If you are a fan of zombies but like to see the rules changed up here and there, then author Sean Britten has a new recipe for you to indulge in. From the classic zombie trope to the modern incarnation of zombie infections, Britten’s two latest novels have broken through the mold and given readers and fans a new way to see the classic cannibal monster.
Be sure to check out the Kindle book that inspired the website below.
I got a chance to catch up with Britten and he gave me a few key insights that his novels touch on, especially in a marketplace that is filled with zombie fiction.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): It appears as though you have taken a new approach to zombie genre in two different books, each with its own set of defined rules for the genre. In Wave of Mutilation, your zombies start to break out with an approach that is reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain trilogy. Were you inspired by those books for this novel?
Sean Britten: Not in this instance although I can definitely see where you might draw the comparison. Obviously we share an initial setting, which is New York City, and perhaps because of the setting is a sense of a larger scale to the story. Wave of Mutilation is the culmination of a lot of bits and pieces that I’ve been thinking about the zombie genre for probably the better part of a couple of decades now.
If I had one criticism of the zombie genre I would say thanks to years and years of no-budget zombie schlock films (which I still love as much as the next guy or girl) there are a lot of very small-scale conventions that have ended up translating into zombie literature as well. When Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan wrote a tale about a massive societal upheaval with shockwaves that echoed around the globe, they weren’t thinking about how to keep things under a budget and neither was I when I wrote Wave of Mutilation.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Does the zombie genre still have many layers to go through before we can really break the mold of what has been done and has not? What I mean is, do you have other book ideas in mind that have zombies in it, with their own set of defined rules for the monster and the transmission of the disease, considering you have written new rules for the zombies in Wave of Mutilation?
Sean Britten: The zombie genre has a lot more flexibility than its given credit for. As an author my favourite thing about zombies is it’s very easy to play around with the tension and threat of a story. You can have the threat simmering away in the background then turn it up very quickly to a boiling point. The setting can be all about surviving from one second to the next, or it can be background to a story that’s much more about what humans are willing to do to one another.
Although there will be other books set in the Wave of Mutilation ‘universe’ absolutely do I have more books planned and written with whole other sets of rules and breeds of zombie. Screamers is just one example. I’d love to explore new stories with just about any different kind of zombie I can think of.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): I noticed that in Wave of Mutilation, you took some time before you gave way to your main character, which ended up being a woman named Cyndi. You gave your readers a chance to get up to date with what was going on in the world before we met her, especially when the two Mafioso’s did a gang hit and saw the man get back up. Do you plan to revisit those types of characters (mobsters) in future books?
Sean Britten: For a long while before writing Wave of Mutilation I was mostly writing crime fiction with characters like Jules and Tony, so including them from the beginning and then having them come back into it later was a way of hooking me into the story. So yes, you’ll see these kinds of characters come back in future installments of Wave of Mutilation and other horror books. My next planned release, Kill Switch, involves a whole mess of criminals as characters.
The other part of that of course is the vignettes that give us little snapshots of what else is going on in the world as it all falls apart, both before and after we meet Cyndi. I was surprised to the reaction to some of that and some of the questions asked about these little segments away from the main characters. It might be really interesting to revisit some of those characters and see how events cross over in future installments.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Cyndi and Jen go through a lot before they finally make their way to the final destination. Without giving away spoilers to your readers, are you able to tell us what defines these two characters and what their journey together means to the larger picture of the novel?
Sean Britten: What probably defines them more than anything else is determination, and an unwillingness to settle or just lie down and die. Cyndi in particular I wrote as kind of a stubborn person who is maybe a bit too sure of herself and her own righteousness. She might be surprised by her own ruthlessness in doing what it takes to survive but I don’t think she ever apologises for it.
I think their journey represents an uncompromising resolve even in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s interesting to see what kind of lines characters are willing to cross in the name of survival. For them, there are lines that they won’t ultimately cross and if it means dying then they’ll still die as themselves or die as human beings. But that also means finding the strength to stick to that resolve as well. Not every character as we see is unwilling to cross those lines or is able to find that mental strength.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): You have also put together a zombie-like book in Screamers. I don’t want to give away too much to your readers here, but these title characters seem to be infected with an intense virus that makes them self-mutilate and convert, which also seems to be another way for the monsters to breed, so to speak. Can you give us more insight as to what readers can expect with these kinds of monsters?
Sean Britten: With Screamers, I really wanted to put readers into the shoes of someone who was caught up in the chaos of the zombie apocalypse. As you kind of indicated before, a lot of the zombie genre has been explored and worked over again and again at this point. The characters might be surprised to see the dead rising to attack the living but the readers won’t be. When a character gets bitten, the savvy reader takes for granted that they’re a goner, and when the characters are puzzling over the way to kill something that’s already dead we’re shouting ‘Shoot them in the head already!’
I would say, expect the unexpected. With Screamers I wanted to bring back the horror and confusion of a zombie-style outbreak where the reader doesn’t actually know what the rules are any more than the characters do. And just when you think you understand the threat the screamers represent and become complacent, those rules are going to change again.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Most zombie novels and movies are scary in the sense that they come with a real sense of dread attached to them. There is this sense of hopelessness that most everyone feels when they watch a zombie apocalypse show or read it in a book. Do you think the genre needs an overhaul, or some sort of silver lining that can keep the universe alive and thriving in a zombie book series?
Sean Britten: Interesting question. I’m one of life’s optimists, I guess, I think you can always find that thread of hope if you keep digging deep enough. As bad as things get in Wave of Mutilation and Screamers the characters never feel like they’re just biding their time until death.
Whether the whole genre needs an overhaul is probably beyond me but when the Godfather himself, George A. Romero, first brought us that sense of total hopelessness in Night of the Living Dead it was new and novel and different. But we’ve seen a lot of that in the years since, not just in the zombie genre but in horror in general. That cruel last minute twist that negates all the characters’ struggles. Not to be too sacrilegious but I think even with The Walking Dead, fans get burnt out when things get a little too devoid of hope for a little too long. I don’t think it needs to be overhauled out of the genre but creators shouldn’t be including it just because they believe it’s a necessary trope of horror. Personally, I’m just not a fan of it. I may be a sadist but I wouldn’t want my characters or readers to live in a universe totally without hope.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about your books. Is there anything else you would like to add for your readers out there?
Sean Britten: Just speaking as an indie author, you really can’t underestimate how much your support makes an impact. Every sale, every review, every bit of engagement on the likes of social media can really mean the world to us. Appreciate your time, thanks, Nick.
Horror novel fans can check out Sean Britten’s Amazon page here.
[Image via Sean Britten]