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JANUARY 2004


For the first interview on All Things Zombie, I managed to pull horror author Brian Keene away from his RISING ACROSS AMERICA TOUR long enough to answer a few questions. He resisted, but a quick club to the head and he finally saw it my way. Brian Keene is a Bram Stoker Award winning author, and his zombie novel THE RISING has just recently been released in mass market paperback. His other works include such books as NO REST FOR THE WICKED, THE RISE AND FALL OF BABYLON, and the forthcoming FEAR OF GRAVITY. Before the effects of the club wore off, Brian and I chatted it up about THE RISING, its forthcoming sequel, his influences, and all the other stuff he's working on.


ATZ: Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us, Brian. And congratulations on being the first interview on All Things Zombie! First off, I know I've told you this before, but I really loved THE RISING, and I definitely put it up there as one of the coolest, and original, takes on the zombie lore.

BK: Well thanks very much for that! It's definitely getting some props from the zombie fans out there-which I'm happy about. One of my biggest fears was that, while the general horror fan may have enjoyed it, the true, hardcore zombie fans wouldn't. It's good to see that they are.

ATZ: Now that it's hitting shelves, how cool is to see not only a zombie novel, but YOUR zombie novel at Wal-Marts, grocery stores, and the like?

BK: I think it's cool to see a zombie novel on the shelves, regardless of whether it's mine or not. The excitement of seeing your book in print wears off after a few books (I know that sounds horrible-but it's true). But to see a zombie novel on the rack between Dr. Phil and Nora Roberts-that is cool!

ATZ: Yeah, I can just imagine how Dr. Phil feels about that. So why a zombie novel? Admittedly I haven't read all your short fiction, is this something that you've attempted before or was this brand new territory?

BK: I'd played with zombies before, in a few short stories. The first, "Hunting Season" (from NO REST AT ALL), experimented with the zombie animal-hunting trip idea that shows up in THE RISING. In fact, the characters in that story were an early version of Jason and Delmas from the novel.

The real impetuous for THE RISING came from two things. I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel involving a father searching for his son. At the same time, Geoff Cooper and I had just finished a short story called "Wild Kingdom" (from 4X4), which featured a hooker named Frankie stuck in a zoo full of zombie animals and pissed off drug dealers.

When the story was finished, I wanted to do more with Frankie-probably more than any other character I've created. At some point, I realized that this father and Frankie were in the same world and -Bam!- the novel was born!


The Rising Now Out in Paperback ATZ: You're now into the book tour, is this your first one?

BK: No, this is (pauses)-the fourth I believe. It's certainly the biggest, as far as length of time on the road. I've toured for NO REST FOR THE WICKED, 4X4, and TALKING SMACK before this.

ATZ: What are you looking forward to most about it?

BK: Meeting the readers. That's the part I always enjoy best, whether there's 200 people in line or 2 people-either way, it's worth it if I get to interact with somebody. Writing is a pretty solitary act-just you and the computer. So it's always good to see your readers face-to-face and hear their feedback.

ATZ: While reading THE RISING, I couldn't help thinking that it would make a great movie. Has there been any interest in that from the Hollywood bigwigs?

BK: There has been a lot of interest-but I can't say more than that at this time. (chuckles)

ATZ: I figured as much. On that note, congratulations on Chesapeake Films picking up the option to "Fodder" (a novella Keene collaborated with Tim Lebbon on). I know those things can take forever to develop, any news on that?

BK: As far as the film itself goes, there's no news-at least not yet. But Tim and I are working on a full-length novel version. Should have it wrapped up sometime before the next millennium, the way our schedules are.

ATZ: Back to THE RISING. When you were writing it, did you know you'd be doing a sequel (MORE THAN INFINITY)?

BK: Not at all. I wanted the ending to be just as bleak, dark, and unsettling as it is. Remember the ending of John Carpenter's THE THING? Childs and McCready are about to freeze to death and one of them may be infected and then-Blam!!-the credits roll! It was up to the viewer to decide what happened next. That's what I wanted to do with THE RISING. If you read carefully, there are hints of it all throughout the book: the fate of Delmas and Jason, Jim's nightmare, the death of Baker's surrogate son, even martin's internal Bible verses near the end.

But I blew it. For the entire novel, I showed you everything up close and personal and when it came to the end, I pulled the camera away and tried to hint at it. Some readers enjoyed that ending and some didn't. But in either case, everybody, and I mean everybody-editors, publishers, and fans-are demanding a sequel. Who am I to say no? Plus, I could always use the paycheck. (laughs) First thing both of my editors asked me was "What happens in the sequel?"


ATZ: That would be my first question too! I thought I was missing the last chapter or something, I couldn't believe it ended the way it did. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly bleak and it works well that way, but count me among those demanding a sequel (laughs). So what can we expect from MORE THAN INFINITY?

BK: Well, first off, to avoid confusion, I'd better announce this now. The hardcover sequel (which comes out from Delirium Books this December) will be called MORE THAN INFINITY. The paperback version of the same book will be called CITY OF THE DEAD. Leisure Books will release that sometime next year. They are the same book, but Leisure's version will have a different title, making it easier for bookstores to categorize.

As for what to expect, it starts exactly where THE RISING ended, hits the ground running and does not let up for a second. This time, nobody, and I mean nobody, is safe. You'll see some familiar faces and a few new ones. Frankie and Martin are back, and so is Ob.


ATZ: Providing there's sufficient interest after the sequel, do you think that there's enough left in the tank for a trilogy?

BK: Nope, no trilogy. On this I stand firm. I could see myself revisiting the world with a short story or two, farther down the road, but that's about it. Last thing I want to do is get typecast as "the zombie guy". There's many other horror novels I want to write.

ATZ: I definitely think we're in the middle of a zombie revival of sorts, with the upcoming DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, the RESIDENT EVIL movies, and the vast amount of other zombie stuff on tap. Do you agree, and what are your thoughts on the renewed interest in the undead?

BK: Oh, I agree 100%. I think the interest started maybe two years ago, and now we're seeing the effects. It's happening in fiction too, with zombie books coming from Ray Garton, Gary Braunbeck and others. Supposedly, there's a third BOOK OF THE DEAD coming too.

I remember a conversation I had with Don D'Auria of Leisure Books and Darren McKeeman who runs Gothic.net. We were at a party at the World Horror Convention in Chicago two years ago, and we were discussing how we all thought zombies were about to make a comeback-simply because there was absolutely nothing out there for zombie fans. Everything was vampire, vampire, vampire, but when you went to a horror convention, all you saw was fans in Fulci and Dawn t-shirts!

I think horror itself is experiencing a renaissance right now. People are scared of everyday life. We've got real-life monsters flying airplanes into buildings and raping little kids. It's good to curl up with a make believe monster that just wants to eat your brains…

ATZ: Indeed. On a more generic topic, what are some of the authors that you enjoy reading and is there anyone (or more) that you feel you've really learned a lot from or been influenced by?

BK: How much tape do you have in that tape recorder, because I could go on and on? I read a lot, and my list of favorites changes from day to day. In general, some of my most favorite authors in the genre are Richard Laymon, Douglas Clegg, Stephen King, Tom Piccirilli, Graham Masterton, Skipp & Spector, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Neil Gaiman, Simon Clark, Michael Marshall Smith, and Alan Moore. I like the old school stuff too; authors like William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, Washington Irving, and H. P. Lovecraft of course. Non-genre, I dig Elmore Leonard, John Steinbeck, Larry McMurty, Mark Twain, Arthur C. Clarke-oh, and some guy named Tolkien. I'm also a huge, huge fan of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

As for influences; cinema-wise, I'd say DAWN OF THE DEAD and PHANTASM. I saw both at an early age and both had a profound impact on me. Two of the biggest thrills of my life was when Don Coscarelli of PHANTASM allowed me to play in his universe (in the short story "Hell at S-MART" from NO REST AT ALL), and when Ken Foree, aka bad-ass Peter from DAWN, gave THE RISING his endorsement.

