LDC: Welcome to Living Dead Corner, Chris! It's always nice to have a new author on the page. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself.
Chris: Glad to be here! Well, to start I’m a nineteen-year-old College Student living in California, that covers a lot of ground. I’m an English Major looking to be a teacher after school, I’d like to do something along those lines, as well as keep writing of course, I’ve been a writer my whole life.
LDC: You've just had a book come out. Aftermath is an apocalyptic novel set in 2015, after the world is ravaged by an earthquake. Care to tell us anything else about it?
Chris: Well the most interesting thing about this book to anyone who knows the area in which is set is going to be just that, its setting. The majority of the book takes place in my hometown, Santa Rosa, California. That’s a small drive north of San Francisco. If you’ve ever lived in California this book will be eerily familiar to you. It’ll be a place you know by heart…yet won’t feel quite settled in. What seems like California in this book is actually a much scarier place; it’s the toppled remains of the state, the remnants of the earthquake. If you happen to not be native to California, I think this book will be just as interesting, simply because it’s a setting we can all picture ourselves in, hopefully only in nightmares…that being our familiar world, our hometown, house, family, friends, favorite café across the street, turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Eventually a battleground too.
LDC: Hmm... You had me at "battleground." Care to expand on that?
Chris: Well that’s really what the whole book’s about. After the earthquake there’s this guy named Charlie, he’s a drug dealer living in L.A. at the time of the earthquake, and he uses his knowledge of such things to get the refugees of Southern California addicted to narcotics. He trains them to be soldiers in his army, and takes the army north to take over Santa Rosa. In my hometown after the earthquake the main characters build this fortified settlement, and that’s what Charlie and his army is attracted to.
So the book’s climax is the war between the North and South, between the characters you follow in Santa Rosa and the half-zombified army of Southern California. I think Norcal people will get a kick out of that. (And hopefully SoCal won’t be too offended!) There’s a pretty light hearted rivalry between the two halves of California in real life, so it’ll make for a good laugh.
LDC: What, in your opinion, is the hardest part about writing a story/novel?
Chris: Um…Getting it all together. That’s my answer. In better detail I’d say it’s the challenge of assembling what is ultimately a large collection of puzzle pieces varied in size, seeing where all the pieces go, how they work together, and what image they will ultimately make. After finishing my first draft of aftermath I was stumped, I had roughly thirty chapters in three parts and I could not for the life of me figure out how to fit them together. When I ended up doing is printing out everything and manually cutting and pasting the book into this mess of a manuscript. I was surprised to find out when I first finished Aftermath that there were big pieces missing from that jumble, parts I wouldn’t find for years. I never really knew what picture I was seeing until I had almost all the pieces together, and that was definitely a challenge in itself. When it all came together though, that was magic.
LDC: What inspired you to write Aftermath?
Chris: I have this theory; it’s something I’m sure a lot of teenagers in High School would smile at: Every adolescent reaching adulthood wants to do two things. They want to get as far away from their hometown as they can, and they want to leave it as a burning wreck behind them. I was sixteen when I started Aftermath, and at that age there’s a lot of frustration to be had with being stuck somewhere, even if it’s as beautiful a place as California. I couldn’t leave though, so I did the next best thing, I burned my city to the ground, in the pages of my book. That’s where Aftermath started from, and it’s a common theme throughout the story.
LDC: Why did you decided to self-publish? (I'm unsure if you did, but the name of the press is your surname. If not, my apologies.)
Chris: I tried my hand at traditional publishing for about a year, sending off countless queries, getting rejections, etc. It took me a while to concede that I wasn’t ready to finish what was at the time an uncompleted manuscript, and when the time came to finally finish it, there was no more time to find a publisher. Aftermath was a thing born in the city of Santa Rosa, being such; it had to be published when I still lived there, that’s how I feel about the thing. When I made plans to move to L.A. for school I also decided I wanted to self-publish my book before leaving, and I’m pretty happy with the results.
LDC: When writing, do you need to have a set environment? Or do you tackle the task anywhere and everywhere?
Chris: I always tried to keep a regular schedule, but that gets hard to do consistently. Most of the book was written after midnight though, so that probably says something in itself. (And coffee…can’t get a word out without some coffee in me.)
LDC: Are you self-taught or professionally trained?
Chris: I took basic grammar and syntax in sixth grade. And I’ve read a bajillion books, that’s about it.
LDC: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Chris: Steven King, especially the Dark Tower stuff, Michael Crichton, George RR Martin, and Douglas Adams, those are my top four. I’m working my way through Game of Thrones right now. That book is like crack to geeks like me.
LDC: What would be the perfect pre- or post-apocalyptic scenario you'd like to see on film? Or does it already exist?
Chris: I’d actually like to see a fresh take of the zombie sub-genre. Zombies are great, don’t get me wrong, but they have some major story problems, the biggest one being longevity. In a zombie apocalypse you kind of assume that all hope is lost for the characters, for no matter how tough they are, everyone eventually dies in a zombie apocalypse. Some of the best apocalyptic stuff out there has stories and characters that survive for decades, if not generations after the initial incident. One of the best examples of this is in a book called A Canticle for Lebowitz, which covers a period of about a thousand years after a nuclear war. It’s a classic for me because it gives a broader look at the timeline of the apocalypse, the trials of not just characters, but generations of characters, living and dying in a world doomed to repeat its own mistakes over millennia. If someone could make that work with zombies, that’d be incredible.
LDC: What other projects are you currently working on?
Chris: I’m super excited about this new novel I’ve been writing over the summer. It’s another post-apocalyptic book, this time about the survivors of a nuclear war, set fifty years after the bombs fall. I’ve also been writing this short story that’s like “The Thing” but with zombies on a train. We’ll see how that one goes.
LDC: Do you have any short stories or other projects out there, or is Aftermath your first work?
Chris: I have a short story coming out with a zombie anthology called “The Dead walk Again” by Metahuman Press. A few nibbles here and there too, we’ll see what happens in the future! I’m pretty new to this, so expect to see more of me in the future than you will in the past.
LDC: What future plans do you have with writing?
Chris: Basically to do a lot of it. The way I think about it, even if it doesn’t pan out as a sustainable thing in my life, writing’s just too fun to give up on. You get to be God in your own little universe, sending all your pawns at one another in this big chessboard you design yourself, word by word. It’s magic. I’ll do it forever just to entertain myself.
LDC: This is the part of the interview where you pimp anything and everything.
Chris: Don’t have a lot of pimping to do at this time. Here’s what I can offer: Check out my book Aftermath either through paperback:
And if you read it, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com all criticism is more than welcome, but nice comments are appreciated too! And put up a review on the amazon if you feel like it.
LDC: Thanks stopping by. We hope to see you again in the future!
Chris: Glad to be here!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEW JIM LAVIGNE
Author of the post-apocalyptic novel, "Plagusville USA" has been kind enough to offer me a little bit of time to pick at his brain. Definitely a very informative interview. Enjoy!
MICHAEL: Why don’t we start with the typical, and you introduce yourself to our audience?
JIM: Well, I live in the Minneapolis area with Katy, my beautiful, brilliant wife of almost twenty years and a few cats. I work for a biotech concern, in shipping, and own a dark blue Toyota Corolla. I’m the author of seven novels (and counting) and various short stories and essays. All in all, I’m pretty much just an average guy with an extremely overactive imagination.
MICHAEL: Your novel, Plaguesville USA, has just been released by Permuted Press. Can you tell us a little about it?
JIM: Without getting too deeply into the details, it’s more or less a Road Trip. Nearly all of humanity is dead, victims of a mutated strain of pneumonic plague. The only hope for the race’s survival is a small team of survivors from the CDC, who have discovered that a vaccine can be created, but only if they can locate a survivor of an earlier outbreak of the disease. And they do locate one, but unfortunately this is one Howard Lampert, a superlatively cranky, cynical old sorehead. Battling the devastated landscape, their fellow survivors, and Lampert himself, the CDC team has to find a way to get to San Francisco and the only remaining, functioning lab facilities.
MICHAEL: How did you get into writing?
JIM: I’ve always loved creating. The sense that one has conjured up a world from thin air has always fascinated me. In addition, I see writing as therapeutic; my wife and my friends tell me that I’m a lot happier person when I write. And I have to agree.
MICHAEL: Are you formally trained or self-taught?
JIM: The former, but not completely, as I was a three years and drop-out college student. That said, I learned a lot from school. Some things (like grammar, punctuation, and syntax) have to be drilled into you, like any discipline, and all of the little rules and details are key; mistakes jar the reader and disrupt the narrative.
MICHAEL: Why apocalyptic horror?
JIM: I have to admit, when I was working on Plaguesville, USA, I had no idea that I was writing apocalyptic horror or even that such a genre existed. In fact, it took a fan telling me that it was PA to realize it! What I set out to do just sort of happened to fall into the niche.
MICHAEL: You originally self-published this, right? How did you promote it?
JIM: Yes, just slapped it up on Kindle and crossed my fingers, really. I use Scribd.com to publish excerpts and previews and Facebook to spread the word. Beyond that, I got extremely lucky when another PP author, Eloise J. Knapp, plucked it from the slush bin and brought it to her publisher, who liked what he saw, evidently, and offered me a contract.
MICHAEL: Will you self-publish in the future or will you stick with a publisher?
JIM: I have a bunch of self-published stuff out right now, but it’s so hard to get noticed these days, when absolutely anyone can publish, that I hope to interest “real” publishers, who have the time and inclination to promote and distribute my stuff.
MICHAEL: Have you ever written about zombies, or will you?
JIM: No past work, but I’m not sure about future projects. I have some work done on a Z-book (set in the same dystopian world as Plaguesville, USA) but it’s so hard to come up with a new angle on the concept that I’m not sure how it’ll turn out. Guess we’ll see!
MICHAEL: What are you currently working on?
JIM: Oh, three or four novels and a couple of short pieces. I tend to set up characters and plots and then let them sort of ferment in my mind for a few months. Then I go back and work on the most promising. Right now, that’s a very dark tale of paranoia and insanity—sort of a pop fiction The Crucible—set in a small Minnesota town. Other than that, the Z-book I mentioned and a short story of the Cthulhu Mythos.
MICHAEL: Do you prefer writing in a certain perspective/tense? Why?
JIM: Yes, I prefer the Third Person Omniscient perspective and always in the past tense. Not exactly sure why, but that’s where I live, so to speak. Once in a while I like to throw in a First Person narrative, but usually only as backstory.
MICHAEL: What are some of your favorite apocalyptic movies?
JIM: Hmm, good question. The Mad Max movies, of course (except Thunderdome—that stunk), and Escape from New York and Bladerunner are good examples of the Dystopian theme I used for Plaguesville. I thought Doomsday had a very nice edginess and look to it, and the Resident Evil movies are a great, albeit kind of mindless, conspiracy series.
MICHAEL: What is the “perfect setting” for you to write in?
JIM: Physically, as in where I peck at the keyboard? That would be my den, a small dark room stuffed with Halloween decorations, books, electronics, and way too much Pittsburgh Steelers gear. My favorite place in the world.
As far as settings in my books, I like to use places that I’ve actually been to. Research online has come a long way, but it’s hard to get the feel of a given location just through reading about it. I also love my home state, so you’ll also see plenty of Minnesota in there.
MICHAEL: What would be the soundtrack to your apocalypse?
JIM: Ah, so many from which to pick! To keep some focus, I’ll stick to songs that would go well with the soundtrack to Plaguesville, USA: Bush, Little Things. Elvis Costello, Waiting for the End of the World. Pretty much anything by Marilyn Manson. South Side by Moby has some great PA imagery, and of course, good old Classical guys like Beethoven, Wagner, and Bruckner. There are more, too numerous to mention.
MICHAEL: What advice can you offer new authors out there?
JIM: Write a lot, obviously, even if no one notices or even likes it. Develop the characters; make them learn something or change over the course of the story. Use your favorite authors as inspiration, but develop your own voice at the same time. And never mistake action for plot development.
MICHAEL: This is the part where you can promote anything and everything.
JIM: Really? Well OK, but don’t forget: You asked for it!
Of all my stuff, I would really love to see BEARWOOD get some legs and run.
It’s a great big sucker of a book--epic even--and it’s got it all as far as spooky and weird are concerned: Ghosts and ghost hunters, monsters, death and murder and aliens and even a guy getting killed by a moose. Big, scary, and twisty; what more could you want? Currently an e-book at all major outlets.
I also have BALL OF SNAKES, a straightforward, fast-moving survival novel set in the Colorado Rockies. Much tighter in scope and plot than my other stuff, it’s a story about two brothers on a hiking trip who are stalked by a serial murderer (a particularly creepy character, even for me) deep in the remote mountains. Also an e-book at all major sellers.
In the field of historical fiction, there’s LIVING ON BAR TIME, more of a stab at literary than my other books, which was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. About a family of bar-owners who travel to war-torn, disaster-ravaged cities and sell liquor at profiteering prices, it’s kind of departure for me, but one I’m glad I made. Not yet e-published, it’s available in paperback and hardcover, POD style, through Xlibris.
There’s also APOKRYPHOS, a sort of psychological suspense thing, starring probably my favorite character, Jade Martin. This one’s about a psychologically fragile woman whose only living relative, her brother, goes missing from a small Midwestern college. Battling her own fears and foibles, she goes to the college, where she and a cast of oddballs unearth a murderous cult of deathless madmen. Available as an e-book at all outlets. There’s also a sequel to this one, called KURIOSITOS, already done but not yet re-worked enough to publish. Never enough time…
Whew! I guess that’s about it. I have some decent short stories as well and post things on my pages on Facebook and at Scribd.com, but most of that’s just noodling; novels are my real favorite.
In closing, let me thank you for the interview—the interest and enthusiasm of folks like you are changing the face of publishing. And that’s a very good thing!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS SUZANNE ROBB
Suzanne Robb is coming up quickly in the ranks of our genre. Author of the novel Z-Boat and many, many other stories, Suzanne is making quite a name for herself. I've recently had the pleasure to ask her a few questions about the craft and the genre. Enjoy!
Mike: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Suzanne: I am a total introvert. I would rather be reading then at a party. I love my dog and puzzles of all kinds, crosswords, jig-saw, you name it. I have a think for dark chocolate, and read just about every genre there is.
Mike: When did you get your first story published?
Suzanne: My first fiction story was published in December of 2010. I have only been writing for about a year or so.
Mike: Your debut novel, “Z-Boat,” seems to be doing very well for having recently come out. Wanna tell us a little about the book?
Suzanne: It is hard to explain it, but will give it a shot. It starts out with a gruesome prologue, and a description of a dystopian world. Then it jumps ahead six months to the start of a rescue mission. I like to tell a story, build up tension and curiosities about who the bad guys really are. Then once they are well underway, things start going wrong and surfacing the sub is not an option (will not spoil as to why) Once the crew reaches their destination they find the zombies, and all hell breaks out. The difference is these zombies break from traditional ones in the fact they are strong at first and smart. This heightens the fear and danger the crew is in on an already failing submarine.
Mike: What made you want to write a novel? And why zombies?
Suzanne: I did not set out to write a novel, my friends made me do it. I gave into the peer pressure, thinking it would suck and no one would like it or the premise and was shocked when they did. As for why zombies, I really wanted to create a situation in which people HAD to deal with the zombies, but on the other hand this is also heavy on tension and thriller elements.
Mike: You’ve had quite a few short stories published. (busy busy, you are) Which do you prefer to write: short stories or novels? Why?
Suzanne: At first I loved to write short stories, but they started to get longer and longer. After a bit I decided that I could make novellas quite easily. I prefer novels because I like to tell a detailed story, make the characters as real as possible, and not feel rushed in doing so.
Mike: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now?
Suzanne: I just finished the edits on an e-book coming out January 2nd with Dark Continents Publishing, and am outlining the sequel to Z-Boat. I am also debating another book that again, by popular demand by my friends, I want to write.
Mike: You’ve compiled and edited at least one anthology that I know of. How was the experience? Will you be doing more?
Suzanne: I have edited and compiled one anthology with the help of Adrian Chamberlin. I have also done one for Hidden Thoughts Press on Anxiety Disorders. The experiences were interesting. As a writer when I submit something if the editor asks me to change something I bow to their experience or preference. I found this is not always the case and was surprised at some people and their response. I am not sure about doing more.
Mike: What advice can you offer any new writers out there?
Suzanne: Edit, proof read, and follow guidelines. There is nothing more irritating than getting documents in odd formats with the wrong font, that do not follow the rules and have silly mistakes that would have been caught in a proof reading session. The more mistakes the less serious it seems you take your writing, not following the guidelines shows a lack of respect to the editor. There are a few other things like looking for word repetition and over use of the word that or had. These are things that separate a solid submission from a not-so-solid one.
Mike: We live in the digital age. How do you feel this has affected the publishing industry?
Suzanne: I think the kindle and other devices are making it easier than ever for people to publish. I also think that as a result the reading public will become wary of independent writers who do not edit or format the books correctly. In a few years we will see the full extent of the impact, as for now it is interesting to watch it all unfold.
Mike: Are you a formally trained writer or self-taught?
Suzanne: Self-taught, I have never taken a proper writing class. I am glad in a way about that.
Mike: What’s been your worst experience so far? The best?
Suzanne: The worst experience as a writer, just one? Rejection is too easy, and something you get used to. The worst would have to be submitting to an anthology and then seeing the final story in print and wondering what happened to the story I submitted. The best, having my book accepted for publication, by far one of the best days of my life.
Mike: All right, I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but there’s the state right next to you is experiencing some sort of outbreak, and the future is looking quite bleak. They say the dead are coming back to life, and they’re infectious. How do you feel about the odds of your survival?
Suzanne: I feel good, lots of food stocked up, private neighborhood, fenced in yard, only one point of entry to worry about that could be easily blocked. Plus live less than a few hundred feet from a hardware depot and Costco..so all supplies would be within easy reach.
Mike: Most say that to survive in conditions such as a zombie apocalypse you need to throw your humanity out the window, because, if not, you’ll likely get bested by someone who has. If you were ever put in a situation like this, is this something you think you could handle or do you think that outlook is the wrong one?
Suzanne: I would love to say that is wrong, but in a dire situation like that it is kill or be killed. Humanity would have to be tapered down in order to survive.
Mike: What would be your weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse?
Suzanne: Ideally, a bodyguard. But I don't think that's what you mean so I would have to say machete. I can actually use one, they are quiet, and effective.
Mike: What are your thoughts on self-publishing? Would you ever travel down this path?
Suzanne: I would only do it if I had a proper editor, formatter, cover artist, and felt there was no publisher I could use. I am old school and think that eventually people will tire of all the self-published writer's out there. Complaints are already rolling in about it.
Mike: This is the part where you pimp anything and everything.
Suzanne: Read The End First is coming out in 2012, co-edited with Adrian Chamberlin. Live and Let Undead is coming out in December 2011 from Twisted Library Press and is one of the anthologies I am most proud to be in. Earth's End, edited by Rebecca Besser comes out in January 2012. Anxiety Disorders will be released in April 2012, a non-fiction collection of essays from people about how they live with, adapt, and cope with anxiety. I have an ebook being released January 2nd, 2012 which is a collection of 3 of my longer stories, which I am very happy about.
Most importantly would be Z-Boat, available here - http://www.amazon.com/Z-Boat-Suzanne-Robb/dp/1467945749/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324511874&sr=8-1
Mike: It was a blast. Hopefully we can do this sometime in the future.
Suzanne: Most definitely, how about when your book comes out?
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS KENNETH W CAIN
Hello again, all. I've had this one in line for a few months now. Due to personal troubles, I've had to put a lot of things on hold, and Ken was very understanding. So, without taking any more time, let's start with the questions.
MICHAEL: We’ll start off with everyone’s favorite question: Who is the person behind the stories?
KEN: I would like to begin by thanking you. Whenever I am approached with this sort of thing it is quite humbling. I really appreciate the opportunity.
I grew up terribly frightened of a good many things. Some may doubt this given my adult size, but I was actually a rather small child. As a result I suffered quite a bit of bullying. I had a late growth spurt in college, but it was the difficulties growing up that defined me as a man. I try to focus on seeing the good in people. There is nothing better than happiness and the human spirit. I've been told I am a bit of a wild man, but I like to think I've grown into somewhat of a recluse. Having two young children keeps me in check, and I'm always quite frightened for them in this big world. As a whole this is why I write.
MICHAEL: What was the best part about writing These Trespasses and Grave Revelations?
KEN: Whenever you write a story, long or short, you tend to form a bond to certain characters or aspects within a story. In long form the opportunities tend to be more fruitful. As you can imagine, all of the characters in these books are little pieces of me I have exposed. This is a way of dealing with my own fears, sort of therapeutic I guess. If you've read These Trespasses, what I mention here is a big insight to a small part of Marty's story. I grew very attached to Marty as a person, as he was a big part of my emotions at the time I wrote the first draft.
MICHAEL: How did you get hooked up with Post Mortem Press?
KEN: I tend to watch markets as part of my regular daily routine, and jot notes about ones I want to submit to. I wish I had time to send something to them all, but there are never enough hours in the day. Along with this, I keep an eye where other authors are sending work. In this particular case I noticed Robert Essig had been accepted for a Post Mortem Press anthology. I really respect Robert's work, and so I challenged myself with the same market.
One of the first stories I ever wrote entitled, "Warmth Within Thy Depths" was accepted into the Isolation anthology. From there, Eric Beebe and I talked quite a bit and hit it off pretty well. Eric is a well-spoken friendly guy, and he was willing to take a chance on “These Trespasses,” and since then “Grave Revelations.” He had an excellent strategy and his etiquette spoke fathoms to me that my book would be in good hands. Eric wants authors that work with him to succeed and he goes to great lengths to promote them. He has worked hard to get my name out there.
MICHAEL: Can you tell us a little about "The Dead Civil War," your online serial?
KEN: “The Dead Civil War” actually spawns out of a bitterness I have towards modern day politics. I don't believe in conformity. I don't require a label to define my religious beliefs, and neither do I need any political party telling me which line I should vote down like some high school Scantron test I didn’t study for. Too many people vote one extreme or the other, and I think this is what has led to the scenario we now find ourselves submersed within. There is far too little middle ground.
Out of my own frustration and struggling to find a way to outlet it, I asked myself, "What if I explode it?" Obviously, I cannot do this in real life or we wouldn't be speaking right now. I can, however, kill anyone I want in my stories (so beware naysayers). I decided all of these political types should have at it. Let's turn it into a second civil war and see who the real winner is.
In every such dispute there are always bad people. In this case, if you have read the story up to this point, I have identified this person to some degree. I have great plans for my political fiend. Call it revenge for all this bureaucratic crap going on out there in the real world.
There is another story behind DCW, as well. It is about human perseverance, and how we react with each other. It is so much about how history can repeat itself, yet at the same time, it has a lot to do with moving forward. It can be frustrating, but to paraphrase Stephen King, "the wheel of Ka goes round and round." It can be disheartening, and yet in the end we always have each other to fall back on.
MICHAEL: In your opinion, what is the best part of writing an online serial novel?
KEN: First and foremost it is the feedback. Readers give you something an editor might not always be able to offer you. Reading a story without needing to remain critical of its errors can offer the writer what works and what doesn't from a different perspective. A close second, though, has to be when someone gets it. If they enjoy the story it brings a rather large smile to my face. This is my driving force.
MICHAEL: When and why did you start writing professionally?
KEN: I guess it has been about a year and a half, maybe longer, that I have been taking it serious. I studied writing in college, but was sidetracked into the graphic design industry. After 20+ successful years I got an old itch and started writing in my free time. Next thing you know I was working 50-70 hours a week and writing whenever I had the chance. I owe the decision to my wife in the end. When the stars aligned, it was she who decided I needed to devote myself to perfecting the craft as best I could. Without doubt I owe everything I have achieved thus far to her credit.
MICHAEL: Do your stories just come to you or are they well thought-out before the first word is even written?
KEN: I take a lot of notes, little scenes or thoughts, and I people-watch a lot. When a few things click they sort of create a little sub-world in the dark recesses of my mind. This new world becomes an obsession for me, and I will dream about this place, and let the story unfold there some. I've even had nights when the stories pick up where they left off the night before. It is really quite pleasing in a nightmarish sort of way. Once I get tapping at the keyboard, though, I let my characters take over. I've only plotted their course. Now it is up to them to live their own lives. Sometimes it is surprising to see what direction they feel the story should move in.
MICHAEL: In your opinion, what is the best part of an apocalyptic setting?
KEN: A lawless society can be quite an attractive background for any story. This means when your neighbor wakes you up in the middle of the night hooting and hollering, you can off him without remorse or punishment. It also exposes the good in mankind. No one wants to be alone forever (well most of us). We are vulnerable at our core, and when there is a threat to take this from us, we find the spirit to fight back against these forces.
MICHAEL: Which do you like writing about more: zombies or aliens?
KEN: Choosing one or the other is difficult for me, as I love varied topics for stories. I do think the zombie themed stories have been done a lot, so I try to challenge myself to do something a little different each time. I guess the same could be said for aliens, but while we all tend to have a very specific image of what a zombie looks like, there is a great unknown as far as our extra-terrestrial friends.
I grew up watching One Step Beyond and Twilight Zone, and perhaps the movie having the most emotional impact for me as a young kid was watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As I suspect there is life out there somewhere, it is fun to speculate whether they might be friend or foe, and what they might look like.
MICHAEL: When writing, do you find it more fun to write about the good guys or the bad guys?
KEN: I enjoy writing from the perspective of the good guy, but I love to make them suffer. If I can kill them at the end it is even better. Just kidding. Or am I? It is fun to create obstacles for your characters. I think most people tend to think they have to deal with a lot of bull every day, so why not pour it on to these characters and create something people can relate to? Then when they get tortured I hope the readers say to themselves, "Yes! This is exactly how I feel." Maybe it even creates an outlet for them to release this stress. It certainly does myself.
MICHAEL: What avenues of promotion have worked out well for you?
KEN: The social media has been great. I have met many great colleagues/friends this way, as well as readers. In the end I think getting to know people is a huge factor, and staying true to who you are is important to me. I like to support others when I find the opportunities. I love to cheer people on. I don’t always have the time, but I try to get to everyone I can because in the end everyone needs a little support here and there from other people. At the end of the day, there is nothing like the good old meet and greet type functions. Face to face always provides better results than anything you can do on paper or behind the screen of a computer.
MICHAEL: Who are a few of your favorite authors (any genre)?
KEN:There are the static answers: King, Hill, Koontz, Barker, Ketchum, and so on down a very long list. I think everyone is going to rattle off those names and/or several others equally deserving of any sort of praise. There are too many fantastic authors to name only a few. Back in college I was fond of Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck, Shirley Jackson, Hawthorne, and many along those lines. Now days I love to read my peers work whenever I get the chance. I wish I could list them all, as I have a lot of respect for a great many in the business.
MICHAEL: What first inspired you to attempt weaving your own tales?
KEN: This answer goes to King hands down. Back in High School I worked the graveyard shift at Pepperidge Farms. I was one of the line people putting the lids on the cookies. This is how the chocolate gets in the middle. Anyway, as a summer hire they didn't need me all the time, so I spent a lot of time on-call. Quality television back then was quite challenging in the wee hours of the night. I found an old copy of Stephen King's “It” at a local used-bookstore and fell in love with fiction. From then on I had a good idea I wanted to tell stories. I just never had a game plan on how to approach it.
MICHAEL: Okay, I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but the dead are coming back to life. They run, they communicate, they hunt and kill and devour the living. Some fear that it’s the End of Days, others speculate some sort of biological/chemical attack. The conspiracy theorists are under the assumption that it is some form of an alien attack and have all gone underground, fearing that this is only the beginning of something much more cataclysmic. What does Ken Cain do? Will he survive? How?
KEN: Well, I am a big guy. Skinny people tend to die first, so there is an easy food source. A good friend of mine once said skinny people get sick, fat people get skinny. Truth is, they would be eaten. From this point I imagine we eventually become the Morlocks. I hope to be the guy in charge.
MICHAEL: What are your plans for the future? Are you going to stick with writing?
KEN:From this point on I am determined to write whether it kills me or not. My wife and I agree on this, and have left those opposed to this idea behind. Together we feel this is what is going to make our family happiest. Not only this, but I plan to dive into my writing. I have a newfound confidence in my writing thanks in large to Michael Knost's writing classes. He puts on a really informative online series of classes.
