Zombos Says: Good
"Hello?" I answered my desk phone.
"Is this Zombos?"
"No, I'm Iloz Zoc. Zombos is out and about."
"This is Billy Castle from Monumental Studios."
"I'm sorry, who?"
"Monumental Studios. You know, "If it's done right it's Monumental."
"Oh, right, I remember that tagline now," I said.
"Right. Right. Look, I'm calling about this script Zombos sent us. He's gotta spice it up if he wants a chance at a straight to DVD release. You know, it needs lots more hooters or gore or hooters with gore to stand out from all the other hooters and gore titles cramming the shelves. What he's got here is boring as hell. I mean who's gonna go for werewolves and moonlight and silver bullets these days that's old, old, old ...."
"But Dog Soldiers had lots of gore and action, and it--" I said.
"Well, okay, yeah, but this script ain't no Dog Soldiers. He's got transvestite werewolves attacking cross-dressing vampires, in San Francisco for god sakes. Hell, they're all males. Got it? No hooters. And location shooting over there is a bitch."
My cell phone started playing Clap for the Wolfman. "Hold on a minute will you? I've got another call on my cell. Okay, thanks. Hello?" I answered the other call.
"Hello, is this Zombos?"
"No, he's out and about. I'm ILoz Zoc his valet," I said.
"Damn, I keep missing him. Look, Zoc, this is William D. Carl. I wrote Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse. Zombos was supposed to do a review of my book. Do you know if he's finished it yet?"
"Him review a book? I don't think he's ever done a review for anything, but he does criticize everything. No, actually I've just finished it myself. Enjoyed it a lot. But I'm not sure I can get to it before the next full moon. Just kidding. William? William? Oh, I thought I lost you. Anyway, I'm backed up with other Permuted Press titles before I can get to it."
"Oh, crimminy! Can't you knock it up to the top of the pile? Who's ahead of me?"
"Bowie Ibarra. You know, the zombies down the road guy."
"Oh, c'mon, not another zombie review! I like Bowie, but zombies are old, old, old," said Carl.
"That sounds familiar," I replied. "Look, I agree with you, but you kind of rip off the zombie motif with your werewolves, right? I mean you've got this viral thing going around and people changing into--"
"Well, the whole silver bullets thing is kind of overused, so I thought it would be cool to liven things up by making a werewolf virus turn people into bear-like werewolves with big appetites in a big city. When they start eating their families and everyone else when the full moon hits Cincinnati, and then go mad and all feral during the daylight hours as they turn back into humans and see what they've done, well, bamm!"
"Yes, it's a good mix of old and new. I like the way you open the story, having the bank robbery going sour as the virus starts turning everyone into beasts, forcing the bank robber, Rick, to pair up with Chesya, the feisty bank teller. You introduce the other characters, like Cathy and Karl, and Christian, and keep it moving fast by switching back and forth between them as Cincinnati goes to hell in a handbasket real fast. Clever way to have Rick and Chesya survive the night by locking themselves in the bank vault. Now what's his name--who's patient zero?"
"You mean Andrei Sokosovitch?" asked Carl.
"Right. Using him to tie old into new's a nice bridging point. Here you have this Siberian guy running around with a lycanthropic curse of a virus in his family's blood for generations and you use him to be the trigger that decimates Cincinnati--through the Bio-Gen Corporation's misfired experiment. Then the zombie mojo comes into play during the daylight hours, when the effect of the full moon evaporates. Having people go nuts and start becoming cannibalistic as they hover between the effects of the virus and then its aftermath keeps the stress levels up for your characters. Moving the desperate Rick and Chesya from the bank vault to the armored car was an action-packed touch. They barely get inside before the werewolves smell fresh meat--them."
"Thanks. What did you think of the relationship between Cathy and Karl?" asked Carl.
"You mean with the tie-in with Christian the runaway or Cathy's struggle to survive her pedophilic husband's transformation into a very hungry beast?" I asked.
"Well, both, then," he answered.
