Talking with the author of The Rotter series, Scott Baker

1. You write about zombie and vampires and other monsters a lot. Do you have a favorite?

Zombies. Vampires are our inner Id unleashed and intensified. For all their strengths, vampires can experience fear, can be hurt, and can become tired. Humans can survive a battle with a vampire, even if bitten. Not so with the living dead. A horde of zombies bearing down on you is terrifying. Each is a relentless killing machine that doesn’t know fear, doesn’t tire, and doesn’t feel pain. Only one thing drives them – the need to feast off human flesh. To me, zombies are the most visceral horror there is. 

2. Your Nachzehrer are very much like zombies? Was it by intention?

Oh yeah. I wanted to have hordes of demons that posed a danger to the Hell Gaters but did not want to rely on zombies. That’s when I came up with the idea of the Nachzehrer, the tormented dead banished to Hell and looking to escape. A bite from one won’t turn you into a Nachzehrer, but a swarm can tear you apart. And yes, I purposefully had Jason bitten in the first chapter of Hell Gate to lead people on and let them think he would be turned. I’m a tease. 

3. I know it’s an impossible question, but what’s your favorite of the books you have published?

If I had to choose, it would be Dominion, the final book in The Vampire Hunters trilogy. It was hard to write; I felt like I was leaving good friends behind. The book had all the successful elements of a series finale — a blockbuster ending, the wrapping up loose ends, giving every character their final bow, and keeping the action going for chapters. Dominion is the most heart-breaking novel I’ve written. 

4. Why did you decide that religious symbols don’t affect your vampires? 

I felt the old tropes of vampires being repelled by religious symbols have grown old. They’re just symbols, and while they were effective for Victorian-era vampires, they don’t work anymore. Readers today want their vampires bad ass. Such restrictions as not having a reflection in mirrors, not being able to cross running water, having an aversion to garlic, having to sleep in a coffin during the day also seemed outdated. I wanted to make it harder for Drake and Alison to fight the undead. The only thing I kept was the damage holy water can do to vampires because it physically touches them. 

5. Do you see yourself more as a horror or fantasy writer?

I consider myself a horror writer. Horror and fantasy both detail battles between good and evil. When I think of fantasy, I imagine original worlds and cultures, characters with unique abilities, and realms where magic can occur. I admire anyone who writes fantasy; I don’t know if I have that type of imagination. I prefer the current world as we know it being best by evil, and then making it as dark and disturbing as possible. 

6. Tell me a bit about your inspiration.

My inspiration comes numerous places, mostly the dark recesses of my twisted mind. Fifteen years ago, some friends and I spent a night on Mont St. Michel, and at midnight took a tour of the island; that became the inspiration for the opening chapter in Dominion and several chapters in the Hell Gate saga. Off hand comments from my daughter inspired Nazi Ghouls From Space and my upcoming novella. When I suffered from acid reflux, I used to wake up choking on vomit in the middle of the night, which became the basis for “Incident on Ironstone Lane.” Even music inspires me; I thought up the subway battle between Alison and Toni in The Vampire Hunters while listening to The Tractor’s Baby Likes To Rock It. I’m very fortunate that inspiration comes easy to me, but it’s also a pain in the ass because I have so many great novel and story ideas yet so little time to write.

7. You’ve had a fascinating life. Where have you traveled?

Thank you. I’ve been blessed. I’ve travelled all over Europe and Asia as well as many locations in the Middle East. I spent three years living on Okinawa and three years in Seoul, South Korea, which was one the best memories of my life. As a World War II buff, I’ve visited battlefields and infamous sites, from the Railway of Death in Thailand and Unit 731 in Manchuria to the Treblinka death camp in Poland and the beaches of Normandy. I’ve also experienced things not many people get to, such as walking along the DMZ at Panmunjom while half a dozen North Koreans photographed me (maybe I have a fan club in Pyongyang), strolling through an underground bunker surrounded by thousands of nuclear warheads, and spending time in Los Alamos Labs’ “petting zoo,” a museum where every variation of the A-bomb is on display. My bucket list includes Romania, Auschwitz, Pripyat/Chernobyl, and North Korea. 

