Meet the Author: Tony Urban
Hey there readers,
It’s author interview time again!
Before we get into things, I wanted to let my readers know about a change on how author interviews will be done going forward on this site. In the past, I’ve done them on a monthly basis, but will be switching to doing them more sporadically. With Harlan Graves and now Tony Urban, I read work of theirs that I enjoyed, which spurred me to contact them about an interview. Approaching it that way feels more satisfying personally, and I’d prefer to do things that way going forward. I’ll still accept random requests from indie authors should they contact me, but primarily it will be from my reading where the author interviews come from. Anyways, on to the post!
Today I’m interviewing Tony Urban, horror and scifi author.
Welcome to the fold, Tony!
I reached out to Tony after reading his book Within the Woods (my review here) and loving it. I just had to know more about him and his process, and luckily he agreed to chat a bit with me.
Alright, let’s get right into things, shall we?
I hunt monsters for a living. Okay, not really, but that would be the coolest job ever. Instead, I write about them. I’m a full-time author and all the time horror addict. I grew up watching Friday the 13th, Cujo, The Boogens, etc. and my fondest memories are of perusing the aisles of the local independent video stores trying to find something to scare my pants off. I read my first Stephen King novel (Salem’s Lot) in the fifth grade (much to the horror of my elementary school teacher). I always knew I wanted to tell stories. It turned out that I had a knack for writing them so… here I am.
Hi Tony, 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!
You’re in an amusement park. Which ride do you get on?
Tony: It’s not an amusement park. It’s an old-fashioned carnival with ex-cons and weirdos operating rusty rides and shady characters shucking inedible food on the midway. Where a fat man with a weird growth on his face is offering tickets to see dancing girls for a buck and where a seventy-year-old gypsy is seeing your future in her crystal ball. My first ride isn’t a ride at all. I’m heading straight to the freak show where the barker tosses alligator man a live chicken and I watch in awe as he chomps the head off with his rows of sharp teeth. Lobster boy, the bearded lady, Zip the pinhead, they’re all there and I love every second of it. After that I probably take a spin on a dark ride/ghost train. But the freakshow is the first stop every single time.
Jonny: I am loving the vivid imagery here! I haven’t been to an old-fashioned carnival, but now I have to find one! The closest thing I’ve ever had to that is a travelling amusement park. You know, the kind they routinely have around malls or in small towns.
Tony and the Writing Process
How do you find inspiration to write?
Tony: I find inspiration everywhere. Movies, tv shows, the evening news. Sometimes I’ll be driving down the street, spot a creepy-looking building, and get inspired to write about something awful happening inside it. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write, but I’ve personally found that story ideas play second fiddle to characters. I’ll oftentimes think of a cool character and then try to come up with a story to put him or her in. I think that’s bass ackwards compared to how most writers do it, but it works for me. I find people so interesting. Getting inside their heads (sometimes literally!) and finding out what makes them tick or why they react the way they do. In “Within the Woods” I came up with and knew those kids for two years before I found a story in which they could live.
Jonny: I totally agree, inspiration is really everywhere. The most mundane thing can be inspiring on the right day, and that’s the best part, though I do tend to get stronger inspiration from movies, tv, and books I read.
I tend to favor an intriguing plot a bit more than the characters, but characters can definitely not be underplayed. They’re so integral to any story that if they aren’t developed enough it can ruin a great story idea.
Those kids in Within the Woods reminded me of myself and my crazy friends in the early 90’s getting into all kinds of trouble. We didn’t joust or anything, but there were some crazy rock throwing contests that went horribly wrong amid other escapades.
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
Tony: I can write anywhere but my best writing gets done at night, when everyone’s asleep and the room is pitch black, the only light coming from my laptop. I usually type away from 11pm-2 am. Sometimes I listen to music via headphones. I listened to The Killers during much of my Life of the Dead series. I was on Lord Huron for Within the Woods. My last few books have been written in silence though. Just me and my thoughts.
