Today, I am teeming with anticipation at having Rick Gualtieri with me in the forum. For those of you who haven’t heard, he is the hilarious, bestselling author of The Tome of Bill series. One of my sisters had already read the first three books before begging me to invite him for an interview.
Tim Greaton: Rick, I feel we may as well roll out the dirty laundry first. I’ve heard rumors that you have drawn a pretty stern line with certain people. Is that true?
Rick Gualtieri: It absolutely is. I am a rabid Transformers fan. I have the comics, the toys, the movies, heck I even have a Decepticon symbol tattooed on my right shoulder (and no, I’m not sending pics :-). I’m a bad person to take to Toys R Us because I ALWAYS disappear down that aisle. I’m that strange man who’s there picking up the boxes and pretending to read the price tag, while secretly looking at the character bios.
I’m constantly on my guard, protecting my collection from their worst possible enemy...my kids. As I’ve told them many times, “Boys, see these? These are daddy’s prized possessions. One day, though, daddy will be gone and when that happens...well don’t get any bright ideas. Daddy’s being buried with them all!”
Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you gravitate towards?
Rick Gualtieri: I mostly read horror and techno thrillers, with some fantasy and sci-fi thrown in. If it has a monster in it, chances are I’ve read it or have it on my to-read list. A few of my favorite authors include: Stephen King, Jim Butcher, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child.
Tim Greaton: Are they in the same genres in which you write?
Rick Gualtieri: There is some overlap. Currently I write in both the horror and comedy genres (with maybe an additional genre out there under a pen name), with a future book planned that probably falls into paranormal action / adventure. I write stories that I would want to read, but I don’t necessarily always read in those genres - if that even makes sense.
Tim Greaton: You came to a turning point in your past. Could you tell us about that?
Rick Gualtieri: College for me felt like my first taste of actual living. My life before then was okay, not exactly a horror story in of itself, but, generally speaking, through a combination of my home life, being an introvert, and a few other factors, I wasn’t particularly happy. It took me a while, but eventually I was able to climb out of my shell, join some campus organizations, and meet some great friends. My last two years of school really shaped the person that I am today, and I think that’s reflected in my writing (especially the snarky parts). It’s also where I started having some pretty awesome adventures...at least a few of which have made it to the pages of my books. Which ones? That’d be telling.
Tim Greaton: When readers provide feedback about your books, what do you most like to hear?
Rick Gualtieri: I think the best compliments are those that say I’ve given someone exactly what they’re hoping for from a book, i.e. either a scare or a laugh. That last one is especially awesome. Comedy is hard to write. Just because one writes a joke and thinks it’s the funniest thing ever, it doesn’t mean a reader will even crack a smirk at it. That’s my biggest fear with my horror/comedy series: putting out an unfunny book. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten many comments along the lines of “laugh out-loud funny”. Getting something like that is both an incredible compliment as well as a huge relief. That I was able to bring a smile to someone’s face is just icing on the cake.
Tim Greaton: I heard a rumor that you’ve got some great outdoors stories. Could you share one of those?
Rick Gualtieri: Several years ago, I went canoeing with a group of friends. We were supposed to go hiking, but one of them had a sprained knee. I’ve never been too big on being out in the water, so I was mostly griping about it the entire way. One of my friends said to me, “Oh come on! You have to admit this is better than being on a train back to Hoboken” (Where I went to school).
I answered, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
A short while later the ‘fun’ started. I was paddling at the bow of our canoe one moment, the next thing I knew I was underwater. The person sitting behind me had leaned over to look at a fish and capsized us. I surfaced underneath the now upside down canoe, to cries of my friends yelling for me. They thought I had drowned...but fate wasn’t quite done tenderizing me yet.
Instead, I got the canoe off of me just as we entered some rapids. Ten minutes later, having been bounced off of multiple rocks like a human pinball, I caught sight of my friend from earlier. He had been in the same boat and was likewise in the water doing a good impression of a bug being smashed against a windshield
“Just for the record,” I yelled, still being dragged by the current, “I’d rather be on that train back to Hoboken!”
His response, “Me too!”
Tim Greaton: I love asking the next question, because it shows how much variety there is among us scribblers. What is your writing “system” like, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
Rick Gualtieri: I’d say my writing style has evolved from a state of pure chaos to that of slightly organized chaos. Since I write in different genres, I find my style changes depending on the book. When I write comedy, I’m a pantser. I find humor is funniest when it’s spontaneous and just off the top of my head. The more I think about a joke, the less funny it’ll be. It’s different writing horror, though. In that case I need my plot outline next to me so I know 1) where the monsters are vs. the survivors and 2) which of my characters I’ve already killed off so as to not have them reappear in a later chapter. It’s weird having multiple styles, but I’m a big believer in using whatever works best for the situation. That means keeping flexible in everything I do.
Tim Greaton: I understand you put your later drafts through a gauntlet before you let them free in the world. Could you describe that process for us?
