Please welcome today’s guest author Barbara Custer to the blog. Barbara is here to share her latest horror/science fiction novel Steel Rose. I’ve begun by asking Barbara a slew of questions, but I’m sure that I only scratched the surface. Please step into the fray, make Barbara feel warm and cozy by leaving some of your own questions and comments for her in the comments section following this post. Barbara will award one randomly drawn commenter at every stop a backlist eBook – it could be City of Brotherly Death, Twilight Healer, or one of her Night to Dawn magazines, and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will receive a $15.00 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, winner’s choice. Be sure to follow Barbara’s tour and comment at each stop. The more you comment the better your chances of winning one of the lovely prizes up for grabs. Find a listing of Barbara’s other blog stops here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/12/virtual-nbtm-tour-steel-rose-by-barbara.html
Laurie’s Interview With Barbara Custer
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself – when did you first know you wanted to write – what was your journey to publication like – do you have a spouse or significant other – kids? Pets? Where in the world do you live? Where did you grow up? What real life events and experiences fuel your writing?
I live near Philadelphia, PA and I work full time as a respiratory therapist. I had an interest in writing in my twenties but had no access to writing groups. Fast forward to 1990’s, I’m taking English courses at a college. My mother died in 1990, and my college instructor suggested that I try writing stories, journalizing to turn over the grief I felt over my mother. The first few stories were rough, but then I caught on with some small press magazines through Scavenger’s Newsletter (1940-2009). In the late 1990s, people suggested that I try novel writing, and I took some courses. I published Twilight Healer, and then focused on my editorial duties at Night to Dawn Magazine. In 2008, I started publishing books for other people through the NTD imprint. My spouse Mike was very supportive in my writing. He’s had to face his own monster, one called Parkinson’s, and he’s in a nursing home now. My job provides a lot of grist for writing – I meet a lot of different people. Also the news provides a lot of material for horror tales. I don’t have any pets but I have a large collection of Mylar balloons.
Q: To tell or not to tell – do you tell people what you write? Do your close friends and family members read your books? What have some of their reactions been?
I’m kind of selective with what I tell mainly because talking too much about it could affect the steam I need to write the story. Most of my close friends and family members have read my stuff. My family has been supportive. Before Mike got sick, he was a good critique partner.
Q: What really makes you tick as a writer?
Sleep lots of it makes for better quality of writing. If I’m really tired, it’s harder to write.
Q: What drives you? What inspires you?
Reading a scary scene in other authors’ fiction drives and challenges me to write something even better.
Q: Please tell us a bit about Steel Rose.
Steel Rose is a cross-genre horror / science fiction set in contemporary Philadelphia. The story opens with protagonist Alexis searching for a cure for her debilitating illness. Her search lands her in open combat with zombies and renegade aliens. Although Alexis is an adult, she has growing to do if she wants to survive, and she learns painful lessons about death and love.
Q: Please tell us a bit about the idea behind Steel Rose. What inspired the story? What part of the story did you get first? How did it build on itself till you had the complete story? What was it about this story versus other ideas that compelled you to write it?
Steel Rose began around 2009, between reconstructive surgeries. I had severe arthritis in the joints around my thumbs and wrists. This made it hard to button my coat or open bottles. Alexis’s struggle with her hands was the part of the story I got first. I built into her sense of feeling vulnerable as I did. I was also taking care of my husband, who has Parkinson’s disease. Suppose he had to be rushed to the hospital? Could I help him? I gave Alexis a caregiving role, too. She was helping to care for her younger mentally challenged sister. Adrenaline goes a long way to compensate for what we lack in brawn, and Alexis finds that out.
