SG Lee is as prolific as they come, and the writer’s weekly serials as posted on Twitter have amazed many – including me. But when SG became an author thanks to new zombie novel with a location not far from where I reside, this interview became one of importance. Enjoy the sincere responses, and find out what SG and other writers are doing for philanthropic causes:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
On a bleak and blustery … oh, wait. You wanted the real story? That’s nowhere near as much fun, but okay. Well, when it comes to the story of S.G. Lee, it is a simple tale. I was born in Philadelphia and spent most of my life in the suburbs. There’s just something about Philadelphia, I am enthralled by the city itself and drawn to their sense of community and pride. I suppose it goes without saying that I am a huge Philly sports fan. In fact, that’s how I met the love of my life. We met through a mutual friend and we spent most of the evening talking about the Flyers. If that’s not the makings of a prime relationship, I don’t know what is. In spite of the team’s ups and downs, we’ve been happily married for fifteen years. We also have a monster, I mean, a rambunctious puppy. Her nickname is “monster”, though. As for my passions, other than sports and my family, I love reading and writing. I’m probably the last person you’d expect to be writing horror. I appear unassuming to the untrained eye. Little do they know, the horrors that lurk just below the surface … yeah, I’m doing it again. Sorry! In all seriousness, to look at me you’d probably think, “now there goes a grammar geek” not “that mysteriously frightening person must be a horror writer.” In short, as a writer I get to daydream for a living and that’s pretty awesome!
When did you discover a love for the written word?
My passion for the written word started at a young age. I remember being spellbound by books and wanting to tap into that magic. I worked hard to learn to read at an early age and once I did, I never wanted to stop. I loved the idea that I could be whisked away to another world or sail the open seas with the turn of a page. That’s the beauty of books: you can be transported into the surreal or relive history. There’s no limit to the adventures awaiting us between the pages. I suppose that joy carried over into my own written words when I was in third grade. My first short story was “published” in the school newsletter. In fifth grade, I won an essay contest and had my picture in the local newspaper. That was the first time someone suggested to me that I ought to think about becoming a writer. Admittedly, that piece of advice came from my grandmother so I wasn’t exactly confident that I could run right out and become the next Stephen King— I took those words with a grain of salt. That being said, I honestly don’t think I ever would have believed it possible if it hadn’t been for her encouragement. She greatly impacted my desire to write because she encouraged it from such a young age.
When did your love affair with horror begin?
Without a doubt, my love affair with horror was passed down from my father. As a very young child, around five or six years old, I remember watching Creature Double Feature every Sunday afternoon with him. One of the local Philadelphia channels did a double feature horror matinee. The classic Universal monsters or old Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff films were typical fare for the show. I was raised on the classics and I loved them! I honestly think the first time my mom realized I was watching those movies she nearly had a heart attack. I distinctly remember her yelling at my dad that I would have nightmares. Basically, he told me if I wanted to keep watching them I couldn’t wake up in the middle of the night screaming or mom would put an end to Creature Double Feature. I managed to keep quiet and the rest, as they say, is history. By the time I was eleven, I was sneaking Stephen King books home. My mom was never keen on my fascination with horror and she did not want me to read Stephen King so I was devious. That continued through my teen years too. Most kids my age were trying to sneak home nudie magazines, but I’ve always preferred to have my pants scared off so I was seeking out King, Koontz, Lovecraft, Barker, etc.
What writers inspire you?
I guess I already named a few but I am influenced by all sorts of writing. I love everything from Shakespeare to Chuck Palahniuk. I like mysteries and political dramas, classics like Dickens or Twain, poetry and fantasy. I believe we are better served as writers if we are prolific readers. I also love to read fellow indie authors. It amazed me how supportive the writing community is, as a whole. I’ve learned a great deal from people like Shana Festa, aka The Bookie Monster, and Stephen Kozeniewski. Shay really helped show me the ropes and she invited me into her writing group. Eventually, that group decided to put together At Hell’s Gates, the horror anthology. My first published short story was in AHG. Also an At Hell’s Gates contributor, Koz has a YouTube channel that provides a “how to” on different topics for Indie Authors. Then there are amazingly talented folks like my THE LAST KNOCK host extraordinaire, Billy Crash, who helps to promote the works of indie talent. In turn, I take the knowledge that someone has shared with me and I look to pass it on so that someone else can make his or her dream come true.
You have become famous in social media for creating a weekly serial. What compelled you to bring the world such stories?
Well, I don’t know about famous, but I have been blessed with some fun and extraordinarily supportive followers who will keep tuning in to get the next installment of free horror stories on my blog. It’s funny; everyone who wants to be an author is expected to have a blog. Publishers and agents demand it. So, I set mine up and I just came to the realization that the standard blog— you know, the one where the author just rants about their feelings, has become white noise. I said to myself, “Who cares what I think or why this and/or that grinds my gears?” That’s when I decided to write stories instead. I’d decided that, if I put up a bite-sized appetizer each post, the readers could have something to do while they’re on their breaks or lunch during the work week. Let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to be stuck talking to “that guy/that lady” in the break room at work. I give you an excuse to read instead.
Like the cinematic serials of old, you have mastered the cliffhanger with your serials. How did you garner such a gift?
I have to admit, I never really looked at it that way. I just wanted to tell fun stories, tales that I find interesting. I love being able to offer the blog stories because I know there are a lot of people who love to read but just can’t afford to buy new books. I wanted to help. When I read, I am immediately transported to the world the author has created. It’s an escape. I guess I just wanted to offer a short reprieve to anyone who needed it, without looking for financial gain. I think most of us can relate to being in a tight spot at one point or another. It’s then, in those times, that we need the power of a good story to give us a break from the crushing reality surrounding us. I consider it a privilege to be permitted to offer up my stories. If nothing else, you can almost guarantee that your life is going better than the poor sap who’d been chopped to bits by a serial killer or mauled by a monster. See, Mom, I really am a ray of sunshine!
How did Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising come about?
The funny thing about Littleville Uprising is that it was something I was doing for my own amusement. I’d had surgery on my arm and I was off from work, recuperating. Daytime television is clearly a conspiracy to torture people, so I set out to keep myself entertained. I’ve done this for most of my life, made up stories for my own amusement, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me, except that I wrote out the entire thing instead of keeping it in my head. Once I finished, I set it aside and let it sit for a while. Just to give you an idea how long, I wrote it several years before The Walking Dead first aired on AMC. What started out as something I wrote just for myself and my sweetie, who happens to be a huge zombie fan, found its way into the hands of some friends. Mainly, because a certain someone in my house has a big mouth and I don’t mean the dog! The fact that I’d written a book “slipped out” at parties and social gatherings until friends and family demanded that I let them read it. After that came the encouraging, then the pushing, then threats and blackmail, until I finally agreed to take a huge leap of faith and publish. By the way, to those aforementioned parties, THANK YOU!
Can you give us a rough idea of the story?
Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising is like introducing the zombie virus to a healthy host. The cells look normal at first. Our main characters are new to the town of Littleville, Pennsylvania and they’re experiencing typical teenage life. Meanwhile, in nearby Collegeville the virus has just been unleashed. An infected man and his family are found by local police. Once those bodies are taken to the morgue, strange things start happening and the number of violent crimes skyrocket. One of Littleville’s newest residents, Evan Stone, recognizes the signs, so when the zombies attack Lincoln High, he’s ready. When Littleville is overrun, Evan, his friends the Wexley twins, and his family must trek from their Philadelphia suburb to the mountains of West Virginia if they want to survive. This is the blurb on the dust jacket:
“The residents of Littleville, Pennsylvania are about to meet their new neighbors …
New to Littleville, the Wexley twins, Matt and Emma assume fitting in at Lincoln High and making new friends will be their biggest worries. They couldn’t be more wrong. Fate would introduce Evan Stone into the neighborhood and all three attempt to navigate the murky labyrinth of eleventh grade but Evan has a secret. His godfather is Dr. G.E. Mitchell, author of Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide and Evan has been learning about zombies from one of the best.
