I met Jonathan Maberry at the Tuscon Festival of Books earlier this year. While he’s known for his Rot & Ruin  books, a new series, Nightsiders, debuted May 19. If you’re a Rot & Ruin  fan, not to worry–the next installment, BITS & PIECES, will hit the streets on September 22.

From Goodreads:

In a world filled with Bugs, monsters that ceaselessly ravage the Earth, Milo Silk has a hard time keeping his dreams separate from reality. So he keeps them locked up in his dream journal and hopes they’ll never come to pass. But too often, they do, like when his father disappeared three years ago. Lately, the Witch of the World has been haunting his dreams, saying he is destined to be the hero who saves everyone. But all Milo can think about is how he fears the Bugs will attack his own camp, and bring something even more terrible than ever before.

What Milo doesn’t know is that the Earth is already fighting back with its own natural power in the form of Nightsiders, magical creatures who prefer shadows to sunlight and who reside in trees, caves, and rivers. And the Nightsiders are ready to find an ally in Milo.

From Goodreads:

Benny Imura’s zombie-infested adventures are well-chronicled in the gripping novels Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Flesh & Bone, and Fire & Ash. But what else was happening while he was on his quest? Who were the others navigating the ravaged landscape full of zombies?

Bits & Pieces fills in the gaps about what we know about First Night, surviving the plague, and traveling the land of Rot & Ruin. Eleven all-new short stories from Nix’s journal and eleven previously published stories, including “Dead & Gone” and “Tooth & Nail,” are now together and in print for the first time, along with the first-ever script for the Rot & Ruin comic books.

Jonathan was also kind enough to answer some interview questions: 

KAREN McCOY: According to your website bio, you write in several genres. What is your favorite genre to write in, if any, and what do you like most about dabbling in different mediums?

JONATHAN MABERRY: At heart I’m a thriller writer, and even when I shift gears to write in different genres most of my works are built on the model of a thriller. That means there are usually high stakes and some kind of race against time to prevent a catastrophe. That can manifest as a rescue, trying to prevent a biological outbreak, a zombie invasion, or just about anything else.

The reason I move around from genre to genre is because I love to experiment, to try new things, and to stretch as a writer. I read across genre lines, and always have. When I made the switch from writing mostly nonfiction (feature articles, nonfiction books, etc.) to writing novels, comics and short stories I knew that ‘fiction’ was the driving force. Not one particular kind of fiction. Sure, I have a bias toward horror and suspense, but I haven’t parked my car there. If I have a good idea that’s not in one of the genres in which I’m currently publishing, I discuss it with my agent and we go from there. If it’s something I become truly passionate about, then nothing will stop me from writing it and finding a good market for it.

Short stories are particularly good for allowing a writer to stretch and to try new things. Over the last few years I’ve written in so many different genres that it’s surprised even me! I’ve written mysteries, horror, psychological thrillers, weird science, westerns, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, military science fiction, comedy, historical fiction, and more. And I’ve done a lot of stories tied to existing characters or licenses, including tales set in the worlds of the Wizard of Oz, Sherlock Holmes, John Carter of Mars, Auguste DuPin, Cthulhu, Planet of the Apes, Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), and many others. And experimental fiction allows me the chance to introduce new characters and test-drive them with my readers.

KAREN McCOY: Glad to know your genre car’s still moving! I love the premise of NIGHTSIDERS: THE ORPHAN ARMY. How did the idea come to you, and what do you want readers to notice most in the story?

JONATHAN MABERRY: NIGHTSIDERS is a direct collaboration with my eleven-year-old self. You see, I kept a dream diary from age seven all the way through high school. I had very vivid dreams and even then I wanted to be a storyteller. So I wrote everything down. I had one particularly frightening series of dreams involved an invasion of insect aliens. And around the same time I dreamed that I was friends with kids who were monsters (faeries, ogres, sprites, werewolves, and like that). So I combined those two sets of dreams and used them as the foundation for a new series of books. Since I was eleven when I had those dreams, it seemed appropriate to write that series for kids in 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

I recently finished the second book in the series, VAULT OF SHADOWS.

KAREN McCOY: Should have definite appeal for middle-grade audiences. Your YA horror series, Rot & Ruin, was named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults. Aside from your well-deserved acclaim, what has been the most rewarding part of writing this series?

