|An Interview with Author Joe McKinney|
|Written by Lori Bowland|
|Saturday, 18 February 2012 15:30|
An Interview with Remarkable Author Joe McKinney
An interesting conversation with zombie/horror author Joe McKinney.
LivingDeadMedia: What was the first thing that acquainted you with the zombie literature?
Joe McKinney: Unquestionably, Night of the Living Dead. I was somewhere around 13 or 14 when I saw that movie for the first time, and it changed me. It’s probably no accident that I was about the same age when I started writing. But, while watching NotLD, I remember thinking: “Holy crap! This is way more than a horror movie. It’s about race relations. It’s about character. It’s about things that really matter.” That was a wake up call for me. It taught me that the cool shit I really loved, and was just starting to write, could also mean something important. A lot of zombie literature, and a lot of movies, graphic novels, blogs, radio shows, whatever, has come around since then, but even the best of it served only to reinforce the message I first learned as a kid watching Night of the Living Dead: doing what you love can mean something important.
LDM: How does being a police officer influence your character creation?
JM: It’s difficult to separate the two, actually. I learned to write through reading when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I became a cop that I learned the essence of detail. One small detail can sell a story...and not just in financial terms, but in the reader’s memory. I learned how to give characters depth from that learned experience that details matter. Simply recounting a biography is not enough. If you really want to make a character matter to readers, they have to have depth. They have to be capable of greatness, and great stupidity. I learned how to do that by watching people, and through writing about them in police reports.
LDM: How do you manage both being a writer and a law enforcement officer?
JM: It’s hard sometimes. Recently, I’ve started to promote within my Department. I’m picking up new responsibilities, new concerns. My job is no longer about making calls or managing cases. Now, it’s about employees, and making sure the team, the unit, has positive morale and a strong sense of purpose. That makes life difficult, especially when I have daughters involved in basketball and soccer and Girl Scouts, and regular writing groups to attend, and conventions, and deadlines. And of course that doesn’t even begin to cover what really matters, being a husband and a father, a family man. I find organization is a writer’s best friend. Talent can only take you so far. The rest of the way is paved with organization. You may be the next Melville, or Dickens, or even Shakespeare, but if you can’t keep it all straight as a business model then guess what...you ain’t going anywhere. You have to chart out what you’re doing, define both your short term and long term goals, and work toward them. Beyond that, you have to work at writing every day. You have to know what you’re going to write when you sit down at the computer, and you have to make your deadlines. Trust me, staying organized is the only way to do that.
LDM: Among all of your novels; which was the most enjoyable experience writing or easiest to finish?
JM: Probably Quarantined, on both counts. It was the most rewarding because it challenged me in a way I hadn’t done up to that point. Stephen King once remarked that every writer, if they’re lucky, will hit a roadblock that challenges them to go outside of their comfort zone. He added that he hoped that roadblock would happen early in their career, so that they would reap the benefits for a long time to come. Well, I hit such a roadblock with Quarantined. I had a solid police procedural story, a familiar post-apocalyptic setting, and between those two things, everything I needed for a thoroughly average horror novel. But I lacked a good character, an unusual viewpoint character. I found it when I decided to write the story from a female detective’s point of view. Telling a book length narrative from a woman’s point of view really challenged me to engage my craft. Surprisingly though, the challenge made for a very fast writing experience. The first draft took less than a month to write, but I’m still reaping the benefits of that experience.
LDM: I understand that there is another zombie novel on the horizon; could you give us a glimpse of the storyline?
