If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to for the last couple weeks, the answer is equal parts basking in the successful release of Blood and Ashes, preparing for my next fiction project (meaning reading books and playing video games), and networking. And as the title of this post and the way-creepy image accompanying it would suggest, the latter has involved hanging out with some pretty cool authors online.
Yesterday, my comrade in zombies Stant Litore posted up a Q&A we did last month regarding my first book, Hearts of Iron. Here’s the companion piece, some questions I posed to him after reading a few installments of his series, the Zombie Bible.
(Note: While I’m writing this in the dead of night, surrounded by black cats, I recommend you read his books with the lights on. You have been warned.)
(Other note: This post has a lot of links, mainly to books Stant and I have written, but also to a few other sites of note. You should read all the way through the questions before clicking away, but if you can’t help yourself, that’s okay too. Just remember, we’re watching you…)
(Last note, really: So that sounded a lot better in my head, but just because both of us write about zombies, and are on the internet, doesn’t mean you should fear us. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. You know, brains and stuff.)
Q: Your fictional author background is fascinating, and almost worth a book on its own. Clearly it’s all true, but what’s not in it that people should know about you?
An Old Testament prophet – trapped in a dry well with the dead!
Well, most of me is in my novels. Let’s see: I grew up country. My most treasured childhood memory: leaving my window open a crack on cold February nights, listening for the bleating as the goats began to kid out in the pasture. On those nights I would jump into rubber boots and go running out across the frost. Dozens of coyotes yipping at the scent of fresh blood from the hill to the east, and the low, steady barking of our barrel-chested dogs. Attending the births in our herd by night is the thing I remember most clearly from my young years.
My rural upbringing is a huge part of who I am. You’ll probably see in The Zombie Bible a distrust for the cramped urban spaces of the ancient world and a love of open hills, something I share with many of the writers of the original Bible. But at the same time, you’ll also see an equally deep distrust of the clannish us-against-them thinking that often emerges in rural settings.
Q: I’ve read two of your books now, Death Has Come Up into Our Windows, and What Our Eyes Have Witnessed. Both are engrossing reads, with “academic” prologues that do not match the tenor of the story you’re telling. What about that approach appeals to you, and will you keep at it?
The “Historian’s Notes” I’ve included with my novels do set these stories up as an unearthing of not-quite-buried history, and suggest that there’s some research behind them – even though the researcher and the world he’s researching are an alternate history and not entirely our own. They allow me to comment a little more explicitly on what’s going on in this world, and they allow me to demolish some myths about the historical times I’m writing in. I have tried to make them entertaining; they are a different kind of storytelling.
More recently, I’ve been moving this material to the back of the book, to let readers get into the story on page one. So that’s something that has changed.
Q: In DHCUTOW, you treated zombies as a natural process, but in WOEHW you introduced a more mystical side to things. How do you see your series evolving as you whipsaw through the ages?
Each novel and story in The Zombie Bible takes you to a different time and a different culture – or, more likely, to a time where several cultures are clashing. Those cultures will each interpret the rising of the dead very differently. They are both natural (a naturalistic plague of the hungry dead), metaphorical (the living who are left hungry rise hungry), and—to the characters in these stories—metaphysical. When the honored dead rise and devour those around you, how does that shake up your beliefs about your gods, you’re ancestors, and your duties as a living member of your tribe? How does it throw into sharp focus how you treat the living?
I see the series evolving to tell increasingly complex stories about increasingly complex responses to the hungry dead. The stakes are high.
Strangers in the Land opens with a mother carrying her undead infant to a prophetess of the people who have oppressed hers, desperate for aid from a god she doesn’t believe in.
No Lasting Burial opens with this world’s version of Jesus of Nazareth calling fish up out of a dead lake—and calling up a town’s ravenous dead with them.
Q: Your characterization of St. Polycarp of Smyrna was, shall we say, unique. How much research did you do on his life and times?
I’ve found Polycarp’s story (and writings) fascinating for quite a few years, and have found Rome fascinating generally. I read voraciously; I’ve been to Rome a few times to see the ruins. Though I’ve done some ferocious research in preparation some of my works, writing What Our Eyes Have Witnessed was less a research project than a remembering.
Q: Do you see yourself writing Zombie Bible tales in a more modern era?
Not soon, though in the wild nightmare of history, anything’s possible. I am playing with the idea of visiting the ancient Americas at some point. Persia and Greece will get the Zombie Bible treatment if I retell the story of Esther, which I would like to do at some point.
Q: What’s next for you? Besides zombies on the moon?
I am planning to release several short stories or novellas this year, outside the world of The Zombie Bible. One of them is chilling—very, very chilling; the other is sad and beautiful. I’m keeping the stories under my hat for now, but they’re already lurching toward you. I am also working on an epic-length novel, Against the World’s Madness, that returns to Polycarp’s world, to ancient Rome. One courageous woman will lead thousands of refugees out of zombie-infested Rome. There is action, there is heartbreak, and there are more zombies than I have ever put in a novel. I do not yet know if I will survive the telling of this story; it’s intense. I hope to bring it to my readers in early 2015.
So there you have it! Stant is a fun guy to talk to, and would probably appreciate it it you stopped in at his page (stantlitore.com) and left a few comments. Of course, like myself he’s making a go of this writing thing, so he’d probably appreciate it more if you got yourself some zombie lovin’ of your own.
Was that out loud? For some reason, after spending a month in his world I just don’t seem to have braaaains…
(Last note for real this time, I mean it: No brains were harmed in the writing of this article. I think. Pretty sure. Did I leave the Iron on?)