I remember as a young reader being confused when I read Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from Stephen King. This wasn’t horror! Although, to this day, it is still one of my favorite stories from him, as a thirteen year old I wondered if there was another Stephen King, one who didn’t scare the crap out of people.
Stephen King and Dean Koontz were Horror writers, plain and simple. Back in the day (and up until recently, with the eBook explosion) you were ‘known’ for a certain genre of books, and only guys like King and Patterson could freely jump from one genre or subgenre to the next with ease.
When I began getting serious about my writing, I wanted to be known as a Horror author. Easy enough, right? Most of my sales – as sporadic as they were – were for my Twilight Zone-ish short stories.
Then came my Zombie stories. One after another, first flash fiction. Then a couple of short stories that got accepted into anthologies. Then my extreme Zombie Highway To Hell novella, followed by the Dying Days series… suddenly I was a Zombie Author.
The most notable names in the Zombie subgenre that come to mind for me are Brian Keene (who recently posted on his blog that he’s finishing up his Zombie stories and then will stop writing them), Joe McKinney (who is one of my favorites and I’ve read some non-Zombie work from him, but right now to most readers he is a Zombie Author), and then authors like Mark Tufo and Ian Woodhead. There are dozens more, authors who keep putting out books, novellas, shorts and flash ficton Zombie stories and have amassed a following, large or small.
I’ve managed to do that as well. There is a small but loyal following that gets excited when another of my Dying Days pieces are released, and fan-mail asking about the next book or story is pretty damn awesome to get!
The problem? This week I started writing a Steampunk story. It’s an idea I’ve had in my head for a long time, and I decided to take a break one afternoon when the Dying Days 2 book was kicking my ass and just write it.
So far I love it. I love the fact that I don’t have to hide the main characters away lest they be eaten or that they can roam and shop and sight-see and interact without the end of the world so close at hand. It’s fun to write and a bit different from what I’ve been writing for over a year.
I also have a traditional Horror novel, Chelsea Avenue, that I’m doing a rewrite on very soon. That involves fire, elemental demons, small-town hysteria and plenty of killing. Again, no Zombies.
I looked over the bookshelves I have near me and read through the authors and immediately certain subgenres of Horror came to mind for each of them, even though when I took a hard look most of them wrote other things besides, say Jeff Strand and his Humor Horror or whatever you want to call it.
Will I be upset if I’m known the world over as a Zombie Author? Not really. I love the subgenre and love to read and write in it. My fear would be to start to roll with my career but everyone ignores my non-Zombie books.
Case in point: one of the best stories I’ve ever written is Death Metal, yet my sales are sluggish at best. Looking at my real numbers over the two years its been out, it is so far down the sales list it’s depressing.
Why? Is it because it’s more of a stand-alone story, with no sequel (although I do have an idea or three), no tie-in to other stories, and no easy classification? It was originally ‘marketed’ as Urban Horror, although I don’t really know what that means. I prefer Horror, although there isn’t a ghost in it, no monster or creature, no paranormal entity. Just a guy trying to hide his past, kidnapping, drugs, violence, more drugs, more violence, heavy metal music, and, um, drug use. Trust me, it reads better than what I said about it.
2012 should be interesting for me as a author. There will be at least two more Zombie offerings, coming very soon: Dying Days 2 and Still Dying: Scenes From Dying Days (oh, and a film version of Dying Days that will be filmed down here in Florida)… a series of Steampunk short stories and perhaps a novella, which might lead into an actual novel… the aforementioned Chelsea Avenue Horror novel… a continuation of my non-fiction heavy metal Metal Queens Monthly…
And hopefully anything else I want to write, and hope that fans will respond… as long as people don’t get confused as say ‘Steampunk? Where the Hell are the Zombies?’ I’ll be happy…