Thursday, August 4, 2011
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Tony Monchinski
Tony: The people I’ve heard from have been very positive about it. This book was written in a very straight-forward, linear fashion, unlike its predecessors which jumped around in time. People liked the first two books, but they also seem to like the chronological turn of events laid out straightforward in Resurrection. That said, we’ll know more when the quarter’s royalty statements go out in October!
Scott: eBooks seem to be taking off now, with brick and mortar booksellers closing down at an alarming rate. How do you feel about e-books compared to physical books?
Tony: I have nothing “against” e-books. I have a Kindle and read books and newspapers on it. That said, I have always liked the feel of an ink and paper book in my hands. Even with my books—books I have written--when I’m holding it in my hands, it seems so much more “real” than an e-book. But if what they say is true and e-books are the wave of the future, I am adapting. I will say I rarely, if ever, buy a book in a brick and mortar store any longer, though I do like to go in and browse. And maybe I should be ashamed to admit that.
Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?
Scott: When you wrote Eden, there weren’t that many zombie novels available. Now they seem to be everywhere. What do you think caused this craze for books and movies based on the zombie apocalypse?
Tony: Vampires were HUGE when I wrote Eden and still are. I wrote Eden for a very particular purpose: to get a novel published. I ‘d been getting nonfiction books published and magazine work but I have always wanted to be a novelist. I came across a Brian Keane book in the mid-town Manhattan library, The Rising, read it, and thought, I can do this! So I wrote Eden, thinking a zombie novel might sell. And then I couldn’t get it published, so I self published it. After which Permuted reissued it, Random House reissued it in Germany, and now Simon & Schuster will be reissuing it with Permuted Press in December. Zombies are fun and scary. Zombies are decidedly unsexy, although I have heard there is zombie-themed porn. Zombies were a vast untapped market five or ten years ago in the writing realm.
Scott: Do you have a favorite character from any of the books you’ve written and what about them appeals to you?
Tony: I love them all, but there are a few that stand out. Bear and how he developed from Eden to Crusade for one. There was a bad guy in Eden, Markowski, who in hindsight I wish I had used a little more because I just liked his particular brand of evil. And there are a group in Resurrection—Thomas, his son Tommy and their friends—that I really enjoyed writing. They’re “bad guys” but they’re very sympathetic in their own way. Another favorite character I have is Boone from my I Kill Monsters series. He’s hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting, and steroid-injecting. He’s rude and racist, hates vampires and other monsters that populate the series and can’t shoot worth a damn. He’ll develop over the course of the series—if he lives long enough!
Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?
Tony: It depends on the type of writing. My nonfiction (political theory, philosophy, history, education-stuff) requires a lot of research and reading. One of these books will usually take me a year or two years to deliver because of the amount of research involved. My novels are a little different. Every time I read a novel these days or watch a film I am taking notes, actually putting down the book or pausing the DVD and jotting down notes or a word or looking up a definition. Scenes and ideas and characters and dialogue come to me and I jot these down. I have a microcassette recorder in my car and I speak notes into it when I am driving to and from work. Eventually I get the bare bones of an outline for an over-arching storyline and I flesh it out. Then, when I feel I am ready, I sit down and start to write. I write the scenes I feel most strongly about first: I do not write from page one to page last. I do go back through it several times and make sure it works, checking for inconsistencies, fleshing out weaknesses, etc. I find no matter how much I plan, entire scenes and even story arcs present themselves during the writing process. I don’t know how it works, but it works, and I have faith in the process. I will also seek out people who know more about a topic than I do—for example, in the Eden series, weapons—and ask them questions, or read about weapons’ specs online or watch the weapons being used on YouTube.
Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?
Tony: I’ll tell you what I’ve read this summer that stands out. I am reading a collection of Elmore Leonard’s westerns right now. I read the last novel by Cormac McCarthy that I had yet to read, Suttree, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I’d been meaning to read Dostoyevsky’s The Devils for years and finally got around to it this summer (War and Peace is sitting on my table like an immense paperweight waiting to be read; I’ll get to it in the next year or so I hope). I re-read Eden, Crusade and World War Z before I sat down to start writing Eden 4. I am reading and enjoying Orson Scott Card’s fourth book in the Ender series, Children of the Mind. I read a lot of magazines on a weekly basis, everything from Rolling Stone to The Nation to Wired. And I read comics, Jason Aaron’s Scalped, a lot of Image titles, from all of Kirkman’s stuff to Proof and Savage Dragon and Elephantmen. I’m also currently reading the first Gaiman Sand Man omnibus, another series I’d been meaning to get to for some time. I am eagerly awaiting the next George Pelecanos novel, as well as Kirkman’s Walking Dead-novel and Romero’s zombie-novel. My favorite authors are Pelecanos, Kurt Vonnegut, Sherman Alexie, Larry Brown, Russell Banks, Cormac McCarthy, and Andrew Vachss. I’m probably leaving a couple out and I feel sorry about that.
Scott: Apart from the Romero films, what are some of your favorite zombie flicks?
Tony: I really liked the Dawn of the Dead remake. I pretty much watch any zombie movie I can find, even the “bad” ones. With Netflix I’ve been able to go back and watch a lot of the Italian zombie films from the 70s and 80s. Fido, Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead: these are just a few that I enjoy immensely. And although it’s not technically a zombie film, I really liked Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and will pretty much watch anything Boyle directs. His Sunshine is one of my favorite films ever, right up there with Pink Floyd: The Wall.
Scott: If you were stranded in a shopping mall surrounded by hordes of the undead, what five authors (sorry only authors were left safe and sound indoors when the plague hit), would you like to have as companions and why?
Tony: Off the top of my head: Kurt Vonnegut, Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, Jerry Ahern, and Denise Richards. Kurt because he’d appreciate the situation and its absurdity. Karl and Noam would have some interesting and—I think—heated conversations (Kurt would definitely chime in on these in a big way). Jerry might not get along ideologically with either Karl or Noam or Kurt but I think he’d get along fine with them on an individual basis and the dude knows a lot about guns and survival that will come in handy. And Denise Richards, well, she is an author now and she’s been on my radar since Starship Troopers. Someone would have to console her over the loss of Charlie Sheen.
Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.