Stan Swanson

I am very pleased to announce Mr. Stan Swanson, my next guest as we count down the days until the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead.  Mr. Stan Swanson is a Bram Stoker award finalist and the author of eight books including Forever Zombie (a collection of short stories), Write of the Living Dead (a highly-praised writing guide written with Araminta Star Matthews and Rachel Lee) and Return of the Scream Queen (co-authored with Michael McCarty and Linnea Quigley). He is also editor/publisher for Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest.

I first became aware of Stan Swanson through his humorous short story collection, Forever Zombie.  Like my interview subject from yesterday, Scott Kenemore, Stan uses the zombie’s potential for dark humor with great effect.  But there’s always an unsettling aspect to humorous zombies.  We want to laugh, and we do laugh, most of the time, but there remains that nagging feeling in the back of the brain that we are laughing at our own mortality.  That tone buoys up much of the best of the humorous zombie sub-genre, and Stan has long since proven himself a master of that delicate balance between humor and unsettling self-realization.

Stan didn’t stop with humor, though.  Don’t get me wrong.  It continues to flavor much of his later work, but it is by no means the leading note these days.  Perhaps this is due to his editing skills, which is how I next encountered him.  I read his non-fiction book, Write of the Living Dead, and found an editorial guide that reminded me of the bastard love child of George Romero and Strunk & White.  After that, I knew Stan was one to watch.

I have since published several short stories through Stan’s publishing company, Dark Moon Books / Dark Moon Digest, and I did it because of how impressed I was with Stan.  One of those stories, in fact, a flash fiction piece called “Sabbatical in the Ohio Methlands,” has morphed into a novel, one that Stan and I are currently co-writing.  You’ll be hearing more about that next year.

For now, enjoy the words of my good friend, Stan Swanson.

 

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?

Stan Swanson:  I have written off-and-on most of my life, but I never seriously gave much thought to writing about zombies until about five years ago. I’ve loved zombie movies since the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead many decades ago, but realized I had never heard much about zombie fiction. Research revealed many titles in the genre, but not near as many as one might expect. I tried my hand and wrote a short story titled “Every Death You Take” which became the first story in my short fiction collection, Forever Zombie. I was “true” to the original Romero archetype zombie—slow-moving, non-thinking creatures—but that didn’t last as I quickly realized that “sticking” to this formula closed too many doors to the creative process. Now I approach each zombie work and the zombies within as characters just as I do all of my characters in the hope that they are not always quite what you expect. I think you will find that very true with the “zombies” appearing in the book I am currently co-writing with Joe McKinney.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

SS:  The only thing I am really prepared for is a hurricane and I’m not even 100% prepared for that. The one thing I am really good at is procrastinating. Hey, it took me almost two weeks to answer Joe’s list of questions. Humanity has always found a way to survive, but it is usually through dumb luck. People use their heads fairly well as individuals, but the more people you throw into the mix, the less well we fare. We would likely survive the zombie apocalypse, but not because we are collectively brilliant.

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.)

SS:  Night of the Living Dead started it all. I’d never even really been a huge horror fan until I saw that. The only zombie movie I have probably watched more times is the original Dawn of the Dead. I am one of those individuals who enjoy humor mixed with my horror and Dawn of the Dead never got old.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

SS:  My favorite scene is the garden scene from Shaun of the Dead which begins with the lady falling on the pipe, continues with Shaun and Ed throwing everything at the zombies but the kitchen sink and ends with them throwing vinyl disks. Not sure they ever killed any zombies, but it was a classic scene.

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?

SS:  There is probably no truer representation of humanity than through the zombie stereotype. We’ve seen it in everything from books and movies to television commercials. I’ve been repeatedly told that the zombie genre is dying, but I haven’t seen that happening. It is one of the few monster genres that people can personally relate to. Werewolves. Swamp creatures. Blobs from outer space. It is always us against them. But it is not always that way with zombies because each of us can identify with the monster. All we have to do is look into the mirror. 

Make it a point to check out Dark Moon Books here, and check out all of Stan’s books here.