JM: You bet. It’s called MUTATED, and it takes place approximately eight years after the events in Apocalypse of the Dead. I’ve tried to give all four books in the Dead World series a unique feel, each with their own style of narration, cast of characters, and thematic cores. For MUTATED, I decided to play on the idea developed earlier in the series that the disease that causes the zombie outbreak has a life cycle, and that each point along the way in the disease manifests itself differently in its victims. What this amounts to is a series of stages. Stage I zombies are freshly infected, and virtually indistinguishable from the classic living dead of The Walking Dead or Romero’s movies. However, in my books the zombies are really living people infected with a disease, and as the disease progresses from Stage I to Stage II, the zombies begin to develop more and more of the characteristics they had in life. They are still very much a danger, still very much intent on killing and eating human flesh, but in Stage II and Stage III, the zombies are getting smarter. They can use tactics to make kills. If delaying a kill means getting a whole group of people instead of just one, they can do that. They can even control other Stage I zombies. Up to now in the series, we’ve only seen Stage I, II and III zombies, but in MUTATED, we meet the first Stage IV zombie. Craziness ensues!
LDM: Will any of the characters in previous novels be making an appearance in subsequent stories?
JM: As I said, each book in the series has its own identity. To date, I’ve tried not to reuse characters from other books, but for this one, I’m using two: Nate Royal, who is immune to the zombie virus, and Ben Richardson, one of the survivors of Jasper Sewell’s Grasslands Cult in Apocalypse of the Dead. Of course, this is eight years later, and both men have been through an awful lot in those intervening years, so they’ve changed. Change, I think, is the key thematic concept in MUTATED.
LDM: Did you ever anticipate that your stories would become as popular as they are?
JM: Not at all - though I wake every morning grateful for the fact that they have been successful. I find it rewarding beyond measure that I get paid to do what I’ve loved since I was a kid, and that others take pleasure in the stories I tell. I’ve been lucky, and believe me, I know it.
LDM: If your stories were to be made into movies; who would you, personally, like to see cast as Eddie Hudson, or Eleanor Norton?
JM: Wow, the mind boggles, doesn’t it? Imagine having that kind of control? Well, let’s see, as long as we’re dreaming...for Eddie Hudson, you’d need an actor in his late 20s, so...Josh Hutcherson, maybe. Or Jesse Eisenberg, Zac Efron or maybe even Shia LaBeouf. Eleanor Norton would be a lot more fun to cast, I think, because you’re talking about a woman in her late 30s or early 40s who can really throw down, and there are some mighty beautiful women in that category. When I envisioned Eleanor Norton’s character, I was thinking of Lauren Graham, but Helen Hunt or Phoebe Cates or even Madeleine Stowe could nail the part.
LDM: Do you think that we are better prepared for a zombie pandemic as a result of novels like yours?
JM: I would hope so, but to tell you the truth, if we really were to go through a zombie apocalypse the likes of which my peers and I have described in our books, we would probably be looking at a 95% mortality rate...maybe even higher than that. What that means, in practical terms, is that just about everybody you know is going to be toast. Part of the appeal of apocalyptic literature is its articulation of the world destruction fantasy so prevalent in today’s culture. And as far as that goes, you have to admit that the apocalypse is only fun if you live through it. If you’re one of the zombies, well, that just sucks.
LDM: What will be the first thing that you'd do in the event of a zombie outbreak?
JM: Truthfully? Probably put my head between my legs and kiss my ass goodbye. But another part of me would demand that I think of myself as a survivor. Without that core belief that we have the power to endure all hardships, we are doomed. I think my biggest challenge, as a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, would not be shooting zombies, or organizing survivors, but of believing in myself as a survivor. Imagine losing everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve loved...would you really want to go on living with that kind of loss weighing on your mind? Psychologically, thinking of yourself as a survivor would be, by far, the most important obstacle any of us would have to face.
LivingDeadMedia would like to thank Mr. Joe McKinney for taking time to interview with us.
Books that Mr. McKinney has contributed to:
Available Now: Blemish: A Ghost Story from The Red Empire
Available Now: The Crossing: A Zombie Novella
Available Now: The Red Empire & Other Stories
Coming 03/15/2012: Lost Girl of the Lake
Coming 05/01/2012: Dating in Dead World: The Complete Zombie Stories, Volume 1
Coming 09/01/2012: Mutated: Book 4 in the Dead World Series
A few book covers that are from books currently available:
|Last Updated on Monday, 20 February 2012 18:04|