If you are like most fans of the zombie genre, then you are always on the lookout for a unique zombie story that can take the genre in a new direction. Something that can spin a new tale and make it more inventive.
Be sure to check out the Kindle book that inspired the website below.
If there is one thing that Chuck Ingersoll can do, that is deliver that fresh new perspective fans crave from a zombie novel. Day Zero gives you a wounded war hero who is only handicapped by voice, but a fierce fighter that can take care of business when the world is going to hell.
I got a chance to speak with Chuck Ingersoll about Day Zero and he had some fantastic things to say about the genre, the craft and the current state of zombie affairs.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Day Zero is the fresh new perspective in zombie fiction that horror fans have been waiting quite some time for. Many have been watching and reading zombie fiction now with strict attention to the details, thanks to a few cliffhangers from The Walking Dead on AMC. I can see clearly that you have set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd in this new novel by focusing on reasonable human responses and the direct human threat. Is that something that you set out to do at the very onset of this novel?
Chuck Ingersoll: I appreciate your gracious comments.
As much as I would like to say that my story is unique, I have to say that the modern canon of zombie writing and entertainment is so very rich in storytelling and fresh perspectives. I strive to simply live up to that standard. Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is (to me) the first successfully serialized tale of the undead. I have been reading since issue #1 and watching since the AMC pilot. He points out in his work that there can be longevity to a genre story when the writing turns back to the people and how they react to an uncertain world. You can’t hack and slash away at zombies every comic panel or every second of screen time. Romero also had that idea in mind but his set of films ended up serving as standalone vignettes of the universe he was building and playing in.
The zombie fiction and films produced today make strides in bringing the human element back into the fray. With zombies, the human element is where the story needs to be. Other horror genres focus as much on the monsters’ perspective because they are sentient and thinking creatures with their own side to the story. Twilight was as much about Edward as it was about that pouting emo girl. In most zombie tales – except in cases like Warm Bodies or Fido, for example – it is how we the people deal with the threat we are forced into facing.
I didn’t set out to dissect the human condition for all to see as much as I tried to deal with the perspective of one man’s efforts to survive. I focused on a ‘first sighting’ scenario and waited to see where John and those around him went from there. Much of what came after was just as much a surprise to me once the words hit the screen. I tried to give the reader a little bit of gore, action, humor, and a few characters they could come to love or hate.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Not only do you give your readers a Marine sniper, but he is also a mute that has been damaged by tainted medicine in a war. We see his return to civilian life on an island and that soon coincides with a zombie outbreak. He and the other islanders have been able to secure their island, but then a whole new threat takes shape. What gave you this idea?
Chuck Ingersoll: Well, I have wanted to write something for 20 years but life got in the way. With the advent of easier access to self-publishing I thought that maybe it was time to do something with that pent-up imagination. A year before I ever wrote a single word I had two thoughts – zombies and the image of a man with a scoped rifle in a church belfry. I started writing with that in mind and the ideas sprung out from there. The idea of a hardened and capable military protagonist is by no means unique but allowed me to start with an already established skill set necessary for life in the apocalypse. Of course, I may have painted myself into an artistic corner with the idea that the tainted medicine froze his vocal cords and made him mute… and I wrote the book in first person! It was quite a self-imposed challenge.
The idea of the island setting provided me a few logistical advantages. It was isolated and ‘off the grid’ and allowed me to tell a story without too many external forces to introduce. But when I did introduce those elements they needed to represent major shifts in the storyline.
As to the threat to the islanders within the community, once the borders were secured it seemed like a natural progression that some residents would rally to protect their neighbors against the threats to their community, while others would take the apocalypse as an opportunity to indulge in their baser needs and dark desires. The idea that the islanders have locked down their borders from the undead on the mainland only to see zombies of their friends randomly appear inside the perimeter was a cool mystery to solve.
Plus, I have a twisted mind!
Nick Younker (FJ Press): It is also interesting that we see people disappearing then returning reanimated. This seems to be a military operation right from the onset. Does that mean that the zombies are not supernatural, but in fact man-made science gone awry?
