ZombieMutts: On a creepy stalker level I did some searches on you and couldn’t dig up too much of a bio…could you give us a little background on you?
Rod Redux: Remember that movie Deliverance? That’s sort of the backdrop for my early life, and I’m not talking from a Burt Reynolds perspective. I don’t play the banjo, but I was born and raised in the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois. I had a very wonderful, strange childhood, growing up around eccentric, intelligent and artistic people. My family was all hillbillies, hippies and rogues. It was also strangely out of step with the modern world. I can remember, when I was younger, not having indoor plumbing. We had to draw water from a well, and we had to use an outhouse. We lived miles and miles outside town, in the middle of a big, kind of creepy pine forest. Yet we had books, lots and lots of books.
My mother was an avid reader. We were dirt poor, but she always seemed to find the money to buy me any books I wanted. She let me read whatever I wanted, too. Horror novels, science fiction, comic books. Her cousin, who lived in an old one-room schoolhouse in the woods, collected Heavy Metal Magazine, which reprinted French sci-fi comics by artists such as Bilal and Moebius, as well as horror stuff. She would let me read her Heavy Metals and National Lampoon magazines, and give them to me whenever she was getting too many piled up in her cabinet. My dad was a famous drunk and a womanizer, but he was also an artist. He was violent when he was drunk, but very gentle and kind when he was sober. There was some dark stuff in my younger years, but all in all, I think it was a terrific, unusual childhood.
I grew up, married a very smart and understanding woman—someone who actually seemed to “get me”, weird as I am—and we did the struggling young family with kids thing. I wrote during this time, with little success, tried my hand at penciling comic books, but I never seemed to be able to break through at anything. Eventually, I gave it up, opened a video game hobby shop, and did that for the better part of a decade. When ebooks arrived and I discovered you could self-publish to the Kindle, a light blinked on in my head, and I thought, Aha! Fuck you, editors! I can do it myself, now! So I wrote The Oldest Living Vampire Tells All, and published it to Amazon for the Kindle ereader. It immediately began to sell quite well, so I wrote another book and another. Six months later, I closed down my video store and began to write full time.
ZombieMutts: Do you write full time or do you spend your days wasting away in a cubicle somewhere?
Rod Redux: I’ve been writing full time since March of this year. I don’t think I could do the cubicle thing. Even when I worked a normal job, I had to do my own thing. I owned my own business, and before that, I managed gas stations and convenience stores. I probably don’t take orders very well. In fact, I know I don’t. I once got in trouble for putting a whoopee cushion under my district manager’s seat cushion.
ZombieMutts: Did he deserve it?
Rod Redux: Definitely. He was a little corporate drone.
ZombieMutts: From what you have written, what is your favorite book and what it is about?
Rod Redux: That’s like making a guy choose which of his kids he loves the most. I love them all in different ways! I suppose I had the most fun writing Menace of Club Mephistopheles. It reminds me of the classic European comics I grew up reading—Moebius’s “The Horny Goof”, “The Fete of the Gods” by Bilal, “The Incal”—very wild and subversive, with a demented sense of humor. Mort is like that, too. If you listed the elements of those books, just wrote them out baldly on a sheet of paper, someone would think: That’s some crazy shit! But they’re fun, and I try to make the characters as likeable and as real as I can, so the reader will accept all the craziness.
ZombieMutts: What is your writing process like? Do you have any immersion techniques that you use?
Rod Redux: My mind is always running like a dynamo. I often have insomnia because I can’t get my brain shifted into low gear. Sometimes two strange ideas will get oppositely charged and stick together, and I’ll realize I have a story idea. Take Mort, for example. In Mort, the idea was: What if vampires and zombies inhabited the same fictional universe? It would be like two predators competing for the same food source! But then I also thought: What was the worst thing to be in a zombie apocalypse? A fat guy! The two ideas got stuck together and I knew I had a book. I think if you look at all my novels, you’ll see there is a duality in the basic concepts of all of them. Two strange ideas that blend together in a way that shouldn’t work. Vampires and cavemen. Private detectives and Cthulhu. When I have an idea, I write it out and store it with the rest. I have ideas faster than I can write the books, but I don’t start writing the book until I know how it will end in my head.
That’s how I come up with my ideas. My writing process is very prosaic. I jot down a loose outline, because you really need to know where you are going before you start a trip, and then I chunk it out, one paragraph at a time. When I finish a first draft, I take a day or two off, and then I run through it again. On my second draft, I try to add detail, make the descriptions richer, flesh out the dialogue. On my third draft, I try to chop out everything that sucks and fix as many grammatical errors as possible.
ZombieMutts: Who do you bounce ideas off of?
