by EE Isherwood
I’m a newcomer to writing books. I hit “go” on my first novel in December 2015, and published my sixth in September 2016. But I’ve been reading post-apocalyptic and zombie literature for decades. That made it easy for me decide the genre I wanted when I first thought about penning my book.
One of the first questions I had to address was what kind of zombies I was going to write about. Fast? Slow? Something in between? This dilemma ran over into the actual dialogue of my first book. At one point my main character debates this with a fellow survivor. Is it a zombie if it isn’t cracking skulls to eat brains? Is it a zombie if it doesn’t scratch its way out of a buried casket? The genre has exploded with types and styles of the perennial bad guys, and I found it hard to decide where to plant my flag.
In the end, I decided zombies had to be as different as the humans from which they evolve—or devolve. Without getting into spoilers, my zombie “contagion” is very sensitive to the internal makeup of each human host. A town in western Kansas may have issues with their water supply—making it dangerously high in calcium, for example—which result in a special breed of zombie out on the high plains. Perhaps the zombies near Fukushima, Japan are fortified by radioactive waste in ways that make them special, as well? Those near St. Louis, Missouri—the location of the books—definitely have a special ability!
Older people come with pitfalls when they are bitten. The contagion has to integrate with decades of drug residue—cold meds, high blood pressure meds, sleep aids, anxiety drugs, and so on and so on. There are innumerable drugs out there, and some are required to keep the patient alive from one day to the next. All these miracle medications leave behind trace elements—which taken together affect how they behave when the zombie plague strikes them. We’ve become so accustomed to medications—not to mention recreational drugs—that I can only imagine what crazy effects they could have.
In my universe there is only one hard and fast rule of zombies: they want to infect more humans. They have many means of doing that. Fast zombies versus the slow. Why not have both? Then, why not throw in a dozen different kinds beyond those obvious types? I enjoy the process of exploring the biological mutations I’ve created and running into new types is always a highlight for me as the writer. How was it created? Where did it come from? How did it get there? How do you stop it? Sometimes there are no clear answers…
I hope this uncertainty keeps readers guessing what’s around the next corner. I’ve found it more exciting during the writing process if I don’t know either!