DC: Thank you for taking time to chat with Dread Central, Eric. I suppose my first and most obvious question would be for you to tell us a bit of the Eric S. Brown Story – where you are from, your educational background, when did you discover you were a horror fan?
EB: I was born and raised in the backwoods of North Carolina. I attended Western Carolina University where I majored in English (though I dropped out to write). My first love was comics. I bought my first comic when I was four years old. Thankful, Fangoria magazine was near the comic rack and I started reading it too. I was hooked on both comics and horror by age five and actually got in trouble for taking Fangoria to school with me in kindergarten.
DC: How did you first get into the horror fiction genre? I know aspiring writers everywhere think there is some ”trick” for breaking into the business (there isn’t one, folks).
EB: At the age of 26 my wife finally convinced me to start submitting my work. I picked up a copy of the Novel and Short Story Market Guide and just started sending stuff out. My very first short story was accepted and my second right after. I was in shock and so I just kept going and things just rolled on from there.
DC: Why zombies? You have become the rather undisputed King of Zombie Stories. What is their appeal to you? And to readers and movie fans?
EB: Dawn of the Dead is my all time favorite movie. I fell in love with the genre after seeing it and Night of the Living Dead. They moved me in a way no other horror film ever had or has since. I read and watched everything zombie I could for years. I was a hopeless rotting corpse addict. When I started writing, I told myself I was going to write military sci-fi but ended up writing zombies instead because they just came so naturally to me being such a fan of the genre. I like writing zombies mostly because they’re fun and I love the end of the world feel a real zombie tale gives you, but as a writer I am also grateful that they work in any setting and serve as such a wonderful tool to explore the human condition. I really don’t know about the whole King of the Zombies thing. I am super honored that people would call me that. I have pretty much devoted the bulk of the last eight years of my life to trying to give something back to the zombie genre and writing stuff I think fans really want to read. As to why zombies appeal to people in general, I think that varies. For some they’re a fantasy escape from the real world, for others they’re just cool, and the list of reasons goes on and on like a pack of the dead lining up for a meal of human flesh in a post-apocalyptic New York City.
DC: I was first introduced to your writing when I read the novella The Queen, which pits humans onboard a ship against zombies on the shore and how the humans get ashore to stock up on things they badly need. That is a fascinating concept and I know you expanded on it in your collection Season of Rot from Permuted Press (review here). What was the genesis of The Queen?
EB: I had always wanted to do a novella where zombies had their own society and The Queen was my attempt to do that. When I wrote it back in 2005, I wanted the dead in control of the world so a ship was a good place to stick the leftovers of humanity and have them on the run, not just holed up somewhere. I was trying to break some of the cliches of the zombie genre and do something that was really out there and different at the time. Zombies breeding humans for food seemed neat, and any book that has an aircraft carrier of thinking, fleshing-eating dead coming at the human characters is fun to write. Trust me.
DC: “The Wave” is another story from Season of Rot that really worked for me: a mysterious surge of energy from outer space shorting out electronic devices and communications as well as rewiring human brain waves so they become bloodthirsty zombies. I was slightly reminded of Stephen King’s Cell when I read this story. What was your inspiration for “The Wave”?
EB: My wife. Back in the summer of 2002 when I was doing the first draft of “The Wave”, it was based on an idea she had about a solar system spanning band of energy that struck the Earth and wiped out all technology. I just took it a step further and added zombies.
DC: I believe I read that you are a Southerner – from North Carolina? Have you ever wanted to write a Southern zombie novel? One set either during the Civil War (Dead Westis close but not set in the South) or in the contemporary small town South we Southerners all know. Sort of a Southern Salem’s Lot with zombies. Nothing much creepier than Spanish moss and decaying plantations.
