FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
My guest today is Perrin Briar, the prolific British author behind a number of zombified book series, including:
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 – Infected by a zombifying virus, a father decides to use his last hours of life to get his daughter to safety.
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.
Q. 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!)