And now… it’s time to get undead with fellow zombie author, Julianne Snow. Are you ready to get your brains nommed?
JW: Let’s start with horror in general and drill our way down into the nomlicious brains of the undead. So your first horror movie was Alien. What a great film to have as your first – I believe mine was a Vincent Price film called The Abominable Dr. Phibes. I was so glad to have been born in the mid-sixties as horror was really just coming into its own. And it’s been a glorious and strange hayride since. And even though I can see horror in a downswing, I know it will come back. That down swing does affect us. We writers of the darkly fantastic willingly jump on a genre we know isn’t the massive seller that, say, Paranormal Romance is. But we go down that evil rabbit hole not only willingly, but with a passion many writers don’t know. That isn’t to say other writers aren’t passionate – they certainly are. But horror writers have another layer of passion that I associate with the likes of teachers. Teachers do what they do because they love it. Most horror writers I know do so because they can’t imagine writing anything else. Horror is in their blood and it consumes them.
But, on the upswing of that, horror fans are the most loyal fans out there. They love their frights and once they find a writer they like, they’ll stick with them through thick and thin. They know that coagulated, spilled blood is far thicker than water.
JS: I completely agree with you Jack. Horror writers are some of the most passionate out there. Writing good horror is hard. Really hard. Sure, you can gore things up and make a passage uncomfortable to read but can you really entice those reactions of actual fear out of a reader? Gore is uncomfortable but fear is primal. It’s not an easy feat to elicit fear mainly because not everyone reacts the same way to the same thing. I’m a firm believer that you have to immerse yourself in your work in order to get those reactions. As a horror writer, you owe it to your readers. Horror is defined in its plainest terms as an intense feeling of fear, shock or disgust. While I’m writing I like to build on those emotions, sometimes alone and sometimes in harmony. I find that the intense build to a singular moment can be a bigger pay off than injecting horrific moments just for horror’s sake. It’s that rollercoaster ride within the pages that sticks with you.
You can even liken that rollercoaster ride to the way in which horror seems to cycle through the ages. One minute we’re up and the next we’re down. The great thing is that horror never fails to come up again. Belonging to a community as diverse as the one that encompasses horror, allows for a great many opportunities. Our works rarely go out of style as there are new readers discovering the wicked and twisted tomes we produce. Horror will always have a market; we covet our fears too much to let them die. You are completely right in stating that horror fans are the most loyal ones out there. I think it takes a special breed to truly appreciate horror and because of that, it’s in their blood just as much as writing horror is in ours.
In an interesting aside to your comments on Paranormal Romance and fandom, I’m an advocate for them. The main thing to take away from that is that people are reading; they’re engaging their brains and devouring words. It’s not a big leap from Paranormal Romance to Horror either. We have to trust that they’ll get to us, once they realize that their minds hunger for more than what a Paranormal Romance can give them. Most of the readers of Paranormal Romance fall into the younger age bracket and pretty soon they’ll start to experiment – they always do.
JW: Oh I totally agree – whatever gets them reading! In my mind, the polar opposite of reading is mental entropy. Reading is well known to even slow down the effects of Alzheimers. And having a mother currently suffering from that sickening blight, I feel very strongly about getting them to read – whatever their pleasure.
Even sparkly vampires. Gulp. Yeah, I had to go there. 😉
One of the issues we horror writers face is the constantly ante that is upped by television and film. Torture porn took everything to a very dark place that many people never really wanted to go. True horror fans turn their backs on the sub-genre, and pedestrian fans can wind up turning their backs on horror all together. And although the ability to truly scare gets harder and harder with every generation, it’s our job to keep working our craft to ensure we follow through with our passion.
Of course, writing about zombies, I have to toss in the ‘gross out’ now and then. It’s expected. And, to be honest, the real fear with the zombie genre is not the monsters, it’s everything in the background – it’s the conspiracy. The very idea that a country’s government could be behind the demise of the species might well be the single most frightening (and enraging) idea of all.
JS: When writing anything Zombie related, the gross out is obligatory! I do agree that much of what is scary about a post-apocalyptic world is the background but I find that it comes more from the breakdown of society and the hopelessness that ensues. You’ve got people struggling to survive and all the while, so many things are working against them. There are the underlying themes of conspiracy and paranoia but in my own mind’s eye, it’s the fact of not knowing why that we fear the most. If you think about it, we’re all very much that way. We question so many things and always expect an answer. But what if there are no answers?
