This is an opportunity to go behind the scenes, get into the nitty-gritty of the many paranormal worlds and enter into the fertile imaginations of authors I love. Bring a flashlight. It’s sometimes dark in here, but so worth the trip. Remember, monsters need love too. Otherwise, how would we ever have baby monsters?
Think on THAT a while…
You KNOW I love zombies. Know who loves them more?
Ben S. Reeder.
Welcome, Author Ben S. Reeder! You’ve just released Zompoc Survivor: Exodus. Tell us a little bit about your story.
ZS: Exodus starts off as your basic zombie story. Our hero, Dave Stewart is immediately faced with the challenge of getting himself and his loved ones home as chaos and death spreads throughout Springfield, Missouri. Nothing is ever simple, though, and Dave also finds himself on the wrong end of a mysterious conspiracy.
Do you consider your book(s) urban fantasy, paranormal or something else? What attracted you to the genre?
Well, Amazon considers it science fiction, since it technically falls under “post-apocalyptic” but since it involved zombies, I would say it was more paranormal with a touch of horror added in.
Let’s talk beasties. Do any monsters make appearances in your novels? If so, tell us about a few of them. Do you have a favorite? Don’t lie. Every parent…erm…author…does. Spill it. If not, what makes your book paranormal, urban fantasy or science fiction?
Of course, there are zombies. In ZS: Exodus, we see three different kinds. Since I hate to limit my options, I have both fast AND slow zombies, along with reasons for why they are the way they are. I also have a completely new kind, what is labeled as Patient Zero. Patient Zero is unlike any zombie you’ve ever seen before, and all the more frightening because of the ways it’s different.
Monsters of the paranormal kind are always fun, but I think the most frightening monsters are the ones inside us. In my book, it isn’t the scary looking, undead monster you have to fear, it’s the one that an otherwise ordinary person lets off the leash when the world goes crazy around them. That is the one that scares me the most.
Is this a series? Stand-alone book? If it is a series, what does the future look like for this series? How many more books to come? What can we expect and more importantly…WHEN!
Zompoc Survivor is a series. I’m working on the second in the series, ZS: Odyssey, which picks up almost the same moment Exodus leaves off. The Zompoc Survivor series is currently open ended, and it will see Dave focusing first on getting his family to safety, and then, discovering that there’s a bigger fight for him to be a part of. We’ll also discover the truth behind the zombie apocalypse, and who is actually behind it.
What else are you working on?
I have several projects right now. The one most likely to see print after the Zompoc Survivor series is a gritty superhero story, followed by a portal fantasy story. I have a dystopian novel that is stuck in limbo that might also see the light of day at some point, too.
Of all the characters in your fictional word, which one or two would you most like to hang out with over a long weekend? What would you do together? What actor or actress would play him/her in a movie?
In the Zompoc Survivor world, I’d obviously hang out with Dave over a weekend, because we share so many interests. We’d probably grill bratwursts and steak, and binge watch Dr. Who and a whole lot of sci-fi movies, game and try to outdo each other on the shooting range (Dave’s actually a better shot than I am.)
It’s funny that you ask who would play Dave in a movie made from my books. Someone recently asked me if I had thought of having the book turned into a movie. Personally, I would want it to be a TV series, because you can do so much more in twenty episodes than you can in two to three hours. As to who I would want to play Dave, hands down it would be Eddie McClintock from Warehouse 13. He has that everyman quality to him, but he can also go from light-hearted to dead serious in a heartbeat, and that is an important part of Dave’s character.
Let’s talk about craft. Are you a plotter or pantser? What are the first steps you take before diving into the writing of the next book?
Truth is, I’ve become a plotter, at least mentally. I may not have an outline written down, but I always have a general idea of how the story is going to end before I write the first word. I usually have the climactic scene in my head and a general structure of how things will get there. I also do a ton of research before I start writing. Locations, people, and because I’m writing zombie fiction, lots and lots of gear all get thoroughly looked up.
How long does it typically take for you to write a novel? Best case scenario? How about editing? How long will you pick at it before setting it free to the world?
It seems to get shorter every time. My first novel took me four years to write, my second just under one, and Zompoc Survivor was done in just under six months. ZS: Odyssey is looking like it will be ready in four to five months. I don’t think I’d want to do it much faster than that.