 

Kim Paffenroth

When I released my first novel, Dead City, there were only a handful of zombie books out there.  Skipp and Goodfellow had done their Books of the Dead and Mondo Zombie, and Brian Keene had done The Rising, and Robert Kirkman was just getting The Walking Dead graphic novel series started.  If you were willing to search online you could find David Moody, J.L. Bourne and David Wellington serializing their first zombie efforts, but that was about it.  Dead City entered the market in 2006 to a hungry zombie readership, and readers devoured it.

But Dead City wasn’t alone.  That same year, zombie fans got another sweet treat in the form of Gospel of the Living Dead:  George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth, a probing analysis of the zombie films of George Romero.  The author of that book was Dr. Kim Paffenroth, professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New York.  I was impressed with Dr. Paffenroth’s credentials, and when he contacted me and asked if I’d like to take a look at what he’d written, I jumped at the chance.

I was delighted with what I read, and I was delighted yet again when it won the Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction.

And then Kim contacted me and said he’d written a little zombie novel of his own, called Dying to Live, and asked if I’d like to read it for a possible cover blurb.  I said not just yes but hell yes, let me have a look.

I’m so glad I did, because Kim Paffenroth is a threat on all fronts.  Capable of writing non-fiction on everything from Augustine to zombies in a clear, readable style, he is also capable of writing fiction that probes deeply some of knottiest philosophical issues confronting the spiritual man living in today’s world.

I count myself lucky that Kim and I have maintained a steady correspondence over the years.  I have watched with great admiration as he’s grown as a fiction writer, and along the way we’ve shared moments of triumph and sorrow.  I count him a good friend, and one I’m proud to know.  I hope you enjoy this interview, because Kim Paffenroth is one of the truly good guys in this business.

 

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?

Kim Paffenroth:  I came at it from a different direction than most people. I started out writing nonfiction about zombies – not in the sense of “zombies are real” but I started by analyzing George Romero’s zombie films in a book, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006). It won the Bram Stoker Award and I got the idea to follow up with some zombie fiction of my own – instead of analyzing Romero’s zombies, I could give mine the symbolic significance I wanted.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

KP:  Oh I don’t think I’d make it very far. I think we’d probably “win” but as in the really great zombie films (Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead) and now in The Walking Dead, I think the question would be at what cost? We’ve seen how much freedom and privacy we’re willing to give up, post-9/11: what kind of violent, security state would we have if we were always under the threat of walking, cannibal corpses?

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.)

KP:  I’ll never forget the original Dawn of the Dead and the effect it had on my imagination, or even deeper elements of my being and values.  To me, it’s the perfect balance between survivalist fantasies of how to prepare and equip, but with a sense of how those things don’t matter, in the face of an existence that has no meaning or purpose.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

KP:  Again, it’s a corollary of seeing something when you’re at a particularly impressionable age. The helicopter partial decapitation in the original Dawn of the Dead is pretty hokey by modern standards, but I remember I could not get over that scene and “How did they do it?” You take a more spectacular kill in a more recent film (I like the bridge-severing in Land of the Dead) and you just can’t look at it the same way, it doesn’t fill you with wonder, because you’ve just come to expect really over the top and complicated and realistic looking scenes like that.

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?

KP:  I think the zombie may well survive and be re-imagined for future generations with different perspectives and contexts, but the way you frame the question does underline our current situation as a way of understanding the zombie phenomenon. And by “current situation” I don’t just mean “post-9/11”: that’s the challenge, to see the zombie as somehow responding to something that’s been with us since 1967. So in that sense, I’d say the zombie does embody all our fears of the decline of imperialist America, and the zombie can stand in for a myriad of fears associated with that gradual, painful, violent decline: Vietnam, consumerism, racism, the military-industrial complex, terrorism, the surveillance state, the class divide, colonialism, environmental degradation and catastrophe. 

You can check out Kim Paffenroth’s many books here, and check out his blog here

Monique Lewis Happy

Book trading.  Does anybody else remember doing this?

