James Sabata the award winning filmmaker and Fat Camp author talks to Kendall Reviews.

James Sabata is an award-winning filmmaker and author. Since graduating with a MA-Creative Writing from the University of South Dakota, James has published over twenty short stories and two novels. James is a father of four currently residing in Phoenix, AZ.

KR: Coffee?

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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

I’ve been publishing horror stories and other short stories since 2010.  I’ve sold the rights to six short films, four of which won awards at various film festivals, the other two are in pre-production.  I published my first non-horror novel in February, ZER0: Lancaster’s Greatest Supervillain. My latest novel, Fat Camp is basically a horcrux holding my soul.  It’s a combination of my insecurities growing up overweight mixed with my fear a serial killer will murder me while I’m on the toilet with a small dash of my never ending ability to surprise myself with what I’m actually capable of accomplishing in life.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I live in Phoenix, AZ, so I spend a lot of time in the pool, especially this time of year.  I go to a lot of movies. If you want to be a successful writer, you need to read voraciously.  If you want to make films, you need watch films.  My wife would argue that I do not watch films, so much as I dissect every aspect of their writing and overanalyze minute details.  That’s true about my interactions in my daily life as well. My favorite activity is just meeting new people and listening to their stories. You never know what you’ll learn or where that information will lead you.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

When I was really young it was Danny and the Dinosaur all the way.  I loved the concept of a kid breaking a dinosaur out of a museum and teaching him about life today.  That idea still fascinates me.

When I was a teen, I was heavily into Choose Your Own Adventure books and anything with a mystery.  If it included a bit of the paranormal, even better, but no particular book sticks out to me in those categories.

I wouldn’t say it’s a kids’ book, but the book that changed me as a child was Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon.  It scared the crap out of me as an 11 year old and I’m forever thankful for that.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Music plays a huge role in my writing. Every novel I’ve written has a soundtrack, if you will. I tend to pick songs that really play into a character’s motivation or something I think that particular character would listen to.  Fozzy’s latest album JUDAS was in constant rotation during the writing of my novel FAT CAMP.  The title track, Judas, sums up my killer so well I listened to the song on repeat while writing kill scenes. 

Painless is another fantastic track that fits with the story.  Linkin Park’s “Castle of Glass,” “Burn It Down,” and “Numb” were each played. I listened to Bad Wolves’ cover of “Zombie” several times.  And, since I see the book as a movie in my mind, the end credits would have Blue October’s “I Hope You’re Happy” playing.

My favorite album of all time is probably Matchbox 20’s Yourself or Someone Like You

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director? 

James Wan is one of my favorites.  John Carpenter, of course.  Guillermo del Toro.

KR: What are you reading now?

I just finished John FD Taff’s Little Black Spots. It was spectacular.  Today I’m rereading American Born Chinese, Maus, and Persepolis for a project I’m working on that I can’t say more about yet.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Too many to name.  When I was a teen: Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Donald Barthelme, Richard Matheson, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Today? Joe Hill, John FD Taff, Josh Malerman, Doug Murano, Vincent Cava. People who write autobiographies I dig, like Corey Taylor, Chris Jericho, or Donald Guillory. Sometimes those influence me even more, because the truth can lead to such interesting paths in my mind.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

A little of both. I work from a fairly detailed outline, but the outline comes from watching videos in my mind of things happening. It’s like catching large chunks of a movie and writing them out as quickly as I can and then asking myself what order they go in and how to get from one to another when things aren’t spelled out.  For the most part, I know exactly where a story is going before I begin.  That certainly doesn’t mean I know what road we’re going to take to get there.  Even when I think I have the map laid out in front of me, I end up on detours.


KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I tend to write things that are pretty common, I think. Research doesn’t play a large role. If I research something, it’s usually more like getting terminology right (a conversation with a friend in that particular industry) or learning the back history of a building and incorporating some fun fact. So, I spend more time researching while writing the actual book than before it. In between projects I’m most likely to research. I love reading random articles on Wikipedia and learning as much as I can and then following through to other sources to learn more.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I don’t have one. I have weeks where I’ll sit and crank out 6,000 words a day. I have other days where I don’t write at all. The main thing is following the thought when it’s there. I send myself a lot of emails and sort them into folders for specific stories. I have also been known to fill random scrap paper with lines of dialogue and shove them into my pocket, go home and throw them on a pile to go through later. It works surprisingly well.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

Probably my short story Gossip Hounds of Sherry Town, which is about a small-town mortician forced to deal with the aftermath of an accident that kills his wife and two daughters.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Always. I’m really good at not taking things personally, so it doesn’t really faze me. I read it more to see if there’s a viewpoint I hadn’t considered or to see if someone finally found some crazy Easter egg I hid in the story. I’ve actually been known to disagree with a positive review (although I’d never tell that to the person who wrote it).