With an excellent school system, safe streets, and a strong sense of community, the Philadelphia suburb of Littleville has proudly attracted a diverse blend of people but up until now they’d always been living. When Lincoln High School is overrun by flesh-eating corpses, Evan rescues Emma and they battle their way through the zombies to Matt but fleeing the school doesn’t solve their problems. Friends, enemies, and loved ones are lost in the battle against the undead and the entire town is completely overrun. The true terror unfolds, as the survivors must escape and make the dangerous trek from suburban Philadelphia to the highest mountains of West Virginia with the hope of finding a safe haven at the Stone family cabin. If they can reach the secluded refuge, they just might survive the Littleville Uprising.”
What has the response been from readers of your book?
The response has been, in my humble opinion, mind blowing! I am awed by the kind words from readers, both when they post reviews and in private messages. As of this moment, I have 20 five star reviews, and one 4.5 stars, on Amazon. I’m still pinching myself to make sure it is real. I am so thrilled that I decided to take a chance on myself and share my stories. I don’t expect to be rich or famous but that’s not why I write. That has never been my focus. I’ve been coming up with stories my entire life and they’ve kept me entertained so I am doubly thrilled if even one other person enjoys my writing.
There are a gazillion zombie stories out there, how does yours differ from the undead herd?
My Journal of the Undead series is different in a few ways. First, it isn’t one main character’s story. In truth, the main character is actually a book. Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide was written by one of my characters, Dr. G.E. Mitchell, affectionately known as Doc. While Doc was deployed in the 80s he witnessed a zombie uprising first hand. Part of Doc’s story can be found in At Hell’s Gates volume one. As a result, he wrote the material after he left the army. Throughout the series, it is the book that brings survivors through the surging apocalypse. For example, in Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising, Doc’s book is in the hands of his Godson, Evan Stone. Evan uses it to teach his best friend and they are able to survive Littleville. On their trek to Evan’s family’s compound in West Virginia, they meet a couple and pass on a copy of Doc’s record. Book two of my series, Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak, follows the lives of that couple (due to be released late spring/early summer 2015) Book three brings about some new characters and we are reunited with some favorites from Littleville. Oh yeah, and Doc’s Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide will also be coming out because he has more to tell the world about survival. One other huge difference is that I wanted to make sure that my book could be acceptable for a younger audience so I was extremely careful with wording. I have nephews who love the zombie genre but most ZomPoc stories are packed with more “F-bombs” than Scarface. I wanted to write so that teens could read it too and their parents wouldn’t object based on language. It was a challenge because I am not exactly known for restraint in the spoken word. I’d like to think I pulled it off though and the story didn’t suffer for using a gentler vernacular.
Why do you think horror fans can’t get enough of zombies?
I think the real reason zombies are so popular is because, at their non-beating heart, they represent hopelessness and despair. No matter how hard we work or what we do in life, there are always times of hopelessness and despair that cannot be avoided. Because of that, we are drawn like a moth to the flame. Like a voyeur, we watch … breath quickening, heart pounding, hoping against hope that there will be salvation waiting at the end. That, in a nutshell, is the zombie genre and that’s why it has such a fan base. We find comfort in knowing that, worst case scenario, our despair is not going to be worse than being ripped to shreds and eaten alive by a rotting corpse.
Do you have any favorite zombie films?
I have a few go-to favorite zombie films. I will always love the original Night of the Living Dead; black and white horror films just fill me with joy. It’s like sitting with my dad and watching Creature Double Feature every time. I am also a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead. I love British comedy anyway, but Simon Pegg is a riot! ZombieLand was also hilarious. I think I find the horror/comedy zombie films to be the most fun. After all, life without Twinkies really isn’t worth living.
If the Zombie Apocalypse came tomorrow, do you think you’d survive the ravenous undead horde?