8. Is your adventurous life inspiration for your books?

Many of the places I’ve visited and the cultures I’ve encountered have found their way into my novels and short stories, but not my CIA experiences. Until now. The current novel I’m trying to place with a publisher is a dark political thriller that reflects my decade of experience with terrorism, nuclear weapons, North Korea, and a host of other nasties. What’s frightening about the concept is that all the science is real and could happen. The manuscript had to be vetted by the CIA, and some of it was not approved for the publishable version.

9. What’s your favorite book?

World War Z by Max Brooks. Maybe it’s because I’m a history major, but that book sucked me in; I couldn’t put it down. An oral history of the zombie apocalypse. Scenes like a depopulated North Korea where everyone in underground bunkers have turned and a Chinese sub battling underwater zombies still resonate with me. I loved the way each chapter was written in a different voice. 

10. What TV shows are you binging now?

I only binge watch one TV show at a time. I recently finished Good Omens on Amazon (highly recommend it) and The Kingdom on Netflix (a South Korean-made zombie series and one of the best, ranks up there with Train to Busan). Right now, I’m binging Stranger Things. After that, I have my eyes on HBO’s mini-series about Chernobyl.

11. Future projects?

I’m preparing to release my zombie novella around 1 August and Hell Gate 4 in November. I’m putting the final touches on my screenplay, which I describe as Armageddon meets Jurassic Park. My works in process include Hell Gate 5 and Operation Majestic (Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Back to the Future – with aliens). My future project is a series titled OSS – Office of Supernatural Services about Allied intelligence services battling Nazi occultism in WWII. 

12. Is Drake Matthews from The Vampire Hunters your alter ego?

He’s the alter ego I wish I had. I’m a cigar-smoking, iced coffee drinking, whiskey loving, rabbit doting (at least back in the early 2000s when I had rabbits) wise ass. That’s where the similarity ends. Drake throws himself into battle with vampires without thinking about it, gets his ass kicked as much as he kicks ass, and always come through alive (usually thanks to Alison). I’d last two minutes, if I was lucky, before the undead turned me into a snuffy. 

Check out Scott Baker and his alter Josh Matthews on Amazon.

Also find him on Facebook

The Reading Zombie readers choice top 10 summer reads

As the title says, it’s a readers choice top 10. I put up a poll in my Facebook group and had people vote and add favorites. I have to say, the results are quite surprising. There are a few great books that you should pick up soon!!! Without further delay, here we go!

#1The Undead by RR Haywood

#2 The end of Everything by Christopher Artinian

#3 Green Field by Adrienne Lecter

#4 Lycan Fallout by Mark Tufo

#5 Zombie Road by David Simpson

#6 Hellspawn by Ricky Fleet

#7Rotter Apocalypse by Scott Baker

#8 Blue Plague by Thomas A. Watson

#9 Until the end of the world by Sarah Lyons Fleming

#10 The Feral children by David Simpson and Wesley Norris

All the books are available on Amazon. Some are on Kindle unlimited. I hope I could add a few new titles for your summer reading list. Keep it zombie!

My thoughts on Broken Land

Summer is the perfect time to pick up new books, discover new authors, break the pattern and enjoy something awesome. I know that Jonathan Maberry is famous for the rest of the World but his work is relatively new to me and I am reading fast to catch up… If you scroll down you will not only find some of my opinions on Rot and Ruin but also a fascinating interview with the man himself.. So, back to business… I really love the fact that you can read Broken Lands as a standalone novel, still be warned, it will make you want to pick up Rot and Ruin… The main character, Gutsy is fascinating.. She is a problem solver, very mature and calm for her 15 years of age.. Probably children grow up faster in the apocalypse.. The story is starting under the empire of sadness and loss with Gutsy having to bury her mother… What I find fascinating here and also in the Rot&Ruin series is the different ways people deal with the Zombie. They are not just ravenous undead, but also shadows of family and friends.. Tom Imura believed in giving families closure… Gutsy respected her Mama’s catholic faith that mean she has to restraint the zombified body of her mother, put her in a shroud and let her go through purgatory…. Death becomes more about fulfilling the wishes and respecting the beliefs of the deceased…. A series of events are making Gutsy snap out of her sadness…. Pain and loss is replaced by anger and confusion .A problem solver will always ask why.. When she finds out that her entire town is a huge lab, and that they are all rats for experiments her need for closure and revenge reaches new heights… Together with her friends, the orphans Spider and Alethea and her dog Sombra, Gutsy puts the puzzle parts together and solves parts of the mystery… Another very sweet thing about this story is that in all the madness, loss and chaos, with the advancing Night army and the epic battle that followed, Gutsy still gets a kiss from the girl she has a crush on…. Only because the apocalypse is happening human feelings can’t be ignored…. And as she realizes during the fight, she’s a warrior, and every warrior needs a reason to fight and someone to come back to….

