing authors, but the best part is 100% of the proceeds go to charity.  I love being able to use my writing to help others and so do the fellow authors in these anthologies.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

S.G. Lee:
I can't remember a time when I wasn't creating stories.  I did it to entertain myself long before I was able to write.  As I got older, I made up scary stories about monsters in the closets and the basement to terrify my little brother into behaving when I had to babysit.  He loved them so much he'd get me to tell them to his friends.  In school, I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged my creativity in writing.  Even in elementary school I was winning contests and getting stories posted in their newsletter.  I guess it has always been a part of me, but it took me a long time after to move forward into publishing my stories.  I kept most of them in my head until it was time to take the next step.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

S.G. Lee:
As long as I have a comfortable place to sit, I can write anywhere.  It is both a blessing and a curse; in fact, when I write I block everything out.  So, that means I can be sitting in the same room with someone and not notice if they're talking to me.  That can be a huge negative to the person talking and yet I am still married.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

S.G. Lee:
Not really ... I do, however, have an annoying habit of coming up with my next chapter when I'm in the shower.  I've had to place notebooks all over the house.  One time, I came dashing out of the bathroom, literally foaming at the mouth because I was in the middle of brushing my teeth.  Yes, toothpaste a-frothing, the toothbrush sticking out of my mouth.  I was in a mad frenzy looking for a pen.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

S.G. Lee:
The challenging part isn't the actual writing or even the editing.  It's marketing and promoting to reach readers and let them know your book is out there.  While I love interacting with readers, I feel very awkward pitching my latest books to them like a door-to-door salesman.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

S.G. Lee:
Without a doubt, one of the most inspiring books for me as an author is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.  However, I've absorbed the good and bad from every book I've read over the years and gleaned from those countless pages what finally became my style.  You get to know what works and what doesn't.  Long before I ever thought of being a writer, I was a bookworm.  I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on in all sorts of genres.  You name it, from Shakespeare to Chuck Palahniuk, classics, to indie favorites, I love reading!  As for specific authors who inspired my style, that could be anyone of a million authors but, obviously, Stephen King is one.  S.E. Hinton's character development, the ability to create believable, natural characters from all walks of life, has always impressed me.  Dr. Seuss would have to be another huge influence because, from him, we all learned that reading is fun.  If the author isn't enjoying themselves while writing, you can pretty much guarantee the reader won't enjoy it either.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

S.G. Lee:
The criteria, I use, is simple.  The characters have to be relatable, natural, and believable.  Next, the narrative and dialogue have to flow.  Finally, it can't be boring; I have to feel something.  If those things are in place, then it will be a good story.  Now, I have read many stories that were not edited and the grammar was appalling.  While the story may be fantastic, if the entire piece is muddled with one mistake after another it can be difficult to become completely absorbed in the story.  For the sake of readers and the sake of the story, editing is a must!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

S.G. Lee:
For me to love a character, they have to exhibit the traits of a true human.  We are complex beings.  We don't always do the right thing and sometimes we make stupid choices.  Humans are far from perfect, but they have depth.  The characters must show feelings to evoke emotions from the reader.  When I am creating characters, I try to put myself in their shoes and let their feelings flow on the page.  Most of my characters have detailed and in depth back stories.  Even though their past might never come up in the final draft of the novel, I know where they've been and what they've done.  That motivates how they'll respond to a certain situation.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

S.G. Lee:
Well, as much as I would like to say Major Frank Stone from Littleville Uprising, I'm definitely not like him.  I think I am most like Ryan McCallister in New York Outbreak.  He has a bad habit of making jokes and being sarcastic at the wrong time.  Also, he's focused on grammar and loves sports. To tell you the truth, I wanted to make him a Philadelphia transplant and have him love my teams but it just didn't fit.  Although, I am convinced if we ever have a daughter she would be just like Emma Wexley from Littleville; she's the perfect combination of her "mother and father's" best and worst attributes.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

S.G. Lee:
I care more about what is inside the cover.  I will always read the preview before I purchase a book.  I would rather see someone use their eight-year-old niece as the cover artist and have a great editor than vice versa, but I am not in the majority in my thinking.  I wince when I see those lists of worst cover art articles circle around the internet.  I feel bad for the authors whose books, their heart and soul, are on there.  While I doubt my covers will ever hit the top ten lists, I know they are far from the worst.  As to my involvement with my own covers, I was pretty involved.  The artist and I were in constant contact.  I gave her a general idea of what I wanted to see and she put a few ideas together.  We would discuss them and tweak things until we were satisfied with the final result.  She was a joy to work with and even though she is just getting started in her foray into cover design, I think Reyna Pryde has great talent.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