Rod Redux: My wife is pretty cool to bounce ideas off. She doesn’t give herself credit for how smart she is, but she sometimes knows what will or won’t work better than I do. Of course, I was smart enough to snatch her off the market as soon as we went out on a date. I knew by our second date that I was going to marry her. I even told her, to which she laughed and said, “Yeah, right!” But I was right, so who’s the smart one now?
ZombieMutts: Anyone who reads reviews of your work will quickly see that your work is appreciated with readers. People love the characters and story lines but you will see occasional negatives reviews where people have issues with the language or graphic nature of some of the content. That seems highly unusual when you consider you’re obviously a horror genre writer. Due to the popularity of books like Twilight have some people gotten a distorted idea of what a horror book is?
RodRedux: First, let me say that I like Twilight. It’s the literary equivalent of bubble gum, but I thought it was fun. That being said, my answer is: I think Twilight, Harry Potter and all the copycat YA (Young Adult) fiction that’s being churned out right now are not just giving people a distorted idea of what horror is, but what life is as well. They’re fine for kids, but for adult readers, they are unrealistic and dishonest.
I don’t mean they are unrealistic because of the subject matter, which is fantasy obviously, but because they go out of their way to avoid mature subject matter, and so they have characters that act dishonestly. The whole thing about Edward Cullen not wanting to make love to Bella because, in his day, people didn’t do that… it’s all to avoid the sex outside of marriage issue, not to mention the sex with an underage minor and sex with a dead guy issues! Yet, didn’t Edward live through the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies? People generally become more liberated, sexually, as they grow older, too. The sitcoms are right about that, at least. Younger people are much more conservative, sexually, than they like to believe. Easily embarrassed and overly sensitive to gender roles, as they try to define their identity. Older people just don’t give a shit. That’s why swingers and naturists are usually middle aged or older. Why should it be any different for a ninety-year-old vampire?
I remember my grandmother telling me how she used to have to walk past this guy’s house to go to school when she was a little girl, and she hated it because he was a pervert. He’d be out on his porch doing nasty stuff to himself as the kids walked by… She also told me that when she was a girl in school, the boy’s would cut out their pants pockets and try to trick the girls into reaching in. Instead of a piece of hard candy, they’d reach in and grab something else that was hard. This would have been in the forties, so don’t tell me that people were all prim and proper back then! So basically the plot of the novel was unrealistically twisted to conform to restrictions of its YA label.
Adults reading all this YA stuff is worrisome to me as a writer because it isn’t real. People are just a dirty as they’ve always been. That’s life! I have a penis, she has a vagina. You, as a male, have a penis, too, I assume. We all fart and poop and pee and screw. Scratch our butts and laugh at dirty jokes. I imagine the people who are offended by my books are immature, at least psychologically. That, or they’re not honest. They always start their reviews with the line “I’m not a prude, but…” Yes, you are a prude, because I’m not condoning the rape of zombies, or bisexuality, or child molestation. I’m simply reporting it. If there was a zombie outbreak, you know someone would eventually try to molest one of them. Ancient cultures were much more open about bisexual and homosexual behavior, and that’s why I went with that in The Oldest Living Vampire. I don’t do those things myself, but it did happen or could happen. The Spartans in 300 had big gay orgies after battles in real life. When you visited a city in ancient times, you’d go to the temple prostitutes and get laid. And if you were attending a Roman banquet and dropped a grape, you best let it lay on the floor!
It’s annoying getting a negative review because I am being honest about the past or about human nature, but that’s what you have to deal with as a creator. There’s a lot of dishonest, repressed, controlling people, and they are the ones who think they know what’s best for all of us. But I made a decision, when I started writing, that I would address this Victorian attitude people seem to have developed in recent years. I was going to write adult books for open-minded adult people. If a few prudes got offended, so be it. People only really get angry when you quit playing along and tell the truth. That’s been my experience, anyway.
ZombieMutts: With that in mind you once expressed that you were considering cutting into your books to get a more PG-13 rating to appeal to a broader audience. Are you still thinking about that?
Rod Redux: I was thinking about creating two versions. There would be an uncut and uncensored version, and a PG-13 version. They are, I hope, fun books that have the potential to appeal to a broader audience if all the f-bombs and weird sex scenes were cut out. They do it with movies so why not books? But that takes time, as I wouldn’t just cut stuff out. I’d rewrite. To be honest, I don’t know if I will do it. It’s just an idea right now. I had some friends tell me it would be selling out, but it’s really about love. I love Mort and Pete and Dixon and Gon, and I want everybody else to love them, too. And then there’s the logistics of it. What would I do with Lavender and the zombie ho scene in Mort? The wedding orgy and group family sex scenes in Oldest Living Vampire Tells All? Pete’s wouldn’t really be Pete if he didn’t say “fuck” every other sentence, and what could you do to make a two-dicked private dick named Dixon Peters more “family-friendly”? I don’t think that’s even possible! Ha ha ha! To me, it’s hilarious, but I’ve gotten some really nasty emails from extremely offended people.
