Interview with horror/sci-fi author Barbara Custer

Dark fiction/sci-fi
author Barbara Custer is here to tell us a bit about her novel Steel Rose.
Barbara
is going to award one randomly drawn commenter at every stop a backlist e-book
City of Brotherly Death or Twilight Healer – or one of
her Night to Dawn magazines, and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will
receive a $15.00 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, winner’s
choice. To increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments.
Bio:
Barbara lives
near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory
therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright
flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. Her short stories have
appeared in numerous small press magazines. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.
Other books
by Barbara include Twilight Healer
and City of Brotherly Death. She’s
also coauthored Alien Worlds and Starship Invasions with Tom Johnson. She
enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending
it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin,
Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar
balloons, and you’ll find her.
Welcome, Barbara. Please tell us about
your current release.

The story
opens with protagonist Alexis searching for a cure for her debilitating
illness. Her search lands her in open combat with zombies and renegade aliens. Yeron,
her doctor and a Kryszka refugee, develops a drug to control her arthritis, but
her weakness prohibits her from handling most weapons. Yeron is determined to
practice human medicine, but most people fear him. Alexis, his patient, is
afraid, too…until his seductive attentions profoundly arouse her. Although
Alexis is an adult, she has growing to do if she wants to survive, and she
learns painful lessons about love and war. The Kryszka soldiers and zombies who
break into the hospital are hungry. So very hungry. How will she fight them?
What inspired you to write this book?
Before I
wrote it, I had severe arthritis in both wrists and needed reconstruction for
both. I had Walter Mitty fantasies of science coming up with an easy operation
or drug that would rebuild cartilage. Yeron’s clinical trials were among those
fantasies. I was also caring for my husband who has Parkinson’s disease. During
that year, I read about Efren Saldivar, a respiratory therapist who’d been
convicted of killing six patients with Pavulon, a drug that stops a patient’s
respirations when they’re about to go on a ventilator. All of this left me a lot of material to write Steel Rose and a sequel.
Excerpt:
Shattering
glass. Plodding footsteps. IV poles crashed to the floor. Glass shards tinkled,
punctuated by low-pitched groaning from the rear elevator, the exit Hoffman had
claimed to seal.
“Dear
God, help us.” Alexis reached for her gun.
“What
are you doing? Guns are forbidden on this floor, and…Oh, my God!” Ms. Grese
cupped her hands over her mouth. Her authoritarian demeanor vanished, replaced
by horror-stricken pallor. “Where are the officers?”
“You
think our visitors give a shit?” Alexis scuttled toward the door, feeling
vulnerable. The vest didn’t protect her face or hands, but the intruders
wouldn’t care about that either. She shoved Ms. Grese ahead of her, pushing
with her mind, Yeron beside her. “Run!” she hollered.
As
the creatures poured through the ward, a stench crawled down her throat, the
stink of things many days dead. Moaning drowned out the sound of Ms. Grese’s
cries, a continual chant of “hungry.”
Skeletal
figures in tattered rags skirted around Mark, who fired at any who got too
close. Their tendons flashed gray against cold cobwebs of rib and knuckle. The
flesh that quivered through widened skin tears had the sheen of rotting meat.
The skin resembled cracked leather. Weeds sprouted on some of the figures’
necks and hair, the way they did in her nightmares. They made their way to the
desk, where two nurses sat. The two women jumped up, both screaming. One of
them opened fire with a Glock.
The
armed woman was her mother.
What exciting story are you working on
next?
Blood Moon Rising, the sequel to Steel Rose. Alexis goes on the road with Yeron, Shively, Mark,
Tyrone, and Johnny to kick some serious zombie ass. But they run into
complications and lethal injuries. Alexis’s beloved mother gets caught in the
crossfire. The romance between Alexis and Yeron blossoms but before they can
make any commitments, they have to stay alive. I hope to finish this book
before the year’s up.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer
?
I tried my
hand at writing in 1976, when I was going through a rough patch. I had no
college at the time, and the writing quality was raw. I couldn’t afford to go
back to school. Fast forward to 1990, after my mother’s death, Kelly, a collage
instructor, encouraged me to journal and write stories to turn over the grief I
felt over my mother’s death. The stories began to appear in small press
magazines. At that point, I took my writing seriously.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I have a
day job, so I make time to write in the evenings and on my days off. Writing
could be blogging, writing stuff for the Night to Dawn Magazine, and of course,
my work in progress. I get up about five for the day job. I eat supper when I
come home. That leaves me about two to three hours for writing in the evening.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I love
Mylar balloons. They take on a life of their own, and some of my stories,
including Steel Rose, have scenes
involving Mylar balloons. Sometimes I’m at my best when I keep a well filled
Mylar balloon standing over me. The balloon is like an instructor making sure I
concentrate on my work and not daydream.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
I wanted to
be an actress. I fantasized about being a nurse, too, but I really wanted to be
in the movies.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

Well, I’m gonna let you in on something I rarely discuss at interviews. Most
people who write horror are trying to face secret fears, and that goes for me,
too. I’ve feared skeletons since I was ten, when I saw a mummy up close and
personal, sitting up in a sarcophagus, waving her arm. Later on, I’d realized
that the entertainer was using props to make the body move, but at the time,
all I understood was that this mummy was reaching for me. I tore out of that
pavilion fast. You can get the details about my encounter here.
Fast forward
to college, Kelly taught us in an anatomy room, which had a skeleton in the
back. Each time I showed up for class, I draped my coat and scarf over the
skeleton so I wouldn’t have to look at it. She recommended that I start
journaling about my fear, and I began turning out short stories about zombies
and walking dead.
Thanks, Barbara. Readers, don’t forget about the giveaway gifts! Leave an e-mail with your comment for a chance to win.


6 thoughts on “Interview with horror/sci-fi author Barbara Custer

  1. Andra Lyn says:

    Wow sorry to hear about your arthritis, but at least it lead to something great!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  2. Emily says:

    My mom has arthritis, and it's no fun. I'm glad you used that though to write an awesome book.

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

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