Tell us about Highway to Hell?
Not only is it my favorite AC/DC album, but it's also my extreme zombie novella. When I say extreme I mean it, too. In this world the zombies don't want to just bite you and eat you, they are trying to rape you. The opening scene is pretty hardcore but then (I'd like to think) it settles down and gives you a nice story about a man trying to survive in the zombie apocalypse. And not get violated by the undead.
Describe Dying Days for us.
While set in the same world as Highway To Hell, this novella is more concerned with the heroine Darlene Bobich and her survival in Florida, and trying to find her place in this undead world.
What separates your zombie stories from those readers will be traditionally used to?
I'm not trying to break the mold with my zombies, but I do give them that extra insanity with them still being brutal and 'sexual' creatures… I'm actually working on a prequel to Dying Days (with everything leading up to Dying Days) called Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer and the sequel, Dying Days 2 (which will have a bit of a surprise about the zombies)… AND a short story collection set in the world called Still Dying: Scenes From Dying Days. Busy, busy…
Do you think George A Romero’s zombie work limited what could be done with these creatures, because of the success and recognition he found?
I think he set it in motion like Stoker did with vampires, giving the initial blueprint for future writers. It's up to everyone else to update them, put a new spin on it, or just run with what Romero did in an entertaining way.
What is the process you use when crafting your tales?
I start with the basic 'what if?' in a situation and then start writing it. Simple as that sometimes. If I have a basic idea in my head or especially a character I need to get it down… I can always go back to it later and play with it, although I find my initial ideas are usually the keepers.
What is your favorite character that you created? Do you love or hate him/her?
Darlene Bobich is the most familiar to me, because I've written about 100,000 words on her with more to come… I know her to a point but she surprises me at every turn. She's human and not a superhero, and she gets emotional and lost and freezes, but in the end she survives and fights her way out of situations. Every morning I grab a cup of coffee and sit down to see what she'll do next.
What drew you to the zombie sub-genre? Are there other classic monsters you hope to tackle in the future?
I've always been a huge zombie movie fan but never read any fiction until The Rising by Brian Keene. After that I couldn't get enough and eventually started dabbling in it. I never wanted to just start writing yet another boring zombie tale, with shambling undead chasing a bunch of students or fighting the military.
For me, vampires have been done to death (pun intended). I wrote one vampire story and it made fun of the sparkly vampires. That's pretty much all I have to say right now, so don't expect more tales of vampires from me. I'm not a big werewolf guy either. I grew up on King and Koontz, where half the time it was a bad human who was the evil one and not some vampire or mummy or walking corpse.
My non-zombie work tends to deal with humans and the weirdness around them. I'm a huge Lovecraft fan and love his heavy dread that hangs over each story, and I keep that in mind when I'm writing.
What is the difference in your process between writing short stories and novels?
There isn't really a difference. I've begun short stories that ended up being novellas (my Death Metal urban horror one is a prime example), and big ideas for novels that ended up being great 5,000 word tales. I love to get into the character's head and see where they take me. For me, writing a great tale is trying to get down ideas as quickly as I can while watching the characters run with the plot.
What writer most influenced you as an author? How?
Dean Koontz as a teen, because even then I wanted to write and could see his structure book after book. Some people rip him for his formula, but as a kid trying to learn it, it was perfect. My first twenty stories were heavily Koontz-influenced (and horrible).
If you could take the reins of writing for any existing franchise, which would you choose and why?
The Necroscope series from Brian Lumley always fascinated me, because it was so rich in its history and (as a writer) I read those books and thought a lot of 'what if?' ideas. So many back-stories and new characters could be added, especially ideas set in the first three book's timeframe. And the Lovecraft inspiration is dear to my heart as well…