Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Solomon Petchers. A teacher, zombie slayer and author of children’s books. Not just about zombies, but zombies and vampires.. In one book!
Hi Solomon, so being a teacher, was it a natural choice writing for kids?
I’ve been a teacher for 24 years (mostly in elementary and middle schools 4-8th grade) and I’ve read some really good literature over the years with my students either prescribed by the district or in literature circles.The kids were always drawn to the scarier books like R. L. Stine or Mary Downing Hahn to name a few. So the audience of kids and young adults are right in my wheelhouse. I mean, why should the adults have all the fun. As I develop my skill set, I tend to cater to the slightly older kids in the Young Adult category. Also, I grew up in a large family with lots of cousins. We would spend hours scaring the heck out of each other. So, with my upbringing and my career, this audience is a very natural choice for me.
What would be the main difference in writing for adults or children?
The difference between writing for children and adults would be in the content. Although in my own reading, I don’t mind some gratuitous gore. I welcome it. But, being a teacher for so long and a father of three kids, I don’t find it necessary to go over the top for children and young adult horror or ghost stories. The other difference is I think if children and young adults can walk away thinking my stories are so much more than zombies, vampires, or ghosts and there’s a lesson to be learned, then it’s I’ve done my job as a storyteller. My stories tend to be more about friendships and acceptance.
So in your bio I read that your first book had been on the shelves for 20 years, how were you able to get back to that story?
Man, this is something I’ve really had to come to terms with. So, I’ve always loved storytelling and writing. In my freshman year of college, I took a creative writing class I was really excited about. After turning in a short story I worked really hard on, my professor came to me and told me, “Solomon, you should consider choosing a career that didn’t involve writing words.” Man, I was deflated! Talk about the power of words! Anyway, fast forward a few years around 1996, I’d written some short stories and finished A Ghost in the Attic. I didn’t let anyone read it. I printed it off and stored it in a box. My professor’s words still sat at the forefront of my mind. There was no way it would ever get farther than that. In 2017, I found it in one of the moving boxes filled with miscellaneous stuff in it. I read through it and said, “Why not?” I had to retype the entire thing because it was printed out. After a lot of help and editing, A Ghost in the Attic was independently published in 2019.
That’s a terrible thing for a professor to say about someone’s passion. Writing is an art, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What advice would you have for people wanted to get into writing?
It was crazy. I remember it feeling like a gut-punch. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty grammatically, and I don’t even think she got past that. Ironically, I wasn’t a stellar English student. Advice? Writing is certainly a grind, especially in the beginning of a project, but if you have a story to tell, write it. Upon hearing that I’m published, people often tell me they have always wanted to write a book, but don’t know how. I tell them to just start. Words turn into sentences. Sentences turn into paragraphs. Paragraphs turn into chapters. Before you know it, chapters turn into books! But, it will never happen unless you start. Once you get going, it takes on a life of its own.
That is very true. So your book “Feasters: An Apocalyptic Tale” had zombies and vampires in it, why the combination?
Ha ha! The short answer is why not! Honestly, I’d never heard of combining zombies and vampires before. I thought how much fun would this be? Zombies are my favorite and I’ve always wanted to write in the genre, but I wanted it to be non-traditional. As I was writing Feasters, the story developed into a social awareness piece where the Vampires were discriminated against by humans so much so that legislation was put into place. Some unscrupulous scientists set out to try and eradicate vampires. In their effort, the zombie apocalypse happened wiping out both humans and vampires except for the few “lucky” enough to survive. When our teenage Vampire heroes meet up with some humans who aren’t what they appear to be, they are forced to make decisions. Save them or serve them up to the Feasters. Like every good zombie story, zombies tend to weave their way through the story and pop up when least expected. It becomes more a man vs man (vampire) story instead. I just finished the sequel, and the stakes are even higher!
That is a very interesting take on the genre. Are there any other genres you would think mix well with zombies?
Well, I’ve wondered about advanced zombies (zombies that adapt over time) and aliens. I see this more as a comedy. You know, having traveled light years to conquer Earth and subjugate humans only to find mindless zombies that won’t submit because they’re id driven with primitive desires only to feed. In the end, the few aliens left escape Earth but little do they know a few zombies are hitching a ride.
What are your plans for the future? Will writing always be a hobby?
My plans are to attempt to churn out a book every 12-16 months and see what happens. I love teaching, for sure, but a part of me would love to write full-time. There aren’t enough hours in the day to write and promote and design as it is.
Very true, people often don’t realize how much time all of this takes. Are you also a zombie prepper? Or were you among those scavenging for toilet paper this time last years as well?
Man, was that crazy! Really, toilet paper was the first thing on peoples’ minds? It wasn’t in my top 10 items I’d use for survival, but it makes sense. Think about how bad that would be to run out of toilet paper. Although, I will say, we did barter toilet paper with some neighbors for some other useful items. It was funny because at the beginning of quarantine, friends, family, and fans who read Feasters reached out to me and said, “You predicted this!” I got a kick out of that. I’m not a zombie prepper, however, as we know there should be two types of plans for every house. Know what to do when there’s a fire, but more importantly, know what to do when the apocalypse happens.
That concludes our interview, we’re very happy to host this and have Solomon share his story in the community. To check out his work, please follow any of the links below!