Our living room has two double-hung windows stretching wall to wall. At night, looking between the curtains, I pictured a psycho breaking in through the glass and coming for me and Mike. I couldn’t handle most traditional weapons. How could I protect myself? Playing “what if” gave me one of the central ideas for Steel Rose. At the same time, I read an article about the “Angel of Death,” a respiratory therapist named Saldivar arrested for the murders of six hospital patients. Over the years I’ve read and witnessed horror stories about caregivers. These stories stayed with me, evolving into an “angel of death” for Steel Rose. This presents complications for Alexis, especially when Laurel comes after her. The love interest angle came up when I sketched my characters.
Q: Which comes first for you? Characters? Plot? Setting? Conflict?
Definitely the characters. I start with a kernel of a plot, and then sketch out the characters’ lives, interests, and so forth. Sketching out the characters gives me a good idea of where the story should go.
Q: Was there one particular scene that was your favorite in Steel Rose?
My favorite scene is the one where the renegade Kryszka soldiers break into the house while Alexis and her sister are watching a movie.
Q: Please tell us about that scene. What happens in the scene?
The soldier marks them as easy targets because they both suffer from disabilities. Alexis is fighting off the intruder while her sister is suffering from a killer asthma attack. She stabs the assailant in the eye with a Good Grips screwdriver, and steals the assailant’s weapon. The alien’s weapon, though ergonomically friendly, is an unfamiliar one, but Alexis uses it, determined to save herself and her sister.
Q: Why is it an important scene in the book?
Up until this scene, Alexis felt extremely vulnerable because of her health problems. Adrenaline enables her to fight, and she begins to realize that she’s stronger than she thinks she is.
Q: What are your boundaries as an author? Are there certain things you won’t write about? Are there certain situations that you will never put your characters in? Are there certain sexual practices that your characters will never indulge in? Why have you adopted these particular boundaries?
You’ll not see BDSM in my books. Why? It doesn’t fit most of my characters. I couldn’t imagine Yeron tying up women or Alexis giving out spankings (especially with her arthritis).
Q: Are there any subgenres you absolutely cannot envision writing? Why?
If you’re referring to subgenres of SF / H / F, my thought is “never say never.” I do shy away from hard technology mainly because I don’t want to get the details wrong. However, if a story calls to me loud enough….
Q: Please tell us about the characters in Steel Rose. What strengths do the characters have?
Alexis has determination, and a protective instinct toward her sister and mother. She’s willing to approach people without judging. She’s good at improvising the way she did when the soldier broke into her home. Yeron is the Kryszka refugee now working at Jackson Hospital as a doctor. He’s dedicated to his patients, and perceptive, a good judge of character. Johnny is one of Alexis’s coworkers. His earthy sense of humor gets him through some tough spots. Shively is a foot soldier for the Mob. He uses his street connections to get weapons for the others. He’s willing to shoulder the brunt of the work without complaining, and expects the same from others. Under his tough exterior is a caring person. Tyrone is the husband of Alexis’s deceased boss. He’s got a sense of humor, religious faith, and stands loyal to Johnny and Alexis.
Q: Most writers know a lot of things about their characters that never make it into the book. What can you tell us about your characters that didn’t make it into the book?
Alexis loves the seven-fish meal that comes before Christmas. Her mother makes all kinds of Italian treats – bacalao fish, handmade pastas, lemon drop cookies, good vintages of wine, and so forth. Alexis can’t cook any of these foods because of her hands, and the narcotics she has to take prohibit imbibing any liquor. Although Johnny is a tease, he willingly helps Alexis with chores she can’t do when they work together. Yeron initially shies away from Alexis as he does all humans because of lot of them prejudge him.
Q: What internal conflicts or character weaknesses did your characters have to overcome in order to reach their happily ever after ending?
Alexis had several – she was afraid of men because of the way Mark treated her, so afraid that she was repressing ugly memories. She was afraid to trust anyone, even the doctor who would save her life. She felt vulnerable because of her health problems and it took some serious soul searching for her to get past that. Yeron kept stumbling over the humans’ unwritten laws, and he kept to himself because in his mind, humans saw him as a monster. Tyrone was distracted by the death of his wife.
