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Website | Goodreads | Twitter
Connect with Jonathan:
Website | Goodreads | Twitter
Could you please describe WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE: VAMPIRE HUNTERS AND OTHER KICK-ASS ENEMIES OF EVIL in one to two sentences?
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Charlaine Harris, Rachel Caine, Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks, Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ve been researching this topic in one way or another for many years. My grandmother introduced me to a great deal of folklore, and almost all of folklore is tied to some aspect of the struggle of good vs evil. Over the last ten years I’ve written several books on the subject of the supernatural and paranormal. WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE was part of a package of five I sold to Citadel Press in 2005. The four previous books are: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE (2006), THE CRYPTOPEDIA (2007; winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer); ZOMBIE CSU (2008; winner of the Hinzman Science Award and the Black Quill Award); and THEY BITE (2009; co-authored by David F. Kramer). WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE is the natural conclusion to the series: after delving so deeply into the monsters and things that go bump in the night, I wanted to focus on those creatures (human or otherwise) who stand between us and evil.
And this book allowed Janice and I the opportunity to write about the complex struggle of good and evil from so many different points of view, from biblical conflicts to super-hero battles.
From what I’ve heard, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE sounds more like an encyclopedia than anything else. Is this true?
MABERRY: It has essays at the beginning of each chapter and then some encyclopedia-like sections. There are also plenty of sidebars. This book gives a lot of meaty info on a lot of fun (yet bizarre) topics.
BASHMAN: In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we tackle the whole good and evil idea in a fun and exciting way—through its presence in movies, books, comics, pop culture, and real life. There’s a ton of facts in the book, but it’s a exciting read. What’s not fun about talking about good and evil? Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs vampires. Batman vs The Joker. Dracula vs Van Helsing. FBI profilers vs serial killers. Ghosts vs ghost hunters. It’s the ultimate showdown between opposing forces. We take a look at this concept from all angles and put it together in a manner that’s easy to read with lots of interviews, sidebars, and interesting facts. There’s something for everyone in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE
MABERRY: Having a Big Picture sensibility in the writing helps us to present the info in a way that is neither offense nor off-putting. Sometimes that means using a bit of snarky humor, and sometimes it’s taking off the disguise and allowing the reader to glimpse our own inner geeks. Once they know that we’re part of their crowd, the book becomes more of an act of sharing cool stuff with our peers than authors writing to a demographic. Much more fun.
How long did it take to write WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE? How much research was required?
BASHMAN: As Jonathan stated earlier, he’s been researching the this topic for years. The actual researching and writing process was quite intensive and took a lot of time. WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE is full of facts yet they’re presented in a fun way which makes for an easy read. In addition to the research, we interviewed tons of people, including Stan Lee, John Carpenter, Charlaine Harris, Peter Straub, Rachel Caine, Amber Benson, Lucienne Diver, and Christopher Golden. Between the two of us, it took us about a year to research, conduct interviews, and write the book.
MABERRY: Luckily we live in the age of emails, Facebook and Skype, all of which make the process of interviewing extremely easy and efficient. These days you can find virtually anyone through social media, websites, blogs or emails, and reaching out is a snap. Most of our interviews were conducted via email, which allowed us to reach experts all over the world.
Which is your favorite chapter?
BASHMAN: It was definitely a lot of fun writing this book; and I learned so much during the process, including the many ways to kill a vampire, how to fight various mythic monsters, the tools and methods ghost hunters use to investigate paranormal activity, and what FBI profilers do in addition to profiling serial killers. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite chapter, because I love so much of the book and how it examines good and evil. That said, I’d have to go with the chapter titled “Legendary Heroes” because it covers so many of the good guys from ancient myth, folk lore, fiction, pop culture and the real world, including Geronimo, Tomoe Gozen, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Mother Teresa, and Doctors Without Borders. The chapter also covers dozens of mythic monsters and how to fight them. Everything from the Ahuizotl to the Whowie.
