by Jay Wilburn
Ricky Fleet may be a pure zombie fan and zombie writer. He came to zombie fandom through a deep interest in horror. He quickly accumulated a wide range of zombie films and reading. Fleet finds his mind churning through zombie survival scenarios everywhere he goes. This informs his writing as he plays out what could go wrong in the various locations for his characters and how they would find their way out.
I’ve enjoyed the first two books of Fleet’s Hellspawn series and I’m looking forward to book three. He’s told me a little bit about where the story is going. I don’t want to spoil anything because I think he is doing some great things and readers will enjoy what is coming. I will say that he is making great use of the setting of his stories. As someone that focuses on the United States a great deal in my own reading and writing, I like seeing what Fleet does with the genre in another part of the world. Readers are going to enjoy the stages of survival for the family in book 1 with the initial event and outbreak, book 2 with the attempt to escape to safety, and where book 3 will go with what the characters are going to try to attempt in their efforts to survive.
I see Fleet’s horror and sci fi roots in his writing. He never imagined writing anything other than a zombie story, but he uses great sci fi elements in the setup for his stories. There are also some mysteries of the universe which will unlock new horrors to come in the experiments gone wrong which underscore his particular zombies.
The focus though is on his characters. I like how he used a country disarmed to force the characters to come up with very creative solutions through engineering and invention. There is no help coming for Fleet’s heroes from the military or otherwise, so they have to pull up the solutions themselves. It makes for great, exciting stories for the readers.
I love the heart in Fleet’s stories too. It sneaks up on you. There is a desire to protect family. He writes from a personal sense of loss. There is a realism to characters that come from friends of his that like nothing more than a good punch up after a soccer match. As a result, his characters read as real and heartfelt. I think the horror and peril of the story come through stronger because of the emotion that underlies what he has written.
Not every fan can write a story worth reading, but I think the best stories in a genre come from writers that have a deep and pure love like a fan. That is the place Ricky Fleet comes from. He holds onto a raw edge that I’m constantly trying to recapture in my own writing. He also has a strength and skill to his writing which blends zombies, horror, and sci fi together in a way that I don’t see many authors achieve.
Fleet has told me how thankful he is to everyone that has given him a hand up in his writing career. Family and friends encouraged him to keep going with the first few chapters that would eventually become his great zombie series. He found fellow authors online that gave him good guidance and led him to strong editors and illustrators for his work. Authors like fellow Summer of Zombie author Shawn Chesser took the time to answer questions he had about writing and the genre.
Fleet is largely a private person and I think some of that made the characters in his stories that much more personal and real. It was quite a leap for him to put his work out there. He has gotten a great and well deserved response as a result. It is all a bit overwhelming for him sometimes, but I knew I wanted him on the Summer of Zombie Tour when I saw what he had to offer readers.
I hope I have made the case for Ricky Fleet and that you will check out the books of his Hellspawn series. You are in for a great horror, sci fi, survival, apocalyptic, zombie story from a true fan of zombies and a great writer.
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com