So while the ‘Well Read Undead’ section is pretty much the domain of the Zombiequeen, I got us an interview with Author Alden Bell who wrote the book ‘The Reapers are the Angels’ (Read the review HERE). My review is pretty straightforward- I liked the book. It’s pretty ballsy. (This is why the Zombiequeen does the reviews!)
Here is his mini bio from the publisher’s site:
Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, whose first novel, Hummingbirds, was released in Fall ’09. He teaches at a New York City prep school and is an adjunct professor at The New School. He lives in New York City with his wife, the Edgar Award-winning mystery writer, Megan Abbott.
Huh… Doesn’t say much does it? Good thing we got him here! Welcome to the site …uhhhhhhhh Alden? Wait… Joshua? I think we have the first question:
ZK:I understand a good pseudonym, obviously I wasn’t born ‘the Zombieking’ (Fuck no…I EARNED that title!) So why did you choose the name Alden Bell? (And what should I call you?) I mean- was it a name you always wanted? (My Mom nearly named me Beauregard… but that’s another story)
AB: Beauregard–how gorgeously Southern! I like that. Actually, I went through a bunch of ideas before I settled on Alden Bell. One of my favorite original ideas was Dalton Ames–which was the name of Caddie’s boyfriend in The Sound and the Fury. I thought it was awesome, but no one else seemed to like it much. I ended up with Alden, because that’s my middle name. Moreover, all the males in my family have had the middle name Alden since John Alden on the Mayflower. How about that for lineage! The Bell has two sources. I like to tell people that I use it because it’s the pseudonym that the Bronte sisters used when they had to publish their books under male names (Currer Bell, Acton Bell, Ellis Bell). But the truth is that my wife really liked that show THE WIRE, and so I’m named after Stringer Bell, the charming, sexy drug kingpin.
ZK: So, you live with another writer… how does that work? Do you share your work when you’re stuck or do you keep it all to yourself?
AB: Actually, it’s great. Megan’s my hero when it comes to writing plots–and that’s where she helps me most. If it were up to me, my books would be all style and language and pretty scenes. Megan is the one who keeps cracking the whip on my writing action. We do, in fact, show each other our work–but the best part about living with another writing is that we really keep each other going. If she’s writing, it’s hard for me to feel good about sitting in front of the TV with an icy glass of grape soda. If she’s writing, I feel like I have to be writing, and vice versa. This dynamic has resulted in two very prolific and quick writers.
ZK: What about your bio- I realize there are other sources on the net to get more info… but what would YOU say about yourself and your writing? Any secret muse? ( For example I like to write in a kilt with a hornets nest nestled between my thighs… maybe that is too much info… never mind.)
AB: That reminds me of Sidney Sheldon who claimed (as I always heard–though it may be apocryphal) that he always wrote with an erection. Considering the length of his novels, I would be inclined to send him to the doctor to check for priapism. No, I don’t have anything odd like that. Though I am very ritualistic in the way that I write. When I’m in the middle of a book, I like to write six pages a day–no more, no less. I write four pages before I go to lunch, and then I write two pages after I get back. It sounds like a lot, but I really only write on the weekends (I have a full time job teaching high school English)–so it’s a pretty steady rate of twelve pages per week. Also, I got this stupid little Japanese fountain that sits on my desk. It has a bunch of waterfalls and a little water wheel and a glass orb that spins around with a colored light behind it. When I get stuck, I like to turn that thing on, and my writing immediately shifts into overdrive. I’m not sure why–but that cheap little fountain is like my writing Viagra.
ZK: Getting to the book- I dug the crap out of it! (NO SPOILERS HERE) Following the main character that lives in a world already infested with the undead takes the whole human experience further than other Zombie stories as it’s not like they lived through the dead rising… but rather it has always been- how did you get that idea?
AB: That post-post-apocalyptic idea was really the foundation of the book–the first thing I thought of. It felt to me like I had already seen enough explanations about where the zombie apocalypse might come from, enough of the days of disaster immediately following the apocalypse, enough of the romanticized nostalgia for the pre-zombie world. Those are the parts of apocalyptic fiction that always feel obligatory to me–just beating around the bush until we get to the real story. Instead, I thought it would be interesting to see the world from the perspective of a character who has a shrugging acceptance of the world as it is because she has never known any other. So many zombie stories (so many monster stories in general) seek new ways to make zombies terrifying. But I prefer Temple’s response, which actually diminishes the horror of the zombie apocalypse: “Zombies–big deal. You might as well curse God for making cockroaches. They’re gross, but you don’t have to get hysterical about it.”