MABERRY: I don’t really have a favorite in terms of the finished product, however I had the most fun researching the chapter on comics. I write for Marvel and I’m a lifelong comics fan. So that was a blast…especially interviewing Stan Lee!
Vampire or Werewolf?
BASHMAN: I’m a big werewolf fan. I know a lot dig vampires, especially since they’re immortal. But there’s something about werewolves; they have a long history in the mythology and lore of many cultures throughout the world. They are strong and powerful creatures with the ability to shapeshift. The Benandanti were a race of good werewolves. Instead of slaughtering they descended into hell to fight witches and the Devil.
MABERRY: For storytelling, I prefer vampires in that there’s a bit more elbow room in the kinds of stories you can tell. Folklorically speaking, there are many more vampire species than werewolf. However, from a fan point of view, I love a good werewolf flick. My favorite is DOG SOLDIERS. Riveting even when watched again and again.
Good guy or Bad guy?
BASHMAN: Bad guys are appealing because they intrigue us—we want to know what makes them tick. But, for me, the good guys are always winners. They are the men, women or beings, real life or fictional, who fight against all odds to overcome evil. And that is satisfying.
I think we want to believe that all beings, human or otherwise, are somehow good, that no matter how evil or monstrous they’ve acted there’s something in them that can be salvaged. Of course, that’s often not the case, but we still search for that glimmer of goodness, that piece of humanity that makes these monsters seem like us. Through fiction, movies, comics, etc., we experience the ultimate battles of good versus evil where the heroes typically triumph, unlike real life where evil can and does win.
MABERRY: I definitely like the good guys. That’s where my sympathies lie. In fact, a lot of people ask me why I write novels about monsters, and what I tell them is that I don’t: I write novels about people who fight monsters, who oppose darkness.
Coffee or tea?
BASHMAN: I’m a tea person. I hate the taste of coffee but love the smell. Go figure.
MABERRY: Oh, God…coffee. The stronger the better. I write in coffeeshops for the most part, and I love a nice big cup of extra bold (heart-attack brew).
Paper or Microsoft Word (for writing)?
BASHMAN: I can write on paper or on the computer, but I prefer the computer for several reasons. First, I type faster than I write. Second, typing has become a process that requires no conscious thought—it’s almost automatic. Therefore, I can type without focusing on the actually process of putting the words down, which is something that I can’t do when writing on paper. Writing on the computer allows me to focus completely on what I’m writing and not divide my attention between the creative aspect and the physical demands of putting the pencil or pen to paper.
MABERRY: I write too fast to bother with paper. I do three to four thousand words a day…doing that by hand would give me cramps. However, if I’m at a diner or in a waiting room or on an airplane, I tend to write short scenes by hand. For that I use a retractable pencil and a hardcover notebook.
Could you provide readers with a brief passage of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE so they can see what the writing is like?
An excerpt from WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE: Vampire Hunters and other Kick-
Ass Enemies of Evil by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman (Citadel Press,
© Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman
VILLAINS—NATURAL AND UNNATURAL
Villains are the bad guy. Whether human, monstrous, alien, spiritual or other, the villain is the person or being whose aim is to do some kind of harm. Real world villains range from vicious dictators like President Robert Mugabe who has been accused of a laundry list of human rights violations to a snatch-and-grab thief who robs a convenience store.
Some villains are reluctant, and many are villains only from the perspective of political or ethical ideology. This is the case in every war ever fought.
Some villains fill that role briefly—perhaps a momentary lapse in which they succumb to greed or lust or one of those other pesky Seven Sins. Some are opportunists who see something and grab at it. The 2008 financial collapse was filled with bad guys of that kind.
Some villains, on the other hand, revel in it. Villainy is their choice. They groove on the negative energy released from their actions. This, sadly, is a pretty large category that includes child molesters, rapists, mass murderers, corrupters of youth, and many others.
