Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Zombified Interview with Author R.J. Spears

R.J. Spears is the menacingly mangled mind behind the bloody book Sanctuary from the Dead and the ghoulish novella Forget the Alamo. He took time out of horrifying readers with his deadly delights so we might claw into his cranium...

Ang: When were you first bitten by the zombie affliction? Can you take us back to how the infection began? What’s the most difficult part about sharing this ghoulish love as an indie?

RJ: My first encounter with zombies was with George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I was a teenager and I walked into the theater not knowing what to expect and was simply blown away. Nothing in my previous movie viewing experience prepared me for the mayhem that was this movie -- entrails ripped out, heads whacked off by helicopter blades, etc. I can say that it is a movie that I watch at least once a year.

Now, with the explosion of The Walking Dead into popular culture, I couldn’t be happier. The more the merrier when it comes to zombies is my philosophy.

As for the challenges of being an indie, they are many. I write everyday around a full-time job, but never feel like I’ve written enough. The most difficult part of being an indie writer is getting readers to discover my work.

Ang: If you had to dumb down the plot of your book so a zombie could understand, how would you explain it?
R.J.: Sanctuary from the Dead is about a group of people, holed up in a church, just struggling to survive the zombie apocalypse while also trying to maintain some semblance of their humanity. They deal with the loss of hope and wrestle with how to have a life that is more than just base survival. As the novel progresses, our survivors begin to realize that while the zombies are merciless, the other survivors pose just as deadly a threat.
Ang: Describe the lucky survivors who engage with the festering horde of the dead.
R.J.: The narrator for Sanctuary from the Dead is Joel. Prior to the zombie apocalypse, he was a 20-something slacker attempting to get by with as little effort as possible. While he still sees himself as somewhat incompetent, the book tells the story of his coming of age. There are some great supporting characters such as Kara, a twenty year old nursing student, Greg, the leader of the warriors in their clan, and Pastor Stevens, who tries to help people maintain their connection to things of a higher order.
Ang: What was the most important aspect when writing your non-zombie characters? Realism (losers, assholes, and cowards) or fantasy (Rambo or the guy/gal who has a Rambo hiding inside them)?
R.J.: I strive for realism with my characters. I’d like readers to feel like it could be one of them in the book. There are no superheroes in my book, but plenty of people who do heroic things.
Ang: Does your book begin just as the zombies start building their paradise or have zombies already gotten things rocking and rotting?
R.J.: Sanctuary from the Dead starts eight months after the outbreak. The people trapped in the church have learned how to survive, but they know that’s all they’re doing.
Ang: Zombies are people too. They come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and smarts. What types of the walking dead inhabit your novel (or series)?
R.J.: My deaders are just plain dumb shamblers. They aren’t all that dangerous as individuals, but if they group up, then they can be quite deadly.
Ang: Will your infection spread to more books and series? How many blood and guts offerings do you predict in your future? How soon can our zombie and human readers expect to see your next festering contribution?
R.J.: I already have a draft of a sequel to Sanctuary from the Dead, but I’m still fine tuning the plot. I have the outline for a third book, so look for more stories about my intrepid survivors.
I also am working on a series of novellas that I’m calling the “Forget the Zombie” series. It starts with Forget the Alamo and charts the tale of a group of people trapped inside the Alamo surrounded by a horde of undead. The inspiration for the first novella came from my wife when we visited the Alamo in 2012. It features a cameo from a very famous zombie novelist who happens to live and work in San Antonio.
Ang: What is your favorite way to kill a zombie? Shoot ‘em, hack ‘em, poke ‘em, burn ‘em, or something even more fiendish? ***Zombie readers please turn away to avoid having your putrefied feelings eviscerated.
R.J.: My characters prefer headshots, but they also know that gunshots are like the dinner bell for the hordes of the undead, so they have some more quiet techniques to dispatch the zombies, too. In fact, the characters in the book have a friendly debate in the book -- slicing or bludgeoning weapons. Joel, the main character, prefer his baseball bat.
Ang: Do you have a favorite cinematic zombie? Example: My co-blogger Zombie Earl is quite fond of Zombie Roger from the original Dawn of the Dead.
R.J.: I would have to say Bub from Day of the Dead. Day is definitely Romero’s most cerebral zombie film and the most thought provoking.
Ang: Who is your favorite character from The Walking Dead (comics or TV show)?
R.J.: This is a hard one. If pushed, I’d have to say Rick because he’s the leader. He has a great character evolution. If I had to say what character I relate to the most, it would be Glenn.
Ang: Finally, how prepared are you for the zombie apocalypse that we all know is just around the corner?
R.J.: I know I think about it a lot and that may give me a head start, but other than that, I’m woefully underprepared.

Chew into R.J.'s books at Amazon.

Hunt down R.J. at his website, Twitter, blog, and Goodreads.

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