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. https://readingzombie.com/2019/07/02/asking-bram-stoker-award-winner-and-ny-times-bestselling-author-jonathan-maberry-20-questions-part-1/

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. https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/author/ref=dbs_P_W_auth?_encoding=UTF8&author=Jonathan%20Maberry&searchAlias=digital-text&asin=B001JSF8TK

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