Twisted Tales from the Torchlight Inn is a 3-novella collection containing the following stories:

  • “Last Night Out” by Ty Schwamberger
  • “Tones of Home” by Thomas A. Erb
  • “Off Limits” by Dean Harrison

The three authors recently got together for a little self-interview session and this was the result:

How was the experience of collaborating with two other writers? Has the experience changed the way you approach your current works?

Ty: Prior to writing “Last Night Out” for Twisted Tales from the Torchlight Inn I had met Tom once, but hadn’t yet met Dean in person (I later met him at Context last summer, where some interesting things happened in the pool late one night. Anyway…). Tom and myself got to know Dean online before meeting, knew we had the same taste in fiction, and started talking about collaborating on a project. I think right from the start we had the idea of a 3-novella collection, one written by each of us. Then we came up with some common elements that each of our stories would have, then the title, and off we went. We completed each of our novellas fairly quickly, pitched them to a publisher, submitted the completed collection and the rest is history as they say.

Personally, I dug the idea of each of us writing something similar but different, each of us infusing our own voice and style into our respective stories. When writing ‘Last Night Out’ I often wondered what Tom and Dean were writing about in their stories; would we each tell the same tale, use similar characters, etc. In the end, our stories came out very different, but still had the same feel – they were all very Twisted and brutal. I think if you removed even one of the novellas from the finished book, the collection wouldn’t be the same. One can’t survive without the other two.

Dean: I was a little nervous about the idea when Ty first pitched it to me, mainly because I’ve never collaborated on a work of fiction before, and because I’d never written a novella. But my apprehension vanished once we all talked and settled on a concrete theme and I actually began writing “Off Limits”. The experienced hasn’t changed the way I approach my current works, however, except that I’m now comfortable with the idea of collaboration.

The experience of collaborating with Tom and Dean hasn’t changed my approach to writing a new story. I still write with the same fast intensity as I always have.

Thomas: I truly enjoyed the experience. I’ve always really liked and in fact, thrived working on teams. It must be the camaraderie that I draw energy and inspiration from. It also helped that I became fast friends with both Ty and Dean and that always makes it so much easier to be creative and focused on our specific project.

It also made it easier to work through any roadblocks that got in my way while writing. The life of a writer is a very solitary one and to be able to commiserate with other creative minds that “get it”, is very conducive to shedding that dark shadow of “writer’s block” and moving on with the work.

It didn’t really change my approach or process much if at all. I still worked the same way I did prior; I just had to keep in mind of the anthology’s theme and overall concept. This is something I do while writing short stories for submission anyway.

With the publishing in a constant state of flux and the rise of many small presses and mirco-presses, what were some of the biggest challenges in putting such a big project together? What might be some of the pitfalls/and bonuses of working with a small/mico-press?

Ty: Finding a home for the finished book. Period. It’s far easier to pitch a single novella, novel or whatever to a prospective publisher than a 3-novella collection for sure. But, would I do it again? Hell yes… Though I (we) might change a certain thing if we had to do it all over again (insert grin here).

I haven’t had the pleasure of working with a major publisher, yet. Having said that, I really do enjoy working with small presses for a variety of reasons: more freedom with the content of the book, having input on cover art, the personal attention you get from an Editor at a small press… I’m sure there are plenty others, but don’t have any more on the top of my head right now.

Dean: I’m not sure I can answer this question fully. Since this was my first time working with a publisher (small press or otherwise) I feel I can only say it was both a learning experience and a challenge. And without going into any specifics, I can confidently say that I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when working with a small/micro-press.

Thomas: As Ty stated, finding a home for a novella collection is the toughest challenge. I would then add that finding a good reliable home is the second challenge. With the industry morphing at the speed of light, and while there are many top notch presses out there, there are also far more fly-by-night micro-presses and hell, even some long-standing ones that do not have the writer’s best interest in mind. While the publishing industry IS a business, the publishers shouldn’t get rich off the backs of the true laborer and that would be us, the writers. Do your homework before signing anything. Better safe than sorry. Read your contracts carefully and share them with an experienced writer who has done the dance before. And never, ever, be in so much of a hurry to publish your work that you end up screwing yourself in the long run.

What was your inspiration for your novella and how was the process of creation?

Ty: I took the three common elements in all our stories (the bar, the town, college kids) and infused my own experiences of bar life when I was in college. Besides jotting down some notes about each character, I started the story with all three characters on their college campus and just went from there. I sometimes make notes about a future story but never outline the entire plot. Normally I just let the story flow to where it naturally wants to end up.

Dean: The story behind “Off Limits” is an interesting one. It started out as a novel I began in the Fall of 2008 but was having a little trouble with. After posting a question about novel writing on the website forum of the great master of visceral horror Jack Ketchum, I received an email from Ty Schwamberger offering his assistance most generously, and in the end helping me achieve the confidence that yes, I can do this.

However, I hit a slump in the writing process that I couldn’t get out of, so I put it away and went on a brief hiatus for personal reasons. When I decided to give the writing another try in the Spring of 2009, I began a new novel and reconnected with Ty on Facebook. That Fall, he asked me if I was interested in the project, and it was then that I pulled “Off Limits” from the dusty shoebox I had banished it to and began to rework it. Characters had been changed and because I had a concrete theme and setting in mind so did the story. It was tough going at first, a true uphill battle, but I pushed through and got it done, thank God.

Inspiration for “Off Limits” came from such classics as Cain and Abel, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Thomas Hobbes’ theory of human nature. I also fed my muse a healthy dose of heavy metal during the writing process, in which I kept story notes and a very rough outline.

Thomas: Well, the overall concept was set so that made it a little easier to start. Growing up (and still living) in a small farming community that is rife with colorful inspiration, the idea came very easy. As will the majority of the work, the story was heavily inspired by music. So I let the music do the talking to my Muse and she seemed to dig it. I started the story off with the loose concept of racist rednecks terrorizing an interracial couple but somewhere things changed and got really, bizarre and I think for the better for sure. I will leave that for the readers to decide.

Overall, it was a very fluid process. Once I hit a breakthrough of twistedness, it was smooth as a blood soaked floor.

Where did the idea of a 3-novella collection come from?

All: The idea came from the Leisure novel Triage, which featured novellas by Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee. We decided to corroborate on this particular project because the three of us together have truly twisted views of what horror is, and how far you can push the envelope until it careens off the cliff to fall all bloody and wasted on the rocks. We have plans in the works for another of such projects.

Interested readers can purchase a copy of Twisted Tales from the Torchlight Inn here:

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