If you are a fan of historical thrillers and haven’t read “30 Pieces of Silver” by Carolyn McCray – well, you need to fix that. It’s one of the more entertaining and original takes on the genre I’ve read in a long while (you can find my review of it here).
I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with Carolyn recently. We covered everything from how she approaches writing, her experience in self-publishing, the shocking ending to the book, and – of course – the impending zombie apocalypse. Enjoy!
The Word Zombie: I’ve read more than a few historical thrillers, and “30 Pieces of Silver” ranks at the top of the list. I found the secret guarded by The Knot, and the clues used to discover it (stories and history inscribed on sacred bones), very fresh and original. Where did you get the inspiration for the central premise of the novel?
Carolyn McCray: I too love my historical thrillers and when I sat down to write my own, I did not want it to be a rehash or mash-up of others. I wanted to find a way to be fresh, but authentic. I figured the bones were considered so sacred to the Knot, that it would be the perfect medium for them to encode their secrets.
The Word Zombie: The ending to “30 Pieces of Silver” was one of the most unexpected conclusions I’ve read in a very long time. I’m always interested in seeing how an author approaches the plotting, writing, and editing of their work. Did you set out to write “30 Pieces of Silver” with the end in mind, or was it a surprise to you as well?
Carolyn McCray: No, I knew from the outset how the book ended. Well, at least the first paradigm shift. The second came to me while I was writing.
Which is pretty much my writing process. I always know the beginning and the end (or at least part of it), but then those darn characters start talking in my ear and before you know it the story has taken on a life of its own.
The Word Zombie: There have been some reviewers deeply offended by the book and its take on the story of Judas and Jesus – one reviewer on Amazon called the book “blasphemy” (a sentiment I don’t share.) How do you answer those negative reviews?
Carolyn McCray: I try to warn everyone about how incredibly controversial “30 Pieces of Silver” is. I just don’t think people believe, in this day and age, that I could have come up with such a unique and powerful twist (s).
However, I did not set out to write controversy for controversy’s sake. I wrote the story that felt organic and real to me. I am sorry if people become offended. I try to remind them that this is fiction and in no way am I attempting to supplant their religious beliefs.
And again, I did warn them I am beginning to believe I might have to put a warning sticker on the cover though
The Word Zombie: Stephen King once said – “If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” What do you like to read in your spare time and what do you have on your “to read” pile at the moment?
Carolyn McCray: Oh gosh, so very much. I am a huge fan of Rollins, Berry, Eisler, plus of course for my paranormal fix, Amber Scott and for humor Rachel Thompson.
The Word Zombie: I found an interesting Internet project last year – 101 things you should do in the next 1,001 days. What are 3 things you would like to do in the next 1,001 days?
Carolyn McCray: #Yikes. I probably have 1,001 things I want to do in 1,001 days I am slightly crazy like that. However only listing 3 is easy.
1. Publish my upcoming historical paranormal romance “Fated.” Set in ancient Rome, it is getting incredibly great early reviews… from MEN! They are eating up the history and saying the romance part is just gravy. The chicks are digging it too, but WOW, guys are loving it J
2. Publish my upcoming high fantasy “7 Folds of Winter.” This book is far more ‘gentle’ than some of my other fare. It has plenty of action, of course, it is a McCray novel, but I set out to write “a warm fantasy for a cold winter’s night.” And hopefully I have succeeded.
3. Publish my upcoming historical thriller “Encrypted.” Actually it is kind of a techno-thriller/historical novel fused into one. I am very excited for it. The trailer already kicks booty!
The Word Zombie: You’ve done a lot of work to help authors harness the power of social media to publicize their work and, most importantly, sell more books. You’re one of the founders of The Indie Book Collective (www.indiebookcollective.com). Can you tell me a little about the site and some of the help you offer authors?
Carolyn McCray: When I first went about self-publishing my work… I sucked at it. I had no idea what I was doing. I flailed and even gave up.
