Craig: Welcome to the blog! First question: What have you contributed to the genre? What’s your best known work? Tell us about it.
Kevin: I wrote THE LAST MAILMAN: NEITHER RAIN, NOR SLEET, NOR ZOMBIES! It’s set a few years after the zombie apocalypse when things have settled down and a new world has been established. One guy keeps heading out into the abandoned parts of the country to rescue people. Usually he doesn’t find anyone and just ends up bringing back mementos, which earns him the Mailman nickname. The book is unfortunately titled, in that most people assume the story is about the postal service or is a Kevin Costner rip-off but that could not be further from what my novel actually is. The misleading title is my mistake that I have to live with!
Craig: What type of storytelling in the genre do you consider your niche?
Kevin: Hard to say I have a niche when I’ve only completed one zombie novel so far. I wrote it as if an action movie was being filmed in my head. When I watch a movie, I don’t care what kind of gun Ah-nald is using. Maybe some people do, but I don’t. In that regard, I went for action and comedy first, details a distant second. I think this makes my style more mainstream accessible. It’s an action-comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and it just happens to have zombies in it. I’ve had a great many people tell me they’re not into zombies but they loved my book.
Craig: As a writer, do you prefer fast or slow zombies, and living or undead? Building on these basic themes, what do you consider to be your own trademark or unique innovation as an author?
Kevin: My brother and I watch a lot of zombie movies and we employ the loosest definition possible. If you lose control of your own humanity and seek only to harm others, then that’s a zombie. Slow, fast, living or dead, I have no preference. The part that scares me is the loss of humanity and the terror of your own friends and family suddenly wanting to kill or eat you. My book was written as a tribute to all things zombie so I had to go with the classic Romero undead shamblers… for the most part. I did build my own universe and make some twists or perhaps innovations, but it would give too much away if I said what they were.
Craig: What makes zombies so interesting to write about?
Kevin: Zombies are game-changers. Vampires have their secret societies and their sexiness or whatever and they still maintain some semblance of humanity. Other monsters or aliens are so inhuman that we can’t relate to them. Zombies are so human and inhuman at the same time, that you blink and it’s oh crap, they just destroyed our whole society. Everyone who doesn’t have the guts to kill a monster that looks exactly like their mother is contributing to the end of the world. And then you get eaten and join the other side. So not only are you failing, but you’re also contributing to the problem and it gets exponentially worse and worse. To me that’s a lot scarier than an alien laser beam that just kills everyone and is done.
Craig: Which writers do you particularly admire, and what did each teach you about the craft or profession of writing?
Kevin: I didn’t read many horror authors before I wrote my own so I can’t say anyone influenced me too much in that regard. My favorite kind of books are character-driven. I am so thoroughly impressed by anyone who can write a book that really has no plot at all and is just about someone’s life. How do you just invent a life? It seems like a massive undertaking to me. John Irving’s THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and Wally Lamb’s SHE’S COME UNDONE are two of my favorites. I also recently found a 99 cent gem on the Kindle, AN EPITAPH FOR COYOTE by a guy named Bryan Dennis. One of the most moving things I’ve ever read. I hope he makes it big. Anyway, I guess what I’ve learned from those books is that the most important thing is character. The reader has to care about the people in the story. If you can develop a character deeply enough, you don’t even need a plot. People will just want to spend time with that person you created no matter what they’re doing.
Craig: What’s the last book in the genre that you particularly enjoyed?
Kevin: I’m almost done with DOWN THE ROAD by Bowie Ibarra. It’s really good, if a bit bleak. My brother told me that LAST MAILMAN is, like, the only story where the government had its act together and everything was relatively okay. DOWN THE ROAD is like the anti-MAILMAN where everything goes absolutely wrong and everyone is a selfish bastard. It will be interesting to see which worldview plays itself out when the zombies actually come. I’m probably wrong, sad to say!
Craig: Which of the following appeals to you most about the genre—zombies, survival horror, apocalypse—and why?
Kevin: I like it all. Zombies are the only creatures that scare me. The apocalypse is fun because you get to create a whole new world from scratch, but the survival part is my absolute favorite part of storytelling. I don’t mean, like, wouldn’t it be cool to be a survivalist…I’m talking about taking a group of characters and killing them off one by one. I like guessing who is going to die and who is going to live within every story. From the movie PREDATOR to sports tournaments, I just love the idea of dwindling from a large pool down to one left standing in the end.
Craig: Which is your favorite type of story—apocalyptic (we’re seeing the collapse), or post-apocalyptic (the collapse has already happened)—and why?
Kevin: You can find stories in both and I’m going to try. LAST MAILMAN’s universe is post-apocalyptic and I enjoy that, but I have ideas for outbreak stories too.
Craig: What is your approach to writing? How do you complete a novel?
Kevin: Oh, I have the worst system imaginable. I write everything off the top of my head and have no notes. If I think of something and forget it later, too bad, it couldn’t have been that good. The really good, tent pole ideas will stick with me and make themselves unforgettable. Like I said, I’m into characters so I never want to pigeonhole myself into a spot where people are doing things just to advance a preconceived plot. It doesn’t ring true. I need space to breathe and I let my characters tell me what they want to do and where they want to go. It’s an organic style, though a potentially sloppy one sometimes.
Craig: Thanks for joining us, Kevin!