Meet the Author: Travis Liebert
Today I’m back with another author interview, this time with Travis Liebert, horror novelist.
Fun fact, I learned of Travis’s work through a binge of some Amazon horror freebies, and after reading The Reality Contagion (you can read my review here), I was hooked! Afterward, I immediately downloaded the rest of his freebies and bought The Anomaly Archives as well.
Travis is also currently promoting his new release Things Unknown, which just came out 7/31!
Now, normally I don’t reach out to authors randomly (I always feel awkward doing it. Like “Um, you’re awesome and can I pick your brain?”) , but I was really inspired by his work and how well it was executed. So I took a chance, and Travis graciously agreed to an interview.
Thanks for being here Travis!
Travis Liebert is a 21-year-old author from Louisville, Kentucky – home of the Kentucky Derby, Muhammad Ali, and all of his childhood traumas. He currently attends the University of Louisville where he studies psychology and philosophy. His hobbies include writing (poorly), graphic design, listening to music (he’s a sucker for some good folk punk), reading, and mediocre web design.
Some favorite ways in which he’s been described include: flamboyantly sarcastic and chaotic; the next Lovecraft; and “impossibly and self-destructively productive.” When he’s not writing, he’s usually reading, unsuccessfully attempting to learn an instrument, hanging out with friends, or finishing his degree.
His newest book, Things Unknown, is releasing on July 31st. Lately he’s been preparing for the launch of this book while working on a few other stories that he intends to post on the horror subreddit r/nosleep. He’s an avid poster on nosleep and has gained a significant following from the numerous stories he’s written there.
Hi Travis, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
Through an unknown magic you are teleported to the world of a book you’ve recently read. Where have you ended up?
Travis: In that case, I suppose I’d be transported into the world of The Blood Mage Chronicles by Saffron Bryant. And I certainly wouldn’t bemoan living in such a world. It’s rife with magic and intrigue, and I’d immediately set upon a quest to become an all-powerful magician.
However, this world is a bit of a double-edged blade. You see, I’m a twin, and in this world, twins are put to death upon their birth. On the bright side, twins are far more powerful than normal people, but I would likely spend my life on the run due to the nature of my birth.
However, I’d still take that opportunity in a heartbeat. Nothing gets the blood flowing better than a murderous regime hunting you down because you’re a twin. Besides, I’d still get to learn some awesome magic. And with my handy-dandy twin powers, I’d be pretty damn good at it too. So I’ll take my chances and work on becoming an unkillable mage while on the run.
Jonny: Oh wow, I’ve never heard of this series, but any world full of dark mystery and magic is certainly the place for me! Give them hell with your twin powers!
As for me, I’d be transported to JP Jackson’s Magic or Die novel. I’d probably be one of the supernaturally gifted folks in captivity, and I would be biding my time for the chance to strike and bust myself out of the CRMD. With my super ice powers, I’d bring a new definition to cold snap, ha!
Travis and the Writing Process
For starters, tell us a little bit about your writing.
Travis: I’ve been writing ever since I’d figured out how to put words together, but I never did so with any seriousness until I was around eighteen. Of course, I always had dreams of becoming an author and publishing numerous books, but they never seemed like anything more than dreams.
From a young age, I wrote a lot of fantasy and horror, although those stories were pretty bad and fortunately no longer exist. At some point, I started writing poetry in my spare time. I never intended to publish it, but I enjoyed doing so and eventually ended up with a LOT of poetry stashed away on my computer. My girlfriend at the time read it and encouraged me to publish it, so I did. Thus began my writing journey.
After publishing three poetry collections (none of which I particularly like in retrospect), I moved on to writing horror. I published my first anthology of horror stories in October of 2019, and I haven’t stopped since. My horror stories are largely inspired by the weird and cosmic tales written by the likes of HP Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti.
In particular, I attempt to write horror that is more existential in nature. While I’m always game for a good old-fashioned horror story, I’ve always found existential horror more interesting. I attempt to evoke the utter horror one feels when faced with something far beyond comprehension. In my stories, I feel that the true horror comes from the knowledge that the monster you’re facing is completely beyond human reason and well beyond our capacity to defeat. In essence, my horror is that of helplessness, of the knowledge that, in the end, your actions are meaningless and the world will only become darker.