Jonny: Very nice! I also prefer to write at times when the world is quiet. I get up super early in the morning so I can get some words in before sun up. I also like to switch up where I write. The other day I was burnt out on writing in my room so I went to the living room, lit some candles, and closed the blinds. It really helped.
I tend to favor ambient music, but sometimes I’ll start writing and forget to put it on and have about the same level of inspiration coursing through my fast-typing fingers.
How long have you been writing?
Tony: The first story I remember writing was in the third grade. It was about my dog, my friend Andy, and me hitchhiking to Pittsburgh to watch Koko B Ware in a WWF wrestling match. I was so proud of it that I asked my teacher if I could read it aloud in class, and she agreed. Kids I rode the bus with during that stage of my life sometimes tell me that I read stories I wrote to them on the bus, but I can’t recall that and suspect they might be making it up. Kids are liars, after all. Then again, so are writers.
Jonny: Wow, that sounds like quite the story! I’m glad you had great support from your teachers and classmates, especially at such a pivotal time in life.
Hey, I can’t remember a lot of things from that far back either, so I’ll trust your word on it, haha.
The one story I remember most from my childhood is one I wrote about a sleepover at my school where we discovered there were people inside the walls. It was totally lame, but my friends loved being included in the story.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Tony: Putting the words on the page is the hardest part for me. I rarely get “stuck” plot wise, but I’ll lose days over trying to decide whether the sky was cobalt blue or cerulean blue. Or whether the man dashed or sprinted. Stephen King’s novella Rat is the best story I’ve ever read about writing and writer’s block and for me it rang painfully true.
Jonny: Yeah, that can definitely be a struggle for me too. Detail is everything, and I’ve spent many a minute editing and reediting tiny details ad nauseum.
I tend to overly plot things out before I dare to write an actual draft of a story. I think for me I just don’t want it to suck or feel bad about my writing so I want to have a strong vision first. I usually end up getting tired of overly plotting and that’s when I start writing.
Oh, I haven’t read If It Bleeds just yet, but I’m a big King fan. Another for the ole TBR!
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Tony: Gosh, there are so many and I only have ten fingers. Let me think… I guess I’m up to 12 full-length novels. Picking a favorite is like choosing your favorite kid. But I don’t have kids and I have no qualms with playing favorites. It is “Within the Woods.” I could spend the rest of my life writing about those kids and sometimes wish I’d have plotted it out differently so I could have carried on with the lot of them.
Jonny: Wow, congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment. Having read Within the Woods I could tell you put a lot of care into the book and the characters. I’m glad I picked a story of yours that was so close to home!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Tony: I do. Not reading them is like having an unopened box sitting on your doorstep. You have to see what’s in there. Sometimes it’s something awesome. Sometimes it’s flaming dog shit. But either way, you gotta know. Bad reviews where the reviewers clearly didn’t “get it” don’t bother me at all. Bad reviews where the reviewer did “get it” and still hated it make me weep silently. Then I go online and read 1-star reviews on Stephen King books and that makes me feel better.
Jonny: I do too. I’m the same type. It’s like if you have an unread email in your inbox. It’ll nag at me until I finally bite the bullet and read it.
I agree. Sometimes a reader just isn’t going to get it, and that’s fine. It happens to everybody, even Stephen King like you said. I typically like his stories but there have been some that felt kind of ‘meh’ to me.
Fun Facts About Tony
Pancakes or waffles?
Tony: In the immortal words of Dennis from Cabin Fever, “Paaaaaaaancaaaaaaaaakes!”
Jonny: Hahaha! I had to look it up to remember what part of the movie that was. Oh my gosh was that hilarious! As long as I can slather the pancakes in butter I’m good! I’m big on bread. All the carbs for me!
What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled to?
Tony: Maine. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I want to buy 100 acres there, plunk a cabin in the middle of it, and slowly go insane from the isolation.