Q: What do you envy about the characters in your book(s)?
I envy Johnny’s spontaneity and ability to make jokes about everything, despite his injuries and the zombies bearing down on the hospital. We need a Johnny in all tough situations. Part of me feels sorry for Laurel – she went off the rails because of all the abuse heaped on her by Mom and Dad. I envy Alexis’ spunk too, the way she told the head honcho to “go blow it out his ear.”
Q: Angst or humor? Which is your favorite in the books you write? The books you read?
I like to have a little bit of both, but I lean toward angst. After all, the folks in my book have a lot of feel anxious about, starting with the prospect of becoming hamburger for the zombies. I like to get some humor in there, with Johnny’s wisecracks, and the banter between Alexis and Yeron. The books I read lean toward angst, too. There’s not too much room for jokes when you’re fighting dead people and monsters.
Q: Please describe your book in five words that are not in your blurb.
Zombies. Aliens. Sickness. Death. Love.
Q: What aspect of writing do you find the most difficult?
The day to day problems that the characters have to deal with, conflicts that don’t include the monsters. Working with secondary characters can be tough, too.
Q: What kind of writing do you find the most fun?
The action scenes where the characters are up against the monsters.
Q: What advice, resources, or useful information can you offer aspiring authors who might be reading this interview?
Be prepared to market your book. Get into the habit of journaling, because later some of the pieces you write may be suitable for blogs. Blogs are an excellent way to promote. Aim for a sympathetic protagonist. Critique groups are a great way to go. Duotrope and Ralan have listings of markets where you can submit your short stories and novel-length manuscripts.
Q: Which drives your novels more – the plot or the characters?
I’d have to say a little of both.
Q: What are your favorite television shows and do any of them impact what you write?
I don’t watch any TV but I do watch an occasional movie. The movies don’t impact my writing but the books I read do. I take notes on the body language and behavior and apply the concepts to my own characters.
Q: How far is too far in erotic romance? What are your limits for your books? Do you like to color inside the lines or push the boundaries when it comes to the love scenes in your books?
Up to three love scenes per novel is okay. People are human, and you want your characters to be human. If I have more than three scenes, then I have to question, are they really necessary or are they gratuitous. That said, I did push the envelope a bit in Steel Rose. But I ain’t giving details…you’ll have to read the book.
Q: What makes the hero of Steel Rose the ideal hero?
In this case, heroine. Well, she’s not perfect. The arthritis is her Achilles heel, and she’s coping with a lot of personal demons, starting with a failed marriage. I consider her ideal because she manages to rise about her limitations and demons, even finds a way to work with difficult people like Mark so she can fight the zombies. When Yeron was unconscious, she stood by him, and got help for him.
Q: What has been the hardest scene you’ve ever written and why?
The hardest scene happens to be with my sequel, a scene here Alexis’s mother goes missing. The action scenes write themselves, but Alexis had to bond with several people. She’s got to show emotion because it is after all her mother, but yet remain focused. That is a hard scene to write. And yes, lol, I’ll have some cheese with the whine.
Q: Authors have to develop thick skins to deal with reviews. Most books receive some mixture of good reviews and bad ones, simply because tastes are different and people like and dislike different things. Please tell us about one of your most memorable reviews and how it impacted your writing.
The most memorable review was one that I’d gotten on Twilight Healer, my first book. It got a 4 star review from the Urban Book Source Review. The reviewer found herself rooting for Leslie, the protagonist, calling the story a sleeper hit. She also suggested a different cover and tightening the story. How has this review impacted my writing? Since then, I realize how important tight writing and a good book cover are. I really appreciate the attention the reviewer gave to my work.
Please Answer These Questions As A Reader:
As a reader I am always curious about the reading habits of the authors I enjoy, so I have a few questions about your reading habits.
Q: As an author, where do you learn about books you might want to read?
