#amreading – Meet author Robert “Chazz” Chute. Like Zombies, Apocalypses, Dark Humor? He’s got you covered

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Hello Daily Fandom Fans! Welcome to another new series we are rolling out. #amreading. I am an indie author myself and have come to know several other authors over the last year who write truly incredible stories. Most of us who are hooked into shows are also hooked on books and I wanted to share some authors with you that you may never see in a book store because they are self published, just like me. 

Robert “Chazz” Chute never seems to stop, whether it be writing, blogging or tweeting he’s always up to something. He has two huge book series – This Plague of Days and The Hit Man series along with some stand alone works as well. This Plague of Days is what first got me interesting in talking to him. It’s an Apocalyptic story told mainly from the viewpoint of an autistic boy which and he originally released it in a serialized version, calling his books seasons 1, 2 etc. Once he finished he collected all of them together into one book. It was an intriguing concept that I wanted to learn more about. Chazz loves the dark side, his influences are King, Vonnegut, Palahniuk and Goldman. That should give you an idea of what you are in for when you read Chazz’s work. 

You can find his site at AllThatChazz.com and his books are on Amazon.  He was sweet enough to give me a sneak peek into an unpublished work which is at the end of this interview. I hope you enjoy! There will be more of these to come! 

What was the genesis of the idea for This Plague of Days? Was this an idea you had for a long time before writing it or was it that middle of night flash of genius?

This Plague of Days was more of a process than a flash. I’d written it as one novel that was about one plague. I love The Stand and all sorts of apocalyptic stories. The first pass took about ten months of me in a coffee shop every morning writing furiously. I was happy with what I was doing, but I needed more action and to explore bigger themes, beyond one family facing the end of the world. It was very character driven at first it didn’t take place across continents. With the rewrite, it evolved into a much bigger disaster story with longer story arcs. That rewrite of one novel became a trilogy and the stakes climbed to epic saga levels. Patience and not being satisfied paid off.

How did you approach writing from an autistic boy’s viewpoint?

Jamie was a challenge to write not because he is on the spectrum but because he so rarely speaks. I loved writing his POV because his take on the world is unique. I love all my characters, though, even the evil ones. This Plague of Days was as much fun to write as it is to read. If it isn’t fun for me to write, I know there’s a problem and that book doesn’t have wings to fly yet.

The concept of serialization intrigues me. After I heard about yours I have been debating writing one of my own. What was the most challenging part? The most fun part? How complicated was the marketing?

With pre-orders now on available on Amazon, it might be a little easier than when I did it. The serial format demands more of readers and you need more covers. I wouldn’t be eager to do it again because of some of the expenses and complexities, but the books wouldn’t make the splash they are making now if I hadn’t started the series as a serial. The most frustrating thing is a few readers won’t get it and there is drop off as the serial progresses. Some readers just hate the serial format. Now that I’ve released the This Plague of Days Omnibus, a lot of readers who were waiting to get the whole saga at once are now on board and happy.

You are always updating your twitter and sites. How do you keep up with everything? Best tools to use? Apps?

I used to use tools like Hootsuite but now it’s easier for me just to do updates in stolen moments. I always have my iPod with me so I’ll tweet and retweet with that. I used to update all my blogs more often. Now that the archive is so huge, I just write new posts when I’m sure I have something new to say. Blogs are kind of dead, anyway. I use more of my time now writing new books.

Chazzwrites.com really connected me with people I needed to know with, though. I made friends among other authors. I got to talk to Hugh Howey on the Cool People Podcast and my articles on publishing got me on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. Being involved in the community got me more information and contacts, so I got into a box set with Mark Tufo, Scott Nicholson and Armand Rosamilia, for instance. I began blogging about writing out of passion and it all grew out of that. I’d like to say it was planned, but the truth is, I fall into things. Backwards.

What has been your favorite part of any of the books you have written so far? Best line or scene you’ve written?

That’s too tough a question. I have favorite stories, I guess. There is a story about getting away with murder in Self-help for Stoners that’s funny and clever. There are many award winning stories in Murders Among Dead Trees that may be my best (and most ignored) work. I like the parts of This Plague of Days that make readers cheer and cry. I’m always most excited about the next book. I hope to have The Haunting Lessons out by Christmas, for instance. There are big action sequences in there, though there’s a sweetness in writing about first love that is very effective, too. Could I tell you which of my children I love more? That’s a slightly easier question.

Is there a character that has taken a completely different turn than you originally planned for it? Characters that you discarded and wrote out or became more important than you planned?

Oh, yeah! I outline very little if at all before I dive in. At the beginning of This Plague of Days, the two little girls are essentially there to be protected from the apocalypse. By the time we get to the third book of the series, they take on a role that is much more significant. My rule is, no character knows they are wearing a red shirt and the reader shouldn’t know who is expendable, either. Every character is important and fleshed out so if somebody dies, it always matters.

What is the most challenging thing for you writing wise? Fight scenes? Continuity? Love scenes?

