We’re up into our second week of the Month of Permuted promotion, and today’s guest star is William Todd Rose, author of the very excellent Seven Habits of Highly Infective People. I grabbed this up and read it the day it came out, and I thought it was excellent; definitely a must-read for fans of the zombie genre!
Without further ado, let me introduce you to William Todd Rose!
My readers might not be familiar with you. Can you tell them about yourself? What do you like to do when you’re not telling stories about the cannibalistic undead?
Well, I’m the author of six books and numerous short stories, which have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have The Google+ Insider’s Guide name me as one of their top 32 authors to follow and I’m currently living in Parkersburg, West Virginia, with my wife, son, and an orange cat. When I’m not writing, I like pursuing a variety of interests. I create digital music under the moniker Dead Hooker Scenario, I’ve designed 3D art and women’s accessories in Second Life and for a while was the Western Hemisphere PR manager for a virtual club called Re:Noize. I also like playing around with digital art and web design as well as hiking and camping. I have a passion for all things science with a particular interest in astronomy and on a clear night can often be found gazing at the universe through one of my telescopes. I lead a rather quiet life, which is pretty much how I like it.
How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you? Have you written in other genres? Which ones? If not, is it something you would consider doing?
To be perfectly honest, I’ve purposefully tried to distance myself from any one particular genre. The closest I’ve actually come is describing myself as either a dark fiction or speculative fiction author. Which isn’t meant as a jab to the horror genre in any way; horror fiction is what initially ignited that spark within me, the one which made me want to sit down and make up my own stories, and it holds a special place in my heart. But there’s a lot of room in my imagination for many different worlds as well. I’ve also written sci-fi, cyberpunk, transgressive fiction, non-genre pieces, and works which try to blend different genres into a single tale.
I first heard of you via your recent release with Permuted Press, The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, which quite frankly fascinated me with its concept. My blog visitors, however, might not yet be familiar with the book. Can you tell them what it’s about?
The story is about a mystic-minded slacker named Bosley Coughlin who inadvertently opens a portal called The Eye of Aeons through experimentation with drugs and the occult. The Eye is basically an interdimensional portal which spontaneously pulls his consciousness through and allows him to take up temporary residence inside a host. On one of these journeys he shares the mind of a fourteen year old girl named Ocean. Ocean lives in a not-too-distant future where an undead uprising and food wars have driven mankind to the brink of extinction and these wastelands are the only home she’s ever known. Back in the present, Bosley stumbled across a shop girl named Clarice Hudson and realizes she’s displaying the seven symptoms of the contagion which paves the way for Ocean’s harsh world. Having formed an emotional connection with this little girl, he delves into morally gray areas in an attempt to do whatever he can to stop the coming apocalypse and spare Ocean a lifetime of suffering and misery.
To say the zombie apocalypse genre is getting pretty popular is an understatement. That said, what do you feel sets The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People apart from the crowd?
Well, there’s the time travel element. I’m not sure if it’s been combined with the undead before, but it was integral to the story and actually helps shape Bosley’s personality, right down to the way he speaks. I also tried to obtain a subtle balance between mysticism and science. The contagion which creates the living dead is entirely biological, but it’s metaphysics which allows Bosley to travel through time. Another thing which I think is slightly different is that in Ocean’s world the people left alive really can’t be thought of as “survivors”. They’re more like refugees than anything else, doing whatever they can to simply stay alive while their bodies waste away from malnutrition. In fact, when the reader first meets Ocean, she’s trapping flies in her mouth just to get a morsel of food.
I’ve also only recently realized that the book combines two camps familiar to fans of the undead genre. In Bosley’s timeline, we have “the infected”: people riddled with a disease that makes them incapable of controlling their own actions. But that’s just one stage of a tenacious contagion. The second stage occurs when the host organism, in this case people, dies. The evolution of the disease then creates the true living dead, the rotters who stalk Ocean’s timeline.
On that note, I should also put out there that this isn’t a straight up tale of zombie survival. While they definitely play an important role in the story, they’re not the real focus. They’re an element of the future just as trees and buildings are elements of our present. Because of this, a reader will be disappointed if they expect a rotter attack every few chapters. At the same time, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. There’s still action and suspense in the novel and the zombies/infected play a vital role in the plot. But there’s also a lot of human on human conflict. That being said, the undead will play a stronger role as the series progresses; but for the first book I wanted the reader to really understand the characters and what motivates them to do the things they do.
Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?
One of my all-time favorite reads is Neuromancer by William Gibson. I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve read that novel (or how many copies I’ve burned through). The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett is another book that really had an impact on me. It’s subtitled Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance and is basically a fifty year history of mankind’s battle against the microbes. Marburg, Ebola, various hemorrhagic fevers… it covers some pretty brutal and scary diseases which are made all that more horrifying because you know it’s real.
I have a lot of writers who follow my blog, so I sometimes ask writing-related questions. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing a novel? What advice would you give to those who want to publish in the genre?
