Frank Zubek joins us today to talk about his short story collection Guarding Andrew Gates.
How old are you?
55. Earned every day of it.
Where do you currently live?
Tell us a little bit about your life.
Lived in Ohio most of my life. Joined the Army in 75 and got out in 78 (have regretted it ever since) and then spent most of my working life in warehouses or retail. Still hoping to be able to hit it big creatively and quit the daily grind. The odds are against it but it has happened to others.
When did you first start writing?
Way back in the early seventies. I would write out stories in longhand in notebooks.
What was your very first story about?
I wrote a fan fiction story based on the characters from MASH. In the story I had a load of bullets get mis-delivered to the 4077th. Hawkeye signs for them and then has to figure out how to get rid of them. It’s called The Lives We Save. It can be seen both on a MASH fan page called Best Care Anywhere in addition to my short story collection, Guarding Andrew Gates. It’s my first published piece online. I think it was ‘96.
Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
Not yet. (grins)
Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?
Actually there is. I wrote a piece, which got published on Every Day Fiction, called Just A Theory.
Its about a man named Nelson, who performs a month long experiment where he figures that if he does one small bad thing per day- he might extend his life at the back end. He figures this since many people he knows who don’t follow all of society’s rules seem to be healthier and live longer, while many of the people he knows who were good and decent all their life and died young. The twist of the story is that with just a few days left in this month long experiment, he gets caught by his neighbor and has to confess what he is doing. And yes, I have found myself doing little bad things once in a while with the same thought as Nelson- Hoping to live a bit longer on the back end. What the hell, you know? Couldn’t hurt.
Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
Stephen King. His work ethic is stunning. Plus many of the classic writers just because they lived in an age without typewriters and it all had be written in longhand. Must have been a pain to struggle through re-writes without the magic of a computer!
What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
High school and then the usual hard knocks of life itself. She is the best teacher out there as well the most unforgiving.
How much research time customarily goes into your projects?
Not much, but when I do it’s always several different sources off the internet. I don’t JUST rely on Wikipedia, great place that it is anyway.
Who is your favorite literary character?
James Bond, but probably for the wrong reasons. I admire that the character, as originally written by Ian Fleming, has managed to remain a strong and interesting and financially successful character after all these years despite the fact that a handful of different writers from different backgrounds have taken the reigns in the past couple of decades.
Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
Nick Crowell. A Cleveland Detective who gets shot in the gut while chasing a suspect through a cemetery. After he recovers, he finds that people with strange, Twilight Zone type problems come to him for help even though there is very little he can do for them. This frustrates him. He was first seen in the now defunct Demon Minds e-magazine in 2007 and then I published his short stories in a self published e-book called Empath. It sold about 100 copies. But I felt it could do better so I took it off market and plan a novel in October called A Strange Life. A short story that features him, called, A Lack Of Combustion, can be found in my collection, Guarding Andrew Gates. The plot is about him taking a case about spontaneous human combustion.
If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?
Oh, I have no idea. I still have more life to experience (hopefully). Besides I doubt it would have that big of an audience.
Tell us about your featured book.
Guarding Andrew Gates is a collection of a number of short stories that I wrote in the past ten years. A few of them have been published too. They are mostly adult literary fiction. Each story went out at least three times and most of them got rejected for one reason opr another. Which is fine I mean, that’s the business. Hanging in there and improving you craft until you do get good enough to be published, which I have.
Gates is composed of 15 short stories about common people handling everyday problems. (Except the Crowell story- that has a touch of the paranormal.)
Why did you write that?
At the time (ten years ago) I had read that many writers get their start this way. Writing a few dozen short stories and then publishing them to get reader interest. Besides, I have always enjoyed reading other collections and I wanted to try my hand at it. And short stories are not the same as full- length novels. You have a very limited amount of pages in which to flesh out several characters and then get them into trouble and then wrap everything up in a nice yellow ribbon at the ending.
Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
No. I just hope they enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
What is your favorite season of the year, and what makes it so?
Fall. I guess since I myself am experiencing the Fall of my own life with just thirty years left.
When you think of the word “Writer” what comes to mind?
A creator. A story-teller. Someone who can do things few others can. And of course, the ideal wish is to be able to do it full time and make a living from it.
If you could pick one thing about yourself that would be passed onto your (imaginary/actual) child, what would it be?
Remembering that you should leave a good legacy. If more people would think about what it is people will say about them after they are gone, maybe there would be less trouble in the world. As it is everyone seems to be only interested in the here and now (specifically, THEIR here and now) and how much can I grab for myself?
How about one thing about yourself that you absolutely wouldn’t want passed on?
My cynicism. But then the world hasn’t proven that I should give it up quite yet.
If you had to live in another time period, which one would you choose?
The fifties. We lost all of that sweet innocence in ’63.
Name one movie that always has a huge effect on you. Why do you think that is?
Rocky. Sylvester Stallone wrote that film on his own. And despite the odds, he had the guts to say that he wanted to star in it too. He was willing to walk away from it (and hundreds of thousands of dollars) if they hired anyone else to star in it. Both the film and the making of that film are classic stories. It’s one of those lightning in a bottle moments in film history. And then of course he was able to put a very nice, touching cap to that whole franchise with the final film, Rocky Balboa. It’s a long-term masterpiece.
What is your favorite thing to do when you have a day to yourself?
Check out a movie at the theater and then have a quiet dinner or sit down in the park and read a new book by a favorite author.
When were you most scared in your life, and why?
My car stalled out in a thunderstorm once. Dead center of the middle of the highway with traffic zipping past me at 50 mph (possibly faster!). I was afraid to leave the car for fear of getting hit. Anyway once I got rear- ended I got out and made it to the berm and then ran to call police. After all was said and done and the other guy’s car got towed, I got back into the car, tried to start it, and the stupid thing cranked right up. I hate cars!
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
First thing you’d do if you were handed a million dollars?
Pay the bills. Quit the job. And go on a long, long world cruise. And upon returning I would keep writing.
You’ve been given the opportunity to give a televised speech which will be broadcast on all networks, what do you speak about?
Peace. It’ll probably be a short speech with the lowest Nielsen ratings ever. (grin)
What do you most want out of your life? Your ultimate ambition, as it were.
To live another thirty years at least. I’ll handle the rest of the details. I just want the chance at the time.
What inspires you?
A new book by an author I never heard of. Or a really good independent movie with a really good screenplay. I like going online in those cases to look up interviews given by authors or screenwriters or movie directors. It’s kind of a hobby to get into their heads and see what they were thinking at that period of their life when they were creating that particular creative piece of work. It gives me the juice to think up new ideas of my own.
More about Frank can be found on his blog: whatbrickwall.blogspot.com/