Author Interview – Debra Zaech

This week’s interview is with author Debra Zaech, who wrote the novel The Stretchman. She is a licensed social worker, a University Assistant Dean as well as a Senior Lecturer of Psychology. Her book, The Strechman, is available on Amazon as well as at Black Bed Sheet Books.

Q: Who are some of your literary influences?

A: Some of my literary influences are Dean Koontz and Rod Serling.

Dean Koontz often portrays dogs as heroes, such as tin the novels, “Devoted” and “Watchers.”

Koontz addresses a unique relationship between a, “uniquely gifted” dog Kipp and his mute 11 year olds human.   In the latter, a Golden Retriever prevents the main character, Travis, to continue his journey into a dangerous wooden canyon slope where an evil creature resides.

Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series included ironic, unsuspecting twists luring the viewer into a weekly horrific nightmare. “The Eye of the Beholder” was one of my favorite episodes. A young woman undergoes plastic surgery. Her face, swathed in bandages, while the viewer anticipates the outcome.  The woman is beautiful, the surgery an apparent success. But the hospital staff surprisingly perceives her as hideous and sends her off to live with similar unsightly people. The theme: society defines beauty.

Q: What fuels your creativity as a storyteller?

A: A combination of the dog-human bond, dreams and psychological horror fuel my creativity as a storyteller.

Dogs increase our self-esteem and confidence. They have the ability to decrease our anxiety and depression. They offer unconditional love, never hold grudges and are always happy to see us.

Reading psychological thrillers and watching horror movies stimulates ideas, themes and plots. I’ll use a frightening scene to gain ideas and incorporate them into my own story. Dreams are an abundant resource.  I will think about my current storyline before I fall asleep. The unconscious mind has the ability to bring amorphous ideas to the surface. I recommend leaving a notepad next to your bedside to write the thoughts upon awakening.

Q: What is the background story on writing “The Stretchman”? How did the novel come to be?

A: “The Stretchman” came to be when I was unable to work-out due to an injury. The summer vacation and the lack of exercise afforded me the time I needed to pursue this long-time goal. I scribbled notes wherever I went, jotting down key words, general ideas, anything that sparked a related theme. I wrote in the car, on the plane and on the back porch of my Colorado air b-n-b.  

I decided to write a horror novel using dogs and humans as the combined heroes, facing an evil monster who despises dogs and their human advocates.  I teach a course at a local university called, “The Dog Whisperer.” I wanted to incorporate the unrivaled relationship into a frightening adventure where the special bond is necessary to conquer the evil force wreaking havoc on the community.

Q: What is your idea of success as a storyteller?

A: My idea for success as a storyteller is to thoroughly enjoy the process. Choose a genre that sparks your interest and keep writing. If the ideas flow without much thought, if the characters develop without conscious effort and if you allow the story to venture in a direction you did not plan – that is a successful storyteller.  A fortunate and victorious writer is a vessel, clicking at the keys, unaware of what may happen next.

I would like to add a few points. It is never too late. My first novel was published in my 6th decade, just 3 months ago. I am scheduled for library workshops, book signings and a reading at a Woman’s Empowerment Club. I am currently writing a screenplay for a community theater.  Don’t give up. You need to find a publisher or agent who matches your genre and style. Continue sending query letter. Submit short stories, drabbles and full length novels to magazines for name recognition.

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