Jonny: Wow, I loved hearing about your journey thus far. What a switch from poetry to horror. Poetry has always eluded me, as the only poetry I ever wrote was when I went through an emo phase in high school (still trying to pretend that didn’t happen!).
I also published my first horror work in 2019 with Reaper and have to say, horror is definitely a ton of fun to write.
You know, I’ve really got to read some Lovecraft. I’ve never gotten around to it, but if you draw such great inspiration from it, it has to be pretty good!
Looking forward to reading your anthologies soon and seeing what your future holds!
How do you find inspiration to write?
Travis: This is a question I get pretty often, and it’s probably one of the most difficult to answer. Particularly since I write horror, it’s not exactly easy to come up with terrifying stories based on day-to-day life. One doesn’t often encounter eldritch many-tentacled beings that want to eat your children.
I think a major source of inspiration is other works of horror. Whether it’s movies, TV, or books, I’ve always found that the creative juices flow better after I’ve watched/read something else in the horror genre. Typically, my ideas start with a simple question – What if? That is, while engaging in other media, I’ll ask myself “What if the characters did this?” or “What if the monster was actually something like this?” In that case, the idea tends to bounce around in my head until some semblance of a plot forms.
Additionally, sometimes a random thought will just pop into my head. Usually, its simply an idea for some horrific creature. Pretty much all of my stories begin with an idea for a creature, and I then build a plot around the wretched thing I came up with. Often when driving at night, I suddenly think of a new idea for a story. When that happens, I frantically shout at Siri until she makes a note in my phone filled with gibberish that will eventually become a plot.
Jonny: You make great points, thanks for sharing.
I agree with you as horror material inspires me to write horrific stories. I actually came up with Reaper because I was watching a bunch of scary movies for Halloween. An idea formed, and I couldn’t ignore it so I wrote it down and the rest is history.
I also agree that random thoughts pop into your head at random, and you just have to go with it. Now that I’m remote I can jot down my thoughts at any time, but before that I’d always have a phone or journal I could write/type into. You can be doing the most mundane thing and BAM! Inspiration hits and you’re typing like a madman to keep up with the surge or creativity that just exploded in your mind.
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
Travis: I’m somewhat particular about my environment when writing. While I don’t feel the need to be in a specific room, I absolutely have to be alone. If someone else is in the room, even if they’re being quiet and doing their own thing, I won’t be able to write. To me, writing is a solitary craft, and it simply seems difficult to focus on doing so when around other people.
Additionally, I need silence. Sometimes I’ll listen to instrumental music when outlining my stories, but I never actually write while listening to music. I find it impossible to focus when there’s some other noise in the background. Granted, more ambient noise, like a fan, can sometimes be helpful as the silence becomes oppressive after a while.
Lastly, and most importantly, I can’t stand writing at a desk. Desks are the bane of my existence. They’re stiff, uncomfortable, and annoying. If I could press a magic button and erase desks from existence, I would do so without a moment’s hesitation. I prefer to write on a laptop in bed, hunched over my screen like a Stephen King-Quasimodo hybrid. I have no doubt it’s going to destroy my back one of these days, but at least I’m writing.
Jonny: Very interesting. I find that everyone’s method differs at least a little bit.
I agree with you that I can’t have another person around. I’d be too tempted to talk to them and there goes my writing time.
I tend to favor ambient music even when writing, but you do have a point. Sometimes ambient music is too specific and you need something generic like a rainstorm or the sound of fall leaves scraping on the ground.
*clutches desk* Please don’t erase my desk! I use my desk for writing more because I am apt to fall asleep. No seriously! I’m not narcoleptic, but if I get too comfortable I will fall asleep and never get anything done, so a desk is unfortunately a necessity for me.
Sometimes I’ll switch it up and take my laptop into the living room and write at my coffee table, but even then sometimes I can get too comfortable.
I always find it interesting how authors lead multiple lives. What is your dayjob? Do you enjoy it?
Travis: I currently work for a medical distributor as a customer service representative. More specifically, I work on document inquiries. To put it simply, I work with hospitals, private practices, and other medical institutions who purchase products from my company. If they need a signed proof of delivery to verify that a product was delivered, then it’s my job to find that. If they need an invoice because they lost theirs or never received it, then it’s my job to find that as well. Hunting down documents is the name of the game.
