Speaking With Zachary T. Owen, Author

I have no idea how I became friends with Zach Owen. I think we had mutual friends at Edinboro and I think it had something to do with me constantly doing stories on the Edinboro Film Series. Anyway. We became friends via Facebook and have managed to keep tabs on each other through the years, even though I have seen him maybe three times in person. I remember when I was temping at the college bookstore before I went to Sweden and he came in and was like "BK!" And I was very tired, and flustered because college students are generally annoying, so I was like WHAT.

Zach is a writer and he's a good writer, which is a rare thing (believe you me). He's also celebrating the arrival of his first published book, "Beauties in the Deep." This is big! It's an engaging book I truly enjoyed when he let me read it not too long ago (twice- one updated, one original). And as I know (because I also have a book out, you sons of bitches), having a book to your name is a major step for a writer. Of course my book is self-published and any cromagnon can self-publish. To get published... that's significant. And he is one of the most dedicated writers I've ever met. It's rate to meet someone so serious about his craft. I'm a writer, but I'm lazy.

Also: Zach writes more in the horror genre. I'm admittedly not a fan of horror (at all), but I can appreciate what he does.

Anyway, Zach answered several questions for the Useless Critic about writing and his book (and Edinboro, GOOD TIMES). Read on- he's a very articulate, profound guy.

UC: So what was the impetus for you writing this book?
Zach: "Beauties in the Deep" was an idea which had firmly planted itself into my brain quite a long time ago and it was sort of nipping at me now and again, saying “please, put me on paper.” So I finally set to the task. For a while it was meant to be a part of a larger project—and that may still come into fruition someday—but at the time I was just determined to make the best of this story. I hadn’t planned on getting it published as a standalone piece, let alone something for kindle and nook, but the opportunity presented itself, and as a writer you either get on the train, so to speak, or you let it pass you by.

UC: How long did it take you? I remember I read an earlier version...
Zach: If I included the first time I had the idea and began toying around with it, up until the final stages, I would say five, maybe six years. I came up with "Beauties in the Deep" early in my college career. The writing process itself did not take long, initially, but I kept revisiting it and adding and subtracting things, and eventually I was just nitpicking, continually editing every so often after having friends read it and give me feedback. At one point I had to say to myself, “Well, I could be editing this forever or I could let it be published.” It was very hard for me to quit trying to find more and more things to fix and accept "Beauties" was probably as good as it was going to get. I think my editor was very patient with me.

UC:What are you most proud of about it?
Zach: I’ve always written more about weird ideas or strange situations and really enjoy that angle of genre fiction, but I’ve struggled with characters quite often. In "Beauties in the Deep," I finally got a foothold with characters and I’m proud of that. I don’t know if that’s how it was when I started writing "Beauties" or it only came with editing, but "Beauties" was definitely one of the first things I wrote where I really felt something for the characters. I would like to think Ivory and her father, Geoff, are likable and fairly dynamic. I hope the audience reads about these people like Sam Dibbler, and they think, “Hey, I knew somebody like that,” and it feels real even though the story is fantastical. I think, for once, I got a really good grip on people and not just situational horror. But that’s for the reader to decide.

UC: What would you like people to get from it?
Zach: This is always a difficult question for me because I write things I would like to read and I don’t worry very much about what people might take away, other than being entertained. The few times I’ve really hammered a message into my fiction, it has failed almost completely. If there is a message in my work, it is frequently incidental. If I had to pinpoint something in "Beauties in the Deep" people should take away, I guess it would probably be not to take your parents for granted, and parents, don’t take your kids for granted. Childhood is an important time for everybody and sometimes I think we forget that. A lot of monsters are bred through poor childhoods.

UC: What was the publishing process like?
Zach: I think I got lucky. What happened was, I submitted a short story to an anthology, and the publisher of that anthology was later looking for short novels, or novelettes, to publish in eBook format. He sent me an email asking if I had anything that might suit an eNovelette, and I realized I would be stupid not to take the opportunity. From then on it was just a lot of editing.

UC: Is your book going to be released as a physical book?
Zach: Yes, "Beauties in the Deep" is going to be in multiple print formats. It will be printed in a trade paperback and limited hardcover collection with two other novelettes, under the title "Three Cuts Deep." "Beauties" will also be printed as a limited chapbook, both in paperback and hardcover format. These will be available at numerous online retailers, such as Amazon.

UC: Are you working on anything at the moment?
Zach: I am currently working on a collection of horror fiction, or what some would call bizarro horror, though I don’t know if I want to apply that term because I’m not sure if my writing is in quite the same class, but the subject matter, is at times, very strange. Most of it is already written, it’s just a matter of editing and finding a publisher. I’m calling it "Glass Skeletons." One of the stories featured in "Glass Skeletons" will make its debut in issue three of the U.K. genre magazine, The Alarmist, due out in September. The story is called “I Know There are People Who Wander in the Night” and I’m proud of it because I think it is one of the creepiest things I have ever committed to paper.

UC: Do you force yourself to write? I find I have a hard time writing when I'm busy or stressed, which is probably why I never write anymore. Are you one of those people i.e. write 500 words when you wake up?
Zach: I’m still trying to figure out what kind of writing schedule is best for me. I don’t normally force myself to write but sometimes I feel too much time has passed and I need to sit down and get the wheels going again. There are times when I can write five pages a day but there are also times where I can only manage a paragraph or two. Ideally, I’d like to have a writing space, somewhere I could step into and say, “This is where I write, so I must write.”

UC: Are you reading anything at the moment? What writers do you admire and/or hope to emulate?
Zach: I’m reading "Imajica" by Clive Barker and "Endlessly" by C.V. Hunt. I’m inspired by a lot of authors. I don’t worry much about emulating them because I think all writers do that on some level, even if it is unconsciously, so it isn’t something I need think about. There are times I can look at my writing and I can see who it was I was channeling that day. I draw a lot of inspiration from both of the "Alice" books and a lot of horror fiction. I also enjoy satirical and dark humor. "Catch-22" speaks to me on many levels. I try to read a little bit of everything, especially newer, small press stuff. I feel like I fit in with small press authors. It feels like home to me.

UC (BK): We're both graduates of the Edinboro writing program. How do you feel it helped you?:

Zach: A big part of my writing education was talking to other writers and discussing the editing process, as well as bouncing ideas back and forth. Having writing classes forced me to follow deadlines, which is important. A lot of publishers only take submissions a few times a year, so it is necessary to always have good work prepared and ready to go.

Here's a link to the official page for "Beauties in the Deep."
Here's a link to the Barnes & Nobles page.
Here is the FOR REAL OFFICIAL Facebook page.

Best of luck to Zach- and all aspiring writers out there!