Friday, September 19, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Steven W. Booth
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I started writing seriously in 2006 or 2007 at the advice of a friend (Harry Shannon, my co-author on The Hungry books). I kept trying to convince him that I wasn’t a creative person, and he wasn’t buying into it. So I started writing a novel that didn’t go anywhere, but which I have come back to after 8 years and I am now reworking into a viable project. And it turns out that Harry was right, I can be creative when I choose to be, which is a nice feeling.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
David Gerrold (still my favorite author). Patrick O’Brien, Steven Saylor, Steven Brust, Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Gregory McDonald. Those are the ones I can remember. I wasn’t much of a reader until I was about 15 years old. Then my older sister (who was and still is a voracious reader) handed me a couple of series, Xanth by Piers Anthony and The War Against the Cthorr by David Gerrold. I was off and running.
Today I like cross-genre mysteries and detective stories, though they are hard to find. I’m actually putting together an anthology of exactly these kinds of stories, anchored by David Gerrold (I have my very own ORIGINAL David Gerrold story. Wow!), and I’ve asked Steven Saylor and Steven Brust to participate as well. It should be an amazing project.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Hungry?
The inspiration was, Harry Shannon and I were given the opportunity to contribute a short story to a charity anthology edited by Joe McKinney and Michelle McCrary titled Dead Set. We wanted to do a story about a small town sheriff who gets overrun on the first night of the zombie apocalypse. Somewhere along the line, instead of John Miller, we decided the sheriff would be Penny Miller, which put her in conflict (with a small amount of sexual tension) with one of her prisoners, a biker named Scratch. In the first draft, no one survived the onslaught, but Harry doesn’t believe in killing the main character of his stories, so Sheriff Miller survived. Then we asked the question, what happens next? The answer is The Hungry and all the books in that series.
4. Why choose zombies as your main paranormal focus?
That was mostly chance. Again, we were being opportunists in taking advantage of Joe McKinney’s generous offer to include us. Zombies are scary and fun at the same time, so we went with it. And you can’t exactly switch in the middle of a zombie apocalypse story to start worrying about werewolves or other supernatural creatures. Besides, our zombies are not supernatural—they don’t claw their way out of graves, for example. They were living humans before they became the undead. They do make a marvelous back backdrop for putting your characters in danger and watching them respond. Our books are mostly character driven, so the zombies, while “real” in the context of the novels, are not what we are talking about. Instead, they are stories about how people respond to extreme circumstances. I often wonder how I would respond to an apocalypse—but I expect I would be the first to go in that kind of situation. I’m too tied to our modern infrastructure to survive the complete loss of it.
5. Was there any intended symbolism behind it and how the zombies were created in your book?
If you ask Harry, yes. He postulates that zombies represent our fear of death and the unknown, and also an unstoppable relentless force of death and destruction. For me, not so much. I wanted the zombies to be believable within the context of the story—our internal logic had to hold up to scrutiny—and I wanted them to be scary. But do I believe that they represent corporate America and its dominance over our lives, crushing our very souls under its undead weight? No, that would be my father.
6. Will we ever see Penny Miller again in the future? (Describe the series, and latest developments please.)
Penny Miller still has some life in her. The series goes beyond The Hungry to four more episodes (soon to be five for a total of 6 books). In The Hungry 2: The Wrath of God, Penny and her companions meet a team of mercenaries who must go back into zombie central to retrieve critical data that can stop the spread of the zombies. Naturally it doesn’t go that way. In The Hungry 3: At the End of the World, Penny and her companions try to escape to the Colorado Rockies for the winter and get away from the zombies at least for a little while. That goes badly almost from the beginning. The Hungry 4: The Rise of the Triad has Penny captured and put into government sponsored “rehab” for her belief in the zombies, but really it’s just a front to find the secret to making zombie bites harmless. And in The Hungry 5: All Hell Breaks Loose, Penny decides to take the fight to the government jerks who started the zombie research, and who are perpetuating the problem by continuing to look for the key to creating supersoldiers. The Hungry 6: The Rule of Three finishes the story arc and puts Penny directly at odds with the very people who want to see most of North America become the slobbering undead.
After that, who knows?
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I currently have a science-fiction story in the works, but it is evolving pretty quickly, so all I can tell you is that I don’t destroy the world until the end of the first act, and the lead is also a woman, though nothing like Penny Miller.
Ultimately, I would like to try my hand at mystery and private eye stories with a cross-genre twist like the anthology I’m putting together. Think Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Steven Brust’s Jhereg/Vlad Taltos stories, and Steven Saylor’s Roma sub Rosa/Gordianus the Finder books. That’s the stuff I like to read, and I’d like to try writing in that vein as well.
