Daily Archives: October 5, 2015

#31ZombieAuthors – Day 5 Interview – Perrin Briar – Three Zombie Series and Counting

perrin briar

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My guest today is Perrin Briar, the prolific British author behind a number of zombified book series, including:

Blood-Memory-Complete-Season-Small

Blood Memory – Jordan, who’s suffering from a six year gap in his memory, leaving him with no recollection of how a zombie outbreak started, joins the crew of the ship, Haven, but a shipwreck complicates matters.  The crew will have to leave the safety of the sea and step out onto land, where zombies aren’t the only monsters they’ll have to face.

Z-MINUS-High-Resolution-Book-1-Small

Z-Minus – Infected by a zombifying virus, a father decides to use his last hours of life to get his daughter to safety.

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Swiss Family RobinZOM –  A send-up of the 1812 classic novel authored by Johann David Wyss, now with zombies!

Previously, Perrin has written for BBC radio, and worked in the production and development departments of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me, Perrin.

NOTE: BOLD = BQB; ITALICS = Perrin

Q.   I love Swiss Family Robinson so much that when I saw you’d written a zombified adaptation, I had to get in touch. What motivated you to take this classic and throw hideous undead creatures into the mix?

A.   I really wanted to write a story about people surviving on an island. But there were already lots of books with that concept, so I wanted to add a unique spin to it. I was going through a list of books and films about surviving on an island, when I came across the classic Swiss Family Robinson stories. I like the idea of taking something we’re all familiar with and putting a twist on it in (hopefully!) a full and exciting way. I read the original books and watched the film and TV adaptations to get ideas, get a feeling for the characters, the tone etc, and took what I thought were the most interesting parts, and then developed them into a series of novellas. There’s a lot in my books you won’t find in the original (zombies being the obvious one!) and things in the original you won’t find in mine (the originals were morality tales to teach the author’s kids about the value of religion in their lives). I wanted each book to feature a different perspective of survival, and so far the response has been great. There will be a total of 11 or so books by the end.

Q. Have fans of the original Swiss Family Robinson book received it well?

A. Yes, the response has been really great. I was at first concerned the readers wouldn’t like what I did to the classic, so I only wrote one novella to test the waters. If the response was good, I would write the rest. Thankfully, people liked it and started asking about more in the series.

Q. Let’s talk about Z-Minus. Chris Smith hasn’t been much of a father. When he’s infected with a virus, he has eight hours to live before he turns into a zombie. He’s left with a hope that he’ll be able to spend the last bit of life he has left getting his daughter Maisie to safety. As a plot device, does it raise the stakes for the reader when time is of the essence and not a single minute can be wasted?

A. Yes, I think so. There are lots of TV shows and films that use the same device and it always ramps up the tension – mostly because the reader knows that at the end, the character will turn into a monster, but they’re willing to sit through the action until that moment happens. They know it’s coming, but not how it will happen. I originally had the idea for Z-Minus while thinking about how to create a new twist on an old idea. Usually zombies Turn within a few seconds or minutes of being bitten, so I thought it would be fun to play with that and extend it to eight hours, and see the gradual change coming over the characters.

Q. Also in Z-Minus, Chris has to race to get Maisie to a rumored zombie cure. In most zombie books/flicks, if you get bitten by a zombie or get a whiff of a zombie virus then boom. That’s it. You’re a zombie. Sorry. Thanks for playing. I think it’s creative that you went against the grain here and provided your protagonist with the hope of a cure. Does that add to the suspense, knowing there’s a chance at survival?

A. Book II of the Z-Minus trilogy was actually the original idea I had for the whole series. I felt it upped the ante. After all, if you only have a few seconds after being bitten to be Turned, there’s nothing you can do to save yourself. Whereas if you have 8-hours, anyone would do anything to get their hands on the cure, assuming it exists. The closer you get to the cure, the closer you are to turning into a zombie, and the weaker you are.

This concept is weaved throughout the Z-Minus trilogy. You’ve described Book I and II above, Book III raises the tension even more when Chris has eight hours to get Maisie to a science research vessel off the coast of Brighton so they can harness the cure in her blood before it disappears for good. But the cure has endowed her with other unforeseen powers too.

