Monday, April 1, 2013

Interview with horror/sci-fi author Barbara Custer

Dark fiction/sci-fi author Barbara Custer is here to tell us a bit about her novel Steel Rose.

Barbara is going to award one randomly drawn commenter at every stop a backlist e-book – City of Brotherly Death or Twilight Healer – or one of her Night to Dawn magazines, and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will receive a $15.00 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, winner's choice. To increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments.

Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. Her short stories have appeared in numerous small press magazines. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.

Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer and City of Brotherly Death. She’s also coauthored Alien Worlds and Starship Invasions with Tom Johnson. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.

Welcome, Barbara. Please tell us about your current release.
The story opens with protagonist Alexis searching for a cure for her debilitating illness. Her search lands her in open combat with zombies and renegade aliens. Yeron, her doctor and a Kryszka refugee, develops a drug to control her arthritis, but her weakness prohibits her from handling most weapons. Yeron is determined to practice human medicine, but most people fear him. Alexis, his patient, is afraid, too…until his seductive attentions profoundly arouse her. Although Alexis is an adult, she has growing to do if she wants to survive, and she learns painful lessons about love and war. The Kryszka soldiers and zombies who break into the hospital are hungry. So very hungry. How will she fight them?

What inspired you to write this book?
Before I wrote it, I had severe arthritis in both wrists and needed reconstruction for both. I had Walter Mitty fantasies of science coming up with an easy operation or drug that would rebuild cartilage. Yeron’s clinical trials were among those fantasies. I was also caring for my husband who has Parkinson’s disease. During that year, I read about Efren Saldivar, a respiratory therapist who’d been convicted of killing six patients with Pavulon, a drug that stops a patient’s respirations when they’re about to go on a ventilator. All of this left me a lot of material to write Steel Rose and a sequel.

Shattering glass. Plodding footsteps. IV poles crashed to the floor. Glass shards tinkled, punctuated by low-pitched groaning from the rear elevator, the exit Hoffman had claimed to seal.
“Dear God, help us.” Alexis reached for her gun.
“What are you doing? Guns are forbidden on this floor, and…Oh, my God!” Ms. Grese cupped her hands over her mouth. Her authoritarian demeanor vanished, replaced by horror-stricken pallor. “Where are the officers?”
“You think our visitors give a shit?” Alexis scuttled toward the door, feeling vulnerable. The vest didn’t protect her face or hands, but the intruders wouldn’t care about that either. She shoved Ms. Grese ahead of her, pushing with her mind, Yeron beside her. “Run!” she hollered.
As the creatures poured through the ward, a stench crawled down her throat, the stink of things many days dead. Moaning drowned out the sound of Ms. Grese’s cries, a continual chant of “hungry.”
Skeletal figures in tattered rags skirted around Mark, who fired at any who got too close. Their tendons flashed gray against cold cobwebs of rib and knuckle. The flesh that quivered through widened skin tears had the sheen of rotting meat. The skin resembled cracked leather. Weeds sprouted on some of the figures’ necks and hair, the way they did in her nightmares. They made their way to the desk, where two nurses sat. The two women jumped up, both screaming. One of them opened fire with a Glock.
The armed woman was her mother.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Blood Moon Rising, the sequel to Steel Rose. Alexis goes on the road with Yeron, Shively, Mark, Tyrone, and Johnny to kick some serious zombie ass. But they run into complications and lethal injuries. Alexis’s beloved mother gets caught in the crossfire. The romance between Alexis and Yeron blossoms but before they can make any commitments, they have to stay alive. I hope to finish this book before the year’s up.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I tried my hand at writing in 1976, when I was going through a rough patch. I had no college at the time, and the writing quality was raw. I couldn’t afford to go back to school. Fast forward to 1990, after my mother’s death, Kelly, a collage instructor, encouraged me to journal and write stories to turn over the grief I felt over my mother’s death. The stories began to appear in small press magazines. At that point, I took my writing seriously.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have a day job, so I make time to write in the evenings and on my days off. Writing could be blogging, writing stuff for the Night to Dawn Magazine, and of course, my work in progress. I get up about five for the day job. I eat supper when I come home. That leaves me about two to three hours for writing in the evening.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love Mylar balloons. They take on a life of their own, and some of my stories, including Steel Rose, have scenes involving Mylar balloons. Sometimes I’m at my best when I keep a well filled Mylar balloon standing over me. The balloon is like an instructor making sure I concentrate on my work and not daydream.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actress. I fantasized about being a nurse, too, but I really wanted to be in the movies.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers? Well, I’m gonna let you in on something I rarely discuss at interviews. Most people who write horror are trying to face secret fears, and that goes for me, too. I’ve feared skeletons since I was ten, when I saw a mummy up close and personal, sitting up in a sarcophagus, waving her arm. Later on, I’d realized that the entertainer was using props to make the body move, but at the time, all I understood was that this mummy was reaching for me. I tore out of that pavilion fast. You can get the details about my encounter here.

Fast forward to college, Kelly taught us in an anatomy room, which had a skeleton in the back. Each time I showed up for class, I draped my coat and scarf over the skeleton so I wouldn’t have to look at it. She recommended that I start journaling about my fear, and I began turning out short stories about zombies and walking dead.

Thanks, Barbara. Readers, don't forget about the giveaway gifts! Leave an e-mail with your comment for a chance to win.


Popple said...

Lisa, thank you for the lovely showcasing you did with Steel Rose.

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Andra Lyn said...

Wow sorry to hear about your arthritis, but at least it lead to something great!

andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

Rita Breedlove-Wolf said...

Custer's work is compelling, and her characters are alive. Alexis is my hero!

bn100 said...

Interesting inspiration for the book

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Emily said...

My mom has arthritis, and it's no fun. I'm glad you used that though to write an awesome book.