Shells Walter Spins a Dead Practice at the Donor Center
After helping found Sonar4 Publications, Shells Walter took a step back to, essentially, get back to doing the one things she loves: writing. With a new book out and some other projects going on, Shells took a few minutes out of her schedule to come into the Donor Center. As Herbie took her blood, I chatted with Shells about the past, present and the hopeful future.
AJ: Who is Shells Walter?
SW: It would depend on who you talk to (Laughs). I think, for me, I carry several so called ‘hats.’ In many regards I enjoy having several different things to act on, be part of. I write, cook, paint, volunteer, conduct interviews with great authors, I home school my two girls, freelance write, and a lot of other things. I think a big part of my life is the chaos. I believe if everything was what is considered ‘normal’ for most, would be strange for me. Like writing for example, I can’t think of a more chaotic thing to want to do and writing is a big part of my life since I was 11 years old.
In some cases people don’t know how something impacts them in their own lives until it happens. If you know what I’m saying. With writing, it has allowed me to release a lot that has happened in my life or continues to happen. I wouldn’t say I don’t express emotions, just asks my husband (Laughs), but certain actions from emotions you may not be able to do in real life. I think that’s why out of every genre that I have written in, Horror always attracts me. The Horror genre allows for such extremes with no barriers.
AJ: Agreed. Writing is an outlet for so many people, myself included. It’s nice to know that I can kill someone in a short story and not go to jail for it!
SW: Oh yeah, so true. Sometimes we just need that outlet, some days more than others.
AJ: You say you’ve been writing since the age of 11? I hated writing at that age. How did you get started at such a young age?
SW: I’ve heard kid’s cringe at the thought of writing anything. My daughter, who is 8, hates to write. For me it started at an early age because of an occurrence and randomly. I had started puberty early and was a sight (Laughs). I had an awful perm, bloomed out, including pimples that decorated my face. Let’s just say kids were cruel. It was an outlet for me to write. It happened strangely enough one day when I was walking into the cafeteria for lunch. I had an urge to just write something. It was the start of a poem. My poem was about a horse and to this day I still have it.
Soon after that I wrote more poetry, not as sweet, mind you, and certainly not with horses. It was like a diary for me and given when I was young, we still wrote mostly on paper. It helped me get through a lot. Once I started reading Poe and Lovecraft, it influenced my poetry into even darker realms. I had school counselors finding my work that other students took and wanted to know if I was suicidal. I wasn’t of course, nor ever have I been, but guess it caused quite a stir. After that particular moment in my life I have been writing ever since.
AJ: I’ve often said children are crueler than adults. They hurt without thinking of the consequences or really even caring–until, of course, they are hurt.
I was one of those children who loathed writing and never used it as an outlet back then. Now, however…
Writing from age eleven on, when did you think that maybe you should start taking writing in a different direction, maybe looking at getting published?
SW: I always had written for myself and publishing just never came into view for a long time. That’s the one thing that, at times, we forget to write for ourselves, being so consumed with the publishing industry I think that people loose some of themselves. Not to say of course that writing a story for an anthology isn’t good, just I think people are so worried about getting published they forget why they started writing in the first place. But getting back to the question, I seemed to have trailed off a bit.
I didn’t start trying to get published or even want for it until a few years ago. I went through the traditional route and discovered several good and nasty things about mainstream publishing. That’s when I started also looking at the Independent publishers and seeing that many times they care more about the authors. Not to say all mainstream is bad, but I saw a real warmth with several ezines and companies.
I still write for myself now and even at times need to kick myself in the rear for forgetting why I started writing. Do I wish to have my work published, yes, but like J.D. Salinger said, and I’m not quoting exact, but he said something like every time you have your work published you give up a part of yourself. I believe that whole heartily. Every piece of work has a part of me in it somewhere and that is why my work I choose where it fits instead of the other way around.
AJ: I have a friend—just one, mind you—and he has mentioned several times that writing from the heart is what makes good writing great. The other thing is staying true to yourself during the entire process. I think, as writers, we don’t just lose sight of why we started writing, but who we are because of where we want to be.