Right now I have many projects I am working on all at once. I have a handful of longer pieces (novels I am thinking) and several shorter pieces. I like to keep a good mix of activity so I don't get stuck on any one project. At any given time I might have several dozen little worlds brooding inside my head.
MICHAEL: Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?
KEN:I love writing longer works. There is a lot of room to play there, and I’m not intimidated by word count, not that I watch it to begin with. I get out what I have to and my editing process can determine those details later. Still, short form can really hone your ability to tighten up your prose. I enjoy swimming in both the pool and the pond I guess.
MIKE: What advice can you offer any other writers out there?
KEN: Eventually, many writers will come to a point where someone out there will lay into them. Early on I had a rejection where an editor literally tore me apart, and not in a constructive way. They said some really hurtful things. I guess I was also a little green back then, so they would not be solely to blame.
Was it unprofessional on their part? Looking back I think so. It crushed me. I wanted out. If it weren't for my wife I would have never written another word. She pushed me to look for the positive in this criticism, and let me assure you I had to squint very hard to see it.
Then, thanks to my wife, it became very clear to me. It is very easy for people to criticize. Not everyone is going to like what you do. No doubt every creative out there will receive some negative feedback. It is part of life. If we all liked the same things the world would be a very dull place. So I took it on the chin, and pushed on. It was very difficult. This rejection preceded many others before I started seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
The point is, don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. And you will make mistakes. As Thomas Edison would say, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." You have to believe you can before you will. You have to own it.
Also, structure your day. Spend time each day learning your craft, studying it and putting it to good use. Meet people in your field, and pick their brains. Find out what they are doing or who they are submitting to. Be a student of writing and work hard to better your craft.
MIKE: This is the part where you promote the hell out of anything and everything…
KEN: Well, there is my website http://kennethwcain.com
I love for people to drop by and see what I have going on. It is pretty well organized, and feedback is always appreciated.
“Grave Revelations” came out recently, as well as a re-issue of “These Trespasses.” I hired the extremely talented Philip R. Rogers to work up some cool cover artwork, and I am quite happy with what he has come up with. There might be more news coming up on this front, and details will be available on my website. Keep an eye out for the third installment of the Saga of I entitled, “Reckoning.” I am hoping for a springtime release on this one.
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS TW BROWN
Thanks for coming back, guys. TW BROWN returns for his third interview, where he talks about all the things going on with May December Publications and his own work. Enjoy!
MICHAEL: TW, man it’s been a long time since we’ve chatted. You run MayDecember Publications and still manage to write a lot. Any new news for us?
TW: Well, besides the fact that we are still here and slowly building momentum, I would have to say that the biggest news is the number of novels starting to trickle out under our banner. We have broadened our spectrum a great deal and are NOT publishing zombie fiction. In 2012 we are really looking to find some quality Steampunk. Also, we have our first annual charity anthology coming out, Wake the Witch. All the stories contributed, the cover art…all gratis, not even contributors’ copies on this one. Every single bit of the revenue generated will go to the Red Cross in semi-annual checks from us in the name of all who contributed. Each year we will be doing an anthology like this as a way to give back.
MICHAEL: You’re a seasoned writer. What, in your opinion, has been the hardest thing to accomplish?
TW: Generating a noteworthy buzz. A lot of writers don’t realize how much work comes after you release your book. And it isn’t all book signings and pretty stuff…it is trying to get reputable reviews (not just having friends flood Amazon with “It was great!” blurbs. Then there is finding that fine line between promoting and being annoying. You bang that drum too loud and people tune you out.
MICHAEL: What has been your biggest reward?
TW: Having somebody take the time to write an email that says they got lost in my book and enjoyed it so much that they hated to reach the last page.
MICHAEL: Who would be your dream author to publish under the MDP banner?
TW: Wow…if we had Brian Keene or Amelia Beamer drop us a story for one of our anthologies I think I would have to pinch myself…a lot.
MICHAEL: What do you look for in a story submitted for representation?
TW: The novel has to hook me on page one. Not necessarily the first line, but if I am twenty pages in and still wondering what the hell is going on…it’s a pass. That…and that they follow our submission guidelines. In the beginning I think we were just so excited to see submissions we didn’t care if it came written in crayon. Now we get a lot of stuff to the point of overwhelming at times.
MICHAEL: Do you perform your editing in-house, or do you contract jobs out?
TW: It’s all in house. My daughter Jenifer and I pour over each story. I have all my college grammar books out to check rules…it is exhausting. However, I feel we do very well in that realm. Eventually we will be big enough to hire help. Growth takes time, especially in this economy.
MICHAEL: What are your current top-sellers?
TW: Dead: Revelations by yours truly and Magic University by Chantal Boudreau are leading the pack currently in the novel department. Oddly enough, our first anthology, Eye Witness: Zombie is seeing a sudden surge. I am excited about Magic University. I think this has the potential to grab a massive audience.
MICHAEL: As a writer and a publisher, which do you learn more from: the positive or negative reviews?
TW: A bit of both…which is a terrible answer, but it’s true. The positive ones tell you what is working, the negative ones can tell you where you fall short. While writers hate negative reviews, constructive ones can be quite helpful.
MICHAEL: What has been the most challenging obstacle for you as a publisher?
TW: Dealing with disgruntled rejection letter recipients. We are in this culture where everybody gets to play…coaches can’t yell at players…and every story should see print. If you can’t handle a rejection letter, you should put away your pen. Now. Sending in a story or novel consideration is asking for acceptance…not demanding it.
MICHAEL: Every company puts out anthologies. With such plethora of these, what makes yours stand out from the rest?
TW: One word. Editing. I know that might step on a toe or two, but I feel we have the cleanest stuff out there. Sure, we aren’t perfect, but I read a lot. And while we might not yet be Night Shade Books clean, we are getting there. I am constantly going over past releases to tidy up.
MICHAEL: What does the future hold for you and MDP?
TW: More novels and less anthologies. We are seeing some quality full-length submissions and that is where I want us to go. I am very excited about 2012. While there will still be a few zombies drifting around our cellars, we are broadening the scope of who we are and what we release to include fantasy, alternate reality, and Steampunk.
MICHAEL: Okay, it’s time for the apocalypse, again. (Uh-oh!) The zombies are no longer a threat, though they are constantly pummeling against your haven’s impenetrable barriers. Electricity ran out in the summer, along with some of your fellow survivors – who were of course devoured not more than five feet from the reinforced gate by hordes of the undead. Only thirteen remain, including you. It’s getting mighty cold out there, and they want to burn your library of books. Do you say the hell with it and toss them into the fire that wouldn’t even last more than four hours tops? Oh, did I forget to mention the cache of firearms in one of the rooms below. You know, the weapons right next to the pantries that are overflowing with water and canned goods? No, not lockers filled with spare clothes and flashlights and whatnot, TW. The big locker on the opposite side of the room…
TW: I can’t even burn books I hate…much less my own. I’d have to rig a system to lure a zombie or tow that could be chopped up as “firewood”. Anybodywho lives next to a paper mill knows that you can adjust to any sort of bad smell. And I figure a well-seasoned zombie would burn longer than my books for sure.
MICHAEL: I know you’ve got a lot to pimp, so go on ahead. Pimp away, my friend.
TW: We have our newest anthology, Midnight Movie: Creature Feature coming out for Halloween with some amazing stories and some fantastic art work by Shawn Conn. The sequel to Fervor by Chantal Boudreau titled Elevation is our November novel release. We had our first two paying anthologies; Four in the Hole, which just released, and the upcoming in November Vampires Aren’t Pretty.
My third book in the Dead series titled Dead: Fortunes and Failures comes out in December along with our charity anthology that I mentioned earlier, Wake the Witch. 2012 will see another First Time Dead, Volume 3 which gives new voices a chance to be heard, also we have our first Steampunk anthology and novel on the burner. I think all told, 2012 will see twenty-three releases under our label. So…no moss growing under our butts.
As always, thanks so much for the interview. I do appreciate it more than words can convey.
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS DAVID DUNWOODY
Dave has agreed to come on LDC and let me pick at his brain. He is the author of Empire and Empire's End, among many other stories. You're sure to love this one!
MICHAEL: I am positive everyone who frequents this site regularly knows who you are, sir, but for those who don’t (how is that even possible?), could you explain a little bit of who you are?
DAVID: I’m a writer of speculative fiction, mostly on the horror side. I’ve been at it for about 7 years and have a couple of novels out (The Empire zombie books) as well as a couple of collections. I’m also a weresloth.
MICHAEL: Empire was one of the first zombie novels I’ve read, and it is still the wildest undead ride I’ve come across. When you were writing it, did you have any idea that it would be so successful?
DAVID: When I first began writing it in 2006, I put it online as a serial meant only to get some attention and feedback – I was planning on running it indefinitely and wasn’t really thinking of seeking publication. Early on, Permuted Press expressed interest in seeing a completed manuscript, and with that I began working on shaping it into a novel. I had no idea whether its rule-bending weirdness would resonate with a lot of zombie fans, but I’m certainly grateful it did!
MICHAEL: Did you find it hard to write its sequel, Empire’s End?
DAVID: I had the basics of the sequel in mind while finishing up the first book. As I went ahead with mapping out Empire’s End and new ideas cropped up, it was a lot of fun to write. I’d say I enjoyed the process more than the first book since it started out as a straightforward novel rather than a serial that mutated.
MICHAEL: When you are writing, do you generally outline, or do you just start with an idea and run with it? If you outline, is it hard to stay within your set parameters?
DAVID: For longer works I outline, though I really only plot out the most essential points in detail. I like to leave some room for surprises, those ideas that hit you out of nowhere when you’re waist-deep in the story. The parameters have never been drastically shifted by those sorts of ideas, but often times a character’s development may take a turn that I hadn’t planned for but that makes perfect sense within the actual manuscript.
MICHAEL: Do you have a preference between writing shorter or longer works?
DAVID: Short stories, generally, though I’m feeling more comfortable with novels. Early on I wrote some “idea stories” that were more premise than plot, but I find myself getting a lot deeper into the characters nowadays. Still got to have the crazy premises though.
MICHAEL: What is the hardest part about being a writer?
DAVID: Starting. I’m not sure where that comes from – perhaps a fear that the written words won’t be an accurate translation of the fantasy built up within the mind. It usually takes me a few pages (or chapters, depending on the length) to find a voice that feels right, and then I’ll go back and revise before diving headlong into the rest of the story.
MICHAEL: Is there anything that you are currently working on?
DAVID: In April I finished the first draft of a novel and have yet to return to it. It deals more overtly with personal issues than anything else I’ve written, so I want to put some serious distance between myself and the manuscript. That way I think I’ll have an easier time of slicing away the excess. Besides waiting on that, I am working on a few short stories for anthologies.
MICHAEL: What has been the greatest reward for you so far as a writer?
DAVID: Definitely the reactions of family and friends to seeing it happen. That definitely helps me step back & appreciate it more, too. As soon as one thing’s done I’m always right on to the next, so seeing the ever-growing collection of books when I visit my folks gives me some perspective on the ride so far.
MICHAEL: I ask everyone this: What advice can you offer to new writers?
DAVID: 1) Read genres other than what you write and generally enjoy. 2) Invite and consider criticism. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s absolutely necessary! 3) A lot of presses and other writing communities have forums where you can talk shop and connect with a lot of well-known professionals. It’s as fun as it is fruitful (and I think you can count those hours as “networking”).
MICHAEL: If you could sit down and have a beer or coffee with one writer, whether alive or dead, who would it be and why?
DAVID: That’s a tough one. I’d love to pick the brains of so many authors both living and dead, but I’d feel like such a gibbering fanboy, which I am – and I don’t know if beer would make it better or worse! I think I’d enjoy just sitting and listening to someone like Lovecraft or Barker pontificate over coffee. Just so long as they don’t expect me to say anything other than, “Geheheh.”
MICHAEL: Have you ever scared yourself while in the midst of writing a particular scene or story?
DAVID: A lot of my stories start as nightmares, so initially, yeah they can scare the bejeezus out of me. Shaping them into stories seems to afford me a sense of control that dulls the personal creep factor, but I try to convey the elements that had me freaked out in the first place. It usually helps to dictate the dream into a recorder as soon as I awaken. With that, hopefully I can pass my nightmares on to readers!
MICHAEL: Who would win in a fight, Cthulhu or your Enslaver of Worlds?
DAVID: As much as I love my Enslaver (from the book Anti-Heroes), he’s young yet and I don’t think he’d last two seconds under Cthulhu’s gaze. He may, however, have some tricks up his sleeve than even he isn’t aware of yet. (Still Cthulhu would probably kick his ass.)
MICHAEL: Will we see more of Enslaver in future works, or possibly even something from that mythos?
DAVID: I like the character a lot (the novella’s an update of a “comic” I used to draw in spiral notebooks as a kid) so I definitely plan to revisit him in the future. I don’t yet know if that will take the form of short stories or something longer, but writing a superhero tale was too much fun to leave it at just a one-shot.
MICHAEL: Are there any characters that you’ve created that just stick with you, to the point that maybe you find their particular voice speaking to you while writing a story that has nothing to do with them?
DAVID: Sharpe, the villain of “Unbound” (from Unbound & Other Tales) has been with me for thirteen years or so. Back in high school, and long before I knew anything about the world of writing and publishing, I had in mind both Rudd, the struggling author and Sharpe, the fiction-made-flesh who torments him. Back before I really understood cynicism and depression, they seemed to exist as portents of what lay ahead in my twenties. Self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe? Though I’ve only written a few stories about Sharpe, he would be the character who really has a presence in my head. I’m sometimes tempted to drop him into other stories just to see him lay waste to everyone’s little plans, but I have to keep Sharpe in check. He will be getting another story of his own though. I’m working on it now. Since I’ve become a little (and I stress little) more grown up, he’s grown too and his perspective has undergone a weird shift.
MICHAEL: Does music have any wavering effect on your writing?
DAVID: I definitely psych myself up for certain scenes – usually either action sequences or emotionally-intense ones – with music. Sometimes just listening to music and the feelings it evokes can help me bust through writer’s block. I generally have horror scores or metal on when I’m writing, but there’s also some Kelly Clarkson and Cyndi Lauper in there, and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my grits.
MICHAEL: If you could be any character from any Romero movie and live in any type of post-apocalyptic world set from his movies, who would you be and which setting would you choose, and why?
DAVID: Hmm. I was going to say the mall, but I think the base in Day of the Dead would be more secure – though not nearly as friendly. Under those circumstances, I would definitely want to be John and be able to fly that chopper – just in case.
MICHAEL: What is it about the zombie genre that appeals to you?
DAVID: Although I have written some non-apocalyptic zombie tales, it’s probably the end-times aspect as much as it is the fact that our own dead are turning on us. I think that the real fall of Man will have a human face, but not like a zombie’s. The face of the walking dead leaves no hope of being able to use either reason or threats to avert the apocalypse.
MICHAEL: Horror: What is the best part of it, in your opinion?
DAVID: That it makes you experience things which are uncomfortable and frightening, but which we are compelled to experience. Particularly in the case of fiction, I think it has a bit more to it than just the rush of a good scare. I look at people who read horror as taking a dare rather than seeking an escape.
MICHAEL: What are the worst/best zombie flicks you’ve seen?
DAVID: Well, my faves are Dawn and Return of the Living Dead – as far as great bad movies go, there’s a special place in my heart for the perverse cheese of Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. I also really like the makeup for Burial Ground’s ancient dead. Same goes for Zombie’s conquistador. I’d like to see more films with those old-old-school rotters.
MICHAEL: What are your plans for the future? Taking over the world? Creating the first zombie?
DAVID: A boogeyman under every bed. A clown on every street corner. A death rattle behind every dark door. And a flat tax.
MICHAEL: This is the part where you pimp anything and everything, whether it’s yours or a friend’s…
DAVID: I’d love readers to check out the books mentioned here – Empire, Empire’s End, Unbound & Other Tales and Anti-Heroes. All of my works are listed at daviddunwoody.com. My most recent anthology appearances are in a couple of great books – HELP! WANTED from Evil Jester Press and Death, Be Not Proud from Dark Quest Books. I’d encourage everybody to check out all the great authors at Twisted Library Press where Michael and I hang out.
MICHAEL: No problem, Dave. It was an honor and a privilege having you on.
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR WILLIAM TODD ROSE
William Todd Rose, author of SHUT THE FUCK UP AND DIE!, APOCALYPTIC ORGAN GRINDER, THE DEAD AND THE DYING, THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY INFECTIVE PEOPLE, and much more, has agreed to let me ask him a few questions about his career, self-publishing, and much more. Enjoy!
MICHAEL: Why don’t we start off with the usual and have you tell us a little about yourself.
WILLIAM: Well, I'm almost forty years old and live in Parkersburg, WV with my wife of 13 years. When I'm not writing, I enjoy astronomy, camping, geocaching, hiking, and creating digital music under the moniker of Dead Hooker Scenario. I also spend a lot of time on Second Life when I should be writing, but I'm currently rationalizing that by calling it “research” for a novel I plan on writing in the near future. It's funny, but I somehow feel like I'm giving a profile for Living Dead Corner's version of E-Harmony (hahaha)
MICHAEL: LOL! Do you ever incorporate music in with your writing, either in the story or just the surrounding elements when you work?
WILLIAM: Music actually plays a huge role in my writing process. To date, all of my longer works have had an accompanying soundtrack. These are the songs that play in the background while I'm working and, in my opinion, embody the atmosphere I'm trying to convey. Recently, I've taken to adding an "Audible Acknowledgements" section to the end of my books which list the songs and artists that had the greatest impact on that particular book. I've included this information in Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, Shut the Fuck Up and Die!, and The 7 Habits of Highly Infective People. I have pretty eclectic musical tastes so the songs on a book's playlist can be anything from Willie Nelson to Slayer to The Andrews Sisters. The Dead and Dying actually had a very cohesive soundtrack playing while I was working on it. Very morise and forlorn songs which, even though not specifically written about the end of the world, had a very apocalyptic vibe to them. Some, such as "Dying Alone" by the German darkwave band Bluetengel fit right into the storyline with the imagery the lyrics convey. Others, like "Summoning of the Muse" by Dead Can Dance, just hit a resonance with that particular book. I really wish The Dead and Dying had the audible acknowledgment section included with it. However, even though it's my most recently published title, it was actually submitted over two years ago, long before I had the idea to list out the songs which influenced me.
As an interesting sidenote, when I'm writing I generally have at leats two books that I'm working on simultaneously. My wife can actually tell which project I'm currently focusing on by the songs loaded in my playlist. She'll be like "Oh, you're listening to Frank Sinatra and 1940s era stuff ... are you working on Pennyweight?"
MICHAEL: You are the author of quite a few books and numerous short stories. How did you first get into writing?
WILLIAM: I got into writing at a very young age. It was in grade school and one of our projects was to write these mini-books which were then placed on the shelves in the library for other kids to check out. Of course, if I'm entirely honest with myself, I actually began writing fiction much earlier than that. The “What I Did This Summer” essays and so on were probably about 80 percent fiction. I had a much more exciting life in my imagination than I did in real life and it just seemed natural to me to include these things in my homework assignments.
MICHAEL: Your newest book, The Dead and Dying, has just been released by Library of the Living Dead Press (Twisted Library Press). I’ve heard that this isn’t your typical book about zombies. Care to shed some light on that?
WILLIAM: Well, the first thing that probably sets it apart is that right from the very beginning the reader knows that all of the main characters are either dead or in the process of dying. The story is told by three separate narrators. There's Carl, who has drug his zombie-mauled carcass into a shack in the woods to die a lonely and painful death, and there's also two spirits with him whom he can't see. The first is Josie, a woman with whom he'd found love in the post-apocalyptic wastes of the East Coast, and the second is initially known simply as The Child. Josie is radiant and beautiful in death, whereas the child looks like his spiritual form has decayed as much as his physical and he bears an intense hatred for Carl. The three narrators tell an intertwining story of love and regret, betrayal and the quest for redemption, all with Carl as the common thread. Since he is in a great deal of pain, it also allowed me to explore some rather surreal scenes in the book where delirium and reality overlap.
MICHAEL: Now, you’re a busy man, and you have another release slated to come out from Permuted Press: The 7 Habits f Highly Infective People. You originally self-published this title. For those that haven’t read it, could you give a brief description of what to expect, and some history on how all this came to fruition?
WILLIAM: The 7 Habits, in a nutshell, is a novel of contagion, drugs, time travel, and the living dead. It follows Bosley Coughlin, a counterculture slacker, who has inadvertently opened the Eye of Aeons through a cocktail of drugs and the occult. The Eye causes Bosley to become dimensionally unstable and he passes through time and space, sharing the consciousness of others in his travels. In one of them, he inhabits the mind of Ocean, a fourteen year old girl who never knew the old world at all. She was born and raised in the ruins of a collapsed civilization and is struggling to survive in a world where the walking dead outnumber the living. He forms an emotional connection with the young girl and, when he returns to his own timeline, recognizes the seven symptoms of the infection that levels the world in a shopgirl named Clarice Hudson. In an effort to spare Ocean a lifetime of suffering, he vows to do whatever it takes to stop the coming apocalypse … even when the lines of morality become a little shady and blurred.
The 7 Habits of Highly Infective People actually came about very organically. I had the title in my mind for quite some time, but wasn't sure what to do with it. One day, I sat at the keyboard and Bosley just started talking. And, in true Bosley fashion, he simply wouldn't shut up. What's interesting is that I am normally a very sequential writer. I write the chapters in the order they'll be read. With The 7 Habits, however, I would be working on a chapter set in the present, leave it unfinished, go to work, and scribble some of a chapters that take place in the future longhand on my lunch. Coming back home, I'd return to the present so, in a way, I was a lot like Bosley when writing this one, constantly being pulled between different timelines until the whole thing came together as a cohesive whole. I self published the book, as you mentioned, and it was on the market for about a month or so before the folks at Permuted Press expressed interest in seeing the manuscript.
MICHAEL: When you’re writing, do you prefer to have your stories more character-oriented or does it depend on the story?
WILLIAM: For me, it's all about the characters. I could write three hundred pages of action scenes but nobody would really give a damn if they didn't care about the people these things are happening to. It's like a newspaper article about some horrible tragedy. There's an entirely different emotional impact when the events pertain to someone you know as opposed to perfect strangers. So I try to create characters that people will care about and identify with; and then I see exactly how many deviously fucked up things I can do to them.
MICHAEL: Starting a story can be a daunting process. How does a story usually start for you? A dream? A bad day at work, maybe?
WILLIAM: I mentioned earlier than when I was working on The 7 Habits that Bosley started talking to me. And that's usually the way it begins. I'll get this character in my head that just won't go away. He or she will pester the crap out of me. I'll lay in bed for hours when I should be asleep, learning bits of personality and storyline. I may get random snippets of dialogue that pop in my head throughout the course of the day and eventually everything will start to take form.
MICHAEL: You’ve actually self-published quite a bit. Do you think that has helped your career? And, is this something that you will still do in the future? Why?
WILLIAM: I really do feel it has helped me. I originally self-published my short story collection, Sex in the Time of Zombies, and offered it as a free download for my fans. Which, at the time, could probably be counted on one hand. The collection ended up being downloaded thousands of times from something like 43 different countries and really got my name out there to a lot of people who otherwise would have never heard of me. Not only did I pick up a lot of new readers along the way, but some of them also turned into really good friends (that's a shout out to you, Doug Campbell and Carl Hose). Eventually, the book caught the attention of Living Dead Press and was picked up for a print run. And while The 7 Habits was never free, vending it at a horror convention that Permuted Press was also attending brought the title and my name to their attention which eventually allowed me to bypass the dreaded slush pile when they asked to see it. I've always been a huge fan of Permuted and it was one of my goals to eventually have something published through them. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when they said they wanted it.
MICHAEL: Being a seasoned writer, I imagine you’ve seen and experienced quite a bit. What are some of the ups and downs you’ve encountered in your career? And how has that helped shape you into the writer you are today?
WILLIAM: Actually, I try not to think about the ups and downs all that much. I just kind of go with the flow and see where it takes me. For example, I don't necessarily believe in writer's block. Sometimes, it's just a matter of working on the wrong story and if I switch gears, I'll find I'm fine. Other times, it seems like I just need a little time away from writing. So I'll hang out with my wife, make some music, or watch some braindead TV. But I don't beat myself up over it anymore. That just adds pressure and turns out to be counterproductive, I think.
MICHAEL: Everyone’s a critic these days. How do you handle negative reviews, and what advice and you offer to those who receive them?
WILLIAM: Actually, I genuinely get a kick out of my negative reviews. For example, my e-book only release, Shut the Fuck Up and Die!, received a one word review: inappropriate. I actually laughed when I read that and had to wonder what the reviewer thought they'd be getting in a book with that title. I know that my work isn't for everyone. I know that everyone has their own tastes and opinions. So negative reviews just roll off me like water on a duck's back.
MICHAEL: There is some talk on forums, certain sites, or what have you, about the “indie author.” Some believe that it’s all just vanity; people just trying to make a name for themselves (not to mention, a quick buck) whether they possess talent or not. How do feel about this categorization? And do you think this has affected you in any way as far as sales or promotion goes?
WILLIAM: Indie authors are a subject that I feel very passionate about. To me, there's nothing vain about wanting to bypass the red tape of big industry publishers. With the big boys, they are essentially looking for a commodity. Everything boils down to how commercially successful a title may or may not be. And the actual art of writing, I feel, often takes a back seat. Sure, every indie book out there may not be an original idea. And the editing may not always be what it should. But, on the same hand, there are best selling authors out there who have been writing the same book over and over and over for decades. They simply slap different names on characters and locations, put a different mask on the antagonist, and proceed to sell millions of copies of a story they've already told dozens of times. And people buy it because it has “the name” attached to it. You can go to any Burger King, order a Whopper, and know exactly what you're going to get. Hell, it will even fill you up. But if you go off the beaten path and grab lunch is some hole in the wall greasy spoon that might not be as slick and polished as a big chain, you just might get the best damn burger of your life.
MICHAEL: Now, you don’t always write about zombies. It seems that you are a fan of horror in general. Why is that?
WILLIAM: I'm not really sure. It has quite literally been a lifetime interest of mine. When I was very young, I somehow managed to see Friday the 13th Part 2 and remember becoming obsessed with Jason. I had the walls of my room covered with these crayon drawings of him decapitating people, impaling victims, all the stuff you see in the movies. My mom tolerated it for as long as she could, but eventually ripped them all down one day and told me she was going to keep them so I could see someday what a sick and twisted little kid I was. That memory still makes me chuckle.
MICHAEL: What authors or works inspired you to write horror?
WILLIAM: When I was younger I read Stephen King, of course. Also a lot of Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker. H.P Lovecraft and Poe for certain. But, to be perfectly honest, I don't really read a whole lot of horror anymore. At least mainstream horror. I'm just as influenced by William Gibson, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Kerouac, and William S Burroughs as I am by David Moody. I still love horror movies, however, and I draw quite a bit of inspiration from them as well.
MICHAEL: Zombies, zombies, zombies. Everyone loves the zombie, it seems. What draws you to this culture?
WILLIAM: The main draw, I think, is the apocalyptic element. While not all of my work features the living dead, the majority of it does seem to embody apocalypse themes. I think the reason for that is that when you can look around at everything surrounding you and imagine it all gone, it really makes you appreciate what you have. And, for me, zombies are a great metaphor for death itself. They're out there and coming for you. You can run, you can hide, you can even fight but they will keep coming until they get you. And, at the same time, you've got this constant reminder of your own mortality. Death isn't a hazy, philosophical question. It's a concrete entity and it is out to get you.
MICHAEL: What are your thoughts on the 28 series? That seems to be what brought the “infected” to the mainstream, and has, in a way, helped shape a sub-genre of the zombie culture. Good or bad?
WILLIAM: I actually like them quite a lot. Especially 28 Days. Weeks wasn't bad and I can honestly say that I loved it. But, in the same light, it didn't quite have the same feel as the original. It didn't have that visceral impact.
MICHAEL: Three favorite zombie movies...
WILLIAM: I might be crucified by a lot of my peers for this, but the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I friggin' loved every second of that film. I was literally giddy with excitement when I watched it and will still stop scrolling through the channels if it happens to be on. Dead Alive is also high on the list. And Die-ner. I thought that one was great!
