Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interview with Stephen Pytak

Stephen Pytak is a full-time reporter for the REPUBLICAN-Herald newspaper in Pottsville, PA and the author of several novels. He sits down with us to talk writing, comic books, and the connection between the two.
BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Steve. Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

STEPHEN: Sure. To date I’ve written three novels, all thrillers: "The .40 Caliber Mouse (2003)," released by PublishAmerica; "The .40 Caliber Mousehunt (2008)," released by Mazz Press; and "The Wild Damned," to be published by Mazz Press in December 2010. They all take place in a wonderfully dark universe I created a few years back. There are continuing characters, in particular, "Corinn," the anti-heroine of "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. When I write fiction, I enjoy developing characters who are driven by the Furies, so to speak. In other words, they’re fueled by anger, vengeance and dark desires.

"The .40 Caliber Mouse," for instance, is about low-rent mercenaries who sell their services online. The leads all have different motives for getting involved with it. Corinn’s involves a personal vendetta.

BDWN: How do you get your ideas?

STEPHEN: I’ve always had a passion for writing about the dark side of human nature, in fiction that is. I have this real love for novels, comic books and movies, thrillers and the horror genre. If I come up with an original idea with a similar thread, I pay close attention. I think fiction writing should be fun for the most part. So I look for things I think would be fun to write about. I think if the writer’s having fun, theoretically the reader will too. So I try to develop storylines I’d enjoy exploring myself. For instance, I love "Corinn." Writing about her inner demons and plans to iron them out is always a pleasure. She’s intriguing, always fun to spend a Saturday afternoon with. I recently gave her a skateboard. It will appear in her fourth novel, which I’m currently writing. Ideas can come from anywhere. It’s good to keep a pen and a slip of paper handy. I’ve scribbled on dozens of napkins over the years. Some of my best come out of conversations with my wife on long road trips.

BDWN: How long did it take you to write your books? Do you use an outline or just go where the story takes you?

STEPHEN: After writing three books, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and the process I employ. On average, it takes me about three years to put out a novel. I always use a basic outline in my head. I use a lot of the skills I picked up in a college screenwriting class, in particular the three-act structure (even though "The Wild Damned" has four acts). It keeps me on track. It’s good to know where you’re going. It’s good to write your last scenes first, at least rough drafts, so you know where your characters will end up. These scenes might change. That’s fine. One of the reasons to write them first is so you can hone them and make them the best you can. While I will always use an outline, I do allow my characters to stray a bit if that’s what they’re inclined to do. But what they do must fit our story. If they take me somewhere interesting that doesn’t fit our current project, I’ll save the material and perhaps use it on another one.

BDWN: As a reporter, you obviously cover a huge number of stories every day. How has your day job influenced your writing? And how do you fit in time to write around your unpredictable reporter’s schedule?

STEPHEN: Loaded question. You can get ideas from anywhere, even work. I work as a staff writer for a daily newspaper, The Republican-Herald, Pottsville, Pa. Every now and then a police report will come in that I’ll find interesting. Or sometimes I’ll get the opportunity to tour a factory or farm, a place I normally wouldn’t have access to. And I’ll make note of the sights and sounds. While "The Wild Damned" takes place in Columbus, Ohio, I got some of my ideas for scenes from locations here in Schuylkill County. The former Yuengling Creamery is one. How do I find time to write fiction around my unpredictable work schedule? I write whenever I can. If I get an idea for something, I’ll immediately jump onto my home computer after work and start pounding it out. Usually I write fiction on my days off. Saturday mornings are the best. Now that my wife and some friends are editing "The Wild Damned," I started work on my fourth novel.

BDWN: What’s next for you?

STEPHEN: I intend to publish "The Wild Damned" through my independent publishing division, Mazz Press, by December 2010. Meanwhile I’m writing the fourth novel in "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. Meanwhile I am always setting up author events. Norm Breyfogle, famed comic book artist known for his work on DC's “Batman,” did the art for “The .40 Caliber Mousehunt” and “The Wild Damned.” Because of that, I also do events at comic book conventions. The best way to see what I do is to stop by my table. We're hard to miss. You'll find not only bookmarks and posters featuring my characters, but T-shirts and, our most interesting item for sale, a full-head mask I designed for the villain of “The Wild Damned.” The mask of “The Carrion Crow” is now available for order. It's made by KreationX Inc., New York. For more information about my work, log onto

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