Stephen Paul Sayers grew up on the sands of Cape Cod and spent his first thirty-five years in New England before joining the University of Missouri as a research professor. When he’s not in his laboratory, he spends his time writing and devouring his favorite forms of genre fiction–horror, suspense, and thrillers.
How did you decide to become an author?
I never set out to be an author, but I had this lightbulb moment when I was writing a few years ago. You see, I got this crazy idea to write a book for my daughter. She’s a budding author and I wanted to share that with her. I figured it would be a nice gift from a father. My writing was pretty bad as I began, but after working on a particular piece of writing one day, everything sort of came together, plot, pacing, voice. I literally sat back and told myself I could actually do this and become an author. It was arrogant, of course, to think that, but it really lit a fire under me to start doing the work, writing every day, attending conferences, and learning the craft.
How does your background help with your writing?
I’m a research professor at a university, and even though I do a lot of writing, I don’t write creatively. In fact, I’ve had to unlearn the bland and stodgy scientific writing style I’d perfected to unleash the more creative prose inside. But I do believe my scientific background helps in crafting a pretty tight story. Similar to research, plot is dependent on understanding how one variable, a plot point or clue, affects other pieces of the story. I think I can spot potential plot inconsistencies in my writing because my brain is wired to view things like a researcher.
I have also been an avid reader of horror and thriller fiction my whole life, and I do believe a lifetime of reading can prepare you to write, or at least tell a good story. But it’s not enough. You need to learn the craft … and have a good editor!
Can you tell us more about why you wrote your latest books?
A Taker of Morrows is the first in The Caretakers series, which explores the afterlife and what’s potentially waiting for us when we die. I’ve always been fascinated with that idea, as we probably all are. I got to thinking, what if certain souls could slip back and forth between this world and the next to keep us safe and protected. The thought comforts me, that someone might be watching out for us, and I wanted to explore that in the writing. But as a horror writer I had to include the flipside of the coin, that there may be darker souls out there trying to harm you, too.
What are some upcoming publishing projects you are working on?
The second book in the Caretaker Series, The Soul Dweller, will be coming out in the fall. Book three is in progress. I have also toyed with the idea of doing a collection of short stories, but I’ve been so focused on the book series, I haven’t had the time to work on the shorter pieces. I think collections have a bit more gravitas when you have more books under your belt, so I’m filing that under ‘future plans.’
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
This question always throws me because I feel I still fall into the ‘aspiring writer’ category. We’re all aspiring writers, we’re just in different places along the journey. But I have a few pieces of advice that have helped me:
First, learn everything you can about writing—attend conferences and workshops, share your drafts with other writers, do the work. And most importantly, write a lot.
Second, read a lot.
Third, believe in yourself. No two writers follow the same blueprint, and every writer has a different approach. When you believe in your style and voice, you free yourself to write what’s in your heart and soul, YOUR way, whatever that is. And only you can tell that story in your head.
Fourth, let it all out. Your words construct images and emotions in someone else’s head that never existed before, and that’s an amazing thing. But you’re also letting strangers wander around in the rooms of your mind where your darkest thoughts reside. It takes a lot of courage to open yourself up, but don’t hold back. Let them see it all.
Finally, prepare for a lot of rejections. I read an interesting quote from an author who said he judges his success by the number of rejections he gets. Getting rejected means you are putting your work out there fearlessly, and the more do, the greater your chances of success. Opening yourself up to one more rejection is usually the difference between an unpublished and published author.
Anything else you’d like to share about your books?
I wrote the Caretakers series to entertain, and A Taker of Morrows has quickly become an Amazon best-seller. I believe my books will help you escape from your world for a few hours and make some friends you’re going to miss when you turn the final page. You can find out more at stephenpaulsayers.com.