CRIMINAL PAGES: What inspires you to write about zombies?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Zombies are the perfect vehicle for telling any dramatic story you want. They lack individuality and personality, which means that the focus isn’t on their experience. They are emblematic of a shared threat that affects every human character in the book. Once the zombies are introduced, everyone –characters, author and readers—all ‘get’ the essential threat. It then becomes a story about people interacting during a massive, shared crisis. That’s pretty much the definition of drama right there.
Also, zombies represent whatever we fear. That’s what draws so many different writers –and even different kinds of writers—to the genre. We can tell cautionary tales about whatever pushes our psychological, ethical, societal or political buttons. Whether that is a fear of a global pandemic (World War Z by Max Brooks), the failure of government to protect citizens during a crisis (Dead City by Joe McKinney), the loss of identity in an increasingly depersonalized world (Breathers by S. G. Browne), rampant consumerism (George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead), or the potentially catastrophic misuse of technology (Dead of Night), the zombie allows us to stand on our soapbox and be heard.
CRIMINAL PAGES: How is Dead of Night different from your other works?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Dead of Night is my first standalone novel. My intention had been to write a novel that was, in part, an unabashed homage to George Romero, while also allowing me to make my own mark on the genre. I had a wicked amount of fun writing the story. Unlike Patient Zero, this book doesn’t have a top-of-the-line action hero. The characters in this book are all deeply flawed and very human. That amped up the suspense for me while I was writing it because I didn’t really know who –if anyone—was going to make it out alive. In a series you always know…in a standalone, all bets are off.
CRIMINAL PAGES: Many people are fearful that with the advances in medical and genetic technology an outbreak of a zombie virus could happen. What do you think?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I think we’re racing toward a wall at high speeds. Our technology has advanced much further than our ability to manage it. Our tendency is to build something and then step back to look for bugs. That’s fine with computers, but it’s a frightening approach when dealing with weapons of war. We never do as much testing as we should.
Also, our medical industry has so badly misused things like antibiotics that many of the diseases that were in essence ‘defeated’ a generation ago are coming back now in much stronger forms. Those antibiotics were our defense against these things, but now we’ve reduced the likelihood of their working at all. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control), NIH (National Institutes for Health) and WHO (World Health Organization) all agree that a global pandemic is likely. Perhaps imminent.
Will that be zombies? Probably not, but the effect will be about the same.
CRIMINAL PAGES: You write for both teens and adults. Is there a difference in your writing process?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I approach all of my novels the same way: I concentrate on the story and don’t really think about things like the age of my readers. I had this discussion recently with Neil Gaiman. We were both guests at the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars and we spent most of the evening talking shop. Neil said that when he wrote his Newbury-winning novel The Graveyard Book, he wrote it with his adult audience in mind. It was only after it was done that his editor told him it was a middle-grade novel.
In my Rot & Ruin series I tend to write without filters for my first draft. The only real concessions I make is that on second draft I edit out most of the harsh language. I certainly don’t write down to kids. Today’s teens are way too sharp and way too well-read to tolerate that kind of thing.
CRIMINAL PAGES: How do you decide which audience a book will be geared towards?
JONATHAN MABERRY: When I cook up a book I hammer out a proposal and fire it off to my agent. She’s adept at telling me who the book is best suited for. A good example of this is Rot & Ruin. I originally wrote that as a novella for editor Christopher Golden’s The New Dead anthology. That antho was aimed at the adult audience and, even though the protagonist was a teenager, I thought I was writing an adult story. But my agent, Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency, told me that it read like the opening of a YA novel. I thought she was crazy, but as it turns out she was right. She usually is. Simon & Schuster bought the rights to that a sequel, and later bought two more books to round out the series. It was marketed for younger YA –the 12 to 15 year old crowd- and it’s gone on to win a slew of YA awards. Go figure.
CRIMINAL PAGES: Can we expect a sequel to Dead of Night?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Kind of. There are other stories linked to the book, two of which will be out this year. One is “Chokepoint”, a short story set several days after the events in Dead of Night. That story will be in an online magazine, but it hasn’t been announced yet. (Check me out on Facebook for that news).
