Interview With Multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning Author Jonathan Maberry – Author of “Dead of Night”
Brought to you by OBS Staff Member Rose Elle
We are very excited to share with you our interview with New York Times best selling author Jonathan Maberry, author of the Joe Ledger series and his newest zombie novel “Dead of Night”. Maberry discusses his love of science, clues us in on his inspirations when writing and which actress he would chose to play Dead of Night’s bad-ass heroine Desdemona Fox. If you haven’t read the book yet, we suggest whetting your appetite with this DEAD OF NIGHT excerpt and getting a copy today! Now on to the interview…
ROSE: Why did you choose a female protagonist for Dead of Night? And which actress would you like to see play Dez if it ever hit the big screen?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Desdemona Fox –Dez—was the very first character I came up with when I began concocting the story that became DEAD OF NIGHT. It was always her story, and the plot gelled around her. Except for the Resident Evil franchise, women tend to be supporting characters in zombie stories. Even the lead women in George Romero’s flicks were there to be the ‘human’ perspective in an otherwise testosterone-driven story. They’re either victims or they’re onstage to be rescued. That vibe changed a bit with Tom Savini’s underrated 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. In that flick, Barbara (as played by the superb Patricia Tallman) became a feminist icon. I loved that.
In RESIDENT EVIL –as much as I love them for the sheer popcorn fun—the female characters are over-the-top super heroes. There isn’t a lot of emotional complexity or vulnerability. With Dez, I wanted to start with a character who appeared to be a super tough chick –big boobs, big guns, big attitude—but then I go deep into her head and her heart to explore the damage that makes a person want to appear to be over-the-top. Yes, she’s tough; yes, she’s beautiful…but the bottom line is that she’s damaged goods and even though tends to drive everyone away, she’s desperate to reconnect with her own life.
I usually create a ‘dream cast’ in my head when I write a book, but my view of who could play her in a film version changed a dozen times. I guess if Scarlett Johansson could channel the bad-girl vibe of Michelle Rodriguez that would be perfect.
ROSE: Just when one thinks being turned into a zombie is bad enough as it is, what inspired you to add on a horrific, self-replicating parasitic monster “virus” to the mix?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m a science geek, so I love digging deep to find a solid scientific explanation for everything. While I was writing a nonfiction book, ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living (Citadel Press, 2008), I had the chance to talk with dozens of scientists, and I was amazed (and a bit creeped out) to find that science can explain most aspects of what we see in zombie stories. I used most of that science to build my first zombie novel, PATIENT ZERO (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009). So, when I decided to write DEAD OF NIGHT, I knew that I needed something different. Luckily I found a wonderful nonfic book called PARASITE REX (Free Press, 2000) by Carl Zimmer, in which the author presents us with an incredibly scary and creepy array of parasites that share our world –and often our bodies—with us.
So…I wrote to Carl and picked his brain a bit, and also ran some ideas past him. The ideas I came up with creeped us both out because they’re really damn close to possible.
Screenshot from ZOMBIES A LIVING HISTORY on the History Channel
ROSE: A similarity in intensity, pace, genre (zombies) and a character of an evil psychotic doctor/scientist are prevalent in both Joe Ledger series and Dead of Night. As a writer, how did you balance these separate stories (quite flawlessly I might add) so they don’t appear redundant.
JONATHAN MABERRY: The Joe Ledger novels are all built around a race against time to prevent something big and bad from happening. DEAD OF NIGHT, although built on a thriller frame, is really about the experience of people in the midst of a crisis that’s spiraling out of their control. They are desperate to accomplish something, to save what’s worth saving, even though they can’t save the world.
Also, Joe Ledger is an elite special ops shooter. He’s the best of the best. If he was in Stebbins County when the Lucifer 113 plague got loose…well, let’s just say it would be a much different book.
And, I get a lot of fan mail asking if Joe Ledger and Dez Fox would ever hook up. Interesting thought…and who knows what’ll happen down the road.
ROSE: Your story “Jack and Jill” which will appear in the anthology “21st Century Dead” coming out June 2012, takes place during the events of Dead of Night…can you give us a little insight on what to expect?
JONATHAN MABERRY: One of the fun things about fiction I that when you create the ‘world’ of your story, you start imagining how much bigger than world is than the events contained in a single book. I suppose that’s why I usually write series. So, when I was done with DEAD OF NIGHT I was left with a lot of stories I still wanted to tell. When editor Christopher Golden asked me to write a story for his new anthology, I jumped at the chance to re-visit Stebbins County.
“Jack and Jill” takes place at the same time as DEAD OF NIGHT, but it’s set in a different part of town and introduces a new cast of characters. It deals with a little boy dying of cancer who gets caught up in the zombie apocalypse. If you’re already dying, the end of the world has a much different meaning.
I have several other stories planned, including some stories set ‘after’ the events of DEAD OF NIGHT, including some tales about the confusion and fear down on the human level as the world collapses. Look for “Chokepoint”, which will be announced soon. And more to come.
ROSE: What author/s and movie/s have inspired you and continue to inspire you when writing novels?
JONATHAN MABERRY: My list of favorite authors is ten miles long. However there are some authors that are major influences. The earliest –and perhaps most significant of these—were Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, both of who I met when I was a teenager. Brilliant writers, both of them; and apart from their amazing books, which are influential in themselves, Bradbury and Matheson both took time to talk to me, and to provide advice and guidance to a young kid.
There are other writers, though, whose work helped shaped my view of what great writing is. John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels stand as my favorite mystery novels of all times—and Travis is the best model of an intellectual and compassionate hero. Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING endures in my view as the best gothic novel of all time, with elegant and insightful prose. In more modern terms, the two authors whose work continues to dazzle me are Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke.
ROSE: You’ve stated once before that it’s important to a reader to see that zombies tales are more than just about flesh eating monsters. Is this what prompted you to give Doc Hartnup’s character “a voice” in the novel once he becomes a zombie? And if so…Why did you choose his character above others to emphasis this?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Doc is the first victim of the zombie outbreak, and therefore he’s the first person to experience the horror of having his consciousness trapped in the body of a zombie. He becomes the point-of-view character who allows us to see past the action and into the heart of the tragedy.
Even though I’m a lifelong fan of the genre, one of the aspects I actively dislike is that the zombies are occasionally reduced to nonentities who appear in film or print only to be killed wholesale or in absurdly comical ways. That dehumanizing process makes them nothing more than points on a body count rather than victims of a terrible human crisis.
(Click here to check out a clip from Dead of Night: Dead of Night, Web Clip) which narrates Doc’s first bite.
ROSE ELLE: If a zombie apocalypse ever threatened our world, name five things you’d have in your survival kit.
JONATHAN MABERRY: The five must-have things in my zombie apocalypse bug-out kit would be a survival guide, a large first-aid kit, a multipurpose tool, a box of matches and my katana. With those, I can scrounge (or take) whatever else I need.
ROSE: Last but not least…What’s the craziest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
JONATHAN MABERRY: On a previous tour I was asked if I really liked zombies or was just ‘pretending to like them because they’re popular’. It made me laugh.
Don’t forget to check out our Book Review on Dead of Night!
Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestseller and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, editor and Marvel Comics writer. He has written pre-apocalypse novels: Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song, Bad Moon Rising, Patient Zero, and The Dragon Factory; an apocalypse novel, Dead Man’s Song; apocalypse comics: Marvel Universe vs the Punisher and Marvel Universe vs Wolverine; and post-apocalyptic novel, Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, and Flesh & Bone. He hasn’t tackled Dystopian fiction yet…but you can pretty much assume he will. Find him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com and on Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads.