As the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour continues, next up on this special edition series of Chewing Braaiiinns we have James N. Cook. For those of you unacquainted with James, who does like to be called Jim, here are a few words he wrote about himself…
James N. Cook (who prefers to be called Jim, even though his wife insists on calling him James) is a martial arts enthusiast, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a former cubicle dweller, and the author of the Surviving the Dead series. He hikes, he goes camping, he travels a lot, and he has trouble staying in one spot for very long. Even though he is a grown man, he enjoys video games, graphic novels, and gratuitous violence. He lives in North Carolina (for now) with his wife, son, two vicious attack dogs, and a cat that is scarcely aware of his existence.
Welcome Jim, so tell us – why Zombies? Is there anything specific that draws you to the genre?
Back in 1999, while I was going through school to be a fire controlman for the Navy, my roommate fired up an old VCR (yeah, we still had those back then) and popped in the original George Romero Dawn of the Dead.
From that moment on, I was hooked.
In the years that followed, I always thought it would be fun to write a novel about a zombie apocalypse. There weren’t many out there back then, and I thought that zombie fans were an underserved audience. In March of 2011, I finally got off my ass and started writing. No Easy Hope, my first novel, was the result. People liked it, asked for more, and I’ve been at it ever since.
I’m seeing a trend of authors who write in the genre and exposure to Romero’s early works… Tell us about your latest project; published or otherwise.
I have two, actually. My third novel in the Surviving the Dead series, Warrior Within, is now available on Amazon and Nook. I’m currently working on a collaboration with fellow zombie author Josh Guess that should be released in a month or two. Its title will be The Passenger. It is a standalone novel set in the Surviving the Dead universe.
Great news! What makes your Zombies different, if anything?
The zombies themselves are mostly your standard Romero shamblers. A few unique attributes that I focus on is their physical strength, how they behave at night versus during the day, and that they are easily distracted.
The strength thing relates to the human body’s pain response. People are actually a hell of a lot stronger than they think they are, but our bodies’ pain receptors stop us from using our strength to its fullest potential because doing so harms our tissues. Zombies could give a pinch of distilled donkey shit about tissue damage. They can use all of their strength, all at once, with no chance of fatigue, and doing so makes them seem superhumanly strong.
The zombies in my books also go quiet at night, at least until they are right on top of their prey. No one is sure why. However, some light may be shed on this subject in The Passenger…
Last, my zombies don’t have superhuman focus and concentration. They are dead. Only their base instincts remain. If they can’t see, smell, or hear prey for a long enough period of time, they forget what they were doing and wander off.
Is there a Zombie novel that has influenced you more than any other? If so, what is it and why?
Like many Zombie authors, the combined works of Max Brooks. Brooks took a cerebral approach to the zombie apocalypse story and gave it heart and humor. He made it about the people, not the monsters, but kept it interesting. To an extent, I’ve sought to emulate that with my own writing.
I don’t think there is an author in the genre that has not read Brooks. And if they haven’t, they should! What are your top 3 favourite Zombie films?
The original Dawn of the Dead, Zombieland, and 28 Days Later (even though it’s not really about zombies).
I think 28 Days Later is about Zombies… Do you think the popularity of The Walking Dead and its appearance in mainstream media has helped to increase the popularity of the genre, or has there always been such an interest?
I think the interest was always there. Otherwise, TWD would never have achieved so much popularity. However, the success of that show has definitely had an undeniable effect on the acceptance of zombie fiction into mainstream horror/action adventure literature, and the pervasiveness of zombies in pop culture.
As we all know, music and slaying the Undead go hand in hand. Given these headings, what would be your Soundtrack to the Zombie Apocalpyse?
1. Overall theme for the Apocalypse:
Death to all but Metal.
2. What plays when I kill my first zombie:
Another Day, Another Vendetta: by Hatebreed.
3. What plays when you’re chased by the horde:
Become the Catalyst: by All That Remains.
4. When you have to kill a loved one:
Rose of Sharyn: by Killswitch Engage
5. When you find a group of survivors:
Anthem (We Are the Fire): by Trivium
6. Meeting a new love interest:
Falls On Me: by Fuel
7. Making a Final Stand:
Destroy Everything: by Hatebreed
8. You’ve survived it all:
Every Lasting Scar: by Hatebreed
9. Then you discover a bite mark:
Going Out in Style: by Flogging Molly
10. End Credits:
Gone Sovereign: by Stone Sour
Pop Quiz: If the Zombie Apocalypse were to occur right now, 5 things found in the room you are currently sitting will be your weapons – what are they?
1: Lamp cord.
2: Beer gut.
3: Long, talon-like toenails (good for spearing prey).
4: Bottle of 10 Canes rum.
5: My steely-eyed glare and dashing good looks.
Thank you Jim for answering my questions today. Now let’s take a look at Warrior Within…
As the Free Legion declares war on the survivors of Hollow Rock, Gabriel and Eric find themselves drawn ever deeper into the growing conflict. Aided by a fledgling militia, and a small contingent of federal operatives, the two warriors must find a way to defeat an unyielding enemy that threatens to destroy all they have grown to love.
To win, Gabriel must become the leader he was born to be, while Eric, haunted by his actions since the Outbreak, must descend deeper into the heart of darkness.
In this battle, nothing is what it seems. The tides of power are shifting, and soon, a danger even greater than the living dead will rise…