To cap off our Zombie Appreciation Week, we bring you an interview and giveaway with the fabulous Mark Henry, author of the recently reviewed Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead. Although it took us a while to read these bad boys, we absolutely loved Amanda Feral’s bitchy, poopy sense of humor, and her insatiable desire for human flesh. Mark agreed to be interviewed here and also graciously has offered a kickass prize to two lucky winners! Giveaway details follow below.
Boys and ghouls, we give you Mark Henry!
The Book Smugglers: Thanks for saying yes to our interview request and for taking part on our Zombie Appreciation Week, Mark.
Mark: You’re most welcome! I wouldn’t miss a chance to appreciate some zombies!
The Book Smugglers: Seattle’s hottest undead debutante is back in Road Trip of the Living Dead. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from the oh-so-chic Amanda Feral in this new novel?
Mark: While Amanda’s busy avoiding her dying mother, Gil’s luxury resurrection business hits a major snag and his million dollar nouveau vamp client wants his money back and his head on a platter, so the trio skip town with a pack of werewolves on their tail. But where to go? Why it seems it’s Amanda’s destiny to get some closure with her evil mother in Rapid City, S.D. Along the way they encounter a creepy 50’s family, dirt devils, skinhead zombies, tentacle monsters and a trail of mutilated bodies. Eek!
The Book Smugglers: Your stylish take on zombies (well, at least the non-mistake zombies) is a far cry from the traditional mindless hordes of insatiable undead, a la Romero. Why did you decide to create sentient, fashionable socialite zombies?
Mark: I wanted to do a parody of chick lit and have always loved zombies, so I figured, hey what if Samantha from Sex and the City were a flesh-eating ghoul? How would that work? The idea of sentient zombies is not entirely original, either. There are others in horror and fantasy. So I’m just throwing in a little snarky spice.
The Book Smugglers: Now, for your take on zombies: what is the most tasty part of the human anatomy? (In Amanda’s opinion, naturally)
Mark: Amanda prefers the extremities. A nice meaty thigh (or shank, if you will) goes nicely with raw tendon and whiskey chaser!
The Book Smugglers: Your zombies subsist on human flesh and alcoholic beverages. Why alcohol? Granted it makes for a much more fun afterlife, but does the alcohol have some preserving qualities that work for the zombified undead?
Mark: I think “pickled” is a better word. Like Hitler’s brain in some bad Russ Meyer flick. I like to think the alcohol cleanses them, dries up their insides so they’re not leaking pus or something worse. Plus, it was just really fun coming up with drink recipes to scatter through the book. Green Demon, anyone?
The Book Smugglers: Should Amanda or any other non-mistake zombie become decapitated, would that be curtains for her zombie (un)life? Or would she still be alive and kicking, in Death Becomes Her style?
Mark: That’d just about do it. A zombie character does get shot in the head in happy Hour and he’s quite dead at that point. Though, I wouldn’t disregard the reapers ability to heal for the right amount of money.
The Book Smugglers: Since Amanda’s last two relationships in Happy Hour of the Damned didn’t quite work out, will she be canoodling with anyone else in the near future? How about that Ricardo?
Mark: Everyone loves Ricardo and I wonder if it’s simply because of the mentor thing; that he seems to be in control. Because Amanda’s not about finding a man that can control her. Her psyche won’t allow it. That said, there’s definitely an object of her lust in Road Trip and he’ll be hanging around for at least the next two books.
The Book Smugglers: Is Starbucks the harbinger of the Zombie Apocalypse?
Mark: Not this week. If I were to rewrite it, I’d somehow link the infection to toilet paper. That way even the tea drinkers would be done for! I did for the longest time joke that each Starbucks cash register would have my picture on the side, with the direction “assault this man!”
The Book Smugglers: You say that you “traded a career in the helping profession to scar minds with your fiction” – how did that happen? And why write about Zombies? Does that make you a happier person?