While I don’t hate my job, I don’t exactly enjoy it either. While working, I often find myself thinking of all the time I’m wasting that could be used for writing. Additionally, I’m a very productive person. I work quickly, efficiently, and for long periods of time with intense focus. However, working at a job that pays by the hour doesn’t reward such efficiency. It bothers me that no matter how quickly or efficiently I work, I’ll be compensated the same. As such, my current goal is to make enough from my books to quit my day job and become an author full-time.
Jonny: Oh, very cool! Way to be a go-getter at your job.
You know, I personally believe that most people just tolerate their jobs. I work in finance in the legal industry, and I’ll say at times I definitely don’t enjoy it.
I would also love to one day be able to just write and nothing else. Best of luck to the both of us! Your off to a great start in your career based on what I’ve read so far of your writing. 🙂
As a writer, what kind of goals do you set for yourself? How do you achieve them?
Travis: Typically, I have a goal wordcount that I attempt to reach every day. When I first began writing, it was around 500 words a day, and I often didn’t even meet that. However, my current goal is 2,000 words a day, which I generally exceed. Although, I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t been able to hit that word count every day for the past month or so.
When writing, I don’t just sit back and start typing (although if I’m really in the flow of it, I might do so). Typically, I set a timer on my phone and place it out of sight. During that time, I’m not allowed to do anything except write. At first, my rules were that I had to write the entire time (usually fifteen minutes). However, it became difficult to keep the words flowing without stopping every now and then. As such, I began dreading pressing “start” on my timer, and ended up putting off my writing as much as possible.
Eventually, I changed things and implemented a new rule: During my fifteen minute writing periods, I don’t have to type the entire time. However, I’m not allowed to do anything else other than writing. That is, I can sit and do absolutely nothing, or I can write. It’s an absolute dichotomy without any wiggle room.
This new rule made things much easier, and I no longer dreaded the pressure of writing continuously without pause. Now I write in fifteen minute periods separated by five minute breaks. In those fifteen minutes, I can usually write 600-800 words. As such, it only takes a few of these to meet my daily goal.
Jonny: That’s such a great way to set goals for yourself, and kudos for setting that bar high (at least it is in my opinion). I have a similar way of trying to reach my goals, only it’s time based due to what few hours I get to myself throughout the day.
But yeah, I’ll write down what time I start and I have to concentrate on nothing but writing during that time. Like your method, I can technically sit there if I’m having a block, but that time is fully devoted to writing.
Right now I’m doing a ton of editing, so it’s hard to gauge any kind of word count, but once I start writing my next story I will definitely be tracking my progress that way.
What genre is your favorite to write in? Why?
Travis: While I almost explicitly publish horror, my favorite genre to write is actually fantasy. I have several ideas for fantasy books bouncing around my head most of the time, and I fully intend to write them eventually. The only reason I haven’t yet is because I want to sharpen my writing skills before I begin doing so. My worst fear is to write a massive fantasy series only to realize the prose isn’t reflective of all the work I put into the plotting and writing.
I particularly enjoy writing fantasy because the possibilities are quite literally limitless. If I want to make an omnipotent chipmunk that speaks English and has knives for hands, then that’s totally fine. This ability to write whatever I want in a world not bound my logic is exhilarating.
Additionally, I’m an absolute sucker for overpowered main characters. And where does one go when searching for an overpowered protagonist? That’s right, fantasy. There’s something distinctly satisfying about watching a measly protagonist grow to become an unstoppable force. Maybe he wants to become a god and rule over his realm. Well, with fantasy, that’s totally possible and also totally badass.
Jonny: Actually, you and I share the same favorite genre. Don’t get me wrong, writing horror is amazing, but at the heart of things, fantasy is where it’s at.
I think it’s very smart to ensure your writing skill is up to the challenge of a huge fantasy series depending on the scale and what specific genre it’s in. I spent maybe five or so years honing my technique as I wrote my first manuscript, and I grew so much while doing that that I now feel strong/confident enough to write in almost any genre.
Superpowered, nearly omnipotent characters are definitely badass! I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.
One of your stories is currently being turned into a film. Tell us about that and how it made you feel.
