In case you missed it, yesterday was the launch of Simon451, Simon & Schuster’s brand new SFF imprint, and I’m so excited to kick off that launch here with an interview with Ethan Reid, who’s apocalyptic novel, THE UNDYING (Simon451’s first aquisition, actually), just dropped. Please give him a warm welcome!
*Also, for all you lucky folks that will by at New York Comic Con, Ethan will be too, and you can check out his blog for info on his schedule.
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little more about The Undying and what inspired you to write it?
You bet, and thank you! The Undying follows a college student from Seattle who travels to Paris for New Year’s Eve after losing her father to cancer. Jeanie and her friend Ben party all night and wake up to the apocalypse — in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, struggling to stay alive as the world disintegrates and, well, the dead stop dying. Inspiration came from a few different sources. Many successful apocalyptic novels happen well after the event but I wanted to write the event. Carry the characters through their first few harrowing hours. Before penning the story, I had also just witnessed some of my family members go thought some very difficult times. Those moments gave birth to Jeanie, in a way. The idea of fighting through horrific adversity, and coming out the stronger for it.
Tell us more about Jeanie. Why do you think readers will root for her?
In some aspects, Jeanie takes on the good fight for all of us. She starts the novel faced with the very real event of losing a loved one and then the rug really gets pulled out beneath her. I would hope readers root for her because they, in part, can see some of themselves in her struggle. Jeanie’s a fighter. She doesn’t know it at first, but she learns how to battle back through the course of the novel. She starts out feeling like a punching bag, but perfects her left hook and uppercut along the way (and then some).
Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I used to drive my mother crazy as a child, retelling stories. This sounds like a cliché, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I had an English teacher during my senior year of high school who did not care much for me – I was a bit of a punk, his disdain was likely warranted — until we started the writing portion of class. Then he took me aside and told me I should think about being a writer. I carried that torch through undergrad and graduate school, studying the art of novel writing. My mentor during my time at USC — the talented author S.L. Stebel – told me the same thing, to keep at it. I graduated with a load of debt and had to work in television news for few years as a writer and producer. That’s where I met my wife, a reporter here in Seattle, who encouraged me to go back to writing. I completed two other books before The Undying, my third, found representation and a home at Simon451.
What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
I started writing and drawing comic books when I was seven. In fact, I left high school with the thought I’d either be a writer or a comic book artist. But then writing sunk its teeth into me. I began my first novel as a freshman in high school. I had been deeply into reading Michael Moorcock. Moorcock, like Stephen King, were my two first major influences. I tried a hand at fantasy. It was truly awful and I never got out of the first few chapters. The main character had a talking rat as a pet.
Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories are a huge draw to readers and movie goers. Why do you think that is?
In our hearts we know the world cannot exist indefinitely. Its cathartic, in a way, to imagine what the endgame will be like. To look into the abyss, put ourselves at that moment, and see how we would handle it. Then you add zombies into the mix, or vampires like Richard Matheson did so masterfully in I Am Legend, and it’s icing on the cake. In the case of The Undying, I wanted to add my own mix of monster, thematically reflective of Jeanie’s condition. With a little bit of HP Lovecraft mixed in. And Le Horla, too. One of the most influential short stories from the genre, for any budding horror writers out there.
What authors or books have influenced you the most in your writing, and in life?
So many. I find Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero’s journey integral to my version of storytelling. I also have a deep love for poetry. Frost is one of my favorites. J.D. Salinger. Bradbury. Matheson and King, as mentioned. The fact that King has had to defend his work as part of the American canon is ridiculous to me. I’m drawn to thrillers, but horror was always my mainstay, although I also enjoy science fiction and fantasy. When I was younger, I used to reach the Lord of the Rings trilogy every winter. Clive Barker. Anne Rice. Michael Chrichton. Cormac McCarthy. I remember when I first read William Gibson. Transcendent. Do I have to stop or can I just keep going? J.K. Rowling. Herbert. Neil Gaiman.
What are you currently reading? Are there any books you’re looking forward to digging into in the near future?
I just read The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper. Awesome stuff. Before that it was Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. I’m just about to dig into the other books put out in Simon451’s debut list — A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin, The Protectors by Trey Dowell and Orbs by Nicholas Smith. Like everyone else, I’m also anxiously awaiting the next book in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Thinking about writing? Planning my next vacation? We travel as we can, but I’m a family man at heart. I like spending as much time as I can with my wife and son. We’ve been playing too much of Bungie’s videogame Destiny lately. I find my release from writing by either playing soccer with my son, or on my daily run. I also try to make up to my two Australian Cattle Dogs – Bishop and Ripley — as much as I can. I get a lot of woeful stares as I’m typing on the keyboard.
I’m editing the second book in the Undying series right now, due for a spring 2015 release. I’m also writing the third book in the world Jeanie so abruptly crashes into in The Undying. I’ll be appearing at the NY Comic Con. If any of your readers are attending, let them know to swing by the Simon451 booth for an autograph or cosplay selfie!
About THE UNDYING:
THEY HAVE COME FROM THE STARS…
In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.
Jeanie and Ben arrive in Paris just in time for a festive New Year’s Eve celebration with local friends. They eat and drink and carry on until suddenly, at midnight, all the lights go out. Everywhere they look, buildings and streets are dark, as though the legendary Parisian revelry has somehow short circuited the entire city.
By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. Fireballs rain down from the sky, the temperatures are rising, and people run screaming through the streets. Whatever has happened in Paris—rumors are of a comet striking the earth—Jeanie and Ben have no way of knowing how far it has spread, or how much worse it will get. As they attempt to flee the burning Latin Quarter—a harrowing journey that takes them across the city, descending deep into the catacombs, and eventually to a makeshift barracks at the Louvre Museum—Jeanie knows the worst is yet to come. So far, only she has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to exert a powerful hold on her whenever she catches them in her sights.
These cunning, ravenous beings will come to be known as les moribund—the undying—and their numbers increase by the hour. When fate places a newborn boy in her care, Jeanie will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris—even if it means facing off against the moribund and leaving Ben—and any hope of rescue—behind.