The other story is a novelette called “Jack and Jill”, and that takes place at the same time as Dead of Night, but with different characters. That story is included in the upcoming anthology, 21st Century Dead edited by Christopher Golden, due out in bookstores and for e-readers in June. More stories tied to Dead of Night will show up soon, too. And there’s one that is more or less a sequel to it, set years after the events of that book, which is available as an e-story, “The Wind Through the Fence”.
CRIMINAL PAGES: What’s next for you?
JONATHAN MABERRY: My 4th Joe Ledger thriller debuts in April, ASSASSIN’S CODE. A holy war fought with genetically-engineered vampire assassins. Fun stuff.
Then in May, V WARS debuts. It’s a shared-world vampire anthology that I cooked up and edited. It features novellas by Nancy Holder, Scott Nicholson, John Everson, Yvonne Navarro, Gregory Frost, Keith DeCandido, and James A. Moore.
The third in my post-apocalyptic zombie series for teens, FLESH & BONE, debuts in September.
Plus I have a slew of short stories coming out this year. One just hit stores, “The Death Song of Dwar Guntha”, a John Carter of Mars story in the anthology UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS (in hardcover from Simon & Schuster), and I’ll have a fantasy novelette, “Spellcaster 2.0”, in AN APPLE FOR THE CREATURE, an anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kellner (September 4 from Ace). And lots of others. Even a story in an anthology called BEFORE PLAN 9: Plans 1 Through 8 From Outer Space.
If you would like to know more about DEAD OF NIGHT checkout the awesomely gory book trailer on You Tube by clicking HERE
If you enjoyed DEAD OF NIGHT, you can download seven free bonus scenes from Jonathan Maberry’s website by clicking HERE
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. He’s the author of many novels including Assassin’s Code, Dead of Night, Patient Zero and Rot & Ruin. His nonfiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to zombie pop-culture. Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, and textbooks. Jonathan continues to teach the celebrated Experimental Writing for Teens class, which he created. He founded the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founded The Liars Club; and is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries, as well as a keynote speaker and guest of honor at major writers and genre conferences. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara and their son, Sam. Visit him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com
and on Twitter (@jonathanmaberry) and Facebook.
Praise for DEAD OF NIGHT:
“Jonathan Maberry is the top gun when it comes to zombies, and with DEAD OF NIGHT, he's at the top of his game. Frankly, I'm shocked by how effortlessly he moves between the lofty intellectual heights of T.S. Eliot's poetry and the savage carnality of the kill. DEAD OF NIGHT develops with the fevered pace of a manhunt, and yet still manages to hit all the right notes. Strap in, because Maberry's latest is one hell of a wild ride. I loved it.” - Joe McKinney, author of Dead City and FLESH EATERS
“Jonathan Maberry has created an homage to death itself and an homage to the undead that is as poetic as it is terrifying. It's a brand new and intriguingly fresh slant on the zombie genre that we all love!” -John A. Russo co-screenwriter of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
“Maberry is a master at writing scenes that surge and hum with tension. The pacing is relentless. He presses the accelerator to the floor and never lets up, taking you on a ride that leaves your heart pounding. It’s almost impossible to put this book down. Dead of Night is an excellent read.” —S.G. Browne, author of BREATHERS
"It would be enough to say that Jonathan Maberry had topped himself yet again with an epic zombie novel that is as much fun as it is terrifying. But that he has also created a story of such tremendous heart and social relevance only further cements his place as a master of the genre. It also doesn't hurt that in DEAD OF NIGHT he has created one of the most compelling heroines I've read in years. Dead of Night blew me away!" --Ryan Brown - Author of PLAY DEAD
“Once again, Jonathan Maberry does what he does best; Take proven science, synthesize it and create something truly terrifying. In DEAD OF NIGHT, Maberry lays the groundwork for a Bioweapon that could very well create zombies in the real world. Combining great characters (I fell in love with Dez Fox from the moment she was introduced) and taut, blindingly fast action, DEAD OF NIGHT, is a runaway bullet train of a ride. This is Jonathan Maberry's best writing yet.” –Greg Schauer, owner Between Books, Claymont, DE
“Dead of Night stands drooped head and lurching shoulders above most zombie novels. The nightmare increases exponentially - from minor outbreak to major crisis with unstoppable speed, building to a heart-stopping climax you won't be able to put down.” --David Moody, author of the HATER and AUTUMN books