ZombieMutts: Even major publishers seem to have somewhat of a bastardized idea of what horror content is. Inside a bookstore looking on the shelves you see a lot of cookie cutter horror books sharing space with the sci-fi books. Yet what’s being produced in the E-Book market by self-published authors to indie publishers is very different.
Rod Redux: That’s why I’m making a living and they’re closing shop. Seriously, though… when I develop a story idea into a book, I continually ask myself: Is this original? Has it been done before? How can I make it MORE unique? I get on the internet and search for names, try to double check myself for originality, because it’s easy to accidentally copy someone else nowadays, there’s so many people writing books and making movies and comics. The mainstream publishers do the opposite. They say, “Harry Potter was such a huge success. How can we repeat this?” The problem is, Harry Potter was a success because it was original. There was nothing else like it. You lose that when you try to manufacture the NEXT Harry Potter or the NEXT Twilight. The best advice I could give to an aspiring writer would be to concentrate on originality, not on copying what’s considered “hot” at the moment, because it’s the originality, not the subject matter, that makes them hot.
ZombieMutts: Mort is a huge fan favorite character that would have fit perfectly in any number of situations. What made you drop him into the zombie apocalypse?
Rod Redux: From the outset, he was a zombie book character. His genesis as a protagonist was the question: what was the worst thing to be if there was a zombie apocalypse? The answer was, “a fat guy”. He’s the guy who is supposed to die first. The nerdy, fat, smart guy. He can’t run. He’s not fast or graceful or particularly brave, but he’s very pragmatic, and I believe, if there was a zombie apocalypse, that it would be the practical people who had the best chance of surviving. Plus, he genuinely cares for the people who become his friends during the course of the tale, and that gives him the strength to persevere, even after he’s been shot in the head with a cattlegun and infected with the Z virus and all the other horrible stuff that happens to him. If you don’t love something or someone, why fight? You’re going to die eventually anyway, so just let the zombies eat you and save yourself the bother. Plus, Mort is French for “death”, so even his name is sort of zombie-related.
ZombieMutts: In Mort the zombies are the slow classic shambling type but those who prefer the faster modern 28 Days Later-type zombies always point to shambler’s and say something like “If they are so slow then how did they take over the world?” How would you answer that?
Rod Redux: In Mort, I think there are actually both, depending on how fresh the meat is. Fast ones and shamblers. It is a valid issue, and I addressed it by creating the Phage, which is a genetically altered food preservative that mutates into a zombie virus. You don’t have to get bitten in Mort to become infected. You can catch it that way, of course, but you can catch it just walking down the street, too, like the flu. A few animal species are susceptible to it as well in Mort, so that would also help to explain its rapid spread. Someone should design a computer simulation to see if it is actually possible for shamblers to spread a zombie virus worldwide! What would the variables have to be to pull it off? It would be interesting to know.
ZombieMutts: What do you attribute the current rise of Zombie popularity to? Obviously it is still very much a niche genre but it’s definitely growing fast.
Rod Redux: That’s not an easy question to answer. It’s hard to have perspective when you’re right in the center of something. It obviously has something to do with what they stand for, which is loss of identity, loss of self-determination. When your personal liberties get restricted, you lose your identity in a way, so I would have to say that the growing popularity of zombies probably has something to do with the way the government has been curtailing our freedoms since 9-11. The U.S. has been taken over by corporate interests and the military industrial complex, and what these groups want is for all of us to be obedient little mindless consumers. They’re censoring the internet now, the news. Did you know that there are people protesting Wall Street right this instant, but the media coverage of the event has been suppressed? Yahoo mail is not delivering emails that discuss the Wall Street protest. It’s scary! It definitely makes a person feel like they’re lost amid a crowd of mindless, shambling zombies. Only they’re moaning, “Sales… Sales…” instead of “brains…”
ZombieMutts: What do you think it is about zombies that captivates us?
Rod Redux: I think zombies are a subtext for our fear of losing our identities. All good monster tropes embody a basic fear, and zombies are all about our consciousness. We fear losing our identities in a mob, so zombies tend to be most dangerous in a group. We fear losing our minds to disease or old age, so they don’t reason or remember. We fear losing our self-control, so they are ravenous cannibals, ruled by their appetites. I personally think zombies are the scariest monsters around, as I fear all those things I just spoke about.
ZombieMutts: Last question…Morticia or Elvira?
Rod Redux: Definitely Morticia. She’s a classy lady. Elvira’s cool, but she’s always struck me as being a little bit of a skank.