MICHAEL: I ask every writer this. What advice can you offer to the up-and-coming writers out there, whether they choose to seek publication or self-publish?
WILLIAM: The best advice I could probably give is to write for yourself. Write what makes you happy and not simply what is hot at the moment. If you're true to yourself, if you believe in the worlds you create, it will show through and people will take notice.
MICHAEL: What is the hardest part about self-publishing, in your opinion?
WILLIAM: The hardest part is promotion, I think. You can write the best damn novel that's ever been penned and no one is going to read it if they don't know it's out there. Big publishing houses have advertising budgets, but a lot of indie authors are living paycheck to paycheck and doing what they love in their spare time. So you have to be creative and use whatever free outlets you can find. It's a lot of work. But it’s also worth it. One tip I can give is to get in on the ground level with upcoming technologies. I struggled to get an invite to Google+ when it was in its beta stages. Once I did, I turned it into a vehicle for promoting my work; and somehow, along the way, ended up on the list of fifty writers to follow in The Google+ Insider's Guide. Which has really turned out to be awesome exposure that I didn't have to pay a dime for. So think outside the box. You may not be able to afford a fullpage spread in Fangoria or Rue Morgue … but there are ways of getting your name out there.
MICHAEL: Have you ever found yourself wanting to just give up on that one story. Maybe you were just stuck and couldn’t come up with something else or it just felt overdone? If so, did you manage to overcome your doubts? How?
WILLIAM: Normally, if I get stuck I just turn my attentions to something else. At any given time, I generally have at least two or three novels I'm working on simultaneously. So if it isn't flowing for one particular idea, I'll just work on one of the others ones and come back to the first one later. This technique may not work for everyone, but it definitely does for me.
MICHAEL: What, as far as writing goes, are your plans for the future?
WILLIAM: The 7 Habits, which we discussed earlier, is actually the first book in my Tides of Time series. I suspect it will end up taking about seven or eight volumes to tell the entire story arc and will take us from when Ocean is fourteen to when she is around eighty or so. So there's the follow up books to be worked on. I also have a dark, psycho-sexual fairytale for adults that I'm working on, and a couple of novellas that will have the same grindhouse, B-film vibe that I tried to imbue Shut the Fuck Up and Die! with. And there's also a few ideas I've been kicking around that aren't really fleshed out enough to talk about yet.
MICHAEL: This is the part where you promote anything and everything.
WILLIAM: If you haven't read my writing and want an introduction to my work without shelling out any cash, you can download my free novella, Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, at www.williamtoddrose.com. And don't forget to seek out and support your indie authors. Even if what I write isn't in line with your tastes, I can almost guarantee that you'll find someone out there who makes you sit back and say “Damn ….”.
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR SHAWN DURNIN
Online Serial Author Shawn Durnin has lent me some of his time to talk about writing, zombies, and his online serial novel (which kicks complete ass!), Keep Your Crowbar Handy. Enjoy, and then check out his blog. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
MICHAEL: Shawn, can you share with us just a little bit of the man behind thestories?
SHAWN: No problem. I'm a geek at heart, and proud of it. No traumatic ghost stories or close encounters (well, not yet any way) that warped my psyche, just a real fan of all things zombie. I was a dorky kid from military family who (years and years ago) discovered sci-fi (Lucas, Tolkein, Heinlein), horror (King, Romero, Savini), martial arts, which I still practice (Bruce Lee and any cheep, cheesy, 60's / 70'scirca, badly dubbed, Kung-Fu movie) along with good Anime and the rest is history. I also have an utter fascination with zombies, survival tips for if society begins circling the drain, comedic fiction in the face of cataclysmic events and things that go bang.
MICHAEL: Keep Your Crowbar Handy, your online serial novel, is gaining attention to those in the online community. Care to divulge to those not privy to KYCH just what you're story is about?
SHAWN: Well, I wanted to see what happened when humans (personality quirks and all) get thrown into a worst case scenario. After reading “The Stand” and then watched the original “Night of the Living Dead” when I was a kid, I just couldn't think of anything worse than a virus/ organism/ substance circling the globe and killing off 90% of the population. Except for one that makes them get up after they expire, possessing nothing but a tireless drive to eat the other 10%.
This novel focuses on a group of four (some of whom knew each other prior to the outbreak). A semi-reclusive (ex-combat journalist) editor, a mechanic (with a deep love of run-and-gun style video games), a (promiscuous) pharmacy technician (martial arts enthusiast) and a health food storeowner (who moonlights as a folk singer).
Now, I know what you're thinking. Not a single one of these people fits into your typical “zombie survivor” mold. I'll admit that other, more martial, character types are the norm. Police, solders, individuals with Special Forces training (Rangers, Seals, Marine snipers,) even the odd, lucky SOB in an underground bunker full of supplies, would normally make a better focus for the story. Now, I'm not saying there won't be any of those character types in there, somewhat down the line. I'm saying I selected these characters carefully and intentionally, so I could see if normal people (under extremely abnormal and stressful conditions) would have any hope of not becoming kibble. All of them are just really scared individuals that find themselves (initially) trying to cross a city filled with... well, zombies.
Their journey is going to be one hell of a lot longer than I initially planned, however. I discovered some months ago, that a second novel would be necessary (because there's just too much to pack into a single book!). Then, last month, I realized it's going to take a grand total of three books to tell the full story. The characters have some very specific tasks they have to accomplish (all of which add to a snowballing chain of events) and zombies aren't the only danger their group will have to face by a long shot. I can't promise a happy ending either (because let's face it, this is a zombie novel) and people are going to get turned into tar-tar. There's going plenty of blood, gore, guts and pus in the first book.
MICHAEL: Now, since this isn't finished yet, where are you trying to go with it? And, do you find that the story has taken a life of its own?
SHAWN: I have to say, it's growing into a monster (no pun intended), but it's one I really enjoy feeding daily. When I started the first (current) novel, I just wanted to share the story that had been bouncing around in my back-brain for quite some time now. I swear, if someone had told me before I'd posted the first chapter, that so many people would want to read it, I'd have said, “Yeah. Uh-huh.”
Now that the core characters have a bit of back story, the fun begins. Gratuitous head-shots, decapitations and blunt force trauma to a dead-head's brain pan are all well and good, but I'm going all out to make Keep Your Crowbar Handy more than just viscerally satisfying. Besides, after the current book is completed, it's right on to the second.(Unlike this one when I started, the outlines are already done and, thanks to my better half, I've already nailed down the titles.)
MICHAEL: From what I've read so far, you're mixing up a great blend of gore/zombie-killing-action and good character development. Do you find it hard to mix the two?
SHAWN: Not so much, but there's a reason for that (which I really can't take much credit for). I personally find it hard to enjoy a work of fiction, whatever the genre (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc) unless I have at least some emotional investment in the characters. I want to see what happens when they live, love, lust, swear, sweat, sleep, succeed, fly, fall, fail, have a crappy day or just happen to need that second cup of coffee in the morning (so they're don't tear their cohort's heads off) before they all head out to fight aliens on one of Alpha Centauri's moons. That said, I was determined to produce a novel that I would want to read myself (assuming I wasn't writing it), not something heartless and hollow.
MICHAEL: What, in your opinion, is the hardest part of writing with such lengthy work?
SHAWN: Just making the commitment to yourself to do it, I think. Lots of people have the drive and the talent to produce a story that could take you by the throat, slap you a good one across the chops and make you say “Holy crap! That was great!”, but far too many never get finished (or even started), because people get sidetracked or they're fearful of putting their work out there. If you have a story, I say go ahead and give it life. Don't listen to people (especially those with whom you're close) who tell you they don't think you can do it. Don't talk yourself out of it, because you might feel self-conscious or embarrassed that every, single person on Planet Earth won't like it (because there will always be a critic or two). Don't regret never taking the time to do it down the road. Just give yourself the time to create and let it loose.
MICHAEL: Being an author of an online serial myself, I feel the need to ask this: Do you ever feel pressure to post a chapter or part of a chapter in a certain timeframe?
SHAWN: Normally no, but I did have one week that was a bit too close for comfort. I promised when I began this novel, that I would attempt to post every Friday at some point (unless I gave prior notice that it would be pushed off until the next week). Due to problems my internet service provider had that day (thanks a whole bunch for that one guys) I finally managed to get the chapter up (at 11:59pm EST!), but it was a near thing. I'm about seven (or eight) chapters ahead of where the story's at online so far, so it's not a rush to get new material done. That's also because I didn't start posting until I had a comfortable 180 page lead.
MICHAEL: What can we expect for the future of Keep Your Crowbar Handy? Are you planning on self-publishing this or seeking representation from one of the many publishing houses?
SHAWN: I have researched going the self-publishing route and will do so if that's what's required to get the novel out to the fans/ readers. To tell the truth, it's because I want people to have as much fun reading Keep Your Crowbar Handy, as I'm having creating it.
Once finished though, I will be submitting the novel (in its entirety) to a few publishing houses that have already shown interest (or have been really helpful and encouraging), like Permuted Press for one. The first week the story was up, I contacted them online and was given the go ahead (even though it isn't finished yet) to link the story to their Facebook page (Thank you, J!). I want to give a company like that, one looking for creators who honestly want to produce novels for people to actually enjoy, first crack at it.
MICHAEL: How did you first get into writing?
SHAWN: I started when I was about 13 (so original I know, but it's true). I was an avid fan of Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, Mike Allred, Frank Miller, Dave Sim (all writers of some truly classic comic books). The way they made (and still make) the reader actually care about their characters was amazing and I try to write in pursuit of the same. Not everything has to be flash and glitz (even though both have their place and uses) and a good story is worth more than a hundred TV ads about a half-hearted load of drivel.
MICHAEL: Do you have the support of your family and friends? And, does this ever have an impact on the direction of your story?
SHAWN: To a degree. Most encouraged me to begin work on the novel, but really none of them are horror/ zombie enthusiasts. My wife has produced clothing and costumes for the last 12 years (from Roman to the Victorian era) in her spare time and while she's read a few zombie novels, isn't a avid fan. My father, who's retired (or as he says, retarded) military living in Montana, has actually been a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to gear, basic (read: unclassified) military policy, ammunition and urban, room clearing tactics, so he's pretty involved with the technical side of the book. A few friends locally (in Columbus) have been beta-reading for me and have provided great input, but other than that, I never know if the new chapter will be a hit or not until it's up. Judging from the substantial rise each week in readers however, I'm thankful beyond words for the time and reviews (along with the occasional pint of Guinness at the Pub) that they continuously provide. The rest of my family has no interest in the work at all.
MICHAEL: Have you had anything published before? Poems? Short stories?
SHAWN: I actually produced art for comic books for about ten years, freelance(got out of the biz in 2002). Most of the titles aren't published anymore (Eyes, Black Masses, Midgard, Dark Days), but I've completed work for an upcoming graphic novel (Gaijinpunkers) and will(hopefully) be laying down the dialogue after I finish the first book in the Keep Your Crowbar Handy story. It should take about a week (60pages all in all) and then I'll be starting the second book of KYCH.
MICHAEL: Okay, in the zombie apocalypse (shamblers only), will Shawn survive?
SHAWN: That's a good question! If it were just me? I'd give it good odds. I'm not too bad with rifles (still would like a MP-4, or MP-5 though. Maybe even a SIG556.), shotguns (lovin' the Remington 870 Pump Action right now) and pistols (favorite: Beretta M9. Plenty of ammo will be around during the apocalypse for a 9mm guys) and I've had quite a bit of survival training in the wilds of Montana (Again, father' sex-military. Thank you for that, Dad. Even though I hated it at the time). The Bug-out-Bag is checked (and repacked) monthly, too.
It's not just me, though. I'd do my best to get my family wa-a-a-a-ay out into the boonies (location undisclosed) after the initial outbreak. It'd be tough, but that's why I made a plan for natural or man-made disasters. (Yes, even zombies.)
MICHAEL: What are your three favorite zombie novels?
SHAWN: So far? “Day by Day Armageddon” 1 and 2 by J.L. Bourne and “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks. Hands down DBDA is probably the closest to what would actually be happening during an outbreak and the Handbook is just pure gold. There are so many survival manuals that mirror what Brooks provided in that book (for almost any disaster), it's actually really frightening.
MICHAEL: Worst zombie flick of all time?
SHAWN: Oh, boy. I'd have to say “The Children” made in 1980. Guys, seriously? When you make a zombie movie? Don't have the zombie children kill (and then dissolve) their victims by hugging them. You watch this film (said term used here very loosely) and I can pretty much guarantee you'll want that hour and a half of your life back.
MICHAEL: Is there anything else you'd like to say or share?
SHAWN: I want to say “Thank You” to everyone following the novel! Honestly, when I started doing this, I thought, “Well, I'll just post on a little, backwater corner of the internet. A few people might read it I'll have some fun working out the kinks and maybe cook up storylines at the same time.” I never expected the level of interest this novel is generating. I also didn't anticipate that so many people would be waiting, every single week, for the next chapter to go up. It was pretty shocking, to say the least.
Let me also say, I am grateful for (and look forward to) every single email that I receive from the readers. More than a few have been people that heard about KYCH from fans at zombie walks (even our own here in Columbus, Ohio. Yes, I really do live here. Yes, I know. I've been privy to just over 130 Z-Land jokes so far). I'm still a little behind in answering them, but I'm attempting to get a few of them done every night (after working on new material). So I'll make all of you a deal. You guys keep reading, I'll keep the hordes a 'shufflin' for you to enjoy and remember: Guns are great and a Katana is killer cool, but don't forget to keep your crowbar handy...!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR/EDITOR REBECCA BESSER
MICHAEL: Why don't we start off by having you tell us a bit about yourself?
REBECCA: I'm just a woman, living in Ohio with her family. :) I have a wonderful husband and amazing son to fill my life when I'm not doing writing stuff. Oh, and I like to do various crafts... I'm addicted to cross stitch and crocheting.
Here's the writing stuff I've done:
I'm the author of the zombie novella, Undead Drive-Thru, and a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature. My work has appeared in the Coshocton Tribune, Irish Story Playhouse, Spaceports & Spidersilk, joyful!, Soft Whispers, Illuminata, Common Threads, Golden Visions Magazine, Stories That Lift, Super Teacher Worksheets, Living Dead Press Presents Magazine (Iss. 1 & 2), and The Undead That Saved Christmas (Vol. 1 & 2) and the Signals From The Void charity anthologies. I have multiple stories in anthologies by Living Dead Press, Wicked East Press, NorGus Press, Pill Hill Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Knight Watch Press, Coscom Entertainment, and Collaboration of the Dead (projects), and one in an anthology by Post Mortem Press. I also have a poem in an anthology by Naked Snake Press, and various pieces in the Collaboration of the Dead projects.
I'm also an editor and have edited: Dark Dreams: Tales of Terror, Dead Worlds 7: Undead Stories, and Book of Cannibals 2: The Hunger from Living Dead Press; Earth's End from Wicked East Press; End of Days: An Apocalyptic Anthology (Vol. 4 & 5/co-edited) from Living Dead Press; and I'm currently editing It's Weighing On Your Mind from Hidden Thoughts Press, and co-editing Beneath The Pretty Lies from Wicked East Press.
When I'm not busy writing and/or editing, I'm formatting book covers, building/maintaining websites, and writing book reviews.
MICHAEL: Has writing always been in your blood, or did you just wake up one day and say, "I think I'M gonna start writing."?
REBECCA: Even when I was very young, I had a way with words. I won my first writing award when I was in first grade. Poetry was my 'big thing' when I was in my teens, but life got busy and I didn't do anything serious with my talent for a long time. Now I'm pushing full force. ;)
MICHAEL: How did you come up with the premise for Undead Drive-Thru? And, how long did it take you to write it?
REBECCA: Honestly? The cover of the book was my inspiration. I'd been paired up with Justin T. Coons in The Undead That Saved Christmas charity anthology (he did the 'cover art' for my story). I LOVED the pic in Justin's portfolio/album and one day got an idea for a story.
It took me about two weeks from beginning to end. Since it was a novella, it didn't take me long to bang it out.
MICHAEL: Nurse Blood. Why don't you tell us a little about your online serial?
REBECCA: Nurse Blood is a female protagonist driven, bloody horror/suspense story. I'm enjoying writing it because a female gets to be the crazy killer. :)
Sonya Garret is a nurse at the local hospital, but she has a side job trafficking in human 'parts' - what she makes in blood pays more than any salary. Hearts and livers, bone marrow and brains; they all sell great on the black market.
Drunk men at bars, prowling for any willing woman, are easy pickings when she goes looking for victims to chop up and sell.
One lucky night she picks up a man with a rare blood type, and after her team cashes in on him, they decide to go for the big money and 'harvest' his entire family.
Will the F.B.I. - who is hot on the trail of Sonya and her team as they cross the U.S., leaving a trail in blood and death - be able to catch up with them in time to stop the ongoing slaughter? Or will Nurse Blood get her money…again?
MICHAEL: Do you secretly fantasize that you're Nurse Blood?
REBECCA: Hmmm.... Not yet, but maybe I will later. You never know.
MICHAEL: From what I've read online, this is a pretty gory story. Are you having fun writing it?
REBECCA: Yeah! It's a blast. I'm trying to make it clear that there will be no holds barred in this one. It's gonna be sexy, it's gonna be violent, and it's DEFINITELY gonna be bloody!
Here's the warning I post on Facebook when I put up links to the chapters:
***WARNING: This story is rated ADULT and contains swearing, sexual content, violence, and gore. If such things offend you, DO NOT READ. ***
MICHAEL: Have you ever collaborated with another author?
REBECCA: I'm currently collaborating with my good friend and amazing author: Jim Bronyaur! We're working on a couple projects together. One of them involved sparkling zombies who will take great pleasure in ripping your face off and eating your eyeballs as an appetizer before going for the brain....(with the working title, "Shimmer Me Undead"). And another that involves werewolves and zombies. The first should be out in just a few months, and I promise all zombie fans will love it, because we keep the zombies BADASS! The second, a few months after that.
I'm also involved with the Collaboration of the Dead Zombie Novel project, which is exciting and promises to be a great book! In case anyone hasn't heard about that... It's a zombie novel with a collection of writers who each write one or two chapters for the book--lots of imagination is going into this undead masterpiece created by the ringleader of zombie slayers: Matt Nord!
You can keep up with the going on of CotD on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Collaboration-of-the-Dead/202024756499116
MICHAEL: What is it like collaborating with another author?
REBECCA: Collaborating on projects is fun and it keeps things exciting and interesting. I find that if authors get in a funk and lose sight of the fun in writing, that a collaboration project can spur them back into the joy of the creative aspects.
MICHAEL: Do you prefer writing horror, or is there another genre you like better? Why?
REBECCA: I like to write all genres really. It's fun to change things up every now and again. I also write nonfiction and poetry. :)
I have to admit...horror is a lot of fun. You can go completely insane and it just makes things better. Writing horror is also good therapy when you're upset or angry!
MICHAEL: What do you think are good avenues for new authors to promote their work?
REBECCA: Press forums and social networking sites. Blogs can also work to your advantage, if you have the time and energy to put into them.
MICHAEL: You are also an editor. Do you enjoy doing that?
REBECCA: It's a love/hate relationship. I've apparently got a knack for it, but it sometimes really makes me mad. Sometimes I just get tired of cleaning up after other people, and yes, that's what it feels like.
MICHAEL: Well, what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to reading others' work?
REBECCA: Their lack of knowledge of the basics. Punctuation is a HUGE issue. If you want to be a writer, at least make an effort to learn the craft.
MICHAEL: Currently, who are your three favorite indie authors? Why?
REBECCA: Indie? Hmm... I'm lovin' Jim Bronyaur's stuff. Sean T. Page and Charles Day also come to mind. It seems no matter what I read from these three, I'm always impressed with their levels of imagination.
MICHAEL: Time for the fun questions, Becca. I hope you're ready.
MICHAEL: A room full of shambling zombies and you. What would be your weapon of choice, and would you survive?
REBECCA: Guns! I would like to have a shotgun and a pistol that holds a clip. ;) Once I ran out of ammo for the shotgun, I'd go for the pistol until I ran out of rounds/clips. After that, I'd use the shotgun as a club. Yes, I would live!
MICHAEL: If you were bitten by a ZED, what would you do? Live to die to live again? Or… headshot?
REBECCA: Just shoot me in the head, I'm done. LOL
MICHAEL: What would be your apocalypse, assuming you had the choice, that is?
REBECCA: Hmmm..... Zombies would work. Aliens wouldn't be too bad either, depending on how it came about, etc. I mean, at least you would have a fighting chance with those ones, unlike disease because it would just kill people and you couldn't help but get it. Natural disasters are iffy, because you don't know who's going to get wiped out when and you can't do anything about it.
MICHAEL: What is your favorite zombie movie, and why?
REBECCA: That's a hard one. I love the early RE movies, but the later ones disappointed me. Zombieland was fun and hilarious...
MICHAEL: Assuming it was just you in a zombie apocalypse would you be a loner or stay with groups? We've all seen the movies, so think about this one.
REBECCA: I would be a loner unless I found someone who could keep up their end of the 'lifestyle'. So, perhaps one or two people to hang with would work, since it would be nice to have someone watch your back. But, if it's just gonna be drama or someone is putting me at risk, bye-bye! I'd rather be by myself than worry about others and what they think is best, which usually gets people dead.
MICHAEL: Now back to the "professional" part of the interview…
MICHAEL: What was the worst experience you've had as a writer? And the best?
REBECCA: Having a project dumped for stupid reasons, would be the worst. Having writer friends who support me and give me wonderful opportunities, would be my best. :) Oh, and getting a box full of my first book! That's hard to top.
MICHAEL: What is your favorite music to listen to while you write/edit, if any at all?
REBECCA: Most of the time I prefer silence, but since my son is usually playing in the background, I guess I love to write to the songs of my little man! LOL
If I DO listen to music, its: Papa Roach, Disturbed, Rob Zombie, White Zombie, Fuel, Vertical Horizon, Eminem, Saliva, Halestorm, Korn, System of a Down, etc.
MICHAEL: Can you offer up some tips for up-and-coming authors?
Watch how punctuation is used in books that you read, specifically dialogue (since that seems to be one of the biggest problem areas).
Learn what plot holes are and avoid them.
Show, don't tell!
Never be rude or 'bug' editors or press owners. Be respectful if you want people to work with you.
Develop a thick skin because although you think you're awesome, not everyone will.
Find someone you TRUST, RESPECT, and who KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT to critique for you and then listen to what they tell you. (Sometimes you have to wait 'til your emotions calm down so you can see the truth in what you've been told.) Just taking random critiques can be dangerous, because you could get hints and points from people who don't know what they're talking about.
MICHAEL: Where can we find your work?
REBECCA: You can find links to most of the publications I've been in on my website: http://www.rebeccabesser.com
You can find author interviews and some of my random writings (including Nurse Blood) on my blog: http://blog.rebeccabesser.com
You can find my book reviews on my review site: http://www.rebeccabesser.com/rb_reviews.htm
My serial has its own site, where you can sign up for email notifications of new posts: http://nurseblood.wordpress.com
My Author Cental page on Amazon will tell you everything they have that I'm in: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Besser/e/B004V3IIC4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Most of the publications I'm in can be purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
MICHAEL: This is the part where you pimp anything and everything else you haven't mentioned earlier.
REBECCA: I did that before, but there is something I would like to share that I haven't talked about yet, so I'll do that now. Starting in September, I'm going to be part of a writing blog collaboration of sorts with a few other writers. Each of us will be posting on different days of the week. I'll be posting every Wednesday and will be talking about random things about writing. I plan to get into some technical stuff since I write and edit, plus I'll be doing a small press interview once a month.
The blog is called Riding The Razor's Edge, and yes, there is a Facebook page, which we'll be promoting once things get started.
Here's the link to 'my' little page on the blog right now. Just keep in mind we haven't started posting anything yet, and will start in September!
If anyone would like to contact/friend me, or just keep up with what I'm doing, you can find me on Facebook under: Author/Editor Rebecca Besser
While I'm at it.... Earth's End, which I'm editing, will be released by Wicked East Press in the coming months!
Technology and beings from beyond have always scared and captured the interest of many. Some predict they will bring about the end of the world, after all, the apocalypse is immanent and it's anyone's guess how it will happen.
Strange beings of evolution or from someplace we don't even know exists, free to devour or conquer mankind; demons from the pits of hell, let loose to run rampant on Earth, killing at will; souls loosed by a planetary alignment, released to spread carnage on humanity; a holy war waged 'til death; alternate dimensions of the past, now part of the future; and a cyborg race of the elderly, all wait to be released from these pages.
Let your imagination run wild and don't be afraid to wonder... Is there any hope? Or will the Earth truly end?
I'm also co-editing another anthology with Wicked East Press, entitled: Beneath The Pretty Lies. It's still open for submission to stop by the WEP forum and check out the guidelines for it and other awesome anthos they have open! http://wickedeastpress.lefora.com
I'm ALSO editing a nonfiction anthology/essay collection with Hidden Thoughts Press, entitled: It's Weighing On Your Mind. It's about the mental and physical health damage that can afflict a caregiver over time. It's, too, is still open to submissions. To view the guidelines to this antho and others they have open, go to:
MICHAEL: Great times, Becca. Best of luck with everything, and I hope to do this again soon.
REBECCA: Thanks for having me! I hope I didn't overload anyone with too much information. LOL Feel free to bug me with questions anytime, Mike! It was fun!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR C. DULANEY
Permuted Press author, C. DULANEY, has offered up some of her time to share some information about her upcoming release, ROADS LESS TRAVELED: THE PLAN, writing in general, and a few things zombie… just a few. Take a gander at she has to say. I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
MICHAEL: Why don’t we start off with having you tell us a little about yourself?
C. DULANEY: Well, I’m an Aries. I like long walks on the ─ wait, let me start over. Hi, my name is C. Dulaney, and I’m a ─ yeah that’s an answer to another question. Pass!
MICHAEL: When did you first start writing, and what inspired you to do so?
C. DULANEY: I think it all started back in high school. We were given an assignment in English class. I think we were supposed to write a poem or something. Then we had to get up in front of everyone and read it. It sucked, and I knew the only way I’d get through it was to be funny. So while the rest of the class stood and recited these poems about all this deep shit (half were good, half were decidedly not), I got up and quite poetically described the hijinks of a rather mean-spirited, three-legged dog. I wish I could say I remember the poem word for word, or that I even still have it, but I can’t. So began my journey, you could say.
I didn’t really get serious about writing until a few years ago. I’d been tinkering with this idea for a novel, but only worked at it sporadically. Then one evening I finished reading a zombie book which shall remain nameless, and that was it. The straw that broke the camel’s back. I was frustrated with the same old thing, and with characters that, regardless of how stupid they were, somehow seemed to thrive and slaughter everything in their path. It didn’t make sense to me. So the next morning I sat down and started writing Book One of the Roads Less Traveled trilogy.
MICHAEL: Why horror?
C. DULANEY: Short answer: Because it scares the hell out of me. Long answer: Because it scares the hell out of me. My favorite genre, if I were to go to the bookstore and grab a book, has always been horror. So it just made sense. I don’t enjoy writing anything else. And if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll suck at it. I especially like apocalyptic horror, because I like to see what humanity is capable of when pushed to the absolute limits.
MICHAEL: ROADS LESS TRAVELED: THE PLAN is your forthcoming novel to be published by Permuted Press. Care to spill some beans on it?
C. DULANEY: Essentially Book One begins around a day after the zombie pandemic really gets ramped up. The main character, Kasey, enacts the Plan, drawing together a select group of friends and their acquaintances. The group has to travel a couple hundred miles during the height of the plague, while Kasey preps and fortifies their Stronghold. And as logic would dictate, the shit hits the fan at several points along the groups’ route. Not saying it’s predictable, but as I mentioned before; folks scrambling away unscathed from every “zombie incident” gets old real fast. That just wouldn’t happen. So once the group finally makes it to Kasey’s, they fall into a routine, guided by the Plan. It’s not easy. There’s tension, moments of panic and hopelessness, the whole spectrum of emotion. Top that cupcake with lots of zombie icing, and you’ve got a time bomb.
The Plan takes place in the span of about a month, following the gang through all the ups and downs that would happen should zombies suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere. And those ups and downs turn out to be way worse than any of them could have expected or planned for. Their Plan ends up going to hell, their supposed safety is twisted inside out, and in the end they’re left with a choice: Hide and wait for death, or go on the offensive and fight.
