Fun, Amazing, Etc.

This is the official blog of indie author / adventure writer Andy R. Bunch, author of the fantasy book, "Suffering Rancor." As always, I'll post funny or amazing things I find in my travels or from poking around online. This is a great place to kick back and relax a bit. You may note that I’m not too clean or too dirty. For more information on my book, go to Here are links to first two books and

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gregory E. Zschomler Interview

Gregory E. Zschomler

I love your concept for kid’s books. So what got you into writing books for tween boys?
I have six boys, only two of them are currently in the age range of my books, but I wanted to give them something to read that was inspirational. BTW: I also have two girls and I have written a book (not yet published) for them as well. Anyway, there are so many books where the hero has some sort of super powers. I believe people have great potential without being a vampire or whatever. I think we have skills like intelligence and imagination that are important. We do have a journey to go on, and we need to be inspired to work with those skills to take part in the adventure.

My background is in theatre; my studies in technology and communication. I also have many years of experience in graphic design and some music. I’ve been interested in journalism, but it’s a dying thing—well, it’s changing. I maintain a couple blogs. I also attend and review plays. Every once in a while I launch into a production myself. But mostly, these days, I write. Yes, I’ve written three books for boys, but that’s not all I write.

Which of your projects has been most successful/or make you most proud?
I’ve written four plays; two of them have been performed. “About Right” has won two playwriting contests. “Bisbee Ore Bust” is a comedic-musical history of small town Bisbee, Arizona that ran there for four years. I have another one, called “The Rip Roaring Ridgefield Revue,” along the same lines that hasn’t yet been performed. It covers the history of Ridgefield, Wash. from Lewis and Clark to the founding of the high school when they decided to be the Spudders and rather than the Prunes.

My first book was a non-fiction text called “Lights, Camera, Worship.” That sold well at the time (2005-2006) and is still being used as a college teaching text. However, being about technology, it has become dated. I recently did an updated and expanded revision for a second edition. It’s in the production stage and the release date hasn’t been set.

Also I’m shopping another manuscript, “The Amish vs. The Zombies” (everyone laughs here) that’s a YA coming-of-age story and a real departure from the “safe” stuff I tend to write. It’s often gritty and grizzly and tends to go deeper into bigger issues, so I’m proud of that, too.

What is your idea of good writing?
Three words: James L. Rubart. Or one name, I guess. Seriously, of all that I’ve read his work is the best. Everything’s interesting and on several layers. I think good writing has subtext and foreshadowing. I think, in good story-telling, it’s not about structure or grammar or syntax, it’s about the author’s ability to immerse you in time and place and to emotionally—even viscerally—link you with the protagonist.

I hate serial novels (even though I get sucked into reading them) where they leave you hanging and you have to wait a year to find out what happens...and then another year and another. And so, I make sure everything is tied up at the end of my books, but also that there’s something in there that will lead to the next book. Wayne Thomas Batson is a great YA writer that does that so well.

I know authors who fill their stories with rice. I know I do that a little, but my editors help me sift it out. I’m told that if it doesn’t propel the story forward it should be removed. I do wonder about a lot of stuff, I mean is it important that my characters went to Taco Bell? Probably not, but sometimes you want to put that in too—show the slice of life. Real people do that sort of thing. I want to write real.

Also, I try to write from my faith without being preachy. I try to represent a real walk with God. I share some of the struggles and thoughts that I have.

How would you describe your process?
I think I’m different, I discover the story as I write. I have a writer friend who plots everything out in Excel; plot, characters, the works. I sit down with an idea and see what happens. I know the characters really well because I base them on myself and people I know. That allows me to create the situation and then I think, “How would they get out of that?” Sometimes I use chapter titles as a kind of outline. Like “Pirates!” that’s a title that tells me what’s going to happen in that chapter. I do change and rearrange them, but it’s not a formal outline.

Of course my Bayou Boys books have been a little shorter (20-30K) which is okay because they are written for middle-readers. In “Playhouse Phantom” the story takes place all in one house so it’s different than the first two books, which could really go anywhere. It’s based upon a real house and situation, so I drew some ideas from that and then wrote until I discovered what was going on. I think it’s my best published work to-date. I hate the idea of writing to length. I don’t like padding or redundancy, like in the “Tunnels” series. I recently read Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and it’s really great writing, but two entire chapters were unnecessary filler. One should write just enough to tell the story. “The Amish vs. The Zombies” is 40K and that’s what it took.

