JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. His books have been sold to more than a dozen countries.
His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy: GHOST ROAD BLUES (Pinnacle books; winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2006), DEAD MAN’S SONG (2007) and BAD MOON RISING (2008); the Joe Ledger series of action thrillers from St. Martin’s Griffin: PATIENT ZERO (2009, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Best Novel Award and is in development for TV by Sony Entertainment), THE DRAGON FACTORY (2010; now available), THE KING OF PLAGUES (March 2011), THE OTHERS (March 2012), VISITORS (2013); THE WOLFMAN (NY Times bestseller from Tor, based on the Universal Pictures film starring Benecio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Sir Anthony Hopkins); the Benny Imura series of Young Adult dystopian zombie thrillers from Simon & Schuster: ROT & RUIN (Sept 2010) and DUST & DECAY (2011); and the forthcoming standalone zombie thriller DEAD OF NIGHT (Summer 2011)
His nonfiction works include: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE (Citadel Press, 2006), THE CRYPTOPEDIA (Citadel, 2007 –winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer), ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (Winner of the Hinzman and Black Quill Awards and nominated for a Stoker Award; 2008), THEY BITE! (2009 co-authored by David F. Kramer), WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (2010 co-authored by Janice Gable Bashman), and THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD (2001, written under the pen name of Shane MacDougall).
He writes a variety of projects for Marvel Comics involving CAPTAIN AMERICA, BLACK PANTHER, DOOMWAR, WOLVERINE, DEADPOOL, THE X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, the NY Times bestselling MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and THE MARVEL UNIVERSE vs THE PUNISHER. All of Jonathan’s comic book collections are released as Graphic Novel collections within a month or two of individual comic publication.
Recent short stories include “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” (HISTORY IS DEAD, Permuted Press 2007), “Doctor Nine” (KILLERS, Swimming Kangaroo Press, 2008; and reprinted in THE STORIES (in) BETWEEN Edited by Greg Schauer, Jeanne B. Benzel, and W.H. Horner. Fantasist Enterprises, 2009), “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost” (LEGENDS OF THE MOUNTAIN STATE 2, Bloodletting Books, 2008), “Clean Sweeps” (AND SO IT BEGINS, Dark Quest Books, 2008), “Family Business” (THE NEW DEAD, St. Martin’s Press, 2010), “Like Part of the Family” (NEW BLOOD edited by Patrick Thomas and Diane Raetz, Padwolf Press, 2010)), and “Zero Tolerance” (THE LIVING DEAD 2, Night Shade Books). Jonathan also created several Joe Ledger short stories for the Internet: “Countdown” and “Deep, Dark”, available through his website.
Jonathan is the co-creator (with Laura Schrock) of ON THE SLAB, an entertainment news show in development by Stage 9 for ABC Disney / Stage 9. He was also a ‘blog correspondent’ on Sony’s zombie-themed web show ‘WOKE UP DEAD’; and a recurring character on Laura Schrock’s ‘IT’S TODD’S SHOW’.
Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog (www.jonathanmaberry.com) focuses on the publishing industry. Jonathan’s interviews include Sandra Brown, Gayle Lynds, Alafair Burke, Charlaine Harris, James Rollins, Harlan Coben, Jeff Abbott, John Saul, Jonathan Kellerman, Barry Eisler, CJ Box, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccarilli, Dale Brown, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Lansdale, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Carrie Ryan, and many other best-selling authors.
Jonathan is a Contributing Editor for The Big Thrill (the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers), and is a member of SFWA, IAMTW, MWA, SCBWI, SFWA and HWA. He is a frequent guest at genre cons, writers conferences and publishing industry events, including ThrillerFest, San Diego Comic Con, Sisters in Crime, BackSpace, PennWriters, Dragon*Con, PhilCon, Horror-Realm, Boucher Con, HorrorFind, Monster Mania, New York Comic Con, Philadelphia Writers Conference, Balticon, The Write Stuff, Hypericon, Hypericon, KillerCon, NAIBA, LunaCon, and many others.
Jonathan was the Executive Director of the Writers Room of Bucks County (2005-06) and co-owner of the Writers Corner USA (2006-2009). Jonathan regularly visits local middle schools, high schools and colleges to talk about books, reading, publishing and the writing life.
Jonathan is a founding member of The Liars Club, a group of networking publishing professionals that includes celebrated authors L. A. Banks, Merry Jones, Gregory Frost, Jon McGoran, Ed Pettit, Dennis Tafoya, Keith Strunk, Don Lafferty, Kelly Simmons, Marie Lamba, Solomon Jones, Sara Shepard, William Lashner, and Laura Schrock. The Liars Club works to support booksellers, raise awareness and support for public libraries, and cultivate a joy of reading and books.
On the last Sunday of every month Jonathan hosts the Writers Coffeehouse, a free three-hour open-agenda networking and discussion session for writers of all genres and levels of skill. The event is held at the Barnes & Noble in Willow Grove Pennsylvania.
Jonathan has been a popular writing teacher and career counselor for writers for the last two decades. He teaches a highly regard series of classes and workshops including Write Your Novel in Nine Months, Revise & Sell, Experimental Writing for Teens, and others. Many of his students have gone on to publish in short and novel-length fiction, magazine feature writing, nonfiction books, TV, film, and comics.
