When we last checked in with Bobby Adair (BA – Dusty’s Diary), D.S. Campbell (DC – Zombie Manifesto), John L. Davis IV (JD – American Revenant), and Mark Tufo (MT – Zombie Fallout), our intrepid authors were discussing horror influences, writing for the zombie genre, and how they’ve survived their craft.
In part two of Revenge of the Zombie Authors Roundtable (Read Part 1) we bring them back to the table to chat about what they look for in horror and what they view as the ideal zombie…
What do you look for in horror literature?
BA: I read a lot of different genres, and I think the only thing I look for is an interesting style. Not unique necessarily, just interesting – and something that fits my mood at the time I happen to be shopping. I’ve got dozens of books on my kindle that looked interesting when I picked them up but don’t suit my mood when it’s time to read. I think that might be the most important factor of all; which is when I’m looking to read, I’m looking to do something about the mood I’m in. If I think whatever book I’m looking at will meet my need, then that’s the one I pick up.
DS: Maybe I’m unusual. A lot of people get into horror for the scare of it, but I’ve always gravitated towards horror that is one of two things: funny, as in Shaun of the Dead, or social and political, as in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s classic, We. Horror speaks to our dark side. Our dark side doesn’t just live in the basement; it’s out there in our crazy social worlds. Often, that’s tragic. Sometimes, it can be hilarious.
JD: I want to be scared. I want a book that will make me pull my feet back over the edge of the bed when I’m reading late at night. I love the gory gross-out moments, but stories that build tension, cause your heart to thump a little harder, and uses gore sparingly and to great effect are often some of my favorite books.
MT: To be honest, I want to be scared. That’s obvious, right? I also need to care about the characters. If I don’t, then I’m not going to be scared, because ultimately I won’t care what happens to them if they get torn apart by a rabid Yeti in a bad part of the forest.
What’s are the greatest lessons or revelations you’ve acquired while writing zombie literature?
BA: Readers like words. It seems like they want them on every damn page. That and, I guess, write what you like. If you read back through your draft and dig it, then you’ve done it right and somebody else will like it too.
DS: Because I first published the novel serially on Twitter, I ended up gaining a significant zombie-enthusiast following. I’m amazed by my followers – zombie lovers really love zombies! Also, zombie folks are incredibly diverse and creative. Also, on a personal level, I learned that exploring the dark side of life can, strangely enough, be a lot of fun. Thank you, zombies, you’re the superheroes of horror!
JD: You can do most anything in zombie fiction. With other types of horror creatures it seems to me that there is generally a box they fit in, however large they may be. With zombies, there is no box. The ravenous dead have smashed that box, eaten whatever it may have contained, and shuffled off to find more.
MT: My biggest revelation is that there is a big and growing sub-genre of horror fans that love zombie fiction and (sorry about the pun) devour as much of it as they can. A certain percentage of them really like their zombies, and if you stray from slow shufflers this vocal minority will definitely let you know! 🙂 Truly though, the greatest lesson for me anyway was hire an editor! I thought I could get away without it back when we released the first book … big mistake. In fact, my book had many mistakes. We’ve since had a couple of editors clean the book up, but back in the day we should have borrowed money to have it done (although, in our defense, we never thought we were going to sell any).
Lastly, what is your favorite type of zombie?
BA: Fast and realistic. I want my zombies to die the way normal people die, so I guess I’m more in the rage virus school of thought when it comes to zombies. Still, if I ever found myself in an actual zombie apocalypse, I’d want them slow, rotting, and smelly. I need every advantage I can get.
DS: I said “dark side,” right? In the course of writing Zombie Manifesto, I took a lot of zombie walk photos. The most amazing one, to me, was a zombie mother carrying her baby. She kept dipping her head forward and gently gnawing on the baby’s head. You can’t get much sicker — and more hilarious — than that!
JD: Slow, shuffling, shambling, moaning, groaning, hands-up-grasping as they slowly come for you. Man, I love that classic idea of the zombie. Infected or rage zombies have certainly earned a place within the pantheon – and they deserve it – but there is something special about the slow zombies that I find appealing. They’re creepy when there are just a few relentless flesh-eaters, but when you turn that corner or back into that wall, find yourself surrounded and …well … that’s where that terror truly ramps up. One or two fast zombies and you’re pretty much done; the terror is there and gone, and you’re left with a bloody mess of bones. I may have just made a compelling argument for both.
MT: I feel that this is a loaded question. No wait maybe not loaded, situational yeah that’s the right word. When I’m reading or watching a movie I love seeing the fast zombies something about them just scares the bejeesus out of me. It seems like such a hopeless situation with them as your enemy. Now if I was to find myself in the midst of a z-poc I would much prefer the slow shufflers. I truly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this zombie round table. And remember if Talbot would do it, you probably shouldn’t.
Special thanks to the authors who participated in the feature. If you liked this, make sure to read our first in the ZRS authors interview series.