Ty Drago is the author of The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses. He's visiting The Life and Lies today.
1) Why and when did you begin writing?
Honestly, I can’t remember when I didn’t write! I’m told I started at age four, drawing picture books of Tom and Jerry. Later on, I graduated to comics that I would share with the other kids in the neighborhood. I guess I wrote my first real short story (no pictures!) around age eight.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
Many of those comic books I drew as a kid centered around a group of pre-teen superheroes called the Kid Kadets (yeah, couldn’t spell back then). Their leaders were a brother/sister team named Tom and Sharon Jefferson. Many (many) year later, when I envisioned the idea of a child’s army battling an undead menace, I looked back on those comics and brought Tom and Sharyn (different spelling now) forward through the intervening years, to take command of the Undertakers! I guess you could say the Undertakers are the Kid Kadets all grown up. Sort of.
3) How did you come up with the title?
As a series title, “THE UNDERTAKERS” seemed like a natural. They’re battling the dead after all. As for the individual book title, “RISE OF THE CORPSES”, that’s meant to be a play on words. My son and I went around and around on both concepts before settling on what we’ve got. For this reason, among many others, the book is dedicated to him.
4) What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?
I grew up loving Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz. But lately, I’d have to say my writing is most strongly influenced – and very much in a positive way – by middle grade/young adult writers like Heather Brewer, Jackie Kessler and Jonathan Maberry. I like authors who write for children without talking down to them. Our children are literate and need to be treated as such.
5) How do you go about researching for your books?
THE UNDERTAKERS is set in Philadelphia, a city I know well. Nevertheless, I made it a point to visit every location described in the story. I’ve stood pretty much every place that Will and the other Undertakers stood. I take notes and a lot of pictures. I think it lends an air of realism. At least I hope it does.
6) Did you base any of your characters on real people?
Helene is based on my wife, Helene Boettcher Drago. She’s smart, brave and independent – the perfect heroine for an action story and a fantastic role model for girls. A few of the other Undertakers are affectionately named after friends, both from my present and my distant past. Not one of these characters actually resembles the living person in either behavior or physical appearance, of course. It’s just my way of winking at some of the good people I’ve known in my life.
7) What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?
There’s no feeling in the world like seeing our novel on a bookstore shelf. There are no words to describe it – and when a writer tells you that, you ought to believe it! But it’s scary too. You take this story that you’ve worked on, slaved over, put your heart and soul into for years, and then you put it out there for the world to judge. It can be … daunting. I think that’s the hardest part.
8) Do you have any other books planned in the future?
I would love to continue with the UNDERTAKERS series and have been busy with book two for months now. It’s tentatively called QUEEN OF THE DEAD, and introduces the Undertakers to a new and terrifying enemy.
9) Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. They’re all pieces of me and there are things about each of them that I love: Tom’s strength and integrity; Will’s reckless courage; Helene’s grace and independence; Sharyn’s optimism and prowess; the Burgermeister’s loyalty and fearlessness.
Then, of course, there’s Kenny Booth. The head Corpse is a wonderfully nasty villain: ruthless and pitiless and deliciously evil!
10) What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?
I once heard someone say to a roomful of prospective writers: “Some of you will make it. And the ones who do won’t be the most talented, but the most persistent!” Here’s my advice: Don’t ever stop writing. Don’t ever stop editing what you write. Don’t ever stop submitting what you’ve edited. Don’t ever give up!
Just for fun:
1) What do you do when you’re not writing?
I work for a living! Sigh.
2) Do you have any pets?
Two cats and a dog!
3) What book are you reading right now?
Rot & Ruin by John Maberry
Thanks for stopping by, Ty! Learn more about THE UNDERTAKERS here.
"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my next door neighbor was the walking dead."
With these words, middle school student Will Ritter introduces us to his life as a fugitive. Ripped from his family, this son of a murdered Philadelphia police detective finds himself hunted by an invasion of the walking dead. But these aren't the slow stupid zombies of George Romero movies. Nor are they the fast, stupid zombies of 28 Days Later and Zombieland.
These Corpses are smart, organized and utterly ruthless. If they find him, they'll kill him. If he goes home, they'll kill his family. Will's only hope is to join up with a rag tag children's army, led by the wise and charismatic Tom Jefferson:
Hidden away in their secret Philadelphia lair, the Undertakers have set themselves against an enemy that's faster, stronger and far deadlier than they are. Worse, they're badly outnumbered ... and totally alone.
Yet they fight because, if they don't the world itself may be forfeit.
THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is the first book in a new middle grade adventure series, written by Ty Drago, and published by Sourcebooks under their Jabberwocky imprint.
To know more about THE UNDERTAKERS, visit www.jointheundertakers.com.