Oh, I just think I gave myself a shudder as I stopped to think about it…
To go back to an earlier comment that you made about television and the media upping the ante, I agree. They have upped it. Television is a virtual medium that spells out what they want us to see. They go into as much detail as they think the censors will allow and then maintain that level until we are all desensitized. It’s a vicious cycle and I admit that I am completely desensitized to quite a few things. Do I think that writers need to up the ante though? Of that I’m not entirely sure. The themes and stories that we explore tend to not be saturated in other media forms. It’s only been in recent years that I can turn on my television during primetime and find something in the horror genre. Of course there have been films but cinema is a medium that is going to represent all genres as there are always going to be fans. Television follows the tide. I can remember back to when everything on television was a forensic/police drama or a medical one. Sure there were standout shows but for the most part, the majority fell into those two categories. As the tide changes, we see more horror driven and supernatural themes coming to the forefront. There will always be a market for well written horror in literature. Torture porn aside, we have quite a few sub genres that haven’t been exhausted or written to death (forgive the pun). It’s all about appealing to the masses and a clever, well-written story on an age old topic is always better than one that explores something new but without the panache and grace that horror writing has to have.
How else do you describe the unimaginable and the horrifying?
JW: I totally agree. Survival is one of the single most frightening elements of life. Who knows when the Grim Reaper is going to swing his might sickle down and remove us from our mortal coil. Add to that the desperate hunt for food, water, shelter… well, the sad thing is, that sort of horror happens on a daily basis already. But most are so far removed from that story it doesn’t really play into their lives. Horror happens. Reality is filled with fear. Monsters have two legs, wear suits and ties, and shake our hands and kiss our babies on the head.
Television is such a funny beast. I read last night that The River was most likely being canceled. That was decided, pretty much, after three episodes. THREE! What does that tell you? It tells me that Hollywood has become the poster child for ADHD and the studios are so afraid of losing, they’d rather have something that will make a mint and burn out quickly than have something with staying power. I think reality TV has really warped our sense of what is good and bad. What is sad about that is “reality” is such a misnomer. There is no “reality” in something that is scripted, directed, prodded, and preened. I had been hoping reality TV would die out. Unfortunately it looks like it is here to stay. But the good news is that, at the current moment, it seems horror is, in fact, on the rise. With the help of The Walking Dead, True Blood, and An American Horror Story, horror has really kicked Hollywood in the pants. The shows are gutsy, sexy, and sometimes actually disturbing.
JS: They’re canceling The River?? Seriously? I mean as an avid watcher I cannot necessarily see where the following seasons could go but that’s a good thing in my book. I love shows that are unpredictable – LOST, Six Feet Under, Dead Like Me, Haven, Carnivale, Fringe and that’s just to name a few. I don’t watch a lot of television but you can usually find me checking out the shows that are dark in nature. The River certainly fit the bill in my humble opinion. I tune in each and every week since it started to see what happens next. It’s going to be interesting to see if it is canceled and if not, I’m hoping that they take it to new and exciting places. With a story that is deeper than “Candy (or insert any other female name here), will you accept this rose?” you need to give it a little time to evolve into what it’s going to be.
Actually at times I wonder if the people that watch television as a rule are scheduling what we can expect to see in the future. Is it going to go the way of more reality television (which in my opinion is getting a little overrated and over watched) or will there be an outlet for the viewers that want the thought-provoking and profound programming? While I don’t watch much television, I do have it on in the background quite a bit. Do I miss things? Heck ya, but the shows that I want to watch, I set aside the time for.
Actually at times, I find it hard to just relax. There are always bits and pieces of stories running through my head. Maybe that’s the reason that so many of the authors I know have their bouts with insomnia, myself included. Insomnia is a tricky, tricky thing sometimes. I hate that it keeps me awake but love that it allows me to write some of the best passages that I think I have ever written. I guess that’s part of the good and the bad about my experience as a writer.
Days with the Undead: Book One by Julianne Snow
Five people set out to escape the Undead who have risen too close to home. Join the emotional and physical struggle as they began on the third day after the awakening of Brooks VanReit, as they are recorded from the point of view of Julie, a former pathologist and part-time survivalist.
Each entry is geared toward helping those who want to help themselves and maybe give a few that don’t a swift kick in the ass. Join our group of survivors on their journey through these Days with the Undead.
Date Released – February 29th, 2012
About the Author
It was while watching Romero’s Night of the Living Dead at the tender age of 6 that solidified Julianne’s respect of the Undead. Since that day, she has been preparing herself for the (inevitable) Zombie Apocalypse. While classically trained in all of the ways to defend herself, she took up writing in order to process the desire she now covets; to bestow a second and final death upon the Undead. As the only girl growing up in a family with four children in the Canadian countryside, Julianne needed some form of escape. Her choice was the imaginations of others which only fostered the vibrancy of her own.
Days with the Undead: Book One is her first full-length book, the basis of which can be found in her popular web serial of the same name. You can find Julianne’s The Living Dead of Penderghast Manor in the anthology Women of the Living Dead and an upcoming story in Sirens Call Publications first anthology Childhood Nightmares: Under The Bed.