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Just do it. We all suffer from imposter syndrome. We’re all trying to figure it out. You can publish twenty books and when you start the next one you still have anxiety about whether you can finish it or if you’re the right person to do it. Don’t believe in writer’s block. It’s not real. It’s an excuse people use because they’re waiting for inspiration instead of doing work. Remember that what you put in is what you’ll get out of it. If you want it to be a full-time career, you’re going to have to put in the hours, even when you’re not getting paid. Learn everything you can. You need to know how to market, how to give presentations, how to design your covers, and how to look someone in the eye and talk about your book, rather than deflecting and thinking they won’t care. If you don’t like repetition and rewriting, this is not the career for you. Finally, I think writers would do well to stop thinking solely in terms of print.  There are so many amazing podcasts or YouTube shows or people making their own web comics, five-minute video shorts, or even how some people use social media to tell horror stories.  It’s fascinating.  One of the joys of horror is that it can’t be contained or defined fully, so I love that it can’t be contained to a single form of media.  I also love that horror relies on senses a lot more than some genres, so the ability to manipulate the audience on multiple levels that other forms of media allow really impresses me.

KR: What scares you?

The current state of affairs in the world and the seeming lack of personal accountability or respect for human life.

Turkeys. I don’t like them. Soulless eyes, creepy faces.

KR: Sorry James!

Hearing things in my house when I’m alone that I know I shouldn’t be able to hear.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

I’m the guy who loves e-books. I like being able to have my whole library in the palm of my hand. It’s a lot easier when you move too. I like to pull up a book and quickly search for what I want to find. I like the way I can fall asleep and I’m still on that page. And a spilled Dr. Pepper cleans right off of it. With that said, there’s nothing that has compared to the feeling of holding my own books for the first time.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Fat Camp is a love letter to the 80s slasher movies I grew up with. We still do all the stereotypical stuff like group shower scenes and running boob jiggles… but with overweight teenage boys instead. The truth is that the book is a very poignant coming of age story, cleverly disguised as a slasher movie.

Since 1985, over 500 overweight teenagers have come to Camp Wašíču, looking to lose weight, gain self-confidence, and turn their lives around. Phillip McCracken arrives, weighing in at almost 400 pounds, but the baggage he carries from the past affects him much more deeply than the numbers of the scale.

When a homicidal maniac hell-bent on revenge attacks, Phillip is forced to either find the courage to save the people around him or fall victim to his own self-doubt… and possibly a machete.

It’s basically a look into my soul, as I explored what it was like to grow up overweight and insecure, to lose my father to cancer at a young age, and to have to make choices to step up and be the adult when I wasn’t ready to do so.

But don’t over think it. It’s still a slasher film in paperback form.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book concerning Capgras Delusions. Any piece of schizophrenia fascinates me, but Capgras has my full attention. The idea that someone could come to believe their loved one has been replaced by an imposter is terrifying. Add in the fact that so many people suffering from Capgras follow through on slaughtering their loved one in the most horrific ways possible and I can’t get enough of it. Additionally, I’m beginning to outline a novel about a doppelganger brought to life through Instagram. And I’m working with Head Feathers Only on our next short film, entitled Souvenir; the tale of a serial killer who skins tattoos from victims to remember them. It’s debuting at a film festival in Minneapolis the week of Halloween.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

I would choose Gordon Stanheight from Fat Camp. He’d have us off that island in less than an hour.

b) One fictional character from any other book.


c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

WWE Superstar Chris Jericho. That guy knows everything, so he’d either get us off the island or he’d be the most entertaining person in the world to be stuck on the island with.

KR: Thank you very much James.

Find out more about James via his official website www.jamessabata.com

You can find James on Facebook here

Follow James on Twitter @jamessabata

You can visit Jame’s author page here

Since 1985, over 500 overweight teenagers have come to Camp Wašíču, looking to lose weight, gain self-confidence, and turn their lives around.

Phillip McCracken arrives, weighing in at almost 400 pounds; but the baggage he carries from the past affects him much more deeply than the numbers of the scale. When a homicidal maniac hell-bent on revenge attacks, Phillip will be forced to either find the courage to save the people around him or fall victim to his own self-doubt…

… and possibly a machete.

Filled with allusions to the Slasher films of yesteryear, Fat Camp delivers horror, humor, and a little slice of nostalgia for anyone who grew up even slightly afraid of the dark.

You can buy Fat Camp from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Plagued by supervillains for over a decade, the city of Lancaster has watched in awe as their superhero, Zero, stood victorious against each threat. They’ve grown to respect him, to love him, to idolize him; oblivious to the fact that their beloved hero is also the city’s most hated millionaire media mogul. 

But Zero has a secret much bigger than his identity. The city’s great protector is also the mastermind behind the villains terrorizing the city. Exploiting his total control of the local media, the man under the mask lives out his superhero fantasies; scripting and directing events as he gains more control over Lancaster each day. 

Looking for a new story to tell, Zero promises to make Chris Thompson his new sidekick and eventual successor. As Chris proves his worth, Zero grows paranoid and flips the script on his protégé; spinning the media to make Chris into the most hated villain Lancaster has ever seen. With the line between good and evil blurred, Chris finds himself on the wrong side of the law; battling his former mentor to save not only himself, but the city that has been taught to hate him.

You can buy Zer0: Lancaster’s Greatest Supervillain from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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