Can you tell us about your new book, Blood Dawn?
Blood Dawn brings my wacko apocalyptic-horror/sci-fi Blood trilogy to a close. It’s a saga that I like to call a cross between John Carpenter’s The Thing and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. When I first started the trilogy, zombies were all the rage—but even then I could sense that the fad was reaching saturation point and even beginning to implode on itself. There were zombie kiddie books and joke books out there, fer chrissakes. So, I wanted to tell a story that had some zombie trappings but then diverted into something incredibly strange and new. That was the intent.
Blood Red (2014) tells its apocalyptic-horror story from the perspective of Rachel, a disaffected, moody teen who happens to survive an initial alien attack thanks to a genetic quirk. She scrambles through her infected town, wading through masses of fallen bodies, searching for her lost father. The story is told in real time and is very fast-paced. It has the feel of a zombie tale, for sure, and yet it’s something altogether more strange. This is also very much a coming-of-age tale, with an almost reluctant heroine who just happens to be a smart girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Draw Blood (2015) continues the story in the immediate aftermath of the events of Blood Red—but this time from the perspective of Rachel’s father, Michael. For this book, we have a new, more adult perspective of “the end of the world,” and we learn new things about the meaning of the attack—and there’s a new sense of urgency, particularly now that the fallen bodies have really begun to go on the offensive. And Michael has some of his own secrets that spice up the story. This is the father-daughter tale of the saga, and it’s also the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy.
Blood Dawn (2017) finishes off the trilogy from the perspective of yet another character—Felicia, a formerly infected person who has been turned back to humanity but who retains a shadow of what was inside her. This book brings closure to the mystery of the infection and really amps up the horror and gore. It definitely goes out with a bang, as you can perceive from the book’s cover. Rachel makes a big comeback as our heroine, but she’s definitely sharing the spotlight with the fascinating Felicia.
I’ve enjoyed playing with perspective in these three books, obviously. I love books that approach an event—in this case, a ghastly End of Days event—from multiple points of view, each informing the next, each adding a little more to the mystery, and all of them adding up to a more collective, gratifying whole. In that sense, I hope I’ve created a saga that has paid most of its attention to a few key characters in the midst of an insane, existential, alien attack. That’s what it’s been about for me, anyway.
Did you intend for this to be a trilogy when you started the BLOOD saga?
About halfway through writing Blood Red, I knew what I wanted to try with perspective, and I knew it would take three books. And that’s when I knew exactly how to end Book 1—on a huge narrative cliffhanger but on a strong and devastating character note. Every once in a while, I’ll page through the final chapter of Blood Red and feel that gutwrench: “Oh sweet Jesus, what did I do to you? I’m so sorry!”
Playing God is so fantastic. And in the case of the Blood saga, I knew early on that I would be the god of a trilogy.
Where did it all begin for you as a horror writer?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease at 19, and although I had written stories before then through high school, it was after the diagnosis when my output began turning dark. It was my way of dealing with the unfairness and monstrousness of it all. I’ve since experimented with several genres, from crime to magic realism to porn, but five years ago I knew that I wanted to return to my roots and really go hell-for-leather. The Blood saga is the result.
Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?
About the time of the cancer diagnosis, I was reading a lot of Clive Barker. His Books of Blood stories mean a lot to me—intricate dark worlds of horror, many of them described as so-called body horror, which I was going through myself. It’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve used the word Blood in my saga—and that blood itself plays such a huge part in the narrative.
Since then, I’ve devoured a lot of horror novels and stories, and I’ll take a moment to mention some personal, maybe unsung favorites: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, Deadweight by Robert Devereaux, Blackburn by Bradley Denton, Under the Skin by Michael Faber, Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, and—recently—The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Ill Will by Dan Chaon—so far, a fascinating story also told from multiple perspectives and set in various timeframes. It’s an unsettling book that keeps you off balance. I can already tell I’ll be reading more from Chaon.
I’m interested to hear about how you write. Do you lock yourself away? Burn the midnight oil?
I’m a father to a couple girls, and I also own my own technical writing/editing business, so really it’s a matter of finding the time and opportunity. I fit in fiction whenever I damn well can—and that can be a tough proposition after spending the day immersed in language, either editing or doing other kinds of writing! Often, the opportunity will come when I need to drop a kid off at the gym and I can spend two hours writing at a restaurant or coffee shop. I’ve also been known to plop myself in front of a football game and let that play in the background while I type unspeakable horror into my Surface.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
When you have a fractured schedule, like mine, the toughest thing is keeping a strong, consistent narrative through-line in your given project. The reality of my situation is that a week or two might go by between writing sessions, but even so, I have to keep up a certain momentum in the story. People who write every day on a rigid schedule have the advantage of built-in momentum—or at least it’s easier to achieve that way. I find that my work comes out of me in chunks, separated by dry intervals, and for that reason, the revision process and second draft become more vital to the power of the story. I have to find the through-line later in the process and make sure the narrative has a consistent thrust.
What is your favorite horror movie?
I’ll name my top 3 of all time: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London.
As long as we’re talking movies, I’ll mention that one of the big motivations for telling my trilogy from three different perspectives stems from the original idea for Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield. Over time, we were supposed to get several “found footage” films from different perspectives on the same apocalyptic event. So, Cloverfield—not only for point-of-view but also for that feeling of real-time, you-are-there immediacy—was one source of inspiration for the Blood saga.
Have you thought about your next book?
I’m thinking of returning to the genre and tone of my first book, The Naked Dame, which is a throwback noir set in 1950s Los Angeles. I had a lot of fun with that book. I’m feeling the need to write something a bit less dark after the splattery insanity of the Blood saga.