After a long hiatus, the beloved Library of the Living Dead podcast has returned!
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Doc! What can listeners expect from the newly-reanimated Library of the Living Dead podcast?
DP: Thank you Dave, it's my pleasure. One of the major changes with the Library of the Living Dead Podcast is that it will be "All Zombie, All the Time". No more Horror, no more Sci-Fi ....... only Zombie. We also plan to add a zombie game review each episode. Those will be done by Zombie Farmer. Brad Zipprich will have a multi-episode story too. Eric Lowther will also have his hands (and most excellent voice) in the Podcast. Other than that it will be like the old podcast with all of the regular stuff like the Manic Minute, Zombie Songs, Letters from the Dead, long and short stories and hopefully a zombie book we can present in chapters.
DD: What's your studio setup like? How much time goes into producing a single episode?
DP: I built my studio years ago when I was in a heavy metal band called Renfield. It's sound deadened and sound proof. Makes my wife very happy when I'm recording.
The podcast takes about one week to produce. Some times longer when I go crazy on the "full production" stuff.
DD: Do you have any other media projects in the works?
DP: Right now Eric Lowther is working on the sequel to his most excellent book "Area 187: Almost Hell". I will then get back into publishing. Slowly though. I'm not going to let the publishing side take complete control of my life like I did seven years ago. There will also be a third volume of "Zombology" in the future. I love those books.
DD: Describe your long-time love for the zombie. How did it all begin?
DP: My long time love for Zombies started like so many other older people. It was a little black and white movie called "Night of the Living Dead". I watched it first in 1969 on Channel 11's "Chiller Theater" with its host, the most excellent Chilly Billy Cardille. I was hooked from the cemetery scene. Mind you I was only in the sixth grade and it scared the hell out of me. I didn't sleep at all that night. The next day I taped cardboard over my bedroom windows to keep the zombies in my neighborhood out. Took a good whippin' for that one. At least I didn't nail up boards.
DD: What would you like to see more (or less) of in the zombie genre?
DP: I'm soooooo into zombies that I want to see anything and everything in the zombie genre. Fast, slow, groanin', moanin' rotting zombies. Ii live for it Dave. I really do. I'll watch or read anything that has to do with any kind of zombie. I'm just a huge fan of the undead.
And thanks Dave for allowing me to answer your questions. They brought back a lot of fond memories for me.
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Craig! First off, tell us about the upcoming novel ONE OF US.
CD: Thanks for having me at your blog, David! ONE OF US is in final contract negotiations with Orbit, the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group. We’re already deep into production. They’re a fantastic company to work with. The book will be published in hardcover and then trade paperback, starting likely next year. I couldn’t be more excited.
ONE OF US is a novel about a disease that produces a generation of monsters that must find their place in society. As the plague generation grows up poor and oppressed at rundown orphanages in the rural South, its children begin to develop extraordinary abilities that allow them to rebel and claim their birthright. It delves into themes of prejudice, generational conflict, and what makes a monster a monster. Written in the Southern Gothic style, it features elements such as complex characters, rural decay, and the grotesque.
DD: We're coming up on the release of the fourth entry in your popular CRASH DIVE World War II series. Can you share the challenges and benefits of self-publishing the series?
CD: CRASH DIVE might be described as Horatio Hornblower on submarines in the Pacific during WW2. Each episode covers a patrol in this young and courageous naval officer’s war. The stories are short, simple, technically accurate, pulpy and action-packed. I’ve read over a dozen books about WW2-era submarines and how they work along with firsthand accounts of war patrols. CRASH DIVE is based on all of it, providing a story that is gritty, realistic, authentic and violent, all centered around a hero who isn’t perfect but is a quick learner and tries his best. My goal is to put the reader aboard a submarine and have them feel exactly what it was like during the war. The series has sold extremely well, and I love writing it as much as its fans love reading it.
The benefit of self-publishing is you completely control everything about your book’s production and pricing. The challenge is it’s really hard to get a standalone novel recognized. You can drop the price and pour money into its marketing, but the risk is much higher. That and here you are, having written 100,000 words, now selling it for $3. In my view, self-publishing is ideally suited to short books—around 40,000 to 45,000 words—produced quickly in a series. Pulpy stories centered around a likeable main character. That’s the CRASH DIVE series in a nutshell. I found my ideal self-pub eBook model in the past—the dime novels of the 1860s, which became the pulp magazines of the early 20th century. That model is working very well for me. I wouldn’t do self-publishing any other way at this point.
DD: Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what was the "soundtrack" for ONE OF US?
CD: My process is completely internal. I might catch a piece of music and listen to it when I’m writing, as it helps me daydream the novel and get in the mood. I need absolute quiet while I’m actually writing, though. I’d love to be that guy who listens to great music while writing, but I ain’t him.
DD: Do dreams or nightmares ever influence your writing?
CD: One night I had a strange dream about a town of trailers and shanties built in a circle around a single mansion, which became my short story, “The End of the Road.” Another dream fueled a pair of creatures in my zombie novel, THE KILLING FLOOR. Otherwise, I can’t think of any cases where dreaming influenced my writing. My most useful dreaming is daydreaming. When I’m deep into a book, I’m constantly daydreaming the book when I’m driving, in the shower, and so on. Sometimes, these daily mundane rituals become my most productive parts of the day.
DD: On the zombie front, is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in the genre?
CD: The zombie genre keeps mutating as authors innovate. I think this is a good idea with a very important caveat. First, I’m not a purist. Fast, slow, mutated, I don’t care what kind of zombies you have. However, once the rules for the zombies become established, they become progressively less exciting, and the author is forced to do one of two things. Either up the numbers of the horde or introduce a human element, such as a rival scavenger gang. If you look at THE WALKING DEAD as an example, the story never stayed focused on the zombies. In the first season, you had survivors against zombies, in the second, an internal power struggle, and in the third, the group against another group, and so on.
When I wrote THE INFECTION and THE KILLING FLOOR, I wanted the monster element to remain the primary antagonist, so I introduced mutated creatures spawned by the same organism that produced the zombies. This ticked off some purists, but I was happy in that the creatures introduced an unpredictable, almost hopeless element to the story, which kept it scary. Another thing some authors ran with for a while was to make one or more zombies intelligent and tell the story from their point of view. In THE RETREAT, the series I’m doing with Stephen Knight and Joe McKinney, we made the infected homicidally insane but otherwise able to function, which kept them unpredictable.
But none of these really matters compared to just telling a good story, which is my caveat. Zombies don’t tell the story for you. Your characters do. If the reader doesn’t care about your characters, they won’t care about your zombies. Authors should always focus on inviting us to care about their characters so we care what happens to them. They should tell a compelling story so that it reads like a story about people with zombies, not about zombies with people.
The good news is that if you like zombies, there is an incredible array of choices for you right now. The genre is packed with authors, titles and series. You’re almost guaranteed to find something you love.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 12:35 PM
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Jake! First off, tell us about EVERREALM and what a LitRPG novel is.
JB: So, let's start with what LitRPG is. It's a fairly new genre which stands for "Literature Role Playing Game". Basically, the main character(s) end up inside a game for real. It can be a tabletop RPG or an online MMORPG or any game or virtual setting. Tron would be a very old example. Or Zathura. Ready Player One would be considered LitRPG. The novels contain some sort of game mechanics like character classes, leveling up, treasure finds, quest fulfillment, etc. It sounded like a cool thing to get into, so I gave it a try. EverRealm is the first book in my Level Dead series. It's the 23rd century and the zombie apocalypse has destroyed Earth. Some gamers and programmers have figured out how to fully transfer their minds/souls into what used to be the largest MMORPG (EverRealm) on the planet in order to escape the horrors of reality. But, those horrors taint the game world and now there are zombies in EverRealm! It was my way to combine fantasy, gaming, zombies, and plenty of snark. I had a blast writing it and look forward to writing the next in the series, which will be in a different game setting! Fun!
DD: Just out is MECH CORPS. You seem to be the go-to guy for mech action. What's new in this book?
JB: My very first novel was Dead Mech, where I combined a far-future zombie apocalypse with the kickassness of giant battle mechs! Zombies, mechs, zombies in mechs! Last year I extended that mythos by writing a companion series set centuries later called Fighting Iron, my far-future mech western. I knew I wasn't done with mechs, so I decided to write a new series set centuries after Fighting Iron where the Earth's environment is trashed so much that humanity has to look to the stars for a new home. This bridges the world of Dead Mech and Fighting Iron with my space adventure universe I built in Salvage Merc One. I wanted to go old school military scifi with Mech Corps. Basically, a team of mechs that are the first strike option when humans find a viable planet for colonization, but it's occupied by a monstrous alien race that won't give up until they butcher every human being they come in contact with. It was awesome getting back into writing about a team of mech pilots and how they kick some butt. This time it's alien butt instead of zombie-mech butt!
DD: Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what were the "soundtracks" for these two books?
JB: I do listen to music when I write, but nothing with lyrics. Lyrics pull me out of the zone. I prefer movie and game soundtracks. EverRealm I wrote to fantasy movie and game soundtracks like Dragonslayer and World of Warcraft. I wrote Mech Corps to the Titanfall, Tron: Legacy, and Edge of Tomorrow soundtracks. I am currently writing my second Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter novel to Edge of Tomorrow and some old Italian crime B-movie soundtracks. Roak is really a crime series set in space, so I wanted that gritty crime feel to the music. It works nicely. When I write post-apocalyptic stuff I go for Book of Eli, Last of Us, The Road, and I Am Legend. Those match the mood. Spotify is the best for finding all these soundtracks.
DD: Do dreams influence your writing? Do you keep track of dreams?
JB: Dreams don't really influence my writing. My dreams tend to be more "real life" centered, in a whacked-out dreamlike way. However, I do get a lot of my story inspiration and epiphanies right as I'm falling asleep. You know, when you're in that half-awake, half-asleep state? I have tons of Ah-Ha! moments then. I keep my iPhone handy and usually force myself to wake up enough to write the ideas down. I have learned to put in is much detail as possible into my notes right then. I've woken up in the morning and looked at the notes from the night before and all I could do was shrug because it would be three words that make zero sense.
DD: Finally, on the zombie front, is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in the zombie genre?
JB: I'd really like something new in the zombie genre. Most of the novels and movies coming out are the same old story. It's why I wrote my first zombie novel with mechs in it and why I wrote my LitRPG series with the zombie aspect. These put the genre someplace new and different than just the dead coming to life and a group of survivors getting picked off one by one. I thought 28 Days Later did a great job of reinventing the genre when it came out. We need some new authors with fresh takes to get a hold of the genre and turn it on its head. I am not a zombie "purist". I don't care about fast, slow, virus, meteor, demon-possessed, or whatever kind of zombies they are. I just want something new with a good story, great writing, and characters I care about.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 11:09 PM
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Steve! First, tell us about your DEAD TIDE zombie series.
SN: Dead Tide is an on-going, minute by minute story of a zombie apocalypse as experienced by diverse groups or individual survivors in the Tampa Bay area. There are multiple viewpoint characters and each chapter features a different person’s perspective. Unless a character dies the story works around to them again.
DD: What can fans expect in the fourth entry, DEAD TIDE RAGE?
SN: A lot of closure. There is still a story to tell, but it moves into a different phase after RAGE.
DD: Working on this series for as long as you have, what are the benefits and challenges you find as you return to the DEAD TIDE universe?
SN: The DT world is one that the survivors are now familiar with and they have a clear idea of what they are striving for. The problem is the challenges aren’t growing any easier, and if anything, more difficult. Distrust, greed, fear---all the same dividing factors are still in place and the world is far less civilized than it was…
DD: You also write sci-fi. Your most recent release in the genre is THE DRIFTER. Do I remember correctly that you read from an early version of this at our Horror Realm panel in 2009? What's it about?
SN: I did read an excerpt from that book at Horror Realm. It became a novella. There was so much more to explore in that world that when the book was re-released by Permuted Press last year it had doubled in size. What it is about is a bleak future where unemployment on Earth is rampant, but offworld the demand for ‘the human commodity’ has skyrocketed. Our ability to exploit the universe (and ourselves) has also increased exponentially. In this grim future the government not only sanctions press gangs to recruit ‘interstellar’ colonists, but does so to anyone caught out after curfew that doesn’t possess proper i.d. and proof of employment. Criminals face the prospect of memory erasure and ego-shaping to make them more productive and compliant. The main character in The Drifter can’t even be sure his memories are real.
DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombie lit?
SN: The genre’s popularity still hasn’t waned in my opinion. I’d like to see more stories. The approaches taken by authors such as Dr. Kim Paffenroth, David Dunwoody, J.L. Bourne, Travis Adkins, Timothy Long, Eric S. Brown, Eric Shelman, DL Snell, Sheri Gambino, Suzanne Robb, Rhiannon Frater, WJ Lundy, Armand Rosamilia, Sue Edge, Bowie Ibarra, Scott Baker, Peter Clines, Zach Recht, Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry, Patrick D’Orazio, Joe McKinney, Craig Saunders, Tony Faville, Brian Parker, Jamie Mason, Craig DiLouie, Charles Phipps, Shane Gregory and Rob Fox have been so varied and entertaining that I have to ask for more.
Would also like to see the return of Dr. Pus.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 7:48 AM