MICHAEL: What drew you to Permuted Press and not some other publisher?
C. DULANEY: Permuted Press has pretty well established its reputation in the apocalyptic world. I’d read several PP books, loved them all, read up on PP online, and just decided it would be a good fit for me. If I could get in. As most writers will tell you, about three quarters of the time we think no one could possibly like what we’ve written, and the other quarter we’re trying to convince ourselves that what we’ve just written isn’t stinking up the joint. But I kept pushing forward. After NUMEROUS rejections from other publishers while I waited for PP to open to submissions, my time of waiting was over. And you know the rest of the story.
MICHAEL: Do you prefer writing short stories or lengthier works?
C. DULANEY: I prefer full lengths, but I’ve been trying to mix in a fair amount of shorts in between. Short stories aren’t my strong suit, never have been. But the only way you get better is to write outside your comfort zone. Or so I’ve been told about a gazillion times. I’m still uncomfortable writing shorts, but I don’t run screaming and slobbering like I used to.
MICHAEL: When you are writing, do you find yourself steering more toward female protagonists or male? Why?
C. DULANEY: Female, and because I am one. But I love writing male characters, and I definitely plan on creating a male protagonist in my next project. I think I enjoy it so much because it’s just so different. It’s a chance to go wild and write in another voice. In all three Roads novels, the protag is female. In the series I’m writing for Thom Brannan and Rob Pegler’s site, the protag is female. In another short that will appear in Zombie Zak’s House of Pain, the protag is female. So I want to switch gears, have some fun with something I’ve hardly ever done before.
MICHAEL: What are your thoughts on the current zombie movement? There are a lot of happenings not just in the world of books. Numerous movies seem to come out every few months or so. Even some television series. Do you think all this is a bit excessive, and runs the risk of pegging zombies and their fans to the recent vampire craze?
C. DULANEY: And in this corner: Dead, putrid, eating machines hell bent on destroying the human race. And in that corner: Glittery douchebags who stalk young and depressing teenyboppers.
I have a feeling I’ll be getting some hate mail from the Twilight fans over that remark.
To answer your other question, no I don’t think it’s excessive at all.
Actually I think it reflects the times we live in. Most folks are feeling helpless right now, whether it’s due to having their jobs and/or homes ripped away from them, seeing the cost of living go up so high it’s cheaper to die than it is to live, their kids going without basic essentials, and the list goes painfully on. I’m not going to get into a political debate or anything, but my point is zombies are something people can grab hold of and do something about. They’re only helpless in a zombie world if they choose to be. They control what happens next, as crazy as that might seem seeing as how we’re talking about a post-apocalyptic setting. They have a singular enemy: The Zombie. It’s a simple escape from the chaos that is our lives now.
MICHAEL: What are your thoughts on the Walking Dead television series?
C. DULANEY: I LOVE it. Now that’s how a zombie tale should be told. It’s real, it’s scary, it’s everything that side of the coin has been lacking.
MICHAEL: In your opinion, what are the three worst zombie movies out there?
C. DULANEY: I don’t want to say. I think I’ve made enough enemies with my Twilight crack already, don’t you *coughsLandoftheDeadcoughs*?
MICHAEL: Do you read a lot of literature within the genre? And if so, who is currently your favorite author, and why so?
C. DULANEY: Oh yeah, like I said, it’s my favorite. I’ll read some fantasy and some sci-fi, but horror takes up most of the space on my bookshelves.
And currently? Hmm, let’s see. Based on my recent reading, I’d have to say some of my favorites would be Clyde Wolfe, Peter Clines, Rhiannon Frater, Richard Matheson, Thom Brannan, and Dan Wells. And those are just some. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read something I haven’t loved, so I guess you could say everything I’ve recently read is my favorite. The why is pretty simple: A few of those have written things that were believable and fun for me, while the others have written things that scared me to the core.
MICHAEL: Which do you prefer: your average run-of-the-mill zombie novels/movies or ones that break the bounds of what we, in the genre, call “ordinary” tales?
C. DULANEY: It really depends. I like the run-of-mill if the writer makes it his or her own somehow. Same with movies. I feel like a broken record, but as long as the “average” isn’t ridiculous and portrays characters and situations in a real light, then I’m happy. The same goes for the ones that “break the boundaries.” As long as it’s not too out there, or nothing but a gorefest, then I like it. I don’t think I have a preference one way or the other, as long as it’s well told.
MICHAEL: Which do you find to be a more frightening beast: the sprinters from the Dawn of the Dead remake or the shambling hordes in Day/Dawn (original) of the Dead?
C. DULANEY: My gut reaction would be to scream SPRINTERS! I think those damn things scare everyone. But if you take a second and really think about it, what’s more terrifying? A screeching halt, or a slow, agonizing end? The thing to remember is: Zombies never tire, they never stop coming. I don’t know. Personally I find runners more frightening in the short term, walkers more frightening in the long run.
MICHAEL: What advice can you offer to those writers trying to follow in your footsteps?
C. DULANEY: Don’t let rejections stop you. Period. Because you will get rejected, many times. You need to learn how to accept these and take them in stride. Learn from them if they offer feedback, and constantly strive to better your writing. Don’t give up after that first rejection. Hell, don’t give up after the twentieth rejection either. Keep writing. I have a literal stack of rejections sitting on top of my desk. They remind me to keep going.
MICHAEL: I’ve got a little bit of inside information, and it tells me that you’ve already read THOM BRANNAN’S novel, LORDS OF NIGHT. Without giving anything serious away, what can we, the readers, expect from this?
C. DULANEY: I’d like to meet this little birdy you’ve got whispering in your ear.
Well, I can safely say every reader can expect something absolutely new and fresh. That might seem scary to some. “Do I want to take a chance on that? Sounds risky.” The answer to that is: You bet your ass you do. I’ll be perfectly honest. When Thom first told me the basic premise of Lords, I wasn’t sold. There are so many different elements to this story, I couldn’t see how anyone would be able to pull it off. But when he asked me to read it, I thought what the hell, why not. Right? I hadn’t even gotten through the first page before jumping around in my seat. I’d been so wrong! Thom weaved all those elements together so beautifully that halfway through, I couldn’t have ever imagined them not fitting together. He writes at a level I could only hope to attain, and if this novel doesn’t leave you gasping for air, I’ll eat this keyboard.
MICHAEL: You are attending Horror Realm this year, yes? Will your fans be able to see you at any other conventions or signings in the coming months/years?
C. DULANEY: Yes, I am. My first convention! I’d love to be able to say I’ll be attending more conventions this year, but right now it just isn’t feasible. I’ll get this first one under my belt, which coincides with the book’s release, then we’ll see how things go. I definitely plan on doing more conventions next year, as well as signings and the like. I have some tentative plans for this October, but nothing concrete. Your best bet would be to catch me at Horror Realm this year, then keep your ears perked for updates.
MICHAEL: Will you, C. DULANEY, survive a zombie apocalypse set like the Dawn of the Dead remake?
C. DULANEY: Depends… what sort of weapons do I have?
Excuse me while I hide these super-secret survival plans…
MICHAEL: I'll give you a couple of 9mm pistols, one pistol-grip .20 gauge shotgun, a rusted sword, and a bushel apples. You can have some ammunition, maybe 163 rounds to split between the guns...
C. DULANEY: Then yes, I would. I could always make homemade bombs out of the apples once I've burned through my ammo, and I’ll save the rusted sword to run myself through if I screw the pooch and am cornered with no hope of escape.
MICHAEL: Out of all the people in the genre, authors/actors/etc, who would you like to meet the most, and why?
C. DULANEY: Damn, that’s a hard one. Well of course, George Romero for obvious reasons. Stephen King, because he’s largely to blame for my love of writing. Max Brooks, because he wrote the first real zombie story I ever read. Got a lot of respect for that guy. Brian Keene for giving me a week’s worth of sleepless nights after reading The Rising. Clyde Wolfe for giving me a week’s worth of constipation after reading his short story, Mogg Wogg. Several Permuted authors…
Wow, the more I think about it, the more I realize this is a really long list. Can I just say I want to meet everybody?
MICHAEL: What are your thoughts about the Centers for Disease Control posting advice on their webpage for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
C. DULANEY: First I thought it was pretty funny. Then I realized it was a great way to get folks’ attention, what with the zombie craze being what it is. Clever.
MICHAEL: Are your friends and family supportive of your writing? Have they ever offered you advice on how to handle certain scenarios within your work?
C. DULANEY: Yes and yes. I have a select group of beta-readers, consisting of friends and family. A few of those have always been great about giving advice, constructive advice. Several scenes in The Plan were re-written after such advice, and I have to say it made a world of difference.
MICHAEL: If there were a zombie apocalypse in our lifetime (crosses fingers), how do you think it will happen?
C. DULANEY: I’d say it would happen as it’s been generally portrayed in novels and movies: Fast. Or, it would seem fast on the surface, when really it had been happening for several months, but for one reason or another had been kept under the radar or contained. Either way, I think it would be quick. Why? Because people in general would refuse to believe what was happening, they would cling to the “Zombies aren’t real!” mantra. And most likely they’d be screaming those same words even as a zombie was chowing down on their innards.
Also, I think it’d be caused by us. We would be our own demise. Not aliens, not cosmic radiation, nothing like that. We would create them, whether by accident or not.
MICHAEL: Have you ever gotten Writer’s Block? If so, what got you past it?
C. DULANEY: I’m not sure I’d call it Writer’s Block. I’m not even sure it really exists. But I can only speak for myself here, and say that yes, I have been “stuck” several times. Now, during those “Bah, shit!” moments, I’ve always been able to work on other things like short stories. So that’s why I wouldn’t consider it a block. But back to what I was saying, several times throughout the Roads trilogy, I’ve gotten hung up. Beat-my-face-off-a-wall stuck. So what I usually do is: A. Set it aside and work on something else for a week or so, then come back to it, B. Switch POV’s, C. Switch up between action, dialogue, and backstory, D. All of the above. So far, these things have always worked for me. Knock on wood they always will.
MICHAEL: If your book were to be made into a movie, what would you like to be on the soundtrack?
C. DULANEY: I do not know… there’s so much to choose from!
So I’ll take a wild guess and say maybe a little AC/DC, Kansas, Hank Williams Jr., Metallica, Blake Shelton… I think you see the pattern.
MICHAEL: What is your favorite quote from a zombie film?
C. DULANEY: I can only pick one? But there are so many! Alright, alright, let’s see…
Kenneth, from the Dawn of the Dead remake, when prompted to say something on the deaths of two of their own:
“Nothin’ to say. I been to a lot of funerals, folded the flag and given it to a lot of wives, fathers, and kids. I told them how sorry I was, but that’s not what I was really feelin’. In the back of my mind I was always saying ‘Better them than me.’ But I don’t believe that now. Because now I realize that there’s some things worse than death, and one of them is sitting here waiting to die.”
C.J., also from the remake, as he sums up the group’s escape plan:
“Excuse me, uh, not to shit on anyone’s riff here, but lemme just see if I grasp this concept, okay? You’re suggesting that we take some fucking parking shuttles and reinforce them with some aluminum siding and then just head on over to the gun store where we watch our good friend Andy play some cowboy-movie-jump-on-the-covered-wagon bullshit. Then, we’re gonna drive across a ruined city through a welcoming committee of a few hundred thousand dead cannibals all so that we can sail off into the sunset on this fuckin’ asshole’s boat? And for some island that for all we know doesn’t even exist?”
I know you only asked for one, and I’m sure I probably misquoted somewhere in all that, but I feel these two most accurately reflect the overall tone of The Plan. Plus, C.J. cracks me up.
I bet you thought I’d quote the popular “When there is no more room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth.” Gotcha!
MICHAEL: This is the part where you pimp anything and everything you can.
C. DULANEY: I want to let everyone know that my Horror Realm table-partner, Clyde Wolfe, recently had his horror anthology, Down Darkened Paths, republished by Blysster Press. Now that’s a scary-ass book. He’ll be bringing that, along with a few other books, to the convention, so everyone check that out. If you won’t be in the area, then here’s his website: www.clydewolfe.com
Wait… If I’m pimping him, does that mean he’s my bitch?
I’ve also got a short story, Doodles, included in Zombie Zak’s House of Pain: Tales of Dark Horror, to be released by The Library of Horror Press, and a series titled The Game, appearing on Rob Pegler and Thom Brannan’s website, www.darktomorrow.net.
I’m currently hard at work on Book Three of the trilogy, titled Journey’s End. Book Two is titled Murphy’s Law.
MICHAEL: This was definitely one hell of an interview, CD. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for your time. Look forward to reading your book, and I hope to do this again someday. See you at Horror Realm!
C. DULANEY: And thank you, Michael. For all of your hard work, and for all that you do. I definitely had fun, and I'll see you at Horror Realm
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR/EDITOR THOM BRANNAN
For those of you that have been following me over the years, you know that it’s been awhile since I’ve interviewed anyone. Well, might as well start things back up with a bang. Thom Brannan, ghostwriter for the late and great Z. A. Recht and his final installment of the Morningstar Saga, Survivors, has generously lent me some of his time to discuss working on Survivors, his own work, and a few other things. Get ready, readers, because this is going to be one hell of a ride!
MICHAEL: Thom, why don’t we start off with having you tell us all a little about yourself?
THOM: If there's one thing I never tire of, it's talking about myself. I'm an ex-submariner, which should let you know right off the bat there's something wrong with me. In addition to that, I was also a radiation worker. Now, I'm an electronics guy on a drilling platform off the coast of Brazil. I write songs (lyrics and music) and record them. I'm also a father, and no joke, that's the toughest thing yet. And of course, now I write.
MICHAEL: You are the ghostwriter for the late Z. A. Recht and his third installment of the Morningstar Saga: Survivors. How did you fall into this position after Zach’s passing? And how did the book come together? That must have been a difficult process.
THOM: It was. Looking at my writing resume, one would not peg me for the job. I have some science fiction, some crime, some Cthulhu Mythos. So it was a process. First, I took all of Zach's notes and the unfinished manuscript (however many files there were, I forget) and collating that into a single, cohesive thing. Then I wrote a chapter-by-chapter outline of how I would bring the work (and the series) to completion. Once that got the green light, I started work. And it was difficult. Not the writing...but getting to the writing. The first couple of attempts at fleshing out an empty chapter ended up with me just sitting at my keyboard, petrified that I would fuck it up. Eventually I worked that out of my system and got down to business, but those first days were nerve-wracking.
The research and phone calls and everything else was stimulating and helped the process along, as did the unflagging support of the fans at the Morningstar forums. During the period I was writing and revising, I posted snippets of chapters I was working on at the time, and the feedback has been unanimously positive.
MICHAEL: Would you say that it was harder finishing someone else’s work as compared to your own?
THOM: It's harder doing my own stuff, actually. I collaborate on songs and now on stories and maybe a novel, and the process is wonderful. I have a knack for adding to other people's work, it's one of the things I'm good at, I think. When I'm doing my own thing, sometimes I write myself into a corner because more often than not, I'm working without an outline or endgame. Most things I write in the first-person, and the method is to get to know the character, then put him or her in this outlandish situation and see what they do. I would say 90% of the time I have no idea what's going to happen in a story until I've picked up my pen. Or keyboard, whichever.
I'm trying to break out of this habit. I have an actual outline for the novel I'm working on now, and the one to follow has an outline, also.
MICHAEL: How did you first get into writing?
THOM: I blame Mrs. Gonzalez, my senior year English teacher. She introduced us to Chaucer, and to get the class interested, we all had an assignment to create a pilgrim and then write a story for that pilgrim to tell. All in verse, of course. I can't remember the bare minimum requirements, but I do remember bringing in a stack of dot-matrix printer paper that my stuff was on. That's where it started for me. I didn't do anything with it for quite a while after that, and I regret that.
I got back into writing answering a call for submissions for Permuted cross-genre Cthulhu project which became the two volumes of Cthulhu Unbound. My story was rejected (John Sunseri told me it was too long, too late in the sub window) but eventually I took over editing. So hey, win-win.
MICHAEL: Aside from the SURVIVORS project, you are the author of the forthcoming release LORDS OF NIGHT, to be published by Permuted Press. What is this book going to be about?
THOM: Lords of Night is also a post-apocalyptic novel with zombies, skeletons, evil and sadistic Locust People, an Ancient Enemy of mankind and his lieutenants, the titular Lords of Night. It's all that, but it's also a story about growing up, at least for the main character, Jack. He's on a quest to find an artifact that would help him defeat the Enemy and restore the world a bit. To help him on his way, there is a team of ex-Special Forces operatives on his side against the hordes of undead and the Locust People.
MICHAEL: Can’t wait to get my copy of this, BTW.
THOM: I can't wait until you get a copy of it, either. I can't wait until everybody has a copy!
MICHAEL: Do you find that it is easy to write such lengthy work? I mean, how much time and effort is put into finishing a project like this?
THOM: It went faster than I thought it would. From the beginning of chapter one to the end of the epilogue was just over sixty days, but there was about four weeks in the middle where I wrote nothing. My writing schedule is the main reason for my output, I think. I write at the same time every day, without fail. Doing so has put my brain in a groove at the time of day, and the words just come. My usual output for two hours of work before I got myself a schedule was 1500 words. On the schedule (during the writing of the book) I started out around the same and was hitting up to 4500 words a sitting near the end.
I think the second biggest help was that I take days off. On the weekends, I don't write, don't plot, don't take notes or look anything up. I just switch off; sat and watch movies. The next reason is that I work offshore, and so while I'm working my twelve-hour shift, everything is percolating in the back of my mind and the words can't wait to jump out and play with all their friends that are already in the manuscript.
"How much effort" really is a different question. A lot of the writers I know have, at one time or another, suffered from Writer's Block. I have, too. But two authors I respect very much (C.J. Henderson and William Browning Spencer) have both told me that the Block was bullshit. If you can't write on that one thing, then write about something else. Anything else. Just write, and your brain will cooperate. So, for Lords of Night, I made sure there were several side-tracks I could take if I ever got trapped by the main narrative.
Writing a novel really exercises a different set of brain muscles than does writing a short story. I think it's best to do both. That was my problem with my first attempt at a novel, World of Trouble.
(My shitty attempt at a poster.)
That book grew out of a novella, "Cemetery Gates," 17.5K of zombie game show wackiness. I really wanted to do something with it, but it was too large for zombie anthologies, and my writing style is such that I couldn't cut too much without losing a lot of the flavor. Cutting for an anthology would have meant cutting the story in half, literally. So, the only thing to do would be to make a novel out of it, and that ended in...not disaster, I guess, because the story that came of it is engaging and fun, but it isn't a novel. Not yet, at any rate.
MICHAEL: For me, it was Z.A. Recht’s Plague of the Dead. What drew you to Permuted Press?
THOM: First it was the cross-genre Cthulhu project. I'm a sucker for Mythos fiction, and that idea excited me. Once I got there, my first reads were John Dies at the End and Every Sigh, the End. After those, I read everything else. Devoured everything else. Jacob isn't kidding about changing the formula. I know for Lords of Night, he wanted a zombie apocalypse story, but he let me do almost everything I wanted, once I'd explained the why's and wherefore's, which was nice.
MICHAEL: Not only are you an author, but you’re an editor as well. Do you find it hard to work with other writers?
THOM: No, not at all. To be honest, most authors that don't believe they need any kind of editorial oversight never make it past the self-publishing stage. (Don't get me wrong; there's nothing inherently wrong with self-pubbing.)
MICHAEL: When you are writing/editing do you find yourself all alone in a silent room, no ambience whatsoever, or do you like to listen to music or have your favorite movie in the backdrop?
THOM: I have to listen to music, but when I'm writing it has to be music that I know so well that I never stop and find myself dumbstruck by something about it. Corrosion of Conformity's In the Arms of God was in serious rotation, as was Black Label Society's new one, Order of the Black. I also listened to other stuff, like Florence + the Machine, and a trip-hop band called The Fading Collection, and for the more introspective stuff I always pop on some Pink Floyd, or Jerry Cantrell's Degradation Trip.
MICHAEL: When you are writing, do you attribute personal characteristics into your protagonists/antagonists with your story, whether it is you or someone you know?
THOM: Not always, but I am a fan of eviscerating friends in my work. If I've killed you off in a story it's because I like you. I've found myself inserting a lot of me into characters, one way or another, and I have to actively rein that in. When it's my words coming out of the character's mouth instead of their own, that's a problem. Especially when I'm working with licensed characters, like the Green Hornet.
Often, I'll take just one aspect of a person's je ne sais quoi and try to work it into a character. If it translates, well good. If it doesn't, then there's some sitting and cursing and thinking and rewriting and cursing until I get it right.
MICHAEL: Does every author, in your opinion, need an editor or someone to look over their work?
THOM: Everybody needs an editor. Everybody. And happily, most of us know it. Hah, the only times I've had an author dislike what I did was when I was wrong (it happens) or when he was one of those people we just talked about. No names, no names.
But no, once you get past the idea that a critique isn't a personal thing, author/editor relationships can be completely harmonious.
MICHAEL: On a side-note, I have to agree completely. EVERYONE needs an editor.
MICHAEL: Okay, now, no names, no names, please! But, as a whole, what, as an editor, do you have for advice to us “up-and-coming” writers? I’ve heard—and wholly believe—that you, as an author/writer, shouldn’t get too attached to every single word. To quote someone I know (no names, no names), “You are NOT perfect; that is why there are editors.”
THOM: We do get attached to the words. They're our children. We brought them into the world and nurtured them until they fit into just the right place. We watch them grow with all their brothers and sisters...then some bastard with a red pen comes along and excises them, coldly and cruelly.
For advice, I'd say work with your editor. When you get your suggested edits (because that's what they are, really) stop what you're thinking and just read them. Don't reply right away, unless it's to say, "I'll take a look." My first response is usually, "Of course that belongs there, or I wouldn't have put it there!" or something like it. Then I wrestle my emotions down and try to take an objective stance. Whatever the Offending Thing is, does it really belong? Does it move the story in any way? Is it just a style thing, my own voice, and is it okay to dump it since my own voice is everywhere else in the MS?
MICHAEL: C. DULANEY has a book coming out in the next few weeks from Permuted Press. Word is you’ve already had a chance to look at it. How was it?
THOM: It's good stuff. It's really good stuff. Unlike the poorer examples of the genre, Roads Less Traveled: The Plan has a focus on the characters and their relationships. The zombies are there and they are in the great tradition of Romero, but they're not the story, and the book is much better for it. The characters feel like real characters, with real problems that they can't ignore, and the situations are more believable than in some other zombie books I've read.
MICHAEL: I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it so far.
MICHAEL: I have to ask: Which Permuted Press cover is your favorite? Jacob really has a knack for snatching up some of the best artists.
THOM: Woof. Robots Beyond has a beautiful cover, as does Empire's End. History is Dead and Stories for the End of the World are also very nice. But I would say it's a tie between The Dead and Thunder and Ashes. The original cover, not the reissue.
MICHAEL: The Dead is by far my most favorite Permuted cover. It would make a fantastic tattoo, IMO.
THOM: It would! I'm always looking for good paintings like that. I have a sleeve on my right arm that's taken from Michael Whalen's "Lovecraftian Nightmare," the one that was used for the wraparound cover of one of the Ballantine best-of books.
MICHAEL: What, in your opinion, are the best and worst parts of the zombie madness that’s sweeping the horror world these days?
THOM: Now, this is just one man's opinion, but I think I'm over the Zombie Genesis story. You know the one I mean? So many zombie novels are fixated on what happened That Day, it's hard to do something new with it. That's one of the reasons I liked Empire and Eden so much, they mostly ignore the Beginning of the End and jump ahead. And no discussion of the zombie genre (and what could be better) would be complete without mentioning Every Sigh, the End. It's such a different book.
There are novels about the outbreak that are well-done. We were just talking about The Plan, and that's one of them. Kings of the Dead is another. Joe McKinney always gets this right. They have something in common, and it's this: zombies are the backdrop. They're not the story. Do I sound like a broken record yet?
MICHAEL: I find that I like the story of the outbreak and whatnot, but it is a little overdone. Now, I’ve yet to read Every Sigh, the End, but what are some of your other favorite stories that break the bounds of your typical zombie novel, and why?
THOM: Empire, first and foremost. Are you kidding me? Death walks the earth, determined to put an end to the zombie menace. If that's not a unique twist on the genre, I don't know what is. Of course, Doctor Kim's Dying to Live series has enraptured and enraged zombie enthusiasts since forever. Especially with Life Sentence. D.L. Snell's Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines more than breaks the boundaries. It tears them down and reconfigures the material into something otherworldly.
That's one of the things I've noticed in reviews: the zombie fans, for the most part, they want their shambling, mindless hordes. If you give them something else, depending on what it is and how you do it, they'll either put you on a pedestal or burn you in effigy.
I really enjoyed Brian Keene's take on the undead in The Rising, but I think the story kind of ate itself in City of the Dead when the demon-infested corpses became a slapstick troupe.
And, you know, Army of Darkness. That is everything it should have been.
MICHAEL: What advice do you have for up-and-coming authors in the genre?
THOM: Well, I'm an up-and-comer, too. But I'll say this: write. Write, write, write. Then find yourself an editor or author's group that will read and give you feedback. I had no idea there was something wrong with my writing until my first rejection, and the first time I got real editorial feedback on a story was an ugly time in my life. Your family and friends are important, and their feedback is important. But they aren't...objective. Most of the time.
And hey, read some poetry. A strong dose of Edgar Allan Poe or Robert Frost before you start your writing day might help inspire a more lyrical you.
MICHAEL: Okay, this brings up another question. Who are your favorite poets, other than POE?
THOM: I'm something of a Neanderthal when it comes to poetry. I like poems that rhyme. Real rhymes, not eye-rhyme, which is shite, to quote one of my friends from across the pond. With that in mind, I would have to say Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. And I know I just said I like rhymes, but since her stuff is all translated, Sappho. I'm a bundle of contradictions!
MICHAEL: Currently, who are your three favorite authors?
THOM: Michael Marshall Smith, William Browning Spencer and Ian Fleming.
Michael Marshall Smith because he is like Raymond Chandler reborn with a new, weird set of brains. Completely rewired, and I got excited about writing in the first-person because of his work. Robert B. Parker is probably my biggest influence, stylistically speaking, but eventually I want to grow up to be Michael Marshall Smith.
William Browning Spencer has got such a unique view on the things he writes. His novels are loosely tied into the Cthulhu Mythos, but he does stuff that isn't like anyone else. Zod Wallop is one of the best books I've ever read.
And Ian Fleming, well. I'm reading the Bond novels from front to back, and I have to say that when my next project opens, I'll be paying a lot of homage to 007.
MICHAEL: If Thom Brannan found himself in the middle of a shambling zombie apocalypse, would he be a survivor or a statistic? Explain.
THOM: Jesus, I don't know. Probably one, then the other. Hah!
MICHAEL: What would be the ideal weapon, in your opinion, for the zombie apocalypse? Guns? Swords? Other?
THOM: The most terrible weapon in the history of mankind is the mind. BUT, in terms of something physical, I would say good melee weapons over firearms, but each has positives and negatives. There are a lot of things that would make for a good weapon, but I think I would have to choose a silenced shotgun that could fire baseball bats or machetes.
MICHAEL: You forgot infinite ammo. Lol!
MICHAEL: Which would you say is a scarier monster: the shamblers from the old days or the runners from the new age? Why?
THOM: Shamblers scare me more. The runners are fast and they look great on screen, but one of them catches up to you, it's over. I mean, the end will be quick, right? The shambling horde is more terrifying because of its slow pace. It's stuck in my mind that the way they kill you would be the same as they way they walk: slowly.
MICHAEL: All right. Let’s say that you’ve been bitten by a shambler. What do you do? Do you kill yourself? Do you find a group of survivors and bite them to infect them out of sheer jealousy or do you off yourself out of respect for the living? Or, do you take a trip to the dark side, if you will, and journey among the dead?
THOM: Assuming I'm able, I do what I can for my family before I separate. Then I get somewhere visible, like on a clock tower or radio antenna, and I keep a journal of the turn for scientists in the After. Because you have to believe there'll be an After, or survival becomes...masturbatory. Which, of course, brings me back to my favorite flavor of zombie story, the What Happens Next.
MICHAEL: Three worst zombie movies of all time?
