Monday, December 31, 2012

Award Winning Author Jonathan Maberry sits down for a chat about writing with Mark Tufo

MARK TUFO: What was it like to be on TV as one of the History Channels experts on Zombies?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I had a great time with the guys from the History Channel. We shot my segments in a deserted and crumbling building in New York City during a couple of the hottest days. It was about a million degrees and they had lights on me. But even with all that, we had a blast. The producer, director and writer were all pop culture geeks like me, so between shots (and later over beers) we talked zombies, apocalyptic fiction, monster movies, and comics. It was great.

The documentary itself, ZOMBIES: A LIVING HISTORY, did a lot of good for putting the monster in its proper historical context. They did a top notch job with the production, and it’s been an enormously popular special that’s been re-run over and over again.

MARK TUFO: Seeing the Indy publishing market boom, is it something that you would ever consider doing?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I worked with Indy publishers before I signed with the bigger houses, and I contribute short stories and novellas to many Indy anthologies. I have a lot of respect for the independent houses, particularly in the creative freedom they offer. But for my novels, I’m quite satisfied being with the bigger houses. They have a longer reach into the reading community.

MARK TUFO: What is your schedule like, do you write daily? Take time off after writing a book? Switch between writing comics and books?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m a full-time professional writer. I write 8-10 hours per day –and a little less on weekends. My agent keeps me hopping by selling projects before I write them. I’m in a cycle now where I write two-three novels per year (one teen novel, one thriller, and one horror novel), as well as short stories, novellas and comics. It comes out to about a million and a quarter words for publication per year. Since I have to produce a novel about every four months, I don’t get much time off between books. And, over the last two years, I’ve been touring heavily in support of my books, which means I have to write while travelling.

MARK TUFO: My wife’s favorite saying is “No writer can please all readers, its an uncertainty.” I saw you go head to head with a reviewer which you advise others not to do. Do you regret it, or did you find it liberating?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Only someone with a weak ego or a delusional mind thinks they can please everyone. Otherwise every book would sell seven billion copies. I usually take negative reviews in stride because everyone gets them. Occasionally though a particular review will be so asinine or offensive that I break my usual ‘non-involvement’ rule and post a comment. It’s never a good idea. There seems to be an unwritten rule that writers are not allowed to defend themselves, even from those reviewers who clearly are using the anonymity of forum-based reviews to publish what amounts to libelous character assassination. Usually, though, my better angels encourage me to ignore those comments and focus on other, more positive things. Usually I listen.

MARK TUFO: With all of the changes in the publishing industry in the last few years, what do you think are the best? Worst?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I love the upsurge of digital markets for books. A lot of authors –conventionally published and self-published—are making good money because of eBooks. But the thing that makes me really happy is the dynamic increase in audio books. Because the digital recording and editing technology has changed to become easier to use and far less expensive, more audio books are being produced. And, because most audio books are bought as downloads rather than on CD, it’s drastically lowered the cost for the producers and the consumer. As an audiobook fan myself, I love this change. It’s also resulted in anthologies being produced on audio, which was quite rare a few years ago.

MARK TUFO: I read that your profession of choice is writer with 2nd being a teacher. It looks like you have successfully tied the two in together with your writing conferences and workshops. Did you set out to be a writer or happen into it?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ve always been a writer. Even before I could read and write I told stories with toys and drawings. Everything else is second to that for me. That said, I haven’t always been a full-time writers. For much of my career I worked various day jobs and wrote on the side. Most of those day jobs involved one form of teaching or another. I taught at Temple University for fourteen years (Women’s Self-Defense, Martial Arts History, etc.), I’ve been a jujutsu instructor all my life; I was the CEO and chief instructor for COP-Safe, a company that provided defense workshops for all levels of law enforcement including SWAT; I developed self-defense programs for special needs groups (the vision-impaired, the disabled, etc.); and I’ve been teaching writing for quite a while now. Over the last decade or so I’ve been teaching a number of writing programs that are a balance of craft and publishing-industry savvy. Many of my students have gone on to publish.

MARK TUFO: You write both adult and YA fiction. Which is your favorite and why?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I don’t really have a favorite. I’m fickle in that the book or genre I love most is whatever I’m currently working on. For example, I just finished FIRE & ASH, the fourth (and final) book of my ROT & RUIN post-apocalyptic zombie series for teens. While writing and revising that I was totally in love with that genre and with YA fiction. But right now I’m writing CODE ZERO, the sixth book in my Joe Ledger series of thrillers for adults. Which means I’m totally immersed and in love with science thrillers, espionage, global terrorism and hard-core action.

MARK TUFO: What is your favorite thing to do in your “off ” time if there is such a thing?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I definitely take time off –usually nights and weekends, with the occasional vacation. My wife and I love to travel, so we build that into my book tours. For personal relaxation, I’m a film and TV geek, an avid book collector and a science geek. Lots of stuff there to keep me interested.

MARK TUFO: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever sent you?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I received a formal printed obituary for one of my characters, along with photos from a memorial service a group of readers held. Everyone wore black and people were crying. Yikes.

MARK TUFO: What do you have in the works that the readers can look forward to?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Geez…how much time do you have? Issue #3 of MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE AVENGERS hits comic book stores soon. My first anthology as editor, V-WARS is out in hardcover and it’s full of very scary vampires. My teen zombie series, ROT & RUIN is now in development for film. And in March EXTINCTION MACHINE hits stores –it’s the 5th Joe Ledger novel and deals with an arms race based on technologies reverse-engineered from crashed UFOs.

MARK TUFO: What is the one question you wish someone would ask you but never has and the answer?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I guess I’m surprised no one’s asked about how I feel about how fast everything’s happening. Prior to 2006 I was known only for magazine feature pieces, college textbooks, and a few mass-market nonfiction books. Then I wrote my first novel, GHOST ROAD BLUES, which was published in April 2006. Since then I’ve sold nineteen novels, fourteen of which are written and twelve of which have been released. EXTINCTION MACHINE and FIRE & ASH are written and scheduled for release in 2013; and I have five novels sold that I haven’t yet written. I’ve won over three dozen awards for my various books, including three Bram Stoker Awards, the Cybils Award (for ROT & RUIN), the Scribe Award (for THE WOLFMAN); etc. Because of my novels I was scouted by the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and now I freelance for them, writing stories about characters I’ve been reading since 1966. I have a movie in development, I appear on TV and the radio. And I’m making more money than I ever thought I would.

So…how’s it all feel?

Deeply weird. Surreal. Mind you, I totally dig it…but it feels like the sort of thing I’d read about in the biography of someone else. And I’m loving every minute of it. I get to play inside my imagination all day long and get paid for it. If this is a dream…then for god’s sake don’t wake me up!

I can be found online at….

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  1. Enjoyed, Patient Zero and Dead of Night. Thanks for sharing the interview.

  2. Thanks for the interview Mark, and thank you Jonathan for your time! My only question is how are you coming along with the sequel to "Dead of Night?"

    Wes H.

  3. really enjoyed the Joe Ledger series. I am not usually a fan of thrillers, but they were well written and compelling. i am excited to read the next one.

  4. What an excellent interview! I recorded the history channel's Zombie show that you mentioned and have watched/listened to it countless times. Consequently Jonathon's face is so recognizable to me. So glad I saw this when I had the time to read it, and thank you to you both.

  5. I love Jonathan Maberry and have read all of his books. What I didn't know is what a badass he is! Congrats on your success Mr. Maberry and please keep writing! Thank you Mark for the excellent interview.