Eugene Johnson is one of the editors of Appalachian Undead, a zombie anthology that is completely based out of Appalachia. Eugene offered to be
interviewed by Lytherus about the upcoming book, his interest in zombies, and so much more. Take a peak folks!
So I have to start this interview off with a standard question: why zombies?
I grew up on horror movies. Not just horror movies, but everything horror and everything of the fantastic. My grandmother used to let me watch them when I stayed at my grandparents’ house, which was pretty often. So I watched horror movies a lot. I mean a lot.
Then I saw a movie that changed the way I looked at monsters: Night of the Living Dead. It was Halloween, and my brothers and I were staying at my father’s house for the night. We were laying on one of those old sofa beds, looking for something to watch. We ended up watching this old black-and-white movie about a group of people holed up in a house, trying to survive as they were attacked by reanimated corpses that had returned from the dead—with a hunger for human flesh. The whole experience was strange and transported me to another place, a place of terror. I remember wondering what we would do if this really happened. Anyone could get bit or die, only to return as one of the living dead.
Throughout my life, I stayed a fan of horror movies of all types, but it was the zombie movies that I had a soft spot for. I started looking for them where I could find them, from Dawn of the Dead 1978, Day of the Dead, Dead Alive, Video Dead, Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, and many more. There was just something about the undead.
It was not until later that I started to understand what it was about these movies that I liked so much. Most other horror was supposed to be scary, but didn’t bother me too much. Zombie movies got to me. What scared me so much was that they were us. The horrible part was that we had no control over whether we became monsters. Zombie movies strike at the heart of society and human behavior. Not to mention the other thing that was appealing: Zombie movies deal with apocalypse and survival, two things that catch a lot of people’s attention.
Why do you think we, as horror fans and media fans, are so intrigued by the living dead?
Really that is a question that we could talk about for days. There are a lot of things going on with zombies and why people are drawn to them. I do think one of the main things is that people like to be scared and I think deep down zombies terrify people. Like I mentioned before, zombies are us and they also represent a total lack of control. We as human beings like trying to control everything in our lives, so a situation where someone could be simply bit or scratch and lose total control, becoming the monster we fear is truly terrifying.
What made you want these stories to be located in Appalachia? Any special significance to the locale?
When I was 16 I moved to West Virginia, the heart of Appalachia, from a city in Michigan. I came to live with my grandparents. Though I had visited them in West Virginia before, it was always a culture shock. My grandparents lived in a small town called Fort Gay in the middle of nowhere. They had a small, one–story, two-bedroom house on 82 acres of land. It was ten miles to the nearest town, and there wasn’t much around besides a Burger King, a McDonald’s, Foodland, and a few other little stores. There were no movie theaters, no Blockbuster Video, no malls. The nearest of any of these was an hour away, either in Huntington, West Virginia, or Ashland, Kentucky; a very different world than I was used to.
Where I came from, I could ride my bike straight to the nearest theatre or store. In West Virginia, people had it a little bit harder than us city folk. The land was not flat and smooth like the city. There were hills, mountains, and old dirt roads that curved every which way; traveling by car was a roller-coaster ride. It was hard to find a job, because there were not a lot of them nearby, and the ones that were there rarely came open. In West Virginia it was harder to make a living. But even though things were tough, the people still thrived. They remained in good spirits, it a very amazing and mysterious place. I thought having a zombie anthology set in both the Appalachian culture and region would be a great source for stories. It turns out I was right because we got some amazing stories in the book.
I have always thought that editing an anthology, especially a horror anthology, would be challenging. How was it to work with all of these authors and getting their stories?
Editing an anthology is very hard. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that most people don’t think about. From coming up with the guideline, to making sure contracts are signed, I can honestly tell you that even though editing an anthology is challenging it is also very rewarding. For one, on Appalachian Undead, I was able to work with a great group of writers. I am a fan of all of them. It was a dream come true for me to work with Jonathan, Elizabeth, Tim Waggoner, Steve, Tim Lebbon, Bev, John Everson, Gary, Lucy and everyone involved. There is nothing like interacting with people that you have admired and read and to have them write a story for your book than turn it in to you to read. It was really amazing.