S.G. Lee:
Above all, I'd say I learned confidence in myself.  I held onto stories and characters in my head for a long time before I finally put them out there for the world to see.  I am both thrilled and honored that others enjoy my stories.  I have met some amazing people who are behind my work and support my writing; that makes it worthwhile!  I've also learned a great deal about the publishing aspect.  There is much more to it than just writing a story.  I've also learned a great deal about publishing and the many steps involved from a concept to the final product.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

S.G. Lee:
The hardest scene for me to write was probably Emma's breakdown when she walked out of school.  Her emotions were so raw and the depth of her anguish so deep that it was physically painful for me to imagine that kind of despair.  She lost the only person she'd ever fully trusted and that kind of break leaves scars.  Emotionally, she was a wreck and I'm still not positive I even scratched the surface on her pain in my description.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

S.G. Lee:
I think there are a few things that set my books apart from others in this genre.  First, my Journal of the Undead series doesn't only follow the same characters from book to book.  In Littleville Uprising, the main characters are high school kids.  In their travels, Emma, Matt, and Evan meet the characters in book 2, New York Outbreak.  Ryan and Cassie's story intertwines with others for the upcoming third novel, D.C. Cover Up.  In the end, the story comes full circle for all the main characters and you'll finally learn who survives and who didn't.  Also, even though my books don't always feature a young adult protagonist, I do keep them YA appropriate.  That means no F-bombs and no graphic sexual content.  In fact, I strive to avoid cursing for the most part because I wanted to make sure my nephews and niece would be allowed to read my books.  Finally, my characters are flawed.  Very often in Zom-Poc books, the main characters are military or they immediately pick up on survival techniques.  While it makes for a good story, I just don't see it going down that way.  Like I said before, humans are a complex being and we make mistakes, some more than others.  Cassie, from New York Outbreak, is a prime example.  She is not stupid but she makes foolish mistakes because she just can't wrap her brain around the fact that zombies are real.  I think there would be people like her and some of them, in spite of their ignorance, will survive.  Just like life, sometimes good people die and bad people survive.  That happens in my books because that's how life is.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard it is to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

S.G. Lee:
A book title is of vast importance because it should intrigue the reader and make them want to know what happens.  It should also give a hint of what is to come.  Because the title is so important, I always struggle with titles.  I usually have the story written before I settle on my title.  I've had working titles, then changed them as I went.  I wrestled with the series title for months because I'd think of something and then see a title that was too closely related so I'd go back to the drawing board and try again.  Once I had a couple that I liked, I re-read the manuscript to see which one fits the best.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

S.G. Lee:
Completing my first noel was one of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences of my life.  The sense of personal accomplishment was unlike anything I had ever achieved; however, the short stories that I've had published each contribute to a worthwhile charity.  In that sense, using my passion for the written word to help others is both an honor and a privilege.  In this world, there are so many in need that it can be overwhelming, but the indie authors that I've encountered feel the same way I do; we want to do what we can do help.  Writing has given me the opportunity to reach personal goals, but also contribute to helping others across the globe and the community around me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

S.G. Lee:
All of my writing: the current series, anthology stories, my blog, and even my upcoming books, are geared to horror fans.  I keep my writing young adult appropriate, but targeted for adults, too.  In the middle of blood, guts, and gore, the heart of my writing is about the interactions between people.  More often than not, humans are the scariest and most vicious monsters, especially in an apocalyptic situation, so the interaction between characters is meant to be gritty, raw, and messy.  Not even my protagonists are the typical knight-in-shining armor/angel of mercy.  They make mistakes, lash out at loved ones, and sometimes act without thinking about the consequences because that's what people do.  If nothing else, I hope that readers take away the complexity of human nature.  Few people fall into one category.  Good people will occasionally slip up and do bad things.  Hardened criminals might show kindness under the right circumstances.  You can't judge a person (or character) solely based on one action or reaction.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

S.G. Lee:
Most of the deleted scenes pertain to characters' backstory.  As I said earlier, I have in depth histories for all of my characters.  If I included all of that, my books would be thousands of pages long.  For example, in Littleville Uprising, I had a long memory sequence that included the twins' mother and how she died.  It wasn't really relevant to the story, so it found its way to the deleted files.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put away fro a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

S.G. Lee:
Well, I have often considered writing either fantasy or a children's book.  As I mentioned earlier, my niece and my mother are not horror fans.  They both have asked me to write something other than horror.  My niece likes fantasy and adventure, so I think I'd like to do that for her one day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

S.G. Lee:
In addition to regular, free blog stories, I have a standalone novel called Ocean coming out around the end of the year.  Of course, At Hell's Gates Vol 4 is coming and I have two more books in my Journal of the Undead series in the works - Journal of the Undead: D.C. Cover Up and Journal of the Undead: A Survivor's Guide.  I have a few more projects that I am tinkering with, but the others are officially on the schedule.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

S.G. Lee:
Blog ** Facebook ** Twitter

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by.  It was great having you here today.  
            One more thing before you go: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

S.G. Lee:
I'd like to say, THANK YOU!!  Without readers and fellow bloggers who spread the word about newer Indie Authors, my work would be lost in a sea of other books.  I am honored and humbled to share my stories with you.  To those who take the time to write reviews, I am most grateful.  The writing community, over all, has been welcoming and supportive.  There aren't enough words to express the depths of my gratitude. 