Keeping-Mum-Ebook-Updated-SmallQ.   Can we talk about Keeping Mum? The premise is that Peter and Kate Loveridge have to convince the tax-man that their mother, Hetty, is alive for one more week, lest they lose their entire inheritance. So Peter dresses and acts like his mother and then a variety of hi jinx ensue, namely his mother’s old flame comes into the picture. Sounds hilarious. Where did you dream up the idea for this one?

A.   It’s actually based on a real concept. We have a ridiculous law in the UK which is that if parents give money, property etc. to their children, then if the parents survive for seven years after the date of giving the money, the kids don’t have to pay inheritance tax on it. I knew there was a story there somewhere, but at the time I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, a couple of years later I read a news article about a brother and sister in the US who were dressing up as their mother to draw her pension money every week even after she had died. It’s hard to have sympathy for characters who do this kind of thing, and for relatively little money, but what if it was for a large amount, and their anti-government parents actually wanted their kids to do it? That was interesting to me, so I married the two ideas into one.

Q. Some of your books, like Z-Minus show a serious side while books like Keeping Mum are funny. How do you balance the serious and the humorous when many authors usually choose to go in just one direction or the other?

A.  I feel every book exists on a kind of slide rule of various attributes. One slide rule is serious vs. humorous. Some are super serious without any humor, others hilarious and ridiculous. I think the best stories have elements of both. Where a story is on the slide rule depends on their genre, tone, pace etc. Keeping Mum is a comedy, but it’s dark – these guys have stuck their mother in a deep freezer for their own purposes, after all! Whereas Z-Minus and Blood Memory are dark, but with some lighthearted moments. Swiss Family RobinZOM is somewhere in the middle. I mostly balance them by the tone, how it feels, and how I want the reader to feel while reading my books. I often delete entire scenes or sequences if I feel they don’t fit the tone.

And listening to the right kind of music helps a lot!

Q. Perrin, thank you for your help. Before I go, do you have any advice for my friends and I on how to survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

A. Yes. Get into space! (Another idea I’m currently toying with!)

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BQB’s Zombie Apocalypse Survivor’s Journal – Day 5

October 5, 2015

The photo Aunt Gertie uses for her various social media accounts, driver's license, passport and annual Christmas card.

The photo Aunt Gertie uses for her various social media accounts, driver’s license, passport and annual Christmas card.

Books. They’re where I turn to for comfort. I use them to get lost and separate myself from the otherwise drab world, made that much drabber thanks to a zombie infestation.

Turns out, Price Town had a good selection of them.

“What are you reading?” VGRF asked.

“Swiss Family Robinson,” I replied. “It’s a classic. Aunt Gertie used to read it to me all the time.”

“Oh my God!” VGRF shouted. “That’s awful.”

“No,” I replied. “It’s really great. It’s got a shipwreck and a monkey and…”

“No,” VGRF said. “Us. We’re awful. We forgot to check on Aunt Gertie.”

Panicked, I reached for the space phone and dialed the old folks home where she resided.

“I can’t believe you,” VGRF said.

“You could have reminded me!”

“She’s your Aunt!”

“But she likes you more!”

After a few rings, I was connected to a recorded message.

“Hello. Thank you for calling the Decrepit Oaks Assisted Living Facility. Our residents put the ‘do’ in ‘can-do.’ No one is available to take your call right now, so please leave a message at the beep.”

What the hell. I gave it a shot.

“BEEP!”

“Hi. This is Bookshelf Q. Battler. My aunt Gertrude Scrambler is one of your can-do residents. I know you’re probably knee deep in the zombie apocalypse right now but if you get a moment, can someone there ask Gertie to give me a call? My number is…it’s uh…”

I looked at the screen. I didn’t recognize any of the alien symbols it was displaying.

“Some kind of triangular thing stabbing a rhombus and I think that might be a pitchfork…no. You know what? Just let her know I called and asked about her and I’ll try back later. Thanks.”

