For those of you unfamiliar with the name Brian Keene…what the hell are you reading this interview for? Seriously, the man made a huge name for himself with the publication of his first novel, the zombie epic The Rising. For me, this was one of those books that everyone was talking about, and for once it actually lived up to the hype. The traditional zombie apocalypse story with some incredibly fresh new elements and great characters made it a fantastic debut.
Recently there’s been a lot of talk about its upcoming sequel, City of the Dead (pre-order it here), as well as a video game and movie adaptation of The Rising, so I thought it would be a great time to chat with Brian and see just where he came from and get a better idea of where he’s going.
Johnny Butane: So we’ll start from when we first met you; how did you get your first novel published?
Brian Keene: I started writing for publication in 1997, and sold The Rising to Delirium Books in early 2003. Leisure picked up the paperback rights later that year. There wasn’t really a trick, or some magic incantation that helped me sell it. Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business, and an author has to approach it as such. If you’re writing with publication in mind, then you’re part of the business, and you need to approach it like a career, even if you’re working in a cubicle somewhere, and writing stories in your spare time on the weekend.
How do you sell a novel? Hard work and patience. And maybe a little bit of luck–though I’m not convinced of that last one.
JB: I’ve read the three Shivers collections from Cemetery Dance and I notice you’ve contributed to a few of them (forgive me, I can’t remember which ones…), plus Kelly Laymon’s tale of author debauchery implies you’ve been hanging out with that crew for while now. Was this all as a result of The Rising, or had you know them all for a while?
BK: No, we’ve all been hanging out for a while now. Back in 1997/1998, there was a website called Horrornet. It doesn’t exist anymore, but at the time, it was THE place for horror fiction on the web. A lot of folks hung out there: Richard Laymon (along with Kelly), Ray Garton, Edward Lee, Douglas Clegg, John Pelan, Tom Piccirilli, and newbies like myself, James Newman, Brian Freeman, Tim Lebbon, Mike Laimo (all of whom are no longer newbies), and many other fine folks—too many to mention here. Those were good times, and the friendships that were established there have long outlived the actual website.
The horror fiction genre itself is a small one. Sooner or later, you meet everybody in it.
JB: What happened to the site? Is there any place comparable out there now?
BK: Matt Schwartz, who went on to found Shocklines, which is sort of the Amazon.com for horror fiction, ran the site. When he moved on, it died. There were two more incarnations, but they never quite captured the magic of the original. These days, there’s a plethora of sites focusing on horror fiction: Really Scary.com, Horror Web, Horror World, the Shocklines message boards, dozens of others.
But Horrornet was the original–and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. It was a magical, historic moment while it lasted.
JB: In the interview you did with Cemetery Dance you made mention that you had never planned for a sequel to The Rising. At what point did you change your mind?
BK: When I looked at my bank account and realized I needed money. (laughs) No, in all seriousness, I didn’t consider a sequel until the fan outcry got really loud. Understand, I thought it was plainly clear that Danny was a zombie, Jim shot Danny and then himself, and that Martin and Frankie were pretty much screwed. I thought readers would appreciate the “lady or the tiger” ending. John Carpenter used it well in his remake of The Thing and I wanted to do the same thing.
But I blew it. And I know I blew it. The Rising was a first novel, full of first novel mistakes, but none bigger than that ending.
Thus–a sequel. If only to give the fans closure… City of the Dead is the longest ending in literary history. (laughs)
JB: So you never wrote an alternate ending or anything like that, you had just planned to leave it as is and let the fans figure it out? I guess that shows how in touch you are with the fanbase if you agreed to continue the story just to make us happy!
BK: I wrote an original ending, but that got scrapped during the final draft. It showed Danny as a zombie, but left Frankie and Martin’s fates still up in the air, as well as the issue of Jim’s resolution (now that his son was revealed to be one of the undead). The original, or “alternate”, is up on my website for folks to read, if they are interested.
But yeah, if the readers ask for it, I do it. After all, they are my employer. They are the ones plunking down their money for the books, and it’s my job to entertain them, to get them through their commute or study hall. They support me. I’m very grateful for that, and appreciative, and I try to give them what they want.
JB: So what’s City of the Dead going to be like?
BK: City of the Dead is faster, more violent, and grimmer than The Rising. It ups the stakes and the odds immediately, and doesn’t slow down until the last page. Or, at least, that’s what I was going for. So far, those that have read it seem to agree.
JB: Sounds pretty intense, will the same characters be returning?
BK: Pretty much. Frankie, Martin and Jim are all back for another turn–at least, at the beginning. (evil laughter). And of course, Ob is back, along with a bigger, mightier zombie army. And there are some new characters too. Lots of people die, but I’m not saying who.
JB: So since we’re on the subject, what can you tell us about the movie?
BK: Can’t say much–I’ve taken a vow of silence. (laughs). The first draft of the screenplay has been completed. People are talking to other people. Some names have been attached, but I honestly can’t tell you who. I’d love to, and believe me, there are times when I want to shout it out loud, but contractually, I can’t. However, if things continue at this pace, everything will be revealed, possibly by Spring 2006. As for the video game, again, things are progressing well. Currently, they are writing something called a “bible”. Not sure what that is, but apparently, every video game has one.
