Joining us this week is Amelia Beamer debut author of The Loving Dead, which crosses horror, romance, and humour unlike any zombie book before. It also features not only sex hungry zombies, but zeppelins, and a trip to Alcatraz. Good stuff all around.
MH: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm giving you fair warning that I'll be getting a little silly and odd at times.
BEAMER: You should know that I do not actually have a sense of humor, nor do I appreciate humor. Or warnings, for that matter.
MH: You've been working at Locus magazine for a few years now, but THE LOVING DEAD is your first novel. What is the greatest lesson as writer you've learned from working in the thick of the Science Fiction and Fantasy world that helped you shape THE LOVING DEAD?
BEAMER: Jeez. I guess the most important thing I've learned is that deadlines are wonderful. You get all riled up, struggling to get all of the little bits in the right places and make sure that names are mostly spelled right, and then it goes to the printer and it's out of your hands. If I didn't have a publisher interested in this novel; if I didn't know a number of people in the industry who acted as advisers and cheerleaders, I wouldn't have had the necessary external pressure--I mean support--to finish the dammed thing. Also, working at Locus makes it possible to understand, quite viscerally, what kind of expectations debut novelists should have these days. The era of selling a novel and quitting your day job has passed.
MH: THE LOVING DEAD centers on two people trying to survive a zombie pandemic. How did you decide that this would be your first book? Judging by your past short story work this is your first horror story and most of your other stories have a very different tone and feel from one another.
BEAMER: I wanted to write a story that centered around a few complicated relationships, and I wanted also for it to have a plot, so I threw in some zombies. People can complain all they want about the ghettoization of genre literature, but genre literature sells in a way that straight up literary relationship stories don't, and I had been learning how to write mostly by writing literary short fiction. With THE LOVING DEAD, I thought I was writing a romantic comedy. I mean, sure, there was some gory head-bashing and gut-ripping, but I didn't realize I'd written a horror novel until the publisher told me so. I'm perpetually amazed and flattered when people tell me I've given them nightmares.
MH: Were you ever worried about backlash from readers about combining sex with a zombie outbreak? How has the reaction been?
BEAMER: I'm not the first to sexualize zombies (you saw the 2008 movie ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, or even the music video "Fashion Freak" by Naked Ape). Zombies are already sexy. What I wanted to do was make this sexualization honest, rather than gross and distant and funny, which is what it has been.
And the reaction? None other than the Godfather of zombie literature, John Skipp, said in his review that I had "sliced through the great and horrible corpse-banging taboo with penetrating wit and astonishing verve." If I did it right, the sexy zombies don't just reinforce the fact that we, the observer, are safely distant from the grossness and goofiness that happens in this book. The promiscuous, wanton zombies make us think about sex in a way that goes against our better judgment: we are all capable of having sex that causes damage to ourselves and our loved ones. That's where the real horror is. The sexy zombies also call into question the very nature of seduction, which I think always has an element of power exchange.
MH: There is a scene taking place in a zeppelin in the skies of San Francisco. Have you ever ridden on that zeppelin? Does the ride exist?
BEAMER: Airship Ventures operates that Zeppelin, and it's terribly expensive, but I was so happy to find out that it existed that I just had to to borrow it. Zeppelins are not just steampunk--they're real!
I did a lot of research and found some great photos on Flickr; my desktop photo for a long time was of that Zeppelin toilet. One day when I am very wealthy and/or conniving I will take the tour around the San Francisco Bay, and we shall play "How Many People Fit In This Bathroom?"
MH: One of the strongest and funniest aspects of THE LOVING DEAD is the dialogue as the characters have a very realistic voices. Conversations often turn out sounding like they would between friends hanging out. During one particular conversation someone says something that the characters think sounds like a weird sex act such as a Dirty Sanchez. What exactly would a Wet Jackson be? And are there any other terms you've come up with? Maybe a Squeaky Swede?
BEAMER: Ew. I mean, thanks! My immediate response is that a Wet Jackson is better than a Dry Jackson, and then I was wondering precisely what a Dry Jackson might be... I was watching TRUE BLOOD, and there's this scene where Vampire Bill crawls naked out of the ground and greets his beloved by grabbing her leg and pulling her towards the ground. Once she realizes it's him, they embrace and then immediately start boning. There's just something about grave dirt--it's a turn-off for me.
So maybe boning a naked guy covered in dirt is a Dry Jackson, and a Wet Jackson is when there's blood and biting involved? Or maybe they refer to acts performed with President Andrew Jackson? Or I could be totally wrong; perhaps a Wet Jackson involves coated wire, olive oil, and a lot of giggling. I suspect vinyl sheets may be necessary.
MH: Trader Joe's in one of the main haunts your characters visit. Have you ever worked at a Trader Joe's? And what is your go-to food when shopping there?
BEAMER: I love Trader Joe's--I haven't worked there myself, but have a number of friends who do, plus a few years of retail experience at a health food store under my belt. With Trader Joe's, it's somewhat masochistic to have a favorite food, because their suppliers often change once you've really gotten to like a particular kind of pesto or trail mix. So the appropriate response is to hoard.
MH: The five things that I need in my emergency zombie apocalypse kit are....
BEAMER: A lighter; good running shoes; cash; liquor; and plenty of reading material, in case the apocalypse takes a while.
MH: If my friend turned into a zombie I would:
BEAMER: Have a nervous breakdown a few months after I killed them.
MH: My all-time favorite zombie movie is...
MH: I was initiated into the zombie fold at a pretty early age from a sister who though an eight year old would just love RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. What was your first exposure to zombies?
BEAMER: This was an older sister, I presume? Zombies have always been a part of my life; I fell in love with horror as a kid and am still very fond of fear. The thing I learned about zombies, though, once you get past their scary affect, is how loving they really are. They'll stop at nothing to be with you, and they adore you for who you are.
MH: Yup, older sister. You've now covered sex hungry zombies pretty well so what's next for you?
BEAMER: I try not to talk much about my ongoing/upcoming projects because I don't want to wear out the ideas, but you can look for a story called "Pirates Vs. Zombies" in THE LIVING DEAD 2 anthology, out now, and more short fiction and novels TK.
MH: I know you probably don't like to cover up you lovely dreads, but in keeping with the name of this blog what’s your favorite type of hat?
BEAMER: I love hats! Anything that looks good with a zoot suit. My favorite is the one in this picture:
MH: Very nice! Is there anything else you like to add?
BEAMER: The first four chapters of my depraved little novel THE LOVING DEAD are up for free at ameliabeamer.com--along with occasional bloggy action.
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