By Tanairi Hernandez
Gary Frank, sci-fi and horror author talks about his work and returning to school.
Gary Frank runs a Horror writing workshop April 13th remotely for PCCC students.
Passaic County Community College student and Humanities major, Gary Frank, decided to pursue a higher education degree after many years out of school, a great deal of life experience and with a number of achievements already under his belt.
While a great conversationalist, Frank does not boast about his accomplishments, so it was quite surprising when the bespectacled long-bearded man, shared that he is a published author. In 2006, his book Forever Will You Suffer was published. Two years later, in October 2008, his second horror novel, Institutional Memory was released.
Frank has been writing since 1981 when he first wrote a mash-up between Star Wars and Star Trek. His desire to tell stories and creativity led to him writing fantasy and science fiction stories. At a young age, he had an interest in stories involving space and other worlds. There was little in his childhood or youth that would indicate he would become a horror writer.
During the month of November, Frank participates in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo, a yearly event, where participants are required to write 1,667 words a day throughout the entire month of November, for a total of 50,000 words. Frank shared that he wrote his first novel during his participation in NaNoWriMo.
Forever Will You Suffer was first written as a fiction novel but along the way, Frank began to wonder what if the stalker character in the novel was not human. It was this idea that led him to re-write his story as a horror story.
When asked why he chose horror, Frank responded, “Horror helps people make sense of their world. It teaches readers that even when facing extraordinary circumstances, people have the ability to overcome and survive”. Besides who doesn’t love a good horror story; scary stories are fun to tell.
Frank’s favorite character is Rick Summers, the protagonist in Forever Will You Suffer. Frank was born in Flushing, Queens, moved to the Bronx, but at the age of 9, his family moved to Fairlawn, New Jersey. Rick, is who Frank imagines he could have been if he had been raised in the city, with access to musicians, concerts, and literary events.
The character, Rick Summers, is a brave former band member and recovering drug addict, who is on a journey to save Katarina, the woman he loves, from a supernatural stalker. Unlike Rick, Frank made it clear he has never had a drug problem
Frank is a music enthusiast and he incorporates his love for music into his stories. Other hobbies of his include cycling; he has trained to participate in 100-mile cycling events to raise funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma, storytelling, and reading a great deal of science-fiction, history books, and books written by international authors.
In his second published book, Institutional Memory, Frank also shares another aspect from his real life. He reports at the time working in a corporate office building for Pearson Education, when the idea came to him one day, what if the employees in this building are the cells and energy that keep the building alive and without the employees the building cannot survive? Prior to working corporate, Frank worked bookstore retail for some years, although this hasn’t been a topic in one of his stories.
Authors are usually held in high regard and rightly so; when discussing the writing and publishing process with Frank, it is evident that writing is not a sprint but more like a marathon. He began writing Forever Will You Suffer in the late 1990s. He began revising and editing his first completed draft of the novel in 2003. It was rejected a handful of times, before the story was picked up by Medallion Press and published in 2006.
Frank began writing his second book in 2002. The story went through many revisions; he completed his final draft between 2006-2007. In 2008, Institutional Memory was published.
One of the key traits to writing is persistence and being dedicated to the craft as demonstrated by Frank. According to him, “the first draft is just getting the story down, the months that follow are spent on editing and perfecting his novel.”
Frank’s advice to aspiring writers is to get the first draft down. “Write a crappy first draft,” says Frank. He begins writing and he keeps going until he is done with the story. “If I begin to edit and make changes to the story as I am writing it,” he states, “I might never finish the story.” Once you are done with your first draft, you can go back and edit it.
“To make your writing more believable, conduct your research and travel if needed,” is another key advice from Frank. He reported actually interviewing a worker at a mental health institution for one of his stories, to ensure he was providing an accurate portrayal. He also visits the sites he is writing about and pays close attention to the sights, sounds, and smells in the environment.
When writing, Frank makes use of all five senses for a truly accurate description. However, he prefers to focus on the scent of smell most, because out of the five senses, smell is the one that most triggers memory. He advises novice writers to figure out what senses are primary for their character and employ it in their writing.
Consistency and persistence are also important when writing. When editing keep an eye out for mistakes or inconsistencies, such as the character having blue eyes and later in the story describing the same character with green eyes. Lastly, if your book is rejected, keep sending it to different agents. “Your story being rejected might not have anything to do with your writing,” says Franks.
Some obstacles, Frank has faced in his writing career are self-doubt and criticism. To overcome these obstacles, Frank has participated in various writing groups. He admits to feeling self-conscious when he reads his own writing out loud. Yet, it is also these moments that help improve his writing.
Currently, Frank is working on writing and publishing two books. One of these books is a Young Adult (YA) book. He attempted to write for young adults before and it did not go well. This time, Frank is committed to the story. He is 10,000 words into his manuscript and his goal is to write 60, 000 words.
Lately, Frank reports not feeling as creative but listening to music that fits the genre that he writes, helps stimulate his creativity. For example, when writing Forever Will You Suffer, he listened to Rock or Alternative music. He now listens Midnight Syndicate, a horror theme soundtrack, as he works on his writings. “It’s hard to write horror when you are listening to Brian Adams (soft- rock singer),” jokes Frank.
Frank’s favorite authors are Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, and Robert R. McCammon. He credits Robert R. McCammon’s novel, Usher’s Passing, for inspiring him to write. He also attributes Jack Ketchum’s book, Peaceable Kingdom, a collection of more than thirty short horror stories, with changing his life.
At just over five feet one, there is more to the down to earth student than his love for writing. Frank is also a father to an adopted pre-adolescent boy, who already towers over him. He has traveled to China and shared memories of having climbed part of the Great Wall of China.
He is also married to an amazing woman who is very supportive of his writing. As per Frank, his wife prefers to read fiction and romance. Yet, she will still read and edit his work.
Earlier in his life Frank had attempted to pursue an English degree from William Paterson University but after a year and half, both he and the university came to a mutual decision that it was time to call it quits.
Frank shared that his mother told him he could not make a living as a writer and would need to get a real job to support himself. He had little direction, no focus, and did not know what career to pursue besides writing. After his first year at William Paterson University, he decided to join the workforce. At about this same time, the university also informed him that due to his low GPA, he could not come back the next semester.
Despite being enrolled in remote classes, Frank brings a fresh perspective to the classroom environment, is an active listener, and is always ready to engage in thought provoking and meaningful dialogue with classmates and professors. Frank shared, “I now have an appreciation for learning that I did not have before.”
Frank was also invited to participate in this year's writing workshop series supported by the Visions' Newspaper in appreciation of Poetry Month. On Tuesday, April 13th, he ran a well-attended workshop by students interested in learning about writing horror.
Frank’s books can be found on Amazon and downloaded on Kindle. For information about Gary Frank, visit his website at http://authorgaryfrank.com/ .