Asking author Jonathan Maberry 20 questions (part 2)

New York Times bestselling author and multiple Bram Stoker award winner doesn’t really need much introduction. If you missed the first part of the interview you can catch up with it here.

11.ALINA IONESCU: Would you like to rewrite a classic novel and add a horror touch to it? And if yes which one and why?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ve toyed with that idea ever since Seth Graeme-Smith did PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES. And while I’m unlikely to ever tackle that kind of project, it would be fun to introduce vampires into Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Surely the French Revolution would have displaced many of the undead.

12.ALINA IONESCU: It’s Reading Zombie, so, if you would be bitten by a zombie and had just 24 hours left, would you try to see how the other side exists?

JONATHAN MABERRY: If I thought there was even a chance of retaining some awareness, I might go over to the cold side and learn that experience. But otherwise, no. I’d spend my last day helping uninfected get out of town and to safety. And if I was still healthy enough, I’d set a big fiery trap for the zombie horde. If I have to go down, then by god I’ll go down in flames!

13.ALINA IONESCU: You write is amazing stories about the supernatural, so if you could choose one “monster” to be real what would it be?

JONATHAN MABERRY: My favorite monster of all time is the werewolf subspecies called the Benandanti, which translate as ‘good walker’. These creatures are from families that can trace their lineage back to Etruscan times, and for centuries they claimed that at night they became werewolves who hunted evil monsters. They were also known as the Hounds of God. I based my Sam Hunter short story series on that legend. He’s a private detective who uses his special powers and appetites to protect his clients, rescue women and kids from abusive situations, and hunt human evil. We could use some supernaturally powerful yet idealistic monsters right now. I can even give them a list of viable targets.

14.ALINA IONESCU: I am intrigued by the poetic beauty of the decaying apocalyptic world in Rot & Ruin, and the darkness of Pine Deep, do you see those places before you put the characters in or is everything growing as the story progresses?

JONATHAN MABERRY: The place and setting of my stories is often every bit as important as the characters, and often takes on enough of its own unique personality. It’s more than atmospheric language, the place becomes a character. Pine Deep, which is the setting for GHOST ROAD BLUES, DEAD MAN’S SONG, BAD MOON RISING, DARKNESS AT THE EDGE OF TOWN, and the novel I’m currently writing, INK, is based on a real place –New Hope, in eastern Pennsylvania. When I was a teenager, New Hope was very different than it is today. Back then, in the mid-1970s, it had a small and very artsy community huddled against the banks of the Delaware River, but wrapped around those few streets were miles upon miles of farm fields. Lots of corn and pumpkin, apples and wheat. Vast fields of it, with lonely farmhouses set way, way back from the roads. My friends and I would drive out there in the evenings, when those fields were empty, and under vast star-fields we’d sit and talk, tell ghost stories, make out with our girlfriends, and seem to be in another world. Or another century. There were no street lights and the darkness was towering. We scared ourselves silly, but that’s what we wanted. It was a place of dark mystery and magic. Now, alas, it’s all built over with housing developments and strip malls. But I remember the magic, and the personality of that town, and built my first three novels around it.

As for the post-apocalyptic world of the ROT & RUIN, that has its own heritage. When I was ten years old, a buddy and I snuck into the Midway Theater, a massive and crumbling old movie house in our neighborhood, to see the world premiere of George A. Romero’s immortal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. For anyone who grew up later, that movie seems cheap and quaint, but in 1968 it was a total gut punch. We’d never seen anything like it. It was, to that point in time, arguably the scariest and most shocking movie ever. My friend fled halfway through; I stayed to see it twice. And I’ve spent way too much of my life working out how I might survive that kind of apocalyptic event.