Sometimes I read about them on Doubleday Book Club. Other times I get them through word of mouth or by checking out a favorite author’s website.
Q: Do you research the books in depth before you buy them, read an excerpt or do you buy without a great deal of research?
I don’t spend a lot of time researching the books, but I might read an excerpt. Mostly I read the cover blurb and take a quick look at the reviews.
Q: When you are learning about a book what five words are most likely to get you to buy the book?
Zombies. Horror. Paranormal. eBook. Invasion.
Q: When you are learning about a book what five words will make you decide against the book?
Price. Technology. Bland. Cliché. Long.
Q: What can you tell us about your book that isn’t in the blurb?
Laurel is a prominent character, too. Because Alexis reported her to the boss, resulting in Laurel’s dismissal, Laurel blames Alexis for all her problems. Laurel suffers from hallucinations, hears voices of a demon called Abaddon. It started during her childhood. These voices goad Laurel into torturing the women living with her. She believes Woehar has the solution for her problems.
Q: As a reader are you finding the advent of self-publishing to be a positive or a negative within the industry? Are you finding more good books or are you having to search harder for good books? Please explain your answer.
I’d say I’m finding as many good books because most self-published authors are savvy enough to get the book edited before publishing it, and hire an artist. If the author’s been published before, he or she has an advantage because he/she can use contacts to help market the book more effectively.
Q: Has the way that you shop for books changed since the rise in the popularity of eBooks? Has how you shop for books been influenced by the rise in self-publishing?
My way of shopping for books has changed after I bought a Galaxy tablet with a Kindle app. I’m finding that the print on eBooks is spread out and easier to read than it is for print books. Print books are more cumbersome to lug around, and so lately, I’ve been buying eBooks. The rise in self-publishing has not affected the way I shop for books. If the book appeals to me, I’ll read it, no matter how it was published.
Now for some just for fun:
Q: On Pinterest are you a A.) Hoarder in disguise (you collect images of everything you like) B.) Minimalist (you only collect images that fit in with some project – my next book – a home remodeling project – etc) C.) you’re not on Pinterest.
C. I’m not on Pinterest.
Q: On Twitter are you A.) The life of the party engaging with my friends and followers B.) Mostly a promoter – I use Twitter primarily to promote my books C.) Mostly a lurker. I follow a lot of people looking for useful information – some of which finds its way into my books.
Neither. I will use Twitter for promoting my books but I also post blogs and other information that other people find useful. For every “buy my book” post, I try to aim for six posts that have useful information.
Q: What’s your favorite social network? Why is it your favorite?
Facebook because some of them are good friends and work buddies. Also you can upload photos and have more room for posting status, which you don’t get with Twitter.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday and why?
My favorite is Christmas because I get to spend a lot of time with my family.
Q: Did you read 50 Shades of Grey? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?
I did not read the book.
Q: What was the last book you read that you really loved – enough that you’d recommend it to someone else?
Jonathan’s Maberry’s Flesh & Bone. Jonathan Maberry and Stephen King are great horror / thriller writers.
Q: What’s your favorite place to read?
I do most of my reading on the train, at the hairdresser’s or while waiting on a doctor appointment.
Q:Do you have a favorite food or beverage you like to eat or drink while reading?
I can’t eat / drink and read at the same time. If I start reading while drinking coffee, I’ll forget about the coffee, and later pour it down the drain.
Q: If you could go backwards or forwards in time and have dinner with anyone in history who would it be and why?
Frank Sinatra. Why? Frank Sinatra came off as an approachable guy. He had ties with the Mob, and that enabled him to get into the movies. I’d love to hear about his experiences and how he felt about them.
Q: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Let’s put it this way. I do my best communicating by writing. I express myself in the written word far better than face to face. Why? I think because when I’m composing a letter or email, I have quiet time to think about what I want to say and the best way to say it.
Q: Describe your ideal romantic getaway?