In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame largely because of his extensive writings in that field. His martial arts books include Self-Defense for Every Woman (Vortex Multimedia, 1985); Introduction to Asian Martial Arts (Vortex Multimedia, 1986); The Self-Defense Instructor’s Handbook (Vortex Multimedia, 1990); Judo and You (Kendall Hunt, 1991); Ultimate Jujutsu Principles and Practices (Strider Nolan, 2002); The Martial Arts Student Logbook (Strider Nolan, 2002); Ultimate Sparring Principles and Practices (Strider Nolan, 2003).
Visit his website at www.jonathanmaberry.com or find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Library Thing, Shefari and Plaxo.
Obviously, John is a very busy man. I'm glad he could be here today to share his view on all things zombie.
CR: What is it about zombies that has you the most intrigued? Why?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Well, there are two reasons I dig my life-impaired fellow citizens. First, from a fan point of view, they scare the bejeezus out of me. I’m a pretty tough hombre –a former bodyguard, an 8th degree black belt with nearly fifty years in jujitsu—so I figure I’d do okay against a vampire and maybe even a werewolf (yes, I have spent way too much time thinking these things through). But zombies come at you in waves. Even with a sword or a gun, you’re eventually going to get tired (and they won’t) or you’re going to run out of ammo (and they can’t). That’s scary.
From a writer’s point of view, however, zombies offer an unlimited storytelling potential. The best zombie stories are NOT about the zombies. From the beginning of the genre (with George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), zombies have been symbolic stand-ins for those things that frighten us. Personally and on a cultural level. They are the ‘BIG CRISIS’ that everyone in the story has to deal with, and which impacts every life, every action. This could be fear of a pandemic, racism, ethnic cleansing, rampant consumerism, the loss of identity in a busy world, fear of invasion, and so on.
Once introduced, the story then becomes about how people deal with this massive shared crisis…and that’s the basis for all drama. People in crisis. Stress and tension warp personalities; it causes personality traits to change so that our true selves emerge. A person who has always been timid may discover that in a time of crisis he is a natural leader. A tough jock-type might discover that his courage is only skin deep. And so on.
This gives a writer the chance to tell any kind of story he wants to tell, and that story will be character driven…which is the best kind of story. There needs to be action, of course, but action does haven’t enough meat to sustain a reader through an entire book. Good characters, on the other hand, are very nourishing to the readers.
CR: If you could meet a zombie, but it's a dead long-lost relative, would you approach? What would you say?
MABERRY: Zombies can’t talk and they have no personality. However, they were human once and if this is a relative, friend or neighbor, I would certainly respect the person they were. I would endeavor to ‘quiet’ them. That’s a concept I explore in ROT & RUIN. Tom Imura, the older brother of the protagonist, Benny, is a ‘closure specialist’. He’s hired by families to find family members who have become zombies. He reads the family’s last letter to them (even though the zom can’t understand), and then he kills the zombie in a quick and humane way…usually with a sharp piece of metal call a ‘sliver’ inserted into the base of the skull to sever the brain stem.
I’d attempt to do the same thing.
CR: Would you work again with the themes of death and apocalypse or try something new in another book?
MABERRY: I’m always trying new things, though most of what I write deals with combating darkness. My first three novels (GHOST ROAD BLUES, DEAD MAN’S SONG and BAD MOON RISING) dealt with vampires and ghosts. I did the novelization of THE WOLFMAN (based on the recent movie with Benecio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins). Then I did the first two (of at least five) mainstream thrillers, PATIENT ZERO and THE DRAGON FACTORY, which feature Joe Ledger, a Baltimore cop recruited by a secret government organization to stop terrorists who have exotic weapons. Then I did ROT & RUIN and I just finished its sequel, DUST & DECAY.
None of them are ‘about’ darkness or monsters. They’re all about the people who combat darkness. There’s a lot of hope and optimism in my novels. And there’s a lot of humor in my writing, too.
CR: What was the motivation that kept you interested in writing Rot & Ruin?
MABERRY: I love to write. It’s been my passion since I was a little kid and it’s wonderful that this is my full-time job!
ROT & RUIN…and the other tales featuring Benny Imura and the survivors of First Night (the zombie apocalypse)…are deliciously fun to write. I love the characters and I’ve been having a great time constructing their world, which is what our world might be like fifteen years from now –if a zombie plague happened today. I want everything to have a realistic, lived-in feel…as if this is all normal and natural (for them) and yet new and fun for the readers. That’s the kind of intellectual and creative challenge that revs me up as a writer.
And, quite frankly, I’m writing the kinds of books I would read…so I’m entertaining myself as I work.
CR: Any future works that you can enlighten us about?
MABERRY: This has been my most insanely productive year to date. Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics, I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
In early 2011, I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martin’s Griffin. It follows PATIENT ZERO (2009) and THE DRAGON FACTORY (2010). The whole series has been optioned by producer Michael DeLuca (Blade, Magnolia, Se7en) and is in development for TV.
Then in summer 2011 St. Martin’s Griffin will publish DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie thriller –which I’m currently writing. It’s definitely NOT for kids! (I’m not even sure I’m old enough to read it!)
Next fall, Simon & Schuster will release DUST & DECAY, the sequel to ROT & RUIN. And we’re seeing some pretty serious film interest on this series. Fingers crossed.
I’ll also have some short stories out soon, including a GI JOE story in an anthology being edited by Max Brooks for IDW. Max has put together a great line-up of writers to tell some over-the-top JOE stories.
I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER just finished and will be out as a hardback graphic novel in December (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 on November 10. That collects the six issues of the limited series I wrote for Marvel in which the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, War Machine and Deadpool go up against Doctor Doom.
Thank you, John for being here today and sharing your worldliness with my readers!
Thank you, John for being here today and sharing your worldliness with my readers!