Jonathan Maberry Interview  

Posted by Scott Wilson

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. His books have been sold to more than a dozen countries.

His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy: GHOST ROAD BLUES (Pinnacle books; winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2006), DEAD MAN’S SONG (2007) and BAD MOON RISING (2008); the Joe Ledger series of action thrillers from St. Martins Griffin: PATIENT ZERO (2009, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Best Novel Award and is in development for ABC TV by Sony Pictures), THE DRAGON FACTORY (2010; now available), THE KING OF PLAGUES (2011), THE OTHERS (2012), VISITORS (2013); THE WOLFMAN (NY Times bestseller from Tor, based on the Universal Pictures film starring Benecio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Sir Anthony Hopkins); the Benny Imura series of Young Adult dystopian zombie thrillers from Simon & Schuster: ROT & RUIN (2010) and DUST & DECAY (2011); and the forthcoming zombie thriller DEAD OF NIGHT (2011)

His nonfiction works include: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE (Citadel Press, 2006), THE CRYPTOPEDIA (Citadel, 2007 –winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer), ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (Winner of the Hinzman and Black Quill Awards and nominated for a Stoker Award; 2008), THEY BITE! (2009 co-authored by David F. Kramer), WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (2010 co-authored by Janice Gable Bashman), and THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD (2001, written under the pen name of Shane MacDougall).

He writes a variety of projects for Marvel Comics involving BLACK PANTHER, DOOMWAR, WOLVERINE, DEADPOOL, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR and the NY Times bestselling MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and THE MARVEL UNIVERSE vs THE PUNISHER. All of Jonathan’s comic book collections will be released as Graphic Novel collections.

Recent short stories include “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” (HISTORY IS DEAD, Permuted Press 2007), “Doctor Nine” (KILLERS, Swimming Kangaroo Press, 2008; and reprinted in THE STORIES (in) BETWEEN Edited by Greg Schauer, Jeanne B. Benzel, and W.H. Horner. Fantasist Enterprises, 2009), “The Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost” (LEGENDS OF THE MOUNTAIN STATE 2, Bloodletting Books, 2008), “Clean Sweeps” (AND SO IT BEGINS, Dark Quest Books, 2008), “Family Business” (THE NEW DEAD, St. Martins Press, 2010), and “Zero Tolerance” (THE LIVING DEAD 2, Night Shade Books). Jonathan also created two Joe Ledger short stories for the Internet: “Countdown” and “Deep, Dark”, available through his website.

Jonathan is the co-creator (with Laura Schrock) of ON THE SLAB, an entertainment news show in development by Stage 9 for ABC Disney / Stage 9. He is also a ‘blog correspondent’ on Sony’s zombie-themed web show ‘WOKE UP DEAD’; and a recurring character on ‘IT’S TODD’S SHOW’.

Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog ( focuses on the publishing industry. Jonathan’s interviews include Sandra Brown, Gayle Lynds, Alafair Burke, James Rollins, Harlan Coben, Jeff Abbott, John Saul, Jonathan Kellerman, Barry Eisler, CJ Box, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccarilli, Dale Brown, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Lansdale, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, and many other best-selling authors.

Jonathan is a Contributing Editor for The Big Thrill (the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers), and is a member of SFWA, IAMTW, MWA, SCBWI, SFWA and HWA. He is a frequent guest at genre cons and writers conferences, including ThrillerFest, San Diego Comic Con, Sisters in Crime, BackSpace, PennWriters, Dragon*Con, PhilCon, Horror-Realm, Boucher Con, HorrorFind, Monster Mania, New York Comic Con, Philadelphia Writers Conference, Balticon, The Write Stuff, Hypericon, Hypericon, LunaCon, and many others. He will be the Saturday keynote speaker at PennWriters in 2011.

Jonathan was the Executive Director of the Writers Room of Bucks County (2005-06) and co-owner of the Writers Corner USA (2006-2009). Jonathan regularly visits local middle schools, high schools and colleges to talk about books, reading, publishing and the writing life.

