Author Toby Tate grabs a coffee in his white to-go mug at the coffee counter inside Muddy Waters. It’s a nice Thursday morning, somewhere in the 60s and sunny, so he sits outside at a black metal table with his daughter Zoe.
Tate, with his mirrored sunglasses firmly wrapped around his 52-year old face, takes a moment to acknowledge the sun and the rays that are beating down on him. It has been, after all, a long winter and he’s just as thankful as the next guy for the warmth.
Only Tate isn’t the next guy. He’s the guy that is signing a four-book contract with a major national publishing house, Permuted Press. It’s the same publisher that brought the bizarre but popular “John Dies at the End,” to the book world and eventually turned it into a cult-hit film starring Paul Giamatti.
Permuted is the publisher that wants to not only pick up Tate’s next original manuscripts, but also repackage and redistribute his first book, and while they’re at it, go ahead and buy the movie rights up front.
Tate is also the guy that just found out that one of New York’s top literary agencies, Trident, picked him up as a client.
And he’s the guy whose upcoming book, “Primordial,” was just endorsed by New York Times bestselling author and pop culture star, Douglas Preston.
“He really liked it,” Tate says of Preston’s reaction to his latest manuscript.
And Tate? How is he reacting to all of this attention he’s receiving for his work as a published author?
“I’m ready to jump out of my skin,” he says, a genuine grin on his face.
Tate is a pretty genuine guy. He’s the humble guy that you wouldn’t think is a
rising star in the very competitive world of
books. He’s humble in that gee whiz sort of way, not boasting about his accomplishments — although he clearly has a right to boast.
He quietly takes it all in stride. If he’s about to jump out of his skin, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.
Tate has been around the Elizabeth City area for quite some time and he’s known locally as not only an author of supernatural thrillers, but also as a journalist and a musician.
Back in 2005 Tate was a student at Elizabeth City State University. Retired from the Navy, he was working on his degree and was interning for The Daily Advance, writing news and feature articles.
He and his wife Laura were new parents. They had adopted their now 11-year old daughter Zoe from China. And Tate was just starting to write a book that would be the first to be published, “Diablero,” a supernatural thriller that featured the infamous Blackbeard returning from the dead.
It’s been nine years since he began this journey in earnest – he says he wrote his first short story when he was 12 – and over the years Tate has had success being published beyond his first book, especially with his last book, “Lilith.”
“Lilith” is perhaps the book that has set Tate apart from the pack of numerous writers hoping to make it big.
Working from an ancient myth about the first woman — she is thought to have predated Eve — Tate created a new monster of sorts. And while he would agree there are no original thoughts left, he does acknowledge that “Lilith” is unlike any other supernatural being in the genre today.
“There are no other monsters that transform into these huge beasts,” he says.
And that takes us to “Primordial,” the sequel to “Lilith.”
“I sent them (Permuted) a synopsis of my book, 'Primordial.’ ... He (publisher) read part of the book and said 'We want to sign you immediately if not before.’”
Then the publisher asked Tate if he was working on a sequel to that book. He said yes and while they were at it, could they re-release his first book and then let’s add another to that. And so the four-book deal was born.
The story of “Lilith” has the Singletons, both journalists, aboard an aircraft carrier - he’s a writer and she’s a photojournalist. They’ll be doing a story about jet landings; that is until a super hurricane changes everything.
Tate uses the Lilith myth to bolster his supernatural thriller and introduce a bloodline that can be traced back to original mythological Lilith and plays significantly into a story that is fast paced and leaves you wanting more each time you put it down.
“Primordial” picks up six months after the end of “Lilith” and examines what happens when a tribe of Lilith-like beings is discovered by a CIA agent.
Tate says the unpublished manuscript is being well received and the buzz is overwhelmingly positive. That likely has to do with a number of factors, aside from the fact that it’s a good story with good writing.
One factor is that “Lilith,” currently being published by DarkFuse, is a steady seller. Tate estimates that for several months the thriller has been selling two-to-three copies a day online.
Next, the fact that Douglas Preston has agreed to endorse the new book may have given Tate the boost he needed to get Permuted’s attention.
And since a former Simon and Schuster publisher who is well known in the publishing world launched Permuted Press, Tate’s search for a literary agent seemed to have been aided along quite nicely.
He says that until this current publishing deal, literary agents have not responded to his queries about representation, despite his status as a published author. But Tate says at this point, he needs an agent.
This is a big deal.
Tate talks about all of this in between sips of his coffee. A guy at a table next to him is listening to what sounds like a Crosby, Stills and Nash song, which is appropriate since it’s the sort of music Tate would have played a few years back at the City Wine Sellar.
Talking about all of this, Tate nervously taps his foot beneath the table. If he doesn’t show excitement in his voice or on his face, his foot tapping is his tell.
Ask Tate if all of this is a game changer, he’ll tell you yes, And he’ll tell you, if you ask, that while he might have always harbored some doubts, something had always told him that this day would come.
And it looks as though, for author Toby Tate, the day has come indeed.