Curran, Tim (Resurrection)
After reading Tim Curran's Resurrection, I simply had to interview him. I REALLY loved his book, even at 666 pages (yep, you read that right – 666). Curran is a wonderful storyteller who really should be unleashed upon the general horror reading public sooner rather than later.
Read on for an in-depth look into the beautifully twisted mind of Tim Curran.
EL: First off, WOW!! You put everything AND the kitchen sink into Resurrection (review here). Best zombie novel I've read in quite a while! How did the book come into being?
TC: I read somewhere about a mudslide in California. It washed out a cemetery and the coffins and corpses, skeletons and tombstones ended up in the town itself. Coffins came crashing through picture windows. Cadavers were deposited on porches and in trees, tombstones ended up in front yards. Some woman suffered a fatal heart attack when a casket came through her window and the occupant was thrown pretty much into her lap. I got that feeling I get when I read the account that there was something here worth exploring. The rest just gradually fell in place once my imagination ran with it.
EL: How did you manage to juggle all of the characters in the novel? Some secret horror author trick? And the characters you created! Hubb Sadler (I think I learned some new ways to curse from this character), "witch lady" Wanda Sebberly, the battling Zirblanski twins, heroes Mitch Barron and Tommy Kastle and I would be amiss if I didn't add the horrific Grimshanks the Clown. What IS the deal with clowns and horror??
TC: There's no real trick other than that when you write a book this big, you have to have a clear idea of how these separate lives intertwine and segue into one another. Clowns are weird and scary and you can see it at kids' birthday parties. Kids are fascinated by the clown, but they keep their distance at first. It's like Santa Claus. Kids love him from a distance. But up close he's scary to them. Just go to a mall some December and watch the kids scream bloody murder when they're put on the jolly elf's lap!
EL: I may have read too much into the book, but I thought I picked up on quite a few "homages" to famous horror films and books: Carnival of Souls, Land of the Dead, The Thing, the French film Ils, Jeepers Creepers, The Cell, It, Tourist Trap and Michael McDowell's brilliant Blackwater Saga. AND the cult classic Wisconsin Death Trip, which was set in the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Fair assertion, or have I deconstructed the book WAAAYY too much?
TC: Hmm. There are homages, I suppose. Definitely McDowell's Blackwater, and to that I would add Cold Moon Over Babylon. McDowell was brilliant. Wisconsin Death Trip to a certain extent in the historical sense. Not sure about the others, but they're probably all lurking in my subconscious.
EL: Why Wisconsin? Granted, it IS a creepy state, what with Ed Gein and Plainfield, Jeffrey Dahmer and the previously mentioned Wisconsin Death Trip…
TC: I live in Upper Michigan, which sits geographically above Wisconsin. Most people up here identify with Wisconsin rather than Michigan. So it's a state I know well and it's an interesting place, very interesting. In the northern part it's forests and Lake Superior, the south is prairie, the center is farmland. To the east it has a very Midwestern feel, but to the extreme west the cows are replaced by buffalo. Wisconsin is like some borderland. Unusual. I like to write about the state because there's a feel to the place. When you're out in the country and you pass one deserted farmhouse after another, it's very eerie. Almost Lovecraftian.
EL: And why zombies? The en vogue creature these days seems to be the vampire.
TC: I actually wrote the book about four years ago. I liked the idea of zombies lying in wait in the water. It was something that I loved about Michael McDowell's Cold Moon Over Babylon and Mathew Costello's Beneath Still Waters. It started, as I said, with that account of the mudslide; then I remember just having a very basic idea of a city flooding and the dead coming out of the water at night to knock on doors.
EL: I love the added touch of having the zombies completely animate – sort of like John Carpenter's The Thing - where every piece of the zombie will still try to have a go at you even after being chopped up. Where did that gruesome touch come from?
TC: Just because I always thought the whole aim-for-the-head thing was kind of lame. And by this point it's very clichéd. I liked how they did it in The Evil Dead where shooting the zombies was pointless; you had to chop them into pieces. Shooting them in the head always seemed way too easy.
EL: What sort of reception has Resurrection received to date? And how did you and the publisher – the Australian-based Severed Press – find each other?
TC: So far the reception has been good. I found Severed Press through an author marketing site. Can't remember which one. But they were different from the others out there, so many of which seem to lack a definite focus. Severed Press proudly proclaimed that they published "Survival Horror" and I liked that idea right away.
EL: Did you have to do a lot of research prior to writing Resurrection? There is a bit of scientific jargon as well as the descriptions of the dead and their various states of putrefaction that not just everyone would know about.
TC: Yes, quite a bit of research, the most intensive part of which was learning about limb regeneration and the biology behind it. It's pretty complex stuff, and my hat is definitely off to the scientists who are working on this. The idea of losing an arm in battle and re-growing it…amazing. The Army has been putting a lot of time and money into limb regeneration and justifiably so. Bioengineering, nanotechnology, and molecular biology…the technique for regeneration does not exist yet, but it may not be that far down the road. For Resurrection I decided to get weird with the idea, of course, and have the Army use a combination of medieval alchemy and genetic engineering; and the result was a gene trigger mechanism that could reanimate dead tissue. Any dead tissue.
EL: Silly question, but HOW did you manage to write exactly 666 pages? Or did the publisher work it out so that would be the number of pages? Rather creepy if that was purely accidental.
TC: Actually, it WAS purely accidental. When Gary Lucas of Severed Press was formatting it for the printer, it came out to…exactly…666 pages (cue the spooky music).
