I was invited by the Planetary Defense Command blog–their tag line is “defending the planet from bad science fiction”–to participate in a blog hop around the theme, the writing process. It’s pretty rare that I do one of these, so it’s a nice change of pace. I was asked to answer four specific questions.
What are you currently working on?
I assume you mean, what am I working on besides my Ph.D. dissertation? Right now I’m writing what I hope will be my fourth horror novel from Samhain Horror, which published my previous books Zombies of Byzantium and the just-released Zombie Rebellion, and which will be publishing Doppelgänger in February 2015. My new book is a horror novel that takes place in Portland, Oregon during the dot-com boom (and ultimately bust) of 1999/2000, and involves high tech, high finance–and a grisly human sacrifice cult that worships rats! The title isn’t set yet, but I have referred to it (working title) as Portland Noir, though that’s unlikely to be the final title.
I’m also putting notes together for a non-horror book, a romantic novella tentatively titled Friday in Rome, which is set among American expatriates in Rome in the early 1990s. That, however, is just a side project.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
My first two horror novels, Zombies of Byzantium and Zombie Rebellion, combined traditional zombie horror fiction with some pretty unusual historical situations. Although there have been some “historical zombie novels” before, no one else (to my knowledge) has ever done a zombie book set in medieval Byzantium, involving real historical figures, or the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 Pennsylvania, which is also not very often portrayed in fiction. I hope that these books introduce people to history who may not otherwise seek it out.
My second group of horror novels, Doppelgänger and the forthcoming (working title) Portland Noir, are historical–Doppelgänger takes place in New York high society in the 1880s, and Portland Noir in the 1990s–but they also emphasize some gendered aspects of the horror genre that perhaps readers haven’t seen as often as I think they should. Both novels feature female protagonists dealing with terrifying situations whose horror is eerily amplified by the gender inequality that they face in their personal situations. I began thinking about these issues last year after a fracas within the Science Fiction Writers of America which exposed the latent sexism in SF and horror–I blogged about it, and also decided to try to do something about it. But, don’t get me wrong, these are not “issue” books that beat you over the head with a message. They are, first and foremost, (I hope) gripping horror stories that readers will find entertaining and interesting regardless of whether they care about gender issues or not.
Simply put, I don’t have a choice. I’ve been writing stories in one form or another since I was 7 (I’m nearly 42 now). Elaborate, imaginary situations, people and events have been forming in my head as long as I can remember, and I feel like sharing them with the world has some meaning, though I’m the least qualified to even suggest what that meaning might be. I couldn’t imagine not writing. It’s part of who I am.
How does your writing process work?
Because I’m so busy in my everyday life–with teaching, with researching, writing, family, etc.–I have to work writing into whatever parts of my life are left over when all that is done. Usually my stories begin with a specific idea or concept that fascinates me, and ultimately I build a story around it. Before I start writing I spend a long time thinking about storylines, characters, how the plot will work, what the payoff is, even snippets of dialogue. Sometimes this process can take years. Doppelgänger, for instance, sprang from a story concept I originally came up with in 1989, a quarter-century ago–it took that long for me to figure out how to build a story around the concept of the ghost of a person who is still alive (that’s the definition of a doppelgänger). Then there are outlines, usually a lot of false starts and several unfinished drafts before the story begins to find its true voice. Recently, since the beginning of 2014, I’ve begun to eschew writing on a word processing/electronic format and have begun writing on an old portable typewriter, a 1948 Remington Rand (it’s pictured in my Twitter display pic). You’d be surprised how much that focuses your mind and makes your writing better, because once you hit a typewriter key, it’s there–you can’t hit backspace or delete, and you’re stuck with it.
I haven’t contacted any of these folks previously about this blog tour, so I hope it’s OK that I’m inviting them without warning!
John F.D. Taff is a fellow horror author who’s also a history buff, and who’s been penning chilling tales for more than 20 years. His latest collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, will be out this summer. John was signing books at the World Horror Convention in Portland the same time I was, but our paths didn’t cross unfortunately.
Julianne Snow has a terrific blog that showcases horror from all over the spectrum. She’s not only a tireless advocate for indie horror writers, but also a writer in her own right, having penned the Days With the Undead book series. You will not find a more dedicated fan of zombie fiction than Julianne, and I bet her answers to these questions will be very interesting!
Anne C. Michaud, a Canadian writer, is one of my earliest friends in the horror genre (to which I am a latecomer). She also writes novellas, the most prominent of which is the smashing Girls and Monsters, which blazed the trail of feminine-themed horror–especially focusing on young/teen/preteen girls–that I have found compelling in my own work. In fact I count Anne as an inspiration for my books Doppelgänger and Portland Noir. She is exactly the kind of voice that is going to be the future of horror in the coming decades.
Steven M. Vincent is a very young indie writer who is working hard to break into the SF/fantasy world, and making excellent progress with two fantasy series (Dawn of the Knight and Metal Judge) and a comedy book featuring pirates (Jollier Roger). Steven represents an up-and-coming voice of fantasy, SF, horror and adventure writers who are heavily influenced by pop culture staples like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, a common background that I think is going to be woven increasingly into SF/fantasy/horror fiction in the coming years.
Thanks so much for the invite!