Alien Jones walked by.

“The latest news reports indicate that phone service is out all over town. In fact, it’s believed that it’s only a matter of time before we lose…”

Every light in the store switched off. It was so dark I could only make out the fluorescent glow of Alien Jones’ eyes.

“…power.”

“Jinx,” VGRF said. “BQB, will you give up on this survivalist crap and call the Marines already?”

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “But first, I need to call…another zombie author.

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Movie Review – Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt in a “look at my acting chops!” role.  Josh Brolin as a smug jerk, or in other words, a typical Josh Brolin role.  Benicio Del Toro as creepy as always.

BQB here with a a review of the latest Fall movie season Oscar contender.

I know, 3.5.  I know.  I’m stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.  I should be doing something more productive than watching movies.  But what can I do?  The zombies are out there, I’m stuck in Price Town.  Might as well make the best of it, especially when my alien buddy has an intergalactic communications device (aka a space phone) that allows me to watch top notch Emily Blunt films.

Aliens love Emily Blunt.  And to be blunt, so do I.

Wow, I bet Emily’s never heard that joke before.

OK.  So let’s dive in.  As the opening sequence of this film explains to us, a “sicario” was once the term used in Jerusalem to describe the super devout who chased Romans from their homeland, but today it has become the Mexican word for “hit man.”

By the way, just now, Apple spellchecker really wanted me to write “pit man” for some reason.  I hate it when I have to argue with my computer just to get it to say what I want it to.  I swear to Christ this is how Skynet begins.  Up your butt, Apple.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

No more distractions.  The film begins with Emily as FBI agent Kate Macer, an FBI anti-kidnapping specialist leading a mission to take a house that is alleged to be holding a drug cartel’s kidnapping victims.

Only thing is, it turns out the house is actually a house of horrors, with dead cartel victims lining the walls.

Emily is then recruited to assist a special task force with the apprehension of Manuel Diaz, the big time drug kingpin behind the death house.

Do you ever get confused when you watch a hardcore crime movie?  I know when I watched True Detective, Season 2 I felt like I needed a flowchart and a slide rule just to keep up with what was going on.

Well, with this movie, you’re in luck, because you’re not the only one who’s confused.  Emily/Kate is too.

Josh Brolin (aka Matt Graver)  is some type of G-man in charge of the task force.  Is he a spy?  Does he work for the CIA?  Is he military?  Is he someone else entirely?

Meanwhile, the task force’s biggest asset is Alejandro aka Benicio.  The same questions apply.  Is he a CIA agent?  Is he some kind of Mexican spy, a Juan Bond, if you will?  (Oh come on, PC police, that was funny and you know it.)  Is he military?  Someone else?

The point is, Kate ends up working with these people and a) she has no idea who they are and b) they won’t tell her.  In fact, Matt/Josh seems to relish holding back details of what’s going on vis a vis their mission, only eeking out just enough details to keep Kate from walking away, but otherwise she’s kept in the dark.

Finally!  A protagonist in a serious crime drama who’s as confused as I am.  I felt for Emily in this one.  The whole film she’s like “What’s going on?” and I was replying, “I don’t know Emily, but I hope you find out.  Don’t trust these dudes, girl.”

All in all, great acting, a gripping plot that draws you in.  It gets you on a roll with questions and if you hang in there, they are answered.

On top of all that, it does offer a stunning indictment of the whole inter-border drug war.  Nasty business. Don’t do drugs, kids.

I hate to give too much away but there was one quote that caught me.  I’ll paraphrase.  Basically,  twenty-percent of the population are hardcore drug users and if we could get them to quit the cartels would be out of work.

So quit today, all you dope fiends.  Only you can stop Mexican mafia murder houses.

One thing that made me happy was seeing Jeffrey Donovan in a supporting role.  You might remember he was Michael Westen in Burn Notice.  I loved that show.  He’s a good actor.  Hope to see him in more stuff.  I hear he’s in the next season of Fargo.

That’s all I have, 3.5.  To discuss it any further would be to spoil the whole thing.  Go see it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ride out the zombie apocalypse.

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