Interview: Scott K. Andrews, author of School’s Out Forever

Finally! School’s Out Forever, the omnibus of three books of zombie awesome (The Afterblight Chronicles) by Scott K. Andrews will be available in the US on Sept. 18th (from Abaddon Books), and Scott was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Please welcome him to the blog!

Scott, in your bio it says you didn’t start writing until age 30. Had you always hoped to be writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I pitched my first novel when I was 20 – a Doctor Who book for Virgin in the early days of the New Adventures. It got rejected but I got a very encouraging rejection letter, encouraging me to try again. So I tried again. And again. And again.

While that was ongoing I tried to break into comic book writing. That went a bit better – I got two commissions, both finished and paid for but only one got published. But then that fizzled, and I eventually also gave up on the Doctor Who pitches as well due to my having lost all feeling in my head from banging it against a brick wall for nearly a decade.

Then a period as an entertainment journalist, during which I toyed with various novel ideas, all of which were horribly derivative and lurk in my bottom drawer. Eventually , when I was 30, I kind of stumbled into a job doing an episode guide book to Dawson’s Creek (!). I took the opportunity to prove I could deliver a useable manuscript on deadline, which led to a second episode guide book.

Then a friend commissioned a short story from me for a Doctor Who anthology and mentioned the Abaddon open pitch process at the same time. The rest is history.

School’s Out Forever, the omnibus containing your St. Mark’s Trilogy books (The Afterblight Chronicles) will be out in the US on Sept. 18 (yayyy!!) Will you tell us a little about it?
It tells the tale of two people – a boy and a young woman – who survive a viral apocalypse and try to build something good in the ruins with the help of their friends, and of all the various nutters and despots who they have to bring down in order to do that. It’s relentlessly thrilling, occasionally shocking and hopefully a little bit thought provoking too.

Which character in the trilogy was your favorite to write, and why?
Matron, without a doubt. She started out as a secondary character but soon came to dominate the series. I loved her determination, humanity, ruthlessness and just her general attitude to authority. I never had to ‘find’ her voice, she just appeared fully formed. I didn’t even realise she was the hero of the first book until I’d finished writing it, so completely did she sneak up on me.

But most people’s favourite character in the trilogy is Rowles, my 11 year-old sociopathic killing machine. For some reason he really struck a chord!

What do you love most about horror?
I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool horror fan, but I love a good horror movie as much as the next geek. I suppose what I look for in a good horror story is that cathartic thing of having my deepest fears given metaphorical substance so I can see them beaten to a pulp, the kind of thing Buffy used to do so brilliantly. I also find horror-comedies make me laugh more reliably than any other kind of comedy – I’d always rather watch Shaun than Dawn.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
John Wyndham’s very English view of the apocalypse informed the St Mark’s trilogy hugely. Iain Banks for his plotting; Christopher Fowler for his macabre sense of the absurd; Douglas Coupland for his deeply humane characters. And, not strictly literary but probably my biggest influence – Joss Whedon’s approach to character and story is constantly inspiring and makes me strive to be better all the time.

What do you find truly frightening?
Untrammeled power and the people who seek to wield it. Dictators, repressive regimes, the threat of having my freedom taken away by someone who will lock me up and torture me if I voice a dissenting opinion. These things are the reality of many people’s daily lives and I give thanks every day that I’m lucky enough to be who and where I am and to enjoy the life I do. But the threat of losing that liberty to bullies with guns keeps me awake at night.

In your own reading, what makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
Pretension. The kind of book that abandons character and plot in favour of the pointless, soulless quest for the stylistically perfect sentence. Boring.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Iain Banks’ The Crow Road.

When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Reading, binging on TV and films, spending time with the kids. But most of all catching up on my sleep!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I have a new novel underway, even thought there’s no deal signed yet. So there should be the first book of a new trilogy from me hitting bookshelves some time in 2013.

Also, the film of the first St Mark’s book – School’s Out – should be going before the cameras next summer, so keep your eyes out for announcements about casting as the summer draws closer – exciting!
Keep up with Scott: Website | Facebook
Pre-Order School’s Out Forever: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
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About School’s Out Forever:
“After the world died we all sort of drifted back to school. After all, where else was there for us to go?”

Lee Keegan’s fifteen. If most of the population of the world hadn’t just died choking on their own blood, he might be worrying about acne, body odour and girls. As it is, he and the young Matron of his boarding school, Jane Crowther, have to try and protect their charges from cannibalistic gangs, religious fanatics, a bullying prefect experimenting with crucifixion and even the surviving might of the US Army.

Welcome to St. Mark’s School for Boys and Girls…

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