#NanoInterview: Thom Erb

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Thom! The audio book version of HEAVEN, HELL OR HOUSTON was released this summer. Tell us about this zombie yarn.

TE: Thank you, Dave, for having me. It's always a pleasure chatting with you.

HHH is what I call my retro-zombie apocalypse, coming-of-age, urban fantasy novel.  Yeah, I know, that's a mouthful, eh?  Severed Press added it as a zombie thriller story, which I guess I can see. The dark tale takes place in the late spring/early summer of 1985 in Texas. It follows a twenty-four hours (give or take) in the life of Texas Ranger, Jay McCutcheon. A surly drunk with a temper akin to nitroglycerin. All he wants to do is finish his duty with the Governor and head home to his pregnant lady  in Houston. The only thing that stands between him and his destination are a few long miles of rain-soaked blacktop, a Cadillac filled with psychotic Mexican gang bangers and a zombie apocalypse.  The good Ranger doesn't go on this drive alone, no, he runs into a brash, foul-mouthed New York teenage runaway. Together, they fight to make it to Houston.

I really enjoyed writing this story and while some readers thought it was too vulgar and violent, that's exactly what I was going for. I call it my homage to my writing heroes, Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Elmore Leonard and Joe McKinney. Not a bad bunch of dudes at all.

If you dig that Tarantino-esque, grindhouse kind of vibe, HHH is right up your blood and brain-soaked alley.

DD: Any new zombie-related stuff on the way?
TE: What a fantastic question, good Sir. As a matter of fact there are a couple zombie tainted projects underway.

After quite the tumultuous year, I have finished the sequel to HHH. It's my hope that Severed will be releasing Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound early next year.  For the readers that dug HHH, hold tight, my friends. Things get a whole hell of a lot weirder. 

I will be publishing a short collection of stories that take place inside the same universe as HHH and ties everything together with the first novel in the ETERNAL FLAME Trilogy: The LAST in LINE. Which I'll be publishing early next year through my imprint, DRUNKEN SKALD PRESS.

I intent to write two more books in that trilogy and maybe, just maybe if Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound is met with a warm response, write a final book that ties the HHH and Eternal Flame trilogy all in a neat, rotting bow.

After that, I think I will be done with the undead genre for a while. But, as we all know...the undead always rise back up at some point.

DD: You're also a visual artist. What sorts of stories do your illustrated works tell?

TE: My visual art is vastly different than it used to be, say ten-fifteen years ago. I used to be all about comic book illustration and that was my major focus. Conversely, most of the art I do now is around book cover design painting movable murals for business locally. Regarding my visual storytelling, it all centers around my cartoonish drawing style and  even though I haven't worked comics in a while, I still like to tell heroic tales, even within the horror genre.

I do have plans to get back to some graphic novels and illustrate a few of my stories and maybe even an web comic. Time will tell.

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

TE: Indeed, sometimes they do. While I don't keep a serious journal, if something really strikes me, I will make sure to get up and jot down some quick notes while the images are still fresh. For an example, a few months back, I had a dream where two teenagers; a boy and a girl. were in busy shopping mall at night and suddenly a group of oddly dressed stormtrooper-like individuals began to surround them.  The girl seemed to be what they were after and an explosive fight broke out. The girl had superpowers and was blasting the dudes left and right, while the boy was trying to fight but he wasn't much of a fighter.  In the end, they got away. The last bit of memory from the dream was the words and names that were spoken.  Bardric and Nightingale and a title: Sigil of Amber/Sigil of Dust.

I wrote that down and it will be a novel somewhere, someday.

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

TE: Well, that is a great question. I have a feeling the zombie genre has reached its tipping point and it is on the decline. Although, as long as the Walking Dead is still on television, it will stay up on its rigor mortis-filled legs for the duration of the show. As with all genres, (especially in the horror world) creatures have their time and then they go away for a while only to return at a much later date. We've seen it with the slashers, vampires, werewolves, Cthulhu mythos, etc.

With that being said, there has always been a very solid, loyal zombie fan base. So, I don't fear writing/creating in the flesh-eating ghoul genre at all. The zombie apocalypse fans are the best without a doubt.

With the zombiedom, what I'm afraid of, is that it is a well played out genre with so many books, films, TV shows, comics, etc out there, it almost feels like it's all been done and we're all just regurgitating the same old rotting tropes over and over again.

But, I have always defended the genre by saying that it's never been about the undead to begin with. No...it's always about the characters and the world they are trying to survive in. Zombies are  (to me at least) a little more than desiccated window dressing. Give me a cast of characters that I want to root for, or against. Make their environment rich and chock-a-block full of danger, both living and undead.

I strongly believe having an original zombie origin story is also tantamount to crafting a groovy zombie tale. I take a lot of pride in the Eternal Flame universe and the origin of my “Romero-esque” mixed with some urban fantasy elements aspect. As much as I too, am a huge zombiephile, I tried very hard to put my own magical Erbal twist on the old tropes and keep it fresh. (as fresh as decaying corpse can be, I suppose.)

While I do believe that the zoms will be heading back underground for a spell, I have no fear or doubt that they will once again shamble up from cold, worm-filled earth to wreak havoc and make us their Happy Meals. After all, old zombies (and zombie fans) never die, or go away.

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