For fiction, my earliest influence was Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby's work for Marvel and DC Comics-especially the 70's issues of MAN-THING, THE ETERNALS, KAMANDI, CAPTAIN AMERICA, etc. Later on, I discovered King, Koontz, Laymon, Masterton, and J. N. Williamson in the same summer. After that, there was no looking back. I knew what I wanted to do for a living.


ATZ: I dig a lot of those cats as well. Coincidentally, I just re-watched Phantasm again a week or so ago, and it's amazing that it still holds up some 20 plus years later.

So you're currently the editor of Horrorfind.com's fiction section. How'd you get that gig, and is that something you'd like to continue doing indefinitely?

BK: The long version of how I got that gig can be found in Mike Roden's introduction to THE BEST OF HORRORFIND II. The short version is this: he was considering doing a fiction section and needed an editor. I wanted to edit fiction for somebody and needed a paycheck. We met up, did a business lunch with many beers and proposals and plans scribbled on soggy napkins, and I got the job. It's incredibly rewarding, and I'd love to do it for as long as there's a readership out there.

Fear of Gravity ATZ: I hear you're a big fan of Xlibris (sarcastically referring to a "rant" on Keene's official website)…

BK: Don't get me started. I'm not a big fan of any vanity press-or of authors who use them. There are one or two exceptions. Louis Maistros' novel THE BIG PUNCH comes to mind, but that's about it.

ATZ: At this point, what would you say you are most proud of in that ever-growing resume of yours?

BK: Without question, FEAR OF GRAVITY. I dumped my heart and soul into it, and I personally feel it may be my strongest writing to date. Of course, with that comes fear-fear that the readership may not like it.

ATZ: So what's currently in the works for you now and are there any projects farther down the pipe you can let us in on?

BK: Well, FEAR OF GRAVITY will be out at the end of February. That's a limited edition hardcover from Delirium Books. While there are no zombie stories in it, zombie fans will definitely want to snag a copy. With each copy ordered through Delirium, they'll receive a free copy of THE RISING: NECROPHOBIA. This is a chapbook featuring four new zombie stories set in the world of THE RISING. It's not being offered for sale, so the only way to get one is to order FEAR OF GRAVITY.

And there are still copies of THE RISE AND FALL OF BABYLON (which I co-wrote with John Urbancik) and BEST OF HORRORFIND II in print. Reader's can go to http://www.briankeene.com/bookstore.html for more information on any of them. (I expect both THE RISING: NECROPHOBIA and THE RISE AND FALL OF BABYLON to be gone soon, so act quickly).

Right now, I'm finishing up my next book, TERMINAL, which will be released by Bloodletting Press later this year. Then I'll finish up MORE THAN INFINITY/CITY OF THE DEAD. As I mentioned, Tim Lebbon and I still need to novelize "Fodder". After that, there's a bunch of things I want to do. Not sure what I'll go with next. I'm contracted to Bantam-Dell, Leisure and Delirium for more books, so there's plenty of stuff to write.


ATZ: Okay Brian, before we end this thing, can you give ATZ any scoops on what may be in store for Frankie and the gang in MORE THAN INFINITY?

BK: Okay, here's an exclusive just for All Things Zombie readers-but don't tell anybody else, okay? Picture in your head the population of New York City. Picture the teeming masses. Now picture them all as zombies. Picture Ob organizing and leading them. Finally, picture our heroes being dropped down in the center of it all.

And that's just in the first four chapters…


ATZ: Sweet! I can't wait! And don't worry, my lips are sealed. Thanks again for your time Brian, it was a pleasure! Best of luck with MTI and the rest of the stuff on that full plate of yours!

BK: Thanks. Now let me eat your braaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnns!


We appreciate Brian taking the time to talk to us here at ATZ. I highly recommend picking up THE RISING if you haven't already. It's not the same old, tired zombie tale you're used to. If you like it, then you might want to check out some of his other work. You can find out more by heading over to Brian Keene's Official Website.


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