Personally, the most difficult part for me is deciding which story to focus on. I usually have several different projects going on simultaneously, with other ideas tucked into the back of my head as well; there’s simply not enough time to write all the stories I’d like to tell. Once I’ve ended a novel, it’s also hard for me to just leave the characters behind. I’ve got sequel and series ideas for everything I’ve published to date, but I have to be realistic… if I’m doing nothing more than continually revisiting worlds I’ve already created, I’d never get anything new accomplished. So I have to decide which worlds I really want to explore more in depth and push the other ones aside.
For those who want to publish in the genre, the advice I would give is to be true to your own voice. Shadow of the Woodpile, in all honesty, is probably my least favorite thing I’ve written. I like the story idea and I can see aspects of my personal style struggling to emerge, but I was purposefully trying to write in a stream of consciousness, Beat fashion. As a result, I think it turned out a little overwritten. Your work will always be stronger if you stay true to that distinctive voice in your head instead of trying to emulate someone else’s technique.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for not only marketing in general but for the horror genre in particular?
I am a firm believer in Free. I try at all times to have at least one novella that can be downloaded at no charge for both new and existing fans. My first two books didn’t really garner much attention when they were published. I got some scattered reviews, but for the most part people simply didn’t know they were out there. Once I released Sex in the Time of Zombies as a freebie, however, things changed. It ended up being downloaded thousands of times from something like 46 countries around the world, and that was just the downloads I was able to track. People who read and liked it then sought me, and my other works out, which is when I saw sales for the older books pick up. By the time Sex was picked up by Living Dead Press, I realized the importance of having a freebie and made sure I had something ready to take its place.
As for the horror genre in particular, conventions are an excellent avenue for networking. There’s a good chance you’ll probably lose money on a con, with travel expenses, vendor fees, and what have you; but I really think it’s a great marketing tool. It puts an author face to face with the public and allows them to talk about their work and any questions a potential reader may have. It gets the book physically in their hands, which is a basic sales technique for any product. However, the contacts you make aren’t limited to just readers. Other authors and publishing houses also attend these things and it’s common to walk around the vendor tables to check out other people’s wares. I actually met Jacob from Permuted Press at a convention in 2010, where I was debuting the self published first edition of The Seven Habits. About a month later, I received an email from him asking if he could see the manuscript. So even though it cost me a lot more to attend the con than what I made back, it was an invaluable experience.
Besides Seven Habits, do you have any other works available for purchase? If so, can you tell us about them?
Well, there’s aforementioned Shadow of the Woodpile. It’s a novella in which I tried to combine the narrative style of 50s Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs with the horror genre, ending up with what I personally feel were mixed results. That was followed by a short novel called Cry Havoc. This one is set during a worldwide paradigm shift that basically obliterates a person’s moral compass, devolving humanity into creatures who exist purely to satisfy their most base desires. Shut the Fuck Up and Die!, my next book, was my tribute to the shock films I grew up on with my own little twist. That one is my most graphic book to date and I’ve actually had some readers tell me they can’t get past the first chapter because it makes them too squeamish.
In the zombie realm, I’ve got a collection of short stories through Living Dead Press called Sex in the Time of Zombies, which is kind of a study in various aspects of sexuality viewed through the lens of an undead apocalypse. They’re laid out chronologically, taking you from the first day of the uprising to point far in the future. Through Twisted Library Press, I’ve also published another zombie novel entitled The Dead and Dying. This one starts off with the main character slowly bleeding to death in a small shack with no hopes of survival. Called to his deathbed are the spirits of two people who played vital roles in his life after the fall: a woman with whom he’d found love in an uncaring world and a small child who hates the main character so fiercely that not even death can satisfy his thirst for revenge. For those who like their apocalypses zombie-free, I also have Apocalyptic Organ Grinder available. This novella takes place 150 years after the Gabriel Virus was unleashed upon the world by religious fanatics and pits two disparate cultures against one another. There’s the Settlers (derogatorily known as Clear Skins) who live in burgeoning communities and try to rebuild the world they lost; and then there’s The People (derogatorily known as Spewers). The People are genetic carriers of the Gabriel Virus and, as such, cannot be killed by it. They live in forest clans and Lila, one of the main characters, is a tribal huntress. The other main character, Tanner Kline, holds a job within his community known as a Sweeper. The responsibility of a Sweeper is in patrolling the forests and killing any Spewers he finds, thus keeping his settlement safe from infection. This one is a fan freebie and can be picked up over on Smashwords at no cost.
What are you currently working on right now?
Right now I’m working on The Dead Trap, which is book two in the series that began with The Seven Habits. I’m also working on a dark, pyschosexual fairytale for adults called Pennyweight which follows the adventures of a girl born with the flesh of an antique doll and her surgically modified rat.
What can we expect to see next from you?
That’s a good question. There’s a chance it might be my sci-fi/dystopian novel Agent Meat. Or it could be Pennyweight or The Dead Trap. We’ll just have to see which one I finish first.
And lastly, where can readers find you online?
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to chat with us, William!
You can check out William’s Amazon author page, where it lists all of his currently available works, right here.