We are now less than a month away from the release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, and a full week into my Zombie Masters series. Today I’m bringing you a tattooed badass of a writer named Wayne Simmons.
Every once in a while I get to write blurbs for writers I admire, and in one such blurb I described Wayne Simmons as the bare knuckle boxer of the zombie genre. He is exactly that. His novel Flu was my introduction to his body of work and I haven’t missed a book by him since. I highly recommend Flu and Drop Dead Gorgeous. Both are great, and I’m eagerly awaiting his new release, Plastic Jesus.
Belfast born, Wayne currently lives in Wales with his ghoulfriend and a Jack Russell terrier named Dita. You can learn more about him here, and you can order his books here, but for now enjoy this conversation with one of horror’s most original voices.
Joe McKinney: Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream. I’m glad you could swing by. You’re no stranger to zombie fiction. Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing? How do you approach the genre?
Wayne Simmons: Always a pleasure to chat with you, Joe!
I’m Wayne Simmons, token Irish zombie writer and once a ginger (until Jesus took all my hair away). I’m probably best known for my novel FLU, a Belfast-based horror romp about a mutating virus, the zombies it creates and the ragtag bunch of survivors trying to get along with each other (and failing) in order to stay alive. It’s defiantly horror, defiantly Northern Irish and defiantly Romero-esque.
JM: The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?
WS: I think humanity would be screwed. We’re all so technologically dependent right now, one eye constantly on social media, that if/ when the lights went out, we would really struggle to put one foot in front of the other. We’d be zombie food for sure.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever? (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here. I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)
WS: Movie-wise, I could talk about the holy trinity of Romero (after all, that’s the reason we’re all doing this thing, right?) but let’s put that aside and talk about the lesser-known stuff. MUTANTS is a French zombie thriller that gets a lot less attention than it deserves. It’s a superb film, balancing character development perfectly with the gore and action we all want to see. BEFORE DAWN is UK production, released this year, and it’s another cracker. Again, very character-driven, focusing on the story of our two main protagonists, but injecting some of the most brutal and intense zombie action and gore that I’ve seen in recent years. PRIMAL is a recent Australian horror flick that follows an almost voodoo zombie vibe. It’s gorey, funny and super-violent and I love it.
Book-wise, I’d have to point you in the direction of fellow horror hack, David Moody, and his AUTUMN series. If you’re looking for something different within the genre, something that deals out a very realistic vision of the end of the world, and the zombie epidemic, there’s no better series on the market. For me, it’s the best apoc-horror since Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND.
JM: What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?
WS: Sticking with my movie choices, I’d have to say the final scene of PRIMAL, simply because it features the absolute best one-liner I’ve ever heard in a movie.
JM: I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us. Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period. Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past. Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life. What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?
WS: Within zombie horror, we usually find some analogy of the danger of the herd mentality. Romero did it with racism and consumerism, but you can paint just about any ‘ism’ you choose onto the blank-faced canvas of the zombie, and that’s probably what appeals to me about this genre. With my books, I’ve dealt with sectarianism; will people still follow their pre-set social ideologies in a post-apoc world where governments and borders and religion and cultural identity mean absolutely nothing? Often, the answer is yes and the drama that creates, the tension between characters, is wonderful fodder to play around with.
You can check out all of Wayne’s wonderful fiction here.