EL: Without spoiling too much for folks who have not read Resurrection yet, you came up with a VERY original way to dispatch these zombies. How did that come about?
TC: Salt. In traditional zombie folklore of the Caribbean, zombies were not supposed to taste salt. Their masters supposedly had to keep them away from it out in the cane fields. If they tasted it, they would know they were dead and head back to their graves. So I ran with that idea. Slugs, for example, dissolve when you throw salt on them; it literally sucks the moisture from them. So since my zombies were living in the water all the time and seemed to be mainly composed of a morbid juicy white pulp, the salt did the trick. It instantly dehydrated them, turned them into mummies. Hence, my characters shot the zombies with rock salt and threw ordinary table salt into their faces…they had to be dissolved because if they were blown apart, each part took on a life of its own.
EL: Have you had any nibbles from Hollywood about a possible film adaptation of Resurrection? I think it would make an amazing film. Very visual.
TC: No, nothing at all. I'd love to see what they could do with it, though. The flooded city. The rats and flies. The rivers of floating corpses. The zombies hiding in the water. It could be pretty cool, I think.
EL: As I mentioned before, you created some very colorful characters to inhabit Witcham. Is there any possiblity we might see them again in a sequel or prequel to Resurrection?
TC: It's possible, though I haven't planned any sequels. I did keep a blog in October called Resurrection Diary about events that took place after the book.
EL: What is your writing "style"? I know you have a "real" job (for the time being) so when do you find time to be as prolific as you are? And do you have any "rituals" you undergo in order to get that writing mojo going (like Stephen King blasting out the rock music while he works)?
TC: My style is to let the story itself decide how it wants to be written. Do whatever it takes, whether that's subtlety, action, or blood and brains; the story and subject matter will dictate what has to be done. No, no rituals. Just self-discipline. Full-time writers like Stephen King have the luxury of devoting their entire day to writing if need be. Guys like me don't have that. I have so many hours a day I can write before I go off to work, and that time has to be well-spent. No daydreaming. No goofing off. When I sit down, I have to make it happen. When you have a limited amount of time, you have to be very practical about these things.
EL: What can readers look forward to next from Tim Curran?
TC: My next novel is called The Devil Next Door, which is about a global regression in the human race that turns us all into primeval savages. Again, I turned to fringe science for the mechanism for that. Lemmings purge themselves via a mass migration when their population exceeds their environment. Locusts swarm for the same reason. In both cases, their populations are thinned by at least two thirds as a result. In The Devil Next Door, there is a nasty dormant gene in the human race. When our population reaches a critical size, the gene is activated and we regress psychologically to Paleolithic savages and purge each other. It's a pretty nasty book full of murder, cannibalism, head-hunting, rape, all the fun things our ancestors were so good at. Everyone goes tribal.
EL: What are some of your favorite horror novels and why?
TC: There's too many to list, but here's a few. The Totem by David Morrell. This one captures that creepy Algernon Blackwood kind of vibe, the primal fear of the dark forest. Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell. Scary and brooding with unpleasant squishy, wet zombies, this is like an extended 1950's horror comic with a hot, dripping Southern feel to it. Salem's Lot by Stephen King. Before vampires became limp-wristed fashion plates that couldn't scare a pink-nosed bunny or effeminate romantic fantasies for horny teenagers and bored mothers, they were actually SCARY. Stephen King captured classic vampirism and spun it with a Peyton Place kind of twist into a gruesome nightmare of a town turning into a graveyard replete with terrifying little kid bloodsuckers. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Excellent book with great power that has inspired every vampire book since…every good one, that is (Anne Rice, Twilight, True Blood, and Anita Blake fans please get off the bus). Made into a shitty movie recently that had nothing to do with this great book. The Fog by James Herbert. Herbert created an entire subgenre with The Rats, but he never got nastier than this one about a seeping yellow gas that turns people into perverted homicidal maniacs. A classic. Usher's Passing by Robert R. McCammon. A combination of weird Poe lore, dark hellbilly tale-telling, and Southern Gothic horror…very eerie and chilling. Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Very scary and surreal, this one shows how good a writer Straub was before he went literary and started taking himself too seriously. Wurm by Mathew J. Costello. Great creepy-crawly about parasitic worms from a hydrothermal vent that enslave humanity turning everyone into worm-zombies.
This list could go on for pages, so let me mention just one more recent book: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Yes, this is nonfiction about Ebola stalking the human race…but it's as scary and gruesome as anything fictional.
EL: What are some of your favorite horror films? Have you seen any recent ones that blew you away?
TC: Picnic at Hanging Rock, Deathdream, Re-Animator, Silent Tongue, Dog Soldiers, The Thing, Quartermass and the Pit, The Woman in Black, Ravenous. Too many to list really. Recent movies I liked were Trick 'r Treat, The Burrowers, Rogue, Paranormal Activity, Let the Right One In.
EL: What scares Tim Curran?
TC: Fringe and fundamentalist religions, cults, that sort of thing. Groupthink and hive mentality is very scary. Also Wal-Mart and the Ebola virus. Sometimes I wonder when the next mass extinction on the planet will occur because it's coming sooner or later.
EL: Where can horror fans find your books?
TC: My books are available through Amazon.com and if you go to my website—corpseking.com—there are links to my publishers.
EL: Is there anything you would like to add that I haven't covered?
TC: No, you've exhausted my brain and I can no longer think.
EL: What is one thing no one knows about Tim Curran that you think they should?
TC: I once ate a spider.
Big thanks to Tim for taking the time to speak with us!
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