Let Me Introduce You To…Toby Tate!

Everyone knows the old expression that we should never judge a book by its cover. Well, in my years as a bibliophile I have discovered that that particular axiom is not always entirely true. Sure, there have been some wonderful books that I’ve read with horrendous covers and vice versa, but I’ve been pretty darn lucky at picking out a book I’m going to love based solely on the cover art alone. 
But what about book titles? What exactly can a title of a book do to draw us in? Should we judge a book by its title? Well, just as with covers, I have also discovered that there are, occasionally, those rare moments when you see only the title of a book and know without a shadow of a doubt that this book must certainly have been written for you. 
It was just such an experience when I discovered that supernatural thriller author Toby Tate planned on calling his most recent book LILITH. Oh, upon seeing the title (let alone the AMAZING cover art by the uber-talented Stan “The Man” Tremblay), I automatically marked the release date on my calendar and sure enough, downloaded it to my Kindle as soon as it was available.
Why? You might be asking. What’s so special about a simple title like LILITH? Wasn’t she, after all, only the prudish, elitist ex-wife of TV’s Frasier? To which, I might answer: Egads! If you’ve never heard of the mythological Lilith, you are missing out on some of the most ghastly legends that will send chills down your spine. I won’t go into to much detail about her (you can do your own research on her after all), but let’s just say that Lilith has been attributed to some of the most fearsome monsters of legend throughout the ages. 
So imagine my surprise when I see how this up-and-coming thriller author has decided to take this dark mythological force of nature and plop her down smack-dab on the deck of a modern day aircraft carrier. Yeah, needless to say, I was hooked. And personally, I think you will be too. take a look at the product description for LILITH (published by DarkFuse Press):

Before evil had a name, there was LILITH.

Something has come aboard the U.S. Navy’s newest state-of-the-art super carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, something supernatural and as ancient as time itself.  And it’s taking over the crew one by one.

Reporter Hunter Singleton and his wife Lisa, guests invited aboard to witness a routine training mission off the coast of North Carolina, soon learn that the CIA is onboard as well, and that some of the ship’s crew are acting irrationally, even violently.  When an unexpected monster hurricane slams New York, the ship rushes to assist in the aftermath, and Hunter, Lisa and the crew are faced with the terrifying realization that whatever has come aboard the Ford must be stopped before it is set free on the streets of Manhattan.  

But how do they fight something beyond human comprehension?  How do they kill something that may not even be alive?  

The clock is ticking…and Time itself is running out.

Yeah. See what I mean? Sounds wild, right? You know you’re wanting to download it ASAP. Well, finish reading the interview and I’ll post a link at the bottom of the page!

So I was delighted when Toby agreed to give me a few minutes of his time to talk to me a little about LILITH, his other books and writing projects, and everything in between. Here’s what he had to say:

1. I’ve already shared the product description for your most recent thriller LILITH. But in your own words, tell us a little bit about what this book is about.

I call it a supernatural technothriller, where military technology meets mythological terror. But I take a unique perspective, because my lead characters, a married couple named Hunter and Lisa Singleton, aren’t with the government or trained in special ops—Hunter is a newspaper reporter on what is supposed to be a routine assignment, and his wife, who is on maternity leave from her job as a park ranger, just happens to be a photographer and manages to get the newspaper to send her along. The story follows their discovery of a creature, thought to exist only in myth, on board the USS Gerald R. Ford, where they are covering a story. The creature, which is posing as human—and no, it’s not a vampire—is slowly taking over the ship’s crew for her own nefarious purposes. She also has a lot of supernatural powers that are kind of mindblowing. The CIA and a black ops team eventually get involved when the creature gets loose in Manhattan. It’s quite a ride.

2. This story just sounds amazing. I already have it on my Kindle and can’t wait to dig in. But I’m curious…the infamous Lilith of Judaic mythology is not exactly someone I would expect to see on a modern day aircraft character. Is there a story behind the story my readers would be interested in hearing? What was the inspiration for this? What prompted you to combine these seemingly anachronistic ideas into one riveting thriller?

I’ve always loved mythical monsters like the Gorgon and the Hydra and the old Ray Harryhausen movies. I wanted something that hasn’t been seen a lot in horror fiction, something other than a vampire, zombie or lycanthrope. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those characters, but I wanted to sort of introduce a new one. I did some research and the Lilitu just seemed like the perfect candidate. I had written a short story about a Navy sailor stuck in the middle of the ocean aboard an abandoned Navy ship with a monster running loose. I wanted to expand that story, so I took my ideas about Lilith and put it together with my short story and just fleshed it out into a novel.

3. As I alluded to in the last question, Lilith, of course, is an intriguing character out of mythology. A very dark character. Jewish Midrash and folklore have pointed to the fact that she was Adam’s first wife…who consequentially ended up eating their offspring and was banished from the Garden. Some have attributed her to be the mother of vampires. Others have called her the progenitor of earthly monsters. Without giving too much away, how closely did you follow the classic mythos in this story? How different is she?