As a young teenager, I didn’t have a whole lot of cash.  I mowed lawns in the summers, and had a paper route for a while, and worked for a very short while in the shrimp camps down in Kemah, Texas.  But money was still short.  I couldn’t just skip over to the bookstore and buy an armload of books, even if it was 1983 and most of my favorite stuff was coming out in mass market paperback and selling for $1.25.

Money was scarce.

I do remember skipping lunch for days on end, saving my lunch money to buy the books of Robert McCammon and Stephen King.  But even then, there was a limit to what I could buy.

And there was most definitely a limit to what my school library had available.

So I turned to my friends.  We developed a sort of fiction underground, trading paperbacks amongst ourselves the way some kids traded baseball cards.

I’ll give you three of my Guy N. Smith giant crab novels for that James Herbert you’ve got there, I remember myself saying.

To which I got:  No way.  Give me that Charles Beaumont collection and I’ll give you the collected stories of Ambrose Bierce.

That was a snapshot of my teenage years.  My education, if you will.

Trading books.

And it was just such a shared history that convinced me I had to include today’s guest in my countdown to the September 3, 2013 release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, Ms. Monique Lewis Happy.

You see, when she was a young girl, her parents took her out of school and set out for a three-year trek across the world’s oceans in a 40 foot Newporter called The Caprice.  They dragged all over the globe, and the main source of her education during that time was the limited collection of paperbacks her father stowed aboard.  These included John D. MacDonald and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name but a few.  Not a bad start for a tike, but hardly a complete education.  Sensing as much, Monique began to trade paperbacks with other boats she’d meet on her way.

And so her education grew.

Much as my own did.

Hearing that story I felt an instant kinship with her.

Also, it didn’t hurt that since her return from that round-the-world voyage she’d managed to become a noted editor in the Indie zombie genre, counting among her clients the legendary Mark Tufo.  (Check out my interview with Mark Tufo here.)

I thought Monique’s unique role in the zombie genre might provide an interesting turn on the whole zombie conversation, and so I am pleased to bring you Ms. Monique Lewis Happy, editor-in-chief of zombie mayhem.

 

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 projects?  How do you approach the genre?

Monique Lewis Happy:  Well, actually I’m not a zombie writer, or at least not a published one. I’m a zombie editor.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the zombie genre. In 2010, I read the beginning of a new zombie series by Mark Tufo, and liked it so much I went on his blog to introduce myself and tell him how much I loved it. We became friends on Facebook. One day he gave a shout out to his fans, and asked if anyone wanted to review and edit his latest book. I volunteered, having been a legal secretary for over 25 years. I felt confident that I could do a good edit, plus I was dying to read his next installment on the series! I did that first book for fun and for free, and he liked my work so much he hired me. That gave me the courage to begin my own editing services, and I’ve been going strong ever since.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some other really stellar indie authors such as Robert DeCoteau, who has some great books out there, and G.R. Mountjoy, who has written an intense military zombpocalypse series. Most recently, I’ve been working steadily with Shawn Chesser (who’s a great guy, by the way — I’ve really enjoyed working with him), and my newest client, Sean Liebling, who is a kick in the pants and has begun a new series entitled Blood, Brains, and Bullets. Not for the faint of heart!

It’s been very exciting to work with all of these authors because of the experience and knowledge which they bring to the table. These guys really know what they’re talking about. I’ve learned so much about weapons systems and nomenclature. And they are writing really good stuff. They are revitalizing the zombie genre, along with other great authors like John O’Brien, J.L. Bourne, Joe Talluto, Shane Gregory, and yourself, of course!

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

MLH:  I am in no way prepared, except for the knowledge I’ve gained from working with the aforementioned authors. Physically, I probably could not outrun a zombie, unless they are of the shuffling variety. But I would be determined to survive, and I have children to protect. Not sure who would win if it came down to Mama Bear vs. a zombie. *grin*

I seriously think that the majority of mankind will be snuffed out in the first few days. The Preppers will probably outlast us all, and good for them! I can only hope to make it long enough to hook up with a group of people and make it to a safe enclave.

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.)