THOM: Survival of the Dead, House of the Dead, and...oh, Dead Heat. I don't know if it was the story or Joe Piscopo that killed the last one. Survival of the Dead was an interesting attempt at something new with the zombie story, but it fell flat for me. And House of the Dead? Well. Uwe Boll. And it was intercut with scenes from the actual game. Poorly. Need I say more?
MICHAEL: Personally (gets in a defensive position), I feel that Survival of the Dead was an awesome take on the zombie culture. It’s not my favorite, in any sense, but I do think that it applied with the naivety of the youth and the digital age that we live in. By far it is not the best Romero film out. What, in your opinion is the best Romero zombie film and why?
THOM: I've always liked Dawn of the Dead, but I might have to say Land of the Dead. NotLD was something new, and Dawn, Day, Diary and Survival all had their strong points, but it was Land of the Dead which gave me what I wanted, which is to say a glimpse of an actual society after the zombie uprising. Not just days after, but years and years after, which is a more interesting story than the outbreak and immediate thereafter. Day of the Dead had some of that, but Land had a real city with haves and have-nots and struggle to rise above your station. A lot of the fans don't like it, but it's the one I can relate to the most. It really is the microcosm from the house in Night of the Living Dead, writ large.
MICHAEL: With all the technological advances, and the possible death of trade-paperback looming in the future, what are your thoughts on ebooks? Especially pertaining to indie authors?
THOM: The ebook is an invaluable tool. I believe it will greatly diminish the role of the traditional publisher, but it doesn't spell the death of the deadwood version of books. From my own experiences, the availability of the ebook has opened reading to a whole new demographic. Several of the people I work with—and I believe they accurately represent the oilfield and our class of worker—have read more this year since owning a Kindle than they have in the five years previous.
Indie authors should embrace the new wave of technology, if for no other reason than the inexpensive means of publishing a story or novel. I think mainstream authors should do the same. However, it would not do to forget that the old standards set by traditional publishers still apply. Mostly, I'm talking about editing, and the importance thereof.
MICHAEL: Do you believe that we are in the beginnings of the end for trade-paperback? And which do you prefer?
THOM: No, I don't. I'm not saying the ebook is a fad or whatever, but there are still format wars going on and people are lining the battlefield on either side. I don't think there will be a definitive ebook format, not for years yet.
I don't think booklovers have anything to worry about. There's just something about standing in front of your own bookshelf, you know? I have every Destroyer novel there is, almost 150 of them, and there's just a feeling I get when I look at them that's not there when I'm scrolling through the contents on my Kindle.
Now, I love the Kindle. I travel for work, five thousand miles one-way, and there are weight restrictions on my luggage, so it's not feasible for me to carry four weeks' worth of books to and from. The Kindle is great for that. I take it everywhere I go.
MICHAEL: Web-based fiction. Love it or hate it?
THOM: Uh, LOVE IT. In fact, this is a perfect time to plug my own website, www.DarkTomorrow.net.
I am indeed self-published in that respect. (It's very rare for something to make it all the way to the website without first braving the Permuted Press Pit Writer's Group and their Five Red Pens of Doom.) The medium allows for a more interactive experience if the webmaster is clever, and you, the author, have control over every aspect of the story, from direction to art to presentation.
At my own site, each story has its own "cover." Rob Pegler is his own artist, and the rest of the stories (mine and those of the various guest authors) get their art from deviantArt. Of course, we get permission, and that slows the process considerably, but a thing worth doing is a thing worth doing right. And the artists have been wonderful. Only a small sampling of them has said no.
And this ties back to your ebook question, because eventually, I would like to create a Dark Tomorrow imprint for the site and sell inexpensive versions of the stories there. They would have extra scenes and bonus material to set them apart from the original, free versions, of course. I don't want anybody to think we want their hard-earned cash for something they can read for free. And the stories will stay on the website for as long as I can afford it—which, if this goes well, will be where the money generated from the sales go. Well, from my sales.
MICHAEL: What draws you to horror?
THOM: I enjoy reading and writing all types of fiction, and I think of myself primarily as a horror writer. There's just something in the visceral reaction that horror provokes in people that satisfies my needs as a creator, I guess. In the end, though, if the story I'm writing turns into something gratuitous, then I've lost it somewhere. Genre aside, any story should be a good story first. Am I making sense here?
MICHAEL: What makes a good story for you?
THOM: There's always something which makes a story unique or good. Snappy dialog, good plot points, a well-timed turn, what have you. For sure, I would have to take this question on a story-by-story basis. Most of the stuff I've seen that gives me goosebumps or touches me has something indefinable about it, a quality that's impossible to replicate unless you're that author. A lot of us strive for that something and only very few of us get it.
MICHAEL: What three songs would be the theme to your apocalypse?
THOM: I'm torn two ways with this question. The first is Bruce Dickinson's "Arc of Space" and "Omega" from the Accident of Birth album, with Black Label Society's "January" as a chaser.
The other way is Mushroomhead, Slayer and...well shit, I guess BLS again. "Sun Doesn't Rise," "Seasons in the Abyss," and "Funeral Bell," in that order.
MICHAEL: This is the part where you “pimp” anything and everything you can think of…
THOM: I've already mentioned my website once, but I haven't said anything about Rob's work posted there, The Book of Falling. He's on the ninth story there (eighth, on the site; one got pulled for inclusion in Pill Hill's The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II, edited by Miles Boothe) and they're all exquisite.
Also, C. Dulaney is starting a series of shorts called The Game, which should be up soon, and Victorya C has a series of flash pieces called The Zooicides. All on the site.
As far as anthologies and books so, all I can do is ask that, if you've read it, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever. It's enough that you bought it, of course it is, but feedback will keep things you didn't like from happening again. Maybe.
MICHAEL: Thanks for stopping by. It was a blast!
THOM: It was! And thanks for having me. Excelsior!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR STEPHEN A. NORTH
Today I have the privilege of posting an interview with an author whose work I am very familiar with. Stephen A. North. His novels include Dead Tide and Dead Tide Rising: DT2, published by the Library of the Living Dead Press. Enjoy--I did!
M. S.--Welcome, Stephen. It's a pleasure to have you hanging out in the Living Dead Corner. For starters, can you tell us a little about the man behind name?
Stephen--Where to start? In brief, I am the older of two sons, am married and have a daughter. I was a Military Policeman in the Army Reserve and I have a BA in English Literature from USF.
M. S.--Is there a place that we can find you online?
Stephen--The two places I visit most often are: The Library of the Living Dead and Facebook for now.
Hope to have a website soon.
M. S.--The “Dead Tide” novels are written in the present tense--a tense not often used in the genre. Is this just a personal preference, or is there a method behind writing your stories this way?
Stephen--I use it deliberately. To me it works perfectly with the type of stories I write. The reader is thrust into the middle of the action. Eric S. Brown did convince me to write in past tense for 'Barren Earth.'
M. S.--I've read “Dead Tide” and have its sequel--which will be read soon. Your style of writing leads me to believe that you're somewhat educated in the field of firearms. You also capture the feel of the military and police very well. Was there a lot of research involved when writing these novels?
Stephen--I found myself researching boats, cruise ships, the Coast Guard, Black Hawk helicopters and consulting Google Earth quite a bit. My knowledge of firearms is almost entirely from my time in the Army.
M. S.--Care to tell us about anything else you're working on?
Stephen--My current work in progress is called 'Drifter' and has been described by Sue Edgerly as 'Clint Eastwood in Space.'
M. S.--When did zombies become such a major part in your life?
Stephen--The moment I saw the original 'Dawn of the Dead,' I was hooked. Permuted Press inspired me to actually try to write a zombie story. Dr. Pus from the Library of the Living Dead Press published that story.
M. S.--What scares you the most about zombies?
Stephen--Empty soulless eyes like a shark's.
M. S.--You've collaborated with Eric S. Brown on a novel called “Barren Earth.” What was it like working with another author? Also, is it something you'd consider doing again?
Stephen--Collaborating with someone is a great learning experience. I highly recommend it. I firmly believe 'Barren Earth' would never have existed without Eric and I bouncing ideas together. I would collaborate again.
M. S.--Who would you like collaborate with in the future?
Stephen--This guy named M.S. Gardner perhaps? Several other people are waiting on me.
M. S.--As an experienced writer, what is some advice that you can offer others that aspire to be in your shoes?
Stephen--Finish your book before you start worrying about anything else.
M. S.--Do you prefer your zombies to shamble or sprint?
M. S.--Now, take your answer from above and apply it to this question. Will you survive the zombie apocalypse? Why or why not?
Stephen--I think I could survive, yes. I understand deprivation, cooperation and team work. I think it would be tough to survive alone for very long, though.
M. S.--If you could have any two guns in the world during the zombie apocalypse, what would they be and why?
Stephen--One of them would probably be an Army Colt .45 pistol, if only because I am so familiar with it. Maybe that 'new' Army M-4 carbine for my primary firearm? It has decent range and accuracy. Although, there is something known as the Atchisson Assault Shotgun. Supposed to be rugged, accurate and devastating out to 90 meters, and...it can be fired on full auto. It has a twenty five round drum magazine. I think I need some time (and plenty of ammo) on a range soon would be good to help me decide.
M. S.--In your current mood, what would you say your favorite three zombie movies are?
Stephen--Original Dawn of the Dead, the re-make of Dawn of the Dead, and ZombieLand. This new series on TV (AMC) called 'The Walking Dead' is very good.
M. S.--If you could make your own zombie movie, whether it be CGI, realistic, or a cartoon mix-up like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” what would it be about? Maybe “Dead Tide” meets the big-screen?
Stephen--I have to admit, I would love the thrill of seeing 'Dead Tide' make it to the big-screen. Would be fun to see the cast.
M. S.--If Stephen A. North finds himself smack-dab in the center of a zombie outbreak and gets bitten by an undead skulking wanderer--we are assuming that this means the transmission of whatever it is that drives these rotting bastards--does he look to the heavens with sullen eyes and commit suicide, or wait with guilt-driven anticipation to see the world through dead eyes?
Stephen--I wouldn't wait to turn. I'd send that skulking wanderer to hell first, then check-out.
M. S.--Is there anything that else that you'd like to share with the viewing audience?
Stephen--I am fired up to write the third book in the Dead Tide series. I have no shortage of book ideas either. Hope I can finish them all someday soon. I appreciate all the feedback I've received, good or bad. To my friends, family, fellow Librarians and fans---Thanks for the support! I'm loving every moment. Thank you also to my dear friend, Dr. Pus at the Library of the Living Dead for believing in me and helping to make this possible. Thank you also, Mike, for the interview and your friendship.
(Anytime, Stephen. It was a pleasure!)
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR/REVIEW TONY SCHAAB
Tony Schaab, who runs www.thegorescore.com, has stopped by the LDC to tell us a little about himself, his new book, upcoming projects, and even a special announcement at the end... Upon reading, you may have to fight the urge to see your favorite zombie movie, maybe read your favorite zombie book, but I ask that you finish to find what Tony has in store for you!
M. S.—Tony, where did it begin with you? You know, zombies?
Tony— Well, like so many impressionable young men, I watched “Night of the Living Dead” in college and was really enamored with the concept of zombies. Granted, it was the mid-1990s when I first saw NotLD, so I can’t claim to be an “original” follower. I guess if you want to get technical, my first dealing with the undead was actually Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. Man, that thing scared the pants of me when I was 9 years old and it first came out!
M. S.—Do you judge movies off only one viewing? Or do you need several takes before you can justify publishing your review? How about books, comics, and games?
Tony— Movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games always get multiple views, just to make sure my “snap” judgment isn’t impaired by any external factors (my mood at the time, who I’m watching with and their opinions, lunar tidal patterns, etc.). As much as I wish I had the time to give novels a second go before I review them, I don’t have that luxury, so I always make sure to take detailed notes as I’m reading. You should see my collection of undead-centric novels, with my scribbles all over the pages – it looks like some savant was trying to solve The da Vinci Code with my zombie book collection!
M. S.—I did this for “28 Days Later” only because they’d advertised it as a “ZOMBIE” movie, so I have to ask…
Have you ever walked out of a movie in the theaters because you were so disappointed? (I was so pissed five minutes into it that I started cussing and brought ten people I didn’t even know with me)
Tony— Zombie movies (or movies advertised as zombie movies), I have never done that. Regular movies, I have only ever walked out of one (“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”), but to be fair it was less about the movie and more about the huge fight I was having with my girlfriend at the time! Call me frugal, but when I have to drop 10 bucks (or more) to sit in a theater and be entertained, I’m going to watch what I paid for, for better or for worse.
M. S.—To me, now, I feel the “28” series has introduced a new type of horror (to the masses) to the genre—the infected. Then comes the remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” where the zombies carry some of, in my opinion, the attributes that the infected from the former made popular. As many things do, this catches on, giving us such films as “Automaton Transfusion” and so many more. Do you feel that this series brought to the table has changed the way we look at zombies?
Tony— While these movies certainly have given fans a type of zombie we really haven’t seen before, I am a little reluctant to say they’ve “changed the way we look at zombies.” There have been so many different types of zombies introduced to us since 1968 that I, honestly, think many people have been too narrow-minded about what their cut-and-dried definition of a “zombie” really is. When the average fan hears the phrase “zombie,” they automatically think of a slow, shuffling creature with grey skin and a vacant stare that’s coming to eat your flesh and/or brains. I’m not sure how that came to be the “accepted” definition, because I’ve seen many movies from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and recently that have portrayed not only that type of undead, but a whole host of zombies with other characteristics. Heck, in “Night of the Living Dead,” considered by many to be the “advent” of the modern zombie, the zombies use rocks and other tools to break things, and they even run a little bit when they need to – they don’t fit the “accepted” definition at all, yet they were around before the definition was even created! I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s hard to say that someone has changed the way we look at something, when maybe the way we were looking at it all along was just plain…wrong.
M. S.—You have a very interesting approach to rating what you review. A lot is put into perspective. How and why did you approach the construction of your patented G.O.R.E. system?
Tony— I knew that when I first decided to start writing reviews, I definitely wanted to avoid being just another guy with a blog throwing his opinions around to anyone who would listen. So I thought to myself, “Self, why not create an objective system to rate movies in categories that fans would actually want to know about?” So I sat down and made a list of the different types of things in zombie-centric stories that I, as a fan, liked to see and would enjoy having a bit of advance information about before I bought a movie/book/etc. Through good karma and a little bit of luck, the areas of focus resolved themselves into a nice little acronym, G.O.R.E.: “G”eneral entertainment, “O”riginal content, “R”ealism, and “E”ffects and editing. I still have some of my own subjective rhetoric mixed into each review, of course, but on the whole I think the rating system really helps my reviews stand apart as a great source of insight and information.
M. S.—Were there certain sites/magazines (no names please) that nailed half of a review for you, but still felt that it was unfair or biased due to whom was critiquing? And did this help motivate you to do what you do?
Tony— It just seemed like there were a lot of sites, critics, etc., that simply wanted to tell you how they felt without really giving a lot of detail about WHY they felt that way. I could also sometimes see a lot of underlying bias, both positive and negative, based on politics, preferential treatment, and relationships between some reviewers and the reviewees, so things like that really did help motivate me to create as fact-based a review system as possible. Bottom line, I just want to help the average fan find cool stuff they may not have known about and avoid the junk they may not have known would be bad for them!
M. S.—Will there ever be a F.A.N.G. or a S.L.A.S.H. Score in the future? I hear vampires are doing pretty well right now…
Tony— It’s very possible! I have been in talks with a few publishers to do some general-horror reviews, and since the G.O.R.E. Score focuses specifically on zombies, a second acronym could very well be in my future!
M. S.—Your book, “The G.O.R.E. Score: Volume 1” is just that, the first volume. Do you plan on making these yearly releases, maybe quarterly?
Tony— I haven’t assigned a specific timetable to it, but “Volume 1” is definitely the first in the series. Each review I write usually clocks in anywhere between 800-1200 words, so putting 50-55 reviews together gives me roughly 60,000 words, or about the size of a standard novel. “Volume 1” collected 54 reviews, the first 49 that were posted on the website and 5 I wrote exclusively for the book. Since the book was published, I have already written over 10 new reviews and posted them to the website, so I guess “Volume 2” is already well underway! I try to write 1-2 reviews each week, so as soon as I get around 50 “new” reviews, we’ll see the next book hit the shelves – if I stay at the pace I’m at right now, “Volume 2” will probably be released sometime in Spring 2011.
M. S.—It’s not every day that one might see book full of reviews, let alone, a book dedicated to ZOMBIES. This is sort of a big deal for some of us in the “genre,” even the skeptical ones. What do you think and hope the customers’ reaction will be?
Tony— Well, I certainly hope the reaction is positive! That’s the one thing I have noticed, there just aren’t any books quite like mine out there in the stores, so I can understand if zombie fans might be a bit skeptical or confused in regards to what The G.O.R.E. Score is all about. That’s another reason I tried to infuse a sense of wittiness and self-referential humor into a lot of my reviews, so the novel is less of a straight-laced encyclopedia and more of a collection of essay-esque reviews.
M. S.—What are some of the perks of doing what it is you do?
Tony— Since I made the conscious decision to put my primary focus on lesser-known or independent zombie media, a lot of creators send me their items for review, so I’ve quickly acquired quite a quirky collection of items that I definitely wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise! I would also count a “perk” as some of the minor “brushes with fame” I’ve had – I’ve had some great conversations with some pretty big names in the zombie realm, including S.G. Browne, Doc Pus, Alan Goldsher, J.L. Bourne, Tom Savini, and Jonathan Maberry. It’s been quite the experience!
M. S.—Recently, an announcement was made on your website (http://thegorescore.com/) and several of the forums stating a collaborative between you and author extraordinaire, Anthony Giangregorio. Care to give some details on how this came to be?
Tony— I guess this would count as another “perk” of having created The G.O.R.E. Score: Anthony reached out to me, since I am – and these are his words – “the zombie review guy,” and he was interested in creating some type of review book focusing specifically on the “best of the best” in zombie cinema. After about an hour-long, very energetic and exciting phone conversation, we decided that we wanted to create a “zombie movie companion” that focused on giving the reader our thoughts, insights, trivia, and “what to watch for” tidbits on what we called the “top 25” zombie movies. To cover our rears and make sure we don’t make anyone too mad, I think we technically said the movies we chose were “25 of the best,” and certainly not meant to be the definitive list of top films ever! The movies we are reviewing are a combination of our opinions of what some of the best movies are, but we have lots of “classic” films in addition to some of the more amazing “modern” movies on the list as well. I am writing entries on all 25 movies, and Anthony will be adding his input on select movies as well. It should be a lot of fun to write.
M. S.—I mean, honestly, how stoked are you about this?
Tony— I am insanely stoked! Aside from the very obvious honor of working with an incredibly talented writer like Anthony Giangregorio, I truly believe we are going to create an amazing resource book that will easily become a “must-have” for fans both new to the genre and the die-hard fanatics alike. This one’s gonna be HUGE!
M. S.—Not only are you an expert reviewer, you also captivate readers with your work. Some of which can be found in Dead History: A Zombie Anthology and End of Days 2, both from Living Dead Press. Word is; someone’s working on a novel. Know anything about that?
Tony— I might have a little bit of information on that, yeah! I am currently hard at work on my first fiction novel, yes. It’s titled “Zombies Can’t Dance” and it’s a written adaptation of the 10-song “alt-rock opera” of the same name, currently available for free listening and download at www.zombiescantdance.com. The music was created by a very talented artist named Luke Kuzava, and after I reviewed the album for The G.O.R.E. Score, he and I quickly decided that I should work to adapt the story into full-length novel form. It’s a great story of the undead apocalypse, complete with nuclear explosions, zombie-hunting robots, a group of radical “analog technologists” that worship Nikola Tesla, and of course, plenty of zombie mayhem. I’m shooting for an early- to mid-2011 release date, so stay tuned!
M. S.—Which do you find harder, critiquing others works or your own?
Tony— Oh, my own, definitely. I never create something where I’m thinking “yeah, that’s pretty good, but there is definitely some room for improvement;” every work I put out, I strive to make it as polished and excellent as possible, so when I look at the finished product I many times find it difficult to explore opportunities to improve the work. I would have to be a very masochistic person if it was harder for me to critique other peoples’ work, since I’ve chosen to do that as my primary artistic focus!
M. S.—What, in your opinion are the three greatest things zombie? Three worst?
Tony— Well, you’ll have to take this opinion with a grain of salt, because I obviously haven’t experienced ALL the zombie stuff out there, and I’m sure there are some amazing items that I simply haven’t met yet! But of the zombie media I have encountered, I’d say my “top three” is as follows.
3-the film “Planet Terror,” part of the “Grindhouse” double-feature project by directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Directed by Rodriguez and given a huge Hollywood budget, “Planet Terror” is a modern film made in the ‘70s-style of filmmaking, so it’s a very stylized movie with over-the-top plot and dialogue that is an absolute thrill to watch, and it just seemed like the entire cast and crew were having a such a great time making this film that there’s really no way a true zombie fan can’t enjoy watching it.
2-the novel “World War Z” by Max Brooks. An amazingly well-told story of a worldwide zombie pandemic where casualties were high but humanity actually survived, the book crafts an intense story that feels real and characters that the reader can truly empathize with even though we don’t know them very well. Overall, “WWZ” is a tremendously engaging tale that feels less like speculative fiction and more like historical fact.
1-gotta go with the classic movie “Night of the Living Dead.” In my upcoming book “Reviews of the Dead,” I speak at length about how Romero really didn’t even know that what he was creating was going to be such a game-changer for the horror genre, and I think that speaks the most to how great this story is – the movie wasn’t created to be “the next big thing,” but it was such an amazing viewing experience that that’s what it ended up becoming. It is, quite simply, the “gold standard” of modern zombie stories.
The three worst I won’t ruminate on too much, because I don’t want to throw anyone too far under the bus, but here are the three worst-scoring items from “The G.O.R.E. Score, Vol. 1” (not counting “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” which I deem “so bad it’s good!”):
Bad: “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies” (film)
Worse: “House of the Dead” (film)
Worst: “Living with the Dead” (graphic novel)
M. S.—What type of zombie do you prefer to see in movies? Is it different for the books/comics?
Tony— Honestly, I’m not picky with my types of zombies; I actually think I enjoy seeing all different types, because I like the variations in the types of stories that come along with them. Sometimes you’re in the mood to get a classic slow-shambler story, and sometimes you want to experience the frenetic action that comes with a fast-zom story…whether it’s movies, books, or comics, I say variety is the spice of un-life!
M. S.—Let’s just say for shits and giggles that you find yourself in the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. You are alone in your barricaded house (wherever you choose to reside for this question) just one week after the rising—you have no family to worry about for whatever reason you choose. Supplies are running low, but you do have a pistol with two clips and two boxes of ammunition. Your car is new, in the garage, and works just fine— except for that damned rear-passenger tire. It’s full now, but it has the tendency to go flat every once and a while. The streets have been quiet for the last few days, but you never know. This world is now the “real” world. Are you a survivor or a statistic? Why?
Tony— Well, if I remain alone, I think I’d become a statistic – I think we all would, flying solo. You can only hide out in your own home for so long before your supplies dwindle and you’re forced to go exploring. I think in any zompocalypse, there is strength in numbers, so I would definitely strike out and try to find a group of other survivors to connect with. Granted, you’ve got to find the right group of survivalists, not just any old rag-tag team of clueless “breathers” …man, this is harder than I thought!
M. S.—If you may, put 10 seconds on the clock… Hands down. No explanations (and I know that’s harsh). What is your current favorite zombie movie? –ding-
Tony— Wow, that was a fast 10 seconds in my head! I’d have to say that, in terms of sheer entertainment value and the ability to watch it over and over again, my current favorite zombie movie would be the 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead.” Fun, fun movie.
M. S.—What are your thoughts on AMC’s upcoming adaptation to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead? Are you excited? Scared? As a reviewer, your G.O.R.E. senses must be tingling in anticipation…
Tony— I am totally geeked to see this show being made! And not only being made, but being taken seriously by everyone involved in the creative process: from the actors to the writers and directors to the TV channel that will be airing it, it just seems like everyone is treating this project with the utmost respect and dignity, and I really think that’s going to translate on screen and give us an even more realistic and frightening viewing experience. As a reviewer, I’ll have to wait at least until the first season is complete before giving it the G.O.R.E. Score treatment, but as a fan, you’d better believe I’ll be tuning in AND DVRing every episode each week!
M. S.—Do you think that you’ve seen every zombie movie that there is to see?
Tony— Oh sweet Lord, no! Not even close. In fact, I just looked at my movie collection, and due to my penchant for collecting movies faster than I can view them, I currently have 12 zombie movies on my shelf that I have yet to watch for the first time! I know that there even more films out there that I have yet to see, between the more low-budget independent films and the bigger “blockbusters” that I just haven’t seen yet for whatever reason. That’s the beauty of being a part of a genre that is enjoying a “high point” right now, the list of newly-released (and newly-discovered) movies continues to grow and keep us undead-heads entertained!
M. S.—Where do you go when you’re looking for one of those “hard-to-find” comics/movies/etc.?
Tony— eBay or Amazon…usually between these two sites, I can normally find even the most obscure of titles. Of course, being a full-fledged, reputable horror critic, I have also had some success reaching out directly to creators of those hard-to-find items. These are folks who are almost always thrilled to have someone like me giving their item additional exposure through a review that gets not only posted on the website but also included in a book, so it’s been a great additional resource to have in my back pocket. And when all else fails, there’s a guy that lives in an ally in downtown Indianapolis who calls himself “Z-Man Jack” who can get you anything at a moment’s notice – and I do mean ANYTHING: bootleg movies, bootleg alcohol, bootleg body parts…you name it, he’s got it!
M. S.—Has there ever been a point in your career where you’d just had enough and wanted to give up doing what you do?
Tony— Never. I’m having too much fun learning about and taking in “all things zombie” that I would be a fool to just up and walk away. Even though this is not my “primary” job, I still enjoy it tremendously, and I constantly wish I had more time in my day to devote to The G.O.R.E. Score, writing, and zombies in general. At the risk of sounding like a necrophiliac, I am in love with zombies!
M. S.— Technology is ever-advancing, enhancing how we read, watch (television/movies), and play (videogames). Knowing this, what would you like to see happen with the genre in the upcoming years. Holograms of the Dead, maybe?
Tony— Hey, that would be neat! I think that as technology continues to advance, we are going to get a lot more fun stuff with zombies thrown at us. At the risk of sounding a little “retro,” I’d like to see a much more interactive version of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels combined with a movie/gaming experience that could give the viewer/player the ability to put themselves at the heart of a zombie outbreak or apocalypse, and see how long they could truly survive based on the decisions they make. I know we’ve seen something along these lines in some video games that have been released, but I’m looking for the full-immersion experience, almost like going onto the Holodeck in Star Trek! Then you could take all the people who like to argue on forums and chat boards for hours on end about which of them would survive a zompocalypse the longest and have them put their money where their mouth is. It’s a big idea, and obviously technology isn’t quite there yet for us, but hey – a zombie fan can dream, can’t he?
---SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM MR. SCHAAB!---
The G.O.R.E. Score is giving away all sorts of free swag throughout the entire "Zombies From Beyond!" month of October!
The good folks at Quirk books sent me lots of stuff to give away, including posters and retail book copies of "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" and the newly-released "Night of the Living Trekkies," among many others. Heck, I may just give away a few copies of my book as well, just because I'm feeling the Halloween spirit!
What's that, you say? How do you enter for your chance to win? It's easy, ya bunch of silly-billies: just post a comment to one of the reviews on The G.O.R.E. Score website, and I'll be doing drawings at random throughout the month. The more you post, the better your chances! :)
Feel free to visit the "Zombies From Beyond!" page at TheGOREScore.com for more details.
M. S.—Tony, thanks for giving me a little bit of your time. I wish you the best with all your future endeavors. It was an honor to have such a fan of the genre hang out in the Corner for a little bit…
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR PATRICK D'ORAZIO
I’ve had the pleasure to take up some of author Patrick D’Orazio’s time and ask him a few questions about his debut novel, “Comes the Dark.” It is the first in a trilogy being published by Library of the Living Dead Press. As well, he’ll be telling us a little about himself, his current works, and future plans. I hope you enjoy!
M. S.— Patrick, welcome and congratulations on all the success you’ve been having as of late. You are an up-and-coming writer in the genre. Care to tell us a little about man behind the stories?