Rick Gualtieri: I am eternally paranoid about my work, so I make use of beta readers. My wife is my first line of defense. She typically doesn’t read the genres I write in, so she’s not afraid to tell me if something sucks. Then I have a few awesome friends who are next in line to scald me with their comments. Following that, I’ll often recruit a few brave souls from my social media circles and have them give it a go. I like my beta readers to be a mix of regulars (who I know I can count on) as well as new people. I’ve found that’s the best way to get a good mix of useful feedback. To date it’s worked out wonderfully. They’ve managed to keep me from zigging when I should have zagged.
Tim Greaton: Do you find any parallels between your work and books by other established authors?
Rick Gualtieri: I’ve had a few wonderful readers compare my comedy writing to Christopher Moore’s, which is more awesome than I can put into words.
Tim Greaton: So would you say you intentionally model Christopher Moore?
Rick Gualtieri: Actually, I look towards Jim Butcher for inspiration with regards to style for my horror/comedy series. His Dresden Files series (of which I am a big fan) is told from a first-person perspective, which can be difficult to pull off. When I read his books, I’m greatly enjoying them but I’m also paying close attention to his style as my series is told from the same perspective. I see no shame in learning from those who have come before, but at the same time credit where credit is due.
Tim Greaton: Could you tell us what you have for new book news?
Rick Gualtieri: My latest release is only a few weeks off. It’s titled Holier Than Thou. It’s the fourth in my Tome of Bill horror/comedy series about a foul-mouthed vampire geek named Bill.
In my mind I see it as sort of a comic book progression. The first book (Bill The Vampire) was the origin story. The second (Scary Dead Things) expanded upon the world a bit and gave the hero more conflict. The third opened him up to the big picture. Now, he’s busy trying to hide from that big picture, but alas he can’t. There’s too much going on and a lot of it hits close to his heart (both physically and emotionally).
The plot: The ancient enemy of the vampire race, The Icon - a creature that can destroy the undead with nothing more than a touch, has arisen. There’s just one problem: Bill is hopelessly in love with her. Horror hilarity ensues.
Tim Greaton: I know The Tomb of Bill series has been amazingly popular. Will there be more sequels in the future?
Rick Gualtieri: This is an ongoing series, so there will definitely be more to come. I have some great ideas for book five. That being said, I’m not rushing things. That way I can give it the TLC it deserves, but also take the time to explore other genres.
Tim Greaton: What else can we expect from you on the horizon?
Rick Gualtieri: My next work will be a follow-up to my first horror novel, Bigfoot Hunters. I absolutely love monster rampages, and I can’t wait to get to work on it. If it turns out like I’m planning, the creepiness factor should be ratcheted up through the roof. Writing horror is incredible fun, so expect to see a lot more from me going forward. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t mind being known as that author whose books you DON’T take on a camping trip.
Tim Greaton: Sounds like you are a true devotee to a certain type of dark fiction. Could you talk about that?
Rick Gualtieri: I love horror movies of all types, but I have a special place in my heart for horror comedy. I’m not talking slapstick here either. Movies like Ghostbusters, Army of Darkness, and Big Trouble in Little China manage to take potentially scary situations and turn them into hilarity by changing up the characters a bit. Instead of a dark brooding hero, you instead get a wiseass. That almost never fails to entertain me.
I felt there was a lack of that in the literary world. There are plenty of political or contemporary comedy books out there. Likewise, many horror novels have generous dollops of humor, right before getting to the terrifying stuff. My goal is to recreate that movie genre in book format, to put forth that frightening scenario but have a protagonist who is absolutely incapable of taking the whole thing too seriously. It’s the best of both worlds: some scares, some gore, and hopefully a whole lot of laughs.
Tim Greaton: Another question I ask a lot is: when you finally find rest, what would you like your tombstone/obituary to say?
Here lies Rick Gualtieri: Beloved father, husband, and writer.
Strangled 3 grizzly bears and a velociraptor.
Sadly didn’t see that ninja sneaking up behind him.
Tim Greaton: I have to say that’s a great answer J Could you share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Rick Gualtieri: It would be my pleasure, Tim.
My blog is www.poptartmanifesto.com
Likewise I am very active on twitter at: @rickgualtieri
and Facebook: www.facebook.com/RickGualtieriAuthor
My Amazon author page is: http://www.amazon.com/author/rickgualtieri
Pop by and say Hi. I don’t bite, even if some of my characters do.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for spending time with us today, Rick. I’ve had a wonderful time learning about you and your popular fictional worlds, and I have no doubt that many of our readers will be searching your name in bookstores across the country.
Rick Gualtieri: Thank you, Tim and all of the awesome readers out there. It has been my express pleasure to be here today. It’s humbling to be amongst such great company and I hope I can live up to those expectations.
I likewise want to thank everyone out there who has taken a chance on me or is considering it. My goals are very simple: all I wish to do is entertain. If I can do so for even a minute, then this journey has been more than worth it.