As an added bonus, I had to opportunity to ask Scott a few questions regarding his writing and affinity towards the walking dead. He knows his stuff well enough to discuss zombies on Fox News and Martha Stewart Living Radio.
Q: You've got quite a few nonfiction books pertaining to zombies. What prompted you to dive into a fictional account this time around?
Scott: I liked the idea of doing a story about a zombie who was trying to solve his own murder. In early 2009, when I began Zombie, Ohio, I was really getting into Film Noir. I liked the opening of the Film Noir classic D.O.A. where the main character strides into a police station and is like: "I wanna report a murder." When the cop is like: "Who was murdered?" he replies "I was." (It's an awesome film, and it's P.D. so you can watch it free online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Q: Fictional zombies aren't going away, it would seem, and have become a well-worn subject in horror, even drifting into other genres. So, when you started on Zombie, Ohio, did you find yourself daunted by the task of writing a unique zombie tale that stands out from the others? Or,was that even a consideration for you?
Scott: I thought my story would be unique enough to stand out. I'd read a few prior works featuring an "intelligent zombie" like mine, but frankly, I thought they weren't very good, and I wanted to see if I could do better.
Q: Peter Mellor was an intriguing character, as he's scared about how his friends and everyone else will react to his … condition, and then seems to embrace it--even revel in it--before the midway point of the novel. Was the exploration of the mundanity of a zombie's existence within a horde the main inspiration for this novel? Because it felt at one point to be like a Gorillas in the Mist with zombies, as Peter studies their behavior.
Scott: Gorillas in the Mist is a good call. I definitely wanted Peter to immerse himself in the world of zombies and to begin to notice subtleties about their existence that might have been lost on most people. In terms of how Peter's friends react, I suppose I was once again channeling Film Noir. A recurring Film Noir device is to build tension by forcing the protagonist to conceal a shameful secret. Whether it's that he is committing insurance fraud (Double Indemnity), is secretly a Nazi (The Stranger), or is secretly a zombie, Film Noir protagonists hold our attention and fall deeper into the maelstrom by trying to keep their horrible secrets.
Q: What was it from your experience through writing nonfiction that you brought to this novel? Did you find the research to be as exhaustive, or was the groundwork already set for you by writing the zombie nonfiction? Was there a narrative quality to your nonfiction that fit in with how you told Peter Mellor's tale?
Scott: When people buy one of my humor books, they expect a lot of snark and silliness. I wanted to bring the best elements of that to Zombie, Ohio, but also tell an engaging tale with a traditional narrative structure. I think I succeeded. Prior to Zombie, Ohio, I'd written four novels that never found a publisher, so I had some experience with the form. In terms of the research, I'd lived in Knox County, Ohio between 1996 and 2000, so I felt qualified to write about it. It's a really trippy place, if you know where to look and which rocks to overturn, so to speak.Scott: You know, I never planned to write a war book. (It wasn't a genre I always enjoyed. I mean, I liked All Quiet on the Western Front and Blackhawk Down like everybody else did, but I felt that too many books in the genre devolved into a sort of "war porn", until it was like reading a first person shooter.) But I got to talking with Franco [Mercado, the co-author] about his experiences in Fallujah after the occupation, and I realized that this was a totally riveting side of the war that you never heard about on the nightly news or in the "war porn" books. Franco wanted to chronicle his experiences, and was initially talking about doing a graphic novel. I'm pleased that I was able to talk him into writing a book with me instead. We should have the project completed this summer. It doesn't have zombies, but like Zombie, Ohio, the book will be a Noir-ish mystery, and is based on true events.
Q: Your next project sounds like a purposeful departure from genre and monsters, as you're working on a novel set in Iraq during the height of the war. Was this something you've had on your to-do list for a while or did the opportunity arise spontaneously? Care to elaborate on what we can expect from it?
Q: Assuming you will return to the walking dead in the future, is there something key that needs to be kept in mind by authors who want to avoid regurgitating the same zombie stories over and over again? Vampires seem to find rejuvenation every decade, with results of varying degrees. Is it simply a matter of following the bloodsuckers' lead or maybe ignoring the trends of vampire and zombie fiction?
Scott: Yes, I'm planning to return to zombies after the Iraq project is complete, and already have an outline for a new zombie novel I hope to start writing in late 2011. In terms of the zombie genre, I see a lot of interest right now in the "post apocalyptic wasteland, survivalist, Mad Max"- style zombie novel. However, I still have yet to read a really, really great one. If you're an aspiring zombie novelist who wants to go for the brass ring, I think, right now, that that's the one to shoot for!
I'd like to extend a hearty thanks to Scott for the interview.
If you're interested in learning more about Scott Kenemore and his books, you can visit Scott Kenemore's Zombie Blog. Or, you can have a gander at his books over on Amazon.com.