Interview: Martin Rose, author of Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell

Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell, the new horror novel by Martin Rose, will be out next week, and he kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more!


bringmefleshCongrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell, and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks. Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell is a hard-boiled detective, zombie, horror novel. Vitus has the misfortune to trust his brother, a military doctor, and that trust is repaid when his brother infects him and turns him into a zombie. The good news for Vitus, is they have a pill for everything these days. Unfortunately for him, that’s also the bad news. It’s about a person who wakes up a monster and has to keep on living, keep on working, and keep on paying the bills without losing his head, if you’ll pardon the pun. It started out as a short story for an anthology, but the character required a distinctive style and voice that was easy for me as a writer to hook into, less easy to unhook from, and it very much wrote itself.

Tell us more about yourself! You’ve got a graphic design degree, but what made you jump into writing? Have you always wanted to write?
That’s a long story; too long to tell in one sitting, but I can hand off the short version. I’d been encouraged to engage in the arts from an early age. I started writing around twelve or so. Around thirteen and fourteen I started sending stories out to magazines, garnered my first rejections. Around twenty-one, things changed, got a little tumultuous. So writing wasn’t possible for a long period of time, due to a number of unexpected, personal responsibilities. I went into visual arts, and then earned my degree in graphic design. In a way, this was quite a boon – the folks at Skyhorse/Talos were nice enough to allow me to dictate the direction of everything from the cover design to the typography and interior layout. A graphic design degree gave me the full understanding of book design and construction. If the world fell apart tomorrow, I’d be the lone survivor putting together a Gutenberg press and binding books by hand. After I graduated, the job market in New Jersey was quite poor – and that was before the economic bust. So instead of sending out my umpteenth unanswered resume, I started sending out stories again. It was 2007, 2008 and I couldn’t afford an internet connection. I typed up stories at my apartment and then took them to the library and used their internet connection to send them. Later on, I started using the telephone line for the dial-up when I couldn’t reach the library. I wrote a novel while working two jobs, and that’s still sitting in a trunk somewhere. Bring Me Flesh came about a few years later. In retrospect, I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to write. More accurate to say that the writing has always wanted me.

The book is a neat twist of zombies and hard boiled crime fiction. Why did you decide on this mash up?
Why not? I spent a summer staying up really late at night watching the Turner Classic Movie channel. I watched quite a few black and whites. I knew friends big into the zombie stuff, which had never been of great interest to me. And in thinking of what would make a zombie interesting to me, that was the solution: Vitus.

Why do you think readers will root for Vitus?
I think he faces very real and gritty problems. There’s a joke I put in there about how he has to take some time to do his taxes. He’s got problems like anyone else. He’s got a house he has to up keep. He pays bills. He’s ugly, and a lot of the time, he’s not very nice, or optimistic. When I read about protagonists who happen to be monsters, they usually have this charmed life. They’re good looking, they’re rich, they’re well dressed. And if you’re a reader who really likes to live out that fantasy, by all means, do so. That’s the pleasure of stories. Hopefully, you care about Vitus, not because you like him or not, but because at our core we are all facing upheavals and problems, some ordinary, and some extraordinary – just, you know, not as zombies.

Tell us a little more about your world. Are supernatural creatures the norm? Is the public aware of them or do they lead a secretive existence?
I wanted to take a different tact, because there is so much supernatural and fantasy content out there for readers. Books like Sandman Slim, which I read just this year to see what it was all about, and American Gods, and stories in that vein which delve into all kinds of supernatural stuff and many more besides. But I’d been doing a lot of reading in non-fiction, political science and economics. Not to put anyone to sleep, or anything. But it occurred to me it would be interesting to set Vitus as a monster with an edge of realism. Obviously, the whole thing is fantastical – but there’s no gods, no angels, no devils, no vampires, no werewolves. It’s not about mythology; it’s about catastrophe, family, heart ache. Vitus doesn’t even like to call himself a zombie. A virus created him. No spell or supernatural force was responsible for that. If anything, the humans who design Vitus’s fall are more monstrous than he is. So it’s building a world where monsters, and thus the traditional moral compass, have been inverted.

talisman3I asked myself what kind of problems Vitus would face, since he is a zombie, and he looks like one. The truth is, in most neighborhoods I’ve seen, people don’t talk to each other. People are very isolated in many of these residential areas. If you ever talk to people who are homeless, disabled, have some defining feature that marks them as different – they’ll tell you it happens all the time: they disappear from public consciousness. So people don’t probe too deep into Vitus or question his presence, and why he seems “off” from everyone else. I don’t think it’s right; but it’s what happens. And I like to convey a balance of the fantastical and the real.

What did you enjoy most about writing the book, and what character, other than Vitus, did you particularly enjoy writing?
I had a hard time writing the book, writing a number of the scenes, and a hard time writing Vitus as well. I wrote that manuscript in 100 degree heat in an un-air conditioned room, listening to the hard disc spinning, because heat like that is hard on computers. It kills hard drives. And New Jersey gets humid. I crack open Bring Me Flesh and the first thing I think of is how the sweat used to run down my back. The only way I was able to escape that miserable hot box of my office, was through the book, and most of all during part five, Goodbye To The Bones. That was like taking a Ferrari for a spin after I spent five hundred miles crammed into a Pinto. Things change drastically in that part for Vitus, and that made a difference. Everything the book had been building up to unravels right there and I know I felt it when I wrote it. Every character was a challenge, was difficult to write. Niko and Owen in particular were probably as close to enjoying writing characters as I could get.

darksisterWhat are a few of your favorite books? Are there any authors that have influenced you over others?
Some of the many that I can name off the top of my head include The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Dark Sister by Graham Joyce, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, and a thousand others I could spend all day naming. I’m pretty sure Alexandre Dumas and his ability to plot was instructive; whether I’ve learned anything from it is a whole other story. And I think it would be fair to say that, as incongruous as it seems, Robin Hobb probably had an effect. But I try to be aware of what is influencing me and how, and then to make sure I’m not unconsciously imitating it. I prize new ideas, innovation – so reading something I enjoy provokes me to stretch my writerly muscles and see if I can do something equally powerful, but intensely original.

What are you currently reading?
Right this minute? I’m listening to a librivox recording of John Bury’s Student’s History of the Roman Empire, Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, and Mastery by Robert Greene. I’m always inviting people to track my reading on goodreads if they’re interested. I’m looking to read Robin Hobb’s newest book, Fool’s Assassin next.

What’s next for you?
There might be a follow up for Vitus in the future, but I’m waiting to see where life takes me next. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year, but I have short fiction projects coming out over the following months, maybe, and into 2015, but novel writing is the main thing. I blog here and there, and anyone can catch up with me at martinrose.org.

Keep up with Martin: Website

About BRING ME FLESH, I’LL BRING HELL:
Vitus Adamson is falling apart. As a pre-deceased private investigator, he takes the prescription Atroxipine hourly to keep his undead body upright and functioning. Whenever he is injured, he seeks Niko, a bombshell mortician with bedroom eyes and a way with corpses, to piece him back together. Decomposition, however, is the least of his worries when two clients posing his most dangerous job yet appear at his door looking for their lost son.

Vitus is horrified to discover the photo of the couple’s missing son is a picture-perfect reproduction of his long dead son. This leads him to question the events of his tormented past; he must face the possibility that the wife and child he believed he murdered ten years ago in a zombie-fugue have somehow survived . . . or is it just wishful thinking designed to pull him into an elaborate trap?

Unfolding like a classic film noir mixed with elements of a B-movie, Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell is an imaginative spin on the hard-boiled detective genre and a new twist on the zombie novel. In Vitus Adamson, you will find a protagonist you can care about and invest in as he takes you through his emotional journey of betrayal and quest for redemption.

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