By Cathy Clamp
Fifty years ago, a zombie uprising changed the face of the United States. Finally, the coasts have recovered to become thriving metropolises, but not everything is back to normal. Edward Schuett, the first person to ever come back from being a zombie, possesses a unique ability that made him the most powerful biological weapon in history. He’s created a small colony of Z7s, people like him who were once undead but are once again alive. Unfortunately, the fragile utopia they’ve created is about to be challenged when the latest Z7, Sandra Wolfe, shows uncontrollable powers far beyond the others. When she escapes, Edward and the others must find her before she brings the wrath of the outside world down on them.
THE BIG THRILL’s contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down and talked with the author about a zombie reality unlike any other.
This is the second book in what might be considered a futuristic horror/thriller. For readers just learning about your reality, what can you tell them about the world of Z7?
The series takes place about fifty years after the Zombie Uprising. Unlike many other zombie stories where it’s all about survivors right after the zombies have risen, the characters here view the coming of the zombies as a historical event the same way we would Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Society has adapted to zombies roaming the wastelands and has rebuilt, although with varying levels of success. Into this I introduced the main character of the first book, Edward Schuett, who was a zombie that slowly regained his humanity. By the start of the second book he has learned how to make this happen to others as well, and he’s built a small community of former zombies far from the rest of society.
Is this a book that’s closer to Young Adult or more Adult in themes and “scare factor”, since the heroine is a teenager?
It’s weird, but I never thought of it as Young Adult. There’s a tendency these days to classify anything with kids or teenagers in it as being for a younger reading level. It certainly works for a teen audience, but I don’t think it has a teen as one of the main protagonists. I think that’s because a young adult audience can handle much more than many people give them credit for. They’re perfectly capable understanding adult themes, because many teenagers still have to deal with deep, dark things in their own lives. So I think it works on either level.
This is an interesting new take on zombies. How are they different in your world than other realities readers might already love?
There are two different types of zombies in the series. One doesn’t differ from the typical kind at all. They’re rotting, they shamble, they attack in hordes and they eat human flesh. So there’s that element in there for everyone who prefers that. But then you have the Z7s, the reborn zombies, who look and act human. They’re separate from humans, though, in that they have most of the strengths of zombies without the weaknesses. They can survive anything short of a blow to the head. They carry the zombie virus but are not affected by it. And most importantly they have access to pheromones, which the typical zombies use to group up and coordinate. Except for them, the pheromones can be used to control the normal zombies.
What’s the most interesting thing you discovered during research for the book, whether or not it made it into the final book?
A portion of the book takes place in Superior, Wisconsin, where I figured the presence of Lake Superior would have allowed the town a little economic support post-zombie apocalypse as a safe way of transporting and shipping. Turns out, though, that the lake provides an additional barrier to zombies that I hadn’t expected in that, even though the zombies have a limited ability to strategize and coordinate attacks while in large groups, they still wouldn’t be able to swim there even if they could figure it out because apparently dead bodies don’t really float in Lake Superior. They even have a saying in the region, “Superior doesn’t give up her dead.” People who drown in the lake almost never get found. Apparently something about the state of the dead body and the temperature of the water makes the body drop like a stone. So I picture all these zombies stuck at the bottom of Lake Superior, still trying to move around even as the fish slowly eat away at them.
Where do you go from here? Do you have a set number of books planned in the world, or is it open ended?
This was intended to be a trilogy, but when I got to the end of the third book I realized there was more story there. Even more so, I realized that certain things that had happened in the second and third book opened the series up so it no longer had to be just about Edward, Sandra, and the small number of characters in this one community. So I’m already contracted to write at least two more books beyond the first three. One will be a prequel telling the story of the Zombie Uprising from the perspective of the parents of one of the already established characters. Another will be about how the rest of the world reacts to what happens in books two and three. Beyond that I have some ideas of what else I’d like to do with the world, but nothing is set in stone.
Will you be doing any touring as part of the release? If so, where? If not, where can readers get a signed copy of the book or meet you?
As I type this I am actually in Nashville where I will be signing copies of the book at the Nashville Comic Con. Beyond that I don’t have anything definite on the schedule, although there are a few cons I want to appear at in the beginning of the year, including Wizard World Madison and maybe Bruce Campbell’s Horror Fest in Chicago.
Where can readers find you online (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?
I’m most active on Facebook, where I can simply be found as Derek J. Goodman. I’m also @derekjgoodman on Twitter.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about you or this world?
Yes, my publisher is really aggressive about trying to release books in a series close to each other, so when this interview ends up on THE BIG THRILL on October 1 it will be only about a week or so until the third book in the series, THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY, comes out. So for those who prefer to read series in binges, this will be the perfect time to read all three currently existing books back to back to back. Beyond that I have a full release schedule for the next five years or so, with two to four books a year, so there will be plenty more from me for anyone looking for it.
Thanks so much for dropping by. This should be a book that will grab readers and not let go until the thrill ride is done.
Derek J. Goodman is also the author THE REANIMATION OF EDWARD SCHUETT, the first book in the Z7 series. When he’s not writing he works as a librarian in Wisconsin.