06 April 2011

Author Answers with Joshua Grover-David Patterson

Please welcome Joshua Grover-David Patterson, author of the new e-book, "Mercy," a zombie tale, yes, but so much more. I gushed already about the book itself here and I'm happy to welcome Josh as Word Nerd's guest today. Stick around to the end so you can win yourself a copy of the book!

WN: How did you come up with the idea for "Mercy?"
PATTERSON: I’ve always been a big fan of the George Romero zombie movies, and one day my brain offered up a couple of “what if” statements.

What if a plane crashed on an uncharted island and only a handful of people survived?

What if all the people who died on the plane came back as flesh-eating zombies?

After that came more questions.  How do they survive on the island?  How do they get off the island?  Is the rest of the world overrun by the living dead, or just this one location?

I started writing, and I knew I had reached the end when I had answered most of my questions.

WN: Zombies are such an iconic monster. How did you approach writing to make them fresh for your story and yet acknowledge all the zombies that have come before?  
PATTERSON: Something I never quite understood about zombie movies, books, and TV shows is this: How is it that no one in them ever seems to have heard of a zombie?

On an emotional level, I suspect that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to cope, mentally, with the dead getting up and walking around.  That part I understand.

But George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” came out over 40 years ago.  Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve at least heard of it, and you know that there are people in it who die, come back to life, and try to consume living humans.  And those people-who-eat-people are called “zombies.”

I don’t know if acknowledging that zombies exist in popular culture really is an innovation, but I don’t recall ever seeing it happen in a dramatic zombie story.

(Off the top of my head, I can think of one comedy that does – “Return of the Living Dead.”)

WN: Without giving away too many spoilers, what was the hardest part of "Mercy" to write?
PATTERSON: There are two answers to this question, depending on how you define the word “hard.”

From a technical standpoint, the hardest thing to write were the action sequences, especially things like the zombie attack and the mutiny.

Whether you’re reading or writing, you need a general sense of place and a reasonable idea of what kind of actions are occurring.  If people are talking, you mentally can just kind of watch their lips move.

But when you get into big fight sequences, you’ve got to talk about where people are, what they’re doing, and how it’s affecting the elements around them.  If an author does a decent job of writing those details down, the reader should sail through the process without stopping to go, “Wait, what now?”

As an author, though, describing what’s happening is, for me anyway, an almost painful multi-step process.  First I have to figure out what everyone is doing.  Then I have to rewind the mental movie I just made and write down exactly what happened, which takes forever depending on how much is occurring.

Then I have to re-read what I wrote, and determine if the mental movie I just created on the page matches up with what was in my head in the first place.  Then I have to figure out what comes next, until I get to the end of the action scene.

Except I’m not done, because then I have to go back and reread the whole thing, and make sure everything follows logically, and that the whole sequence isn’t boring.

On an emotional level, the single hardest sequence was the part where Tracy finally fills in her backstory.  After writing it, I had to send it to a friend of mine who knows something about the subject Tracy was talking about, just to make sure I got it mostly right.  I had to change a few terms, but otherwise, I was given a thumbs-up. 

WN:  Your protagonist is a woman. Why did you choose to write from a first person POV that was not the same gender as you and was that a challenge?
PATTERSON: It was mostly about trying to be a little different.  The majority of zombie stories I’ve encountered either have a male protagonist, or a female protagonist who happens to have serious ninja skills. 

I thought it would be interesting to stick a very normal kind of woman into this extraordinary situation, and see what happened.

Was it a challenge?  It didn’t feel like one.  Being a parent is a fairly emotional experience, whether you’re a man or a woman, and Georgina’s experiences have a lot more to do with being a parent than a woman.  At least in my estimation.

WN: What's the best piece of writing advice you've received and how did it help you as a writer?
PATTERSON: Probably the best advice ever is, “Finish what you start.”  Unless you’re working on something very, very short, I think it’s easy to get bogged down under the notion that you might never reach the end, and even if you do, whatever you wrote might be terrible.

But once whatever you’re working on is done, it generally can be fixed. 

WN: Are readers ever going to see more of Georgina Fulci or are you working on something new?
PATTERSON: Ever since writing “Mercy” I’ve kind of wondered what would become of Fulci’s world after a few years had passed.  The book ends with everything having achieved a sort of temporary normal.  But what happens in five years?  Or ten? 

That said, I don’t think that Georgina necessarily is going to go on another adventure willingly.  So if I revisited the story, I’d probably do it through the eyes of another character from the book.

At the moment, however, I’m working on other things.  I just made one of my short stories available for the Kindle and nook, and I’m working on completing another.  I’ve got a novella I finished years ago that people keep encouraging me to publish.

And I’ve got a vampire novel I’m working on as well.  I’m excited to finish it, just because it’s got a handful of things I haven’t seen before in a vampire story.

And now, the giveaway! Josh is giving away a copy of "Mercy" to one lucky commenter. To win, all you have to do is to answer this question: If you were stuck on a desert island with a horde of zombies, what's the one thing you would want with you? The contest is open until Sunday, April 10 at 9 p.m. EST. Anyone can enter, even if you've won something from Word Nerd in the past.


ABookVacation said...

Anything? I would want a boat so I can get out of there! Is that cheating? Okay. Fine. Then I'd want a lighter, so I can set things on fire. Zombies don't like fire, right?

ABookVacation said...

Anything? Then I'd want a boat so I can get out of there! Is that cheating? Okay. Fine. Then I'd want a lighter so I can set things on fire; maybe even make a ring of fire around my living quarters... aren't zombies afraid of fire? I hope so...

Lisa954 said...

I would want a Zombie Survival Kit complete with all the tools and weapons needed to survive a zombie onslaught. YEAH!!