Our interview today is with Christopher Eger the author of Last Stand on Zombie Island which is rated 4.8 stars on 14 reviews. Before we get to the interview a brief book description: Disease-K has decimated the world leaving its victims shambling homicidal maniacs. And nestled along the warm Gulf waters sits Gulf Shores…the last outpost of civilization. With looters and thieves preying on the shocked survivors, it’s up to the retirees and bank tellers, phone repairmen and charter boat captains to put the town back together. There, in the sands and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico, the citizens of Gulf Shores along with scattered military units, a downed Air Force pilot, and a lone Coast Guard cutter form the last line of defense against the amassing horde of the infected marching its way toward the sea destroying what is left of humanity along the way. As summer gives way to the fall and the cold winds blow off the sea, Gulf Shores draws the line and prepares to make the… The Last Stand on Zombie Island!
Interview with Christopher Eger
1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story? Last Stand on Zombie Island is (as far as I can tell) the first novel of any sort set in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Gulf Shores is well known throughout the Southeast as a tourist destination. It also, as it turns out, is pretty much isolated from the rest of the country due to geography, has a large and self-reliant charter boat fishing fleet, and a history of surviving everything that fate can throw at it. It is as if Gulf Shores is built for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.
2. What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader? At its core, it’s a basic story of a family, and by extension, the community it’s attached to, trying to cope in a pretty surreal environment.
3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know? The principal characters are very real and believable. One of the primary heroes, Billy Harris, is a 30+ year old charter boat captain and single father of two is just trying to keep his family together in a situation he can’t control. I think everyone finds themselves there at one point in their life. Every one of the characters in the book is the same way. They are average everyday people with their own list of regular problems. They hate their jobs. They have four bald tires. Their daughter is growing up too fast. But now they have to worry about a horde of undead freaks that could contain many of their former neighbors on top of that.
4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes? You see believable character growth. For instance there is a young boy in the novel who before the outbreak, was barely trusted to stay up after 9pm. This same young boy winds up heroically saving the day in a totally selfless act that any adult would have a hard choice making. When you are faced with the extinction of your civilization and species as a whole, your thought processes self-modify pretty fast.
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s worldview? When I was a kid, I grew up watching Night of the Living Dead in black and white on a desktop TV in my bedroom. Now take in mind I was a horror film junkie. I had seen everything from Frankenstein to the Wolfman to Dracula and everything in-between. The thing is, those monster movies did not scare me because I knew they were not real. However, Night of the Living Dead kept me awake at night. The monsters that shambled across the screen were us, just a different form, with no rhyme or reason, and that was terrifying.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before? Without giving away too many spoilers, several scenes in the book were hard to write. There is a character that I grew very attached to while writing the book. I favored him in scenes because I liked the guy. Truthfully, I think I had a little man-crush on him. Then when I had to kill him off, I cried all the way through that chapter. There were also scenes where kids are in danger and parents can’t help them, can’t find them. That made me want to hug my own real life kids and tell them I love them. The world is a funny place.
7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else? I have visited Gulf Shores off and on for more than 30 years and literally grew up there in many ways. There is only one main bridge off the manmade island there and as I drove over it, I looked back and thought to myself, “Now this place would be safe in a global pandemic if it closed this bridge in time.” Don’t ask me why I thought that. Most people see a bridge to an island and they think how pretty a picture it would make on a postcard. I think about how it is a good choke point with ideal flank defense. That’s how I roll.
8. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research, which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession? I hate when I read something that is just incorrect or outright wrong. It kills a story for me. Therefore, to avoid the same thing happening to my readers I went on a quest to write a well-researched novel. On the outset of it you would think, how would you really research a zombie novel? Let me tell you, it’s a task. I have a background that is diverse, ranging from telecommunications to law enforcement and that helped a lot. I am on the staff of both a military magazine a sport-fishing magazine and this exposure helped with aspects of the story.
Nevertheless, there were things I didn’t know about so I went looking for the answers. I devoured books on any subject I though even remotely related to anything in my book. I went to Emergency management meetings to get a feel for how they run. For a question about how GPS networks work, I consulted with an Air Force GPS expert in Space Command. I spoke with disabled veterans, as one of the characters was a wounded warrior. I hung out with a National Guard MP company just back from Iraq to get a feeling of who they really were. The most eye-opening research I did was with the Coast Guard. Part of the book is set on a Coast Guard cutter so I went out on a patrol with a cutter of the same type in my book and really paid attention. I drove those kids crazy with thousands of questions but as I watched them work, I realized they were total professionals and forgot more about the coast guard than I could ever impart in a thousand books.
9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder, an outliner, or some other method? I used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method and it really worked for me. In addition, I took time out to write every day, even if it was just 15-minutes to read over stuff that I had written before to see how I could fix it. Finally as I got to where I now jokingly refer to as my first finished draft, I hounded any friend of mine that could read to be get their opinion on it. That led to some serious rewriting. Overall, it took me about 18 months from the time I drove over the bridge and had that thought to sending out drafts to publishers. That was with working a full-time job and being on the staffs of four magazines and an online journal.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet? Blackberry! You would be amazed how much of my novel I wrote on my blackberry when the inspiration hit me. I could be standing in the checkout line for five minutes and bang out a paragraph. I could be sitting eating my lunch and tap two or three pages into life. I could be stopped waiting to pick up someone and get hit my inspiration that I summed up in a sentence that I saved and later turned into a chapter. The point is, you have to grab that time and use it.
11. Favorite book from childhood. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. It is occasionally macabre and just a tad disturbing, but I really dug it.
12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around. I think of my desk as being arranged in layers. Of course, it is not in any order of importance, or chronology, but layers nonetheless. While writing Last Stand on Zombie Island, I filled the wall of in front of my desk with dozens of inspirational photographs, charts, maps, diagrams, and other pictures of places and things in the book to immerse myself inside that world. Kind of a cocoon. I even had a zombie coffee cup.
Don’t blame me, blame George A Romero.
Get your copy of Last Stand on Zombie Island on Amazon.
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