By Ian Walkley
If you’ve sworn never to read a zombie novel, then Derek Goodman’s second novel might be the time to re-consider. Derek takes a new perspective on the zombie apocalypse, adding a humanity and complexity that sets it apart from other stories in the genre.
The main character, Edward Schuett, has just woken up in an abandoned department store to discover that the zombie uprising has come and gone, and he has been a zombie the entire time. Except something is different, because Edward is becoming human again. And that might not be something the rest of the world is ready to deal with.
Rhiannon Frater, author of THE FIRST DAYS: AS THE WORLD DIES, says the book “Delivers a unique take on the genre and is one of the best zombie novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s now one of my absolute favorites.”
Derek, you mentioned on your blog that you loved reading speculative fiction, sci-fi and horror. Which authors do you feel in these genres have inspired you?
Stephen King was my biggest influence. I always read voraciously as a kid, but it wasn’t until I discovered him that it ever occurred to me that I might want to write as well. The other person that had a profound influence on me was Joss Whedon. He has a way of blending big action with little character moments, and that’s something I’ve tried to achieve ever since.
Tell us a little about Edward Schuett. How did you come to the character and his world, fifty years after the zombie attacks?
Edward Schuett and the world he inhabits came from my desire to do a zombie novel but in a different way than everyone else seemed to be doing. So many zombie stories are just a ragtag group of survivors hole up in a farmhouse/mall/prison or wherever and try to hold off the zombie hordes. There are a lot of good novels and movies that use that formula, but it has always struck me as a very limited view. The character of Edward came about because I wanted to create a zombie who had enough sense that he didn’t want to do the typical brain-munching zombie thing yet still be treated by everyone else like he was a monster. The world also came about because I wanted something beyond the normal.
It struck me as a bit pessimistic that everyone assumes the coming of zombies is the end of the world. In the real world horrible life-altering events happen all the time. Society doesn’t just collapse because of it. It adjusts and becomes something new. So I created a world that had rebuilt itself and zombies were just an everyday part of life.
So, what is Edward trying to achieve in the story?
Edward has two very basic goals: to find out why he’s so different from every other zombie out there and to find out what happened to his family while he was shambling around as one of the living dead. As he goes on and everyone continues to treat him like just another soulless creature, however, Edward has to decide for himself if they’re right. In the end, he has to make a very conscious choice about whether he will be a man or a monster.
You wrote the novel in third person. Did you consider at any stage writing Edward as a first person protagonist?
Writing the novel in the first person would have certainly helped get the reader even deeper into Edward’s head, but it would have also limited how much I could show him from the point of view of others. In the end I think it’s not just a story about Edward himself but how society deals with the fact that he exists, so I think third person was the right choice.
Who are some of the baddies, the people that Edward will encounter and try to stop him achieving his goals?
There are several groups that form the core of the antagonists. The first is Merton Security, a group that came to prominence during the Zombie Uprising and has slowly lost their power as the world comes back to something resembling normal. They’re very much a group that believes in shooting first and asking questions later, and most of them could probably care less that Edward is now closer to human than to zombie. To people like them a zombie is a zombie and that’s it. Then there’s the Center for Reanimation Studies, or the CRS, which is a government group of scientists. If Merton is the brawny enemy then the CRS is the brains. They may ask the questions first, but they don’t care really how they get them.
What characters help Edward?
Within both Merton and the CRS Edward is able to convince certain people that he’s more than just a threat. Rae Neuman is a low level employee with Merton who encounters Edward early in the story who, despite deeply ingrained prejudices about the zombie menace that she was taught by her parents, quickly comes to see that Edward is more than he seems at first and needs help. And within the CRS there’s Liddy Gates, a high level bureaucrat who from the very beginning treats Edward with the respect he doesn’t get from others. These two become Edward’s only hope as the plot escalates and Edward is forced to go on the run.
What readers will this appeal to, especially outside the genre?
I’ve already seen several reviewers refer to the book as the zombie novel you give to people who hate zombie novels. It follows a very different formula than typical zombie novels. Even though it has plenty of horror elements to it, I would almost classify it as a science fiction novel instead. I was actually a little worried at the beginning that zombie fans would hate it for this reason, but so far it seems to have been well received.
What project are you working on now? Will there be a sequel to Reanimation?
Currently I’m working on a novel called AUTOMATON, which is my own take on the idea of a robot apocalypse. As for a sequel to Edward Schuett, I definitely want to do one. I have a lot more ideas for this world that I just couldn’t fit into one novel. I would prefer for this to be the first part of a trilogy, and my hope is that it sells well enough that my publisher would want the other two.
What are you doing to promote the book?
I’ve been pushing the book as hard as I can using Goodreads, to the point that I’ve promised my fans that I will post of video of myself dancing in a tutu to the internet if it get enough adds by the middle of January. On a more serious note, I intend to hit as many conventions as I can in 2013, starting with Days of the Dead in Los Angeles in April. Beyond that, we’ll just have to see what I can come up with.
Derek trained as an industrial designer (hence the interest in robots and speculative fiction), and when he’s not writing he is surrounded by books in a Wisconsin library. THE REANIMATION OF EDWARD SCHUETT is published by Permuted Press.