Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer of Zombie Blog Tour - James Cook

Arrgh, matey! Ye be reading Books, Beer and Blogshit. It be the only blog that talks like a pirate even when it's not Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrrrg!  We be your land lubbin' bloggers Captain Frank and First Mate Jeff.

It's time to pull up anchor and cast off for another round of Ye Olde Summber of Zombie Blog Tour with your featured writer, Captain James Hook!


What's that?

Oh goodness, how embarrassing  Folks, we don't have Captain James Hook, we have zombie writer James Cook. Oh well, we're sure he still brings the booty and if you don't enjoy the interview ye will surely walk the plank or be keel hauled or take a long drop with a short stop. 

Here there be words.  Ye have been warned. Arrrrgh!


The Blogshit: Which of your books do we need to be talking about now and what is inside the pages to get excited about it?

James Cook: My latest release is the third volume of the Surviving the Dead series titled, Warrior Within. This novel picks up where the last installment of the series—This Shattered Land—left off. The two main characters find themselves in Hollow Rock Tennessee, a small town that has built extensive fortifications to protect themselves from the zombie hordes. The zombies, however, are not the biggest problem that the people of Hollow Rock face. A rogue militant group calling themselves the Free Legion has laid siege to the town and cut off their trade routes. Gabriel and Eric have been recruited by the town mayor to train a small, highly-mobile expeditionary force to re-open the trade routes and eliminate anyone who tries to stop them. At first, the task seems simple, but soon the two survivors learn that all is not what it seems in Hollow Rock. As the remnants of the Federal Government send supplies and troops to aid in destroying the Legion, they draw the attention of other forces vying for supremacy in the wastelands of North America. What ensues is an action-packed journey into violence, brutality, and the dark side of human nature. Ask yourself this: How far are you willing to go to survive? How hard would you fight to stay alive, to protect those you love? This is what Warrior Within is all about. The characters find out exactly how far they are willing to go to protect the things they hold dear.

The Blogshit: What is it about zombies that keep you writing in this genre?

James Cook: Well, for starters, people keep buying my books. That makes me happy. (joke) All kidding aside, I think it’s a fascinating genre. It opens up a world of possibilities, creates a theme of constant danger, and gives authors a chance to explore a variety of topics. Human nature, relationships, the fragility of life and the human psyche, how people build civilizations, the motivations behind creating and codifying laws—the list is endless, as are the possibilities.

The Blogshit: With the saturation of zombie fiction in the current market, what do you do to keep your writing fresh and relevant?

James Cook: The characters. Surviving the Dead is not your typical zombie series. Rather than just being endless pages of zombie smashing, the story focuses on the two main characters’ struggle to maintain their humanity in an inhumane world, and to find a place where they can carve out peaceful lives for themselves. Along the way they make friends, and enemies, they laugh, they love, they fight, they kill, and they take damage. Mental, physical, and emotional. They watch people they care about get hurt and killed. They do things that give them nightmares and make them doubt the justice of their actions. They are not perfect, and they make mistakes. I think that’s what has driven the popularity of the series, and what keeps people interested in the story.

The Blogshit: What makes your zombies stand apart from all the others?

James Cook: My zombies really aren't all that different. They are mostly your standard Romero shamblers. A few unique attributes that I focus on is their physical strength, how they behave at night versus during the day, and that they are easily distracted.

The strength thing relates to the human body’s pain response. People are actually a hell of a lot stronger than they think they are, but our bodies’ pain receptors stop us from using our strength to its fullest potential because doing so harms our tissues. Zombies could give a pinch of distilled donkey shit about tissue damage. They can use all of their strength, all at once, with no chance of fatigue, and doing so makes them seem superhumanly strong.

The zombies in my books also go quiet at night, at least until they are right on top of their prey. No one is sure why.

Last, my zombies don’t have superhuman focus and concentration. They are dead. Only their base instincts remain. If they can’t see, smell, or hear prey for a long enough period of time, they forget what they were doing and wander off.

The Blogshit: Do you write (or plan to write) outside the zombie genre?

James Cook: Absolutely. My immediate plans are for an urban fantasy series titled, Jeremiah Cain: Vampire Hunter, and a traditional fantasy series titled, Gladiator of Corsryn.

Jeremiah Cain is in large part a response to my general dissatisfaction with the urban fantasy genre. I’m tired of reading about people falling in love with vampires, and snuggling with werewolves. Since when are these monsters sympathetic characters? Screw that. You’re not going to see Cain getting mixed up in that nonsense. As far as he is concerned, the only good vampire is a dead one. And that same philosophy applies to anything else that goes bump in the night.

Gladiator of Corsryn is, as stated above, a more traditional fantasy series. However, don’t expect elves, and dwarves, and fairies and whatnot. The series was inspired by my love of the old Robert E. Howard Conan novels. Expect lots of fighting, killing, crushing of enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women.

After that, I may dip my toes into the military or paranormal thriller waters. Time will tell.

The Blogshit: Do you think the mega hype around the movie adaptation of World War Z will have a positive or negative effect on the zombie fiction scene?

James Cook: I don’t think it will have much of an effect at all, really. I think it will be a moderately successful film—assuming it doesn’t suck, and result in a bomb—that really won’t affect the zombie fiction genre one way or the other. People are buying zombie books because it’s an interesting genre. The demand has been there for decades, but it wasn’t met because traditional publishers, who owned the fiction market up to that point, didn’t think it was worth their time. They didn’t think zombies would be a money-maker. To an extent, they were right. Zombie fiction is still, in terms of sales, a very small sub-genre when compared to romance, mysteries, and thrillers. It’s a niche market. That’s what makes it great for self-published authors. People who like zombie fiction tend to consume a lot of it, and this gives first-time writers, or writers who have been writing for a while but are still struggling to find an audience, a chance to start building a readership. I’ve said for years that if you are just getting started in writing, look for an underserved niche market to get your foot in the door. That’s what the zombie genre has done for me, what it has done for others, and what it will continue to do for the forseeable future.

The Blogshit: Is there a need for attrition in the zombie fiction market?

James Cook: I don’t think so. In publishing, the cream rises to the top. Those books that are commercially viable—for whatever reason—will find their audience. Those that are not as good will get bad reviews, see poor sales, and eventually fade from the lists. I imagine at some point companies like Amazon and B&N may initiate some kind of bottom line sales quota and start de-listing books that aren't selling, but with the massive volume of server space out there—which is growing all the time—I don’t see why they would need to do that anytime soon. The publishing business is a classic case of the 80/20 rule, which states that, generally speaking, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. If you look at the numbers, this holds true in the literature market. Avid readers, people who read ten or more books a year, comprise the lion’s share of profit generation for publishers. These are people who read A LOT. From a business standpoint, it makes sense for Amazon and other booksellers to have a huge inventory of books for them to choose from. They make money either way, and it costs them very little to keep a book file on a small stretch of hard drive in a warehouse somewhere out in East Bumfuck, Nebraska.

The Blogshit: What do you see in the future of zombies, both on the page and off?

James Cook: I think that in years to come, the popularity of zombies may wane a bit due to cultural over saturation. But I don’t think it will ever go away completely. Zombies have become an entrenched cultural icon much the same as vampires and werewolves. Ask yourself this: How long have vampire novels been around? How long have people been reading stories about werewolves? Ghosts? Monsters?

The answer: Decades. Centuries, even. I started reading vampire novels when I was freaking nine years old. I’m thirty-two now, and I still read them. Can’t get enough of them. And there are millions of people out there just like me. Ergo, there are millions of people who like zombies, and will continue to do so for years to come. Furthermore, there are babies being born every day. Children growing up. Adults buying their first ereader. New readers eager for the next action-packed, spine-chilling story. And many of them will turn to zombies for that thrill.

In short, the future of zombies is good. Maybe not as good as it is now, at least not indefinitely, but it’s going to be around for a long, long time. Hell, it already has been.

The Blogshit: We are building a menu for a fictional sandwich shop. Typically we ask what to put on the namesake of your sandwich. For the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour we are going to set aside a special menu sub-section so: What do we put on your zombiefied sandwich?

James Cook: Gunpowder, bacon grease, and the blood of my enemies. Yum.

That is now seven of nine in the SoZBT. What is amazing is that James Cook like all the other writers on the tour has a take on the genre that is all his own. That is what you need to survive in this world of zombie fiction. Adapt or die is the lesson! We hope you decide to check James Cook out if he sounds like your taste.

If you are curious here are a few links you can find James and his work at. Catch you next time Constant Blog Readers!!/pages/James-Cook/235140719906589

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