Jonny: Oh, I’ve heard it’s beautiful there but have never been. Haha, don’t go insane! I get where you’re coming from though. I would also like to have a small cottage tucked a little ways from civilization, but close enough to where I can still pop in and have some social interaction when I need it. My favorite place to date has been Seattle, but it’s SUPER expensive so I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford a house there.
What are your favorite tv shows and movies?
Tony: Season one of True Detective is the single greatest piece of entertainment ever created. As for movies, there are too many to list. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th parts 1-5, Sleepaway Camp, Just Before Dawn, any 80s slasher really, Jacob’s Ladder, Evil Dead. For more recent stuff, The Descent (only with the real UK ending though), Session 9, The Babysitter, Backcountry and You’re Next.
Jonny: Oh, I love the true crime too, though I usually do podcasts for it: My Favorite Murder, Sword and Scale, etc. Those are some great movies you listed! I’ve seen nearly all of those and adore horror movies. I recently watched Sweet Tooth, which isn’t horror, but was a fun dystopian series I look forward to seeing more of.
What has been your most bizarre life experience?
Tony: Partying (I use the term very loosely as I don’t drink) with Damien from The Omen and my buddy Max from the UK at a hotel in Baltimore.
Jonny: Wait, what? Oh my gosh I need more details on this gathering!
I haven’t had a ton of bizarre life experiences, but most of the weird ones have revolved around the shadow people. They’ve been absent for years, but you never know when they’ll come back just to remind you that they’re there and silently watching.
What would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Jonny: Yes! I recently read some short stories by Harlan Graves, and he got me into cryptids/bigfoot. Today I’ll choose a sloth, because I’m feeling a little sluggish in general. That and it would be so nice to slow down a bit. I usually run around like a chicken with my head cut off.
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Tony: People suck. Don’t let them bother you.
Jonny: Great advice! In recent years I’ve definitely shed any caring about what people think of me, and I think it’s a healthy mentality to have. Very freeing. If I could tell my younger self something I would add on to what you said and say don’t doubt yourself so much. It’s wasted energy that will only hold you back.
Tony and His Works
Tell us about your upcoming book .
Tony: Right now, I’m working on an untitled horror novel about a crazy backwoods clan and some very unfortunate travelers. I’ve always wanted to write a backwoods slasher novel and this is as close as I’ve come so far, but as always I’m really working to create some awesome characters, both in the good guys and the not so good guys.
Jonny: Oh yay! Lately I’ve kind of been obsessed with anything woodsy with a campy feel to it, and I love some good slashers. Very excited about this new development of yours!
Do you have a favorite character in your new book? Why are they your favorite?
Tony: Right now, it is Abram. He’s a father trying to do right by his family and is such an earnest guy, I’m really rooting for him.
Jonny: He sounds like a strong rock for his family. Definitely someone the reader can get behind when things start to go south. Intriguing!
What kind of research went into writing your book?
Tony: I get caught up in minutia that doesn’t really add anything to the book, but which I feel required to be accurate. Like, does a specific model of RV have a generator, does it run on gas or diesel? That kind of thing. Sometimes I think I just use such triviality to derail my own progress. I’m quite good at that.
Jonny: Hey, that’s okay. Research is a double-edged blade, but I think what you mentioned will add some detail people can visualize in their mind’s eye. I’ve been doing a lot on my current project, and I spent an entire day just breaking down what a catholic church would look like inside. It’s only a brief scene, but I’m not a religious person at all so I figured it was worth the time to spend.
Alright Tony, looks like our time’s about up. Before we go, what other projects do you have in store for the world to see in the future? Anything you can share with us?
Tony: The next book in my Carolina McKay thriller series (which is actually horror, especially from books 2 onward) should be out this fall. It’s called “Poaching Grounds” and is about a serial killer who not only murders his prey but consumes them.
Jonny: Oh, cannibalistic craziness, huh? That sounds deliciously evil! I’ll definitely have to put that series on my TBR. Thanks again for stopping by to chat. I really appreciate it!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with Tony Urban. 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 Tony 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