#NanoInterview: Jonathan Moon

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Jon! Earlier this year you released Children of God: Poems, Dreams, and Nightmares from The Family of God Cult, written with Craig DiLouie. Tell us about it.

JM: Craig and I have been friends for a few years, and fans of each other’s writing as well. (Seriously check out his Suffer the Children- one of this decade’s best horror novels.) A year ago Craig got a hold of me at Crypticon Seattle and he laid out this incredible idea he had about telling a story through poems. He explained to poetry therapy to, and how it has been used with patients suffering from PTSD. His idea was to cover the rise and fall of a Christian doomsday cult through a variety of poetry. Since I have an interest in both cults and poetry he was kind enough to invite me to play along.
We each created a handful of diverse characters, each with their own personality, history, and style. We created a shared timeline, divided the story into sections, and had each character tell their unique version of the story through poems. Through conversations we had Craig and I decided we wanted something grounded, where the horror is emotional, real, and possible. I honestly feel we pulled that off and created something special for fans of dark fiction. I am very proud of Children of God, and honored to work with such a talented writer and awesome person as Craig.

DD: You also penned a great collection called Mr. Moon's Nightmares. So I have to ask: how much do dreams inspire you, and do you track your dreams?

JM: Oh, shit, going old school! Hahaha. Yeah, ole’ Mr. Moon’s Nightmares was my first collection of stories. It was published by our old friend Doc Pus from his Library of Horror Press. It has been out of print for a few years now, but I have been re-releasing stories little by little through my Hoo-Doo County Horrors series. A few stories from MMN even made it into Stories To Poke Your Eyes Out To, which I built in much the same fashion (mixing traditional horror with surreal, flash/short/novella length variations).
But, back to the real question here. I have always had a hyper-active imagination, and I think that has attributed to the vivid dreams I have always had. When I was younger I would have reoccurring nightmares, and as I grew my dreams and nightmares took on a far more surreal tilt. Hehehe, yup, my dreams and daydreams are like acid trips, kids. Some stories come from dreams, though I have never written about the reoccurring nightmare from my youth, but I would say even more come from daydreams. I fade in and out of reality all day, some times when I snap back with it I bring a story with me. Something to rattle around in my head until I give it some kind of terrible life.
I never really track my dreams but I try to remember them every day. Years ago, I had a roommate named Sharika. We worked graveyards and woke up at the same time every day. As we would get ready for our shift she would tell me all about her dreams. I loved those dream stories, and not just because she was a hilarious woman, but because they were so unpredictable and random. My dreams and nightmares have seldom seemed to be composed of random elements, but rather everything weird or odd has a symbolic feel. Damn, maybe my dreams influence my style as much as my stories.

DD: On the zombie front, you've brought a unique spin to the genre with books like Hollow Mountain Dead. What about the undead appeals to you?

JM: I dig zombies because they freak me out. Can you imagine a dead person attacking you? No way to reason with a dead person, even someone who loved you once. How long you could out run them, begging and pleading for mercy- further wasting your breath? Dead lungs do not need oxygen. That is what I dig, the rainbow of unrelenting horror the undead can represent. From stories about family members dealing with each other to entire metropolises collapsing the dead rising is fantastic story fodder for gore and heartbreak junkies like myself. I prefer the micro, but even then knowing it is a single event or location in a worldwide event always adds a sense of dread to things.
I think the undead are such a great way to represent so many aspects of our humanity, casting reflections through shattered mirrors. I find them easy metaphors for social issues as well as great excuses for writing graphic scenes with disembowelment and cannibalism, all of which I also dig. I know pop culture has grabbed hold of zombies, and unleashed a flood of zombie fiction upon the world, but they have always been a favorite of horror fans like me because they are the oldest, most terrible monsters of all…us.   

DD: What does a horror writer do to make Halloween stand out from every other day of the year?