It wasn’t until two years later that I got upset that a techno-phobe friend of mine topped over 1,000 followers that I took it seriously (it is great to have a competitive streak sometimes).
I then discovered some mathematical principles that underlain most social media platforms and also the combined use of paid advertising. Once I realized I have found the holy grail of indie book sales, I knew I wanted to share that knowledge so that no one had to go through that awful learning curve that I did
Over 5,000 strong, the Collective gives free social media workshops, has a weekly radio show, and extremely innovative and dynamic events such as Blog Tour de Force and Bestseller for a Day.
The Word Zombie: Now, to be completely selfish – since you are a social media expert – how can I harness the power of social media to get more people to read this interview, and my review of your book?
Carolyn McCray: Well for reviewers the best way to up your game is to become an official sponsor for either Blog Tour de Force and/or Bestseller for a Day. We get your name out there in front of thousands of readers.
Plus you can also take our free social media workshop to learn how to grow your Twitter account predictably with quality followers at a 500 follower per month rate. Plus a lot of other tips and tricks
The Word Zombie: I know you are working on a sequel to “30 Pieces of Silver”. When can we expect to see it, and what else can we expect to see from you this year?
Carolyn McCray: “Havoc” is scheduled for early next spring but that could come earlier or later depending on so many factors (like if 30 Pieces gets picked up for traditional publication).
Ya, this book could get me killed. If the rancor I am getting for 30 Pieces is bad… Wow, I am a tad worried about “Havoc!” But that’s just the kind of gal I am
This year alone I hope to publish all of the manuscripts I have had in my drawer plus a few that need to be finished. I have basically been putting out 1 every two months so you may see another 4 this year.
After I get my ‘backlist’ out, I will probably put out about 4 new books a year. I am graced with fast fingers and the ability to ‘pre-roll’ my plots so by the time I hit the keyboard #watchout
The Word Zombie: What’s the one question that I should have asked you but didn’t?
Carolyn McCray: Um, why weren’t there zombies in the book? Oh wait, that’s the next question
The Word Zombie: One last question – once the zombie apocalypse occurs (and I think we can all agree it’s a matter of when, not if) – will you be going it alone, or looking to join up with a ragtag group of survivors? Also, do you prefer long-range weapons (guns, flamethrowers) or melee weapons (classic baseball bat) when dealing with a zombie uprising?
Carolyn McCray: LOL. A true fact? My best friend and I have a contingency plan for this obvious apocalypse. We have where to meet and once we reach our hide away (low human population but high natural resources for sustainable living off the grid) how to test one another for contamination. #Iamnotkidding
And yes, we will be looking for a strong and sturdy, but not too bright guy to always run into rooms in front of us thinking himself brave and noble (all the while we know he is nothing more than a red shirt), a slutty chick that learns the error of her ways but not before she flashes everyone, and, of course, a comedy side-kick, however we doubt they will survive all the way to our hide-out. #sosad #toobad
Re: Weapons… Dude, you have to have both. You must have long-range weapons to pick off the enemy from as far away as possible to decrease your chance of exposure to the virus/fungus/alien spore that created the zombies.
However, you must always assume that you will get caught off guard (or your shotgun or chainsaw jams) so you have to have a close quarter weapon. Although my preference would be a Billy club. Short, fits on your belt, and great ability to create enough torque and force to crush a zombified skull #duh
Also you might want to add facial protective gear to your list in case the virus/fungus/alien spore is air borne. We must always assume the mode of transmission is highly contagious. #safteygoggles #anotherduh
You should be very happy to know that I have 3 zombie projects in the works… “Zombie Central,” “Consider Them Dead,” and “Flesh.” Hopefully by next year one of them will be ready to publish.
I also won a filmmaking award for my short film “Zanta Claus.”
Check it out if you like
I want to thank Carolyn for taking the time to chat with me. If you want to learn more about her or her writing, you can find her at:
Check her out, and check out “30 Pieces of Silver”. Really. Go read it. Right now.
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