ZZN Repost: Peter Clines

Time once again for another Zombie Zone News reprint, this time, it’s Peter Clines.  This is from a series we did with Audible.com when they started getting seriously into indie horror.  There are some great authors in this series, more of which will follow in the coming weeks.  

Picking Brains with Wednesday Lee Friday: Peter Clines

Today’s 7 authors in 7 days interview is none other than Peter Clines. Inventive and brave, Clines defies genre to give readers something unexpectedly awesome every time. Ex-Heroes inspired fervor among zombie fans, and Ex-Patriots promises to get already rabid fans even more frothy. Ha hails from Maine, the horror capitol in the world, and his newest novel was produced as an audiobook by Audible.com. http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0057YOIYI

Clip to follow after the interview.

WLF/ZZN: Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer our Q’s. I’ll start with what some horror writers call The Grandma Question. Why zombies? Why can’t you write about something pleasant?
Hah. Well, let’s get the awkward one out of the way. Honestly, why not? Are zombies really that much more horrible than anything else? This sort of question always makes me laugh because so many people write about disturbing, unnerving things that are real. John Grisham writes about legal and financial machinations by people out to screw the little guy. Lee Child writes about government cover-ups. Ray Bradbury’s written several stories about book burning. Dan Brown writes about secret cults and religious conspiracies. Dozens of bestselling authors write about oppression and unfettered greed. Yet grandmothers everywhere applaud these people as writing “pleasant” stuff. But, man, you wipe out one small town with zombies or vampires and suddenly you’re one of those messed-up horror writers who obviously had a scarring childhood incident.

WLF/ZZN: You are known for work that straddles multiple genres. What’s amatter? One genre not good enough for ya?
I just love crossing the streams. I know it’s bad but I think it appeals to most folks on a simple level. When we were kids playing with toys we’d see GI Joe team up with Star Wars and Transformers all the time. It was only when we got older that we learned about all these lines that aren’t supposed to be crossed. So the short answer is that I haven’t matured much since I was nine.
On another level, I think most really good stories tend to cross genres a little bit. I bet you can find a dozen or more old movies about people locked in a store or warehouse over a long weekend, doing all the things we’d all do, and then George Romero dropped in zombies and we had Dawn of the Dead. Stephen King took your classic “small American town” story and added vampires and we got Salem’s Lot.

WLF/ZZN: I understand that you oppose fast zombies. How is it that in your books, super heroes exist but still can’t quite get a handle on slow zombies?
I just think the idea of fast zombies is a bit silly, and I feel comfortable standing in the same corner as Romero on this one. The walking dead in general are kind of pushing the bounds of believability. I think when people come back from the dead better than they were before—suddenly able to sprint non-stop and leap a dozen feet into the air—I think it’s pushing ridiculous. Simon Pegg’s expressed the same view and said something like “death is a disability, not a superpower.”
That being said, just to be fair, I don’t really consider things like 28 Days Later or The Crazies (Romero’s or the remake) to be zombie stories. I know that label got slapped on them, but I think that was just laziness on the part of some reviewers/ publicists. These are stories about living people who are suffering from a condition. They’re more ghoul stories than zombie stories. It’s a different kind of monster and a different kind of horror.
As far as superheroes not being able to handle slow zombies… that’s like people saying “well, why doesn’t Congress just fix the economy?” The big problem with slow zombies is always numbers. Everyone says “oh, they’re slow—just dodge them.” But how do you dodge twenty people? Or fifty? Or a hundred? Think about it. I established in Ex-Heroes that there are almost five million zombies in Los Angeles alone. So if you killed a hundred zombies a day, every day, for a year, you still wouldn’t’ve killed one percent of the zombie population of L.A. Even if you bumped it up to more than two hundred a day, you’re talking about fifty years to clean out Los Angeles. And then you can move on to the rest of California, the rest of the U.S., the rest of the world… It’s not called an apocalypse because you can recover in a week. There are no quick and easy answers.

WLF/ZZN: Can fans expect another sequel?
Yup. I wrote Ex-Heroes as kind of a stand-alone book, but Jacob Kier at Permuted Press loved it so much, and it’s doing so well with folks, that I got to write Ex-Patriots with a third story in mind. Sooooo… a couple small things are left unresolved, a couple seeds are planted. I’m finishing up a different book right now and then I’m hoping to have Ex-Communication done in time for Christmas next year.

