Stephen Herczeg

Stephen is an IT Geek, writer, actor and film maker based in Canberra Australia. He has been writing for over twenty years and has completed a couple of dodgy novels, sixteen feature length screenplays and dozens of short stories and scripts.

Stephen’s scripts, TITAN, Dark are the Woods, Control and Death Spores have found success in the international screenwriting competitions with a win, two runner-up and two top ten finishes.

His horror stories have featured in Sproutlings, Hells Bells, Below the Stairs, Trickster’s Treats #1 and #2, Shades of Santa, Behind the Mask, Beyond the Infinite, Beside the Seaside, The Body Horror BookAnemone Enemy, Petrified Punks and Beginnings.

His Sherlock Holmes stories have been published in Sherlock Holmes in the realms of H.G. Wells, Sherlock Holmes: Adventures beyond the Canon, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories: Part XI and will soon be seen in Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the realms of SteampunkThe MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories: Part XIV & XVI.

Later this year, Stephen will appear in A Tribute to H.G. Wells, and has had over twenty drabbles accepted for the Curses and Cauldrons, Blood and Bitemarks, Worlds, Angels and Monsters anthologies.

What’s your background, what compelled you to start writing?

I’m an only child. Plus my parents split up when I was seven. Growing up without brothers and sisters is a pretty lonely existence. Sure, I had friends, but for a while I lived on the other side of town from school. So, you retreat into your own mind a lot and your imagination fires up. I found I had a creative bent. I created my own comic books. I drew a lot. I wrote a lot, even then. Most of it was crap, but “what the hey?” I was young.

That drive kept with me until adult hood. I was in a few rock bands and started writing my own lyrics for a while, then that boiled over into prose writing. I wrote a couple of 75,000 word novels. Really bad novels. I have used one as the basis of a short story that was picked up about six months ago, so happy with that.

I found that prose took too long to get my ideas down, so tried feature film scripts. Managed to pump out 16 over a 20 year period. Four of them did pretty well on the competition circuit. Be nice if someone would buy one. #shrugs#

Then I turned back to prose a few years ago. Got a couple of stories published. Kept at it until now I’ve had over fifty published, plus seventy drabbles.

Now, it’s like a drug. I can’t stop.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Keep at it bozo. Have faith in yourself and keep writing. That’s the only way to get better. But the biggest piece of advice – FINISH IT. So, often I meet people who WANT to be writers or WANT to be creative, but can’t find the time or don’t know where to start.

I tell them it’s simple. Grab a sheet of paper, and a pen or pencil. And WRITE. And then FINISH.

Who cares if it’s crap? Who cares if nobody wants to read it? Finish. Then write something else. Or draw something else. Keep doing it.

As the man said, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice.”

What does literary success look like to you?

If it could pay the way then that would be brilliant, but I’ve been an IT Geek for over thirty years, and I’m honest enough to know that ain’t gonna happen in the near future. I’m fine with that.

I think the moment that I’ll have achieved a modicum of success is when I finally pull my finger out and finish off another novel, or put together a collection and get it out there.

Once that’s done, I’ll see myself as successful when I walk into a second hand book shop and find my book on the shelf. That moment will mean that I did it, I finished writing a book, I put it out there and found a publisher, someone bought it (not just my Mum), hopefully they read it, and then they thought enough about it to donate or sell it to a book shop instead of just throwing it out.

I keep seeing a mate’s book, he’s also here in Canberra, in Opportunity shops or at book fairs, and I smile. I’ve already got a signed copy, so I leave it for others to buy, but I’m happy for him. He’s gone and done what I want to do. So good on him.

What kind of research do you do?

Bucketloads. It depends on the type of story I’m writing. On top of my speculative fiction, I write a lot of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, so there is tons of research to do. From simple things like, how did they travel around the countryside 1885? How about travelling to Europe? What were the roads like? What does a body left submerged in a river look like after six months? What did 19th century London look like? Things like that.

I’m also a complete anal retentive planner. I’m an IT Geek after all. I specialise in Architecture, which is all about the connections between people, data, systems, machines, etc. When I’m writing I’ll start a mind map (I have a preconfigured one that I use) and start populating it with Ideas, Plot lines, Characters, Background, Locations, etc. Once I’m happy with the skeleton and fleshed out ideas, then I begin to write. But even in the middle of a sentence, Google is open again and searching for the answers I seek.

Besides hard work and talent, what other traits has led to your success?

Guts. There’s one thing that is rarely associated with writers that have started to get their name out there, and that’s courage. A high level of doubt goes with the territory. Most writers (me included) suffer from doubt, and at worst imposter syndrome. That nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you’re really not that good, that someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to quit, go be a plumber or a barista or worse an IT Geek. Our own minds want to drag our dreams down into the mud and stamp them into oblivion.

To get out of that mode of thought takes a lot of guts.

To put our work out into the world for others to read takes a shedload of guts.

Anybody that has managed to write something and send it off to an editor for consideration deserves a massive pat on the back. Well done to that person.

If they manage to have a story accepted, then even bigger kudos to them.

For those of us that have managed to go the next step and publish a few stories, we should be congratulating those writers and bringing them on our journey with us.

Even George R. R. Martin admits he suffers from doubt and imposter syndrome. That’s why it’s taking so long to get Winds of Winter finished.

So, if even he is scared, imagine how good you will feel when you finish that story you’ve been putting off all this time.

What is a little-known fact about you?

I have two degrees of separation from Robert Redford, and technically a multitude of other famous actors. Back in 2015?? I was an extra on Secret City which was filmed in Canberra. I’ve been meaning to try and get my name added to the cast on IMDB, but half the acting population of Canberra would be on there if they did. On the set, I managed to bump into Anna Torv during one scene, though we fixed that on the second take, and I was the Prime Minister’s (played by Alan Dale) security man for one scene. Alan Dale and Robert Redford were in Captain America Winter Soldier together, hence two degrees.

I’m happy to dine out on that for the next twenty years.

Were you an avid reader while you were growing up?

Oh, yeah, and it hasn’t stopped. Even from my primary school days I used to scream through books, if they interested me. My Mum reckons I was big on dinosaurs and monsters when I was tiny. Couldn’t read Jack and Judy books, but ploughed through words that were twenty letters long.

In my early teens I read things like Lord of the Rings, both chronicles of Thomas Covenant, all the Dune books before Frank Herbert died, tons of King, James Herbert, Koontz, etc, plus the entire James Bond collection, lots of Agatha Christie, all sorts of eclectic stuff.

My library now has well over four hundred books, but my wife limits new additions. I know that’s terms for divorce, but …

Of late, I’ve almost read every Matthew Reilly. I’ve been re-reading all the Clive Barker books. I have a need to keep up with Sherlock Holmes stories (new ones mostly for research). I’ll admit I can’t keep up with King anymore, I’ve got at least six on the shelf untouched. I gave up trying to keep up with Koontz many years ago. Dude is uber-prolific.

Plus there’s all these new authors that I share space with in these anthologies from White Rabbit Press or whatever they are called.

What’s brewing? What projects are you working on?

Right now I’m 2,500 words into my latest Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which is due at the end of June, but I’m hoping to write another before then as well.

I’ve got the first draft of my Banned and Wetware stories simmering. Plus School’s In, is sort of done, just needs some work.

I have a ten thousand word story that will either go on to be my next novel, or be revised and lengthened for Deep Underground.

And I just realised I’ve got less than three weeks to get Envy written.

Crap, I need to get on with it.

The Ace of Spades By Stephen Herczeg