by Jay Wilburn
Brent Abell is a talented and meticulous writer, being careful about every detail in a story. With this process, he produces some very good work and contributes something special to the zombie genre for fans. In addition to a number of great short stories, Abell came into his own with the release of the first Southern Devils novel. With the addition of Southern Devils Book 2: Reconstruction of the Dead, he has achieved something really amazing with this alternate history/ hidden history story about zombies with minds and a mission they must complete. This is a series served well by Abell’s attention to detail. He hints that his undead romps through history may be far from over. We also look forward to the exciting forthcoming release of his novel within the Dying Days universe, Dying Days: Death Sentence, as well.
I asked Abell how his careful and deliberate process plays out for him in creating a novel. He said, LONG!!! It makes the process long. Before he begins a story, he lays out his starting point and his ending point. All the stuff in the middle is allowed to form organically. For example, at one point while writing Reconstruction of the Dead, he tells us an event took him totally by surprise even as he wrote it. He’s not saying that the end is set in stone when he starts, he explains. Usually, the end does need a few slight alterations to fit in. When he writes, he also tries to think about the long game. He knows when he reads, he enjoys something that has an over-arching theme or idea. You might not realize it when you read it, but your mind picks up on things that pay off later. Abell likes to do this to some extent in his own work. There are plenty of clues about how the Southern Devils series can go on once the third book closes out the current arc.
Looking ahead, Abell says he will be wrapping up the Civil War era for Southern Devils next year with the end of the trilogy. In either November or December, he has his journey into Armand Rosamilia’s Dying Days universe coming out. I’m very excited see what Abell does with a novel set in that world. Dying Days: Death Sentence is something he wanted to do after writing the story “The Happiest Kingdom on Earth” for Rosamilia’s Dying Days anthology, Still Dying 2. Abell was grateful to get the chance to revisit his characters and build on their adventures with Rosamilia’s full support and blessing. The last two projects on Abell’s plate are the third part to the narrative he’s had going through the Middletown Apocalypse books and he’s also doing some pre-work on a new book set in his town of White Creek. Abell wants to try some short fiction again, but the long stuff has been so time consuming the past year or two. Maybe next year then?
I asked Brent Abell what he enjoyed about reading zombie stories and, since his work is so different from a lot of other writers in the genre I read for the zombie tours, what he does to make is work stand apart from what he reads. Abell likes reading how much worse mankind can be than the zombies when all hope is lost. It gives one an interesting perspective on everyone around them, when you try to think about the cruelty and evil they might be capable of if their own survival was at stake. “How far would I go?” Abell wonders. The reflection we do on ourselves is also something he finds useful. In the end of a little soul-searching, Abell says he can ask himself, “Would I have limits or lines I wouldn’t cross if it meant the difference between life or death for me and my family.” He likes to think he couldn’t do those things, but if we find ourselves in such dire situations, are any of us sure we’d take the high and righteous path?
The other thing Abell reads for and he tries to put in his work is the hope. He will admit, the Dying Days book is going to be bleak. He wrote the ending first, he explains, and he says at this point it is single-handedly the most painful thing he’s ever typed. So, maybe not hope at the moment for his work-in-progress? Reconstruction of the Dead isn’t very hopeful or uplifting either, he admits. Maybe hope will return later, he hopes.
I hope I have made the case for Brent Abell. Check out Reconstruction of the Dead or begin with the first book now. If you want to know more, check out this case for Brent Abell from the previous Summer of Zombie tour.