DotL: The important question: Why zombies?
WS: Because I’ve loved zombie stories since the first time I watched George Romero’s Dead series. Night of the Living Dead is my favourite because, in a way, it’s the most character-focused: the zombies themselves are only a plot device. The main horror comes from what the people in that movie do to each other, how an event like the zombie apocalypse, and the pressure it brings, can make even people with the best of intentions turn on each other, often with terrible consequences.
I write zombie stories because I love the human stories they evoke. And, of course, who doesn’t like a good ol’ gory headshot?
DotL: Any personal zombie favourites – for example books, movies or games – you wish to share with the readers?
WS: Definitely Night of the Living Dead, the original ‘68 version, of course (which I reviewed recently). I also rave about a lesser known French z-flick entitled Mutants. It’s an absolute winner. You should look it up, if you haven’t done so already.
DotL: Especially in Flu there seems to be a very strong anti-establishment sentiment, care to shed some light?
WS: I rarely talk politics, apart from with friends. Politics, like religion, is a hugely divisive topic and can leave otherwise perfectly balanced individuals at each other’s throats. But, without going too deep, I consider myself a left-leaning Libertarian and view all political parties and governments, whether to the left or right, with suspicion. I don’t on any conscious level try to hammer this, or any other message, into my writing: my primary concern is to entertain and engage readers. That said, these books are a product of me and a great deal of my experience, whether it be the characters or the world within which each story is set, can be found there. There’s an anti-establishment sentiment because I’m an anti-establishment kind of guy. Simple as.
DotL: On a related note, how did you feel about tackling The Troubles in your books? I assume it’s still a touchy subject for many. Have you received feedback regarding the subject?
WS: I think it’s a much less touchy subject these days than it might have been, say twenty or thirty years ago.
Again, because I consider myself apolitical so to speak, I don’t feel my writing sways one way or the other. The story is always told from the perspective of its characters, all of whom have a very different angle on The Troubles. You have Pat Flynn in Flu and Mairead Burns in Drop Dead Gorgeous, both of whom are ex-IRA yet feel very differently about their actions of the past. Then you have the two cops in Flu, who think another way entirely. Or soldier Roy Beggs in DDG.
Like I said before, the z-poc brings a lot of these human emotions to the fore. I like to think we see some very interesting drama unfold within my writing because of that.
Either way, I think us Northern Irish folks don’t take ourselves too seriously. Sure, there’s The Troubles and, while it is a very serious topic and I, like many others in Ireland and beyond, have lost family to the conflict, it’s also proved a great source of parody. Local comedians are forever taking the piss. As a novelist, Colin Bateman has been writing about The Troubles for a lot longer than I have, and isn’t shy of sending the whole thing up. And that’s cool.
DotL: Flu and Fever depict some of the most disgusting zombies I’ve ever seen described. Did you ever gross yourself out writing them?
WS: Ha! Not really.
As a lifelong horror geek, I’ve a pretty strong stomach. I’m an old-school gorehound. Love all the messiness of horror, and they don’t come any more messy than zombies!
It was fun going to town with the body horror of it all.
DotL: Fever was in my opinion a lot more bleak than Flu. Was this intentional, or did it just creep in there?
WS: It was bleak, for sure, but I like to think there’s plenty of dark humour within my writing to offset that. Whether the humour comes across, or not, is another thing. Some people mention the humour, and seem to enjoy it, others don’t seem to get it at all.
It’s no big deal either way: each reader’s experience will be different and that’s cool.
With zombie horror, it’s hard not to be bleak. It’s the most brutal survival horror genre out there. Richard Matheson set the precedence with his 1954 classic I Am Legend, the story of the last man to survive a vampire apocalypse (although the vamps behaved more like zombies).
There is no way out. Everyone is most likely going to die.
DotL: What’s next? Are we going to see a third book in the Flu series?
WS: Absolutely. The third will probably be the final book in the Flu series, although I plan to return to that world on a regular basis with short stories and the like. I hope to have it written some time in 2013.
Before that, I have a cyberpunk book to get out there, as well as two crime books, a vampire book and a fun homage to 80s slasher horror (co-written with fellow genre hack, Andre Duza).
I’m very busy, but, as a lifelong fanboy, very happy to be working in this industry.
DotL: Let’s say an actual zombie apocalypse happens. How do you rate your chances for survival?
Everyone has a plan and here’s mine: get to the safest and most secure spot I can find. Grab some food and water, and a good book or two, and lockdown. Then try and enjoy the little time I have left.
DotL: Wayne Simmons, thanks very much for the interview. Any last words for the readers?
WS: Just a big thanks to you, Mikko, for your time. Thanks for the reviews and taking the time to talk with me. And a HUGE thanks to all my readers and potential readers. Means the world to me that people take an interest in what I do.