In Zombie Authors Roundtable – Part 1, we picked the creative brains of Johnathan Davis (JD), author of 900 Miles; Rachel Drummond (RD), author of The South Forsaken; and William Howser (WH), author of FrequenZ Alpha. Now, we dig even deeper to find out what gives zombies their staying power and how other authors can get in on the action.
In your opinion, how have zombies endured for so long in pop culture?
JD: [Zombies] have been around for as long as I’ve lived. Romero jump-started the whole thing, but it wasn’t until some of the big movie blockbusters like 28 Days Later, Zombieland and, of course, The Walking Dead series that zombies seemed to be adopted by the “main stream”. Now, we have people who would never have cared about this genre leaping in head first because of some of these commercial successes.
So what’s creating this staying power? Why is there this obsession with these dead, lumbering creatures that are intent on feasting on flesh? I’d have to say that a whole new group of people have discovered what I learned so many years ago as a kid: zombies are just frickin’ cool!
RD: The zombie genre continues evolving to keep up with modern times. Whenever the world climate changes, or an advancement is made, there is room for the next generation of zombie writers to make their mark.
WH: On my show, Zombie Life Podcast, I interview fans of this genre and the question, “How are zombies relevant?”, comes up often. One guest, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, a university professor that teaches a credited “zombie course”, stated that zombies tell the story of where humans are on this planet at the time. If there is tension because of war, we will most likely get a smash hit zombie movie dealing with rage. Or, if there is a new flu vaccine, a zombie movie will emerge with a horrible virus as the culprit. I tend to agree; zombies help us cope with the world around us, no matter its current state.
What are some tips or “lessons learned” that you can impart to other writers considering a zombie novel?
JD: Focus on the story. The action and gore are big parts of the genre; however, most zombie stories do those two things well. Do you want to stand out? Do you want people to read your book over others? Find that story — the one that hits on more levels than just the typical zombie book — and you’ll be well on your way.
Aside from that, just never give up. Follow your passion and write it for yourself more than anybody else. If you genuinely love the story when you’re done, it’s a good bet others will too. If they don’t …well … at least you’ve created something that you can be proud of. In the end — to me, at least — that’s the most gratifying part.
RD: An editor is never a waste of money!
WH: The biggest lesson I have learned is that when writing about zombies, you’re dealing with a timeless entity. There will always be critics that have harsh things to say about your work. I would look at the “fear” aspect, and then merge zombies into it. The word “zombie” itself begs for an audience waiting to be shocked. Also, think about your boundaries and moral ground before each chapter, because with zombies — like horror itself — things can get out of hand quickly. Writing something you’re ashamed of isn’t becoming, and it’ll show in your work.
Finally, what is your favorite kind of zombie?
JD: Hell, to be honest, I just like to be kept on my toes! I’d be bored with just one type of zombie that’s regurgitated over and over again. The creativity that this genre has spawned is simply amazing! As such, I like ’em all — whether they are slow, fast, dead, or virus “rage” driven. Each of them have their own back stories; however, most importantly, the variance in all the different zombie characteristics and abilities out there spawn new stories and new ways to approach a seemingly simple creature that’s been around for decades. Ultimately, the evolving zombie types have pushed all of us towards finding new ways to keep an old story fresh!
RD: I love them all, but I have to say I’m a Romaroist (copyright Alfredo Torres) to the end!
WH: Well … a dead zombie, of course! I take all kinds, though. I’m a huge “running zombie” fan, and I also like the slow, stumbling zombies. I think zombies creeping from the grave is the most controversial. It forces imagination, which is always fun.
A special thanks to Johnathan, Rachel, and William for creeping away from their keyboards to join us for a ZRS roundtable. We look forward to reading your future creations…
Contributing author Matt Bradford is a co-host of Zombie Cast; a weekly podcast discussing all things zombie, horror and pop culture.