It’s an unusually warm, but windy, January day when Toby Tate sits outside of the local coffeehouse, sipping java and talking about his latest novel, “Lilith.”
Tate is a fixture around Elizabeth City. He’s been known as a local singer/songwriter, a journalist working for this newspaper and since 2010 a published author.
He ventured into the publishing world with his first supernatural thriller, “Diablero” back in 2010. That book featured husband and wife protagonists Hunter and Lisa Singleton. His latest book brings the couple from the fictional River City back for “Lilith,” a thriller that seems to be reaching a wide array of readers and is raking in good reviews.
“Lilith” is a self-described “supernatural, techno thriller.” It doesn’t, says Tate, fit exactly into one genre. And that may be why it seems to be appealing to a variety of readers.
The story 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.
The title “Lilith” makes reference to a mythological figure who in some creation narratives predates the existence of Adam’s Eve — she might have been the first woman. Tate uses that myth to bolster his supernatural thriller and introduce a bloodline that can be traced back to Lilith and plays significantly into a story that is fast paced and leaves you wanting more each time you put it down.
Tate’s love of writing and of the genres in which he writes is apparent here. He is like an enthusiastic child at 50 years old.
His love of sci fi, horror and fantasy can be traced back to his childhood and early adulthood. As a child, Tate says he was a fanboy when it came to horror films.
“Not so much the slasher movies but the ones with the creatures,” he says, adding that his favorite is “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
And then there was Toby’s dad. Although his father might not have been an enthusiastic horror or sci fi film fanboy like his son — he really dug those classic old military films, says Tate — the elder Tate would join in and watch those campy films.
“We would hang out and watch ‘spook movies,’” recalls Tate. “So yeah, it’s all his fault.
“Those were happy times.”
And these are happy times for the author, too.
Tate spends his days with his daughter Zoe. She’s home schooled so Dad gets his daughter rolling on her school work before he settles into his home office where he will check emails, do research and ultimately spend five to six hours writing an estimated 10,000 words a week.
It’s a tall order but it works for Tate. And the proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding. This is, after all, his second published novel, and he’s ready to publish a third and has a novella in the works.
Of course it’s not all writing, especially when you’re working on fiction genre that requires an element of realism to carry the otherworldly stories. When you’re working with aircraft carriers, for example, you need to know of what you speak or your readers might not trust you a second time around.
“I have to (do lots of research) because there are nerds out there that’ll pick your bones clean,” says Tate. “I want people to be assured I know what I’m talking about.”
For “Lilith” Tate uses his experience as a seaman in the U.S. Navy, as well as the extensive research he conducts before sitting down to write a book. He creates a believable world set amidst an otherwise unbelievable scenario. Unbelievable, however, does not equate to unenjoyable. Tate does take his readers for a ride.
“I want people to have a good time reading it,” he says.
He wants his readers to enjoy reading it just as much as he enjoys creating it, and apparently that’s a whole lot of enjoyment.
“I like being transported to different worlds,” says Tate.
By his own admission, Tate is influenced by Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Edgar Rice Burroughs — you might recall that the “Tarzan” creator was responsible for the early sci fi “Princess of Mars” series featuring the hero John Carter.
Right now Tate is dipping his pen into a number of inkwells. Most significantly, perhaps, he is working on a sequel to “Lilith.” The sequel has not gained Tate a contract yet but his current publisher, Dark Fuse, is in the wings waiting to see what he’s creating.
And so are his fans. In the relatively short time Tate has been published he’s managed to build a national and international following. Fans of supernatural, techno thriller novels are like that. And when they like something and someone, they apparently stick close, anticipating the next great thing.
So Tate’s following is loyal, complimentary and if any of that is an indication of things to come, he’s well on his way to becoming an established author dealing in fantastical, yet well grounded stories.