About the author:
S.G. Lee was born in Philadelphia and raised in its suburbs.  In anticipation of the inevitable apocalypse, Lee packed up the family and moved to North Central West Virginia, but the author's heart still belongs to the City of Brotherly Love.  Though it is rumored that the desire to write about zombies and other monsters was spawned by intense road rage, and a secret longing to club slow drivers with a tire iron, that claim has yet to be substantiated.
            S.G. is proud to be a contributing author for all three volumes of the charity horror anthology At Hell's Gates.  The first two novels in Lee's Journal of the Undead series have been released.  Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising was released in November of 2014.  The second book, Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak, followed in June of 2015.  S.G. also contributed to the charity anthology Bite Size Offerings.  A stand-alone novella, Ocean, is expected to be released near the end of 2015.  Until then, free horror stories and random musings are posted on S.G.'s blog.  Or feel free to connect via social media: Twitter and Facebook.

About the books:

Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Parataxis Publishing
Publication date: 11.7.2014
Pages: 376

The residents of Littleville, Pennsylvania are about to meet their new neighbors...
            New to Littleville, the Wexley twins, Matt and Emma assume fitting in at Lincoln High and making new friends will be their biggest worries.  They couldn't be more wrong.  Fate would introduce Evan Stone into the neighborhood and all three attempt to navigate the murky labyrinth of eleventh grade but Evan has a secret.  His godfather is Dr. G.E. Mitchell, author of Journal of the Undead: A Survivor's Guide and Evan has been learning about zombies from one of the best.
            With an excellent school system, safe streets, and a strong sense of community, the Philadelphia suburb of Littleville has proudly attracted a diverse blend of people, but up until now they'd always been living.  When Lincoln High School is overrun by flesh-eating corpses, Evan rescues Emma and they battle their way through the zombies to Matt, but fleeing the school doesn't solve their problems.  Friends, enemies, and loved ones are lost in the battle against the undead and the entire town is completely overrun.  The true terror unfolds, as the survivors must escape and make the dangerous trek from suburban Philadelphia to the highest mountains of West Virginia with the hope of finding a safe haven at the Stone family cabin.  If they can reach the secluded refuge, they just might survive the Littleville Uprising.

Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Parataxis Publishing
Publication date: 6.25.2015
Pages: 428

Struggling actress and full-time waitress, Cassandra Taylor, is having one of the worst days of her life.  Rude customers, a cheating boyfriend, and a botched audition are just the tip of the iceberg.  Her new neighbor, Ryan McCallistar, has troubles of his own, but neither is aware of growing threats in the underbelly of New York City.  Contrary to what the media reports, their so-called flu epidemic is actually a viral plague turning humans into flesh-eating monsters.
            Starting on the streets, New York's homeless are a walking buffet for the reanimated dead.  One bite kick-starts a catastrophic outbreak turning the dead into ravenous fiends, bent on devouring flesh from bone.  As the infection spreads, people from all walks of life are doomed to a ravenous search for fresh meat.  On the same day, the governor declares a state of emergency, Cassie learns her grandfather is deathly ill and her family in Ohio begs her to come back home.  Ryan vows to help his neighbor find a way to Ohio, but to do it, they must escape the watchful eye of every guard employed to patrol the border.
            Cassie and Ryan risk life and limb to escape the horrors in The Big Apple, but that's only the beginning of their journey.  Can they endure the trek through a zombie-infested wasteland and survive the New York Outbreak?

5 comments:

S.G. Lee said...

Thank you, Meghan!

Gideon Stevens said...

S.G. once told me he got his most horrible death-scene ideas while stuck in Philly traffic!

Meghan H said...

Really? Makes me glad I don't drive in Philly haha. Thanks Gideon - for the insight and for stopping by :)

Crash Palace said...

What a comprehensive interview - and a wonderful one at that! Not only did you ask excellent questions, Meghan, but SG's answers are truly worthwhile and engaging. Well done! Thank you so much for sharing this.

Meghan H said...

Thanks, Crash :)