MLH:  I know you’ve heard this before, but I’m a huge fan of ANYTHING that George Romero has had a hand in. My favorite zombie movie is probably Dawn of the Dead (the original, although I enjoyed the remake), followed by Shaun of the Dead.  Next in line on my faves list is Day of the Dead (by Romero) and Zombieland. I can watch Zombieland over and over again. Especially the final scene with Bill Murray.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

MLH:  The fight scene in the bar in Shaun of the Dead, when Queen is playing on the jukebox. I just watched it again and couldn’t stop laughing. Zombies and campy humor. Good stuff right there.

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?

MLH:  Personally, I love to lose myself in the world of the apocalypse. It’s not just about the drastic climate change or zombie virus or whatever else brought about the end of the world. It’s about the human spirit, our survival instinct, our true characters that come out when all that counts is where our next meal comes from and what we are willing to do to live one more day on this earth.

I think the current popularity stems from a desire to have a “do over” – to wipe away the old, material ways that are so clearly not working and begin anew with just the basics. To even out the playing table, so to speak. It’s very appealing to a lot of people.

Thanks for having me!

I can be contacted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueHappyEditorialServices

I’m also blogging at http://moniquehappyeditor.wordpress.com/

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Stephen Knight

The Zombie Masters Series rolls on as we continue the countdown to the release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, and with me today is Mr. Stephen Knight, one of self-publishing’s huge success stories and one of the genre’s finest writers.  Nobody does military zombie fiction with as much authority, or with the same depth of characterization.  Stephen Knight is, simply put, in a class by himself.

He’s the author of the bestselling zombie apocalypse tale The Gathering Dead and the follow-up novella Left With The Dead.  But he’s far from a one trick pony.  He’s also written the horror thriller City of the Damned and the action-adventure Hackett’s War. And, together with Derek Paterson, he wrote the erotic thriller White Tiger. Knight currently lives in the New York City area, but ought to hurry up getting back to Texas.

I was extremely lucky to land my first novel with a major publisher.  It got me good exposure and great distribution.  For that I am incredibly thankful.  But the more my career develops, the more cognizant I am of the wonderful opportunities present in self-publishing.  I have watched industrious writers like Stephen Knight soar into the public eye by taking control over every aspect of their writing, from story craft to formatting to pricing.  I envy that degree of control.

That’s one small reason why I recently agreed to enter into a fantastic new writing project with Stephen Knight and Craig DiLouie.  We are going to be doing a series of six novellas (of about 40,000 words each) called The Retreat.  Here’s what Craig DiLouie had to say about The Retreat on his website.

As a new disease turns people into sadistic, laughing killers, in Boston, a battalion of light infantry struggles to maintain order. As the numbers of infected grow, the battalion loses control, and the soldiers find themselves fighting for their lives against the very people they once swore an oath to protect.

During the ensuring collapse, the lost battalion learns the Army is still holding out in Florida, which has been cleared of the Infected. Harry Lee, its commander, decides the only hope for his men is to get there. But first they must cross more than a thousand miles of America that has been turned into a war zone, fighting a fearless, implacable and merciless enemy.

The first two episodes will be published in the fall. Stay tuned for this exciting new series!”

But until then, enjoy this conversation with one of my favorite zombie writers, Mr. Stephen Knight!

 

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?

Stephen Knight:  Well, let’s see…so far, I’ve released five zombie-theme works: The Gathering Dead, Left with the Dead, The Rising Horde: Volume 1 and Volume 2, and a short story that takes place in the same universe called “The Farm.” All of them deal with the military response to the reanimated dead, because that’s pretty much missing in most of the books and virtually all the films out there. How could this nation’s peerless military simply give up and be overwhelmed? In The Walking Dead, there are tanks and everything lying around, but no indication that there were any major fights, no containment operations, no nothing. I set out to change that a little bit.

My usual approach to the genre is to take the best people suited to handle the zombie apocalypse, throw them into the mix, and then watch as they slowly unravel with their backs against the wall.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

SK:  I have to answer this one in two parts. If I’m in New York City, then I’m majorly screwed. Unless I’m really smart and figure out things are hitting the fan early and vamanos while there’s still time, I might make it. But chances are good that wouldn’t happen. In a metropolitan area like New York, everything’s already difficult to begin with—throwing in the zombie apocalypse would send the city right off the rails in no time at all.

