Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Author Interview - Ty Drago!

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Ty Drago, author of UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES.  Not only is he an amazing author, but a really nice guy!


Tell us a little bit about UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES.  How is this different from your average zombie book?

Well, first of all, DON'T call 'em "zombies"! :)

Zombies are slow and stupid.  Corpses, on the other hand, are fast smart and organized.  They’re invaders from another world – possibly another universe – who have come to Earth with conquest on their minds.  Problem is they have no physical form, and so must occupy host bodies in order to get around on our planet.  So they animate the dead, and then project an illusion around themselves so that the human population doesn’t realize how disgusting and horrific they are.  This illusion is perfect, carrying over to photos, T.V., and even fingerprints.  Nobody can penetrate the Corpses’ disguises – except, of course, for the Undertakers.

The Undertakers are rare and “lucky” kids who, for reasons unknown, are able to see the Corpses for what they truly are.  Unfortunately, as kids, no one will believe them.  Worse, if the Corpses find a Seer, they kill them and their whole family to shut them up.  So these kids, the one who survive, must run away from home to protect themselves and those they love.  In Philadelphia, these wayward Seers have banded together to become a resistance movement.

THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is the first book in the UNDERTAKERS series, and tells the story of Will Ritter, a twelve-year-old boy who wakes up one morning to discover he has the Sight.  It follows his harrowing adventures, first as a runaway, then as an Undertaker in training, and finally as full-fledged soldier in the war against the Corpses.

The original title of THE UNDERTAKERS was THE RUNAWAYS, why the name change?

THE RUNAWAYS was an earlier concept of the same story, more fantasy than horror.  There weren’t any Corpses.  Instead, the villains were horned beasts called Demons.  I shopped the story around awhile without much luck.

In fact, it was your sister, Heather Brewer, who convinced me that what the book needed was a rewrite to turn it into something truly scary.   And so I reworked it completely, adding some new characters, new situations and, of course, the great new monsters.


  You credit your son with helping you get the characters voices and lingo right, how does he feel about your writing?

Andy is seventeen now and has always been hugely supporting of my writing efforts.  He’s read almost everything I’m penned, and has no problem at all telling me when I’ve off base.  Honestly, this book wouldn’t have been what it is without him!

Will there be more about Will and the Undertakers? 

If all goes well sales-wise – yes, there will!  I’m working on Book Two right now.  I’m not going to give anything away, but it takes us deeper into the Undertakers’ world, and introduces us to the new Boss Corpse.  And SHE’S a nasty piece of work!

I really love that Sharyn Jefferson doesn’t come off as girly, none of your girls do…they’re just kids…like Will.  Was that something you intentionally did?  

Absolutely.  From the beginning I took my cues from other resistance movements that have arisen throughout history.  Harriet Tubman and her courageous work with the Underground Railroad are mentioned in the book.  But even more than that, the Undertakers were inspired by the French Resistance during World War II.  This group would regularly execute daring rescues of downed Allied bomber crews, often spiriting them away under the noses of the Nazi occupation force.  And many of those heroes were women.

Being an Undertaker is about bravery under fire, and boys don’t have the monopoly on that!  Sharyn and Helene are two of the best soldiers this army has, and I’m very proud of both characters.

I read that you filmed the book trailer in your basement.  It’s awesome!  How much fun was it to film?  (www.jointheundertakers.com)  By the way, I took the What do you see? Test…I’m packing and heading to Philly right now!  


The day we filmed that trailer was one of the best I’ve ever had as a writer!  The star is a young actor named Griffin Back, who did a fantastic job playing Will Ritter.  The Corpse was played by make-up artist Josh Hahn, and I think his talent speaks for itself!  The staircase footage, which was taken the same day shows three Corpses.  The first is my son, Andy.  The second is Griffin’s father, a plastic surgeon and a great sport.  The third, of course, is Josh, who did the make-up for all three.

You have several jobs, but I’m sure being an author is your favorite…tell us about your other jobs!  

Well, for the past thirteen years, I’ve edited and published an online magazine called ALLEGORY (www.allegoryezine.com).  We publish science fiction, fantasy and horror from around the world.  Our next issue is due out May 1st.  Sadly, that job doesn’t quite pay the bills either!

In the “other” life, I’m a business analyst.  Now don’t ask me what that is exactly, but I don’t think anyone really knows.  Let’s just say I help large companies identify and fix problems within their own processes.  Not all that exciting, but it keeps the bill collectors off my porch.

Do you have any writing quirks?  You know, like you can’t write without a 5lb container of M&Ms…not that that’s mine…  

I’m a big believer in the inspirational qualities of music and, whenever I start a new book, I look for the right music to help get my creative juices flowing.  Each book is different.  For THE UNDERTAKERS, I leaned toward anthems of one kind or another.  Pat Benatar’s classic “Invisible” was a big one.  So were the much more recent “Sing” by My Chemical Romance and “Uprising” by Muse.  Whenever I’m working on a book, I basically have a playlist on my phone of some twenty or thirty tunes that I listen to on my way to and from my day job.  It never fails me!

What book are you reading right now?  

Right now I’ve loving PLEASE IGNORE VERA DEITZ by A.S. King and HUNGER by Jackie Kessler.  Both are YA titles and I highly recommend them!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?  

It’s complicated.  I like to get up early, maybe 5:30 am, and do an hour’s worth of writing before work.  But I generally write at every opportunity: evenings, weekends, while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room.  I once got some solid writing done during the traffic jam on the Pennsylvania Turnpike!

Can you tell us a little bit about your other novels?   

I’ve written twelve, but published only three. 

The first was an historical mystery called THE FRANKLIN AFFAIR.  It was published back in 2003 by a small press outfit called Regency Press that, sadly, is not defunct.  The book was well-received, but didn’t get  as much distribution as I would have liked.  Set in December of 1776, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Henri Gruel, the son of a wealthy French merchant, and his reluctant recruitment by his government to spy on the famous Benjamin Franklin, who is visiting from America.  Henri and Franklin quickly develop a friendship that tests the boy’s loyalties, especially when things start getting dangerous.

My second published book was called PHOBOS, a science fiction mystery (“Science Fiction Noir” was the way a friend of mine described it).  It takes place on Phobos, the largest of Mars’ two moons.  There a research station has fallen prey to an inexplicable monster that roams the deep dust on this tiny, airless moon.  Lieutenant Michael Brogue, native Martian, is sent there to unravel the mystery.  What he finds is a good old fashioned whodunit, but one with potentially far-reaching consequences that threaten the safety of his entire planet!

Thanks again, Ty, for being such a delightful guest!  I look forward to hearing a lot more out of the UNDERTAKERS! 


  1. Nice interview with Mr. Drago. It's got me wanting to read his new book, and I am an OA, not a Y one.

    But I would still prefer to call these creatures Zombies. When they invade my town, I don't want to take the time to warn everyone about the approaching Corpses Animated by Otherworldly Beings.

    By the way, Regency Press, sadly, is NOW defunct, not NOT defunct.

  2. Ahhh, sorry about that - I didn't proof the answers. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the interview though!