Can you share with us a couple of the differences you noticed between the mainstream and Indie publishers? Why do you feel that the Indie publishers care more for the authors?
SW: Based on my experiences and research that I have done, few things I have noticed is that Indie Publishers are a smaller knit group. Their companies consist a lot of times of less than 30 people. For me, with most I have dealt with, this gives a more family-like atmosphere. You might not need to go through 20 other people to get an answer or have to wait so many months for one. Mainstream publishers of course are bigger, tend to look at the bottom line totally and may or may not take a risk on a new author. I mean we can understand that a business needs to make money in order to survive, but how many of the same idea minus a bit of a change can we read?
Indie publishers also have more invested in a book. They tend to have their own money outside the business put into cover art, sending to a printer even if it is someplace that helps them with that like CreateSpace and more or less may not make the ‘big’ bucks out of a book. From what I have seen and experienced Indie publishers take more risks with new authors. They tend to look at the story first, compared to what makes them the money. At times I can see where it would be hard to survive in the publishing world in doing that and have also seen a lot of small presses close because they can’t compete with the masses of the mainstream publishers.
Personally, there are some good people out in the mainstream publishing business. I can’t say all the companies are like this. The Indies are up and coming. As more and more of us want a ‘personal’ touch to handling our work, authors are going to go to the Indies. Would I go to a Mainstream publisher again? I can’t say I would never do that again. I will say I tend to head toward the small presses at this time.
AJ: If I’m correct, you speak from experience from both sides of the publishing fence, right? As a writer seeking to be published and as a publisher seeking out fresh new talent, via Sonar4 Publications. I could be wrong, so correct me if I am, but you are one of the founders of Sonar4 Publications and one of the reasons you went into this venture was to help new authors who the mainstream publications wouldn’t give a sniff to. Am I right or am I way off base here?
SW: Yes, you would be correct. A few years back Sonar4 Publications came about because of that reason. As a writer I was frustrated with getting the form letters from big publishing companies who may not even have looked at my writing because I wasn’t a big named author. I was also seeing a lot of good stories by people that were getting thrown to the wind because they didn’t fit the bottom line, so to speak. The whole purpose to Sonar4 Publications was to give the author a chance based on the story.
Of course currently, and it has been for awhile, Sonar4 Publications transferred ownership. I now help only with the charity anthologies or organizations we work with and at times help with book reviews for Sonar4 Landing Dock Review site.
AJ: Now that you are no longer spearheading the Sonar4 operations are you focusing more on your writing?
SW: (Laughs) Interesting way to put it. Yes, I made the choice to focus more on my writing. It was becoming clear that no matter how much I was multi-tasking—something I had learned early on—that I still didn’t feel I was spending enough time on my writing. So I gave the company over and said it was time to focus on me, the author. I felt this choice was the best for me. So far it has worked out great. I’m trying to promote my work as much as I can and writing with the passion I thought I had lost. Which was hard on me when I had felt for awhile I couldn’t write. Something was missing. I do believe at the moment it wasn’t just a time factor, but something more. I think at times we forget about ourselves in doing other things and that is when like writing, it can be lost. Also, even though people had looked at me more as a publisher, I felt at times they were forgetting I was a writer first. And I think somewhere along the line I had forgotten I was a writer too. When I finally snapped out of that feeling, it was like a part of me was reattached.
Now I jump into writing as a whole, as I used to a long time ago. Writing about zombies, vampires and anything else I can get words to. I have also written some poetry, which ironically enough I hadn’t done in ages, even though that is what started my writing adventure.
AJ: So how is the writing process going?
SW: The writing process isn’t going too bad. I have a few short stories that I am going to be putting out soon, or submitting out to places in hopes of publication. It now boils down to the time factor. Do I have enough time to work on what I wish to, or will something else come up to disrupt that? I also just turned in my side of a novella three part project, each one writing one novella based on a short story of mine called Tooth Decay, will be published by Wicked East Press. Jessica Weiss and Matt Nord are my two co-authors on that book called Eat or be Eaten. I am currently working on a new zombie tale. I’m also looking into writing more Bizarro Horror as well.