Movies –perhaps more so than novels-- are often structured to present the villain as the most interesting characters. Filmmaker John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, The Fog) agrees and shared his views with us: “The villains always have the best parts. Darth Vader had the best part in Star Wars, The Wicked Witch had the best part in The Wizard of Oz, everybody loves villains. And these guys are just actors in makeup, but we all love them. They have a power to them. They’re strong. Everybody knows about them. So they become incredibly familiar. It’s hard to get people riled up and scared by them anymore because they’re so familiar to us. For Halloween we dress up as scary characters, but we love them, we enjoy them and celebrate them. That’s what movie storytelling’s all about.”
So…why the great love affair with the bad guys? “The reason we bond so much with the movie villain,” says Carpenter, “is that we secretly want that kind of freedom, to be able to break all the rules. especially when we’re young. That’s what we long to do, we want to break the rules. That’s the appeal of horror films in general. Especially when they’re on the edge. We go in there and we want a thrill. We want to get out of normal society. But as you get older, and become more responsible it becomes less fun.”
Robert Gregory Browne, an AMPAS Nicholl Award-winning screenwriter and the author of Down Among the Dead Men, shares this insight into bad guys. “I think the key to any villain in fiction is to make him human. He may do evil things, but he’s still a human being and he reacts to the world in a very human way, although with a complete lack of impulse control. My character of Vincent, in Whisper in the Dark, for example, feels that he has been wronged. That after he has worked so hard to make a name for himself, creating his ‘art,’ some impostor has come along and stolen his thunder by, more or less, taking credit for his work. At least that’s the way Vincent sees it. He sees the impostor as a plagiarist—and a bad one at that. So he’s very human in his reaction, although he goes about getting revenge for this insult in ways that most of us wouldn’t think of. Or maybe we’d think of, but wouldn’t act on.”
It’s interesting to note, however, that very few people ever regard themselves as evil. Wiretaps of conversations between members of organized crime families bear this out. You rarely get statements like, “Hey, let’s go out and do some evil stuff.” Though that would really make court cases a lot easier.
However, in myth and storytelling there are plenty of villains who delight in simply being evil. That’s a club that has Satan as its chairman emeritus and includes Baba Yaga, quite a few dragons, the occasional ogre and troll, vampires, child-eating forest hags, and others. When it comes to child-eating hags there’s no moral gray area and heroic slayage is both acceptable and encouraged.
These days it’s all about the gray area. Even a monster like Hannibal Lecter—a mass murdering cannibal who was voted the second greatest villain of all time (after Darth Vader)—was a character people actually liked. In Thomas Harris’ chilling novel, Silence of the Lambs and Jonathan Demme’s nail-biter of a film, Lecter was charming, likeable, even admirable in certain ways. We rooted for him to escape from his captivity and the warden was made to look like the villain. The character’s charisma blinded us to the bare facts that the warden was justified in maintaining the harshest security standards
because the prisoner was an incredibly dangerous monster. But gray areas are at the heart of modern storytelling.
NY Times bestselling author Rachel Caine shared her view on crafting these ‘gray area’ characters: “I can’t really warm up to characters who are just one thing or another. Black or white. Real people don't fall into those categories, and for me, the characters I create have to be realistic, if not real. My characters make mistakes. Bad choices. Sometimes, they compromise their ideals for short-term gains. I have a hard time making stock heroes or stock villains without mussing them up a little bit -- most of my villains have redeeming qualities, and most of my heroes have less admirable ones. It just makes them more interesting to me.”
A lot of modern horror and fantasy fiction explores those gray areas of evil and villainy, and that makes for some fascinating reading. It also allows the writers to throw some curves at the reader. Few things are more boring than a completely predictable villain. When it’s hard to make a clear distinction as to whether someone (or something) is a villain, it infuses the encounter with paranoia, tension, and real scares.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. His latest novel is ROT & RUIN. Visit Jonathan’s website at:
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. Visit Janice’s website at: