Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Jonathan Maberry, the multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The King of Plagues, Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, Ghost Road Blues, and Rot & Ruin, among others. Maberry has also done work for Marvel Comics, including Captain America, Punisher, Wolverine, DoomWar, Marvel Zombie Return, and Black Panther. His Joe Ledger series has been optioned for TV by Sony Pictures. Code Zero, the sixth novel of that series, is available now from Tor Books. Read an excerpt here on Tor.com!
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from knife wounds to Star Wars, and more!
Describe your favorite place to read or write.
I’m not a temperamental reader or writer. I can read anywhere. I have, in fact, read in a plane waiting to sky-dive, before a full-contact martial arts match, in various emergency rooms—including once when I had a knife stuck in me (I used to be a bodyguard), and in forty-eight of the states (while wandering around and/or hitchhiking when I was younger).
As for writing…I can also write pretty much anywhere, but I prefer coffee shops. Coffee is my drug and I am both hopeless and joyfully addicted.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Making playlists can kill a whole afternoon for me. I like building very specific playlists for new writing projects. In a strange way, choosing certain songs is part of the process of plotting the book out. I pick songs that I think with resonate with characters, their personality quirks, relationship dynamics, action scenes, and so on. I have many, many playlists and if I ruled the world all novels would be sold with CDs of the music the writer was listening to while writing.
Do you have a favorite underrated author?
I think Gregory Frost is the best fantasy writer out there right now, but he is grossly under-appreciated. He knows his folklore and he has a marvelous way of taking folkloric tropes and spinning them into magical new shapes. I had the good fortune to co-write “T. Rhymer,” a retelling of the Thomas the Rhymer legend with Greg for the recent anthology Dark Duets. And I’ve brought him into several anthologies I’ve edited. His work is always intriguing, always satisfying, and always surprising.
Do you have a favorite word?
I use the word ‘groovy’ way too often. A side-effect of the man crush I have on Bruce Campbell. (If you don’t know how ‘groovy’ relates to Bruce, see Army of Darkness. If you mock me I will use my Boom Stick on you.)
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
While researching my thriller, The Dragon Factory (Griffin, 2010), I found out that scientists have given a gene from the orb-weaver spider to goats so they can mass-produce spider silk in their milk. True story. There are farms of these goats in Canada. When I find out something that freaky, I have to put it into my books. Most of the really weird stuff in my thrillers comes from stuff real world scientists tell me when they’re trying to creep me out.
My favorite monster has always been the zombie. They are so much fun. They can be scary, pathetic, sad, funny, tragic, even heroic. They are the most elastic monster because even with all of that they don’t interfere with telling stories about the humans. They serve as threats and metaphors, but they allow the story to be about people.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle-earth (or some other fictional realm)…
Pretty sure Middle-earth has better beer.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
When I was in middle school, the librarian there was secretary for a couple of groups of professional writers. She introduced me to Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, and I became very friendly with them over a period of two years. Both of them were very generous with their time, guidance and advice. And, both of them introduced me to some fantastic books. Matheson gave me a signed copy of I am Legend and Bradbury gave me a signed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes. The latter was the first fantasy novel I’d ever read and it gave me a taste for it; and the character development and character relationships continue to inform my own novels, particularly my Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. Whereas I am Legend influenced all of my writing, particularly my weird-science thrillers and my vampire fiction. Without those two wonderful people, I can’t even imagine what kind of writing career path I’d have taken.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
I occasionally listen to old Laura Branigan albums while I write. What’s even stranger is that she’s on a playlist with Nick Cave and Tom Waits. I may need counseling.
What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?
I am so prepared for the zombie apocalypse. First off, I’ve been thinking about it since I snuck into the Midway Theater in Philadelphia on October 2, 1968 to see the world premiere of Night of the Living Dead. Since then I’ve written about zombies in a lot of different ways: nonfiction (Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead), comics (Marvel Zombies Return), short stories (“Pegleg and Paddy Save the World,” “Chokepoint,” and a dozen others), adult thrillers (Patient Zero and Code Zero), Young Adult thrillers (the Rot & Ruin series of novels), and more. So…yeah. Zombies. Also, I’m an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu (48 years in the art), a skilled swordsman, a former bodyguard, and moderately ruthless. So, I will get my family to safety and, yes, I do have a plan.
As for an apocalyptic event I wouldn’t survive… anything with fast monsters. I can fight, but I’m not much of a runner.
If you were secretly going to write fan-fiction about any two characters, who would they be?
Star Wars, without a doubt, with an emphasis on Luke and Yoda. Untold stories set during the ‘training phase’ in Empire Strikes Back. I worked the release of the first Star Wars movie for a full year. A year. I’ve seen the original three more times than I can count. I have spent a lot of time thinking up stories about the Empire, the Old and New Republic, the Jedi, the Rebels… I have been a Star Wars fan since I first saw a trailer for it. I even have the original paperback.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
My stories are not about monsters; they’re about people who fight monsters.
My stories have a whole lotta smartass humor.
One of the most delightful parts of being a writer is connecting with people via social media. I devote ten minutes out of every writing hour to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other sites. I don’t use assistants for that. It’s me and all of my friends, fans, readers, and colleagues on the crazyboat.
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?
I would kill for an ‘undiscovered’ Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald. That’s my all-time favorite series of novels. I read them as a teenager and they helped shaped my thinking and my moral compass.