E.E. Isherwood has penned two books about post-apocalyptic driving, five books about zombies, and several short stories from both genres. He has designs for many more tales. His long-time fascination with the end of the world blossomed decades ago after reading the 1949 classic Earth Abides. Zombies are just a handy vehicle which allows him to observe how society breaks down in the face of such withering calamity. Fast cars can also help it along.
Isherwood lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and family. He stays deep in a bunker with steepled fingers, always awaiting the arrival of the first wave of zombies.
*** Author Interview ***
Welcome to our FSFNet interview space shuttle, E.E. Isherwood. It’s a pleasure to catch up with you.
Let’s start off with my keenest question. Why did you change your name from Brian King to a pen name of E.E. Isherwood?
My primary reason for not using my real name was that I didn’t want to be compared immediately to Stephen King. My zombie books show up in the same genre, and I didn’t need the pressure. I realized later that using a pen name also allowed me to step away from myself when I write. I could say things as “EE” that the real me wouldn’t say.
What was the defining event that made you start writing?
My grandmother passed away in the summer of 2014. She was 104. Literally on the day of her funeral I felt compelled to write a short story about an elderly woman—inspired by her—who has to fight off her zombie-plague-infected live-in nurse. I enjoyed the process so much I made that short story into chapter 1 of my first book. Now I have six books set in that universe.
Now that is an original author beginning, to be sure.
What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
I think my characters are what make my writing different from most others in the zombie genre. My heroine is 104, and depends on others for the basics such as finding food, helping her walk around, and of course she needs help getting away from the zombie hordes. But she is also intelligent, has a different worldview than her great-grandson—her helper, and shows that anyone at any age can contribute to human problems.
What’s the basic plot of Since the Sirens?
104-year-old Marty wakes up to find zombies have invaded her neighborhood. Her great-grandson, Liam, helps her through the dying city, on the way to his parents house out in the suburbs. They make enemies and allies in those first days on the road, which have repercussions throughout the six-book series, and beyond. Ultimately, the books are about family—which is how I pay homage to my own grandmother.
An unusual, but touching tribute.
Which scene from the book do you like best and why?
I don’t want to give anything away, because my favorite scene is an integral piece of one of the books. My teen boy innocently asks the pretty teen girl he fancies if she needs anything, now that they are traveling together in the Zombie Apocalypse. The answer she gives him is something he can’t get, but he secretly spends the entire book looking for it. When he finally finds the item, and gives it to her, it brings a smile to my face every time I read it. I feel like so much of life as a teenaged boy was doing things to impress a girl, or to be noticed by a girl, or do something nice for a girl. My books don’t delve into romance per se, but it does have two teens as leads…and they sometimes do crazy stuff for each other.
Have you used any real events or places as inspiration for your writing?
My first six books take place in and near St. Louis, Missouri. I grew up in St. Louis, so I know all the locations I use in my stories. I think this gives them an extra layer of depth that maybe I wouldn’t get if they were set somewhere else. It also gives lots to discuss on family adventures around town. “Hey, that would make a good place to hide from zombies! Let’s check it out.”
Haha. That sounds like a fun game.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I’m in my mid-40’s. I’ve had lots of jobs in IT and website administration. After about twenty years in that space I felt I needed something new to inspire me. Oh, I was also laid off about a year ago. That’s when I really sat down and started cranking out books. I still do some freelance stuff in web design, but my passion right now is for writing novels. I’m borderline making enough money to consider this my full time job, but I’d like a few more books under my belt before I decide if I can make this my career.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?
Don’t ever be one of those people who say “I should write a book someday,” but never do. If you should write a book, you are the kind of person who can write a book. Play with ideas. Write snippets of dialogue. Give up some TV or Candy Crush time and focus on building your world. Write because you enjoy it. Writing is like any other hobby when you first start: you get better at it as you do it more often.
Great advice, thanks.
What’s your writing routine?
On a normal day, when my wife is watching the kids or they’re in school, I sit down at 8am and write mostly non-stop until 5pm. I’ve been known to key in 5000 words per day, and a few times when I’m in the zone I’ve hit 10,000 words per day. My books are about 90,000 words each. For me, the keys are pretty simple; have a good grasp of the world in which I’m writing, have a clear outline of how the action will unfold, and remove all distractions, including the internet. I wrote MUCH less when I was working full time, but I still managed to write my first book in one month as part of the 2014 NaNoWriMo event, which happens every year. Clearing the distractions is so important whether you’re writing for 15 minutes, or 15 hours. I find that if it’s just me and my world in a quiet room, the words will flow.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
I commissioned the artwork for all 6 of my books. I wanted the tornado sirens to be a prominent part of every cover, which my designer hit perfectly. Each cover cost me less than $200, and it was worth every nickel. It’s hard to say there’s any immutable rules about publishing a successful book, but having an appropriate cover for your genre is right at the tippy top of the success pyramid. A great story with a lousy cover is going to sell lousy. That’s just the world we live in.
Favourite food: Arby’s cherry turnovers.
Silliest saying: Thank the lard, for good taste. (you have to be from the upper MidWest to really appreciate this prayer. This is the area where 44 is pronounced “farty far.”)
Best holiday spot: Moab, Utah.
Favourite song at the moment: School of Seven Bells – I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Lord of the Rings.
Best superpower: Super Intelligence.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Become full-time author.
Oh my Lard! Thanks E.E. Isherwood for sharing the thoughts behind your zombie writing. It’s been a lot of fun.
Interviewed by Kasper Beaumont, author of the Hunters of Reloria fantasy series. www.huntersofreloria.weebly.com
*** E.E.’s Links ***
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