Love scenes are easy to make hilarious, but it takes real emotion to elevate it. (If you elevate it first, then you can get back to hilarious and it’s okay.) I’ve fought a lot so I find fight scenes are very easy going. I’d say shaving all the little puzzle pieces so the continuity fits is the toughest part. Those microscopic details, especially when you’re writing big and long, can be mind numbing.

NaNoWriMo – What drove you to want to write a novel in a month?

I didn’t jump in for the first few days, actually. I figured, hey, I write a couple of thousand words a day. I got this. Every month is NaNo for me. However, I’m friends with a lot of writers and they were all in. I had a book I needed to write because the book I’d planned wasn’t coming together the way I wanted. I have a time travel book on my hard drive that I’d been writing, but it got too complex and into the weeds of quantum theory and the construction of the universe. Until I’m happy with it and it’s tamed, I won’t let it out of its cage. However, I had a great idea for a book after a publisher asked me for a story for his anthology. That story became The Haunting Lessons.

You seem to love the darker, grittier storylines. What pulls you towards them?

Um. That’s how my mind works. I thought about doing stand up very seriously. If I was a professional comedian, I’d do pretty dark material, too. Horror and comedy lend themselves to the kind of twists and observations I build into books, so that’s how it works for me. I write darker stuff because that’s all I see. If I don’t find what’s funny in the darkness, I’d struggle with depression much more than I do.

The Hit Man Series – Can you tell us a little bit about it? How many books do you have planned for it?

Jesus Diaz is a Cuban assassin who appeared first in Self-help for Stoners. The Hit Man books work backward from that short story. He’s a funny guy and a little less competent than he’d like to think he is. He became an assassin, but he’s not a sociopath. I’d say he’s messed up for some very good reasons. Readers seem to love him despite himself. (My wife, I’m sure, relates.)

I love writing the crime novels because Jesus is always making a joke while falling out of the frying pan and into the napalm. Like all my books, nothing predictable happens. I have three books in that series and plans for two more. (I use the word “plan” very loosely when it comes to writing.) The novels only appear to be meticulously plotted. I frequently go to bed wondering how Jesus will get himself out of trouble in the morning. The answer always appears, though, sometimes in my sleep.

Do you find the Omnibus versions or the individual books sell better for you?

The Omnibus sells best because they’re a great deal and people love series. Some readers don’t trust a writer they don’t know yet, so they hold back until they know for sure they can read the complete story at once.

Who are your major influences?

William Goldman, first. People know his screenplays (e.g. The Princess Bride) but they should know him for his novels. Just when readers think they know what comes next, that’s when he’s got you. There’s always a surprise. After Goldman? Stephen King for prose, Chuck Palahniuk for the quirky, realistic context. Kurt Vonnegut informs my sensibility. We’re both disappointed humanists.

For newer authors (like me) what is the best advice you can give to gain traction for your work?

Write more books. Don’t do what I did. Focus on one popular genre to dominate. I think that’s good advice, but my interests are kind of all over the place so that’s advice I couldn’t take myself. I write for myself first. That’s the best part of my writing career: taking notes on all the witty things my invisible friends say as they pursue daring exploits.

Future projects?

The Haunting Lessons might be the series that takes off and gets attention to all of my books. No one ever really knows what the one book will be that hits the avalanche tipping point. I’ve heard rumblings about making my books into movies but until it really comes together, I’ll just keep writing. The writing and the reading is what it’s all about for me. I get real joy out of a good turn of phrase or twist of plot. I’ve got lots of writing projects I noodle with at one time, but I think The Haunting Lessons Series is going to take a big chunk out of 2015, at least. Then I’ll reevaluate and we’ll see what happens next. I’m all about Next.

Final thoughts?

If anyone who sees this loves a book by any author, please take a couple minutes to review it and let the world know. Those happy reviews share the joy and help new readers find good stories. We don’t have enough readers in the world. We have to nurture that pool and stir it up a little so algae doesn’t take over the cerebrospinal fluid our brains float in.

A few reviews on his works:

On Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes:

“Chazz ranks among the top tier of our generation’s storytellers.” ~ Alex Kimmell, Author of The Key to Everything

On This Plague of Days:

“Just when you think you’ve got Robert Chazz Chute and his zombies figured out, he ups the ante…it’ll kill you.” – Armand Rosamilia, author of the Dying Days series

Here’s a sneak peek at The Haunting Lessons, coming this Christmas:

Lesson 1: when you see your dead boyfriend standing in the tall grass with no arms, tell no one. The normies do not take this sort of information well or lightly.

The denial will come first and you’ll really want to believe Mama’s right. It’s grief. It was a trick of the light. It was a reaction to the drugs that the pharmaceutical company failed to list on the label: May cause drowsiness, suicidal ideation and seeing zombie boyfriends. Objects in the drug-distorted mirror may be weirder than they appear.

But zombie isn’t the right word, is it? Ghost, wraith, specter…dead boyfriend who won’t move on. It puts a whole new dimension on stalking.

