I’ve been doing interviews for a couple years. I started back in November of 2014. I was trying to get people to promote a project I was working on and sent out a press release to a few dozen of the sensible places to send a press release about the kind of project and all I ever received in response were auto-generated e-mail confirmations. It seemed like the old “experience/employment” paradox. Can’t get a job without work experience. Can’t get work experience without getting a job. In this case, I couldn’t get anyone to promote the project I was working on because I wasn’t famous enough for people to care about anything I was working on. But how was I supposed to get famous if I couldn’t get people to cover the project I was working on? I didn’t think that was fair, so I started my interview blog and promised to interview anyone to promote anything they wanted to promote as long as they did their part of completing the correspondence style questionnaire and provided answers engaging enough that the interview was worth posting. I posted Interview #167 this morning. I’ve interviewed creative types from a wide variety of arts. Film-makers, musicians, fine artists, and authors. Recently it’s been mostly authors. That’s how it goes. Like veins of ore in a mine, once you find a little you usually get more of the same. Most of the authors are working on their first book, or first few books. Some of them have a distribution deal with a publisher. Some are self-published. A lot of them center around zombies or some other variation on the dead/undead. You know, like the Bauhaus song about Bela Lugosi. https://youtu.be/OKRJfIPiJGY When an author writes about zombies, I try to remember to ask them “Why zombies?” Why not vampires, witches, or werewolves? I usually don’t get the answer I’m looking for. I know that the popularity of The Walking Dead show is probably behind a lot of the inspiration for these books. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can totally understand watching the show and watching the group of relatively normal people in an unusual situation fighting for survival against other survivors and the persistent looming threat of the zombie horde and thinking, “Hey, I can totally imagine myself in the zombie apocalypse. Wait a second! I could write a book about that!” I’ve received a lot of these books to read and review either as a result of the interviews or for my book review blog. I usually don’t get very far in them. Either the writing isn’t very good, or isn’t engaging, or they feel compelled to put some weird twist on the zombie creature. Even relatively well-known authors have lost me. I had heard good things about Brian Keene’s zombie books and had a case of Leisure Books at my job, so I decided to try them out. The writing wasn’t bad, but the premise that the zombie apocalypse was a result of the spirits of the dead and demonic returning to inhabit the bodies of the living didn’t work for me. He lost me when a swarm of sentient birds attacked something, I think it was a helicopter. I couldn’t get past the premise, so I gave up on the book. I’ve read a fair amount of zombie themed books and watched at least a hundred zombie movies. I read the comic books for The Walking Dead up until the arc that ends at around issue #100 and I watched the first four seasons fairly avidly. But The Walking Dead wasn’t what inspired me to write about zombies. The comics and the TV show are good enough. Even though, if offered the chance to play with that world and character set, I think I could have a lot of fun and do a decent job and make some interesting things happen, but I haven’t gotten that call yet. I’m happy enough to just sit back and just enjoy the results of the effort of others. I also don’t plan on watching Fear The Walking Dead. One passably well, but flawed, zombie apocalypse series from that creative team is enough for me. The reason I write zombie is because I was asked to write a short story for a zombie-themed anthology. I had written a book for a publisher and when I would talk with aspiring authors that fact would come up. One of the authors told me that he was putting together a zombie-themed anthology and asked me if I would write a story to be considered for the anthology. The publisher liked the story, so I went on and wrote another story under a pen name to help fill out the book. The same scenario, but from a different perspective. The book was supposed to debut at a Midwest horror convention. I took time out of work and drove out to the convention on my own dime to be part of the release. The convention was nice enough to comp us a table and the editor and one of the other authors were planning on being there to help promote the book. The books did not arrive in time for the convention and the editor/publisher was literally in tears with frustration. I came up with the idea of going to the business center of the host hotel and running off a few dozen copies of my story to hand out as a teaser for the anthology. The publisher wasn’t very keen on the idea, but failing that we were just going to be three guys sitting behind a table with nothing to offer anyone. I gave one of the print-outs to the owner of a DVD distribution company I knew. The next morning he surprised me, telling me that he actually read the story that night and enjoyed it. He asked me, “So, where’s the rest of it?” “The anthology? The books didn’t get to the publisher in time for him to bring them to the