"Having the backstory of why Christian wound up on the streets because of his depraved Dad, Karl, makes his Dad expendable, so you care more about how Cathy is going to survive the next full moon and less about the effect it has on him. The intensity of the attacks, for all the survivors, keeps the pace up, too. With your beasts huge, powerful, and voracious eaters, trying to find sanctuary during the night-time hours keeps the tension high. Then you make it difficult for them to survive the daylight hours on top of that, what with people turning back into something less than human--and still hungry."
"What about the tugboat battle at the riverfront?" asked Carl.
"Capital climax. You've got the military on one side shooting the werewolves who are trying to get across the bombed out bridges along the river, and all those beasts spilling onto the tugboat below, making it very difficult for the survivors, who are trying to keep from being shot by the snipers, trying to keep the tugboat afloat in a rainstorm, and trying to keep the beasts from ripping them to shreds. Great visuals here, and the action moves briskly. By this time, too, you really care about them--Rick, Chesya, Christian, Cathy--so you want them to make it. Using the short chapters the way you do keeps the story lively, and builds to the climax in a way that keeps you glued to the book to find out what's going to happen next."
"So when can I expect that review?" asked Carl.
"Hold on a minute." I switched phones. "Hey, Billy? You still there? Okay, good. Listen, I've got William D. Carl on the other line. He's written a book called Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse. You need to take a look at it. It's got all the stuff you're looking for. Frisky werewolves by night, cannibalistic humans by day. Make a great movie. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Okay? Good. I'll let him know. Thanks." I hung up the desk phone. "William? While I've got you, do you have a few minutes to answer some questions? Good. It'll spice up my review. Here they are."
Werewolves in Cincinnati? How did you come up with the premise for Bestial?
I love a good creature feature, and I've always loved werewolves. Most books and movies, however, take a more introspective look at werewolves...like, searching for the beast within one's self. While this allegory is interesting, it can only be done so many times before it grows tiresome like all the variations on self-loathing vampires. So, I thought, what if I approached a werewolf novel like a zombie apocalyptic novel? Sort of, what would Brian Keene do with werewolves? That's where the airborne lycanthropy virus came from. As for it taking place in Cincinnati, well, I live here and pretty much knew the lay of the land. The landscape provided some of the elements of the story...like the army blowing the bridges. That made the research quite easy, actually.
Tell us about your writing mechanics: how do you approach being an author? What's your daily regimen?
I work a day job in retail management, which anyone can tell you is a volatile environment right now. Some weeks, I work way too many hours, and others I stick to 40 a week, although the shifts do tend to alternate from day to night to day shift again. So, I write when I can. Sometimes, I go a couple days without putting down a word, but others I'll whack out 5000 words. Most days, I try to slip in a half hour to an hour of writing, or about 1000 words. I try to take 2 days a week off from writing, but if I need to use those days in order to get a break from the retail job, then I'll go the extra mile.
You have a range of characters in Bestial, from Rick, the bank robber to Cathy, an affluent housewife. In your drafts of the story, did you start with different characters? and how did the ones in your novel make the final cut?
Actually, the characters remained very similar to their final personalities all through the writing process, with the exception of Christian and Cathy. In earlier drafts, you didn't discover their connection until much later in the book, but it felt awkward, and a beta reader told me they knew all the time that the two were connected, so I just brought it to the forefront. That actually gave a greater depth to both of them and better explained their actions. Also, Karl, the pedophile, a despicable character, actually got expanded a bit, because he became so fascinating. The allegory of the beast hidden within the skin became very apropos here, and I fleshed him out accordingly.
Regarding that beta reader, can you tell us more about this process? Does it actually help create a better book?
After I finished draft #2 of the book, I sent it out to 4 different people, two writers and two people who read horror fiction. They all made lots of comments and caught things I would have missed, so it really does help in the end. It's especially nice to hear from people who read a lot of horror...has this been done before? Does the plot structure work, or should I tweak this section over to here? I didn't use all of their suggestions, of course. But, I did learn a lot from them.