AJ: You have a book out right now. Would you mind telling us about it?
Ah, Dead Practices. This was a book that an idea sparked about me wanting to write something about a lawyer and zombies. Jerrod Brown was commissioned to do the artwork for that. And when he sent it back it was perfect. The main character’s name became his first name and the story just flowed from there. They say a picture can say a thousand words and that cover art did just that.
About the story itself, Jerrod is a zombie, yes, and a lawyer. But he is called what they refer to as a ‘Zombie Citizen.’ He was transformed into a workable and socially adaptable zombie, acting like any human except he decays and needs lots of super-glue to hold himself together. The story starts out with him acquiring a client and is about to work with that when his friend, Rusty, who is also a Zombie Citizen and a police officer, tells of the burning of his station and that it was caused by Jerrod’s client and what looks like an ‘old time’ zombie attack. Jerrod and Rusty then go on an adventure to track down Jerrod’s client and come across other things that go into the political realm.
Dead Practices is not a typical munch and crunch story. It has zombies thinking and also has some humor in it.
Sonar4 Publications website is selling it at its website:
As well as Amazon in both paperback and kindle and other online retail stores.
I just so enjoyed writing this story. It is one of my favorites.
AJ: Zombies and humor make a pretty good combination as we’ve seen in various movies over the last couple of years. (Shaun of the Dead for starters) I hope the novel does well.
SW: I agree. I think writers at times are afraid to put humor into horror thinking it might damage the image of what horror represents.
AJ: Have you received any reviews back on it, yet?
SW: I have gotten some reviews back and they have been pretty good, one not so good but that comes with the territory. Though a lot have labeled it as Young Adult because there isn’t a whole lot of munching and crunching. Then again does every zombie tale need that all the time? (Laughs)
AJ: I don’t think there always needs to be a lot of blood and gore to make the zombie genre work—look at The Walking Dead series. It’s more character driven than the let all the zombies eat and destroy story lines.
Let’s move on to the three part novella you mentioned earlier. Can you tell us a little more about that? How did this come about?
SW: Sure, I would love to. Eat or be Eaten came from a story that was published in The Monsters Next Door ezine when it was still online. The Tooth Decay story mixed zombies and vampires competing for food, which were the humans. The zombies were too busy turning the humans into the undead and the vampires were running out of their food source. That was published a while ago. Early this summer I believe, I wanted to expand that story. Wicked East Press was thinking about doing combination novella sets, with at least 2 people or more. So I approached Jessica Weiss who is the owner of Wicked East Press with the idea. She loved it and suggested we find another person. I contacted Matt Nord and he came on board.
Eat or be Eaten is set in a different time period than the original Tooth Decay story, more of present day. It also does focus on what the Tooth Decay theme was but with a different twist. Jessica had also suggested putting a third part in there, the human side. See what we are doing is each one of us writes in third person from a different perspective. I chose the vampire side, Matt will be writing from the zombie’s perspective and Jessica chose the human side. It will end up being the three of our novellas in one set.
It has been so much fun working on this project with these two.
AJ: That’s a great idea. I’ve heard of the shared anthologies and collaborations before, but I don’t think I have quite heard of anything like that. Very original.
Okay, Shells Walter, we’re going to be taking the needles out in a moment, but before we let you go, is there anything else we should know about you? Maybe some links to a website, Facebook or to places we can find some of your work?
SW: The needles, (ponders that for a moment)
and other online retail stores. You can find some of my work on Static Movement Ezine and also some of their anthologies, my work appears in other ezines and anthologies all listed on my website which I try to update as much as possible.
AJ: Shells, this has been an enjoyable interview and Herbie and I wish you much luck in your future. Keep writing and, yeah, watch out for Herbie on the way out. He likes to steer our guests into the kidney donation room. I don’t think you want to go in there with him…
SW: Thanks so much. It was fun chatting with you. And I will make sure that I don’t get persuaded by Herbie…
(Herbie’s Note: I’ve always wondered how people can laugh with needles poked in various places on their bodies. I guess it tickles for them.)