Writing a zombie novel can be a daunting task. But with a fresh perspective, unique characters, and some unhinged creativity it’s possible to rise above the pop culture horde!
In this two-part feature, the Zombie Research Society chats with three up-and-coming horror authors who have done just that to learn what it takes to stand out in a crowded genre. Meet Johnathan Davis (JD), author of 900 Miles; Rachel Drummond (RD), author of The South Forsaken; and William Howser (WH), FrequenZ Alpha.
Let’s start with introductions. What is your novel about, and what does it bring to the zombie genre?
JD: In its simplest form, 900 Miles can be broken down as a story about a business man trying to get home to his wife, who is — you guessed it — 900 miles away, after being trapped in New York City as the dead begin to rise. However, fans of the book tell me they enjoy it most for the twists and turns that lie just beneath the surface of this seemingly routine story of survival.
RD: [The South Forsaken] is about — no surprise — a viral outbreak that threatens to turn Australia into the largest smorgasbord in the Southern Hemisphere. The difference is that the virus, which affects the brain, triggers different results when exposed to those who are already suffering from a mental illness. The people responsible for the man made-virus intended it to be a cure for schizophrenia, however once they see what has happened, their scientific minds drive them to research the new phenomenon. At the same time, the government is left with the problem of finding a solution to the devastating problem.
WH: FrequenZ Alpha chronicles the days of Eddie Rotten, his family, and the lives of a small group of people from around the world that join together through social media to expose world government conspiracies. Their findings reveal that secret groups funded by banks and governments created zombies by way of a frequency created as a form of population control to create a utopian civilian. FrequenZ started as a blog at www.eddierotten.com and involved fans of the story in creating its heroes and villains. The story starts in 2011 and was written in real-time, dating all major news stories and political happenings to the very day they occurred. Because there are so many real world events documented in the pages, readers are left to decide what’s real and what isn’t.
As an author, what appeals to you most about the zombie genre?
JD: I’ve simply always been a die-hard zombie geek. In fact, I’ve got some very fond early childhood memories of watching movies like the Return of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead on late night HBO, long after my unknowing parents were asleep. As far back as I can remember, these simple but creative stories set me down a path that ultimately challenged me to take a stab at creating my very own version of the apocalypse. In the end, you always hear the phase: “Just write what you know.” Well, I just happen to know zombies.
RD: The zombie genre has a freedom that many other genres lack. The end of the world scenario lets the author play with society in whatever means they see fit.
WH: I think the zombie genre is perhaps the most honest and pure thing out there. In my opinion, it has brought together more friends and family than any other form of entertainment ever recorded, and it has also bridged a gap between mediums that normally wouldn’t be associated. It has roots in music, religious beliefs, romance, government, conspiracy, art, medicine, preparedness, and self-defense … and the list goes on.
What were the biggest challenges when writing your novel?
JD: Honestly, it was just trying to write something that hadn’t been done before.The genre is huge, and there are so many creative people out there telling some really amazing stories. It’s tough to get something on paper without someone drawing a parallel to the Walking Dead or any other number of books, movies, TV shows, webisodes, blogs, and other stories out there. So, in some ways, I embraced that standard storyline and grabbed on to what I loved about zombies and the end-of-the-world fiction in the first place. However, I found myself fighting hard during the process to make sure I was also creating some new pieces and parts to add to the ever-growing ecosystem of zombie literature.
RD: Being my first novel, I was a little adrift when it came to actually writing the story. Thankfully, my editors were phenomenal and helped me every step of the way. I like to think that the first novel has given me a good basis for the next one. I can already see improvements.
WH: My research was split into two categories for this book: finding the news that everyone was distracted by and then finding the controversy behind the news (the conspiracy theorist side that is rarely reported). These two points engulfed my time and opened my eyes to both sides of the coin. Writing about real news, and adding believable zombies to it, made for some long nights and pretty gory chapters.
Keep an eyeball out for Part 2 when we talk ideal zombies and writing tips.