MIKE ANGLEY: No trick, just some treats this Halloween! I’m delighted to take a departure from my norm (fiction authors) and host Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry today. They have co-authored a non-fiction book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, an ideal topic for today. Let me introduce them first, then jump into the interview.
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. She can be reached at www.janicegablebashman.com.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. He can be reached at www.jonathanmaberry.com.
MIKE ANGLEY: Tell us about your book.
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Our book starts with good vs evil as a concept and then we chase it through philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, film, comics, pop-culture and the real world. It’s such a complex topic, one that’s fundamental to all of our human experience, from evolution to the formation of tribes and society. We take a look at it historically, mythologically, in terms of storytelling from cave paintings to literature, we track it through pop culture and into our modern real world.
The book has a real sense of humor, too. We have fun with the topic as well as bringing a lot of information to the reader.
Plus the book is illustrated with forty black and white pieces and eight killer color plates. Artists like Chad Savage, Jacob Parmentier, Don Maitz, Francis Tsai, David Leri, Scott Grimando, Jason Beam, Alan F. Beck, Billy Tackett and more.
MIKE ANGLEY: Why did you decide to tackle the battle of good versus evil?
BASHMAN: The concept of good vs evil surrounds us. There’s just no avoiding it, and it’s been around for as long as man has walked the earth. Yet the definition of what’s good and what’s evil varies depending on who you’re asking—it’s not a black and white issue, so there are a whole slew of things to cover on the topic. In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we tackle the whole good and evil idea in a fun and exciting way—through its presence in movies, books, comics, pop culture, and real life.
MABERRY: I’ve done four previous books on the supernatural but they mostly focused on the predators (VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU and THEY BITE—all available from Citadel Press). I wanted to wrap that series with a book based entirely on the good guys. Now that we know what’s out there in the dark, who are we gonna call?
Also, times have become tough lately. Wars, racial tension everywhere, religious tension everywhere, the economy in the toilet…it’s nice to shift focus from those things that frighten us and take a look at what is going to save our butts. And, yeah, the book doesn’t deal entirely with real world problems (after all, most of us aren’t like to have to fend off a vampire or werewolf!) but it’s reassuring to know that at no time in our vast and complex human experience has mankind ever said: “Screw it, the Big Bad is too big and too bad.” We always fight back, we always rise. That, more than anything, is the heart of this book.
MIKE ANGLEY: You delve into fiction, movies, and comics, and interview so many great people in the book. Sounds like a ton of research, yet the book’s a fun read. How do turn all that material into something so exciting?
BASHMAN: What’s not fun about talking about good and evil? Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs vampires. Batman vs The Joker. Dracula vs Van Helsing. FBI profilers vs serial killers. Ghosts vs ghost hunters. It’s the ultimate showdown between opposing forces. We take a look at this concept from all angles and put it together in a manner that’s easy to read with lots of interviews, sidebars, and interesting facts. There’s something for everyone in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.
MABERRY: I’m a research junkie. I started out as a magazine writer and did a lot of that for a lot of years. I also wrote college textbooks that I wanted my students to not only read but ENJOY reading. That’s the challenge of writing for the mass market –you have to develop a set of instincts for what people want to know. At the same time you have to be able to craft what you write so that you can impart useful information in a digestible fashion, even with the notoriously short attention-span of the modern reader.
That said, having a Big Picture sensibility in the writing helps us to present the info in a way that is neither offense nor off-putting. Sometimes that means using a bit of snarky humor, and sometimes it’s taking off the disguise and allowing the reader to glimpse our own inner geeks. Once they know that we’re part of their crowd, the book becomes more of an act of sharing cool stuff with our peers than authors writing to a demographic. Much more fun.
MIKE ANGLEY: Vampires have been the subject of fiction and fantasy for many years, but what do you make of the current interest in them with such moves as the Twilight series?
BASHMAN: The enduring appeal of Vampires is one that seems to have no end. People are fascinated by beings that can live forever. The Twilight series moves that whole vampire idea into one that appeals to a generation of readers who want their vampires attractive and appealing. None of this bite your neck stuff and you become a nasty being. The idea of falling in love with a vampire, of being in love forever until the end of time, is one that many women (and men) find attractive. But what the interest in vampires really allows us do is to examine good vs evil in a way that is easily tolerated.
MABERRY: Vampires will always be popular, and there will always be new spins on them. Currently it’s the tween crowd with TWILIGHT and the urban fantasy crowd with Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks and that crowd. A few years ago it was Anne Rice, Stephen King and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough. Before that it was Hammer Films, and so on. Vampires are changeable characters who represent our desires to transcend the limitations and natural crudities of human physical existence. They are, to the modern pop culture era, what the gods of Olympus were to the Greeks: admirable, larger than life characters that we can idealize, lust after, want to be, and be entertained by.
There has been a lot of unfair criticism about the TWILIGHT books and movies. I don’t play into that. Those movies and books have done immeasurable good for the vampire as a pop culture commodity. And a lot of people are getting massive career boosts as a result, even though they are some of the loudest critics.
A Big Picture way to look at it is, if the readers get tired of sparkly pretty-boy vampires, then they’ll go looking for nastier horror-based vampires. That’s already happening—hence books like THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE. The so-called backlash is really just the process of people seeing one thing, deciding that it’s not for them, and seeking out something that’s a better fit. The contempt so many people throw at TWILIGHT is more than just snobbish, it’s ill-informed and short-sighted.
MIKE ANGLEY: How do you manage the writing process when there are two people writing one book?
BASHMAN: We each came into this project with our own strengths and that made it easy to decide who should tackle what part of the book. The most difficult aspect was finding one voice that worked for both writers so that the book read like one person wrote it. We accomplished this fairly easily, with some trial and error, since we had worked together on a number of articles in the past.
MABERRY: We also divided the book according to personal interest and existing knowledge base. I tackled stuff that played to my strengths –vampires, comics, pulp fiction, etc. Janice played to her strengths. She’s writing a book on thrillers, so she tackled serial killers, etc.
I agree that finding a single voice was a challenge. We’re different kinds of people and different kinds of writers, but now, even I have a hard time remembering who wrote what. Janice even picked up my smartass sense of humor—which means that I may have caused her some permanent damage. On the other hand, she’s an enormously disciplined writer, so I hope I picked up some good writing habits through osmosis.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s the hardest part about writing a book with someone else? The easiest?
BASHMAN: I can honestly say that I didn’t find any aspect of writing the book with Jonathan difficult. It’s important have an open line of communication with your writing partner and a willingness to view things from your partner’s perspective. Otherwise, you run into the potential to butt heads on some matters. We both came into this project with the attitude that we’re writing a book together and we’re going to do what needs to be done to write the best possible book we can. When both partners have the same goal in mind and both share an excitement for the subject matter, it makes it pretty easy to co-author a book.
MABERRY: I agree…this was a fun, easy, fast and very rewarding process. It helps that we’re friends and have a lot of mutual respect. That goes a long damn way in making the book fun to write and (I hope) fun to read.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s next for you guys?
BASHMAN: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I continue to write for various publications, and I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
MABERRY: This has been my most productive year to date. Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics (for Marvel), I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
Next up is ROT & RUIN, my first young adult novel. It’s set fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse and kicks off a new series that will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Then I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martins Griffin. I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER is already running, and it’s a post-apocalyptic existentialist adventure. Very strange, even for me. Next up is BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, kicking off in October; and then in January we launch CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five-issue Marvel Event that follows Cap from World War II to present day. And my graphic novel, DOOMWAR, debuts in hardcover in October.
I’m currently writing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel to be release by Griffin in June.