Travis: It started back in October of 2019. I posted a horror story on the subreddit r/nosleep titled “I’ve been a search and rescue diver for 12 years. We see a lot of strange and disgusting things, but what I saw last week has me questioning both my job and reality.”
Yeah, I know it’s a long title, but that’s what’s hip on nosleep nowadays. Anyway, I wrote it in my spare time with no expectation of getting much attention for it. To my surprise, it went absolutely viral, netting nearly twelve-thousand upvotes on the subreddit. It was intended to be a single post with an ambiguous ending, but with all the attention, I turned it into a 5-part series. Each new post increased its popularity until it seemed that everyone was reading the story.
Within a couple weeks, the story was being read on countless podcasts and youtube videos. I received an endless stream of messages from people asking to translate or narrate it. To my knowledge, it’s been translated into at least ten different languages, likely more. I was shocked when someone sent me a link to a popular Norwegian podcast that narrated my story.
A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from a man named Raxen Gautier-Hamel. He’s a film student in France, and he wanted my permission to make my story into a movie as their final project. Of course, I gave him permission. I was ecstatic to hear that people liked my story so much, and it was extremely flattering that his film team wanted to make a movie based off it.
According to Raxen, it should be finished around summer of 2021. I can’t wait to see it, and I’m intensely curious to see how they chose to portray the story in film.
Jonny: Man, that is amazing! I’m aware of reddit, but I never quite got into it hardcore (maybe I’m too old lol). That’s amazing that you’ve had such great success so early on. Having something of yours getting turned into film is a dream, and I can’t wait to see what this Raxen fellow comes up with. I better get to reading that story before it comes out!
Fun Facts About Travis
If you could choose to be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Travis: I would definitely be a vampire. I’m already pale, gaunt, morbid, and I don’t sleep at night. So, it would be a pretty easy transition. Plus, there’s the benefits of immortality and enhanced physical strength. Besides, vampires are hot. There’s not a single person in the world who can look me in the eyes and honestly say they don’t want to bang a vampire.
Jonny: Aw mannn, you took my answer! Vampires were my first supernatural creature, and I’ve always had an unhealthy fascination with them. I’d take immortality in a second, and there is definitely a hotness factor. I mean, Lestat? *fans self* I can’t even.
What are your favorite tv shows and movies?
Travis: Some of my favorite TV shows are Preacher, Legion, and Peaky Blinders. I’ve never been a huge movie person, but a couple favorites of mine are The Ritual and Goodwill Hunting.
Jonny: Very nice recommendations. I’ll have to look up Peaky Blinders, but I really enjoyed Legion.
As far as movies go, I love classic horror. I’ve seen hundreds of movies in that genre and am constantly on the lookout for more, more, more! Series? Hmm Umbrella Academy and Stranger Things are some of my hardcore favorites, though I will never pass up a rewatch of Charmed, no matter how cheesy it got.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Travis: Travis Liebert – Notorious Serial Killer of Those Who Didn’t Use the Oxford Comma (Oh and He Wrote Books Too)
Jonny: LMAO, nice! Don’t worry, I’m a firm believer in the Oxford comma. No murder for Jonny!
Umm, how about this? “The Many Goofy Faces of Jonny Pongratz (Why does he think he’s cute when he lifts his eyebrows all the time?)”
Okay, last question! If you could be any superhero, who would you be?
Travis: Oh, I would absolutely be Wolverine. Immortality? Heal from any wounds? Have dope claws and Hugh Jackman’s ripped body? What more could you want?
Jonny: Right? Hugh Jackman is … *drools* Yeah, nuff said. I usually pick Iceman, but I think I’ll go with Rogue this time. If I poke Wolverine enough, maybe I’ll get to keep his immortality permanently. Besides, I’m always jealous of anyone who can maintain an accent of any kind. Thanks for stopping by, Travis!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with Travis Liebert. I had a wonderful time chatting it up with him, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Travis and his work, he can be reached at the social media links provided below.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
Social Media Links
Can’t get enough of Jaunts & Haunts?
Subscribe to my newsletter for in-depth updates on my writing, reading, and watching experiences, special deals, and important announcements regarding upcoming publications.
Also, feel free to check me out at the social media links below!