Zombie Author Interview: Stephen Knight

Photo of author


The Gathering Dead

Bricksofthedead.com You have a blog called “Adventures in E-Publishing” where you openly discuss all of your ups and downs in E-Publishing. What made you decide to make the change from traditional publishing?

Stephen Knight -I actually sold CITY OF THE DAMNED to a publisher after a long, long wait–the book was originally finished in 2005 or so, and it earned me an advance of $2,000. But then, there was a change in editorial outlook at the company–the editor was replaced–and COTD was dropped from the release roster and its slot was given to another title. I tried for another couple of years to place it elsewhere, but that failed. At about this time, I found Konrath’s blog, and Dean Wesley Smith’s site, and the information these two guys were able to share was simply eye-opening. I could self-publish and maybe realize a buck or two? And I can essentially go straight to the head of the line? Outstanding!

I took a few months to consider it, and strategically reviewed the upside and downside. Eventually, I pulled the trigger and jumped into the race. And I haven’t looked back.

On your blog you occasionally even go as far as posting your income. It’s fascinating to see since so many talk about how wonderful self publishing is but rarely show us the full picture. What lead you to revealing such personal information?

There’s a remarkable dearth of hard data out there. Konrath posts his numbers on occasion, and Bob Mayer will drop a nugget every now and then, but the long and short of it is, there’s just not a lot of actionable intel out there that could compel others to try the same route. Waiting for an agent to accept your request for representation, then wait for an editor to review and decide your work is acceptable, takes years. Years! I’m STILL getting rejection letters for CITY OF THE DAMNED, and it hasn’t been on the market since 2009 or so.

Everyone thinks folks like Konrath are essentially lying when they talk about the money they make. Or, alternately, people think that they’ll strike it rich right out of the gate. In 2011, I made about $15,000 for the first eight months of the year. In 2012, if all holds true, I might make about $60,000 off book sales alone. For a lot of people, that’s a real annual wage right then and there (not for me, though… I live in the NYC area, and 60k is still around the poverty line). I don’t know what 2013 will bring, but I am hopeful the earning trend will continue upward.

Stephen Knight

Your latest book, The Rising Horde, is an epic novel at almost 600 pages. How long did it take you to write and was it always meant to be such a spanning story?

It took entirely TOO long! I’d thought it would be only about four months of work–THE GATHERING DEAD took about two months to write–but the scope of the story kept increasing. Eventually, things got out of control, and I had a series of interconnected events occurring elsewhere on the globe. The entire product was just too sprawling. So I had to dial it back, restructure, and focus on the core story. Eight months later, it was finally done. And yeah, I think eight months is too long to spend writing a book.

In fiction writing theory you often hear “write what you know,” but in your case you actually haven’t read too many zombie novels yourself. With that said, do you think not being an “over read” fan of the genre helps you with originality?

Well, I’ll tell you what. Had I been aware that Craig Dilouie had written TOOTH AND NAIL, which is also a zombie/military mashup, I might not have pressed ahead with THE GATHERING DEAD. While I still haven’t read any of his stuff yet, I am aware he was first out of the gate and established a very high watermark. That aside, THE GATHERING DEAD did fantastic business, and it appears there’s an appetite for his type of fiction among the zombie fans, and among folks who are interested in trying something a little different.

Now, in the year or so since I released THE GATHERING DEAD, I have taken some time to read the works of others. THE REMAINING [by D.J. Molles]is an interesting set of books–completely unedited, by the way–which is doing fantastic business. My pal Keith Blackmore wrote two rather offbeat zombie novels, MOUNTAIN MAN and SAFARI, which stray quite a distance from my stuff, but they’re a couple of diamonds in the rough. (Blackmore fans, take note: he has a third book in the works.) I’m reading AREA 187: ALMOST HELL [by Eric Lowther], and to be very honest, I’m struggling with it. It has nothing but rave reviews, but I’m finding it to be very formulaic in its approach in many aspects. And anyone who writes about a “silencer” on a revolver apparently knows nothing about suppressed weaponry, but that’s hardly important.

So, in essence, I guess not being as knowledgeable of the subgenre certainly helped me get out of the starting gate. Writing about zombies really was a lark, I had no idea it could be so financially rewarding.

We’re about three months separated since its release, how has the reception been?

Pretty good, but not as good as it was for THE GATHERING DEAD. Lots of other releases are pounding the snot out of McDaniels, Gartrell, and company, most notably THE REMAINING series and Shawn Chesser’s books. They’re languishing in the midlist.

The Rising Hordes predecessor, Left With the Dead The Gathering Dead is being made into a movie. Where does production stand?

That would be THE GATHERING DEAD, actually. I’ve partnered up with some very smart people who have both connections and money, so things are moving ahead. Throwing a monkey wrench into the works is that a Hollywood production company is now trying to decide whether or not to get involved, so this puts things in a wait state for the next four to six weeks while they do their coverage and try to decide if this is a project for them to take on at this time. But in the meantime, we’re continuing to develop the product in the background–we’re presuming they will pass, and if so, we don’t want to spend a lot of additional time taking up the slack. There’s much more to it than this, of course, but I just can’t talk about specifics right now. When I can though, believe me–I’ll blabber on like a fool.

Have you settled on a script yet?

The script is completed. It’s 119 pages long, and some elements had to be pared down, but every story beat in the book is in the script.

You seem very purposeful with every project you take. Do you make outlines of your novels

I don’t. I used to, but not anymore–the time it takes for me to outline an entire book is time better spent actually writing it. I will jot down several “write toward” points, but that’s about it.

How far do you think the current zombie interest upswing will go?

It’s a multibillion dollar industry. THE WALKING DEAD has recharged consumer interest, and the incidents with people eating other people in the news has helped raise the mystique of the zombie so that it’s part of the national consciousness. It’s very interesting that, unlike vampires, there does not seem to be a saturation point. Maybe it’s because zombies by themselves, while being a monolithic threat, are not as dangerous as what might be faced from other survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It’s an interesting flame to temper oneself against.

Philosophical question, are zombies evil?

Nah. They’re brainless and less than primal. Can a thunderstorm be evil? That’s how I look at it.

Find his books here on amazon.

The book order for the series is

  • The Gathering Dead (novel)
  • Left With the Dead (novella)
  • The Rising Horde volume 1 (novel)
  • The Rising Horde volume 2 (novel)

Follow Stephen Knight on his writing blog. Good insights into the industry.

7 thoughts on “Zombie Author Interview: Stephen Knight”

  1. I would like to point out that the second image is not Hunter S. Thompson. 🙂

    • Heh! No, that was me sitting in a Starbucks in Beijing, taking time out from doing some research on WHITE TIGER.

    • And by the way, I love the Lego scene with McDaniels going to guns on the stenches in the stairway!

      • Thank you! It was my favorite scene from that book.

  2. Anyone interested in writing should check out his blog. It’s a fantastic resource.

    • Thanks… which reminds me, I’d better post something!

  3. Wow! He is so honest and helpful about publishing. I read those answers like 3 times. Will have to check out his blog.

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