I think I have at least a 50-50 shot at survival. I have a safe place to hole up if need be, and we are semi-off the grid. My father taught us all how to shoot at a young age so I am pretty confident I’d manage to take out a fair share of flesh-eaters if the time came. Perhaps my greatest advantage is that I no longer live in Philadelphia. Though it breaks my heart and I love my hometown, the population density is so much less out here in North Central West Virginia. Just based on populace alone, I have a better shot at surviving the zombie uprising.
Do you have any advice for those wishing to write horror?
If it is your passion, you should do it! Forget about all the negative thoughts that pop into your head and go with your heart. If you can’t think of anything else you’d rather do, even if it means starving, then you should pursue your dream. Life is too short to live with regret. On the flip side, if you think that just because you wrote a cool story that your friends all like you’ll be a billionaire in a flash, you’re in the wrong business! Just writing a book isn’t enough. You have to interact with readers, have a strong marketing platform, or the money to pay a team of people to promote for you. That is the plain and simple truth. For me, it is a labor of love. If I could still manage to pay bills and write for free, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t write for the money. I write because I must, because I love it. Seeing sales means that someone else likes what I write too, and that means more to me than money ever will. That being said, I still have to eat so … please, buy the books.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I have several projects in the works right now. My mind rarely rests so I have snippets written down to prompt me for later stories, but actively, I have a story in the just released volume two of At Hell’s Gates and I am working diligently on volume three. I am truly passionate about this project. I have the deepest respect for the men and women serving in our armed forces and At Hell’s Gates donates 100% of the proceeds to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. For more info on IFHF see: https://www.fallenheroesfund.org/. It means so much to me that there is such a core of genuinely concerned authors who want to do something for those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom. Without them, our dreams and aspirations would mean very little. That’s why I try to promote AHG even over my own books because we want to give back to those who have already given so much.
Also, I have a new blog story in the works. Publishing and then the holidays put a crimp in my blog time but thanks to some very enthusiastic readers, I am working on something different. Horror, of course, but with a different feel and perhaps a little paranormal element added in for fun. I do love a good ghostly vibe even though serial killers have been winning most of the attention on my blog. In addition to that, book two in the Journal of the Undead series is going to the editor next week, so I should have a late spring/early summer launch. I also have two other stories that are being shopped around at this time that are not zombie related.
Finally, what question have you been dying to answer that an interviewer has failed to ask you? (Then, answer that query.)
Since this is only my second interview, I don’t have any deeply burning questions that I wish someone would ask. I suppose the question I’d like to hear asked is, “In what way are you using your talent/gift for the betterment of others?” I’ve always felt that people who are blessed with a certain gift or talent ought to be using them to better themselves and others in the process. I’ve touched on this a little bit in regard to At Hell’s Gates and I plan to seek out other anthologies where the proceeds go to charities that I want to support. I think it is vital to be in the flow of life, not just giving and not just taking. To truly embrace our gifts, we need to actively seek to use that which we have to bring about the changes we want to see. I want to see our veterans get better care so I want to do what I can through supporting IFHF. I’d also like to be able to use my penchant for storytelling to bring focus to other areas that are in desperate need of reform or support. That is why I wanted to be a part of the group that started At Hell’s Gates and why I am looking for more projects that will allow me to do something to help. I’d love to hear more about these types of anthologies and do my part to lend a hand when it is a cause that I’d want to stand behind. I hope by putting this out there, I’ll learn about other equally important endeavors.
Where can people find your work, and where can they find and follow you?
Right now, the best way to find all of my work is through my Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/S.G-Lee/e/B00NRIPC2S/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1423268106&sr=8-2
I keep that up to date with releases so you won’t miss a thing!
As for me, I try to be everywhere. Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SG-Lee/147919735388462?ref=bookmarks or my Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/sg.leehorror (I’m more active on the account since I don’t have to put my faith in algorithms, hoping you’ll see my posts) Twitter: https://twitter.com/sg_lee_horror GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841637.S_G_Lee and, of course, my blog: http://sgleehorror.blogspot.com/