A week in Aruba – the beaches are always clean, the natives friendly, and the hotel rooms nice and cozy.
Q: You have three magic wishes – what would they be?
1. I’d want science to come up with a doable cure for Parkinson’s. 2. Success for my books and for the authors who write for Night to Dawn. 3. Good health for me and my family.
Q: If you were to be stranded on a desert island with one of your characters which character and why?
It depends on the conditions of the island. Let’s say food is plentiful but a lot of dangers lurk? Alexis or Yeron because they’re good at fighting and protecting people. They’re both great with conversation and know how to reassure people. If food was scarce, I might go with Shively because he’s resourceful. If I had plenty of food and no danger, I might want Johnny because of his earthy sense of humor.
Q: Please share with us your five favorite hang outs on the web – these do not have to be book related. Please share sites other than your own website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
My five favorite hangouts are Macy’s, Ralph Lauren, Accuweather, Amazon, and WPVI News. I love nice clothing, and I like to keep abreast of current events and upcoming storms.
Q: When you’re not writing what other hobbies or interests do you engage in?
I watch occasional movies, and I collect Mylar balloons. I really collect Mylar balloons – I’ve got some photos of them on my website.
Q: Have you ever done anything in real life that you read about in a romance novel? Please tell us about that.
I plead the Fifth.
Steel Rose By Barbara Custer
Sometimes they come back. At least the Kryszka aliens do. Their leader injects captured humans with a drug, turning them into zombies. Yeron escapes the Kryszka colony, hoping to practice medicine on the humans that fear him. Alexis, a patient, is afraid, too, until his seductive attentions arouse her. Despite his experimental drug, severe arthritis leaves her too weak to handle most guns. The Kryszka troops and zombies who break into the hospital are hungry. Very hungry. How will she fight them?
An Excerpt From Steel Rose
Silence. Her splints flashed white against the gloom. The footsteps started again, outside the window. Kneeling beside her mother’s bed, she shone her light toward the window. A tunic-clad woman stood outside, silhouetted against the moonlit night. The flashlight kicked too much reflection off the windows to see her face, but the intruder was too short and thin to be Laurel.
The footsteps stopped. The glass shivered. Alexis could hear so much now: the quivering window, the house creaking the way her joints did in the early morning, Robin’s soft weeping from the living room.
She gazed into the ominous night and then the window shattered inward, showering the bed and Alexis with glass slivers. A look up close and personal revealed the intruder’s fiery red eyes, needle-sharp teeth, and crooked snarl of hate. No, not hate…hunger.
“Oh, my God!” she hollered, and her cry betrayed her. Her ankle buckled when she tried to stand and run. She dropped her knife. The Kryszka grabbed her arm and flung her onto the bed.
She groped for the screwdriver and cried out at the glass slicing her right hand. Her back and neck hurt worse. The Kryszka withdrew a cylindrical device with her free hand. It looked like a plasma gun, the weapon that Steve had described. Its power would dwarf Alexis’s piece-of-shit weapon.
Hot stabbing ripped through Alexis’s spine. Something–an invisible force perhaps–rubbed her against the broken glass on the bed. This monster was dragging out the torture before killing her. Her right hand closed around her screwdriver. Despite the razor blades of agony slashing through her wrist, she pointed its tapered bit toward the Kryszka’s face. The creature was too busy drooling over her shoulder and neck to notice. Eyes rolled back and teeth gaping, the Kryszka angled for her right shoulder. Alexis sank the screwdriver into the creature’s left eye, slick as goose shit.
About Barbara Custer
Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. Her short stories have appeared in numerous small press magazines. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.
Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer and City of Brotherly Death. She’s also coauthored Alien Worlds and Starship Invasions with Tom Johnson. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.
To contact her, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit her at:
12 Responses to Real Life “Angels Of Death” Contributed To Barbara Custer’s own Horror/Science Fiction Novel
Leave a Reply
Hit Counter provided by Skylight