1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I've been a fanatical reader all my life, and like many folks my dream was to write my own novel someday. I remember drawing my own comic books as a child, and writing my first short story in middle school, something about a basketball game. Music and acting distracted me, though I wrote a directed two school plays, so the itch was still there. I started my first novel Night of the Beast at around 20 years old, but didn't finish the book and sell it until I was 50. It's been a long, strange journey, with many different day jobs and distractions along the way. Now I've done fifteen novels, dozens of short stories and hundred of song lyrics.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
John D. MacDonald, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Heinlein, Saki, Ambrose Bierce, Hemingway, John Steinbeck were all favorites as a child and adolescent. I was precocious. Later, Stephen King of course, plus Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Robert Crais, and my writing Gods are James Lee Burke and Cormac McCarthy.
3. What was the inspiration behind your series The Hungry?
Joe McKinney approached me about making a contribution to a charity anthology about zombies. Steven W. Booth had expressed an interest in writing, and his wife suggested we do it together. It was a solid story, but when I impulsively changed the main character from male to female, something magic happened. Then Steven stuck poor Penny in her old wedding dress and magic happened. We liked the story so much we uploaded it as a free book on Amazon. Tens of thousands of people downloaded it, which launched the first full novel version. Sales motivated us to continue, and now there are six books in the series.
4. Why choose zombies as your main paranormal focus?
As I said, it started with a charity anthology. I’d written about zombies before of course, in PAIN and a number of short stories. Perhaps my best early take on them was in Daemon, a ghoul novel that touched on the zombie craze. Zombies are wonderful stand-ins for social anxieties such as terrorism, Ebola, and economic uncertainty. The real stars are the characters, not the zombies. It’s all about the human beings and how they react to the existential crisis. There is something thrilling about the constant threat of a nasty surprise, and no need for the long build up of most monster stories. You can hit the grounds running.
5. Was there any intended symbolism behind it and how the zombies were created in your book?
Steven would give you a different answer, but as far as I am concerned, Joe McKinney nailed it when he wrote the introduction to The Hungry series. The country was reeling from the economic collapse of 2008 and still at war in two countries, plus scarred by a terrorist attack on our own soil. We were not aiming to be so high-brow but Penny Miller is an American icon, the reluctant western hero, the Sheriff who’s got her duty. Her character anchors the series. She is hope and courage and humanity in a nutshell, and uniquely American.
6. You had a career in the music industry and your daughter is following in your footsteps. How important or inspirational has music been to you?
We all remember the music of our teens and twenties for the rest of our lives. I grew up on Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and the Eagles and good country songs. Being a musician and a songwriter shaped my personality. It seems to be the same thing for my daughter, and she plans on working in the entertainment industry as an executive if not a performer. It’s in our blood and we come by it honestly. Her mom plays guitar and writes as sing as well, she just didn’t do it for a living. Music is a constant in our house, we have ten guitars and a keyboard and a dulcimer and a mandolin and a banjo and….you get the idea.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I enjoy a great western. I’ve done a few short stories, and may do a novel someday as well.
8. What is your personal favorite zombie story, film or book?
I have a soft spot for the original Night of the Living Dead in black and white. My favorite story would probably be The Monkey’s Paw, if I had to choose a novel perhaps Pet Semetary. I love Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, a lot of authors who work with zombies, too many to name.
9. If the zombie apocalypse actually happened, what would you do?
Gather up our 357 and speed loaders and the earthquake kits and if we couldn’t get the hell out of town and into the mountains, just batten down the hatches. I have some faith in the government to respond given enough time.
10. Would you like to see The Hungry in theaters? If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters? All of then were so individualized!
I’d love to see it as a cable television series, the genre has exploded and anything goes. Penny Miller’s ribald humor wouldn’t need to be watered down, it could be violent and sexy and funny at the same time, just like the books. Our friend Gillian Shure has modled Penny Miller on our covers six times, I cannot imagine anyone else in the part. Gillian played Constable Kate Eidson in my little horror movie Dead and Gone, so we go way, way back.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
Well, I will be 76 in ten years, and hope to still be writing and enjoying being a Dad, and perhaps watching my daughter Paige in her mid-twenties having a successful personal life and music career. I’ve been a counselor for pushing thirty years and feel like I’d want to cut back on the day job long before that, but you never know. I enjoy that work too.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I love the arts, and also the counseling work. If I stopped writing I’d perhaps playing with doing some low budget films, writing music again, acting with friends. Just staying busy.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I have been working hard on Mick Callahan #5, tentatively entitled Rough Men. The series is quite popular, people enjoy the character and his adventures, but I’d grown weary of writing alone. Now it sounds like fun again. I have a novella in Limbus 2 that I’m very proud of, and it is an honor to be in a project with the likes of Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, Gary Braunbeck, and newcomer Brett Talley. I miss short fiction, and intend to get back to writing some stories over the holidays.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
I love co-writing. Ed Gorman and I have threatened to work together for years now. Same with Joe McKinney. I’d love to try something with Jonathan Maberry, I think we’d create something much darker than his usual work and perhaps more commercial than mine. There are so many good writers I admire.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
Hmmm….well, I am a speed reader, though age as slowed me down, and used to read five or six books a week, so my house and office are jammed to the rafters with books, much to the annoyance of my wife. I was nominated for an Emmy in 1982, for the title song to a CBS TV movie called The Gift of Life. We have six cats, at one time I had nine, three of them feral. I love animals. Thanks for asking me to stop by.
Find Mr. Shannon online via:
Official site (has social media and Amazon links)