Patrick— Thanks! I guess to start off, it’s fair to say that I have always enjoyed writing, but really didn’t start focusing on it seriously until about four years ago, when I realized I had a novel trapped inside me that was dying to get out. That is when I started really focusing on writing for more than just my own personal pleasure. Thankfully, I have a wife and two children who are very supportive of this and have made it very easy to make a full commitment to becoming a writer and not just a guy who says he is going to be a writer.
As for the other ‘stuff’, I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and moved to Cincinnati for my job back in 1995. I met my wife here and we have two children, Alexandra and Zachary. I am a salesman by trade, and that has actually given me the chance to travel a bit and get exposed to a few other parts of the country, which I think has helped influence me a bit as a writer.
M. S.— Your debut novel, “Comes the Dark,” has recently been released through Library of the Living Dead Press. It is the first installment of a trilogy. Can you give us a synopsis? Maybe a little hint of what’s to come?
Patrick— Certainly. Comes the Dark begins with an introduction to Jeff Blaine as he steps back into his house, only to discover his whole family has been wiped out by the undead. They had been hiding out there for the past six weeks, when the world started falling apart and the dead walked. Jeff has no time to come to grips with what has happened and has no better plan than to go out and kill as many of the monsters that took his family away before they destroy him as well. But before long, he meets up with Megan, another survivor from his neighborhood, who forces him to rethink things. As they travel through a dead world and face one danger after another, they come across two more survivors. George is a man who wants to get back to his family, who he believes is still waiting for him up north, and Jason, a moody twelve year old kid. Together, they face even more dangers from both the living and the dead as they journey away from the city in an effort to find George a way to get back home and the rest of them a way to escape the walking dead.
The second book should be released in about six months and continues the story immediately where the first left off. The quartet is introduced to an even larger group of survivors and the challenges for all of them increase dramatically. Jeff must face the fact that whether he likes it or not, other people are relying on him and that he must take on a leadership role to protect his newfound friends from the even greater dangers they are facing. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it say that the intensity level increases in the second book and it certainly isn’t only the undead that causes that to happen.
The third book will probably be released around this time next year, and all I can say is that the entire book runs at a breakneck pace from start to finish. It is, without a doubt, the most brutal and gut-wrenching part of this story, and was the toughest for me to write from an emotional standpoint.
M. S.— Which type of POV is this book written in?
Patrick— The story is told in third person, with Jeff as the central focus, but as the story goes on, there are parts of the story where he isn’t the target. That is especially the case in the second and third books.
M. S.—Do you prefer writing in this type of POV?
Patrick— I do prefer third person. It just comes naturally for me. I have written a story in first person, and that was a bit of a challenge for me, because my natural inclination is to also make it present tense for whatever reason. I needed help with the story I wrote and it was accepted, so I guess I did something right. I think as time goes on, I’ll be able to create more stories in first person. With that said, I am officially terrified of second person narratives and while I have seen it done a few times very well, I doubt that I will ever want to write a story in second person.
M. S.— What has to be going on in the backdrop in order for you to get the best writing completed?
Patrick— I know a lot of people like music playing in the background, but I like a quiet environment. The imagined soundtrack of a particular story is typically playing in my head already and if it clashes with what I hear in the background it’s gonna be jarring for me. I have a home office that I can hide away in, but I don’t mind when I am on the road for work and can pound away at the keyboard in a hotel room. Having young kids, I have to deal with a lot of interruptions, but I take it as a positive. I am a writer who likes interruptions, because I am constantly thinking of ways of improving my story, and so the occasional break serves to shake my brain up a bit and some of my best ideas have come from turning off for a little bit and then getting back to it.
M. S.— A lot of people are doing collaborations. Is this an avenue that you’ve thought about pursuing?
Patrick— I am waiting to get my shot at the next chapter in the Collaboration of the Dead story that I believe 19 authors are taking part in. I am really excited about it. The first ten chapters are complete and Mr. Chapter Twelve (that’s me) is waiting on the person writing Chapter Eleven to finish up.
This is a pretty interesting journey, since I will be contributing this chapter and a later one. Pretty much all the characters are introduced and it’s my job to tinker and mess with them. It should be a lot of fun.
I would never rule out other collaboration possibilities, though I am still learning who I am as a writer and I am sure there would be some confusion, and hopefully fun, during a process with someone else. I don’t know if I have the guts to approach someone about creating something together, but if someone came to me, I would probably be thrilled to at least consider the possibility.
M. S.— What made you decide to become an author? Was it always zombies?
Patrick— Actually, while zombies were probably the catalyst that encouraged me to attempt to get published, I have been writing ever since I was a kid. I annoyed teachers back in grade school with ten page stories that were supposed to be a couple of paragraphs long about subjects like the first Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. I was someone who absolutely fell in love with fantasy stories and gaming in high school, so I wrote a novel entitled Kingdom Quest my senior year. It remains buried in a file folder in my home office to this day and no one else has ever looked at it. Some day I would like to revisit it and see if any of it is salvageable. Since then, I have been writing short stories on and off over the years-science fiction and fantasy, mainly.
Zombies were a fascination for me starting back in high school, when we got cable TV and I got to watch the original Dawn of the Dead for the first time. I must have watched that movie a dozen times on whatever movie channel it was showing that first month. I saw Night of the Living Dead and some other earlier zombie movies later on, and then some Fulci movies, Day of the Dead, etc. Still, zombies didn’t push me in a literary direction until a few years ago, when what I would dub the zombie renaissance occurred. That was when movies like 28 Days Later, the Dawn remake, and the newer Romero movies started coming out. That was when I got obsessed with creating my own vision of the zombie apocalypse and started writing Comes The Dark. Since then I’ve written several short stories both with and without zombies in them, horror, science fiction, and other genres as well. Zombies were the catalyst to getting me going, but as I continue writing, I want to write more about them and other things that scare me and intrigue me as well.
M. S.— This genre seems to be on steady incline in terms of popularity. There are more and more publishing companies on the rise as well as film companies. So that means more books, comics, movies, and now, even a television series (The Walking Dead). It seems that everywhere you turn there are ZOMBIES. Do you think that this train of rot is headed on a path redundancy?
Patrick— Well, when zombies start to sparkle, I’ll know we’re in trouble. Seriously though, I think things like Brad Pitt paying for the movie rights to World War Z while stating he wants to star in the movie and having The Walking Dead turned into a television series can only help the cause and continue to increase the popularity of the undead among the overall population.
There is always a danger of oversaturation, or of too many redundant stories being told, but at the same time, I think what makes zombies unique among the monster archetypes is that they do not crave the spotlight. They allow human beings to be the center of attention. There are stories of sentient zombies, which tends to put a different spin on things, but most undead are the shambling (or running), mindless eating machines. They show up and cause mayhem, but it is always been the humans that move the plot along. So in other words, I firmly believe that as long as people are fascinated by human dramas in books and movies, zombies will continue to have a place in our collective consciousness.
M. S.— You review a lot of books on your website, www.patrickdorazio.com/, how many would you read in a month? And, does this help with your writing?
Patrick— I try to read about a book a week. I typically review just the genre books I read-zombie and other horror novels, but I will slip in a review here and there of something else. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and even though I am not as fascinated with other genres, I will delve into them as well, with the hopes of gaining a better understanding of a more diverse group of writers and writing styles.
I do believe that reading as much as you can helps with writing. A lot of people have told me that if you want to be a writer, you need to do two things well: writing, and reading. When you aren’t writing, you should be reading. I do think it serves to help me become a better writer by reading as much as I can, or at least I hope it does.
I started reviewing books on Amazon about four years ago, at exactly the same time as I started writing my trilogy. I had watched a lot of zombie movies, but had not really read much in the way of zombie novels up to that point. So the reviewing of the subject matter seemed to go hand in hand with the reading and writing process. Plus, it gave me an added advantage of being able to connect with a larger community of zombie writers and readers out there who read my reviews, which was a great bonus for me.
M. S.— What advice can you offer up-and-coming authors on getting published?
Patrick— Once you’ve written something that you think is worth sharing with the world, make sure you share it with a circle of friends and family members first, then network with a larger community of people who are in the genre you are writing in. For me, that meant getting on zombie message boards and tossing up my writing to authors who were willing to offer constructive criticism and encouragement. Authors, editors, and fans of the genre are all potential critiquing partners that can help you get stronger as a writer. They can also offer guidance as to what publishers you can present your work to, how to approach those publishers, and what you need to do to have the best chance for success.
There is always tons of other advice to give on the writing process, on trying to figure out how to get published, and what to do to promote yourself and your work after you’re published, but the biggest thing I can think of is networking with as many people in the industry as you possibly can and they can give you a whole lot of better advice than I ever could.
M. S.— What precautions have you taken to avoid becoming a meal when the dead rise?
Patrick— It’s funny, but since I started writing and reading so many different zombie novels, I have started buying more weapons that I have around the house. My wife did look at me strange when I purchased a machete and a hand axe, but let it pass when I told her it was all for research for my book. Realistically, I am guessing that since I don’t have a sizeable gun collection or keep myself in tip top physical condition that I should just embrace the idea of becoming one of the walking dead and focus on becoming the best darned zombie that I can when the time comes. You know, to make mom and dad proud!
M. S.— Now, let’s say you’ve gone and gotten yourself bitten by a zombie. Turning is inevitable. Death is either what you choose or become. What do you do and why?
Patrick— This very question is part of what fascinates me about zombies so much. My own inability to answer it for myself has forced me to create scenarios in my writing where my characters have to answer it for themselves. And what I have discovered is that every one of them who do face this situation, or come close to facing it, deal with it in an entirely different and personal way.
Perhaps it is a cop out to say I don’t know the answer. I would like to believe that I would do what was right-helping the others around me who are still alive for as long as I can, up to and including sacrificing myself for their safety, but I don’t know if that is the honest to goodness truth. I can only hope that if I had to face the moment of truth that I would do what was right.
M. S.— When you write, do you base characters on people you know, or yourself, maybe?
Patrick— I think it is true to some extent, but it is more like gene splicing than anything. In other words, a character I create for a short story may have the physical characteristics one person and a personality that is an amalgam of three or four other people I have known. With a short story, there is less time for character development so it is more likely that those traits I extract from real world people remain in place from the beginning to the end of the story. With my novel, the process started out the same, but changed with time. For example Jeff Blaine, the main character in Comes The Dark, started out sharing some traits with me and a lot more with some different friends and business acquaintances of mine. But as I continued to write the story and the novel started to really take shape, he started to change. A personality that was uniquely his started punching through the pages I was typing, and this personality was unlike anything I had originally concocted for him. He had become his own person. The same thing happened with most of the other characters as well.
M. S.— Do you have a set formula when it comes to writing stories, or is it different for each one?
Patrick— With short stories and determining what submission calls I want to take a swipe at, I have gotten into a sort of ritual that works great for me. I jot down different ideas for a story on a notepad and once I feel I have some pretty good bones of something, I will begin outlining the piece I want to create. I know that a lot of authors hate to outline, feeling that it is too restrictive, but I think with my personality, it allows me to concentrate on certain elements of the story better and is actually quite liberating. The outline can be tossed away or morphed on a moment’s notice anyway, so I never feel that it is a barrier to progress. After I get the first draft completed, I immediately set about editing for grammar and typos. After that, I tend to stow it away for at least a day or two without looking at it, though I prefer giving myself a week to purge it from my mind. Then I can look at it again with fresh eyes and clear away a lot of the clutter in the story that made sense when I was writing, but sounds like pure crap later on. After that, I will pass it along to other writers I know, as well as friends, to get their feedback. I determine what changes they suggest that need to be taken to heart or discarded, and modify the story again. At that point I send the story off to an editor friend of mine to look at it and red line the sucker to death. She does an incredible job of taking my raw story and polishing it up and making it look a heck of a lot better than I could ever do on my own.
As far as the process I go through with writing a novel, I was all over the place with my trilogy, writing, editing, backtracking, etc for eighteen months. I have been far more organized in the process I am taking with my next novel, which I have outlined and have plotted out fairly well. But we’ll see how it goes as I start pounding it out on computer.
M. S.— As a horror writer, do you enjoy watching your characters overthrow the tyranny that plagues them, or making them suffer like none should? Why?
Patrick— I think the first sentence of the introduction to my novel might provide something of an answer. I wrote ‘What would you do if your entire world crumbled before your very eyes and every one you ever loved was ripped from you?’
That perhaps doesn’t answer the question directly, but I think I would say that for me as a writer, I think it is most important to set the stage and then let the characters dictate how they will react to everything. I root for them to win out, but I know to be true to the story, I have to let the chips fall where they may, and a lot of people end up failing miserably in those circumstances.
I think another way of answering your question, though it may again sound like waffling, is to say that I always hope for the best, but expect the worst. That definitely applies to my writing.
M. S.— Have you ever made yourself or are planning on making yourself a character in a story? If so, do you think you’ll live or die?
Patrick— I haven’t considered doing that and as I think about it, I am pretty sure I would be too self-deprecating to do so-I would end up looking like a real schmuck, heh. But if I were to do it, I think I would bump myself off in the most gory and ghastly way possible. Perhaps no one else would get a laugh out of it, but I know I would.
M. S.— Are you your own worst critic?
Patrick— I am pretty sure I am. At least no one else has come along and said anything nearly as nasty as I have about my writing…yet. I have gotten some pretty good reviews for my book thus far and I am waiting for the other shoe to drop and the first, second, and third 1 star reviews to come along on Amazon. At the same time, I keep joking that I must be doing a good job fooling a few people that I can actually write because I have gotten those good reviews.
I think it is only fair that I am my own worst critic, because it keeps me sane and balanced. If for a minute I actually thought I was any good, I would probably get lazy or cocky or believe that I don’t have to constantly be striving to get better. There is far too much work to be done and I will never ever be finished in trying to make what I write better than what it is currently. So I think it is a fair trade off-I am hard on myself and it keeps me on my toes.
M. S.— As of right now, what are your plans as it pertains to writing?
Patrick— Well, when I started writing my novel, the goal was to write a book. Then when I finished it, it was to get it published. I wanted to get one book published in my lifetime. Then, after it had been accepted and I started writing short stories and got some of them published, I wanted to continuously be writing, whether novels or short stories. Now that my book has come out and part two and three of the trilogy are going to be published as well, I want to continue writing novels and writing them in different genres, challenging myself and coming up with new ideas all the time. Someday, my goal will be to make a living off of writing, but I am taking things one step at a time. I still need to see if I can make my publisher a little bit of money with this book before I get ahead of myself.
M. S.— This is the part of the interview where you pimp everything that you can think of…
Patrick— Comes The Dark is now out and available all over the place from The Library of the Living Dead. I will be going to various conventions and book signings over the next few months-keep an eye out on my blog at www.patrickdorazio.com to hear more about them. The second part of the trilogy will be out in January of next year and the final book in July of next year.
Two of my short stories are currently available, both from the Library as well. I have a piece in Letters From The Dead and The Zombist, which are zombie tales from the Old West. I also have short stories appearing in various Library imprints soon, including Zombidays, Zombiality, The Moron’s Guide to the Inevitable Zombocalypse, Groanology, Doomology, No More Heroes, and Houdini Gut Punch. I also have another short story appearing in May December Publication’s Eye Witness: Zombie, and a piece of flash fiction appearing in Pill Hill Press’s Daily Bites of Flesh, 2011.
I have submitted to several other anthologies and hope to hear back on some of them soon, and am working on my next novel as well.
M. S.— It was a pleasure having you over, Mr. D’Orazio. Best of luck with the writing and all other endeavors. I hope to hope to have you back on sometime soon!
Patrick— Thanks! It was a real pleasure!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR PHIL WOLTERS
Today I bring you an interview with a very talented writer, Phil Wolters. His debut novel, “Lies at the End of the World,” has recently been released by Pill Hill Press. I’ve had a chance to get a sneak peek (Click Pill Hill’s logo to check it out) and I have to say that this is going to be a hot item. I won’t give any spoilers, but let’s just say that it’s worth the read!
His previously published work includes a bunch of comedy articles for websites, including stupidnewsdaily.com and mcsweeneys.net, as well as about a dozen or so articles for Blueprint and Absynthe magazines, which are local publications in different Southern Ontario cities. He’s also written and directed four plays, three for the WLU Fringe Festival in Waterloo, Ontario, and one for the Screamworks Halloween Festival in Peterborough, Ontario. One of these was a gem called The Dream Blood Gallows of Retribution, which won the Best Play award at Fringe '07. Currently, he is working at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, where he spends his time teaching kids about dinosaurs.
M. S.— Your debut novel, “Lies at the End of the World,” is being released by Pill Hill Press. Could you tell us a little about it?
Phil— I took my cue for this one from early Romero zombie movies, where the zombies and the gore were secondary to the human drama taking place among the survivors in hiding. There’s a lot of violence in this thing, which you would expect from a zombie story. But it’s also a very romantic book. There’s a love story right at the centre of this thing, and a lot of talk about love generally.
It’s also a very contemplative book at times. People talk about literature and nature and the relative lack of importance of human beings in the world. Luckily there’s a good supply of action sequences to keep things moving along.
M. S.— Where did you draw the inspiration for this story?
Phil – Night of the Living Dead was pretty important movie to me as a teenager. I loved it to pieces, and I loved the idea that the zombies in it were really just window dressing. The real story is in the tension and interaction between the characters taking refuge in that farm house. That sort of frame works really well, and allows you to sneak in all sorts of interesting stuff.
One of the stories I always wanted to create when I was writing plays was what I called my Anne Frank Zombie Play. I had a chance to act in The Diary of Anne Frank while I was still a teenager, and it struck me as pretty much the same kind of story that I’d so admired when I was watching Night. It was a true story this time, and Nazis are infinitely more real than zombies are, but it was still really about the human drama taking place amongst those people in hiding. There’s a pretty good reason this play never happened. Everything I was writing in those days was comedy, and this is a story that doesn’t exactly lend itself to big laughs. In a novel, where you have a chance to be serious for a while, it works a lot better.
I started writing this story while reading Stephen Jay Gould and thinking about the relative unimportance of humanity in the history of life on earth, so you could definitely say that his work is a major source of inspiration for this novel. Of course there’s inspiration in everything. Books. Nature. Poverty. And so on.
M. S.— Would you say that your experience with writing and directing plays helped you when it came to writing your novel?
Phil— It must have. It’s a much different experience, though. Writing a play, especially the plays I was writing, is very much a sprint. You let some ideas percolate for a while, then sit down and just write the thing, sometimes in one sitting. Then you get some actors on board and watch as the most beautiful people turn your hastily thrown together words into something awesome.
Novel-writing takes much more patience. It’s a marathon instead of a sprint, but it should also be able to reach way more people.
M. S.— Why zombies?
Phil— It could have been any major crisis, really, to tell the story I wanted to in this novel. But zombies have an inherent coolness that people are really drawn to. There’s a lot that’s been done with zombie stories already, but there’s still a lot of unexplored territory in the zombie genre. It’s fun to play around in a well-established genre to see what you can come up with.
M. S.— Would you consider yourself an aficionado of horror?
Phil— Certainly not. I’m a fan, but nowhere near an expert. Aficionado is an awesome word, though.
M. S.— Who are you favorite authors and why?
Phil— In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Henry Wooton gives Dorian a book that acts a corrupting influence and dramatically alters the course of Dorian’s life. I’d like to think that most of us will have something like this that comes into our lives, and for me it was Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I read that as a teenager and it immediately impacted my view of the world in a way that’s really stuck with me. If there’s one book that I’d recommend to everybody, and especially to young people, it’s that one.
Vonnegut has stuck with me as a favorite author since then, with Cat’s Cradle and Timequake standing out as top notch novels.
There are others, of course. I talk about books constantly in this novel. This would be a boring interview indeed if I were to go on about all of them here. Here is a list of three more, to keep it short: H.G. Wells, Jeanette Winterson, Stephen King.
M. S.— Are you professionally trained or self-taught?
Phil— I would worry that being professionally trained as a writer would do more harm than good. How can you teach somebody to write fiction?
M. S.— How did you manage getting into directing plays and writing articles and novels?
Phil— I went to a school with a small, largely ignored arts community. It was relatively easy, once I’d decided that this was something I was capable of doing, to jump in and have a place for my plays in the local Fringe Festival, and a home for my articles in the campus magazine. Once I had my foot in the door and a little bit of success, it went to my head, and I couldn’t let myself stop. Writing a novel was a logical extension of the sort of high you get from seeing your articles in print or online or seeing amazing, talented people perform your work.
M. S.— Do your stories tend to start themselves, or is there a lot of planning and plotting involved?
Phil— There’s always a long period of thought that happens before I write anything, though I’ve never written down any kind of an outline or mapping of ideas. Whole stories will form in my head and then come pouring out in a big rush when it’s time to write. It’s a lot harder to pull off with a novel than with something shorter, but I managed it. I’ve tried before to write down an outline, but it’s almost as though the process of writing out that outline was enough to satisfy myself creatively, and that’s as far as a project will go when I follow that route.
M. S.— Do you plan on continuing writing novels?
M. S.— As of right now, what are your three favorite zombie films? Why? How about novels?
Phil— Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead(the original, although I also really like the remake with Sarah Polley), and Shaun of the Dead I’ve already talked about the importance of the Romero films to me. Shaun is just brilliant as a commentary on contemporary society, in a way that Night worked as a civil rights film in its time.
Until someone proves otherwise, Max Brooks is the undisputed king of the zombie novel. Ideally, that someone will be me.
M. S.— Max did a fantastic job with “World War Z.” How do you feel about there being a film adaptation?
Phil— Is this a real thing? Is there something like this in the works? I'll be honest, it seems like it would be extremely difficult to make into any kind of film, because there's a whole lot going on in this book. If they can pull it off, the result could be absolutely spectacular. I'd be in line for tickets for sure.
M. S.— Does there have to be a certain mood or setting when you write?
Phil— Only sort of. I think I do my best writing when I'm in a public place, whether it be a coffee shop or a bar or a library or what have you. I like the bustle of other people around me while I'm working away. It's my understanding that this is exactly the opposite of what most writers like, which I've always found confusing.
I can still write when I'm on my own and at home, I just have a lot less fun doing it.
M. S.— How often would you say that you write?
Phil— I really write in fits and starts. I might go a month without writing anything, but once I get rolling, I'll just constantly be at it. I think it's pretty important to have those latent periods where you can sort of let your ideas stockpile before taking on any kind of project.
M. S.— When it comes to zombies, do you prefer a certain type—walkers, runners, talkers, etc.?
Phil— I'm definitely a bigger fan of walkers. There's a certain kind of dread that builds up when faced with the slow, steady, constant threat of large numbers of slow-moving zombies. There's also a pretty rich tradition of walkers, which I can appreciate and admire.
I had a talking zombie in one of my plays. She wandered around the stage with arms outstreched, yelling "Brains! Brains!" It was awesome, but only really works for comedy.
M. S.— It was a pleasure having you on, Phil. Best of luck with everything, and I hope to have you back on in the future!
Phil— It’s a pleasure and an honour. Thanks for having me.
LIVING DEAD CORNER'S SECOND INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TW BROWN
Yes. That's right. After a few months of hiding in the shadows, waiting for the right time, TW BROWN has made his way back to the Living Dead Corner.
On the last interview we got to know a little about "the man" behind the words, and little about his intentions to make his mark on the genre. Now, he's come back to share in his tales of publishing and writing. Enjoy...
M. S.— Mr. Brown, it’s been a while since we’ve chatted. How are things going with “Zomblog” and “Dead: The Ugly Beginning”?
TW—Things are starting to really pick up. I’m starting to see momentum build around both titles. My weekly sales totals on Zomblog are starting to exceed the totals from the first couple of months. The response has been better than I ever could have hoped. Even better, I got my first hatchet job review. I mean, this person absolutely hates me and my work, so that was kinda cool.
M. S.—You seem to not take things too personal—a trait that really makes us stronger not only as writers but as people, too. Has your skin always been this thick, or is it a practice that takes time?
TW—Always is such a heavy word so I can’t really say always. However, I have learned especially over some experiences over the last 15 years that taking too many things to heart from outside sources fairly useless. The only real opinion that matters are those of my family (wife, children, dog) and a few close (real) friends. Beyond that, I have come to understand that if you put yourself in the public eye, no matter who you are and what you do, there will be people that like you and some that don’t.
M. S.— It’s been said that you expand the genre with your writing, giving it some much needed depth that has been lacking with recent installments. I’ve read reviews where some say that your details paint pictures so vivid that the scenes practically jump off the pages, and some say you put too much detail in your work. Does this put any pressure on you as you write each story’s sequel?
TW—I never understand the ‘too much detail’ complaint. I always believe the writer should be painting a picture. He needs to provide smell, taste, and touch for his reader. Some folks are happy with stick figures. It’s a matter of taste.
I think writing has a lot of similarity to music. Personally I don’t get the whole Lady Gaga obsession, but there are several million people who would say I’m an idiot. I’m a huge KISS fan—once again, several million people think I’m an idiot.
My style is just that…mine. Love it or hate it, you’ll be able to count on it. I want my readers to be pulled into my stories. Detail is my tool and part of my ‘voice’ when I write. What’s interesting to me is that what one person sees as a flaw, another sees as a strength. As I said, it’s simply a matter of taste.
As for the pressure of a sequel, I never realized how difficult it could be. Having received my first round of reviews for both Dead and Zomblog—most of which were positive—I think I built a small fan base for the stories. Hell, these are the people who , through emails, posts, and twitter, have urged me to extend Zomblog to a third book. When word got out that I was stopping at two, I heard the complaints which I thought were interesting ‘cause they haven’t even read Zomblog 2 yet (it is out this December). That actually amped up the pressure on me because now I am hoping that all those folks that said that Zomblog couldn’t end at 2 aren’t disappointed when they read the second book. I don’t think that they will be, but I’m not the type of person to allow myself to be complacent or think that I could just ‘mail it in’ and that would be ok. Believe it or not, once I get a fan, I want to keep them and keep them happy. In this genre, fans are so insanely rabid. If they love you, it’s real. If they hate you…well…they can be nasty.
M. S.—What have you learned since the publication of these two novels, both as a writer and as a publisher?
TW—Wow, I could spend the rest of the interview on this one. The learning curve is steep and merciless. I’ll start with the writers side of things.
In the first Zomblog I was really flying by the seat of my pants. It was really just an exercise that I had no intention of publishing. Nobody is more surprise than I am at its slow build towards success. My weekly sales is starting to exceed my monthly sales of the first couple of months of its release.
I feel that the story is, at times, a bit random. Perhaps that is part of its charm. But there is an actual end game in Zomblog 2. By that, I meant here is a specific obstacle to overcome along with an actual climatic moment in the story.
Dead was always intended to be my franchise. I feel that it is much more organized. For example, I tried to keep the story thread in the same sequence during the vignettes chapter. Writing the sequel, I also learned how to conclude my chapters much better. I believe that like working out or running, you get stronger if you keep up the regiment. On the technical side, I continue to pour over punctuation and grammar books. I’m really striving to give my readers a book that is as clean as the big houses produce. Believe it or not that is one of my self-conscious issues. More on that in a moment.
As for what I have learned as a publisher, the biggest thing would be that the stories don’t necessarily flood in when you announce an anthology. The flooding actually occurs during the last 36 hours. So here is an honest peak behind the curtain behind Eye Witness. It was two weeks before I received the first submission. I felt like the kid that threw a party and nobody showed up. At one point I considered writing a dozen stories under pen names. My wife kept telling me to relax, but I am not wired that way.
Anyways, stories start trickling in. Scores start being turned in by the review team. Only we are half way to the deadline and I still don’t have remotely enough material. One of my complaints about some of the anthologies out there is that they are half the size but all the price of a novel. I had already decided that my anthologies would be a minimum of 70,000 words. Long story short, I actually started telling people that they were in. Don’t get me wrong, I can say something good about every story in the book, but two very deserving stories didn’t make the cut because we were full. Fortunately, both of them have found homes in other anthologies.
Now, I get all the scores, and unless it is a solid “no” we send a letter of acknowledgement informing the writer that he or she will be notified on whatever date we have set for the deadline.
I will say that I am so glad that I don’t know who I am reading till after I score the story. I truly believe that it will only make us that much stronger. One of the other aspects of our anthologies that I believe will be a strength is that, while not perfect, I feel the editing will be above exceptional.