When I sat down to write ROT & RUIN, which is set fourteen years after the events of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (with a bit of retroactive blessing from Romero, who became my friend in later years), I knew that the world was going to have to be a character. The day-to-day lifestyles of people who either lived through the end of the world, or who grew up afterward, would inform the entire story. And, the world inside their fenced town would be different from the world beyond the fence. That became important for me to tell and explore.

15.ALINA IONESCU: I love Rot & Ruin. Why did you decided to place it there, and not write the story of the outbreak first?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’d first written ROT & RUIN as a novella called “The Family Business” for the wonderful anthology THE NEW DEAD, edited by my friend Christopher Golden. He’d asked me to write something outside of my comfort zone, and at that point I hadn’t written anything post-apocalyptic and hadn’t done a story with a teenager as the protagonist. So, I jumped forward to fourteen years after the plague and told that story, which later morphed into a series of novels.

However, all throughout those novels there are references to First Night, which is what the survivors call the actual zombie apocalypse. I kept wanting to write that, but the story really wasn’t something that would involve teenagers in lead roles –and ROT & RUIN is teen fiction. So, I pitched a novel, DEAD OF NIGHT, that would be for adults and would tell the story of how the zombie apocalypse happened. Unlike most of the zombie fiction out there, I worked with epidemiologists, virologists, molecular biologists, and parasitologists to come up with as reasonable an explanation for the plague as is possible to get. Turns out we got closer than I thought. Scary close. That book starts with the first bite and expands outward, so we see how a plague of this sort can spread if the circumstances are just right. Or…just wrong.

I ended DEAD OF NIGHT on a cliffhanger and then decided to continue with FALL OF NIGHT. I jumped forward several weeks for DARK OF NIGHT, and took another jump forward for STILL OF NIGHT.

16.ALINA IONESCU: I am still under the spell of Pine Deep, and without giving away spoiler I noticed that you don’t shy away from killing main characters..

JONATHAN MABERRY: Stories about real people fighting supernatural monsters are, for the most part, war stories. People die in wars. Writers who are overly sentimental or timid about killing characters seldom write compelling fiction.

17.ALINA IONESCU: You switch between zombie apocalypse, vampire horror, thriller, Scifi.. (have I missed something) what’s a genre you have not written yet but plan on?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m always eager to try new things. When I was a teenager I became friends with, and then mentored by, Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. Two towering legends. Matheson stressed that I should never let myself be trapped in a box, creatively-speaking. His own novels were scattered through genre categories. So, I’ve explored outside of my comfort zone. Horror and thrillers are my favorite genres, but I’ve written steampunk, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, swords & sorcery, western, mystery, space opera, military SciFi, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, and more. And I’ve written in a lot of worlds created by other writers –what we call ‘media tie-in writing’. Among those are stories set in the worlds of Alien, Predator, True Blood, John Carter of Mars, The Land of Oz, Hellboy, Sherlock Holmes, C. Auguste Dupin, C.H.U.D., Plan 9 From Outer Space, Monster Hunter International, the X-Files, and many of the Marvel super heroes.

On my genre wish list… a post-apocalyptic social satire, a literary novel, non-supernatural adventure fiction, and a World War II story.

18.ALINA IONESCU: You have a fascinating background and wrote nonfiction for years, do you ever consider publishing an autobiographical novel?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ve been asked to write an autobiography or memoir several times, but I have no interest in it. My ego doesn’t need the stroke. However, I have mined my personal experiences for inspiration. For example, I’m writing a young adult mystery thriller, WATCH OVER ME, about a teen who wants to be a bodyguard like his parents. I used to be a bodyguard, but I’d rather take bits and pieces of that, fictionalize them, and use them in a novel.

19.ALINA IONESCU: I know that your zombies in Rot and Ruin change, but there’s this discussion fast zombies vs slow shuffling ones.. If you have to pick one type what would you choose?