Mark: I was a psychotherapist for 12 years and, believe me, that’s long enough for anyone. Probably too long. It might have been different if I lived in a city that wasn’t primarily blue collar, where people paid privately for counseling. But I didn’t and so I had to deal with insurance and government contracts and I really didn’t know anything about either, and it was frustrating and ultimately the practice failed and, frankly, I’m glad. I was only ever happy to be working with the clients and helping, all the other stuff was sheer torture. Anyways, to answer that question on a happier note, I’m way happier writing about zombies. I love them. Probably in a totally unwholesome way.
The Book Smugglers: Can you tell us a bit more about your road to publication?
Mark: My story is so weird and backward that I always cringe when I’m asked. I didn’t get the idea to write until about three years ago. I tinkered around with short stories, mostly literary stuff, and started a novel about teenage suicide bombers in suburban America (a black comedy). I didn’t really have a direction, so I decided to attend a writer’s conference and on a whim signed up for an editor pitch. I spouted off a quick two-sentence pitch on the book that would become Happy Hour. The editor laughed, we talked about urban fantasy a little and she asked me to submit 50 pages. As I didn’t have anything but a short story involving the characters, I started from scratch that night in the hotel room. Three weeks later I had the beginnings of Amanda’s story. A month after that, I had a request for a full, two months later, I’d turned that editor’s interest into a completed novel, acquired an agent to represent it and sold the thing in a three book deal. It’s crazy and totally never happens like that. Feel free to shun me.
The Book Smugglers: In case of a Zombie Apocalypse do you have a plan for escape and survival?
Mark: Nope. I’ll be eaten immediately. But the jokes on them, I’m mostly fat.
The Book Smugglers: You are part of a group of writers called the League of Reluctant Adults – what exactly does it mean to be a Reluctant Adult?
Mark: I’m sure we’d each respond differently to that question. For me it’s a resistance to adopt political correctness or worry about shielding children from the realities of life. I’m perfectly happy to stay in my adolescence for as long as I can. I’m 40 so I’m doing a good job.
The Book Smugglers: As a writer who would you name as your influences or favorite authors?
Mark: My influences really vary across mediums. John Waters is a huge influence, particularly his take on bad taste in humor. Unfortunately, to get it right, it’s best that the author of the filth not be in on the joke, rather it happen “accidentally.” He’s a genius, in a dirty way that I strive for and rarely achieve. King, of course, whose On Writing is probably the most important book about the process because it’s written by someone who actually made a fortune in the business. Plus, he opens himself up in a really vulnerable way. It’s just awesome. George Romero was huge for me. Both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn are these great satirical pieces that also produce genuine scares. Great zombie stuff inspires me. But so do humorous essay collections. David Sedaris is brilliant. Reading him is probably why Amanda drifts into so many asides. Told you. It varies.
The Book Smugglers: Say there was going to be a zombie apocalypse and you can only save ONE movie, ONE book and ONE TV Show – QUICK, NAME them:
Mark: Heathers, Naked by David Sedaris, and Buffy. Wow. I was certain The Stand was my favorite, I guess I opted for funny considering the end of the world was coming, Hmm.
The Book Smugglers: Thanks again, Mark, for the fabulous interview!
MARK HENRY has been making shit up for as long as he can remember; so it should come as no surprise to anyone close to him that he’s finally putting the poo to paper. Having traded a career in the helping profession to scar minds with his fiction, Mark attributes his skewed vision to premature exposure to horror movies, and/or witnessing adult cocktail parties in the ’70s.
Now for the Giveaway:
Mark has generously offered to giveaway TWO signed sets of his books! Two lucky winners will receive a signed copy of Happy Hour of the Damned and the new release Road Trip of the Living Dead apiece!
In order to win, all you have to do is leave a comment here telling us which part of the human body would be your favorite if you were a zombie, and what type of beverage you’d take with it. For example, Amanda’s meal of choice is a meaty thigh, with a tendon and whiskey chaser. The contest will run until Sunday March 1st at Noon PST. Good luck!