Finding the Fear Factor: An interview With Indie Horror Author, Tammy Vreeland

Tammy Vreeland is an indie horror author living in Howell, New Jersey. Her first book, The Folks, was published in 2007, when she was 41. She credits her two sons as her motivation for writing and publishing. After moving to a new house in Elkhardt, Indiana, her son, Tyler, suddenly acquired imaginary friends that he called the Folks. During the next five years, some unusual things happened in the house that involved these new "friends." Finding inspiration, Vreeland took what happened and weaved a fictional story around it. Since then, Vreeland has authored six horror books. Her most recent, The Sea of Souls, is a sequel to The Folks.

When did you know you were a writer?

I always have to chuckle when asked this question. I can actually remember quite clearly the reason I started writing. I was an avid reader of horror. Any book I could get my hands on I could read in a day.

One day I was reading this poorly written book and I had to stop, I could not finish it. I had no desire to finish it and this was the first time ever I had not finished reading a book I had started. This bothered me because this book came from a well-known publisher.

I thought to myself, even I could write better than that! Therefore, I kept entertaining the idea and before I knew it, I forced myself to put my money where my mouth was. My earliest writing moments were being excited for the boys to come home from school, so I could read them the new pages I had written that day.

I have to admit I still write for my boys. I still get so anxious to know what they think of the story I have written. We have a bond of watching many horror movies in the past, and dissecting the movie on what could have made it better or more interesting. I am always curious to see if I have passed their test.

How do you write?

Many of my ideas actually come from my dreams. I have quite vivid dreams, often wake up in the middle of the night, and quickly write down what I have dreamed; sometimes my dreams re-occur and advance in the story.

Once I have written down the premise of my story, I create an outline that will help me advance in a time line towards my ending. I always know my ending first before I start to write. I use a rule of thumb of 30 chapters for a book, about 10 pages typed for each chapter.

My outline is very simple, I type out Chapter 1 to Chapter 30 leaving spaces in between. I then put my idea for my ending for Chapter 30. I go back to the top and write my idea of how I want to start the book. I then proceed to put an idea down for each chapter of where I want to be in the book at that chapter.

Mind you, these are not elaborate writings, sometimes I write one simple sentence. An example would be maybe in this chapter I want this character to meet this character. Or, it's been too long since there has been a killing so we need to kill something.

What is your publishing story?

At that time, being self-published was not the cool thing to do. However, I did not care; this story was for my family and me. I was very fortunate to find a reliable self-publishing company that walked me through the steps.

I have to say what an amazing feeling it was the first day I held my book in my hands. A creation that was all mine; then when I saw it for sell at Barnes & Nobles and Amazon, I was in shock. However, the day I saw my book listed at Towers on a Stephen King release and at the bottom it said, "If you liked this book you may like this book" and there listed was my book; I was in heaven! I promptly printed that puppy out and it is proudly on display in my office.

When it came time for my other books to be published I was so happy with the way things were I simply continued with the way I had published my first book.

Which authors do you admire and why?

I always love answering this question. My idol would be Mary Shelley the writer of Frankenstein. I admire that a woman in her era could write such a classic.

I also admire Peter Benchley most may not be familiar with the name until they hear the name of his book Jaws. For me Peter was able to capture the "fear factor." What does that mean? You cannot tell me that in one point of your life you have not thought about Jaws. Whether you are in the ocean, the lake, what have you? There is that fear he instilled in all of us.

I try to find a fear factor in all of my books. Let us take for example The Transporter of Souls. Pretty much all of us have owned a used car. Usually we are very happy to get the car because it is "new" to us. How often when we purchase the car do we think about the previous owner?

I wrote Transporter of Souls with the hope that one day when people go to buy a used car a slight chill comes over them and they think hey remember that book about used cars? I wonder if it is safe to buy this different than is it safe to go back in the water?

What changed for you after 40?

I think the idea that now I am at the age to do what I want to do. My kids are grown. That fear of peer pressure, of will I be good enough, is replaced with I am good enough for me. As I get older, I realize that is enough.

What roadblocks or obstacles did you face?

The more books I write, the more I fear they will not be as good as the previous ones. Self-doubt can be a destructive thing. I find myself taking more time and re-doing parts of my story. However, I also find that my writing improves with each book. Realizing this gives me the courage to continue writing.

What are you most proud of in terms of your writing?

I am proud that I have written a book. That one day maybe a grandchild of mine will pick up one of my books and think wow my grandmother wrote this! I am very proud to say that all of my books are in libraries in three surrounding towns where I grew up. Plainfield, Mooresville and Monrovia.

This is a huge accomplishment to me since books were so important to me growing up. We did not have a library back then but simply a Bookmobile. Which I suppose was appropriate for me since I used those books to escape. Having my books available to read for others as a possible escape from everyday life events gives me the chance to give back what I was given.

How can we find your books?

There are three places you can find me: