Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview & Giveaway with James Knapp

authorpic James Knapp is my guest today, with a special post on one of my favourite topics – zombies! The Silent Army, the second book in his Revivors series is a zombie thriller with a very different take on zombies.  It released earlier this month (Oct 5) and is the sequel to State of Decay (Feb).

These are not your shambling flesh-eating zombies and I think it will appeal to even those readers that have stayed clear of zombie novels. Check out the book synopsis below and see if you don’t agree.
silentarmycoverWould you allow the military to reanimate your corpse, knowing it would commit atrocities, if it meant avoiding service in a brutal war during your lifetime?

What if your level of citizenship depended on your answer? To gain a chance at a better life, or feed your family, which would you choose then? Or would you choose neither, and accept a life of hardship and poverty?

What if you came face to face with your own death, and realized too late you had made the wrong decision?
Read a sample chapter of State of Decay. You can also visit James Knapp’s blog or the  Revivors website.

We are also sponsoring a knock ‘em dead giveaway. Five different commenters will receive their choice of a signed copy of State of Decay or a signed copy of The Silent Army. Entry details are at the end of the post.

James will be dropping buy to respond to reader comments and questions so please welcome him and feel free to ask him about his books and writing over and about the contest questions.

So on with brains… I mean James. Welcome!

 The Enduring Popularity of Zombies

Night_of_the_Living_Dead_ The first zombie movie I ever saw was Day of the Dead back when I was in High School, and despite some serious scenery chewing (Captain Rhodes is pegged at 11, though to be fair he'd lost his mind by then) it immediately struck the nerve in me that the genre in general has struck in so many others. At the time, I went out and spent some time playing catch-up starting with more Romero (Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead), then just *more*, making my way through the Return of the Living Dead series along with a host of others (I even watched Dead Heat)...I've watched a lot of zombie flicks since then - zombie movies are just fun and the old school ones are especially fun.
day-of-the-dead-movie-cover-small dead_heat_2
Roger Ebert once said something to the effect that he dislikes zombies as a movie monster because they are so uninteresting (lurch, moan, eat, repeat) but I think in a way he missed the point of them. In and of themselves they (largely) are uninteresting but (especially in the older zombie tales) the individual zombies aren't really supposed to be interesting. They aren't even individuals, not top-25-movie-franchises-of-all-time-20061126080000254 really. They represent a menace, a sort of personification of threat. The cast of characters don't usually include the zombies themselves, the cast consists of the poor souls who are trying to *survive* the zombies. I feel like Day of the Dead did that best out of all the ones I've seen (nostalgia, maybe, but I don't think so)...the underground bunker where the survivors were holed up was the perfect zombie tale microcosm, a world that had shrunk down to almost nothing, and continued to shrink in real time while we watched.

The people trapped inside that disappearing world were coming to terms with the fact that the war they were fighting had been utterly lost, and as resources dwindled, and the survival of the human race began looking more and more like a pipe dream, we watched to see how the last vestiges of humanity unraveled...would they fight for survival to the very end even if it meant fighting each other? Or would they check out, huddle up, and wait to die together? Zombie stories aren't typically about zombies per se...they're really about humans being threatened by zombies.

If they're not individually interesting, though, then why do they endure?

StateOfDecayCover0 I think it boils down to a few things; fear of being eaten (which I think is probably wired in our DNA somewhere from all those years when we *did* get eaten) combined with the cannibalism taboo, their inhuman persistence (they usually don't move fast, but they never stop coming), the fear of something beyond our control wiping us out (the same vibe as nuclear apocalypse or plague), and the fear of losing our identities. Their lack of individual personality is actually what makes them scary, since it presents the possibility you might suffer a fate worse than being eaten, and actually become one of them.

You take those things together and they're the perfect storm of fears; something beyond our control has toppled society, taking with it our government, our laws, and the forces that once protected us. Day05 On our own, we are faced with a cannibalistic horde that continually adds to its numbers and never stops looking for you. You will eventually run out of food, water, or energy but they will not, and when they find you, they will eat you alive and screaming. Even if you do manage to escape the assault, you will likely be infected. Then it will only be a matter of time before you lose your mind, forget who you are, and join the mindless horde to stalk and eat those who were just like you. It's a nightmare scenario, a particularly hellish form of plague that actually seeks you out no matter where you hide, and only ends when the planet is dead and everything left to rot.

Uninteresting? I agree with Mister Ebert on many things film-related, but not that. Different strokes, I guess. I think, though, that if State of Decay were ever made into a film that I could buck that trend for him. In the Revivors series the reanimated dead not only walk but talk as well, and in some cases their motivations are just as complex as any human’s.

revivors5 I play around with the traditional zombie tropes a lot with State of Decay and The Silent Army... enough so that I would hesitate to really call it a zombie story, although the reanimated dead are a key component of it. My zombies (which I call 'revivors') are reanimated using biotechnology, and they retain much of their intelligence and motor functions. How much of their identity they retain is a subject of debate in their world. They are reanimated on purpose, and those who are reanimated are (usually) volunteers, doing so to gain benefits in life while their revivor is shipped off to war after death. They are supposed to only be deployed overseas, far away, but circulate underground on the black market because of their value in the illegal labor and sex trade. It's less of a 'trapped in a box' story and more of a science-fiction thriller but I think my love of the zombie genre shines through regardless.

Max-Schreck-Nosferatu-006And why not mix things up a little? The zombie has been around for a long time... I liked that the Dawn of the Dead remake sped up the zombies, it doesn't mean the end of the 'old' zombie, it's just a new way to tell the tale.

Telling stories in new ways is one of the reasons *why* they endure. Nosferatu looked like bat-boy, and now vampires usually look like they all stepped out of cologne ads. If there had been an internet back then, there would have been newsgroups devoted to why the addition of hair and fang spacing was all wrong, but tropes evolve. Yesterday zombies were slow and Daybreakers-One-Sheetrotting, today they're fast, at one point they were supernatural, then   the product of a virus... putting a new spin on an old idea keeps it fresh. I mean, if Daybreakers had been told from a strictly human point of view, it would have almost been a zombie vampire movie (if you want to see a (in my opinion much better) modern telling of vampire/human society integration, check out the 1998 British miniseries ‘Ultraviolet’).

Has anyone told a zombie vampire werewolf story yet?

Giveaway Guidelines
  1. Five (5) signed copies to be awarded to commenters drawn at random. Winner may choose either State of Decay or The Silent Army.
  2. To enter tell us what type of zombies you prefer, traditional or re-imagined? What’s your favourite zombie film (if you have one). Or ask James a question!
  3. Entries open to residents of US and Canada.
  4. Entries must be received by midnight (EST) on November 4.
  5. Ensure you leave a way for me to contact you.
  6. If you can (not a requirement), share the link of the interview/giveaway on your favourite social media website or blog.


  1. I LOVE zombies, traditional and re-imagined. We went for over a month watching a different zombie movie every night. I loved Shawn of the Dead and Fido for their humor.

    These books sound awesome! I would love to win a signed copy!


  2. I like all kinds of zombies. My favorite zombie film is Night of the Living Dead.

    sgiden at

  3. I am a fan of all types of zombies. It is really hard for me to choose which movie I like best. I really liked 28 days later and shawn of the dead.

  4. I love re-imagines zombies that aren't just about the brains. Nancy Holzner's zombies are great because they're misunderstood.

    This series sounds very interesting!

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  5. I love the re-imagined zombies. Anyone can imagine that something gets into the water cycle and re-animates the dead through the soil. The re-imagining of the process in which it occurs is what keeps me coming back.

    These books sound like great reads. Can't wait to get into them. Thanks for the opportunity to get us started.

    clint.ausmus at

  6. I like zombie films with a little humor.
    My favorite would be 'Shaun of the Dead'.

  7. I love zombies. :) I think I am a traditionalist - in the fact that I want my zombies to be running after people trying to eat them. Brains and all that...

    I really liked the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead - it was the first movie I'd seen with the zombies trucking at about 40 miles an hour chasing people. :)

    I also like 28 Days/Weeks Later and I am looking forward to the new AMC show The Walking Dead - I can see similarities between the new show and those movies.

    For humor, Zombieland was hilarious.

    I am curious to read your books - I don't think I've read anything that has the zombie retain it's brain functions and the ability to speak and reason.

    kweenmg at yahoo dot com

  8. Thanks for all the responses so far, I appreciate the interest...also, as Doug said I'll be keeping an eye on these comments, so if you have any questions don't be shy!

    Good luck!

  9. The ones that freak me out the most are the ones that are FAST! Think "28 Days Later" or "I Am Legend" (they were sorta "zombies"- not quite, but sorta). None of that lame, slow shuffling. They'll run and tackle you!

    Please count me in. Thanks!

  10. I think that I prefer the traditional zombies, because there is something so creepy about them no longer being themselves, and yet they are still moving. Not to say the re-imagined zombies don't hold any appeal, though.
    My favorite zombie film would probably be Zombieland (new I know, which is probably part of the reason its currently at the top..its closest in my memory).

    jlynettes @ hotmail . com

  11. Zombies are the awesomest thing man ever invented. Definitely my all time favorite monster. As for what type of zombie I prefer... well, as long as they're dead and shuffling around, I'm guarenteed to like it. ^_^

    My favorite zombie movie is Night of the Living Dead since it's the one that got me hooked into the genre. How can you not love a classic?

  12. My favorite zombie is Randal from Ugly Americans.He gave up being human for a hot chick that was into zombies then she dumped him. Absolutely hilarious.

    But then again, I'm not normal.

  13. Don't make me choose!
    I would have to say original, because they are just awesomely creepy. But then I like the new zombies because they can be more of a threat to the poor humans.

  14. I love Randal (although I don't know if I could handle being his roommate). I loved when he was getting 're-skinned' at the spa and asked if he could get his old skin in a doggie bag...

  15. I prefer the more traditional zombie only because I feel like I have a chance against them in the event of a zombie apocalypse. My favorite movie would have to be Shawn of the Dead.

    My question for James is if we did have to deal with a zombie outbreak what would be your weapong of choice?

    Thanks for the guest post and giveaway!


  16. Jen, that is a great question...I've given it some thought, and I think this is the way I'd go (this might be a bit of a cheat, since it involves my entire loadout and not just one weapon but here goes):

    Years ago I worked at a company where one of my coworkers and his girlfriend used to ride their motorcycles to and from work everyday, and they always wore these matching kevlar jumpsuits to protect themselves. The first thing I would do is find one of those and put it on along with gloves, boots and a helmet. I think that would make a reasonably light and effective defense. For offense, I'd probably go with a lead-filled police baton on one hip, and a big-ol' Jason Voorhees machete on the other. *If* it turned out that a handheld stungun was effective (the zombified muscle responded to the electrical shock enough to knock one down) I would keep one of those, plus a backup.

    In an ankle holster, I would also carry a single fully loaded Glock 27, but that would be only for extreme emergencies (I've seen the only ever get a few of them with bullets before they overwhelm you) and of course to provide a zombie-free exit from this life for myself and/or the buddy/love interest/rescued waif I find myself on the road with.

  17. Thanks for the reply Jason! If an outbreak does go down, I'm headed your way.

    Personally, I'm not into any weapon that requires me to get within arms length of a zombie's mouth. Handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle...hell...I'll take a bow and arrow if it means I don't have to get close to them. Have an awesome Halloween!

  18. this series sounds great! can't wait to start reading...

    i'm not a hard-core traditionalist (when it comes to zombies, anyway), so i love all the variations out there. one of my faves is still night of the living dead, and i love fido and shawn of the dead!

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

  19. Any kind of zombie is cool! My favorite is Zombieland, nice blend of horror and humor!


  20. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies. So funny. I do agree that a new twist on the zombies makes a movie or story interesting.


  21. I think I much prefer re-imagined zombies!

    bmweida at yahoo dot com

  22. I prefer the traditional zombies.

    Favorite movies:
    Resident Evil series

    librarygrinch at gmail dot com

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