There are definitely a lot of different myths about Lilith out there, from Sumerian to Judeo-Christian and everything in between. I just kind of took the things that seemed the most interesting to me (as writers tend to do) and put it together into a character that would suit the needs of the story. One legend says that she had the power to control the weather, and others said that she had sexual liaisons with mortal men while they were sleeping, kind of like a succubus, and spawned her own demon children. I took those things, then kind of embellished on the rest. Some things I just completely made up, like her ability to control the crew and to use radiation as a way to instigate her mutation.

4. As a writer, who are some of your favorite authors? How have a few of these authors helped mold and shape you into the author you are now?

I think one of the first books I read as a kid that really got me into the whole writing thing was probably Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. It was a collection of really amazing short stories that I read probably five or six times. He just has a way of making characters so real and bringing inanimate objects, like steam presses, to terrifying life. Who could ever make you believe a steam press would come alive and chase you down the street? Stephen King could, that’s who.

I also read a lot of Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles, R is for Rocket, Fahrenheit 451, I love all those books. He was definitely a big inspiration. Of course, Edgar Allen Poe and The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart and pretty much everything he has written has been a huge inspiration. I also love Edgar Rice Burroughs and the way he could weave action and suspense with science fiction. The Pellucidar series is probably my favorite, where they travel to the center of the earth, but I also like the John Carter series, as well. But for pure creepiness and dark suspense, you can’t beat my favorite, H.P. Lovecraft—The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Colour Out of Space—those are great stories.

5. Now Lilith isn’t your first novel. Last year, you released your debut novel (I believe), DIABLERO. This, too, sounds dark and brimming with supernatural goodness. Tell us a little about it, as well as its genesis/inspiration if you can.

DIABLERO was actually released in paperback in 2010 and the e-book came out a few months later, in 2011, both from different publishers. As with LILITH, I was fascinated by the character of Blackbeard the pirate. My wife and I spent a lot of time on Ocracoke Island where I was able to see the Blackbeard Museum and do a lot of research. Here was a guy who was around 30 years old and had only been a pirate for about three years, yet he spawned this legend that has lasted for hundreds of years. But again, I didn’t just want to do what had already been done. So I brought Blackbeard back to life in modern times, gave him some shape-shifting powers, took some of the H.P. Lovecraft Cthuhlu Mythos stuff and put it all together into this dark action/horror/thriller. This is also the first story to feature the characters of Hunter and Lisa. By the way, the Disney movie, On Stranger Tides, actually came out AFTER I published DIABLERO, though I know the book version has been around for a while.

6. Both of your novels appear to be supernatural thrillers of a darker variety. With horror fiction, movies, etc. at an all time high in popularity, what is it about the genre you feel draws people to it? Why is it so fascinating to us? What draws you to it as an author?

I’m not sure about other people, but for me, it’s not so much about embracing our dark side, but acknowledging it and understanding it. It’s about evil and the damage that it does and the hope that in the end, good will always triumph. Plus, it’s just plain fun to be scared, like staring at a tiger shark through four inches of plexiglass—the potential is there for him to take a chunk out of you, but you know it will never happen because there is that barrier between you. I think thrillers offer us that barrier, that ability to look and speculate and experiment with danger without actually being killed in the process. I hope that makes sense!

7. What projects can readers expect from you in the future? Care to give us a glimpse into your work(s) in progress if you’re able?

I just finished writing two books: a horror/thriller novella and a young adult science fiction thriller. The novella is about a young lawyer in northern Virginia that inherits an ancient prayer rug from his father, who was burned to death in a mysterious fire. Bad things start happening almost immediately and he soon starts to realize there are terrifying forces at work within the carpet. You’ll never look at prayer rugs the same way again! I’m still waiting to hear back from DarkFuse about that one.

The other story is about a teenage physics prodigy studying at MIT who finds out that her father, a physicist at the CERN facility in Geneva, has gone missing. He was one of the discoverers of the Higgs boson, or the God particle, and had discovered a way to tap into its power using a machine that allows you to hook your brain directly to the particle. It’s a wild ride that takes you from Boston to Geneva, Washington D.C., Iran, Israel and back to Washington D.C. as the girl and her mother search for her missing dad. There are a lot of other surprises along the way, too, but I don’t want to give too much away. It’s set to be published by Crossroad Press sometime this year, hopefully in paperback, e-book and audio.

I am also writing the sequel to LILITH, which will be on more of a global scale and will have a lot of mystery, intrigue, and of course, lots of frightening mythological creatures!

8. If you could offer just a single piece of advice for aspiring writers out there, what would it be?

I don’t know if I can keep it to a single piece, but I’ll try! I would say, “Know your craft.” Writing may look easy, but it’s not. It’s a job like anything else, and you have to at least be competent to get ahead. Try to get jobs writing in any forum that presents itself, even if you’re the only one reading it. I wrote for print and online magazines, college publications, newspapers, blog sites, and anywhere that would hire me. I wrote short stories and even started a couple of novels that never went anywhere. But I never gave up. If writing is what you love, then do it!

For more info on me or my books, go to www.tobytatestories.com, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter while you’re there.

Thanks for the interview, Kent! It’s been an honor!

And thank you, Toby, for taking the time to share with us today about Lilith and your other projects. We wish you the very best of luck!

Readers, as usual, I hope you’ll show your support by going and picking up your own copy of Toby’s books if you feel so inclined. Here are the links to Amazon for both his novels:


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