LEFT: Self-published author David Viergutz of Burnet separates the creative side of writing horror fiction from the business side of selling it to a vibrant and supportive fanbase. RIGHT: Viergutz's latest book, 'Old Scratch,' was released in October 2022. Courtesy photos
David Viergutz is a police officer, businessman, student, teacher, husband, father, and Methodist. He is also a successful horror writer who lives in Burnet. His 16th book, the fourth in one of several series he writes, was released in October. Like all of his other books, it was self-published, giving him total control over content, cover, and marketing.
And, yes, he makes money.
“Self-publishing now is not what it used to be,” Viergutz said. “My stuff has to stand up next to what everybody else is publishing. It has to look the same, be the same quality.”
To achieve that quality, he hires editors, illustrators, beta readers, and cover artists.
“You know that saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover?’” he said. “You MUST, you MUST do that. You must have good covers. Readers are very particular. They know what they like and they know what to look for.”
Viergutz has a supportive fan following with which he connects digitally, selling on distribution sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He’s a GoodReads.com author and has an impressive up-market website at davidviergutz.com. He’s also somewhat old school in that he communicates with readers by email.
“Young adult romance readers are all over Instagram and TikTok, but horror tends to be older readers,” Viergutz said. “They are still comfortable with email. I collect email addresses.”
He also holds book giveaways. “Take a chance on me,” he advertises through email marketing and Facebook ads.
His books, which receive consistent four-out-of-five-star ratings across the different platforms, are based on reality, he said. He writes what he calls “slow burns” that capture a reader’s imagination and hold on.
“The reason horror stories are so incredible is that they create a feeling in you that sticks with you — it never leaves,” Viergutz said. “A good horror writer does not try to create the jump scare. A good horror writer creates a sense of dread in you where you don’t want to read the next page, but you know you have to.”
A Viergutz character could be anyone, an “Average Joe,” faced with horror arising from everyday life. He often cites as an inspiration Stephen King, an author who scared him so badly he blacked out an entire chapter in “Salem’s Lot” with a Sharpie because of how reading it made him feel.
“Horror is the only genre dedicated to a single feeling,” he said. “Horror is an emotion. Romance is a close second.”
In his series “Otherworld Archives,” the evil lurks in a church in a small town harboring even more secrets. “Old Scratch” is the fourth and latest book in the author’s first horror series.
“Otherworld Archives” is not the first series Viergutz published. The “Demonic Compendium” series began as one fantasy book he wrote to prove to himself he could do it. At the time, he owned and operated 280 Physic, a fitness business in Marble Falls. He was also working as a police officer in Bertram.
“I wanted to write a big, epic tome,” he said. “I realized there were so many dark themes in my fantasy that it was leaning toward dark fantasy, it was becoming Grimdark.”
The Grimdark and Splatterpunk genres are not for Viergutz. Both tend toward the gory and amoral.
“I realized I was a horror writer at heart,” he said. “Horror is the genre of hope. For there to be the things we are afraid of, there has to be the opposite. Hope is the good, the opposite of evil.”
Which is where his Christian beliefs come in.
“A lot of my characters are outward Christians,” Viergutz continued. “I have no qualms about adding Christian themes or having instances where my faith has influenced the story and what the character believes.”
His faith led him to becoming a law enforcement officer, a career path to which he plans to stick, no matter how successful his writing becomes.
“The Lord told me this is where he wants me,” Viergutz said of his law enforcement job at Concordia University in Austin. He is also a reserve police officer for the city of Cottonwood Shores.
He and his wife, Melissa Fosler, a reader of horror fiction and a fan, have two children. She works as a counselor at Bluebonnet Trails Community Services in Marble Falls.
She calls his writing life “extra work.”
“I call it my relaxation,” he said. “And, it’s my business. I keep my story creation separate from the business aspect.”
Part of that business is being both a student and a teacher. He is working toward a master’s degree in creative writing and starting two writing workshops: one for teens, which will be free, and one for adults, which will be a paying venture. At the end of each workshop, participants will have a published work and, Viergutz hopes, a passion for writing. His goal is to inspire writers and readers.
“Don’t look for me to teach full time,” he said. “I want to go home to my books, my family. I want to build my business. I’m just a normal human being who writes horror. Give it a chance, if you haven’t. It’s going to ground you in a reality that’s very, very long-lasting.”