WLF/ZZN: Please tell us about the audiobook version of Ex-Patriots.
It’s like getting the book read to you by someone who speaks very well and can do really cool voices. If I read it to you, everyone’s voice would crack or sound squeaky. A lot. Especially the female characters.

WLF/ZZN: Which ZombieFest selections are your favorite(s)?
You want me to say something besides “mine,” right? Well, Bryon Morrigan’s Acheron comes out right after Ex-Patriots and it’s very fun. I got to read it at the start of the year. It’s about a soldier in the middle east who gets caught up in… well, I don’t want to say too much because it’s a great slow-build story. Let’s just say it starts out with a creepy mist and the walking dead and gets crazier and crazier. Part of the fun is the main character, Captain Nate Leathers (and you have to love that name), is very down-to-Earth and he’s viewing all the events through a very pragmatic eye.

WLF/ZZN: You’ve been credited with creating something truly unique within an oversaturated genre. Do you agree that the zombie subgenre is oversaturated?
I think “oversaturation” is a term that gets thrown out to explain why things fail. No one ever says television is oversaturated with sitcoms or procedural shows until one of them bombs. That’s when the word gets whipped out, because the alternative is “your material sucks.” But the truth is that network television continues to support dozens of sitcoms, dozens of procedurals, and many more are waiting in the wings.
I do think there’s a definite flood of zombie material right now, and I think a large part of that is zombies got cool just at a time when small presses were coming back and e-publishing was really taking off. So there’s been a lot of space on the bandwagon for people to jump on. There’s a lot of really good stuff out there getting a lot of support, but I think the percentage of bad stuff we’re actually seeing is going up because people are able to bypass that filter of editor and publisher. And let’s be honest for a minute—the majority of people should be filtered out. That’s just the way of the world. Not everyone can write good stories. Also, not everyone can cook, not everyone can play guitar, not everyone can repair cars, and not everyone can perform brain surgery.
So, short answer, you could say the market’s oversaturated—cluttered might be a better word– but I think it’s really just where you’d expect it to be with all the new tech out there. I think every genre’s seeing the same thing right now, we just don’t realize it because most of us here aren’t big into historical romance or period mysteries or whatever.

WLF/ZZN: What, if anything, can you share with us about your own zombie survival plan?
Denial. I will stop them all by sheer denial.

WLF/ZZN: Just for fun, what is the worst zombie movie or book you’ve ever encountered?
Tough call. I have seen and read some things that I thought were really, really awful. I’m trying to get better about biting my tongue, though, so I probably shouldn’t say anything. It turns out people have started listening to my opinions over the past year or so, which I think means I should be a bit more careful with them. I will be zombie Thumper and say nothing at all (cause, y’know… he’s a dead rabbit. They don’t talk).

WLF/ZZN: How has your experience been with Audible.com?
Really fantastic. I was a bit intimidated at first because I was stepping into an all-new realm, but the people were wonderful (and very patient). One of the people working on Ex-Patriots actually caught something that had slipped past all my proofreaders and editors so we got to make some last-minute tweaks. Jay Snyder, the narrator, is just great. When he recorded Ex-Heroes we traded a bunch of emails because he wanted to make sure he was pronouncing names correctly and what actors I could picture playing different parts. After years in the film industry, where the writer’s opinion is usually ignored at best, it was a pleasant surprise.
They asked me to do some bonus material for the July releases, too. Those are the Junkie Quatrain stories that are tagged on to all four audiobooks. They’re set in a post-apocalyptic world where an infection turns people into uninhibited cannibals. But they’re not zombies. They’re more like… ghouls (link up here, link up there). Each story stands alone, but if you read more than one you’ll start to see overlaps and connections. Rhetorical questions are asked in some stories that actually get answered in others.

WLF/ZZN: Anything you’d like to say to your many readers?
Some of you people have really sick minds. Especially you. Yeah, you. That’s not what I meant by that at all. How did you even come up with that? Seriously, get your minds out of the gutter.

WLF/ZZN: Thanks so much. Any last words of advice to those of us who may someday have to fight off zombies without the assistance of super heroes?
Don’t get backed into a corner—always have an escape route. And possibly an escape route from your escape route. Don’t get too dependent on your firearms (they run out of ammo or jam at all the worst times). And for God’s sake, it is not “just a scratch” and it will not be okay.