The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Steve Vasquez
Ruschelle: Thank you for stopping by The Horror Tree and sharing a few of your writing secrets. So…do you happen to have at least one big fat writing secret? Lol
Steve: Thank you for having me. Well, I have one main tenet I stick with and have stuck with throughout my years of writing so I suppose it’s worth divulging and that is to always listen to your voice. Writing is always better when it feels truthful and for me, I know it is the truth (at least my truth) when I listen to the voice inside me that guides my character development, plot, pacing, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely open to feedback as my stories develop but ultimately, I have always gone with my gut as to what would be right for the story.
Ruschelle: Tell us about your first foray into writing with your teleplay, Final Transference.
Steve: I was taking a writing for television class in college and as always seems to be the case, my mind went toward developing a horror story. I was living in one of the dorms and so the story developed about two college roommates that upon meeting find they have the ability of telekinesis but only with each other. One of my friends had a crush on a girl I also liked at the time and so that idea of competitiveness developed into the teleplay as a love triangle but with the roommates using their telekinesis as a weapon. I was quite proud of it and got an A-.
Ruschelle: An A- is pretty sweet. You’re a fan of the Twilight Zone. What was it about the series that helped inspire your writing?
Steve: For me there is so much about that show to admire. Visually, one element that stands out is when faces were used to show the emotion of the moment. Of course, the show used exemplary actors who had the skills to pull off the fantasy/horror themes. In my writing, I love creating small intimate moments for my reader so they are invested in what happens next and are right there with the character as the story unfolds. This is the essence of the kind of writing I strive to create. Also, the twist endings have always been inspirational. I strive to find that moment in all my writing where my readers will say, “Oh, didn’t see that coming.”
Ruschelle: There were so many well-written, creative episodes, which was your favorite?
Steve: This is a difficult question because there are so many but I would say Shadow Play is one of my favorites. It is about a man who is convinced that his life and everyone around him are in his dream. He is on death row and he tries to convince everyone that if he dies, they all die with him. I loved the idea of a dream you never wake up to—very scary, especially because it involves your own death.
Ruschelle: Was there an episode you wished you had written because it reminded you of your own storytelling?
Steve: Maybe the one called The Living Doll. I like the idea of an inanimate object coming to life and then being angry at you on top of that. To this day, it still creeps me out and as a side note, I always treat my daughter’s dolls with respect and kindness…just in case.
Ruschelle: How did you choose the stories to debut in your collection, Palate of the Improbable?
Steve: One of the seven stories had been one I had started years ago but was never quite satisfied with, so around that time I decided to re-visit it. Four other ideas for stories came to me around the same time. One story Final Audition was a dream I had and two stories Through A Wormhole Darkly and A Hand is a Terrible Thing to Waste were based on incidents from my childhood that evolved pretty quickly, so all in all these stories were all written within a year’s time so they all were included.
Ruschelle: Do you have a favorite story from your collection?
Steve: I love all my children equally because each one took me to a different place in my imagination and challenged me in different ways; however, the one that I was most happy to see all grown up (so to speak) was Through a Wormhole Darkly because it challenged me in so many ways. I had never attempted a time travel story so it was a challenge to pull it off and I feel very satisfied with how it turned out, particularly its sweet ending.
Ruschelle: What’s the one piece of writing advice you received from a mentor that really resonated with you?
Steve: I’d have to say the idea that story-telling must be full of descriptions that pop. I always strive to edit out words that are wasteful.
Ruschelle: Fun question, if you could be the first person to discover the existence of a cryptid, which one would it be?
Steve: I think the Jersey Devil would a fascinating creature to run into. It is definitely the kind of creature that will give one nightmares.
Ruschelle: You have a cat named Blueberry who uses you as a scratching post. Sounds delightfully evil. Story material?
Steve: Anything is possible. So far, she’s had just a brief appearance in my story Good Night, Sleep Tight, but if she gets a better agent who knows.
Ruschelle: I’ll put my cat’s agent in touch with your cat and they can hash out the details. You won a Quarterfinalist award in a contest writing a script for Two and a Half Men. Kudos! Tell us a little about the script and the writing process you used to pen your script.
Steve: The script was a lot of fun to work through. I sat for hours watching videos of the show to get a sense of each character’s voice and to map out story beats and even learned in the process comedic principles like why words with M or W are funny. I also did a lot of reading out loud to get the timing right. Once I had the idea of the main character Alan going to his high school reunion and getting stuck in an elevator with the girl that ditched him during his Senior prom (real life incident by the way: being ditched, not getting stuck) the rest of the story just wrapped itself around that.
Ruschelle: Do you have any ideas for television scripts? Movies?
Steve: Yes, I do, but ideas are easy. It’s the execution and follow-through that is the tough but rewarding part. I do have a few unfinished movie scripts that I hope I can finish in the near future.
Ruschelle: You are the daddy of a toddler! All parents know toddlers can morph into adorable little monsters and those monsters can be inspirational. So, has yours crawled into any of your stories?
Steve: Yes, she was the yet to be born baby in Good Night, Sleep Tight, also, she was the inspiration for the story Baby in the Mirror. I was up late one night having a particularly difficult time of lulling her back to sleep when I imagined my mirror-self helping put her to bed, but in the mirror. And, she is in a short story called Angel in a Box in which the protagonist wishes her baby never gets old and she never does.
Ruschelle: Speaking of toddlers…you’ve written children books. Are they sweet and shiny books with happy endings or do they channel a darker side? Like… Winnie the Pooh meets Freddy Kruger?
Steve: Hey, that’s an idea…” When the police entered the room, there was Pooh, lying in a pile of his own stuffing. We would need a catch phrase after the kill from the evildoer such as, “How’s the honey, Pooh?” or something cheesy like that. My first published children’s story was about a parrot that wanted to break out of its routine (it lived on a farm with an old man) so it escapes to the neighboring farm for adventure. I have others unpublished that I need to revisit and I’m certain my daughter will inspire me to write sweet happy stories in the future.
Ruschelle: If you could speak with Rod Serling from across the veil, what would you ask him?
Steve: Hey, Rod, I’d love to be a staff writer on the new Twilight Zone, can you put in a good word for me? Or, more seriously, Rod, how did you know when an idea was good enough to put effort into seeing it completed?
Ruschelle: Thank you so much sharing your experiences here at The Horror Tree. Please share with your newfound fans what is next in the writing world of Steve Vasquez?
Steve: I am currently working on adapting my stories from Palette of the Improbable into a film anthology or perhaps YouTube episodes along with working on a second anthology of short stories. It will probably have twice as many stories as my first book.
Ruschelle: Where can your fans find you and your books on the www?
Or on my website: writersteve.com