Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Why zombies?" you ask with a frown.

In September of 1978, I was taken to see a movie. That movie was 1974 The Exorcist ripoffBeyond the Door with Juliette Mills. When it had first come out, just the commercial terrified me. When she would say, "Who are you?" I felt my skin get all goosebumpy. As with so many things that we build up in our minds, it turned out to be a disappointment. However, this was the 70s and movies were often shown as double features. The second film was a movie I had never heard of and actually the feature film of the pairing. The movie was titled Dawn of the Dead. If you are a zombie fan and have not seen the original DotD, stop reading. You need to watch that movie far more than you need to be reading this little post.

When a girl a few rows ahead of me got sick into her date’s popcorn, I was hooked for life. Granted, I was already fascinated by horror. I stayed up many a night watching the local channel’s hosted midnight scary movie show (back when they used to have those…and there were only 5 channels…and I walked to school uphill in the snow both ways). All the classics were immortalized in posters, comic books, and even models like my Frankenstein with glow-in-the-dark head and hands. Zombies were a total mystery until that day.

Without the internet to help me, I scoured the world for more and eventually discovered a classic black-and-white film called Night of the Living Dead. I was stoked to discover that it was directed by that same Romero guy who had done DotD. From there, it was slim pickings, but an occasional nugget like Zombies! would crop up. (Zombie versus Great White Shark equals AWESOME!)

Still, there was never a thought about taking up the torch. Even when I began chasing my dream of becoming an author, zombies were the farthest thing from my mind. It was not until around 2008 after a college prof who taught my creative writing class made the suggestion following an assignment where she told us to step outside our “comfort box” and write something fun. She said that I had really shown a flare for capturing vivid and real characters that made the reader feel love or hate. She said that it was obvious that I had enjoyed the writing and that I should dip my toe in the zombie pool.

Funny thing, while you can’t come close to counting the number of zombie-themed titles that are in existence now, just a few short years ago, that was not the case. In fact, after Brian Keene, Max Brooks, and David Wellington, it was a wasteland of vamps and anything but zombies in the literary world (and yes, I am using the term “literary” in its loosest definition). Horror in written form meant the two “Ks”…King and Koontz. Sure there were others, but you would be hard pressed (back then) to name that many. Horror in print was like as scarce as a comedy being nominated for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards.

I spent a few days trying to decide where to even begin. After all, Romero was it. What could be said or done after him? Apparently (judging by the amazing and talented writers that I have come to know and be fans of these past years) a great deal. The zombie genre is—pardon the pun—alive and well. Sure, we get treated like the red-headed, bastard step-child of the literary world, but somehow, we continue to not simply survive, but, in many cases, thrive.

People are fascinated by the zombie. And despite the constant cry that it is “played out” or “overdone”, people continue to scoop up zombie books in droves. And once they find something that they like, there is no more loyal fan in the world. The zombie fans of today are a lot like the KISS fans of the 80s. Everybody said that the band sucked, the music was stale, and the act had gone sour and was done. Yet, they continue to sell millions of records to this day, pack stadiums and arenas, and produce a merchandise empire that is the gold standard when it comes down to marketing coverage.

Your friends might roll their eyes when they see what you are reading, but somebody is tuning in and making The Walking Dead the most watched cable show in history. It is fascinating that so many people claim to “hate” the zombie genre, yet you cannot argue with the numbers.

As an author of the six-book Zomblog series as well as the DEAD series where I am just releasing book nine out of the twelve scheduled, I rely on people like you (yes, you…the person reading this) for my livelihood. I rely on zombies continuing to be an obsession or a dirty little secret. I used to think that my small group of friends and I were the only ones who “got” the whole zombie thing. I am glad to be wrong. I am thrilled that you took a moment to find out where it all began for me. And, yes, I do hope that you check out my books and like what you see. 


  1. You know, I used to get the same reaction from folks who didn't know I was 'writing' now. THE question. I hated the question. The eye rolls. The groans. You know that in their mind, it might as well be a comic book.
    But not too long ago, I stumbled across a reply that actually got me the opposite reaction. It was tough for me to describe the Monster Squad premise. But when the words rolled out of my mouth before I had a chance to send them through my mental actually worked. Think 'NAVY SEALs hunt down Twilight'. I actually got a F#$K Yeah from one guy. Maybe you should rethink your answer. I mean, really. In reality, you write about the SURVIVORS in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. Spin that side when describing your work.

    1. Excellent may be on to something!

  2. Behind the Door scared me to death too, as a kid! As a die-hard vampire lore enthusiast. I have had folks roll their eyes at my choices too, but someone had to write my beloved books, make my cherished movies, and fuel my horrid nightmares. Not all writing needs to be "War and Peace" or make some huge world changing statement. Hugh Heffner and Larry Flint have plenty of money giving people what they want and until lately, few admitted they had those magazines in the house in Sunday dinner conversation. Entertainment comes in many forms. I do NOT dig the "Twilight" saga (UGH! thinly veiled teen porn dressed in fangs and fur) but I am one of the few females I know who didn't count hours for the book/movie/t-shirt to come out.
    Do the Zombie thing guys because someone out there likes it. Do the Zombie thing because you love it. And if you can make a few bucks on it, GREAT!!!! If not, then do the Zombie thing because it is just art, (and when was the last time anyone expected an artist to be understood?) and you can write for art's sake? So, maybe you don't make the King or Koontz kind of numbers but your fans will be happy; they didn't start at the top either. Oh, and who writes for Harlequin Romances? "That drivel" makes a lot of money. Someone has to write it. It made Fabio famous, right?