Interview: Adam-Troy Castro

Tell us a bit about your story, “Dead Like Me.” What’s it about?

It’s a set of instructions, to a hapless protagonist, about how to survive the zombie plague by joining it.

What’s was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

The story was my attempt to get into the fabled BOOK OF THE DEAD III, then being compiled by John Skipp and Craig Spector; the tangled history of that volume being what it was, it didn’t see print until the book became MONDO ZOMBIE, by Skipp alone, a decade later.

The question that prompted it was, if Romero-zombies don’t breathe, how do they track their victims? Certainly not by scent! (Zombies smell badly in more than one sense.) If not by scent, how? If we know the method, can we fool them? And from there I got to, what will it cost?

Tell us about the protagonist of the story.

Although for obvious reasons I can’t really say so officially, and indicate it only via an oblique reference in the text, I’ve always believed the protagonist to be the weaker younger brother of Ben, the doomed lead of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. This is, again, an unofficial conceit, and just a tool I used while writing it, though advance knowledge of same will give canny readers a large number of “ah hah” moments.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

I sailed through this story, one of the best I’ve ever written. Wish it always came that easily.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

It was only personal in that I adored Romero’s universe and the first two Books of the Dead and was determined to get into the third volume somehow; in fact, I wrote a second contribution, “From Hell It Came,” the saga of a runaway zombie penis, that played the whole idea for silliness and also saw print in MONDO ZOMBIE.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I had worked in corporate America.

What is the appeal of zombie fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about zombies? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

At its best, horror tests its protagonists in ways other genres rarely manage. The zombie subgenre tests them even more, by even denying them trust in their loved ones, faith in being rescued, and even the traditional sweet release of death. It can be nothing more than an exercise in reducing human beings to ground chuck. But if it’s about who the characters are and what their struggle to survive means for the rest of us, it has a hell of an impact.

What are some of your favorite examples of zombie fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I confess that many of my favorites in the realm of short fiction are already in this anthology, but I will also mention the following movies, books and stories.

Movies: a french film called THEY CAME BACK (in which zombies don’t want to eat you, but may need to occupy your spare bedroom), the spoof films SHAUN OF THE DEAD, CEMETERY MAN, THE MAD, and DEAD ALIVE.

Books: the novels THE ORPHEUS PROCESS by Daniel H. Gower; WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks; THE RISING, CITY OF THE DEAD and DEAD SEA by Brian Keene.

Short Stories: “Eat Me” by Robert R. McCammon and “Pillar of Fire” by Ray Bradbury, and the playlet “A Plague on Both Your Houses” by Scott Edelman.

Any new work of ours just out or forthcoming you’d like to mention, or anything else you’d like to add?

My first non-media novel, EMISSARIES FROM THE DEAD (not a zombie novel, far
from it, despite the title), just saw print from Harper Collins Eos. It’s an interstellar murder mystery. I just handed in the sequel, THE THIRD CLAW OF GOD. In the meantime, you’ll soon be seeing the stand-alone novella, THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL, from Creeping Hemlock Press. That’s a nasty one.