Q: Tell us about yourself. What got you into writing?
Z: A lot of writers will say it’s something they’ve always wanted to do or they’ve done it since they were young, but I came to writing later. I have always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until I read a book that I thought was written poorly. I told myself it was easy and I could do. I quickly found out it wasn’t as easy as had thought. After that realization, I was more determined to write a book and soon after, I started my undergrad.
Q: Tell us about the premise of Dark Water Sacrifice.
Z: Dark Water Sacrifice is about a man whose daughter drowns in the lake on his family’s farm. He blames his father for not watching her and after her funeral, he leaves the town and everybody else behind. After his father dies, he has to come home and settle his affairs, but his father’s death wasn’t the simple guilt ridden suicide it looks like. An evil entity bent on destroying Adam has called him home.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
Z: I get inspiration from different sources. Often times its something I’ve heard or likely misheard or something strange that I’ve seen. But Dark Water Sacrifice came to me from two sources. The first is the song “Save Yourself” by Tarkio. There’s a line that says “over by the river bank / deep inside the water tank / there I saw my little girl drown. Having a daughter, that line always cut. The other is my daughter. I didn’t base Adam’s daughter on her because that would have been too much while writing the darker themes of the book, but her essence is throughout the book.
Q: Did you do any research for your book?
Z: The only research I did for this book was to make sure Adam’s drive from Chicago to Scarsville followed the right highways.
Q: How do you plan your writing session?
Z: It’d be great if I could plan them out. I usually sit down and start writing and go as long as I can or have time for. I would probably get a lot more done if I planned a little. I’m easily distracted and will derail myself numerous times.
Q: Do you have any certain rituals while you write?
Z: I always listen to music with headphones. The music I listen to depends on the book or story that I’m writing. My first novel, The Suicide Killer, was written instrumental hard rock. I listened to a lot of Mogwai, Pelican, and Explosions in the Sky. For Dark Water Sacrifice, I listened to a lot of shoegaze music like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. I also listened to the instrumental Ghosts albums by Nine Inch Nails. My current WIP’s soundtrack is all Radiohead.
Q: Why do you write?
Z: I started writing on a whim, but the more I did it and saw myself improving, it became a craft and I didn’t want to stop. I think I always had spirit or a storyteller, but didn’t know it until I tried to tell a story on paper.
Q: Do you think creative writing classes are beneficial?
Z: Definitely. There’s the argument that writing can’t be taught and I think that’s garbage. It’s like a musical instrument. I can teach somebody how to play guitar, but I can’t teach them to be good at it. That only comes from practice and how much time they invest in it and themselves. I wouldn’t be have the writer I am today without my professors in my undergrad and my MFA program.
Q: Do you enjoy editing?
Z: Yes. I’m not crazy about line edits, but I love editing my stories. The main reason is because I know that I have already completed the project. That’s the hardest part. I also like editing because I’m chiseling through all the words to find the story beneath. A lot or writers end up cutting so many words from their stories when they edit, but so far, I’ve done the opposite. I always end up adding words. Then I get to go back through and edit those again. It’s a cycle.
Q: Do you write in other genres? Have you ever written in different mediums?
Z: Dark Water Sacrifice is horror, but I’ve also written in thriller and contemporary literature. As far as different mediums, I used to be in bands with I was younger so I wrote songs. In school, I wrote poetry, screenplays, and plays for the stage, but prose is my first love.
Q: If you could invite a fictional character for lunch (from your own book(s) or another writer’s), who would you invite and why?
Z: I would Lady Bret Ashley from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and she’s one the greatest characters of the 20th century. She is a great example of the emergence of the new woman in the 1920s and was extremely progressive for her time. I’d like to see what she has to say about how far we have come and how much is still the same. Hemingway gets a bad wrap for his over the top masculine persona, but if people took a closer look as his books such The Sun Also Rises, Across the River and Into the Trees, and The Garden of Eden, they might see be surprised in what they find.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Z: I’d tell them not to worry about being aspiring and do it. The best way to write is one word at a time, and the best lesson I ever learned is that writing is a process. Everything can always be better. Just because you finished telling the story doesn’t mean you’ve finished writing the story.
Q: What are your future plans as an author?
Z: My future plans are to keep writing. I’m currently working on a sequel to The Suicide Killer, that I need to buckle down on. I also have another horror novel that has been started as well as a few short stories. And a collaboration project. So that’s a lot and I’m not counting the story ideas that are piling up behind those.