One last point I would like to make. It never occurred to me that people would not read the submission guidelines. To those who aspire to see their name in print…you really should pay attention to what the publisher is looking for, and not just submission format, but story type as well.
M. S.—May/December Publications has made the call for submissions on a few anthologies. “Eye Witness: Zombie” has already closed, but you have “First Time Dead,” “Hell Hath No Fury…,” and “Chivalry Is Dead.”
Details can be found @ http://maydecemberpublications.com/submissions/
How did you come about creating the themes for these anthologies?
TW—The theme selection is actually the most free style aspect of this entire thing. Case in point, Hell Hath no Fury, my all-female-writer zombie anthology came after I was hit with three submissions in a row for Eye Witness that, once the scores were in, were clearly going to be accepted. When I was given the names, I was pleased to discover that they were all women. I decided that it was only logical to produce a vehicle that would showcase the female writer. Shortly after announcing it, we were hit with the “what about us” outcry from the guys. Thus the announcement of the Mothers day/Fathers day release of the Hell Hath no Fury/Chivalry is Dead titles. (special thanks to Carey Burns for the men’s antho title). Other than that, there is never any telling when an idea will strike. I am always keeping my eyes open to anything zombie friendly. However, we will be branching into non zombie horror anthologies in the near future. Some of the ideas floating in my head include: Rated R (we are talking disturbing stuff here), Midnite Movies (a true monster anthology—no serial killers or mad men in ski masks), and Bad Guys (the stories of some of the villains dotting the landscape in the post-apocalyptic world).
M. S.—You’ve recently signed on to re-release Jonathan Moon’s “Heinous.” How did this come about?
TW—Mr. Moon was looking for something better. While we are very small, we do have a sound strategy. We will actually be scraping up an advertising budget soon and hope to have our releases in LOCUS in the very near future. Still, I was actually surprise when he started talks with us.
I read Heinous and had two thoughts: this is some disturbing stuff that should be packaged with a warning label, and, he needs to be with May December Publications. We proposed, he said yes.
The day after he said yes, I told him to rewrite the book. I felt that he skipped over crucial pieces of the story, the beginning bogged down in spots, and, I believe that he could be MORE disturbing. He took all that in stride (way better than I think I would have) and is now busy crafting what I expect to be the most unsettling book of 2011.
M. S.—I’ve chatted with Mr. MoOn and he seems to be a pretty down-to-earth guy. Have you had the “bad” author experience, yet? If so, did that change certain aspects on how you view things? If not, do you think that there is anything you can to avoid it?
TW—We are too new to have had that problem yet. I’m sure that will happen someday. This is one of those lines of work where it’s most likely inevitable. It’s a bridge that I will cross when I get to it. And not that I am either looking forward to it nor am I worried about it, but I am fairly certain that I will be equipped to handle it.
M. S.—Do you take suggestions for anthology themes? If so, what about an anthology called, “Write Of The Living Dead: Short Stories Based On The Characters You Never Knew But Wished You Had”? It could be about the second-rate characters from our favorite zombie movies, like: The old man from N.O.T.L.D. who ran past Barb and her brother, screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” or the gang for the original Dawn, or Shaun’s female friend in “Shaun of the Dead,” and follow them before or after their interactions with the main characters of our favorite movies.
TW— Suggestions are nice in theory. However, I have noticed that you start to get some really off the wall stuff that would only have a slight marketing appeal. We’re already a niche genre and narrowing it even further can backfire. I love the zombie genre, the horror genre, but I want to walk in the footsteps Night Shade Books. I fully concede our minor league status at the moment, but the jump to the majors is in sight.
Again, I have to use KISS as an example. When they played clubs, they put
on an arena sized show. If we maintain and constantly try to improve quality, we will create a deeper footprint. My hope is that we do, yet I will still strive to maintain our identity as a publisher that cares about every single person that submits to us. While rejection letters are part of the business, I don’t want to ever become callous and cavalier about such a thing that is personal to the recipient.
As for the theme you mentioned…we actually have an idea on the table for an anthology titled “Tribute to the Dead”. I hope to secure the permission and blessing of Mr. Romero. What I envision are stories depicting the turning of your favorite zombies from the Romero mythos. The graveyard zombie from NOTLD, the rifle lover from DOTD, the gas station attendant from LOTLD, you get the point. We want to get this right and that means ensuring that the legal aspects are covered.
All that said, we never ignore a possible idea coming from an outside source. That would be foolish. So, pitch me one. Give me a theme.
M. S.— Other than Mr. MoOn’s sign-on, are there any other novel’s MDP’s looking into publishing?
TW—MDP has a few things on both the May and December side of the label. May – which is our mainstream and speculative fiction side just scored by bringing in Sean Hoade to the family. His first title “Darwin’s Dreams” will actually be the ribbon cutter on our May branch. I am thrilled to have him and even happier that an author other than myself will be first to release a novel under that branch. Here’s our calendar, I will let you sift through it:
October/Monster Matt's MonsterJoke Book Vol 1/Matt Patterson and Kyle Kaszermzyck
November/Darwin's Dream/Sean Hoade (May book)
December/Zomblog II/TW Brown
February/First Time Dead/Anthology
March/Dakota/Todd Brown (May book)
April/Fungus/T. J. Farlow
May/Hell Hath No Fury/Anthology
May/Dead: Revelations/TW Brown
June/Chivalry is Dead/Anthology
July/Heinous (I am hoping for July)/Jonathan Moon
August/Aint that America/Sean Hoade (May book)
September/Grimm-est Tales: Zombie stories for the not-so-young/TW Brown
October/Midinite Movie: Creature Features/Anthology
Novemver/Grimm-est Tales: Zombie stories for the not-so-young/TW Brown
December/Dead: Book 3/TW Brown
Anything jump out at you?
Before you pose a follow up, let me break this one release. You have the exclusive on the initial announcement. In November of 2011, I will be releasing Grimm-est Tales: Zombie stories for the not-so-young. I’m currently studying two separate translations of the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They will be given the Seth Graham-Smith treatment a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I anticipate this to be a heavy four volume set when all is said and done. I am actually very excited about it. It has proved to be very challenging.
M. S.—That’s some project. I imagine that’s some amount of work to re-tell the tales of Grimm. That’ll be one many will want to see. How and why these stories?
TW— I was a huge fan of the treatment given the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. Seth Graham-Smith opened a doorway that has expanded and offered a new commercial avenue for our genre. What I think some people miss is how painstakingly close to the Austin writing style he managed to stay. It wasn’t simply a matter of penciling zombies into assorted scenes throughout the book.
I initially had no plans to do anything of this sort. However, one day I was glancing through a beat-up, dog-eared, and blown out copy of Grimm’s Fairy tales when I realized that this opened up a perfect opportunity. While a couple of these stories lend themselves to conversion, many of them do not. The challenge is in taking those stories that seem absolutely impossible to transform, and making them into a zombie story. The third Fairy Tale in particular, Mary’s Child, gave me a headache. There are over 200 stories in this collection and I have vowed not to skip a single one.
M. S.—I notice that there is a free month up there on the calendar. Is that a month for “break-time” or is that open for the right story? If it’s open, are there guidelines?
TW—the only reason that Jan is currently open is because I feel that right after Christmas is a very difficult time to catch people’s attention with something new. So many people are still trying to catch their breaths after the holidays that a book release at that time is like a movie release the third week in September. I don’t plan on publishing anybody that doesn’t deserve full “star” treatment. If a good story comes I will have no problem doubling up a month like in May.
As for my definition of novel length (and that’s all it is—MY definition), I like to see stories at least dialed in at 60,000 words. That doesn’t mean that a story of lesser length should not be submitted. (Price points are adjustable) I can tell you now that the sequel to Dead tops the 100,000 word mark. One of the books under my May label release, Dakota, is 115,000 words. I’m simply watching for the next good story.
M. S.— Which do you find harder: writing or publishing?
TW—Publishing. Hands down. I love writing so that is just not an issue. The publishing side is far more difficult. I have to read a few hundred thousand words a week, and then tell somebody that they didn’t make the cut. Knowing that feeling first hand makes it more personal. I am fortunate that the ‘business’ aspect of things are in the hands of my wife. She is a VP/CFO of an Environmental company much more qualified and just plain smarter when it comes to financial and legal issues. It helps that she has an unwavering confidence in my dream. She is the one who sees every story first, pulls off all the personal info, and then forwards it to the review teams’ inbox.
M. S.—Do you enjoy publishing as much as you enjoy writing?
TW—I enjoy publishing differently. I’ve worked as a tutor for adults who are pursuing their GED. I took a great deal of pride and happiness from watching them accept their diploma. There is a lot to be said about receiving satisfaction through watching other people realize their dream. Every person who writes something and sends it to me is exposing themselves in some way and sharing something very personal.
The joy I receive from writing is actually quite selfish. I derive something that feeds a part of myself (most – my wife included would call it ego). What can I say, in a lot of ways, I’m a bit of a fame whore. I love making people feel things simply by putting words on paper. It’s a tremendous rush.
M. S.— What are some of the better genre novels/movies you’ve come across since our last chat?
TW—Let’s see…I’m not a real fan of movie houses these days. I believe cell phones should be banned. Plus, I came for the movie, not some moron’s witty comments. I wait for the DVD release.
I am a huge fan of history channel of Life After People, and am completely hooked on The Colony. Books are another story. I have recently finished The Passage by Justin Cronin. He might have the new generation’s The Stand. In the world of zombies, I would be remiss if I did not plug Tonia Brown’s Lucky Stiff. This is not a book for Children. Think: zombie-sex-story-with-a-plot. Mark Henry is a little more tame, but still racy and absolutely hilarious. And I just finished one of my new favorites, The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer. Like S.G. Browne, she has created a whole new sub-genre.
The traditionalist in me must sing the praises to Tony Monchinski’s sequel to Eden along with JL Bourne’s second helping of Day by Day Armageddon. Amidst all the submissions I read, I make sure to set aside time to read for enjoyment. And it wouldn’t seem right if I didn’t mention that I am constantly waiting for the next installments of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead graphic novel series.
M. S.—Are you waiting like most of us are for the live-action series?
TW—I have been accused of having a ‘man crush’ on Robert Kirkman. I am currently preparing to review each volume in the graphic novel series The Walking Dead for BuyZombie.com I have said it before, I say it in the opening in the first review, and I’ll say it again: he IS the new KING of the zombie Genre. I am waiting anxiously to see what sort of treatment this gets on AMC. I’ve had my hopes up before (Legend of the Seeker, based on the Sword of Truth series). While it was a fun series, you had to look very hard to find the actual story which is the reason people fell in love with the series in the first place. I don’t understand taking something with a huge fan base and altering it. So yes, to answer your question directly, I am waiting for the series.
M. S.— As a person who can truly see the world ending with the dead rising, I feel compelled to ask you this: When the dead do rise, do you think it will be some malevolent phenomenon with no explanation, or maybe something we’d brought upon ourselves?
TW—If Zday happens, I have no doubt that we would have brought it on ourselves. Some BP-sized disaster will be our ruin. I’m not a doomsayer, or anything, but I truly believe that we are our own worst enemy.
M. S.—Would you call this a pessimistic outlook, or merely realistic? And, do these feelings persuade how your stories are told?
TW—I’ve never been accused of being an optimist; I have wrongly been accused of being a pessimist. I staunchly proclaim myself a pragmatic realist. I feel when I write that I am allowed to take enormous liberty with reality. I cull the best and the worst people I’ve met, read about, or just watched walk by in passing. I feel that in this genre it helps to apply some fatalistic views. These are worse case scenarios in my mind.
M. S.— Do you acknowledge the term, “infected” as a zombie? Why?
TW—It is as adequate as anything else. I feel the zombie genre has really grown. That brings in new ideas as people pour into the ranks of fan/writer/reader. Look at how Vampires have morphed since Stoker.
For some their personal mythos of the zombie will use ‘infected’ as the driver. Others will use Demonic Possession, Birth Defects, STD’s (seriously), or Cosmic Rays from Space. Infected is as good a term as any.
M. S.—As a publisher, have you notice any certain “trend” of writing or writing style between writers who, in all probability, you’ve never met? Do these styles help mold what you want of your company, maybe your own writing style?
TW—I can see certain influences that writers share. It’s proof that we aren’t as unique or original as we delude ourselves into believing. Yet, I have yet to see two voices so similar that I would accept some sort of doppelganger at work.
I’ve seen similar ideas with different takes, and I honestly don’t know if I have answered your question. As for what I want at MDP…I look for stories that make me FEEL something. Make me laugh. Write the story so shocking you are certain that nobody would want it. Or that if somebody actually read it, they might put you on a government watch list. Write without fear. It’s zombies, horror…not rocket science. Take the time to study a story that you’ve enjoyed. Ask yourself what made it great. You can be influenced without plagiarizing.
M. S.— They say you learn something new every day. I know this is true with writing and imagine it to be true with publishing. And I imagine, to some extent, to be successful one needs to stay in touch with what the fans/readers of the genre—be it through forums or reviews on websites or Amazon. I mean, everyone’s opinion is out there, and as a whole, it kind of forms a curve as to what is accepted and what isn’t. Would you say you learn more from the success or failure of other writers and publishers? Or does TW do what TW wants?
TW—Anyone who knows me knows it’s not just a brash claim when I say I pretty much do what I want. However, when you write a story, and it starts to collect a fan base, you write to keep those fans happy. Changing your style midstream is betrayal.
I enjoy reading peoples’ remarks and responses to what I have written. And don’t think that a bad review doesn’t sting a little bit and provoke moments of self doubt. But when it is all said and done, I’m gonna keep writing the only way I know how. I want to give people someone to love, and someone to hate. The biggest thrill is having someone tell me that words I scribbled on a piece of paper made them feel something. When I listen to what people in this genre are calling for I hear character driven stories with depth. People can criticize me for putting in too much detail or including too many characters. I give zombie horror fans more credit than simply being happy with two dimensional characters cut out of cardboard and the same mundane tripe page after page. My influences are people like King, Atwood, and even Cormack McCarthy. But I am always reading and learning something from everyone. Even if it’s something to put on my DON’T DO THIS list.
M. S.— Is there anything else you’d like to discuss about MDP?
TW—I think I have given you my calendar, and a snap -hot of my philosophy along with a plentiful helping of self-serving dribble. Beyond that I just want to thank you for the time you spend doing reviews and conducting these interviews that will allow us the opportunity to connect with the readers.
M. S.—That’s what this site is for! Now, it’s pimpin’ time… Go!
TW—Refer back to the calendar… any questions?
M. S.—Well played, sir. Thank you for your time and look forward to chatting in the future.
ANOTHER LIVING DEAD INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ERIC S. BROWN
Eric S. Brown is widely known for books like Season Of Rot (Permuted Press) and War Of The Worlds Plus Blood, Guts And Zombies (Coscom Entertainment). Recently, he has released Bigfoot War (Coscom Entertainment)—a bit of a departure from his usual ‘genre’ of writing. Set in a small town, Eric brings an arsenal of madness and unleashes it in the form of tall, hairy, and brutal (to say the least) monsters from lore and movies. However, in this piece we get to see more than one Sasquatch… way more than one!
Jeff Taylor was an ordinary boy growing up in the small town of Babble Creek, North Carolina, until one night his life was changed forever when a sasquatch brutally murdered his family.
Taylor fled the town, hoping to leave the painful memory behind.
Years later, after two tours of duty in the Iraq War, he's back in Babble Creek seeking vengeance.
Taylor's lust for the blood of the monster that slew his family sets in motion a series of events that soon has the entire town fighting for its life as a tribe of sasquatches descend from the forests and hills into Babble Creek to declare war upon its citizens.
Babble Creek is about to find out Bigfoot is very real and there's more than one of the creatures that want to fill the streets with blood.
Here are a few questions that I asked him about the release…
M. S. – With all the ‘genres’ that are seeing an uprising, do you think that the Sasquatch genre will catch on?
Eric – I honestly don't know but as a Bigfoot horror fan, I hope so. For me, writing Bigfoot War was a dream come true. I love Bigfoot movies but they always only have one monster when you think about it and I wanted more blood and violence as a fan. I wrote the book for those like me who always wanted to up the carnage.
M. S. – Bigfoot seems to be a departure of sorts from the “normal” Eric S. Brown we’re all used to. Did you find the transition at all difficult?
Eric – Not really. I write because I am a fan of the things I write about. My inspiration comes from a love of the genres I write. The only really tough thing about writing Bigfoot War was getting used to monsters who are a LOT harder to kill than zombies.
M. S. – Do you think that Bigfoot War will see as much success as, let’s say, War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies (Coscom Entertainment)?
Eric – War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies was picked up by Simon and Schuster (you may have heard of them if you read folks like Stephen King, etc.) so I doubt it will be that level of success but I can hope. My dream for Bigfoot War is really to see it made into a film someday. Here's hoping.
M. S. – Eric, you say that Bigfoot War is your pride and Joy, why is that?
Eric – It's the Bigfoot movie that I have personally wanted to see since I got hooked on horror, zombies, and such. The book is also very personal for me because it's set in a fictional version of where I grew up.
M. S. – What would you say was the hardest part about writing this book?
Eric – I really wanted this to be a book where the characters just came to life with a southern feel so I worked really, really hard on that.
M. S. – When writing Bigfoot War, what was your main focus point? What did Eric want to achieve with it?
Eric –My main focus was to up the level of carnage one normally sees in a Bigfoot film AND make sure the book had an almost zombie plague/end of the world feel to it. And for the small town of Babble Creek, it really is like the world is ending as blood and monsters fill the streets.
M. S. – Reviewing your final copy, are you satisfied with the end result?
Eric – I don't think any writer can ever truly be satisfied but I know I tried my best. Places like Dread Central, Sonar 4 reviews, Flames Rising, and even SFreader.com have all hailed it as being a great and fun book. Some have even said it's my best work to date. That at least does make me smile.
M. S. – What, in your opinion, is the scariest aspect of the Sasquatch?
Eric –Are you kidding? A freaking giant of hair and muscle who wants to tear you face off or crush your skull? What's NOT scary about Bigfoot?
M. S. – Now, without giving too much away, what it the scariest aspect of Bigfoot War?
Eric – Wow, that's a hard question. I think the scariest part of the part is that you can really relate to the characters and care about. When you pick your favorite, you'll be sweating bullets right along side them until you find out their fate.
M. S. – Was this one of those stories that “wrote itself,” or did you have this planned from the very beginning to the end?
Eric –I had a loose plan but this was something I had wanted to do for a long time so it just kind of wrote itself.
M. S. –Will there be more “Bigfoot” in Eric’s writing career?
Eric – Yes, I have a Bigfoot vs. Zombies tale in the upcoming Monster Mash anthology from Pill Hill Press this fall and hope to explore the Bigfoot Mythos more if time and projects permit.
M. S. – Is there anything else you’d like to say about Bigfoot War?
Eric – If you buy one book from me this year other than the new version of War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies, get this one. You will NOT be disappointed if you like horror.
M. S. – As always, Eric, it has been an honor and a pleasure having you hang out. I hope that this book goes as far as you hope it will, and expect three or four more books in the next few months ; )
Eric - Thank you for having me by and yes, Undead Down Under, The Human Experiment, and The Weaponer are all on track for this fall and Brethren of the Dead is set for early 2011
Also, for those who don’t know yet, Eric S. Brown and David Dunwoody are holding a contest over at Midnight Corey’s website. They’re looking for the BEST in zombie flash fiction (no longer than 500 words). Good luck to all who enter!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR KEITH GOUVEIA
Keith Gouveia, author of “Revolt of the Dead,” “Animal Behavior and Other Tales of Lycanthropy,” and much more agreed to answer a few questions I had for him. Let me say, that he did not let down. This is one heck of an interview that all should enjoy.
M. S. – How did you come up with the plot to “Revolt of the Dead?”
Keith – Like many, I grew up on a healthy diet of family love, good friends, and horror tropes. I’m also sure that like many, I was drawn to the genre at an early age because it “wasn’t appropriate” or “you’re too young for this.” A large part of the genre in the 70s and 80s were of course Zombies. Romero’s Dead trilogy birthed so many great features such as Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Evil Dead and Return of the Living Dead, which is an all time favorite of mine. Since I’ve started writing, Zombies have popped in and out of my work but Revolt of the Dead is the first time I’ve given them a starring role. There’s always been certain aspects of the zombie lore that irked me, but I never let those things interfere with my enjoyment of the subgenre. When I sat down to write a “zombie book” there were two things I refused to do: one, a bullet to the head is not going to cut it. Zombies are already dead, the notion of destroying the brain gives the assumption that a part of them is still alive; two, a bite is not going to be the nail in the coffin for my characters. With those two primers and the idea of testing the boundaries of friendship, Revolt of the Dead was born.
M. S. – What can we expect from the sequel?
Keith –The General and the Puppeteer, act two of Death Puppet, continues the story from General Burke’s point of view. With the uprising of the dead, the good general has quite a mess on his hands and when he discovers the true cause of the uprising, he knows the only way to stop it, is to control it himself. However, in order to accomplish that he’ll have to match wits with a teenage boy with a grudge. You can expect answers to a lot of the questions I imagine the readers having, such as the origin of the book, which is quite clever if I do say so myself.
M. S. – How did you wind up getting into writing?
Keith – Since I can remember, I have been a story teller, ask my mother. Speaking of which, Hi Mom. The more appropriate question is, what caused you to stop telling stories. And the answer to that is an English teacher who used to give us creative writing assignments. My writings always came back with a C and a scribbled note: “No one wants to read this crap” or “Choose better subject material.” No red marks on my paper denoting punctuation errors, just those scribbled comments and that pretty much turned me off from writing. I tried off and on, but just couldn’t get into the flow until the love of a wonderful woman.
Personal note: My ninth grade English teacher gave me an extra credit “F” for writing a four page story in twenty minutes. GO EDUCATION SYSTEM!
M. S. – Are there certain things that inspire you to write? Maybe a particular song, tragic event or memory?
Keith – There is no one thing that inspires me. Inspiration comes from any place you’re looking for it. I write and tell stories for the simple reason to entertain myself. If I can entertain others, than that’s just gravy.
M. S. – When you begin writing a story, does the outline of the plot come to you from the start or do your stories “write themselves?”
Keith – I allow my stories to write themselves. I have never done an outline for anything. I’ll have an idea, or a scene in my head and I just start to type. The stories come to me as natural as going to the bathroom.
M. S. – What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?
Keith – Never give up. Each and every one of us has a story inside. There’s nothing unique about that, but the ability and the discipline needed to set that story to paper, now that’s something special.
M. S. – “Animal Behavior” has recently been released through Coscom Entertainment; care to tell us a little about it?
Keith – It’s a collection of 11 stories and 1 poem revolving around my favorite beasty, the werewolf. I’ve taken some of the lesser known myths and legends and even created a couple of my own to showcase why the werewolf is unsurpassed by any of the other genre staples.
M. S. – What brought you to write a collection of werewolf stories?
Keith – It was a challenge issued by A.P. Fuchs, a great writer and the driving force behind Coscom Entertainment. The challenge was to fill a book without rehashing. I think I did a pretty good job, but it’s up to the readers to decide if I succeeded or not. An author who I can’t help but admire, Lorne Dixon, felt I accomplished my task and gave me a great blurb for the cover. Let’s see how many agree with him.
M. S. – Do you write anything outside the realm of horror?
Keith – Absolutely, I have written two fantasy novels Children of the Dragon (OOP) and The Goblin Princess published by Lachesis Publishing and can be found on Amazon. Also the novella A Storm To Remember and I have a fantasy short story “Heart of a Warrior” available through the Amazon Shorts program and another “A Father’s Love” a high-seas adventure tale published in Abandoned Towers first Artist’s Challenge Anthology. Unfortunately, though I have an easier time getting published in the Fantasy arena; those works have yet to take off like most of my horror stories.
M. S. – How do you handle a bad review?
Keith – There’s nothing to handle. In life in general, you cannot please everyone all the time. So don’t sweat it. As far as I’m concerned, there are no bad reviews, only bad reviewers. Writing, telling stories, is such an ingrained part of me that nothing will stop me from doing so. If a review is negative of a work, but provides insight into improving my ability to spin a good yarn, how is that bad?
M. S. – In your opinion, what are the best avenues for advertising?
Keith – Ah, shit, I was going to ask you that. I really don’t have the answer to that one. With today’s economy, entertainment has been the first cut in American families. No matter where you turn, ultimately, there are no guarantees right now. All I can do, and recommend, is to put yourself out there. To be available when they come looking.
M. S. – Will Keith survive the Zombie Apocalypse? If so, which archetype would you consider yourself, hero or villain?
Keith – My wife, Lisa, and I will be just fine. Though I doubt we will be helping or hindering anyone. My answer, we’ll be Sweden.
M. S. – Which is scarier, sprinting or shambling zombies?
Keith – Sprinting, only because we’ll be on a level playing field.
M. S. – What about talking zombies, the ones that still have a governing mind?
Keith – Irrelevant, I’m still going to put ‘em down.
M. S. – Other than zombies, what scares Keith?
Keith – Well, for starters, zombies don’t scare me. The only creature I deem truly terrifying is the werewolf. I discuss this further in the introduction to Animal Behavior and Other Tales of Lycanthropy.
M. S. – You have six rounds left in your pistol, seven survivors including yourself, and a limitless crazed horde of undead outside the barren grocery store you arrived at last night. There is NO chance at escape, and it is looking like everyone will either die from starvation or dehydration. You are the one with the weapon, what do you do?
Keith – How’s it go, oh yeah, If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
M. S. – What are the three worst zombie movies, in your opinion?
Keith – Oh my god, for every good Zombie movie there must be 4 or 5 terrible ones. Let’s see. Pot Zombies, EPIC FAIL. The Wickeds, Ron Jeremy in a non-porn film, need I say more? Platoon of the Dead, lazer beams steal the only saving grace of most low-budget zombie movies…the headshots.
M. S. – This is the part of the interview where you pimp anything and everything…
Keith – If you want to know more about me, feel free to friend me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/keithdbz
M. S. – Thanks for the time, Keith!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR TW BROWN
TW Brown has lent me a few moments of his time to answer a few questions about his debut novel: Zomblog and give us some information about his new publishing company: May December Publications. It’s always great to meet another undead enthusiast, and get the chance to ask them a few questions. This has got to be one of the best interviews I’ve conducted and hope everyone enjoys it!
M. S. – When did you realize that you wanted to pursue writing professionally, and why this genre, the one that won’t stay dead?
TW –I’ve loved to write since about 7th grade. It just never occurred to me that I should pursue it until I was in my early 30’s. My (now ex) wife found out about my passion after stumbling across some old notebooks full of stuff that I had written over the years. She told me that I would hate myself if I didn’t at least try. A divorce, some personal setbacks, and a decade later, I was chipping away at my associate’s degree when my college writing teacher pulled me up after class. She said pretty much the same thing. She’s an avid reader, and I respected her opinion a great deal. It was this teacher that knew my love of the zombie genre and said that I should shift from mainstream fiction and write zombie stories.
*PERSONAL NOTE – The only thing my writing teacher (high school) did for me, was give me an extra-credit ‘F’ for writing a four page story in twenty minutes… said I was being a smarty pants or something…
M. S. – TW, have you stayed in touch with that teacher?
TW –yes, she is my current academic advisor as well as a person that follows my writing with interest. I hope to stay in touch with her for a very long time.
M. S. – When you write, what, if anything helps stimulate your creative process?
TW –music is a must. Future Sounds of London, Tangerine Dream, and of course Goblin. That’s my zombie music. Other than that, I read a lot. I really try to study what makes a good story or look for how writers I admire create characters I become attached to or despise. I do not believe that you can be a good—much less great—writer without reading.
M. S. – What works do you have under your belt?
TW –In print I have two short stories. Daddy’s Little Girl in LDP Book of the Dead 3 Dead and Rotting. That is actually one of my favorite examples involving my work to date. Then there is Kherfin in Dead History also by LDP and of course, Zomblog my unlikely first full-length novel.
M. S. - I have read that you are a fellow musician. Care to indulge us in that - if/how that helps/hurts your writing?
TW – Music is just another outlet. I’ve only actually been playing guitar for a handful of years. I’ve got a couple of examples of my stuff that vanity has forced me to post on my site (MDP) I’m considering posting a live set that I played in not too long ago. I am particularly proud of the vocals that I pulled off as well as my toughest guitar solo to date. (Queens We Will Rock You)
M. S. – I think Brian May is an excellent guitarist. Though, Queen isn’t really my ‘cup of tea’, gotta give credit where it’s due. Do you have any links to your music?