JONATHAN MABERRY: ROT & RUIN started out as a novella for adults. It was my response to a challenge from editor Christopher Golden, who was putting together an anthology of zombie stories that tweaked the standard model. The book, THE NEW DEAD, had great stories. Until that point I’d never written anything post-apocalyptic and hadn’t written from a teen’s perspective. So I combined those two elements. And, I’ve been a zombie fan since I was a kid. When I was ten years old, my buddy and I snuck into a movie theater to watch the world premier of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. That was October 2, 1968. That movie left a mark on me. It scared me crazy but at the same time it kick-started a speculation that still lingers today: How would I survive a zombie apocalypse?

So, ROT & RUIN is an extension of decades of thinking about that question. However I wanted to give it some of my own twists. Instead of writing about the apocalypse, I jumped forward fourteen years later and started there. The zombies have already consumed most of the world and even after all these years they haven’t rotted away. There are seven billion of them and only thirty thousand humans. The lead character was a kid growing up in a fenced-off town and we follow him as he looks for a job in that world.

The novella, “The Family Business”, was very favorably reviewed and received, and my agent nudged me in the direction of turning it into a novel for teens. It was something I’d never done…and so I had to try. Now we have the fifth ROT & RUIN book coming out –BITS & PIECES, which is a collection of short stories. There’s also a graphic novel, WARRIOR SMART, that’s set between books #2 and #3. And we have a movie in development.

KAREN McCOY: I was excited to learn about the movie, as well as the prospect of Louis Ozawa Changchien playing Benny Imura. At the Tuscon Festival of Books, you were on a panel entitled, “Undying Appeal of the Undead.” What, in your opinion, makes the undead so appealing to readers, and what about them appeals to you as an author?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Zombies are a perfect vehicle for metaphorical storytelling. You can say ‘zombie’ and people immediately understand you’re saying and they can envision the scope of the problem. They allow a writer to create a massive, shared threat that negatively impacts the lives of every single character in the story. Everyone is shoved out of complacency and out of the affected versions of themselves they wear every day. What’s left are people reduced to their true selves, stripped down and unable to hide behind pretension. That allows for deep character exploration, and the essentially generic nature of the crisis gives us a blank canvas on which we can paint any kind of image we want. Zombie stories can be used to talk about social issues (consumerism, political extremism, etc.), psychological issues (loss of identity, etc), global threats (pandemics or misused technology), and so on. The zombies represent the threat, but once introduced they usually fade to the background and we focus on the dynamics of people in crisis. That is the foundation of all drama, which means there is no end to the kinds of stories you can tell.

And zombies themselves are frightening because they unreasonable, unrelenting, and physically repellent while still representing people who once knew. That is delightful paranoia.

KAREN McCOY: And who knew zombies could be so malleable? What are some of your current projects?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m in the busiest phase of my career, juggling dozens of projects, large and small. I wrote three novels so far this year –VAULT OF SHADOWS, the second NIGHTSIDERS book; KILL SWITCH, the 8th in my Joe Ledger weird science thriller series; and GHOSTWALKERS, an alt-history old West steampunk supernatural thriller with zombies and undead velociraptors based on the Deadlands role-playing game. I’m writing a science fiction novel for teens (the details of which are under wraps!), and then I’ll wrap the year by writing GLIMPSE, a standalone horror-suspense novel for my adult readers. I’ve written a slew of short stories and novellas this year, including several audio exclusives. I wrapped my second V-WARS graphic novel, and am in discussions to do three new comic book limited series. And I’m writing a pilot script for a possible TV series based on my first novel, GHOST ROAD BLUES. I’m also working on three Hollywood projects: the movie version of ROT & RUIN; a TV series based on my V-WARS vampire apocalypse series; and a feature film based on KING OF PLAGUES, the 3rd of my Joe Ledger novels. And we have a V-WARs board game coming out for Christmas. While doing all of that I’ve been traveling around the world doing writers conferences, comic conventions and other events. Next up is Lucca Comics & Games in Tuscany. So…like I said, it’s a crazy time.

For more information on Jonathan and his books, feel free to click the links below.

Jonathan Maberry
NY Times Bestseller and 5-time Bram Stoker Award winner
Website & Blog: www.jonathanmaberry.com 

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