Q: What would you say has influenced you most to become a horror writer?
Well, I think the 'writer' part was there from birth. There's no doubt in my mind that I would have grown up to be some kind of writer. I guess I became a 'horror' writer because of my deep love for the genre. Always have-since childhood. I loved the 70's horror comics from DC and Marvel and Charlton, movies like DAWN OF THE DEAD, PHANTASM, and JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING. Authors such as Laymon, Masterton, Herbert, and of course, King. Those were the original influences-and every day I discover more. That's the great thing about this genre. There's always something new coming along.
Q: THE RISING is a unique twist on a familiar creature-the zombie. How did the idea for that novel come about?
Part of the seed was from "Wild Kingdom", a short story that I co-wrote with Geoff Cooper, about a woman in a zoo full of zombie animals. Another big part was this idea I had of a divorced father battling his way across a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of his son. Eventually, I decided to blend the two scenarios together.
I wanted to do something original, something fresh. That's one of the reasons I liked 28 DAYS LATER and Simon Clark's BLOOD CRAZY-they tried to do something different with the mythos. I decided on demonic possession because I thought it would make for a more evil, twisted zombie. This generation has grown up with the endless copycats of George Romero's vision. As a result, mindless shambling corpses just don't do it anymore. The zombies in THE RISING are intelligent. They can think, set traps for their prey, use weapons, drive cars-anything you can do, they can do better.
Q: There's also a sequel coming out to the RISING? Is it also being released by Leisure?
Leisure will release the paperback and Delirium Books will release the hardcover. They have two different titles, but it's the same book. The hardcover will be out this winter, under the title MORE THAN INFINITY. Leisure's version will be out next year, under the title CITY OF THE DEAD.
The sequel picks up where the first book left off, and most of it will take place in the zombie-infested concrete canyons of New York City. Most-but not all, of the original cast will show up.
Q: What made you decide to do a chapbook, THE RISING: NECROPHOBIA, that takes place in the world of "THE RISING"? Do you foresee more books & short stories taking place there?
Actually, the idea was Shane Staley's, the head of Delirium Books. THE RISING was his quickest selling hardcover title ever, and he wanted to do something special to thank the fans. So we came up with the idea of the free chapbook. The nice thing is, since the stories are based in the world of THE RISING but feature different characters, you don't need to read the novel to understand what's going on.
As for more novels, the sequel will be it for me. I don't want to get typecast as the zombie guy. So no trilogy! But I can see myself doing the occasional short story down the road. It's always fun to return to that world and play around. I'm very comfortable there-but I don't want to get too comfortable.
Q: You've primarily been a short-story writer. Do you now prefer the short story format or novel-length work?
Definitely novel-length, because to be honest, that's where the money is. I'm writing for a living and there's much more of a paycheck involved with a novel than there is with a short story. (laughs) That probably sounds crass as hell, but it's honest.
I enjoy writing short stories, but I don't seem to have the time these days. There's so many novels contracted out between now and 2006, that to take a break and work on a short story, even for a week, would put me way behind schedule.
Q: FEAR OF GRAVITY is your new short story collection. What are your favorite stories included in that?
(pauses) I like "Dust" because it's very different than the stuff I usually write. I went for a quiet style of horror with that one. At its core, "Dust" is a love story centered around September 11th. The supernatural elements are almost secondary. "Babylon Falling" was fun to write, because I've always been a fan of weird war stories. "I Am An Exit" turned out well-especially given that I wrote all three drafts in two days. And the novella, "The Garden Where My Rain Grows"-I'm especially proud of that. I worked harder writing and honing that story than anything else I've written, including THE RISING. If the last paragraph makes readers cry, I'll be happy.
Q: You've also recently signed a book death with Bantam Dell Publishing. What are those books going to be about?
The first one is a dark crime thriller, my first attempt at something like that. Again, there are some supernatural elements, but they don't make up the main thrust of the story. The second novel-I have no idea yet. (laughs) Probably something in the same vein.
Q: Who is your favorite contemporary author?
Oh God! I can only pick one? (pauses) I can't just pick one. But I'll give you my Top Ten. Would that be okay? Elmore Leonard, Richard Laymon, Tom Piccirilli, Michael Marshall Smith, Tim Lebbon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Simon Clark… wait, that's twelve isn't it? Okay, Top Fifteen then… Douglas Clegg, Ray Garton and Joe Lansdale.
Q: Anything else you wish to talk about?
Everybody go see the new Dawn of the Dead remake! It WILL be good, I promise. Save Howard Stern! And I guess that's about it…