And now the same companies that optioned The Rising have optioned City of the Dead for both as well.
JB: Can you reveal who said company is? Are you writing the script for either game or movie?
BK: Can’t reveal them yet. It’s all part of this giant marketing plan they’ve cooked up, and they seem to know what they’re doing.
I’m not writing the script. I’d love to, but right now, I just don’t have the time to spare. I did the script for the comic book adaptation, and had a blast with it. Screenwriting is something I’d like to tackle, but not right now.
That being said, the screenplay is incredibly faithful to the book. I think it will please both the fans and the moviegoer who has never read the book.
JB: Well, it sure sounds good…if not frustratingly vague, but I know how it is with such things. Better to wait until it’s all signed before anything more is said. I know the fans of the book are dying (pun intended) for this to happen, and from the sounds of it things are moving along nicely. A year sure is along time to wait though!
BK: Oh, everything is signed. Money exchanged hands. The check didn’t bounce. (laughs). But yeah, confidentiality agreements can be a real bitch.
JB: Nice! Do you have a wish list of actors for the roles yet?
BK: When I wrote the book, I pictured Gary Sinise as Jim, but since then, I’ve thought Vin Diesel would be perfect, especially after watching him cut his dramatic chops. Morgan Freeman or Ken Foree would both be great as Rev. Martin. Dennis Hopper or Christopher Walken would make a nasty renegade Colonel. Brad Douriff is a natural for the voice of Ob. The only one I’m not sure about is Frankie.
JB: Wow, that’s quite a list, do you think you’re going to have the kind of budget that can afford names that big? Foree in another zombie movie would be wonderful…
BK: Well, that’s just my wish list. If it stays true to Hollywood form, they’ll cast Hillary Duff and the kid from “Malcom In The Middle”. Maybe Jack Black can play the zombie bunny…
JB: You have two new books on the horizon beside City of the Dead, namely Terminal and the fantastically-titled Earthworm Gods. Tell us a bit about those…
BK: Terminal is, in my humble opinion, the absolute best thing I’ve ever written. It’s a horror novel, but it’s about as far away from The Rising that you can get. It’s a mix of dark crime and the supernatural. Basic premise: a bank robber with terminal cancer is forced to take hostages when the heist goes bad. One of the captives is a young boy whose touch can heal.
I’m very proud of Terminal, but I’m also a little worried about how the book will be received. Like I said, there’s no zombies or post-apocalyptic settings. Lots of violence, but despite that, it’s a much quieter novel. I’m hoping readers will enjoy it as much as The Rising and City of the Dead.
Earthworm Gods is based on a short novella I wrote several years ago (with the same title). It’s a return to the post-apocalyptic setting, but again, there are no zombies. Think Tremors meets Waterworld, and you’ll have a good feel for what the novel’s about. Giant, man-eating earthworms, and flooded cities, and even the return of something that may very well be ol’ Cthulhu himself. It will be out in hardcover this summer, and paperback in early 2006.
JB: So what’s next?
BK: Well, after the two aforementioned books, the comic book adaptation of The Rising is out this summer. I’ll be hitting the road from June to early-October, doing signings, readings, and drinkings across the country. In between, I’m working on three new novels, some novellas, and a collection of short stories based in the world of The Rising. I’m pretty busy, and I bitch about it from time to time, but in truth, I’m grateful. I’m lucky enough to be doing this for a living, and giving something back to the genre that I’ve loved all of my life. Not a bad gig. Not bad at all.
From the sounds of it the name of Brian Keene is going to be on a lot of horror fans’ lips for quite a while, and I’m sure he’d have it no other way. It’s great to see an author who completely embraces his love for both the genre and its fans, of which he still is one. Make sure you check out Brian’s official site right here, and get your ass over to Evilshop to pre-order City of the Dead, which hits paperback this May courtesy of the great folks at Leisure Books, and Terminal, coming around the same time from Spectra.
Discuss Brian Keene’s work in our forums!
Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free
Eibon Press have announced that they’re starting Black Friday a day early and will be running their specials for almost a week, through November 28th. This year, they’re doing something a little different, a little more interesting. Rather than reduce prices on their inventory, they’re doing a deal where depending on how much you buy from their store, you’ll get a certain amount of free swag in addition to your order.
The first tier sees anyone who makes a purchase getting two double-sided mini-posters featuring art from their upcoming Bottomfeeder and Maniac and The New York Ripper series. The second tier sees anyone who spends at least $30 getting a free copy of their VHS Comics titles Laserblast plus the mini-posters. The final tier is for those who spend $50 and more and that will net the mini-posters, the #1 issue of Laserblast, and a free copy of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell #2.
Lastly, five random people will receive an extra bonus gift, which they won’t reveal but promise that, “…you’ll love it!”
All order cans be placed via Eibon Press.
KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!
