It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that I loved ROT & RUIN by Jonathan Maberry. Someone that stole George Romero’s soul and put a YA twist to it? You really can’t go wrong with that. Because I loved it so much, I asked Jonathan if he’d stop on by. Much to my uneaten brains’ delight, he agreed. Some thought-out questions later and I had a kick-ass interview with Jonathan Maberry on my hands. And you know what I learned? I’m totally tagging myself onto his team when the zombie apocalypse goes down. Read on to see why. Thanks for stopping by, Jonathan!
BITES: Why have Benny hate Tom for the majority of his life? Was it a means to snap Benny out of his immature funk? He could have asked him about it instead of assuming for all those years. Why did this not get resolved sooner?
BITES: In a book world where zombies have been neutered of their former Romero testicles and humanized entirely, you’ve managed to maintain your zombies’ creepiness but make them more than just the walking dead. Was this difficult to strike such a delicate balance? Why go this route?
JONATHAN: When I was ten years old I snuck into my neighborhood movie theater in Philadelphia to see the world premiere of Night of the Living Dead. I was a real horror film fanatic by then and thought I was prepared for any celluloid creature. But that wasn’t the case. The ghouls, in their endless numbers, scared the crap out of me. I had never been more frightened in my life. So…I stayed to see it again. And came back the next day, too.
BITES: In a genre where zombies can range from lumbering sacks of flesh to hyped-up speed demons, what made you decide to go a more classic route for your walking dead?
JONATHAN: I’ve played with fast and slow zombies in various works. I prefer fast zombies on film and slow zombies in fiction. There’s more tragedy in the slow zoms; and more genuine shock in the fast ones. My favorite zombie movie of all time is the 2004 re-imagining of DAWN OF THE DEAD (but only the unrated director’s cut).
BITES: What was the basis for Charlie Pink-Eye and The Motor City Hammer? Were they meant to be the epitome of the breakdown of society or are they just the token assholes of the group?
JONATHAN: Alas there are always people who prey on other people. You see it when there is a catastrophic event, like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. People set up fake sites to collect money ostensibly for victims, but they were stealing it. And during Katrina there were rapes and murders, not to mention all the looting.
BITES: I get that an author’s characters are like children, but I’m going to ask it anyway: which of your characters is your favorite?
JONATHAN: It’s funny, a lot of people expect me to name Tom Imura as my favorite character, but really my favorite is Benny. I like his sense of wonder, his humor, and the depth of his compassion…once he gets his head out of his butt. He’s also heroic in a self-effacing way. He will do anything to protect those he loves.
BITES: You’ve already run your characters through the wringer in R&R. What more could you possibly put them through in D&D?
JONATHAN: R&R is a vacation compared to Dust & Decay. Everything that can possibly go wrong, does. And there’s some serious heartbreak in store for Benny’s crew, because not everyone makes it out of that story alive. Life—and war—are like that.
BITES: What’s the basis behind The Lost Girl? Is she meant to be the opposite to the likes of Charlie Pink-Eye in the sense that a total breakdown of society made her a better person whereas in Charlie is brought out the worst?
JONATHAN: Lilah, the Lost Girl, is a distillation of a number of girls and women I knew while teaching Women’s Self-Defense at Temple University, which I did for fourteen years. I met a number of women who had been damaged in one way or another by abusive men, but who rallied and found ways to become strong. So strong, in fact, that they were in charge of their lives rather than victims of circumstance. Lilah is that kind of person. Terrible things have happened to her, but she healed in the places where she was broken and rose to become immensely powerful. However, in Dust & Decay, we learn that she has weaknesses and a fragile side, too. No one is powerful in all ways, all the time.
BITES: If you could have a zombie portrait made of anyone, who would it be?
JONATHAN: I’d love one of my wedding picture, but my wife would kill me. Instead, I’ll probably get done from a photo my wife found of me as a four year old being handed my first puppy. And I’ll get Rob Sacchetto to do the art. He’s a professional zombie portrait artist who did my ‘author photo’ for the dust-jacket and the Zombie Cards that appear on the end-papers. He’s also a character in Rot & Ruin –an erosion artist.
BITES: What do you think you would do in a zombie apocalypse?
JONATHAN: I’d survive. I’ve got nearly fifty years in the martial arts and hold an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu and a 5th degree black belt in Kenjutsu (Japanese swordplay). I’m a former bodyguard; and I’ve been giving workshops to law enforcement for years, including ‘immediate threat resolution training’ for SWAT. So…yeah, I’m going to get past the zoms.
BITES: I hear Costco is one of the best places to hunker down in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Would you agree?
JONATHAN: Absolutely. As I said, go to the warehouse. They’re built like blockhouses; there’s food, bottled water by the ton; books to read; lanterns; beach chairs and even mattresses. Sit and wait it out while making a decent plan.
ROT & RUIN is now available in paperback from Simon & Schuster and on audio from Recorded Books.
DUST & DECAY debuts in hardcover from Simon & Schuster on August 30; and also on audio.
Both books are available for Kindle, Nook, and all other e-readers.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song and Bad Moon Rising); the Joe Ledger thriller series (Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, The King of Plagues, and Assassin’s Code); the Benny Imura Young Adult dystopian series (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, and Flesh & Bone); the Scribe Award-winning film adaptation of The Wolfman and the standalone horror thriller –Dead of Night. His nonfiction books include the international bestseller Zombie CSU, The Cryptopedia, They Bite, Vampire Universe and Wanted Undead of Alive. He has sold over 1200 feature articles, thousands of columns, two plays, greeting cards, technical manuals, how-to books, and many short stories. His comics for Marvel include Marvel Universe vs the Wolverine, Marvel Universe vs the Punisher, DoomWar, Black Panther and Captain America: Hail Hydra. He is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founder of The Liars Club; and is a frequent keynote speaker and guest of honor at conferences including BackSpace, Dragon*Con, ZombCon, PennWriters, The Write Stuff, Central Coast Writers, Necon, Killer Con, Liberty States, and many others. In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame, due in part to his extensive writing on martial arts and self-defense. In October he’ll be featured as an expert in a History Channel documentary on zombies. Visit him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com, www.twitter.com/jonathanmaberry and www.facebook.com/jonathanmaberry.