Could you tell me about some of your favorite stories in the book?
Wow, PJ, that is a hard one because they are all really great. I guess it I had to pick a few of them one would be When Granny Comes Marchin Home Again by Elizabeth Massie. It is one of the stories that really summed up what I was looking for when I came up with the concept for the book. Elizabeth is such a great writer, I love everything of hers. She is also such a great person. Not to mention the character of Granny Mustard is so dreadful it is great. I am also a huge fan of Jonathan Maberry’s Calling Death which deals with a mining town’s deadly secret. It is not your typical zombie story and is driven more by suspense. Jonathan is also one of the nicest people that I have ever met and I am not just saying that because I am such a fan of his. Some of the other great stories are Sitting Up With the Dead by Bev Vincent, Gary Braunbeck’s Brother Hollis story which just blew me away, Hide and Seek by Tim Waggoner which has a neat twist on the zombie genre. To be honest I could go on and on about the stories and writers.
When will Appalachian Undead be available and how will interested readers be able to get a copy?
Appalachian is set to release this October 2012 from Apex Publications just in time for Halloween. The book is currently available for pre-order and we have a really awesome contest/giveaway going on for everyone that does pre-order.
Order the book here: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/products/appalachian-undead
Appalachian Undead Contest: http://blog.apexbookcompany.com/2012/08/13/appalachian-undead-pre-order-contest-and-giveaways/
Is there any news about the book that you would like to share?
We are happy to announce the Appalachian Undead anthology website and blog is now up.
People will be able keep up to date on the book as well as find interviews with the writers, contests, and more on it. The web address for it is www.appalachianundead.com.
Do you have any other projects in the future that you would like to discuss?
I do have a couple things I am working but I am unable to talk about them at this time. Right now I am just trying to focus on getting Appalachian Undead out and doing promotion for it. We hope to be at the Scarefest, Context, and a couple of other conventions in the near future. Now some of the writers have some amazing projects coming out so I urge fans to check out their sites for more information.
How would you summarize the book and how are you selling this concept to new readers?
I think the description on the back of the book really sums it up. Appalachian Undead takes a look at the dark side of Appalachia, where the Undead walk, driven by old magic and worse, their hunger for us. Nestled in the safety of the hills, the inhabitants have thrived and adapted even to the worst of conditions, but can they survive against an army that never tires and never stops feeding? With new intriguing tales of the Undead, this anthology contains works by some of the best names in horror, including Jonathan Maberry, Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Lebbon, Elizabeth Massie, Lucy Snyder, Bev Vincent, Tim Waggoner and many more.
People are not only fascinated by zombies, but people have also been intriqued by Appalachia, and I think that has increased with the award winning TV mini series, The Hatfields and the McCoys. The book has such a wide range of stories that there is something for everyone in it. We hope readers will see the interesting theme and the great line up and check it out to see that we bring something a little new to the table having zombie stories set in such an interesting region and culture.
PJ, I want to take this time to thank you for doing this interview as well as for all the support you have given Appalachian Undead.
Thank you, Eugene. Good luck with the book! Everyone, take a peak at the synopsis below! I think this book is going to turn out to be a rare treat for the zombie lovers among us!
Or is it? Is Appalachia as mysterious and wonderful as people say? Or does its enduring beauty hold something dark. Something dreadful. Something very hungry for our flesh. Can the people of the region stand up against the hordes of the Undead and thrive as they have thrived under other worst circumstances?
Appalachian Undead takes a look at the dark side of Appalachia, where the Undead walk, driven by old magic and worse, their hunger for us. Nestled in the safety of the hills, the inhabitants have thrived and adapted even to the worst of conditions, but can they survive against an army that never tires and never stops feeding? With new intriguing tales of the Undead, this anthology contains work by some of the best names in horror, including Jonathan Maberry, Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Lebbon, Elizabeth Massie, Lucy Snyder, Bev Vincent, Tim Waggoner and many more. (Summary from www.apexbookcompany.com)