Interview with YA Comic Horror Author F.J.R. Titchenell

Hi, I’m F.J.R. Titchenell, and I write horror and sci-fi, sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband/co-author, Matt Carter.

I write mainly for teens, but he and I have been working on some more adult stuff together too. My published books so far include the YA horror-comedy, Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of ), and the YA horror/sci-fi series, The Prospero Chronicles, which I write with Matt.

When and why did you start writing?

It’s something I’ve always done. There was never really a time when I decided to start doing it. Having fictional thoughts that demanded to be written down was just a constant. I was about fifteen when I started to get serious about developing those thoughts into finished projects I could actually share with other people, though.

What inspires your writing?

It usually starts with something I wish were explored in a story I’m reading or watching, that isn’t. How does this character we never hear from feel about what’s happening? What if the heroes reacted to the problem this way instead of that? Sometimes I’m drawing on experiences of my own that I need to channel into fiction, or sometimes I’m rebelling against common tropes that I find flawed or overused in existing fiction, or both, but almost every time I start a new project, the first thing I write is a character having an argument, or examining their situation, in a way I find fresh or underdone.

What has been your worst moment as a writer?

Slowly realizing that things were never going to get better with my first publisher. I’d poured so much into working with them, the first four publishable books of my career, in fact, and having to pull my contract with them and republish on my own was terrifying. It felt like I was starting all over. But it’s been for the best, taking back control over my work and getting to arrange everything for the re-releases myself instead of having to count on someone else. And now I’m getting to work with Matt and another publisher on a new project, which is going great so far.

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

Nothing elaborate, but I have a collection of Funko vinyl figures on my desk. Sometimes I rearrange them and put the ones who have the most in common with my current main character in front for inspiration.

If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?

Even if I could, I probably wouldn’t listen to myself. I can be stubborn that way. But it would be that a writing career isn’t about creating one perfect book that changes everything. It’s about writing one great book after another, and being able to fall in love with new characters and new worlds over and over again.

What do you believe make for great writing?

First of all, you have to love it. Writing something you don’t love as a get rich quick scheme will never result in a great work, and will almost certainly blow up in your face, because if you’re imitating a genre you don’t love and respect, that you don’t “get,” you’re not going to be able to replicate the parts of it that speak to the people who do love it.

Second, you have to develop and balance your storytelling and linguistic skills and realize that neither part of writing is just a superficial vehicle for the other. A good story badly told becomes a bad story. A bad story beautifully told is also a bad story. Both content and execution matter.

Third, you have to bring something. It’s not enough to love someone else’s story so much that you want to make something just like it. You need to find your own angle on it, a part of it that you’re particularly qualified to give due attention to, or a combination of elements that aren’t often seen together. Figure out what story you’re searching for but can’t find, and write that one.

How do you measure success as a writer?

Being able to support myself, and whatever size my family may grow to, off of creating stories that I love, and that mean something to readers. I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully “successful” until I’m able to do that consistently and reliably.

What’s your biggest fear as a writer?

Having to get a day job again. Sounds like a joke, but I seriously wake up in cold sweats about this. Having to go back to spending the majority of my waking hours not on the work that I believe in but on making someone else richer just so that I can almost afford my rent in return, that’s the real stuff of horror stories.

Describe your latest book to our readers

Well, “latest” is actually a weirdly subjective term for me right now. Because of the split with that first publisher, plus the general treacle pace of the publishing industry, and various instances of life happening, I’ve got kind of a cluttered pipeline of upcoming releases. The latest book I finished writing, just last week, was actually my eighth one written, not counting my practice novels from before I reached a pro skill level, or the couple of sequels that were written but then set aside for a series Matt and I were toying with. That just-finished book, so far named Pinnacle City, is a noir-style superhero novel Matt and I wrote together in the same universe as his book, Almost Infamous, and it’s slated for a spring 2018 release.

My latest book to be released, however, is the new, independent re-release of Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of), which was, three years ago, my first published novel. It’s a horror-comedy about a group of teens taking an epic road trip across zombie-infested North America to rescue their missing friend, and along the way rediscovering their friendships and, above all, their sense of humor, as the world falls apart around them.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

One of the most important things I like to do in my books is to shake up gender roles and stereotypes in general. I’d like for people reading my books to have the chance to reassess their expectations for how stories have to go, and what boxes people are supposed to fit into, both in fiction and reality. Of course, I also hope they walk away with some good laughs, some good scares, and maybe even a few tears or a case of the warm-and-fuzzies.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Developing your talent, never mind your career, is a much longer road than you’re expecting. So much longer. Of course, if this is what you’re meant to do, that doesn’t matter, because not doing it isn’t an option. Just know that your writing isn’t a static thing that will be the way it is now forever. It’s okay if everything isn’t perfect on the first try.

What’s next for you?

Well, having finished the manuscript for Pinnacle City, I’m going back to re-work a project from a couple years ago. It’s a YA body horror story about eating disorders that I wrote while I was in a pretty bad place. Hopefully now I have enough distance to take the good, disturbing content and polish up the pacing into something strong.

After that, Matt and I are going back to finish the last couple books of The Prospero Chronicles, our YA horror/sci-fi alien invasion series, which I’m really looking forward to. We’ve been through so much with those characters, and after re-releasing the first two books, Splinters and Shards in the next couple months, we’re finally getting to release the third one, Slivers, for the first time this summer. We swore when we started that there would be five books in the series, and five books there will ultimately be!

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of)

By F.J.R. Titchenell

The world is Cassie Fremont’s playground. Her face is on the cover of every newspaper. She has no homework, no curfew, and no credit limit, and she spends her days traveling the country with her friends, including a boy who would do the chicken dance with death to make her smile. Life is just about perfect—except that those newspaper headlines are about her bludgeoning her crush to death with a paintball gun, she has to fight ravenous walking corpses every time she steps outside, and one of her friends is still missing, trapped somewhere in the distant, practically impassable wreckage of Manhattan.

Still, Cassie’s an optimist, more prone to hysterical laughter than hysterical tears, and she’d rather fight a corpse than be one. She’ll never leave a friend stranded when she can simply take her road trip to impossible new places, even if getting there means admitting to that boy that she might love him as more than her personal jester. Skillfully blending effective horror with unexpected humor, this diary-style novel is a fast-paced and heartwarming read.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.