Jonathan is a founding member of The Liars Club, a group of networking publishing professionals that includes celebrated authors L. A. Banks, Merry Jones, Gregory Frost, Jon McGoran, Ed Pettit, Dennis Tafoya, Keith Strunk, Don Lafferty, Kelly Simmons, Marie Lamba, Solomon Jones, Sara Shepard, William Lashner, and Laura Schrock. The Liars Club works to support booksellers, raise awareness and support for public libraries, and cultivate a joy of reading and books.

On the last Sunday of every month Jonathan hosts the Writers Coffeehouse, a free three-hour open-agenda networking and discussion session for writers of all genres and levels of skill. The event is held at the Barnes & Noble in Willow Grove Pennsylvania.

Jonathan has been a popular writing teacher and career counselor for writers for the last two decades. He teaches a highly regard series of classes and workshops including Write Your Novel in Nine Months, Revise & Sell, Experimental Writing for Teens, and others. Many of his students have gone on to publish in short and novel-length fiction, magazine feature writing, nonfiction books, TV, film, and comics.

In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame largely because of his extensive writings in that field. His martial arts books include Self-Defense for Every Woman (Vortex Multimedia, 1985); Introduction to Asian Martial Arts (Vortex Multimedia, 1986); The Self-Defense Instructor’s Handbook (Vortex Multimedia, 1990); Judo and You (Kendall Hunt, 1991); Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices (Strider Nolan, 2002); The Martial Arts Student Logbook (Strider Nolan, 2002); Ultimate Sparring Principles and Practices (Strider Nolan, 2003).

Visit his website at or find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.

Scott: Hi Jonathan, congratulations on the recent release of your new series, Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory. Zombies are big business at the moment, how did you create a new plot for the series?

Jonathan: I read tons of science magazines –industry reports as well as consumer mags and I talk to a lot of scientists. I’m a science geek at heart and love playing the ‘what if?’ game. There are some wild and scary things in development in all areas of science. If you’re not a writer you look at that stuff and go ‘cool’; but if you’re a storyteller you look at it and wonder ‘how could someone badly misuse that?’ or ‘what would happen if that got out of the lab and into the food chain?’ I also follow politics and the economy, and even though I’m holding onto my idealism and optimism as best I can, I’m enough of a realist to know that if there’s a way to profit on something, then someone will even if it’s at the expense of the economy, ecology or the best interests of humanity.

Scott: What can readers expect in The Dragon Factory. Especially those who loved Patient Zero?

Jonathan: The Dragon Factory ups the game for Joe Ledge and his crew. In Patient Zero they were up against terrorists with a zombie plague, but they were ahead of that plot, fighting a kind of holding action. In The Dragon Factory they are way behind the curve by the time they find out what’s going on, and it’s a real race against time to prevent a global catastrophe.
Dragon Factory deals with two groups of scientists who are way out on the cutting-edge. One group is creating designer genetics for the world market: mythological animals for big game hunters, transgenic attack dogs, and genetically-enhanced mercenaries for sale to governments and private corporations. The other group is working on a secret agenda to complete the Nazi Master Race program—a plan that includes ethnic genocide of everyone who doesn’t fit their idea of a ‘perfect human’.
The book mixes politics, science, humor, romance and plenty of action.

Scott: How easy do you find it tying in action scenes from your other passion, jujutsu, when writing? You must have great insight from your practical knowledge.

Jonathan: I’ve been practicing and teaching traditional Japanese jujutsu for over forty-five years and I’ve worked variously as a bouncer, a bodyguard in the entertainment industry, and a martial arts instructor. I have (unfortunately) way too much practical experience in real world combat. Maybe if I had grown up in a safer household or safer neighborhood I might have wound up writing childrens books about puppies…but that’s not how it played out.
When I write an action scene, everything that Joe Ledger and the other characters do is not only possible but likely. I don’t like the Hollywood-style over-the-top action where you have people doing jump kicks against a knife-wielding attacker or that sort of thing. Joe is a practical and very ruthless fighter. I’ve drawn a number of his combat responses from things I’ve done in real situations.
I get two kinds of fan letters from these scenes. From the folks who truly do not understand how actual combat works, I get some letters calling Joe Ledger a ‘superman’ and say that he does the impossible. From cops, soldiers (from all over the globe), SWAT officers, and genuine martial artists I get a LOT of mail thanking me for telling it like it is.