EB: Ha. No, I have never really had that urge; however, later this year I have a book called Bigfoot War that is certainly a Southern book. It’s set in one small town of about 800 people in NC that gets attacked by a whole bloody tribe of sasquatches and wiped off the face of the Earth in less than three days. It’s like 30 Days of Night – Bigfoot style. And let me tell you, writing hulking thousand pound monsters of muscle, speed, and ape-like agility is a world different than writing zombies! I am very proud of Bigfoot War and think that it may just be my bloodiest book ever, and it is also my first non-zombie book. Look for it from Coscom Entertainment later this year.
DC: You also have several other books currently available: The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies and Barren Earth, which you co-wrote with Stephen A. North. Would you mind giving our readers a brief synopsis of each book? The War of the Worlds… reminds me of the current vogue of rewriting classics like Pride And Prejudice and adding a horror element to the classic. Was that your intention here?
EB: War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – Humans vs. Martians vs. Zombies in a big ole monster/war throwdown. Barren Earth can best be described as Battlestar Galactica meets Night of the Living Dead. It’s a book of breakneck action, huge space battles, and both “feral” and intelligent zombies. A deep space exploration vessel called The Hyperion returns to Earth after being away for five years only to discover it is now ruled by the dead. Some of the crew manage to escape Earth to discover there are colonies of man left and fighting a war with the dead among the stars, and they get caught up in the struggle to keep humanity alive and hopefully one day take back the Earth from the zombies.
DC: What are some of YOUR favorite zombie novels/short stories by other writers?
EB: I love Z.A. Recht’s Morningstar series and David Dunwoody’s Empire. In terms of short stories, I have way too many favorites. Some that hop to mind are “Big Lights, Big Zombies” by Doug Winter, “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy” and “This Year’s Class Picture” by Dan Simmons.
DC: Which authors have been the most influential in your writing? And have you ever had the opportunity to meet any of them?
EB: David Drake is my main influence overall. I love his military SF in the Hammer’s Slammers series. When I started writing, it was his style I tried to match until I found my own voice. Also, H.P. Lovecraft. H.P. Lovecraft wrote mainly short stories and that is what I did for the first seven-ish years of my career, too. I always tell people I am more of a Lovecraft than a Stephen King. Lovecraft and I have a lot in common, even a love of cats. And we’re both geeks. . . or at least I think he would have been thought of that way when he was alive.
DC: I have to assume you are a horror movie fan as well. What are some of your favorite films?
EB: Dawn of the Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Night of the Living Dead, Lifeforce, Dog Soldiers. . . Wow, there’s too many to list. I also love Ghostbusters and think it’s the greatest SF comedy ever made.
DC: There are people who are complaining that zombies are being done to death (no pun intended) and it is time to find a new monster. How would you respond to that criticism? And why do you think zombies have been around in literature and film for so long?
EB: I think zombies will ALWAYS be around. They’re too great a foil for the living and too much of a world-ending nightmare to ever go away completely. How popular they are to the general public will vary but they will always have a base of hardcore loyal fans. As to a new monster, I hear werewolves may be becoming cool again but I really don’t know. I don’t care as long it’s not vampires. Vampires SUCK today in the mainstream. They’re over-romanticized and teeny-boppy. Not to say there aren’t great vamp things out there like David Wellington’s 13 Bullets, but for the most part I hate vamps.
EB: Sadly, not yet but maybe some day. Lord knows, I have enough to choose from.
DC: What is your prediction for the next wave of horror? What will horror fans find themselves reading and/or watching this time next year?
EB: Again, I think werewolves have the chance at a comeback but really we will all have to wait and see together.
DC: Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked?
EB: My newest book of the seven I have being released this year, World War of the Dead, may be my high point as a writer. It’s my first ever solo novel and is about zombies, demons, superheroes, and Nazis in World War II. It’s my first ever full-out character driven novel and perhaps the deepest thing I have ever written. So I hope everyone will give it a shot and check it out.
DC: Last question and EVERYONE gets this one from me: What is one thing no one knows about Eric Brown that you think they should?
EB: Wow, that’s tough one. I would guess that it would be I am a Christian. Yes, believe it or not, the guy who writes all the gore and end of the world tales about hopelessness actually believes that there is hope in God.
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