TW – I only have a couple of songs up on the website right now but I am hoping to find some time to add a concert I did as a group called the Kaqlin Zombies soon.
M. S. – Do you need to be in a certain mood to write?
TW actually, unless I’m studying for an exam, (I have one more class until I get my AA) I am always in the mood to write. My problem is making sure that I don’t ignore other aspects of my life.
M. S. – Do your dreams/nightmares help inspire stories?
TW – In all honesty very rarely.
M. S. – Do your characters represent what you think of yourself or maybe parts; both good and bad. Let’s say you have a character that stumbles across the desiccated remains of Girl Scout about to sink its teeth into the arms of another child. Do you stop and ask yourself “What would TW do?”
TW –I’m not personally familiar with too many writers but I think it would be hard not to infuse some of yourself in your writing. That said, I get a little schizo when I write.
While writing Zomblog, it was easy to let Sam have some of my views, but we had nothing in common personality-wise. He was a bit soft, and annoyingly indecisive. Sometimes I try to make my characters emulate a facet of traits I think I have, only much more extreme. I’ve found a lot of therapy in amplifying traits that people dislike in me when creating a villain. Real or imagined, if somebody perceives you in a certain way and it causes anger or upset, it is something to use. As for the undead Girl Scout, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to put it down. I’d like to think I would be one of the folks who valued life and survival enough to realize that shape, size, or appearance, make no difference. A zombie is a zombie.
M. S. – What about the recently bitten child? Let’s say he/she is completely unaware of the infection, lost and in search for his/her older sibling or parents? This’d be tough, but how would you handle the situation? But before you answer, I wanna throw another curve-ball in there. Let’s also say that there is word of a cure/vaccination for the ‘virus’, and it’s only a few miles away on foot. You’ve seen the infection take its toll within hours and even some, in days. Basically the period for death and reanimation varies from person to person, and there’s no information as to why that is. I know that you’re an avid fan of shamblers, so we’ll say that the undead are your typical ‘Romero’ style. Slow, outnumbering, and relentless. What would you do?
TW -- – I know that this sounds hard but I would have to put the child down. I can say that that would be the best thing to do for the child as well as for me. As a father I would definitely want someone to take my daughter or sons to get a cure but with no assurance that the cure will work and that there would be anyone there alive when we got there, I would want them to put my child down so that they wouldn’t suffer any more than they already are.
M. S. – What, in your opinion, makes a good zombie story?
TW – Characters. I get tired of flat two-dimensional cardboard cutouts being marched to slaughter. Give me a hero to love and a villain to hate. The zombies will do their thing no matter what.
M. S. – I always ask this because I think that it will help many out there who have doubts. How do you handle negative reviews or rejections?
TW –I would be a big liar if I didn’t admit that a negative review doesn’t sting. However, this is not a vocation for the thin-skinned. There are going to be people who just don’t like your stuff. It’s okay. And in a niche-genre like this…there will seldom be middle-of-the-road types. It balances out with folks that love you.
Rejections are part of the business. I don’t send anything without knowing that it could be shot down. It isn’t personal. If you take it as such, then you shouldn’t write. And if you think every word you write is golden, then you’re delusional. Seriously, somebody rejected Steven King! JK Rowling! Robert Jordan! The only way to guarantee not being rejected is to not submit. I get my unconditional acceptance from my wife, kids, and dog.
M. S. – Have you ever thought of putting your dog in a story? Think – ‘A boy and his dog’. Something like that, where there is a bond between man and canine.
TW - Wait till you read zomblog II , without giving too much away, the first chapter of Dead also has my dog in it.
M. S. – I ask this a lot as well; what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
TW – Advice? Besides write every single day as long as you love it? I’d say simply this: don’t let praise or criticism go to your head. At the same time, don’t ignore your critics and don’t forget your fans.
M. S. – May December Publications is fairly new. Care to tell us what MDP has to offer us so far and its plans for the future?
TW – My hope is that it will offer a launch pad for new writers, a steppingstone for up and coming writers, and a testing ground for veterans. We want the best stories possible. But then, doesn’t everybody?
We’ll be starting modest with absolutely no budget. Our hope is that as we grow (and we will) we will be able to sweeten the deal.
M. S. – Why did you choose the first-person perspective with MDP’s first anthology ‘Eye Witness’?
TW – It’s harder. It will challenge the writer. Also, it’s exciting to crawl into another person’s skin and experience the thrill of limited knowledge. I believe some great stories are going to land between the covers.
M. S. – I’m finding that the whole ‘first-person’ P.O.V. is being used a lot these days. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I like reading from the third-person perspective – that’s just my preference. But I have read some really good first-person zombie novels – Kim Paffenroth’s ‘Dying to Live’ and Brian Keene’s ‘Dead Sea’ for example. What are some of your favorite first-person p.o.v. novels?
TW – Currently the Recluce series by L. E. Modesitt Jr.is a really good first person read. Also, Kim Harrison does it really good and I agree with you about Briane Keene and Kim Paffenroth.
M. S. – What, as a publisher, do you want to see from those who submit? Will you offer editing and advice?
TW –I want stories with characters that make me feel something. Fear. Insanity. Sadness. Confusion. We’ve all imagined the scenario. But I think we are cavalier in our attitude. I’ve seen blood, death, and violence up close and it’s not glamorous. I want to climb inside each story and come out sweating.
As for editing, other than spelling or punctuation, the stories in Eye Witness: zombie will be solely the work of the writer. If there is a continuity issue—but the story rocks—I will work with the writer. Writers are human, we get caught up and miss things. Our stories are our babies and nobody wants to hear about the babies defects. I’m just as guilty. That’s why Zomblog is now in its second edition. This will be a learning experience for me. I will be on the panel reading each submission. Then, the story gets a little ‘American Idol’ treatment. The thrill will be in not knowing whose story is giving the ‘thumbs up’ until after the decision is made. So if I was to give any advice, I’d say check your ego at the door and write something great. I’m not even guaranteed a spot in my own anthology. The only difference is that I will hear first hand any of the quips if my story bombs.
M. S. – Why did you start MDP?
TW –I started MDP because I truly love this genre and believe there are some great stories to be told. Conventional publishers aren’t gangbuster on our little slice of hell…yet. They have pretty-boy (or girl) vampires and school-aged magicians on the brain. They didn’t learn a thing from WWZ, Pride Prejudice & Zombies, or Breathers.
At the same time, there is a lot of detritus out there. I know because I wrote some absolutely awful stuff, and still do. If you’re wincing when reading through a first or second draft, that’s a bad sign. Also, I’m blessed with hypercritical friends and coworkers who have no hesitation when it comes to speaking their mind if something flops. One person actually handed me back a piece and all he said was “really?” (He’s not on the submission review team – yet)
I love to read. I’m a tough critic. So, if a story hooks me (whether this sounds arrogant or not) I believe it will hook others.
I did some serious discussion with my wife. After all, she would have to be willing to do all the business aspects—she is a CFO and VP for an Environmental company. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it was her urging that brought me to launch MDP. So, I do creative, and she does corporate. Our hope is to build a strong reputation with good stories. That was why we instituted the review panel, and all submission be submitted to us without authors names. I’m not going to pretend I would immediately say “yes” to a person I’m a fan of like David Wellington, Brian Keene, Kim Paffenroth, or Rhiannon Frater. Not that I’m expecting submission from them…yet.
---Possible Spoiler Alert!---
M. S. – You mentioned David Welington above. How did you feel about the ending in his ‘Monster’ series? I’ve heard a lot of people’s opinions and am curious what you think?
TW –I applaud the fact that he created his own mythology. Like it or not, it’s the world through his eyes without relying on the standard story lines. However, I must admit I wasn’t fond of the mold and fungus zombie, I thought it was a bit out there.
M. S. – Have you read any of his online serial novel ‘Plague Zone’? If so, what are your thoughts on it?
TW – I read it, and it just seemed like his heart wasn’t in it. It didn’t have the tension or the vividness of his other work. Maybe he has moved on to his 13 bullet saga and doesn’t feel much like writing about shambling corpses for the moment.
---End Spoiler Alert---
M. S. – When the Zombocalypse occurs and I’m scavenging the country on my own, will TW Brown be one of the survivors that I come across? If so, friend or foe?
TW – friend or foe? That really depends on a lot. If the Zed kicks off, I hope to be one of the good guys. I am very type A, and it would be about survival. I would be scouring for people who had given this situation some thought for my think tank, science geeks who like to tinker with gadgets like water purification and solar power and some muscle to ensure that we will survive. So, which are you?
M. S. – Which one am I? Hmm… I often joke with my friends (who are all zombie enthusiasts) about this. So with this answer, understand that I am putting myself ‘inside the box’ so to speak.
I would be friendly to an extent. But I would end up being a loner, I think – almost like ‘popcorn’ from ‘Dying to Live’. People are flawed and in that scenario I think those flaws would only be amplified. If I ran into the situation with Girl Scout, I’d put both down without hesitation. Whereas others may want to take the chance to help, and I completely understand and respect that, I wouldn’t. And with that said, I wouldn’t expect/want help if I’d been bitten.
A lot of people would be getting the short end of the stick in a zombocalypse. You have to know when to cut your losses. It sounds harsh, but in that environment, things would change. You never know, you could be trying to help someone who’d been bitten and they completely lose it in the face of their mortality and just try biting or scratching you out of sheer jealousy and insanity. Now just imagine if one person flipped out like that while in a camp or something… so I guess I would be both. I wouldn’t be a hero, just one who did what he had to.
M. S. – Now, if there was a werewolf apocalypse, what would you do?
TW –Turn fury. Or move to Idaho near the many silver mines and be a lycan executioner.
M. S. – What are you three favorite zombie movies?
TW –1. Original Dawn of the Dead – you never forget your first love. 2. The Original Night of the Living Dead then, I must admit that, even though I am anti-sprinter, I loved Zach Snider’s remake of Dawn.
M. S. – In your opinion, what is the worst zombie movie ever made?
TW –zombie strippers – “really?”
M. S. – What other horror genres do you enjoy reading?
TW –Classic Stephen king. The Stand will always be my all time favorite book. Beyond that, anything with depth. I am not a fan of the Saw-spawned torture-porn.
I can’t really call this horror in its true sense but I really enjoyed Sergei Lukyaneko’s night watch trilogy. I’m a closet Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Mary Janice Davidson , Laurell K Hamilton fan. I’m still waiting to be scared. It’s been a while. The last book to scare me was Salem’s Lot at the age of 13
M. S. – This is the part of the interview where you plug anything and everything you can.
TW –May December Publications is busy and will continue to be so. We have plans and are working hard on them.
Dead: The Ugly Beginning coming out in May 2010 (with chapter 1 to be heard on Dr Pus Podcast and Doc writing the forward)
Eye Witness: Zombie is an anthology that MDP is currently accepting submissions for – it is set to be released in October 2010 in time for Halloween
Zomblog 2 will be coming out in December 2010
And Dead2 will be released in May of 2011
I am also hoping to do a few more anthologies by the end of 2011 and get a few other authors novels published under the MDP banner
(I would like to publish two a year of my own novels and two of others, as well as two anthologies each year)
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR ERIC S. BROWN
Horror author Eric S. Brown has lent me some of his time to answer a few questions. He has many books out such as Tandems of Terror, Unabridged Unabashed and Undead: The Best of Eric S. Brown, Barren Earth, Season of Rot, World War of the Dead, and War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies just to name a few. He has contributed his works to many anthologies, recently edited Library of Horror’s Wolves of War, and has a column at Abandoned Towers Magazine. I hope you all enjoy. I did!
M. S. - What do you feed your muse to keep it so active?
Eric – Cigarettes (which I really need to give up!), tons of AMP, and a healthy dose of comic books and horror/SF TV.
M. S. – If you could, give us a peek inside Eric’s brain while he sleeps. What type of nightmares do you have? And do they reflect in your work?
Eric – I used to have a reoccurring dream as a child that I was home alone and Bigfoot came after me. I lived in rural area and read a lot of Bigfoot stuff as a kid. Every time I had that dreamed it scared me to death. I really think I capture that fear with a roaring does of action in Bigfoot War which comes out in March from Coscom Entertainment. I also have terrible dreams of falling. Weird because I am not frightened of heights when I am awake but in my dreams they're horrible. I also dream of a lot being the last man left after the Z outbreak but that's a fun dream and more like fantasy thing. Overall I would say my dreams don't play a huge rule in my writing.
M. S. – How much prep-work goes into writing a novel for you verses actual writing time?
Eric – Not much prep. If it's a period book I will study that time and take some notes, doing the rest of my research as things come up. If it's a full out novel as opposed to my more usual novella, I will make a plot outline so I can stay on track but that's about it. I can do a novella in two weeks these days and a novel in three months or less. I would say that's about normal for any writer who's been working for a while. One just gets used to juggling a bunch of deadlines on columns, various projects, and books all at the same time and you learn to make it work.
M. S. - How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Eric - It varies wildly, though, it mostly depends on my family. If they're home or it's a Sunday, I don't usually do much, maybe a single page at best. If they're in school or gone out of town, I sometimes burn rubber and do up to 5000 words or more a day. Basically I write anywhere from a few minutes to the whole day depending on the circumstances. My average when there's no crushing deadline and I am not fired up over something is around 2000-2500 words a day which is maybe three hours tops on the high side.
M. S. – Do you consider writing a job now or still a hobby that’s just earned its rewards?
Eric – Writing is my career. It pays more and more all the time and because of it, I don't have to work as much in the real world as most folks which I am very grateful for. God and my fans make this possible, not me, so a huge thanks to them.
M. S. – Are there certain books that you re-read before diving into a lengthy piece? A ‘refresher’ of sorts.
Eric – No. I seldom have the time to read, ever. I try to stay in touch with the world of comics but even that is getting hard because I stay so swamped with projects.
M. S. – Where did you come up with the idea of ‘Omega Level 5’ from your short story collection: Unabridged Unabashed and Undead: The Best of Eric S. Brown (Library of the Living Dead Press)? I mean, just the feel of the story was fantastic, not too many zombies, but just as scary, if not, a little more.
Eric – Wow, I honestly don't remember. That story is from my first year as a writer and was originally published in a paying webzine called Alternate Realities. I guess it stemmed from a mix of my love for the work of David Drake and my love of zombies/viruses. A fun fact about it though is that my real life dad is one of the characters (but I did make him a lot nicer in the story). LOL.
M. S. – Will there be a sequel to ‘Season of Rot’ (Permuted Press) or an extension of any of the stories? Maybe ‘Rats’?
Eric – Rats would be the one if that happened. I recently signed a three book deal with Pill Hill Press, the first of which is going to be supernatural horror western entitled How the West Went to Hell. I can't talk about what the other two are yet but I will say there's a strong chance that the last of them will be set in the “Rats” universe.
M. S. – Why did you take on ‘War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies’? Was it hard to follow in the shoes of H. G. Wells and are you as satisfied with the end result as you’d hoped to be?
Eric – I took it on because it sounded fun to do and Coscom was very convincing in pitching it to me. I studied Wells' style a lot before I dove into it because I wanted to capture his voice and a whole new but realistic level of terror to the novel. The book was a top ten finalist in the Predator and Editor Awards for 2009, received tons of press, and was my second best selling title of last year. So yes, I am happy with how it turned out but like every writer when I read it now I see even cooler things I could have done with it.
M. S. – You have done quite a few collaborations – Madmen’s Dreams w/D. Richards Pierce (Permuted Press), Barren Earth w/Stephen A. North (Library of the Living Dead Press), and Tandem of Terrors w/John Grover (Library of the Living Dead Press) ß which has just been released by the way! Was it fun working with other authors and do you plan on doing any more in the future?
Eric – I love working with other writers. It's a blast. I have found in the better collabs you tend to feed off each other as you go and the ideas just fall like rain. Late this Spring I will be teaming up with David Dunwoody (author of EMPIRE) for a superhero, joint romp that will leave people in shock I think.
M. S. – Aside from writing and reading, what do you do with your time?
Eric – I have a four year old son, a beautiful and amazing wife, a comic book addiction, and am currently trying to buy a new house. I tend not have this thing called “time” that you speak of.
M. S. – What type of zombie would Eric S. Brown like to be?
Eric – I would totally be a smart zombie so I could keep right on writing. It would be cool because then I wouldn't even have to stop to do things like eat or sleep. Imagine what my production rate would be then!
M. S. – Is Eric S. Brown prepared for the Zombocalypse?
Eric – LOL. Not unless praying to be hit by lightning and a shelf full of chemicals that give me super speed when it happens counts! (Again, no time in my life!)
M. S. – If the decision lay in your hands to choose what type of apocalypse would be brought forth into our world, what would it be?
Eric – Oh that's not even a question, totally a zombie pandemic of course!
M. S. – Have you ever thought of doing a vampire or werewolf novel?
Eric – I have written short stories with both those types of monsters like those featured in Tandem of Terror but never a novel. I did however edit the werewolf anthology “The Wolves of War” for Library of Horror Press last year. But no, I don't think those monsters are for me at least at this point in my life.
M. S. – What is Eric S. Brown currently reading?
Eric – Like I have time to read! The last real book I read was “The Lonesome Gods” by Louis L'Amour. It's an awesome read by the way. But really I read it because I knew I was going to be doing back to back books within that genre or rather close it.
M. S. – What books are on your ‘wish list’?
Eric – I would be happy just to stay current with comics. I don't really have a “wish-list” for books sadly. The only thing that hops out in my mind is that I heard that there was a new Yeti book out there, so I guess that would be next on my real, non-comic book shopping list.
M. S. – Marvel or D.C.?
Eric – DC!!!! LONG LIVE THE LEGION!! (And The Flash!)
M. S. – How many novels do you have out to date?
Eric – Books, I have 18 currently on the market not counting chapbooks with at least seven more either coming this year or under contract. However of all those that are out now, only three are full length novels the most notable being my zombies vs. superheroes in WWII novel, World War of the Dead!
M. S. – How do you know you have an idea for a novel? Does it just ‘click’ or is there a process?
Eric – Ideas just “click” for me but unless there's a set word count from contract, I never really know how long something will be until I finish it.
M. S. – What book are you the most proud of?
Eric – As of now, I would say either BIGFOOT WAR or the upcoming THE WEAPONER. Bigfoot War was the most fun thing I have ever written on a personal level and I think The Weaponer is the CLIMAX of nine years worth of writing zombies. Yes, it's that good. I think, though, I might be biased.
M. S. – I know that you’ve probably been asked this too many times to even try counting, but what advice can you offer any upcoming writers on writing/editing/publishing?
Eric – Write every day as much as you can and learn your craft. Read as much as you can and study other people's styles. Do your research when you write. And don't give up, ever, no matter how many times you get rejected. Back when I started writing zombies weren't in like they are now and a lot of markets wouldn't even look at stories about the flesh-eating dead.
M. S. – How do you handle negative reviews?
Eric – Some better than others. I don't know. I try to ignore them and focus on my work but I am human so sometimes I get upset over them. If I do, I try to remind myself I have made it further along as a writer than I ever thought I would a few years ago.
M. S. – You are a very, very busy man, Eric. That is, assuming your human (LOL). Can you tell us about some of your upcoming works?
Eric – This year, Tandem of Terror with John Grover was just released and Bigfoot War is coming next month. Later in the year we'll see How the West Went to Hell from Pill Hill Press, The Weaponer from Coscom Entertainment, and my first superhero novel, The Human Experiment from Altered Dimensions Press. Anti-Heroes and a second book from Pill Hill may also be released this year based on how fast I can write and they can edit, LOL. I am also in a ton of anthologies such as Dead History, Dead Worlds 5, Letters from the Dead, Gentlemen of Horror 2010, and The Zombist to name only few. I will also have two chapters in Pill Hill Press's collab zombie novel- Undead, Kansas. And my new column about my life as writer kicks off over in the UK's Morpheus Tales this spring. I will also be continuing my column on the comic world for Abandoned Towers Magazine each month.
M. S. – This is the part of the interview where you plug anything and everything.
Eric – Wow, I think I did some plugging above but I will say it again, if you want to see me at my best check out Bigfoot War in March! In the meantime, people really seem to be digging Season of Rot from Permuted Press and Unabridged, Unabashed, and Undead: The Best of Eric S Brown from Library of the Living Dead Press which collects a whooping 47 zombie tales from my career over the course of 2001 to the end of 2008. Almost all of my work is available on both http://www.amazon.com/ and http://www.bn.com/
Thanks for this interview. It was great to be able to talk about my love of zombies and horror!
M. S. – Anytime, Eric. It was a blast!
LIVING DEAD CORNER INTERVIEWS AUTHOR ROB FOX
I recently had a chance to speak with author, Rob Fox. His novel ‘Z Day is Here’ is a steady seller on amazon.com. It is a blog-style story where the protagonist writes daily entries of his harsh reality where the dead don’t stay dead. It’s full of action, full of gore, and full my most favored of things… ZOMBIES!
Have you ever wondered what drives the man to write so much mayhem? Maybe what goes through his head as he writes? Well, here’s your chance to find out. I hope you enjoy.
M. S.- First off, why zombies?
Rob - I have a fear of zombies. As far back as I can remember, I have had really bad nightmares about them. I would dream about being trapped inside a house or being chased down the street by a large group of zombies.
M. S. - Is ‘Z Day is Here’ your first novel? If not, what are your other works?
Rob - ‘Z Day is Here’ is my first novel.
M. S. - Do you have any short stories published? If not, is that a path you might be interested in pursuing as well?
Rob - I have a short story in “Zombology” entitled “The Letter”, which is sort of a prequel to “Z Day”. I also have a short story coming out in the next couple months called “Recess” that will be in the anthology “Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology” being published by 23 House publishers and also have other short stories due to be published by Library of the Living Dead Press.
M. S. - What made you want to start writing?
Rob - I have always loved writing, but never found the time or the right thing to write about until now.
M. S. - How did you come up with the storyline for ZDiH?
Rob - The story line just happened as I was writing. I started Z Day as a school project where I had to prove I knew how to write a blog. I only had to keep it going for 5 days and then turn in the link to the blog. I didn’t want to write the same old “Hi, my name is…” type of blog that everyone else was doing, so I decided to write it as if I were trying to survive a zombie uprising. I wrote something new every day for 101 days. As I wrote the story, it just seemed to flow.
M. S. - While writing, did you ever come across a voice that second guessed everything you did? If so, how did you get past that?
Rob - I had one day that I wrote that I was really not happy with. That voice kept me up all night and continued to plague me until I began editing the manuscript. I went back and completely re-wrote the day. It now seems like the more I write, the more the second voice tells me I am doing something stupid. I try to tune it out as much as possible and only listen to my close friends and my wife.
M. S. - Do you convey what happens to you in your life, in your characters and their world?
Rob - Absolutely. Z Day is almost completely tied in to my life. It is like a snapshot of things I was going through at the time. For example, there is a part in the book where the main character cuts his hand. In my real life, I had sliced my hand open with a knife and needed stitches. Another time the main character was really sick. I too was really sick. I find doing this makes the writing process much easier.
M. S. - As an accomplished author, what tips do you have for those trying to pursue a career in writing?
Rob - My number one piece of advice is to just stick with it. Writing is hard and takes lots of dedication. I wrote Z Day in 2007 and it wasn’t published until June of 2009. Even when I wanted to give up and quit, I stayed the course and it totally paid off in the end.
M. S. - Do you keep in touch with your fan base?
Rob - I have a Facebook page and Twitter that I use daily to keep everyone updated. I try to remain as connected as possible. It is my fans that have helped me sell books and the last thing I want to do is turn my back on them.
M. S. - As with anything, not everyone can be pleased. How do you handle someone who isn’t happy with your product and why?
Rob - My first negative comment on Amazon.com hurt me to my core. I thought the story was solid and was so unique and exciting that anyone would love it. I took it really hard. I think if you ignore the negative, you lose out on a good perspective. Sure, some of the reviews are personal attacks and those I completely brush off. The other comments I think just make my writing stronger.
M. S. - When you were writing ZDiH, did you have a certain word count that you wanted to reach?
Rob - Not at all. I think the final word count was around 52,000. For the next book I would really like to be around 70k
M. S. - How did you go about getting ‘Z Day is Here’ published?
Rob - When I first decided to try to get it published, I submitted about 100 queries to different publishers and agents. I got back probably 98 rejections. One of the acceptances I received, I was in the process of signing with when Dr. Pus from Library of the Living Dead Press contacted me. He had been reading the story on his podcast and called to tell me that he was going to be started a publishing company and asked if I would allow him to publish Z Day. It is not often that a publisher asks you if they can publish your work and since Dr. Pus had been so nice and helpful in getting the word out on the blog, I decided to go with him and haven’t looked back.
M. S. - What is it that makes a good “character” in a story?”
Rob - I think what makes a good character in anything is his or her likeability and realism. Even if you hate a character, if done correctly, you should be able to relate to them on some level and may even find yourself somewhat liking them. If someone likes a truly unlikable character, then I have done my job.
M. S. - Do your friends and loved ones support your writing?
Rob - 100%. My wife has been by my side reading everything I have written since day 1. My friends and family have also been there giving me advice when needed and confidence when needed. My mom was the first one to own a copy of Z Day.
M. S. - Have you ever been stopped in public by someone you don’t know, and have them ask; “Hey, aren’t you Rob f*#$!^% Fox, the author of ‘Z Day Is Here’?!” If so, how did you take it?
Rob - I guess I don’t look like your average writer, so no one has recognized me except at conventions. The last convention I was at I heard people whispering “Hey, that’s Rob Fox, the author” as I walked by, which was surreal. I’m not sure how I would react on the street.
M. S. - What have you learned since the publishing of this book? What will you do different in the future?
Rob - It seemed like the first book went so smoothly that I am now learning how hard it actually is to write a good book. I guess if anything I have learned it would be patience.
M. S. - What do you have planned for your future? Can we look forward to many more tales of the greedy, rotting, lifeless monsters that have an insatiable hunger for human flesh or do you plan on expanding into other genres of horror; vampires, werewolves, or other creatures from the after-life?
Rob - I plan on finishing the Z Day sequel within the next few months. I have written a non-horror related children’s book and am looking for an illustrator. I am also working on a religious novel and have been really enjoying writing movie scripts
M. S. - Who are your three favorite authors?
Rob - Michael Crichton, Carl Sagan, Dean Koontz
M. S. - What are your three favorite zombie novels?
Rob - Zombie Survival Guide, Among the Living, and the As the World Dies Trilogy.
M. S. - Other than zombie movies, what are your five favorite horror films?
Rob -Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (yea, I’m a slasher fan!), and Devils Rejects.
M. S. - What are you currently reading?
Rob - Right now I am reading “The Shack”. When I am writing zombie stuff, I don’t like to read anything zombie related.
M. S. - What music do you listen to, if any, when you write?
Rob -I love Shinedown, Linkin Park, and Slipknot, but while I am writing, I like listening to Reggae
M. S. - Do you consider video games an influence on your writing? If so, which ones and why?
Rob - Not really an influence, but I do play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 almost daily.
M. S. - Does music inspire you to write? If so, who and why?
Rob - Loud fast music makes me think about hard core death and action scenes even though I don’t write while listening to that
M. S. - What else inspires you to write?
Rob - I love imagining the characters I write about acting out the scenes I create. Everything I write I picture as a scene in a movie and since I am a huge movie fan, I love watching them play out in my head
M. S. - When the zombocalypse happens, why will you survive?
Rob - I am prepared. I know what to do and what not to do. Now if we are talking Romero shambling zombies I should be ok. If we are talking 28 days later and Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake) zombies, I’m screwed.
M. S. - This is the part of the interview where you shamelessly plug everything you can…
Rob - I like this part! Go pick up “Z Day is Here” at Amazon.com or order it through Barns and Noble. Also casting has just begun on a zombie film I co-wrote called “Ace the Zombie” which should start filming in the next couple months and will hopefully be out and making its way around the convention circuit in October. Also, keep an eye out for the Dead Set anthology due in the spring and anything else you see with the name Rob Fox.
One last plug, check out my blog at www.zdayishere.blogspot.com for a sneak preview of “Z Day is Here: 1 Year Later”.