As far as editing, I usually give a work three passes for content, and three for line editing. In the Zompoc Survivor, series, I actually have three beta readers. One for general plot, and two for technical read throughs. My general reader also runs it through for spelling and grammar.
After that, it’s usually ready to go. I’ve learned that no matter how many times I go through a story, I’m never going to be completely satisfied with it. I’m always going to want to make changes. But, stories are like kids. At some point, you have to let them go out on their own.
Do you have any advice to new authors or anyone considering writing fiction?
Read like an addict, write like a lion, edit like a surgeon and never, ever give up.
Reading is how we find our voice, by hearing those voices that resonate with our own and seeing how authors who are better than we are do what they do. Anyone who refuses to read because they don’t want to “contaminate their voice” or be “influenced by anyone else’s style” needs to remember how we learn to talk: by being exposed to other people talking. We learn to write the same way. If you limit your exposure to other writers, you limit yourself as a writer.
Write boldly. Give yourself permission to write BADLY. Give yourself the order to edit LATER. And get outside your comfort zone.
Edit afterward, and become a slave to the story. Operate without anesthesia, and be willing to get rid of stuff you might have liked when you wrote it.
Finally, persist. It only took me twenty years to have my overnight success.
Can you give us a taste of what to expect?
Here is a blurb from Zompoc Survivor: Exodus:
Dave Stewart is a man with a plan for almost everything. But the zombie apocalypse taxes even his skills as he tries to get his family and friends out of Springfield, Missouri. Caught at work, all he has to help him survive is his normal “everyday carry” gear, the contents of his get-home bag and, most importantly, his wits to keep himself alive as chaos and death reign around him. As Dave struggles to reunite with his family and friends and fight his way clear of the city, he will discover that the dead aren’t the only enemies he will have to deal with. Some of the living are just as deadly, and he discovers that a sinister element in the US government may have a plan of its own for the zombie apocalypse, and that it includes the estranged wife and son of his friend and benefactor, Nathan Reid.
As he makes his way to his homestead outside of town, Dave will see the best and worst of humanity, and will be pushed to his limits and beyond.
Can Dave overcome the dangers posed by both the living and the dead, and survive his exodus from Springfield?
Here is a blurb from my upcoming book Zompoc Survivor: Odyssey:
In Zompoc Survivor: Odyssey, Dave must make his way out of the zombie filled hell that Kansas City has become in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. With two Marines and his girlfriend’s daughter at his side, he must overcome a power-mad zealot and face new and more terrifying zombies in his journey out of the city.
Finally an excerpt from the upcoming book:
I was awakened by a whimper in the darkness. Instantly, I came up on my right elbow and listened. Another soft mewl came from behind me, and I rolled to my other side and reached out in the darkness.
“Amy,” I whispered. The whimpering stopped, and I felt Amy’s hand brush mine. As soon as her fingers touched my hand, she grabbed my arm and pulled herself to me.
“I keep seeing him fall,” she whispered to me. “I try to hold onto him, but I can’t and he falls, he always falls.” The sobs came after that, quiet at first but hard enough to wrack her whole body. Finally, she couldn’t keep silent any more, and I felt my chest vibrate as she bawled into my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Amy,” I said to her, over and over again, wishing every time I knew something better to say, but never finding anything else to tell her. Eventually, even that faded, and she fell quiet again, and laid her head on my now damp shoulder. Her breathing became slow and even, and I held her quietly. It was all the comfort I could offer her, and even if my arms went numb and fell off, I’d give her every second of it she wanted. I wished for a thousand things in the indeterminate time that I held her, but it all kept coming back to two things, one I could never give her, and one I could only hope to. I wanted to give her Karl back, but in the end, my prayer was simple: let me be a good dad for her. Yeah, simple. Just not easy.
Where can we find you and your books online?
I’ve been writing since high school, and reading since I could reach the bookshelf. I was born into a military family, spent four years in the Air Force after high school, and books have always been my friends, my escape and my window to other worlds. When I wasn’t exploring other worlds via words, I was exploring some of the more interesting nooks in the real world. I’ve been a gamer since D&D came in a cardboard box, played in the Society for Creative Anachronism on and off for two decades, and worked in everything from video game arcades to poultry farms to a New Age bookstore (best three years of my life).
My own reading tastes run to urban fantasy and the occasional steampunk story.
I love my readers, and extend my thanks to each of you. Every writer owes their success to their fans.