With “To Hell, Heaven and Back,” the book I’m writing now, I have a good idea what’s going to happen because some of it is taken from a real life experience. I also have certain concepts I plan to address and the rest, being science-fiction, is the artistic license that makes it all come together in a compelling way. I think it’s going to be great. I actually feel that I am meant to write this story and bring its message to the world. I think it might even cause a stir. But I digress.

I do revise. After I flog it two or three times my wife does a read/edit and I revise based on her feedback. Then I read it aloud to my sons and get their feedback. They read along over my shoulder as I do and catch things I’ve missed. One is really gifted at (anal about) continuity. I also read everything I write to my boys since my wife doesn’t get my brand of humor. That helps me know if I’m on the right track. Then I do line edits twice more. I hate it.

I write 1,500 words a day—sometimes as much as 3K. I started that with NaNoWriMo last year and it’s become a discipline, and now I don’t think I can even avoid it. I just do it. With the editing it takes me about three months to do a 30K word book. “To Hell, Heaven and Back” will be longer—probably at least 60K. I’m writing it now and anticipate the first draft being complete by Christmas.

I write plot and dialogue first, and finally I add what I call “the smells and bells;” sights, sounds, scents and other things to make it real and living.

When/where do you write?
At night. I do Facebook and email first thing in the morning. Sometimes I write in the afternoon, but I’m not really functional until after 10 a.m. I wake up before eight, but spend time with my wife. I write until 10 or 11 at night. I review plays, too and those aren’t over ‘till 10:30. I find that I can’t write the review the next day because all these thoughts swim in my head and keep me awake, so I’m up until midnight.

I typically write in coffee shops and such. The library is either too quiet or too loud with kids programs. And, like I said earlier, I don’t write with my wife (though we edit together) at home. Writing is a generally solitary activity for me.

I’m trained a bit as a journalist, with the inverted pyramid and all. (My wife always says, “Tighten and brighten.”) Longer writing is different than a news story where the important facts go up front and everything is about column inches (minimal writing to maximize space).

I’ve been pretty vocal about not growing up with a lot of support from my friends and family, and the massive help it is now that I’m getting encouragement from those I care about. Did your family support your writing?
Yes, and no. It depends on who you’re talking about and when. As a child I was more into music and theater. My dad was a really big high school athlete and won awards in every sport. He played some college ball and was a boxer in the Navy. I have always been an artist. Early on I felt I disappointed him because I wasn’t into sports. He never spoke against my interests, but it took him a while to really come around to my artistic expression. I don’t think he really got me when I was young, but, you know, he was also a very practical man. He did what he needed to do to put food on the table. He worked a jump schedule for years, one week at swing and the next at graveyard and so on. That’s not healthy for you. It made him grumpy. Well it would, you know. So it wasn’t so much that he disapproved of me as that he didn’t want me making noise when he was trying to sleep. Thing is, he really has a latent artist bent, too.

I wasn’t good at writing until after several years of college, by the way. I wrote some plays as a child, but I didn’t really have the writing bug until college. I wasn’t a good grade school English student. I got inspired by some good professors and I have worked hard at grammar and spelling, etc.

My mother was always creative herself, and encouraging and so are my sisters. Both of my parents came to most all of my performances (theater and music). Dad and my sisters now show tremendous support for my writing. Dad comes to all my book launches and reads every book I write. My mother really pushed me to discover what made me different and unique and also worked to “integrate” me (I tend to be a loner in some ways). She passed away nearly a decade back, but she really encouraged me to learn and follow my passion. She never got to read any of my fiction books.

What are some of your life adventures?
I’ve done a lot of traveling, which I love. I’ve not been off the continent, but I’ve been to Canada, and to Mexico on a mission trip. I’ve been to 37 states out of 50 with the goal to see them all. I do enjoy camping and hiking. I like to cook specialty foods. I have a special blend of Caribbean and Cajun spices that I developed (and sell).

