Interview with Carl Plumer

How did you start writing?
I have been writing all my life, in one form or another—comics when I was a little kid, my own (1 edition only) newspaper, high school and college literary magazines, “underground” (indie) press, online story collections, etc. But I always knew I wanted to write a novel — which is weird, because I’d never done it and writing a good novel is SO hard to do!
Do you listen to music while writing?
Absolutely; I’m kind of a music nut/rock ‘n’ roll wannabe. I usually tune into the Current FM (from Minneapolis) on Internet radio for the best of the latest. I subscribe to Under the Radar magazine, too, so it’s nice to hear the upcoming artists while reading about them in the magazine (before or after I hear them). My online bookmarks include Paste, NME, Stereogum, and many others. I like my music loud, intelligent, and melodic, so I like The Strokes, Dr. Dog, Arcade Fire, and Keane. And from my past, Rancid, David Byrne, The Ramones, Neil Young at his rustiest, The Clash, The Who, Green Day, and Elvis Costello. Speaking of which, his new album with the Roots is phenomenal.
Is there a certain song that reminds you of Mad About Undead You?
“I’ll be Missing You,” by P. Diddy, sampling the Police. Also, gotta say, The Nearly Deads’ “Never Look Back”. The video’s on my website, if you’re interested; it’s great. (http://www.carlplumer.com/another-zombie-music-video/)
Tell us a little about Mad About Undead You.
I wrote the title first. I remember staring at the otherwise blank screen and thinking, “Oh, a zombie story. Okay.” You should understand, I was unable to write for years because in my mind, you had to be the next Hemingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald. Or certainly, no less than McInerey. So, I was frozen. Until that title popped up. In 2010, I took the title and tried out this thing I’d just heard about called NaNoWriMo. Basically, it’s a challenge to yourself to write every day in November with a goal of 50,000 words (something like 1,600 words a day). I won’t say the words flowed, but NaNoWriMo forced me to write, which was just what I needed. Next thing you know, I’d written myself a novel. Only problem was, it sucked. That’s when I discovered Holly Lisle. After taking her revision course (a year-long, agonizing project), Mad About Undead You emerged in its current form (well, there was extensive professional editing along the way, too). That’s the technical detail. The overriding point: it was fun. And I love the two main characters who appeared as I wrote: Cathren and Donovan, lovers experiencing relationship troubles and who end up having to work it out during a zombie breakout in San Francisco. Not easy.
How did your adventure with horror writing begin?
Totally by accident. I’m a fan of horror movies, and I love a good scare. But I’ve actually only read a few horror books. When I first started writing, 100% of my characters died at the end (spoiler alert!). I think that was because I couldn’t figure out how to end the story, though, not because I was writing horror. Plus, I thought death made my stories seem cool. Turns out horror (mashed with humor) is where I feel at home. Buy my books! I’m SO sorry….
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
For as long as I can remember, really. In moments where I feel threatened or unsure of myself, I reach inside and remember that I can write and that strengthens me. Like carrying a gun. A talent gun that shoots word bullets.
Who are your inspirations?
Strangely, I have very few English-speaking writing heroes. I’m inspired by Cortázar, Nabokov, Fuentes. Italo Calvino. And mostly, Herman Melville. I don’t write at all like they do, but they motivate me to try harder.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Herm “The Harpoon” Melville. First of all, cool beard. Down his chest. Second, the research! This was years before the Internet, so he had to get all his whaling info from what—? I don’t know, chit-chat? Pamphlets? Meant a lot of walking around, a lot of reading. Just exhausting.
Do you think a zombiepocalypse is possible?
I don’t know, but I sure hope so!
If there were an outbreak, what would be your first reaction?
Joy, fist-pumping. A lot of “I knew it!” Then, when reality took hold a few seconds later, total panic and the need to gather my family together.
Favorite zombie book and movie? Why?
Sean of the Dead. Brilliant. It’s a mash-up of every zombie movie and movie/book cliché that came before it, yet it is done with humor and originality and respect. And it’s scary, too! As for the book, that would have to be The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. Funny seriousness. Or serious fun. Not sure.
What monster has been the most fun to write about?
The demons in "How to Save a World From Dying." They are just so gross. Some people might be offended, but because these creatures are demons, they have no morality. So they don’t think anything they do is bad. I originally based their actions on the worst of human behavior, but that was too terrible to write about. I had to tone down real human behavior to get my demons to not be so disgusting!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Hanging with my wife and kids. Riding my motorbike. Playing guitar. Basically, doing nothing. Which is sometimes the most important thing you can do.
Published 2013-12-18.
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