Dynamite Entertainment just announced that they are planning to bring two of their bestselling brands together in “KISS/Army of Darkness #1”. The new comic book series will unite the rock band with none other than Ash for some Deadite ass kicking.
The series will be written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims and illustrated by Ruairi Coleman. And the debut issue of “KISS/Army of Darkness” features three art covers from Kyle Strahm, Goni Montes, and Ken Haeser.
You can find all three covers below along with quotes from the creative team. After looking through all of that make sure to hit us up and let us know how excited you are about this new hybrid comic series in the comments below or on social media!
“With Ash vs. The Army of Darkness, Chris and I were given kind of carte blanche to do whatever we wanted to the world of AOD, and we went for broke,” Co-writer Chad Bowers says. “We introduced some new characters and concepts, and built a legacy for Ash’s comics adventures that I’m immensely proud of, but not in a million years could I have guessed we’d get to continue that momentum with the added bonus of tossing the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band into the mix! I’ve been in the tank for KISS since I was in middle school. I remember buying the KISS tribute album, KISS My Ass for the Lemonheads (they covered Plaster Caster), which lead to me picking up Greatest Hits, and so on. But when I found out there was a KISS comic with blood in it, I signed up for life! Of course, I adore the songs (literally listening to Do You Love Me right now), but I’m just as obsessed with the way KISS transcends the music to become something of a genre themselves. It’s something I think about a lot, honestly, so no surprise, it’s a big part of our story too!”
“When it comes to Army of Darkness, I guess you could say that Ash is a bit of a gambler, but he’s nobody’s fool,” Co-writer Chris Sims says. “And since our first story was set back at Alan Shepard High, we’re looking forward to showing him some things that you can’t learn in school. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the deep-cut lyrics now, but for real — if you thought Deadites at Homecoming and the Supernatural Military-Adjacent Response Team were taking Ash in a new direction, just wait until you see how we team him up with the Starchild, Space Ace, the Demon, and the Catman. In the grand tradition of the film, we’re tearing up the entire space-time continuum and if you think you know how weird this is gonna get… well, you sure know somethin’!”
“Having done some work for Dynamite in the past, I’ve really been wanting to get my foot in the door here for a long time so I can play in the sandbox of the amazing licenses they have,” Artist Ruairi Coleman says. “Chief among those, and high up on my bucket list, is Army of Darkness: Hail to the king, baby! So, when I was offered the job of drawing the KISS/Army of Darkness crossover, I couldn’t believe my luck! The concept is totally bonkers, but in a way, that would make complete sense in the world of Army of Darkness. Thinking about it, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already and I’m honored (and more than a little intimidated) to be the guy who draws it.”
“After a more than 40-year career, KISS continues to be one of rock’s most celebrated bands, while Army of Darkness continues to be a staple in the comic book industry. We’re both honored to have the opportunity to work so closely with Gene and Paul to bring their world-renowned alter-egos to comics alongside our very own Ashy Slashy,” says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. “The raging guitar chords and pyrotechnic spectacle of their stage shows could have come straight from the pages of the Necronomicon, and this epic battle between The Demon and Deadites will appeal to the hellions in all of us!”
Issue #1 will be available on digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, Madefire, and Dark Horse Digital.
The KISS/Army of Darkness miniseries event hits February 2018.
KISS is on top of the world and rocking faces until the night disciples of The Destroyer show up and the band disappears. With the tour canceled, a young Ash misses one of the most important events of his life that will change his destiny. Now the Chosen One has to get back on the right path and join the KISS ARMY OF DARKNESS!
Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong
One of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th series is director ‘s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The mixture of old-school gothic horror and comedy is always a welcome treat around these parts.
But why wasn’t McLoughlin asked to write and direct the follow-up?
Actually, it turns out he was asked to follow up Jason Lives, McLoughlin recently told Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast.
But his pitch – Jason vs Cheech and Chong – didn’t go over so well…
“[Frank Mancuso Jr.] wanted me to do another film after we did Jason,” McLoughlin says. “And I said, ‘What are you thinking? I don’t know what it could be now.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think about Freddy (Krueger) and Jason?’ And I go, ‘But Freddy’s at New Line and the guys at Paramount have [Jason].’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to try and see if we can work something out.’ So, I started thinking about that, going, It doesn’t make sense. I mean he lives in one realm and — you know, I take this stuff very seriously, what realm a monster’s supposed to stay in. And he came back, he goes, ‘Eh, forget it, it’s not going to work anyway.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You guys own Cheech and Chong. What if we do Cheech and Chong-meets-Jason? They’re like camp counselors or something. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I saw Jason out there.’ ‘No, man, that’s a myth.’ But he said, ‘You know what? No.’”
Too bad. While I don’t know how well a Cheech and Chong/Friday the 13th flick would go, with McLoughlin at the helm, the film would have at least been funny as hell.
Plus we already got these two knuckleheads in Part III.
Are you upset we never got Tom McLoughlin’s Jason vs Cheech and Chong? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!
You can buy Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives on Blu-ray HERE.
Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free
KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!
Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong
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