JONATHAN MABERRY: That depends on what you mean. In terms of entertainment, I find slow zombies scarier in prose and fast ones scarier in film. In terms of what I’d prefer if I was in the middle of the zombie apocalypse…? Definitely slow ones. I can fight, but I’m not a very fast runner.

20.ALINA IONESCU: You wrote scripts for comic books, how does this process work? How has the final decision?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Unlike novels –which are intensely solo efforts—comics are heavily collaborative. When I pitch a story to my editor, there is often discussion back and forth to make sure the story works for the medium. Then I write an outline –which gets notes. When I sit down to do a script, I’m on my own until that’s done. I’m currently writing PANDEMICA, a new bio-terrorism comic for IDW Publishing. My script decides on the number of panels, tells the artist what to draw, and includes all of the dialogue and character descriptions. Then the artist does light pencils to show how he interprets the script. More discussion –me, the editor, and the artist—and once we agree on any changes, the artist does the finished pencils and (in most cases) the inks. Then it gets sent over to the colorist, and finally the letterer. Everyone has a say, and it is a very unwise writer who doesn’t pay attention when an artist, inker, colorist, or letterer makes a suggestion. We are all professionals working together.

Find Jonathan Maberry on social media and Amazon.

Asking Bram Stoker award winner and NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry 20 questions (part 1)

There are authors that do not really need any type of introduction. I am sure that you read one of Jonathan Maberrys books and loved it.. With over 35 published novels, countless comics and short stories, Jonathan Maberry is one of the biggest names in contemporary fiction (part one of the interview) ..

  1. ALINA IONESCU: Which one is your favorite novel from the over 35 you have written?

JONATHAN MABERRY: GLIMPSE is my favorite novel I’ve ever written. The lead character is a young woman recovering from years of drug addiction who is now clean and looking for the child she gave up for adoption. That child, now ten, is in the hands of some very frightening creatures. GLIMPSE is a fractured story about courage, love, and hope. And it’s recently been optioned for film.

2. ALINA IONESCU: Your new comic book PANDEMICA is expected by fans and mentioned by the press, would you like to tell me a bit about this project?

JONATHAN MABERRY: The story is very gritty and a bit cynical. It deals with a group of entitled businessmen and scientists who have developed a way to create ethnic-specific bioweapons. They can target very specific ethnic groups and are selling these weapons on the black market. A resistance group, Pandemica, rises to try and stop them before the death toll mounts into the millions. And things go even more badly wrong when the diseases begin mutating out of control. The first issue debuts in September from IDW Publishing.

3. ALINA IONESCU: I am fascinated by your vampires, they are very different, why did you choose to be inspired by folklore and not go with the Hollywood version?

JONATHAN MABERRY: My grandmother was a wonderfully strange old lady. Quite a bit like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, but as an old woman. She loved all things about what she called the ‘larger world’. Ghost, demons, vampires, werewolves…all of it. And when I was little she told me stories about these monsters, and later encouraged me to read the mythologies, the folklore, and also the cultural anthropology so I could understand why people believed what they did. I was exposed to the folklore versions of these monsters before I began reading horror novels and watching monster movies. They are my first love.

4. ALINA IONESCU: I finished reading The Pine Deep trilogy, how much of your own personality is flowing into the main character Crow?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Crow has my sense of humor, my martial arts background (we’re both advanced practitioners of Japanese jujutsu), and my idealism. We were both rather badly abused as children, though in different ways. His subsequent emotional damage is different, though. He became an alcoholic and I’ve never been addicted to anything.

5.ALINA IONESCU: Your fans love your strong female characters, is it harder to write from a female perspective than a male one ?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I grew up as the younger brother of four sisters. I studied martial arts at a dojo that was forty percent women during an era when that was not at all common (1960s-70s). And later I taught women’s self-defense at Temple University in Philadelphia for fourteen years. I’ve known a lot of very tough women; and it was my honor to help thousands of women learn to embrace their strength to become tough as students in my classes. I’ve never actually thought women were the weaker sex. People are stronger or weaker according to who they are. And that’s reflected in my characters –like Shuri in my BLACK PANTHER comics, Dez Fox in DEAD OF NIGHT, Val Guthrie in the Pine Deep novels, and so on.

6.ALINA IONESCU: what’s your writing routine?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m a professional writer, so I approach it as my job. I write, on average, eight hours per day. I try to write about four thousand words each day. Sometimes less, sometimes more. I pay attention to the business side of things –pitches, contracts, shifts in the market, and so on. And I stay focused.

If I’m at a convention or conference –which is often— I still need to find time to write. And I manage my own social media –Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

7.ALINA IONESCU: Do you have any advice for authors that try to become successful?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Anyone hoping to break into the publishing world needs to be very good at three things. First, they have to constantly refine their craft. There is no end to the process of becoming the best writer we can be. Second, they need to understand how publishing works –to be savvy, forward thinking, flexible, and not vulnerable to taking things personally. And third, they need to have a very good social media game. Even before they sell their first word. Oh, and…only write the stuff that’s the most fun to do. That enthusiasm will shine through.

8.ALINA IONESCU: Your V Wars will be turned into a Netflix series, that’s so cool, how much influence does an author have on the final product?

JONATHAN MABERRY: V-WARS will hopefully launch in December with a ten episode first season. I am not an executive producer on the first season, which means I wasn’t deeply involved in the creative process. However I was at the table reads and on the set for the start of shooting. I’ve become friends with many of the cast and crew, including our star, Ian Somerhalder, and cast-members Adrian Holmes, Laura Vandervoort, Peter Outerbridge, Michael Greyeyes, Kyle Breitkopf, and others. And if we get picked up for a second season there’s a chance I may be elevated to EP.

That said, for all subsequent projects I am an executive producer, including the ROT & RUIN movie in development by Alcon Entertainment (BLADERUNNER 2019, THE EXPANSE); and others.

9.ALINA IONESCU: A Rot and Ruin question.. Is a doomsday cult a possibility after the apocalypse? A solution for people that don’t think that they live and just exist?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I think a doomsday cult is a very real possibility. After the world has fallen, taking with it the government, infrastructure, and the institutions that were supposed to save us –such as major religions—people would all be suffering post-traumatic stress and despair. Anything that gave them something to cling to –even a cult that embraced a meaningful rather than meaningless death—would be dangerously appealing.

10.ALINA IONESCU: Is there a mythical monster that you have not written about yet?

JONATHAN MABERRY: That depends on how you define ‘written’. I’ve written about hundreds of different kinds of folkloric monsters in a series of nonfiction books I wrote in the early 2000s. However, in my fiction –novels, short stories, and comic books—I’ve barely scratched the surface. Mostly because folklore and myth has such a wonderful menagerie of creatures, including variations (or subspecies?). There are, for example, hundreds of variations of vampire, many more different kinds of demons, countless theriomorphs (shapeshifters), and so on. I haven’t had time to even make my way through my personal wish-list of favorite monsters.

I was drawn to writing fiction because I wanted to explore how ordinary humans would fare against the folkloric versions of vampires, ghosts, and werewolves. That became GHOST ROAD BLUES and its two sequels.

That said, I am planning a swords-and-sorcery short story about a warrior from the Crusades encountering the fierce Draugr of Viking legend. That’s a demonic spirit inhabiting the corpse of a dead Viking. It’s smart, powerful, and evil. No weapon can kill it, and it can only be defeated by a hero in unarmed combat.

This was the first part of the interview…. Part 2 to follow soon.. Find the books online and in all good bookstores… On a personal note, if you are a zombie fan you should start with Rot&Ruin……

Why zombies…

My first love in horror were the vampires.. I still remember the first Dracula movie and how fascinated I was by the elegant undead that happened to be from my own country… I started reading everything I could pick up on vampires.. Zombies where not on my radar.. I considered them some type of ghoulish creatures under the power and influence of the vampires.. Now the movie that changed my mind was… Who can guess?!? Resident evil! It was the perfect mix between a strong female heroin and the hordes of the Undead.. After that I was sold… Zombies are scary to me because they lack any reason.. You can’t negotiate.. You can’t intimidate them.. They don’t hate, they can’t be bribed and they will go after their pray to the last… Even a chopped off head will try to feed… I am curious what your thoughts are on zombies…