Sylvester Barzey is a United States veteran, a husband and a monster wrangler of a five year old beast. Sylvester’s writing journey started a long time ago but he never really dived into writing as a career until recently. 2017 is when he launched his Planet Dead series (post-apocalyptic zombie horror) and he has been producing content for his fanbase ever since. He focuses on using diverse characters to push down the wall that is the horror/fantasy genre. His goal is to prove that people of colour and women can kick as much ass as any of Hollywood’s blockbuster stars and tell a great story while doing it.
GJ: Can you tell me about the Plant Dead series and how it differs to the main pack of Zombie / Post-Apocalyptic fiction?
SB: Well right off the bat I can tell you that it’s not the walking dead. My Rick Grimes carries a shotgun, has a bit of a drinking problem, laughs at your pain and prefers cornrows over a cowboy hat. Planet Dead was really my love letter to the genre, so it has a lot of core aspects you would find in a zombie book or movie but then it comes with a zombieland, z nation and Shaun Of The Dead level twist.
I’m not building a franchise or series around the good old boy who never does wrong, nor am I building it around the morally lost bad boy that has a heart of gold. Planet Dead is about a strong woman of color, overcoming setback after setback to find her family. I have runners, walkers, killer clowns, ghost, voodoo, the series is like real life, it is made up of so many different bits and pieces that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
GJ: Can you tell me about your journey to publishing your first novel?
SB: I wish I could say I hit publish and everything went great but that wasn’t the case. I have always written but not in the classroom sense, like people use terms like foreshadowing and pacing and I understand what they are but I just sit down and write.
I started Planet Dead in the hopes of finally being able to finish something. It was gonna be three stories in one book but that Idea got canned when it became closer to publishing. It took 7 years to publish Planet Dead, I went the agent route and got way more rejection letters than a man on deployment should ever get.
I started looking into self publishing with Amazon and I messed up my preorder and got that taken away for a year, made my own cover but got an awesome one made before publishing. Got told my book wasn’t selling because of my main character being a woman of color. I got people that trashed it, I got people that loved it. It was a long and hard road but it’s not over and I’m sure I’ll fall a few more times but as along as I’m falling forward, I’m good.
GJ: How do you balance other work commitments, family life and writing?
SB: It’s all about priorities. “If you want to be a writer, then writing should be a high priority.” this is a line everyone hears but let’s be honest, writing doesn’t pay my rent (not at the moment) and my son isn’t just gonna go to bed on his own because I’m writing. My family comes first and my job is important because it pays for everything in my life including my opportunity to write but my mind is always working on my writing. I take mental and real notes no matter what I’m doing because writing to me, is just a reflection of life with a twist. I use my life and those around me to inspire the emotions of my characters and plots.
GJ: If you had to bug out of your house because of an impending zombie apocalypse and could only take three items with you to help you survive then what would they be and why?
SB: That’s hard, I’m assuming that my family got out okay and I’m just running into danger for something I think I need:
- Max Brooks’ books, any one should help me get my head right in the apocalypse.
- A lighter, because starting a fire is not something I want to figure out when the time comes.
- Oh can I get antibiotics? It always seems like people need antibiotics when the world goes to hell. I could trade them for other items or use them if The time calls for it
GJ: What does a typical writing day look like for you?
SB: My writing days used to look like; A 6 am wake up. I meditate, have coffee, check my emails and then write until 9 am…now with a full time job and a family that needs my attention, I get my writing in anywhere I can get it. It sounds bad but think of it this way, ten minutes of writing today is better than no writing at all right?
GJ: What do you consider to be the most difficult part of the entire process of getting a novel to your readers?
SB: I think everything from writing, to getting a cover, to getting it in stores has been simplified like everything else in our lives but the hardest thing I have seen is marketing. Knowing your audience, building your brand, taking out ads, are all big parts of self-publishing. Word of mouth is amazing but you still have to figure out how you will get that first reader.
GJ: What inspires you to write about Zombies?
SB: Honestly, I don’t really write about zombies. I’m more interested in what a post-apocalyptic future does to the human race. I like to focus on people with hidden agendas, dark past and comedic flair.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m ignoring the fundamental aspects of the zombie genre but then I remember Night Of The Living Dead and how the zombies were just the backdrop for a story of random people pulling together for survival. It could have been aliens, a tornado, vampires but it was the people that made the story. But don’t get me wrong, I do love me some zombies…there is something about a force that can’t be killed or doesn’t fear death.
GJ: What do you consider has been your most effective marketing activity so far?
SB: Podcasts have been the most fun that’s for sure but as far as things that generated sales? I would say hiring my Personal Assistants and just devoting more time to interacting with the fan base and talking horror with like minded people. I focus less on promoting and more on creating and having fun.
GJ: What can we expect from you in 2019 & 2020?
SB: Well this fall Planet Dead 3 will be out as well as my first dive into YA fantasy with The Realm but what I’m most excited about is another series that I’ve been plotting and planning (I hate plotting) and a few stand alone books that I’ve got rolling around in my head. I’m gonna be writing for a while even if Netflix doesn’t turn one of my books into a movie and even if they do…I’m not gonna stop chasing the Dream.
GJ: Thank you Sylvester Barzey for talking with me today.
If you can’t get enough of zombies and the end of the world, you can check out my novel IN THE END!