Lesson 2: when they send you to the doctor, he won’t necessarily be sympathetic. Dr. Wilson was one of those old school, country docs. He was old enough to have pronounced time of death on a hundred accidents out in farm country: dangerous equipment, chain saw follies, drunk driving on gravelly country roads. Unless they’ve driven at high speeds with clouds of dust and dirt billowing from the rear wheels, people don’t know — sometimes until it’s too late — that a dirt road may as well be ice if you’re flooring the accelerator.

“You think you’re the first person to experience loss, girl?”

“No,” I said. “I know Brad’s Mom and Dad and his older brother have suffered a terrible loss. They won’t recover from it. But they don’t see the person they’ve lost every time they look out the window.”

Zombie Brad stood beneath my bedroom window every night. At first all I saw was his silhouette. I was too afraid to shine a flashlight beam down into the yard. I screamed for Mama, of course. All she saw was shadows cast by the branches of the oak tree. She held me as I cried and then the moon came out and Brad was no longer a silhouette. He was a zombie ghost amputee staring up, maybe at me, maybe at the full moon. And smiling his dimpled smile.

I felt his love like a cold hand over my heart. I wanted my farm boy boyfriend to go away. Wanting that was worst of all.

Mama still couldn’t see him. That’s when I really knew I wasn’t a normie, anymore.

Lesson 3: When the drugs don’t work they’ll try to send you to the local hospital. Don’t go. There are more fresh dead people there, standing around and looking for a sympathetic person who can see them.

Here’s what happened. I walked into Emerge through automatic doors with Mama, cooperative and hopeful that somebody could help me. Dr. Wilson hadn’t been the one to help me, but surely someone else had gone through what I had. It was a grief thing.

“Grief,” Mama assured me, “is transient. You’re going to get past this. It’s just the shock, is all.”

That made sense. I thought so, too. I would have held on to that idea longer, but a dead guy stood beside the admitting nurse. He was a middle-aged man, thick in the middle. He wore a hospital gown. He stood behind the nurse, staring at her. I would have thought he was alive except he looked waxy. The dead don’t really look pale. Waxy is the word. Then the waxy man’s eyes met mine.

The nurse looked up at me from her desk, her mouth tight behind carelessly applied lipstick. “Name?”

When I didn’t say anything, Mama answered for me. “Tamara Smythe.”

“What’s the problem, Miss Tamara Smythe?”

I opened my mouth and I said, “I don’t think this is just indigestion.”

The admitting nurse sat straight as if a live electrical wire was shoved up her spine. She sputtered. “Wh-what did you say?”

Hot tears streamed down my face. “It’s not indigestion. Tums ain’t gonna do it.”

The nurse stood, braced and angry. “Who put you up to this? Do you think this is a joke?”

Mama spoke to the woman, trying to calm her as she began to screech. I stared at the dead man and the dead man stared back. He smiled a crooked grin over crooked teeth. The dead man was gone with my next blink, as if he’d never been there at all.

Lesson 4: When the local hospital can’t do anything for you and you’ve already got one incompetent triage nurse mightily pissed at you for speaking the truth, they’ll ship you upstate. Every state has a hospital for non-normies. Maybe it’s tucked away among oaks or pine trees or not far from the beach, but every state except Delaware has a place for people like me.

I’m not saying every person in charge of the mentally ill really knows the secret. Denial is a powerful thing. Denial can assure parents their son isn’t gay so they won’t have to disavow him. Denial lets us sleep at night when we could be acknowledging that the hey day for the human race is over and things are getting worse.

However, some people know the truth and if you ever want to get out of those godforsaken green-tiled hospitals, you’ll pretend to deny the truth, too. Don’t be a whistleblower. You won’t like it and I’ll tell you why. The Powers That Be also fill those hospitals with genuinely crazy people. Before there was tinfoil, what did crazy people do to stop the command signals from the government, sentient reptiles and aliens from Alpha Centauri?

The well-meaning doctors of Medicament, Iowa sent me to Shibboleth Mental Hospital in Mason City. The admitting nurse was a nice woman named Sherry. Sherry’s advantage, in my eyes, was that no dead person stood behind her, blaming her for their death.

My first roommate chewed her slippers to make them softer. She had bony tumors in the soles of her feet — yes, that’s a thing — and she was convinced she’d be cured if she could just chew her shoes soft enough.

That was pretty benign compared to my other roommate. She had wild, tangled hair and wore no clothes and she stood against the wall, her arms up as if nailed in crucifixion. She never spoke. The dead are rarely overly chatty.

As soon as I walked into the room with its puke green, flaking paint, I knew this hospital was very old. I saw Petra and I froze. Just looking at her, I knew her name was Petra. She was Polish and no one on the staff had understood her. I don’t understand how I knew, but she’d been placed in this hospital by mistake in 1972. Petra wanted to go home. She wanted her mama, too.

I also knew that hidden beneath the drywall and buried behind the plaster there was a secret. The old stone wall, back there in the dark, still bore the marks of where the chains were driven into the walls with huge flat spikes. This is where Petra was chained to a wall and raped by a young doctor named Moorely.

Lesson 5: when the man who raped a former patient turns out to be your doctor, too, you must escape that hospital. If flight isn’t an option, that leaves fight.

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