8. What is your personal favorite zombie story, film or book?
It’s a tossup between Night of the Living Dead and World War Z. I like Night of the Living Dead because I think Romero got the feel of how helpless and out of control the characters feel when trying to survive the first night of the apocalypse. And World War Z has unquestionably the scariest zombies I’ve encountered. There might be worse ones out there, but I haven’t found them. And Max Brooks’s zombies are at least a couple of orders of magnitude scarier than anything I’ve come up with.
9. If the zombie apocalypse actually happened, what would you do?
Probably die. I’m weapons-trained, but I don’t own any (other than archery equipment which wouldn’t last very long). I have health concerns that require periodic access to a pharmacy, and even if I could find what I’m looking for in an abandoned store, how long would that last me? And I don’t have a secret armored fortress, Navy SEAL friends, or a supercar with rocket launchers. So, I’d probably be an extra in someone else’s story if the apocalypse actually came to be. Sucks to be me.
10. Would you like to see The Hungry in theaters? If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters? All of them were so individualized!
Yes, I would love to see The Hungry on the screen, big or small. Gillian Shure has been our model for Penny Miller (on the covers) since the first novel came out, and I have trouble picturing anyone else as Penny. As for Scratch, I’m going to get into big trouble. Everyone—including Harry—seems to think that Norman Reedus should play Scratch, but—this is where I get into trouble—I modeled him (at least in my own mind) after the character of George in the movie Erin Brockovich, played by Aaron Eckhart. Long hair, beard, scruffy, tattoos. That’s who I picture. But I think he’s a little old for the part now. Terrill Lee should be someone tall and lanky, but if I were casting the movie, I’d probably cast Chris Platt (from Guardians of the Galaxy) in the role. He’s funny and versatile enough to pull off the role. Sheppard, well, I don’t know. Christian Bale, maybe. He’s supposed to have “movie-star good looks” and be deeply troubled. After The Dark Knight, I think he’s show that he can pull it off. If I’m picking actors from that movie, though, Heath Ledger might do a better job, but he’s not available any more.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I see my writing and publishing career growing in 10 years. As much as I adore Harry, I am going to start writing my own stuff and establishing my own name as a writer. Again, I have several sci-fi and fantasy ideas in mind, many with mystery or detective themes. If I could be any other author out there, I’d want to be Gregory McDonald, who created Fletch. I love his lean style, his sense of humor, and his ability to captivate the reader. I like writing series, so I guess in ten years, I want to have one or two other series under my belt that are worthy of being next to Brust, Saylor, and McDonald on someone’s bookshelves.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I have an MBA in Nonprofit Management and a Masters in Teaching. I’d probably be working in a nonprofit school or university, which I am to a certain extent now. I am the Director of Fundraising for a nonprofit named VETBOSS (www.vetboss.org) which helps veterans become successful entrepreneurs. I’m going to be doing that concurrently with writing and publishing.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
Apart from finishing The Hungry 6, I’m working hard on an idea for a post-apocalyptic science fiction story with Lovecraftian-type monsters who invade from another dimension. The main character, a woman scientist (she was going to be a librarian in honor of both my wife and my mother—long story—but she changed from the needs of the story), must find a way to protect what they believe to be the last surviving humans on earth, as well as protecting every living still on earth. That’s probably more than I should say, but it should be fun to see if I can pull it off.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Larry Niven. His collaborations always seem to improve on the best storytellers out there.
Gregory McDonald. If anyone can pull off a mystery in a charming and funny way, he can.
John Scalzi. I can already feel the Mallet of Loving Correction coming down on my first draft.
Neil Gaiman. There’s a creative mind. It would be like co-writing a screenplay with Tim Burton.
Leo Tolstoy. Just to learn from him. I believe that Anna Karenina is the best general adult novel ever written. Bar none.
C.S. Lewis. For the same reason as Tolstoy. His Narnia books are lush, emotionally charged landscapes. I could learn a lot from him.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I earned my pilot’s license when I was 17, and had to make two emergency landings—one because I was trying to teach myself to do loops without an inverted flight carburetor, and once because I couldn’t read a weather chart.
If I hadn’t bought the wrong kind of electronic piano in 2006, I’d probably be a performing musician instead of an author right now.
I have studied French, German, Spanish, Klingon, and I can recite the entire Han Solo/Greedo speech from Star Wars in the original Rodian from memory. Han shot first.
Find Mr. Booth online via:
Genius Books Publishing (his company)
Facebook (LIKE page)
Amazon Author Page
Barnes and Noble