JM: Eat glazed donuts and chili.
(I wear masks all the time. I am wearing one right now…so are you…)

DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

JM: I would say my one big gripe about zombie fiction is it needs more zombies. More gore! More violence! More horror! MORE ZOMBIES!
I feel like most stories focus far too much on the living. And, man, the living are dramatic. So much talking, pontificating, arguing, double-crossing, remembering, plotting, you get it. I like zombie action, how people react when faced with dead humans attacking you, and not how people act when zombies are eating everyone else. Perhaps this is a certain level of cynicism on my behalf, I have no doubt sociopaths will excel in apocalyptic realities and the world would be a fucked up place all around. (Heh, we haven’t officially hit apocalypse yet and look how we’re doing.) Most zombie stories which start months or years after the first zombie outbreak lose my attention fast, because to me they feel like dramas with zombie scenery. That’s the main reason Hollow Mountain Dead follows the zombie outbreak from the source out.


#NanoInterview: Rhiannon Frater

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Rhiannon! First off, tell us about the original THE LIVING DEAD BOY. 

RF: The original book was written long ago (2010) for my nieces and nephews. At the time they were between the ages of 4 and 15. They’re diehard zombie fans, and they were annoyed that there weren’t any zombie books where kids their age were the heroes. I remember one of my nieces just bugging me like crazy to write about kids fighting zombies. These kids are so zombie crazy, that the littlest wept bitter tears when she wasn’t allowed to watch The Walking Dead series premiere. She was four at the time.
One time, when my brother was visiting me with his family, he pulled me aside to say that he was grateful that I had prepared his kids for the zombie apocalypse. He knew that they would be able to handle themselves if anything happened to him.
“I will totally shoot you in the head if you turn zombie, Dad,” my niece promised.
“Yup,” her brother agreed.
I thought that was pretty hilarious, but it also inspired me.
So the gears started spinning and I thought, “Well, how would kids who are zombie fans handle the z-poc?”
Out of that question Josh and his fellow Zombie Hunters (their club) were born.
I guess you could say The Living Dead Boy is very much a Goonies versus the zombies type of book. Though it is centered on kids, there is a lot of death and mayhem. Since I wanted the youngest of zombie fans to enjoy the book, I did dial back my descriptions of the gore. That hasn’t deterred adult fans from loving it, too. In fact, I suspect adult zombie fans just add in the gore with their imaginations.

DD: The sequel is LOST IN TEXAS: THE LIVING DEAD BOY 2. Where do we pick up after the events of the original?

RF: It picks up a few hours after the first book ends. I considered a jump ahead in time, but that didn’t feel right. I, personally, like zombie stories that take place the first days of the z-poc. Exploring how people react in disasters is something I really enjoy. I used to work on federal disaster relief grants. I spoke with city and county officials and with the survivors. The disasters were everything from wildfires to hurricanes.
So, we rejoin Josh and the surviving Zombie Hunters as they’re traveling on an Austin Metro bus that is part of an evacuation convoy. Most of the kids have lost all their family, and Josh is lucky enough to be reunited with his dad, a former Marine. Josh’s big struggle at the beginning of the book is trusting adults to keep everyone safe. He’s very well-educated on zombie films and books so he’s just expecting the worst. Though he’s twelve, he’s a very smart kid. And he’s right. Things go very wrong, and he once again has to step up into a leadership role with his friends.
My beta readers, who are all adults, have loved the new book. That’s a very rewarding feeling after not being in the world of Josh and his friends for six years.

DD: What's your process like? Do you have a writing schedule, word goals and the like, or does it just come as it comes? Maybe a little of both?

RF: When I finally feel an idea is solid enough to write, I do try to write every single day. It’s not always easy. I suffer from basal joint arthritis thanks to writing by hand for many, many years. I wrecked my thumb joints. So I sometimes struggle with pain.
One thing that is very true in my experience is that the mere act of writing helps open up the story. It does feel a lot like watching a movie in my head and transcribing what I write. And the more I write, the more details I see.
I’m slowly increasing my daily word count, testing how much stress my joints can take, but I don’t hit same high word count I used to. That stings a bit.

DD: Do dreams inspire your work? Do you keep track of dreams?

RF: All my books are born in dreams. I dream very vividly. My dreams are like mini-movies. Of course, not all dreams are worthy of a book, but once and a while I’ll wake up and know that I just dreamed something with a ton of potential. I use Workflowy to record the details of the dreams that feel like the seed of a book. Sometimes those ideas take years to germinate, and others are just ready to go immediately.

DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

RF: Well, going back to my experience working on disaster grants, I do wish we’d get away from the nihilistic viewpoint of everyone being evil. I visited areas that looked positively post-apocalyptic and listened to the survivor stories. Over and over again, I was told how complete strangers rescued people that were trapped, and in the aftermath, shared what little food and water they had. They also helped each other with shelter, and finding loved ones (including pets). There’s always going to be some bad stories, but overall it was very heart-warming to hear tales of great heroism and kindness in the face of terrible disasters.
Humans aren’t perfect, but we do survive in communities. That’s something writers often forget.
I’d also like to get away from the evil military trope. I know so many men and women who have served bravely and selflessly in the armed forces that are just amazingly good people. I hate that they end up as villains in a lot of zombie stories. The same with police officers.
Again, there are always going to be a few bad ones in the mix, but I’d like to see things a bit more realistically portrayed in zombie fiction.
Happily, since when I first started writing in the genre all the way back in 2005, there are a lot more women writing about zombies, and we’re getting a lot of very solid, positive portrayals of female characters. That’s been very heartening.


Pick a Card...

The deck is stacked against our heroes...

Promotional images for Book I of The Strange Dead - imagined playing cards for a nonexistent RPG based in the world of the story.


#NanoInterview: Travis Adkins

Travis Adkins is returning to zombie fiction with MISTS OF THE DEAD. I've had the pleasure of reading the to-be-published dark fantasy epic and had to have Travis in for a Nano Interview.

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Travis! First off, tell us about your new project, Mists of the Dead.

TA: Hi Dunwoody! Thank you so much for your interest!

Mists of the Dead is my love letter to the zombie genre, Victorian poetry and prose, the fin de si├Ęcle, Ravenloft, and all my favorite things. The setting and theme allow me to pay tribute to the type of zombies rarely utilized in fiction.

DD: Meanwhile, audio versions of Twilight of the Dead and After Twilight: Walking with the Dead came out this summer. Prior to that, it had been a while since we’d seen dead things from you!

TA: Yeah. I disappeared. I got married, lived in Doha, Qatar for two years, and then returned to the Zombie Capital of the World, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I live now with my wife and four cats, just a stone’s throw from the Monroeville Mall. I couldn’t be happier!

But I wasn’t just idle in my time off. I was reading and learning and experiencing new things. I’m an older, humbler, and (hopefully) slightly wiser Trav now.

DD: What’s your writing process? Do you have a schedule, word count goals, etc., or does it just happen as it happens? Somewhere in between?

TA: Full disclosure: I don’t consider myself a writer, but I do think I’m a doggedly creative person. It can come out in a lot of ways. Editing and designing books for others can satisfy the itch; so can a video game where I have total creative control of the main character. Sometimes, though, only writing down my ideas will do.

As for my process, it’s intense, and probably not the healthiest way to write. (But it’s the only way I know how.) I take extensive notes over years. In fact, Mists of the Dead was fully written in notes before I sat down to write it. Other novels in this universe are mostly fully-formed, too. Then, when I’m ready, I wake up at 3:00 in the morning, sit at my desk in the dark with my laptop open, and start punching those keys. I’ll write until I need to stop to sleep.

DD: Do dreams inspire you? Do you keep track of your dreams?

TA: Hmm. Not really. My dreams are disappointing. The reason being, I think my brain has trained itself to be such a skeptic, that nothing too outlandish can ever happen. Say, for example, I had a dream that started out with me walking through a strange house, exploring, wind gusting through the open windows, dusk approaching, and obviously this is a setup for a haunted house, right? But because I now there’s no such thing as ghosts, instead there’s a little kid stealing pots and pans in the kitchen. And I’m like, “Hey stop that you little bastard,” and he’s smacking my hands with a frying pan.

So, yeah, realism is the reason I couldn’t bring myself to continue the Twilight of the Dead narrative. The mythology of that world just wasn’t tenable. (I was barely twenty I think when I wrote it, and what the hell did I know about anything?) So, with Mists of the Dead, as funny as it sounds, I wanted to write a novel that could actually happen. This might not make sense, but to my nit-picky brain it does.

DD: Is there anything you’d like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

TA: I’ve been gone so long I don’t know if I have a right to criticize. On top of that, I don’t know what all’s out there, but I know there’s a lot! I’m trying to find my place in the community again, so it’s not about me being accepting, it’s about others being accepting of me. See there? Humble.

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