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After a very long wait, the day is finally here–February 4, 2013–the release date for Zombies of Byzantium!

At last, you can all see for yourselves what I’ve been blogging and tweeting about for months now. I’m looking forward to seeing peoples’ reactions to the book, as well as spreading the word about one of my favorite historical subjects, the Byzantine Empire.

Samhain Horror, my publisher, lists the official release date of Zombies of Byzantium as February 5 (tomorrow), but the book is available in paperback at Amazon.com today. Tomorrow it should be available on all platforms, and also tomorrow the e-book edition comes out, so however you prefer to read your horror, there’ll be an option for you within the next 24 hours.

Zombies of Byzantium takes place in the year 717 A.D. in the Eastern Roman Empire, the Christianized part of the old Roman Empire that survived until the 15th century. Stephen Diabetenos, a young monk, is on his way to a posting at a different monastery with his friend and chaperone, the elderly Theophilus, when they happen upon a small farming village that has been ravaged by the undead. After a desperate battle with the zombies at a country inn, Stephen and Theophilus decide they must hot-foot it to Constantinople to warn the Emperor, the eccentric and treacherous Leo III. But Leo’s got other things on his mind besides zombies–for instance, Byzantium’s mortal enemy, the Saracens, are about to besiege Constantinople. The undead, though, have a curious way of jumping to the top of everyone’s priority list, especially when hordes of them begin fanning out through the streets!

If this sounds like something you’d like, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Zombies of Byzantium. You won’t regret it!

I started writing the book in 2010 mainly as a lark. Byzantium has fascinated me for years, but it has been seen very seldom in fiction. I can’t think of a single movie, for instance, that takes place in Byzantium (though the truly dreadful Colin Firth film The Last Legion features a Byzantine character played, appropriately enough, by the doctor from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). I happened upon the idea of doing a classic “zombie apocalypse” story in the context of medieval Constantinople, and thus Zombies of Byzantium was born.

The hardest thing about the concept was trying to figure out exactly when the book should be set. The history of the Eastern Roman Empire (the term “Byzantium,” as referring to the Empire, was actually not coined until 1853) lasted over a thousand years, from the founding of Constantinople on the site of modern-day Istanbul in 330 A.D., until the final fall of the city to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. There’s a lot to choose from there. I picked the Saracen siege of 717 because it was one of the most epic battles in the long history of the empire, and it had a lot of interesting possibilities both for characters and setting.

Leo III, the Emperor, is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever created. He was a real man who reigned from 717 to 741, and was very important in the list of Byzantine emperors. (If you’re interested, here’s his Wikipedia page). We don’t know that much about the real Leo’s personality, but given the way he came to the throne and how he conducted his reign it seems clear he was both ruthless and ingenious. In Zombies of Byzantium I gave Leo a lot of quirks, including an obsessive love of pistachio nuts, and some of the best dialogue in the book. In addition to the zombie threat I felt I needed a human foil for the character of Stephen, and the Emperor, I hope, steals the show.

The book was a blast to write and even more fun to test out on friends and beta readers. One of the most gratifying things about it is seeing people finally begin to understand what Byzantium was and learn some things about it. But don’t let that scare you–it’s not a history lesson, but rather just a big, bloody ball of horrific fun.

If you do choose to read Zombies of Byzantium, please write a review! You can post it on Amazon. If you are a book blogger and you’d like a copy of the book to review (an e-book version), please email me at seanmunger@fastmail.fm. And please “like” my Facebook page!

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