convention.” “No, the rest of this story. I like the world you created and I want to read more.” I filed that away in the back of my mind and let it sit there for a few years. One night at work I found myself daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse again and I started playing with writing small vignettes describing the world as it would be. Abandoned supermarkets falling in on themselves with bushels of blind potatoes and carrots growing out of the bins of vegetables. Abandoned cars on the freeways, slowly turning to rust on flat tires, windshields thick with dust and ash from the burning cities, streaked with several seasons of rain. I was adding paragraphs to the thread until I had enough to put together a short story, then more than that and I decided to finally revisit the idea of expanding the short story into a book, which went on to become the beginning of a series of books. My inspiration for the zombie books I write is equal parts post-apocalyptic movies and zombie movies, specifically the zombie movies of George A. Romero. I grew up in the late 70s/early 80s during what was called the “cold war” between the United States and Russia. We were warned that at any time the Russians could push the button and send their ICBMs. The last thing we would see would be the con trails of the missiles arcing across the skies overhead. That was if you lived in or near a major city. If you lived somewhere in the middle of the country you would have to try to survive a slow death from fallout, radiation poisoning, nuclear winter and cannibal clans. So, pretty much the film The Road (2009). As for the films of George A. Romero, I first saw Night Of The Living Dead when I was maybe ten years old, having snuck down in the middle of the night to watch the late late movie. It was terrifying, and left a lasting impression and I sought out the later films in the series when I was older. Although they are great films, I was not a SWAT team member or a helicopter pilot or a TV cast member. I was not a member of a motorcycle gang, or a scientist or a member of the Army living in an underground mine. I enjoyed those films, but I often found myself wondering what would happen if there was a zombie outbreak where I lived. I think I waited long enough to avoid the error of making myself the main character, or an idealized smart, tough, and sexy version of myself. My life really isn’t that interesting. I also avoided creating one-dimensional archetype characters like the tough-as-nails ex-marine, the tough but vulnerable nurse, the obnoxious yuppie character that you love to hate, the stoner/gamer, the goth girl obsessed with death, etc. I decided to do a crowd-funding campaign to try to raise a little money so I could take some time off of work to write the book. In the campaign, I offered contributors the opportunity to be characters in the book. Each character would get their own novella establishing their character, and I would push the characters towards each other until they were a group and push them towards a common goal to preserve and rebuild human society in the world they found themselves in. I was using as my model, Stephen King’s The Stand, in which he does essentially the same thing. He introduces the characters, spending four or five pages first establishing, then following each one, moving them towards each other until they come together. I have long been an admirer of the work of Stephen King, and thoroughly enjoyed readingThe Stand the first ten times through. But recently when I revisit The Stand, I find the paranormal/religious themes of “good versus evil” that underpin the conflict of the book preachy and two-dimensional. As an atheist, I believe that human nature is more complex and flexible than “good or bad” and I’m more interested in essentially good people forced to do bad things and essentially bad people forced to work together in the interest of mutual preservation. Those are the themes that I explore in my books. A post-apocalyptic world falling to pieces where there is no higher power with their hand on the wheel. The crowd-funding campaign was passably successful. Successful enough for me to decide to carry through with the project, but not successful enough for me to take time off work and work on the book exclusively. I wrote and published the first two books, but I waited too long to write them. Now that The Walking Dead is one of the highest rated TV shows, everyone and their cat is writing their own post-apocalyptic zombie-epidemic series of books. The market is saturated with zombies which is completely fair in the free market economy of modern self-publishing. I think that the first two books in the series are special, and deserve more attention than they have received. If I can get some momentum behind the first two books, or at least a few dozen reviews, I’m looking forward to revisiting The End Of The World Is Nigh and writing the rest of the story, which, if it goes according to plan should be about as long as Stephen King’s The Stand when I edit all of the novellas together like shuffling a giant deck of cards, and it will be my loving homage to all the hours of nightmarish pleasure that King and Romero provided me with during my formative years. That is why I write zombie fiction.
* * * * *
The stench of frozen flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 40+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well!
Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them!