I'm pleased to have Jack Wallen here today, sharing the inspiration for his new horror trilogy, I Zombie.
When I was a child, my life pretty much revolved around Halloween and monsters. The lead up to Halloween, for me, was like the lead up to Christmas for all other children. I planned and plotted my costume (almost always crafting it myself), decided who I was going to scare (almost always my little sister), and was glued to the television to watch as many horror movies as I could. And after watching those horror films, I would never go to bed afraid. Horror was my comfort food, being scared was a soothing balm.
Not much has changed over the years. I am still a huge fan of horror and Halloween is still my favorite holiday. Now, however, horror has invaded my writing. Although I will not be pigeonholed into a specific category (at least not yet), my “thing” (if you will) is zombies. About to complete the final chapter in my I Zombie trilogy (I Zombie I, My Zombie My, and Die Zombie Die), I know where I must go from here...
deeper and darker.
Let me digress a moment and speak of the muse that inspired me to start the I Zombie trilogy.
A year or so ago, before I put pen to paper and voice to Jacob Plummer, a question came to mind. That question: “What would it feel like to turn into a zombie?” I wasn’t expecting the question...it just happened, hit me upside the head one day when I wasn’t expecting it. The question nearly blindsided me and demanded immediate response. There was a problem though – nothing I had ever read or watched actually (and completely) fully realized the question. I knew then what I had to do. How to do was another question all together. Ultimately the “how” resulted in I Zombie I.
One of the single most important tools I have, as a writer, is my curiosity. I am constantly asking myself these kinds of questions, constantly digging deeper into the abyss of fear or the human equation to find a previously untapped morsel for inspiration. I mean, let’s face it...it’s all already been done and done to death (thank you, Bare Naked Ladies). Unique work only arrives when the already done is done with a twist, from a different perspective, or with added layers no one had previously thought about. And that, my friends, can be a challenge.
I don’t want to write the typical zombie books. I don’t want to write the standard police procedural thrillers. What I want to do is focus from within – the characters, their minds, their hearts, their souls. I want to give readers an immediacy they can reach out and touch. That immediacy means relationships and emotions that are almost tangible.
In my book I Zombie I, the real fear is knowing everything familiar is coming completely undone. Jacob Plummer is not only slowly falling into the abyss of zombie-dom, the world around him has been upended. Nothing is the same, nothing is safe – and, slowly but surely, nothing is safe from him. This same thread continues through the entire trilogy, only from the perspective of a different voice. I wanted each book of the trilogy to feel fresh, but be part of the same story – so each book makes use of a different main character. As the story progresses, it gets darker and dives deeper into the reality that chaos has redrawn from order.
Time to regress...
That “monster muse” of mine is constantly posing questions to me – instructing me that there are countless stories to be told. It seems to never stop. But as I drew near the completion of the I Zombie trilogy, I realized I wasn’t done. I hadn’t exorcised that zombie demon from my heart. So instead of going off on yet another Monster Muse inspired tangent, I decided to listen to my heart and begin developing another zombie series that will be based on the happenings (and one particular character) from the I Zombie trilogy. And although I have other books in the queue to be completed, it is this new series that beckons me play.
Why would I want to set aside all of the other books I have already planned? Simple – the story of Jacob Plummer isn’t complete. At least in my mind and heart, Jacob wasn’t given a fair shake-down in the first book and his spirit must continue on. I know, it seems strange that a writer would be bullied around by a fictional character he created, but when I penned the words of Jacob, I grew very close to him – I enjoyed being inside of his skin. I’m not exactly ready to let that go. So, yeah, maybe writing the new series is a bit selfish of me (especially when I have a step-daughter begging me to write my YA novel “Among You”), but it’s a path I must take and must take as soon as possible.
My “monster muse” is a powerful muse that pimp-slaps me upside the head constantly. Sometimes the smack is nothing more than a “Hey, there might be something to be found in that pile of steam-punk-like rubbish to inspire a story or two!” But just because my monster muse speaks, doesn’t mean I must listen.
There is a moral to this blathering...and that moral is this. Ultimately you must follow your heart when you write. Even when your heart speaks out against a vociferous muse, when the heart makes demands generally speaking those demands are powerful. Once you have sated the heart, then the muse can be followed. But even when you do decide to turn the cheek to the muse, make sure you at least jot down a few notes – just in case that muse decides to go dormant for a while.
I will soon finish my I Zombie trilogy. That ride has been an incredible one. I feel as if I have grown along side Jacob, Bethany, Susan, Danielle, and the rest of the gang. It has been exciting, heartbreaking, and silly at times; but most of all it’s been a joy. That is why my next series will pick up some thirty years after Die Zombie Die takes place. If you know what happens at the end of that book (and as of now – only I do! Muhaha) you can probably guess who will be staring in the next go around. I hope the prospect of a new zombie series excites my fans as much as it does me. But until that new series arrives...enjoy the I Zombie trilogy. My monster muse says you will. You must listen to my monster muse...or else!
Find out more about Jack Wallen
I Zombie I
A Blade Away