Chuck Ingersoll: Well, I wouldn’t want to give the entire thing away! Sometimes knowing the reasons ‘why’ lessens the impact of the unfolding story. Romero always hinted at the satellite Wormwood but our imaginations filled in the rest of the back-story. Supernatural zombies seem to make the most logical sense since the undead ‘unnaturally’ follow the established rules of human biology. In many cases, demons or aliens have possessed and reanimated dead bodies. Some, like in 28 Days Later, aren’t even considered undead but are more akin to rabid. I am decidedly entrenched in a more man-made apocalyptic universe, even if that means the ‘suspension of disbelief’ of the undead is much more tenuous. I illustrated early on how the plague could have been spread. But are the citizens of this small island community being plucked out of their homes by the military for experimentation? That is the mystery that our Marine sniper has to unravel.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): The pacing in Day Zero also seems to be charged with energy, considering all the events that keep taking place. Did you really want this story to move so quickly in such a small amount of time?
Chuck Ingersoll: Fortunately or unfortunately, I write like I am watching a movie or television show. Because of that style of pacing the story can be considered choppy or too quick. An unhappy Amazon review once said that the story “was staccato,” but Jay Bonansinga (writer of The Walking Dead companion novels) said the pace was “… terse, economical, [and] surgically precise…” I’m going to have to agree with the second review! I guess I write what feels right to me. My mom kept asking me “What happened between chapter 6 and 7? How did John get from the plaza to the beach?” I trust that the reader can make the intuitive leap of how people act and move between the hidden and darkened cracks of the story. I tend to keep my chapters descriptive but short, highlighting the important parts versus the more mundane ‘in-between’ moments. Although I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s work, he is so descriptive that, at times, I find my focus wandering. I tried to keep my readers interested with action and movement, some poetic descriptions and humor, and a bevy of characters with their own problems to face. Even with all of the turmoil erupting from within the community and the forces descending from the outside, there was still time to get to know people in the best way I knew how to write at the time. Sure, there are hordes of the undead chomping to get through the island’s perimeter defenses. Of course, there is a power-mad military officer pillaging down the East Coast heading toward the island like Sherman’s march to the sea. Yeah, John and a few others must figure out the mystery of how resident-turned-undead are dangerously popping up inside the secure perimeter of the community. And what story could be told without people faced with isolation and lawlessness making bold moves and power plays for the sake of their own self-interest? It’s a tale old as time! Stick around for the third act of Day Zero as the characters’ adverse circumstances culminate in a bloody, fiery climax.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): In horror fiction, whether it be in literature, movies or TV, what scares you the most?
Chuck Ingersoll: What scares me? The unknown. The inhuman. Those things in the black ether that your imagination builds up into a hulking and vile creature for the ages. The bumps in the night and whispers in the dark are way more heart pounding than seeing the monster in the light. It is in the moment of becoming, that instance where those thuds and hushed voices in our minds have created an unholy abomination, where the unveiling of the creature makes my skin crawl and forces my mind to shut down until its over. Once the beast or ghost or demon is manifested and my mind can wrap itself around what the thing is, then I am able to use logic and reality to combat the fear I had convinced myself to have.
Oh, and monsters that are super strong and fast, and can’t be put down easily with an M4 or Glock scare the crap out of me, too!
Nick Younker (FJ Press): I want to thank you for taking time out today to speak about your novel. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about Day Zero?
Chuck Ingersoll: First, thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work. Day Zero marked a novice writer’s three-year effort to put thoughts into a laptop and then out to the world. I am proud of what I produced, warts and all. I tried to put a slight spin on the genre that speaks to the things I care about. Nowadays, an unseen hand is pushing me to tell more of Marine Sergeant John Walken’s story. A second story in the series is being edited and I am currently working on the third installment. I hope to have a 4-book series completed once it’s said and done but even I don’t know where the journey will take him – or me for that matter – until we get there together.
[Image via Chuck Ingersoll]