One of your characters, Christian, stands out because of what happened to him before the first appearance of the beast-men (and women), making him more complicated to write about than the others because of it. What motivated you to create him?
I used to work in a bookstore in downtown Cincinnati, and there's no closing your eyes to the homeless people around you, especially the young ones. I always wondered about their stories...what drove them to the streets, what did they do to survive. When I wrote a short story a few years ago about a male prostitute, I asked a few of the younger guys on the streets some questions. Each of them had been sexually or physically abused, and they were turning tricks to survive. Some were gay, some were not, but they did what they had to do to get away from the destructive influences in their lives and still survive. They were tough as nails. In Christian, I used some of these characteristics, but I softened him a bit to make him more likable. You had to WANT him to survive. I wish every kid could have an ending like Christian, but the real world deals a lot of bad cards to children. I don't see the situation getting any better out there.
Your description of the beasts goes beyond the usual lycanthropic depiction, as seen in horror movies, to include the ursine shapeshifting mythology of North America. Tell us more about this.
It was a device I used to make the beasts more horrifying. We all have ideas of what werewolves look like from the cinema and comics and television. I wanted them to be even bigger and scarier, with none of the humanity left behind the Jack Pierce make-up. These are animals, pure and simple, driven by animalistic needs. There's not a shred of humanity left in there. By bringing in the bear-like qualities, it lended them more mass, more muscle, and a bigger mouth full of teeth. I certainly wouldn't want to see one of those coming after me (My God, did you see GRIZZLY MAN?). Let alone several thousand of them.
Which are your favorite horror films and why? and who are your favorite horror actors?
Too many to count! A few faves are DAWN OF THE DEAD (Romero version only, please), THE CAT PEOPLE (the Val Lewton version only), DEAD OF NIGHT, THE HAUNTING (Robert Wise version), THE EVIL DEAD, THE HOWLING, HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter version only), CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, GIGL:I (just kidding). I love a lot of the classics, in which mood trumps gore, although I also love a bit of splatter, as long as it serves a storyline. No story or commitment to character, no excitement for me. As far as actors go, Claude Raines, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff - I'll watch ANYTHING these guys did. In modern times, I can't think of anyone who does a lot of horror that I particularly love. A lot of my favorite performances in horror flicks tend to be mainstream people in a single role, ala Meryl Streep in the creepy STILL OF THE NIGHT. Sissy Spacek in CARRIE. Ossie Davis in BUBBU HO TEP.
Any thoughts, hopes, or fears regarding the upcoming remake of The Wolf Man?
I pray it'll be great. The make up is making me pretty confident. The pics I've seen have been really scary looking. And Benicio Del Toro is a terrific actor who just might pull it off. I hope so, but after THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS and (gack, gag) VAN HELSING, I won't be certain till the reviews come in.
What other projects are in the works?
This month, I have a novella in a collection from Graveside Tales called THE BEAST WITHIN. It's another werewolf story, but it's set in the Wild West with werewolves battling were-cougars. I recently reread it, and it's very Zane Grey meets Joe Lansdale. I have a short story Dig in the Cemetery Dance collection IN LAYMON'S TERMS, which is due by the end of the year. I'm shopping around a couple horror novels right now...one deals with a school for bad girls and ghostly nuns. Grindhouse meets Nancy Drew. The other is a siege story of rednecks attacking a mental hospital in order to get back the man they call their savior. This one has really terrifying passages in it, pure adrenaline from page 100 on. I am currently working on a noir project and having a blast with it.
Who or what do you plan on dressing up as for Halloween?
I always do a literary figure. This year, I'm gonna be PHILLIP MARLOWE, trenchcoat and all.
What question are you dying to be asked, and what's your answer?
Dying to be asked? What's the greatest food of all time? Answer: Lower Fat Cheez-Its. I can eat a whole box in a single sitting. Of course, I feel ill afterwards.
Thanks William! Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse is available at Amazon and other booksellers.
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