With Serial Killer Z on the shelves and The Walking Dead returning to screens this evening, it’s time for another interview with a zombie author (an author of zombie books that is, not a zombie that’s also author). Today, I’m talking to R.J. Spears, author of the Forget the Zombies series.
Hi, tell us about yourself…
My writing name is R.J. Spears. Google “Randy Spears,” but do it in safe company or alone and you’ll see why I went with R.J. Spears. I wanted to avoid any confusion, if you know what I mean.
My trip to horror is a winding one. I was blessed with being introduced to Stephen King with his debut novel, Carrie, and that captivated me. I read a lot of horror and sci-fi in my teens and twenties. Some of it good and some not so good.
I’ve always wanted to write. After first wanting to be a paleontologist as a very small child, the next thing I wanted to be was a writer. (Then a baseball player, but I sucked at that.) In high school, I wrote short stories, but most of those were science fiction. Then I got diverted into film making and my fiction writing took a back seat for a long time.
Anyway, I went to film school with dreams of being a director/writer. Life got in the way and I worked in higher education in video production for many years. I dabbled with fiction writing over the years and then got serious about it again around 2000. By then, I was writing mysteries. After writing a mystery novel that wasn’t well received with beta readers, I retreated into horror (while still writing some crime and mystery.)
My first short story was published on the Twist of Noir site and that opened the flood gates. I ended up getting 20 stories published on the next few years, ranging from crime and mystery to horror with some ending up in print anthologies and some online.
My wife gave me the idea for first zombie novella. We were in San Antonio and we visited the Alamo. She asked me why I didn’t I write a story about people trapped inside the Alamo surrounded by zombies. That was the genesis for Forget the Alamo. From there, another series got picked by a small press out of Texas and and the rest was history, as they say.
Tell us about your book…
I have two series. One is Forget the Zombies which is a trilogy starting with Forget the Alamo. It features a reluctant hero named Grant who is a U.S. Marshall who just happens to be traveling when the zombie outbreak happens. Readers have said they like him because of his sarcasm.
My other series is The Books of the Dead. It is currently out of publication as I work to relaunch it after getting the rights back from my publisher. It features a 20-something slacker (Joel) who has to grow up fast in a zombiefied-world. The first three books will be released each month starting in October. Books four and five will be released early next year.
Why do you write about zombies?
This – Dawn of the Dead, George Romero’s 1978 version. I saw this movie as an impressionable teenager and was simply blown away. And it was more than just the gore, but yes, also because of the gore. (I was 17 and male. That was stuff was cool then.) Romero did a fantastic job of not only creating identifiable characters and giving us a fantastic story, but he also laid political and social commentary into his film. I ended up watching it three weekends in a row at my small town theater.
Why do you think zombies have such long lasting appeal?
I think there’s a deeper context to zombies. They can be there just for thrills and chills, but can also be a commentary on culture and society. Plus, they make a great backdrop for characters. When are we at our best or worst? When we are surviving.
What’s your favourite zombie videogame?
Which Walking Dead character do you wish they’d kill off and why?
Lori. I know they DID kill her, but I never liked her. She needed to have told Rick up front about her “time” with Shane.
What do you think the most likely cause of a real zombie plague would be?
Bio-tech research gone-awry.
Do you prefer fast or slow zombies, and why?
Slow. Why? Because fast ones are scary as hell. Plus, I’m slowing down as I get older. But seriously. I think both are great devices. I tend to write about slow ones because of my background with Romero’s zombies.
Which actors would you like to play the main characters in your book?
Chris Pine would make an excellent Grant in the Forget the Zombies series. I wonder if he is available and if I have an extra $200 million laying around to make that project happen? Anyone want pitch in $199.9999 million? Anyone?
What do you think is the most underrated zombie film or book?
State of Emergency (2011). I have a soft spot for low budget horror since I went to school to be a filmmaker. This is very subtle approach to the genre and I feel it is very overlooked. No, it’s not World War Z, but it’s worth your time.
Which zombie book would you like to see made into a film and why?
Zombie Fallout. Mark Tufo is great at getting comedy into his stories and his characters just jump from the pages.
Where in the world would you go if there was a zombie outbreak and why?
I now live in a large metro-area. It is the last place I would want to be. I’d probably head to a small town where I knew the lay of the land. That or to a farm or a cave.
What authors have inspired you zombie writing?
Rhiannon Frater, Mark Tufo, Tim Long and Mira Grant were some of my earliest influences in the genre, but there are so many good writers.
What inspired to write your zombie book/series?
A decade ago, I wrote a mystery novel that I released to a group of beta readers. The experience was somewhat bruising. To lick my wounds and heal, I turned to horror and the undead. Little did I know that I would be in the genre for 6 books and with more on the way.
Which of your books do you recommend readers start with?
I would recommend that readers start with Forget the Alamo. It’s short and fast moving with a lot of action and slices of snark wedged in there.
Where can readers find you online?
Website: https://rj-spears.com/ (This is work in progress, too.)
About R.J. Spears
Writer, traveler, adventurer. Lover of all things Geek and Dark. I admire villains, antagonists, and rogues more than a little. They really do have more fun, and they can teach us important life lessons.
I fill my time with reading widely, writing as much as possible, hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, and paying the bills with my day job.[Zombie Q&A: R.J. Spears by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 22nd October 2017]