But if I’m at my other home in Connecticut, then yeah, I’m in great shape. Weapons. Food. Access to a boat, which I can use to get out into Long Island Sound. Also access to a plane with a range of around 700 miles. And even though it’s a very densely-populated region of the country, it’s not millions of people in a vertical environment like NYC, so the chances of surviving are quite a bit better, even for a slouch like myself.

But would humanity win? Yes, I think so. Mankind is just too tough to kill without an asteroid hitting the planet or a plague of nanites sweeping through us.

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.)

SK:  I liked World War Z simply because it was an interesting approach to the apocalypse. Craig DiLouie’s Tooth and Nail and The Infection are my biggest favorites, because they track well with my own work, and anything that deals with the military response is always kind of fun to read, especially when it’s as well-informed as Craig’s work is. Mountain Man was a whole different spin on the genre, what with the hero being a hermitic alcoholic, and a Canadian at that. But honestly, I’m remarkably under-read in the genre—there are dozens of titles out there I haven’t read yet, and some I have that aren’t good enough to mention.

Movies are different, I watch a lot of those. Romero’s groundbreaking work, of course, I saw all but the first one in the theater. The remake of Dawn of the Dead was very exciting, and one of the first inspirations that made me want to get around to The Gathering Dead. 28 Days Later was pretty darn good, too.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

SK:  I think when Cillian Murphy beaned a priest zombie in the head with a plastic bag full of Pepsi cans has to rank as number one. (Though I don’t know if that counts as a kill.)

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?

SK:  That we need more meat in our diet. And that it’s unfortunate that vegans run slower than the rest of us.

Make sure and check out Stephen Knight’s books here and his website here.

David Wellington

Joining me today on my countdown to the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, is one of the founding fathers of the zombie genre.  It’s none other than David Wellington, a writer I point to as one of my most important influences.

Back in 2004 and 2005, before I had decided to write a zombie novel myself, I was reading Monster Island, which David first serialized on his website.  (You can check out his website here.)  I’d only been to New York once before, and that for a brief two day stay, but Monster Island made me feel like I knew every inch of the city.  And I was afraid!  I was so afraid – and impressed! – that I decided to do my own zombie novels.  That’s right everybody.  If you like what I’ve written in the past, you have David Wellington to thank for it.

David has since revisited the zombie a number of times, even turning Monster Island into a trilogy of excellent books.  But he’s equally adept working with vampires and werewolves and now, much to my great pleasure, the hard-driving contemporary thriller.  He is a man of many talents, to be sure.  He is the author of horror, fantasy, and now thriller novels.  His latest book, Chimera, a thriller, is available as of July 23rd, 2013.  It’s a spy novel with no paranormal elements at all—but it does have plenty of monsters.  His other books include 13 Bullets, Frostbite and Den of Thieves (as David Chandler).  You can follow him on Twitter at @LastTrilobite, or check out his website here.

And now, listen in as one of my favorites talks about everybody’s favorite shambling dead thing.

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?

David Wellington:  Thanks for having me!  Well, hi.  My name is David Wellington, and my first published novel, Monster Island, was a zombie story.  I followed it up with two sequels, Monster Nation and Monster Planet.  They didn’t start out as novels, though, but as online serials.  I wrote a chapter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and posted them to a blog as they were written.  People responded to them right away, and that helped me get my first book contract.  I took a few liberties with the genre—my zombies eat anything organic, like human-shaped locusts, and some of them retain their intelligence and can command the more mindless ones.  I didn’t want to do the same old thing—which sounds funny now, since at the time the only real zombie novel was Brian Keene’s The Rising, which wouldn’t be considered a traditional zombie story either.  I was responding more to the movies.  I grew up in Pittsburgh, George Romero’s old stomping grounds, where zombies are part of the shared culture, so to me they were already an established genre.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

DW:  Wait, what… right now?  I didn’t see anything on the news!  In other words, no, I wouldn’t be prepared.  I don’t have a zombie apocalypse kit in my house.  If it actually happened I would be one of the first to die—which actually suits me just fine.  Nobody really wants to live in a post-apocalyptic world.  Of course, all the actual projections show humanity winning very quickly.  The epidemic would be contained by the armed forces and we would be okay.  So maybe the best way to handle a zombie apocalypse is to hunker down and wait it out.  Whatever you do, don’t go to the mall!

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.)

DW:  28 Days Later, definitely.  I used to be conflicted about that—Night of the Living Dead is so amazing, the first and still one of the best ever made.  But every time I watch 28 Days Later I find something new and incredible to love about that film.  It just takes the story so seriously, and isn’t afraid to experiment, while still maintaining an incredible pace and nail-biting suspense.  I think the thing that really got me was when the protagonist walks out into an empty London and sees all the signs of what went wrong—the bulletin board covered in pictures of missing people really gets me.  And there are piles of bodies in trash bags everywhere, but we never see real gore until later.  It’s like one of my favorite video games, Silent Hill 2.  In that game, for the first half an hour nothing happens, but you’re still scared out of your wits.  You hear a dog barking somewhere.  There’s this fog… but no people.  You have to walk through a series of increasingly creepy locations.  It just builds and builds.  That’s the essence of horror—pacing.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

DW:  I wasn’t a huge fan of Diary of the Dead, but when the Amish farmer shows up at just the right second with the pitchfork, well… yeah.  That’s such a subjective thing.

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?

DW:  You want to get all academic about it, huh?  Okay, zombies reflect our growing disconnection with the real world.  It’s never been easier than now to go a whole day without seeing another human being.  At its most basic a zombie story is about isolation, about being cut off from humanity—even when you’re surrounded by a crowd of human-looking creatures.  How often do we feel that way now, far away from our families, our friends, even when they’re just a mouse-click away.  The incredible advance in communications technology has had this weird effect of putting us all in individual bubbles we can’t escape.  Well, it’s that or we just like zombies because their heads pop real good.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was David Wellington, one of the true zombie masters!

Dana Fredsti

Ladies and gentlemen, my countdown to the September 3rd release of my next zombie novel, The Savage Dead, continues with a writer I always seem to run into at conventions and always find fascinating.  Please allow me to introduce the lovely and talented Dana Fredsti, zombie master.

Dana is an ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting, including sword-captain and fighting Deadite in the cult classic Army of Darkness. Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC (Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center), Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, kissed by tigers, held baby jaguars and had her thumb sucked by an ocelot with nursing issues. She’s addicted to bad movies and any book or film, good or bad, which include zombies. Her other hobbies include surfing (badly), collecting beach glass (obsessively), and wine tasting (happily).

Dana was co-producer/writer/director for a mystery-oriented theatrical troupe based in San Diego. These experiences were the basis for her mystery novel MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock & Company Publishers, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint, Oct. 2007). She co-wrote What Women Really Want in Bed with Cynthia Gentry, their second writing partnership after Secret
Seductions, for which Dana used the pseudonym Roxanne Colville.

She’s written numerous published articles, essays and shorts, including stories in Cat Fantastic IV, an anthology series edited by Andre Norton (Daw, 1997), Danger City (Contemporary Press, 2005), and Mondo Zombie (Cemetery Dance, 2006). Her essays can be seen in Morbid Curiosity, Issues 2-7. Additionally she’s written several produced low-budget screenplays and currently has another script under option. Dana was also co-writer/associate producer on Urban Rescuers, a documentary on feral cats and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Valley Film Festival in Los Angeles. Under the nom de plume Inara LaVey, she has half a dozen short stories, three novels, a novella, out at Ravenous Romance, which specializes in erotic romance. Her most recent publications are her Ashley Parker zombie novels, Plague Town and Plague Nation (Titan Books), with Plague World coming out April 2014./p>

But guys, don’t let the exotic romance lead you into thinking Dana doesn’t have some serious zombie skills.  Her novels Plague Town and Plague Nation feature a badass zombie hunter named Ashley Parker, and they don’t come hotter or more capable than Ashley Parker.

Now, please enjoy this little conversation with Dana Fredsti.

 

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?

