I’m very excited to welcome writer Larey Batz, author of the recently released, page turning Sci-fi novel Second Dawn.
I am a freelance author/screenwriter currently residing in Philadelphia by way of Memphis. I developed a love of writing from an early age through creating my own comics, short stories, plays and eventually movie scripts. The preferred genre is horror/sci-fi but any genre is fair game. I’ll basically write about anything if I can make it interesting. I’ve decided to go the indie publishing route because by nature I’m a control freak. I love the idea of being the CEO of my own brand and as I learn more about the business, I get more enthused about the possibilities. I’m currently working on some screenplays and a TV pilot so I’ll be querying those in the new future as well. I thank everyone for the support I’ve been given in my writing career and I thank all my readers—current and potential new ones.
Thank you for joining us today at Scribbler’s Larey!
What genre do you feel Second Dawn fall into; science fiction, suspense, a combination of both?
Actually Sci-Fi/Horror. Most of my stories end of being mash ups of different genres.
Do you use a pen name? If so, why? If not, why did you decide to write under your own name?
Yes. Larey Batz is my pen name. Larry Batts is my real name. I googled myself and another author came up with my exact same name, so I decided to play with the spelling to set myself apart.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I figured it out back in grade school when I was too broke to buy new comics so I used to make up my own comic books with my own characters. I only remember two of my superheroes—Dynoman (Superman rip off) and Molecule Man (a guy who just walked around as a cloud of energy). My mom used to get pissed because I would use all of my notebook paper way before it was supposed to run out.
Tell us Scribbler’s about what Second Dawn is about and what inspired the story?
The story is about Dillon Shaw, a teenaged girl who gets abducted by aliens at age 16. She and a group of teenagers are held in underground caves while tests are being run on them. After she escapes the caves, she joins the agency that rescued her and hunts the aliens. Eight years after the last alien was killed, the creatures return. Only this time they are able to assume human form. After she is sent on a mission to hunt them, Dillon starts to question what really happened to her in the caves and the nature of the agency she works for.
What’s the first thing you know for sure about a new story concept? Plot? Character? Something else?
It depends. ‘Second Dawn’ started with the character. I observed a woman having a spirited conversation in a coffee shop and decided that I wanted to base a character on her. I committed her mannerisms to memory and held on to that character for about a year before I figured out what situation I wanted to put her in.
Do your character’s talk to you, direct the story path they take?
No. Not at all. I’m the ultimate control freak when it comes to my writing. The idea of the characters talking to writers and directing the story is so foreign to me, I almost cringe when I hear other authors talking about that. I also don’t believe in waiting for muses, fairies or ‘writer angels’.
What secondary character in Second Dawn was your favorite to write and why?
Hmmm. Probably the character T.K. She’s a survivor. By the time we meet her, she’s lost her husband and her child but she’s still fighting for the community she loves. She’s fiercely loyal and knows how to handle a gun.
Will he/she get their own story?
That’s something to consider. I still haven’t decided her fate yet. ‘Second Dawn’ is a trilogy, so if she makes it through all three books without taking a bullet to the head or getting mauled to death by aliens, I’ll think about it.
What is your process for coming up with character names?
I do a combination of things. I’m a people watcher, so sometimes I’ll steal a name from a conversation I overheard or I’ll steal a name from something I saw on TV, a song or I’ll just brainstorm until something feels right. However, if I’m in a pinch and can’t come up with something I like, I will go to a name generator website.
Are you a believer in the detailed outline or do you write by theseat of your pants?
Detailed outline without question. Like I mentioned, I am a control freak and I have undiagnosed ‘Writer ADHD’. When I write by the seat of my pants, I tend to go in several muddled directions and I end up having to delete half of what I wrote.
What is your favorite type of scene to write, Action? Romance? Dialogue? Sex?
My favorite would have to be dialogue… especially heated exchanges. I love seeing confrontation on the page and the reactions of the secondary characters as they watch it take place.
Can we have an excerpt from Second Dawn?
‘We were bound at the wrists with two ten foot chains secured to the wall by a flat steel plate and four thick bolts. The length of the chains gave us enough mobility to move around the length of the mat, and a few feet to the side in either direction. Wendy’s mat lay to my right, with Alex on the other side of me. The new girl’s mat was directly across from me, flanked by Sasha on her left and Egypt, a fourteen year-old prostitute from Oakland, on her right.
Egypt told us she was eleven years old when a man grabbed her on the way home from school and threw her in the back of an SUV. He took her to Long Beach and kept her locked in an apartment where he used to beat her and force her to have sex with men for money. After keeping her for a few months, he gave her to another man to pay off a debt. The new pimp proved to be even more brutal. He took his girls from city to city, trying to stay ahead of the local law enforcement. They ended up in Jackson, where he pimped them out to an overnight construction crew.
After they left the construction site, her pimp sold her to a guy for the rest of the night because according to him, she hadn’t covered her share of the food and gas money. After the man fell asleep, Egypt snuck out of a hotel room, crossed the freeway and ran into an alley. She kept running until she smacked into a wall of white light, knocking her unconscious. She woke up in the cave, chained to the wall, along with the rest of us.
To make things worse, her pimp turned her out with drugs, so her body would sometimes shake with withdrawal cramps. I spent many days staring into her vacant eyes, while she appeared to be staring at nothing in particular. The only way to describe her was ‘there’. She was there and perhaps more than any of the rest of us, shouldn’t have been. I couldn’t imagine what she’d been through.
Aside from telling us her story, Egypt didn’t say much, remaining quiet and distant while the rest of us talked. Her main contribution was being our lookout. Since she sat in the back of the cave, always facing the entrance, she would point her finger straight ahead whenever the workers came. The light source, a few feet into the tunnel would flicker, casting shadows when the workers walked in, but somehow, Egypt seemed to know they were coming before they even got that close. She was jumpy, and always seemed frightened and on edge, as if waiting for something really bad to happen. It wasn’t hard to figure out how she got that way.
By ending up with us, she’d just traded one hell for another. I felt even worse for her, knowing even though she ended up in the cave with us, her new situation, though horrible and seemingly hopeless, may have been better than the one she came from.
Unlike the others, I wasn’t alone when the creatures took me. My sister and mother were with me. They had to be looking for me. They would tell someone what happened. Unless—they’d been taken too.’
How do you balance the need for self-promotion vs writing time?
I don’t sweat promotion. I set aside a couple of days per week that are purely for promoting and making connections. On those days I do maybe an hour of writing at the most. On non-promo days, it’s strictly writing unless someone contacts me with an opportunity that requires immediate action. Once again, It goes back to the control thing. I can’t dabble in one part and dabble in the other and go back and forth. When I’m promoting, I’m in CEO mode for that day, doing whatever I can to improve my brand. When I have the writer hat on, I’m a writer.
Is there a genre you won’t read?
I won’t just pick up a romance novel unless I know the author.
Probably steampunk or historical romance.
Can you share why?
Too many details to research. I’d probably bore myself to death before I wrote the first word.
Is there a genre you are tempted to write?
While I do write horror, I’m tempted to step on the ‘writing third rail’ and write a vampire novel. I know people are sick of them, but I’d be interested in taking up the challenge of doing one that people would respect.
What are you most proud of about your writing?
When people tell me that my characters feel like living, breathing, authentic people.
How do you respond to negative reviews?
I don’t. If there’s something within the review that I can use, I use it. If not, I move on. You’re not going to please everyone. You just have to develop thick skin and learn how to tell the difference between useful, warranted criticism and gibberish.
What writer has most influenced your own writing?
I’ve been a huge fan of two writers for as long as I can remember: Edgar Allan Poe and Langston Hughes. I can remember the first time I heard someone read ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ aloud. The narrative was like a persistent drum beat of suspense, getting slightly faster and louder with each word. I remember thinking ‘That’s what I want people to feel when they read my words—that feeling of anticipation each time they turn the page.’
What historical figure do you wish you could meet?
It wouldn’t be just one person. If I had my wish, I’d be able to hang out and talk about writing with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Nella Larsen. The writing produced during that time has such a distinct taste to it. After hundreds of years of having to suppress intelligence and hide literacy, African Americans finally had creative license to express themselves. It was like a dam broke and suddenly all of these bottled up thoughts, passions and frustrations were allowed to flow free.
What is the one thing you can’t write without?
There is nothing I can’t write without as long as I have my laptop or a pen and pad. Everything else is secondary. I don’t even need silence. When I want to write, I write. Nothing is stopping that train… except maybe facebook. facebook is a distraction.
Do you have a particular writing schedule or process you stick to?
I write something every day, even if it’s just jotting notes for my outline. I don’t worry about word counts. I usually can tell if it’s been a productive day or not, just by the direction of what I get on the page. Some days it’s pure garbage, but I don’t sweat it. I embrace all of my writing, even the horrible stuff. The main thing is, I don’t wait to be inspired. I inspire myself, by sitting my butt down and getting words on the page.
Do you belong to a critique group or have a critique partner?
I have several very talented author friends whom I trade favors with—beta reads, suggestions, hints, plot points. I also attend a writer’s workshop in my city.
If you were to give only two tips to an aspiring writer, what would they be?
1. Don’t dismiss or adhere to any writing related advice, no matter who it comes from, until you thoroughly understand the reasoning behind the advice. 2. BE INTERESTING. The tools, tricks, do’s and don’ts won’t matter if the story is boring.
What are you reading now?
Nothing. I’ve got too many projects going on right now to take time out to read for pleasure. I’m halfway through ‘The Awakening’ by local Philly writer L. A. Banks, so when things slow down, I guess I’ll pick that back up at some point.
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What is your favorite curse word?
‘Fuck’, especially in the variation ‘da fuck?’
What’s one new thing you’d like to try?
In my lifetime, I’ve never been on a real camping trip. I’ve camped out in the backyard as a kid, but I’ve never taken a real camping trip—in the woods, open fire, a lake, good friends and no phones or gadgets. I’m gonna make that happen in 2014.
Place to visit before you die?
Sort of fits with the nature thing. I want to go to the Grand Canyon. I want to see the earth as it was carved by God.
Do you have a favorite quote?
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. –Henry Ford
What books or other projects do you have coming up in the future?
The biggest thing I’m working on is ‘Obey: Second Dawn Book II’. Then I have a TV pilot I’m working on, a spec screenplay that I’m looking to submit to Marvel Studios and a thriller/dark humor novelette about a female assassin titled “15 ta’ Go”.
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