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being able to cross running water, having an aversion to garlic, having to sleep in a coffin during the day also seemed outdated.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.

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