Dana Fredsti:  Well, my zombie related writing started years ago when I wrote A Man’s Gotta Eat What a Man’s Gotta Eat, which is about a world where zombies are sentient and dominant, and my hero, Chuck T-Bone, earns his living as a P.I. looking for missing people.  I’d just been to a signing for the first Book of the Dead edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter, and really wanted to write something for their next anthology…  I was heavily into noir at the time, as well as having a deep love of the zombie genre ever since I saw Dawn of the Dead as my first official date (Oh yeah, baby!).  I came up with the idea driving down the 5 Freeway from Glendale to San Diego, breathing in gas fumes on the tail end of a migraine. My approach has since become more traditional as far as dealing with (mostly) slow shambling Romero-esque flesh eaters in my Ashley Parker series, but I definitely approach the genre with a more obvious sense of humor than many of my contemporaries.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

DF:  I’m prepared in that I have ample supplies of water, wine, perishable food, pet supplies and weaponry at home, but since I’m not going to leave my animals to die and bug out somewhere safer, I have no bug-out bag and I suspect some people would consider me woefully unprepared.  Psychologically, however, I think I’ve got what it takes to shoot loved ones in the brain pan if they come shambling after me and smell bad (Note to loved ones: Good hygiene essential around me if you don’t want to be mistaken as a zombie).  And as far as humanity winning, I certainly like to think so.  If zombies follow the rules as set by George Romero, I think we’re in pretty good shape considering the pop-cultural inundation we’ve experienced in the last few years.  Frankly, if someone can’t figure out the ‘shoot ’em in the head’ thing at this point, they deserve to be a Darwin Award nominee.

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.)

DF:  It will always be the original Dawn of the Dead.  That was the very first movie I was taken to on an actual date (popcorn, candy and soda included) and it made a huge impression on me.  I don’t think any scene can ever equal the one where Peter and Roger are exterminating the zombies in the basement of the apartment building, some wrapped in sheets and wriggling like maggots… the “heartbeat” music of Goblin playing (I saw a different edit of the movie and they’d changed the music in that scene and it just didn’t have the same impact).  That scene creeped me out and it’s probably the best movie George Romero has ever made.  I could ramble on ad nauseum here about other movies/books/stories, but I am gonna keep it short and stick with the movie that is responsible for my total love of the flesh eating zombie genre.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

DF:  Oooh, that’s a toughie.  For a classic movie, probably the machete to the head in Dawn of the Dead.  In a more current film….  Shaun of the Dead when Ed and Shaun dispatch the two zombies in their backyard.  The sequence of events, the music, the actual kill…  Love it.

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?

DF:  Oh man, now you’re asking me to dip into the deep end of the pool as opposed to splashing happily in the gore-filled shallows.   I think every author, every filmmaker and every reader has his/her own take on what zombies actually mean in terms of society/psyche, etc.   They are us; they reflect our fear of being one of the faceless masses; they reflect our fear of being overwhelmed by the faceless masses; they basically can stand in for any fear the human psyche can manufacture.  Personally I think that certain movies and books came out at just the right time to create a perfect storm of zombie-awareness in a public that had been all about the vampires and shifters up to that point.  Hollywood and publishers realized there was money to be made, so more books/movies/stories/games were generated, thus perpetuating the popularity.  For every person who thinks zombies have jumped the shark, there are fans of the genre who’ve been waiting years for this abundance of material.  So… I don’t know.  For me, there’s just something essentially creepy about your friends/neighbors/family coming back to life as ravenous flesh-eaters.  And while I think I could cap my boyfriend in the head if he tried to rip my neck out, I understand why so many people would hesitate (perhaps fatally) before shooting their child-turned-zombie.  Sadly, I also think part of the appeal might be because of the huge and vitriolic political schism in our country and the fact a lot of people might just really be into the fantasy of killing those that don’t agree with them without any repercussions.  If I’m right about that, that’s kind of sad.  Of course, I’m about to destroy a call center in India in my current WIP for personal reasons, so who am I to judge? 

And that was Dana Fredsti.  You can learn more about Dana and writing here, and you check out all her books here

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