ZK: I have lots of questions on the story- but I refuse to write up something that would be a SPOILER- so GO BUY THE BOOK ALREADY! Moving on- what elements influenced the writing of this story? Any particular horror/zombie favourites?
AB: Without doing too much of an autopsy on the book, I would say you could divide up the influence into thirds. The first third is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I suspect this is where all zombie stories begin. Romero mastered not only the zombie threat, but also the threat of life becoming mundane in a post-apocalyptic world. The best parts of that movie are those that have nothing to do with zombies–but rather with the recreating of daily life on a miniature scale in a shopping mall. The second third of the influence on the book comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Temple is, admittedly, a kind of Buffy character. She’s tough as hell and will kick your ass, but there’s also something dark about her. That’s one of the things I always admired about Joss Whedon’s vision for that show–the willingness to explore his main character’s internal darkness, the willingness to, at times, turn her into an anti-hero. The third third (as it were) of the influence is William Faulkner in specific and Southern Gothic literature in general. The book is loaded with cutesy references to Faulkner and Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston and more contemporary Southern Gothic writers like Daniel Woodrell and William Gay and Tom Franklin and Cormac McCarthy. I love that stuff–all its kudzu-choked grandeur, its lost aristocracy, its epic perversion.
ZK: Do you prefer fast or slow zombies…and why?
AB: I’m a slow zombie guy. I don’t care for those fast zombies. With a fast zombie, you lose all the zombie-ness of it. You might as well be dealing with a serial killer or a werewolf. Their snail’s pace is what makes zombies such a unique monster in the pantheon of horror. Can you think of another slow-moving monster? Maybe the Blob, but that’s about it. Okay, maybe mummies too–but mummies are really just zombies dressed in toilet paper anyway. And this is related to another important distinction: I don’t like my zombies ANGRY–I just like them HUNGRY. Anger seems too human an emotion for the limping corpses that zombies are. What do they have to be so angry about? All they really want is a nice lunch.
ZK: Any plans for a follow up of the world you created?
AB: Nah. At least not for a while. I’m not a big fan of revisiting worlds when you have the opportunity to create new ones–and I also don’t care much for the current impulse to make everything into a decology in order to be taken seriously. Sometimes one book is enough. That said, I do like the world and there’s a vague possibility that at some point in the future (after a couple more books on other topics), I might return to it. If I did, I think it would be to write a prequel about Moses and his reprobate brother Abraham. I wouldn’t mind following those two around the blighted world for a while to see what kind of trouble they can get into.
ZK: What’s next on the horizon for you sir?
AB: The book I’m working on now is my second under my own name (Joshua Gaylord). It’s called Frontierland, and it’s about Orange County, California, in 1975–back when the place was mostly orange groves and cattle ranches, like a pilgrim settlement just an hour away from Los Angeles. The book will be about a twelve-year-old tom boy and a middle-aged ex-beauty queen who decide to escape from their life of suburban dread and seek other climes together. Also, my first book (HUMMINGBIRDS) is coming out in paperback on October 5, so I’m excited to do some readings for that.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your life to chat to us, we dug it huge! Now dig this:
Thanks to our friends at Henry Holt and Company Publishers, we have (5) FIVE copies of ‘The Reapers are the Angels’ by Alden Bell to give away! Want one? Beg me! No… not really, all we want is this:
***This contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada (excluding Quebec) Winners will be chosen at random.***
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: Register on Zombieinfo.com if you haven’t already (see the side bar next to this interview under the ‘VOODOO’ Section to do so) and leave 1 (ONE) comment (ONLY ONE) in this post with the answer to the following question: Name one Horror or Zombie book you’ve read! Feel free to say why if you really dug it too- maybe we’ll check it out. I will allow… 3 weeks (till October 15th) collecting answers before contacting the winners. (I will contact you directly via e-mail so you can give me your shipping info- you do NOT need to post it.)
So get to registering and if you are already registered…get to commenting! Once we have our winners I will forward your info to Henry Holt and Company Publishers and they will arrange the shipping! How fucking COOL is that?!?!? Books sent directly to YOU!!! It’s like the lazy person library that you don’t have to return the book to! Ok, so maybe it’s not like a library at all…but you get the point.
Don’t want a free book? …Weirdo… but you can buy it HERE:
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve for hornets to deal with.
I’m ‘the Zombieking’ and this topic is now DEAD to me…
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