Scott: What is your favourite zombie movie?

Jonathan: Easy call. The Director’s Cut of Zack Snyder’s 2004 re-imagining of DAWN OF THE DEAD is the easy frontrunner for me. Mind you, I’ll always love the original DAWN, and NIGHT and Romero’s other flicks; and there are plenty of zombie films I watch and re-watch, but for me the new DAWN was letter perfect, from the first scene to the last. I’ve watched it at least fifty times.

Scott: Apart from your own zombie books, can you name a couple of other great books about the undead you've enjoyed?

Jonathan: Wow…you’d better have a comfortable chair because that could be a very long answer. I love zombie fiction. Absolutely love it. And my Top Five list changes daily (largely because I’m a moody guy and my opinions change with the weather).
My all-time favorite zombie books are anthologies. John Skipp and Craig Spector's BOOK OF THE DEAD, Christopher Golden's THE NEW DEAD, Kim Paffenroth's HISTORY IS DEAD, Tim Curran's THE UNDEAD: FLESH FEAST.
As far as novels, the ones I tend to re-read include AMONG MADMEN by Jim Starlin, DEAD SEA by Brian Keene (my favorite of his zombie novels), DEAD CITY by Joe McKinney, WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks, BREATHERS by S.G. Browne, AUTUMN by David Moody, DEAD IN THE WEST by Joe R. Lansdale, and a scad of others.
I’ve also been fortunate to be asked to read and blurb a number of fine new zombie books like Ryan Brown’s PLAY DEAD, Alan Goldsher’s PAUL IS UNDEAD, artist Rob Sacchetto’s THE ZOMBIE HANDBOOK and a bunch of others. Lots of great zombie reading out there.
I’m also a huge fan of Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD comic. He’s a great guy, very funny…but he writes the zombie comic that’s the closest thing to Romero you can find.

Scott: Tell us about your experience working with Marvel Comics?

Jonathan: It’s been a blast. I love it. I was scouted by them after Marvel editor and Vice President Axel Alonso read PATIENT ZERO. He loved the book and asked if I was interested in writing comics. The world’s most absurd question.
Marvel has given me a tremendous amount of creative freedom and some very nice opportunities. I jumped in with a Wolverine 8-page short (“Ghosts”, now reprinted in WOLVERINE: FLIES TO A SPIDER trade paperback), then did a gritty Marvel MAX Punisher story, NAKED KILL. From there they asked me to write Black Panther. The book was close to a temporary shutdown in preparation for a reboot, but I got to make my mark with POWER, the last regular arc that received strong critical acclaim. We spun off of that with DOOMWAR, and that came out of the box very hot and sold a lot of copies.
Since then, I’ve been doing a series of Marvel ‘mini-events’ that allow me to explore a lot of weird, fun territory. I have MARVEL UNIVERSE VS PUNISHER launching this week, and that’s a disturbing post-apocalyptic existentialist tale featuring the Punisher, Spider-Man, Hulk, Deadpool and many other Marvel heavyweights. Currently I’m writing two miniseries: BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, which follows the new Black Panther, Shuri in a quest to avenge her father’s murder; and CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five issue Marvel event that begins in World War II and ends with a bang in modern day.

Scott: What do you think about the latest trend of adding zombies to classics, such as Jane Eyre and War of The Worlds?

Jonathan: Those books are a hoot. I worked with Seth Grahame-Smith on MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN (a New York Times bestseller in hardback), and I dig what he did with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve read a bunch of the other books—though not all as they’re coming out faster than I can read them.
I’ve been asked about doing one, but I think that the trend may pass before my schedule opens up. I’m days away from finishing my 9th novel since 2005 (a zombie novel for teens) and then I have two new Joe Ledger thrillers to write, THE OTHERS (which deals with genetically-engineered vampires and werewolves used as assassins) and another which is not yet named. Between those I’ll be finishing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie thriller which is the creepiest thing I’ve ever come up with. The plot totally freaks me out…which means I’m having a whole lot of fun with it!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2010 at 2:16 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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