I did a lot of whitewater canoeing back in the day, but I’m not a big adventurer now. Mostly I’ve lived in the PNW, but I’ve also lived in Colorado and Florida. I’ve been to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,114 feet above sea level) and to the bottom of Death Valley (284 feet below sea level). I’ve picked up a live rattlesnake by the tail. I’ve lived through a volcanic eruption, a couple tornados and several hurricanes. I’ve done relief work following hurricane Ivan and the Joplin tornado. I have yet to write about these experiences.

I enjoy experiencing different cultures and food. That’s what attracted me to Louisiana. I did all my research for the first book through secondary sources, but I did go there before writing books two and three. It’s so much better when you’ve been there. The tastes of the food, the smells of the bayou, the spirit and dialect of the Cajun people, the rollicking music…nothing like being there to bring it to the page.

I also love Disneyland. I go there to be recharged. I collect up thoughts all year, and most every year I go down and synthesis happens. My wife points out that I hate crowds so it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it is. We honeymooned there thirty years ago. My son interned at Disney World for a year so I got to go behind the scenes a little. I also did a special 14-hour behind the scenes seminar and got to meet some of the Imagineers for a Q&A, which was amazing.

I know we writers always have half a dozen irons in the fire, tell me about your new projects, what’s coming this year?
I decided to narrow it down to only three things until those are done. Number one is marketing “Playhouse Phantom,” book three of the Bayou Boys Adventure series. It’s due out October 26 in time for Halloween. Marketing is the hardest part about being an author and it takes time away from writing.
I’m also co-producing and doing some of the writing on a new rock opera called “This Child.” It’s about a family dealing with the loss of a child by leukemia. We are still in the creation phase, but we intend to start raising money for that in October and to show it next spring.

Then there’s my new book. I plan to have a finished draft by the end of November—Christmas at the latest—tentatively called, “To Hell, Heaven, and Back.” It’s about inter-dimensional travel and takes on the theological questions like God’s omniscience, and who goes to hell or heaven, and so on. It’s based on a true story about a pastor who’s driven to question everything and he meets ‘someone’ who offers to take him on a tour to get answers. It’s sci-fi-allegory in the vein of “The Shack” and tackles misbeliefs.

How did you find time to raise a family with all that going on?
I’ve made many mistakes (like not being as attentive as I should have been), but I was able to pass on a love for creativity and ambition. I believe in going after your dreams. I tried to involve my kids in what I was working on. My eldest son began working with me in theater when he was eight. Now in his twenties, he’s perusing all things theater and film. My eldest daughter owns her own business doing what she’s passionate about. Most of my children are ambitious and hard working. They follow their dreams. My second son wrote to me the other day and said that he didn’t think he could get where he wanted to go in life if he just worked for someone else. He’s always been ambitious, now he wants to start his own business, too.
My wife is also a writer and immensely talented in so many other ways. She’s finishing up her MFA studies right now. It’s good to have a spouse that understands, although we’ve discovered that we can’t write in the same room. We interrupt each other with questions and such. But she helps me so much.

What makes you come alive?
I love to inspire people to do what they were put here to do. I love helping them discover a new passion. I cast one young man in a play and then had him direct another; he went on to get a degree in theater and eventually got on the crew for the national tour of “Cats.” We still work together once in a while. I love that!
I love to speak to kids who want to be writers too. I give a presentation and then ask for questions. I love when they ask questions. What I like about kids is that they aren’t cynical yet. Some are negative, which saddens me, but for the most part they are full of potential. Everyone wants to be inspired and everyone wants to do what they believe in. If I can be a part of motivating people to pursue their dreams then I’m happy. I have a niece whom I am very proud of. She’s in New York trying to break in as an actress. She’s told me that I inspired her to follow her heart.

Closing Thoughts?
Do what moves you. If you write (be it books, scripts or whatever), move others. Art, whatever it is, is the thing that expresses our humanness. We are all born in the image of our Creator to be creators. And if you write—or even if you don’t—read broadly. Read my books. Lol

Gregory E. Zschomler can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@zschomler). His author blog/website is: His books are available on Amazon.

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