When I first got into writing, I wanted to be a “serious” author. I never set out to be an author of zombie fiction. Of course, a very good teacher at the college level saw something in a zombie short that I wrote for her class and the rest is history so to speak.
Most of you who know me will know me because of the Zomblog series or the DEAD series. Believe me when I say this… I am so grateful for each reader. But what does a writer do when he is known primarily for scary monsters, “every-man” heroes, and sinister bad guys who roam the post-apocalyptic landscape of his (masculine pronoun being appropriate here since we are talking about me) mind? How does he carve out a new niche that will keep his core base of readers and hopefully appeal to more? After all, a writer’s goal should be to have his (or her… I can be sexually generic here since I am including all of us “writer” types) work read by the masses. Right?
When I sat down to write That Ghoul Ava, it was initially as a way to thank one of my first readers and fans. The woman I wrote this for used ‘ThatGhoulAva’ as her Twitter handle. Since she enjoys sarcastic humor and has quite the acerbic nature, I wanted Ava to be a character that she would relate to. However, I really enjoyed writing the short. As it developed in my mind, I was pretty certain that I had the makings of a very fun series if I pursued it.
Fast forward a few years and I finally decided to give Ava the time she deserved. The thing is, I am pretty sure that this series has the potential to be very successful. I made my living early in my radio days writing comedy bits for morning shows. My newest release, That Ghoul Ava & The Queen of the Zombies, is what I am billing as a horror comedy.
Comedy, while subjective, is much more “mainstream” than horror. Don’t get me wrong, I will never be able to turn my back on the walking dead. That would be like if I were the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls and tried to disown the song “I Ran” or something silly like that. However, I do believe that more of you zombie loving types will enjoy Ava. Whereas, if Ava becomes a commercial success, I don’t see as many Ava fans loving my DEAD or Zomblog books.
I guess that brings me to the point of this little semi-self-promotional missive. Can the people who love Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series be okay when he strays off the path he has beaten so well and offers you Callis Rose (a winner for me, but I have seen mixed reviews from his fan base)? I love Brian Keene’s The Rising and City of the Dead, but I have read some of his other stuff and not been as impressed. David Wellington gave us Monster Island, Nation, and Planet. Then he went on to produce his 13 Bullets tale. I thought it was mediocre, and when he came back to zombies and wrote Plague Zone, it almost felt like he was doing it begrudgingly. It lacked the punch of his previous work… he lost his zombie mojo. I have said that Armand Rosamilia’s Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun is one of my favorites. But I know he has toyed with Cthulhu-themed Lovecraftian horror. I worry about reading it based on the fact that I so love his zombie stuff.
I liken this to music. Some bands reach a zenith and break in to mainstream popularity. After they “hit the big time” it almost seems like the people who loved them when nobody else did feel slighted by anything they produce after they have their first hit. (Metallica… anybody else with me on that one? Did Enter Sandman ruin one of the best bands of my generation?)
With writers who shift to something other than what they have become “known” for, can their readers accept that change? Or is there a sense of betrayal?
As loyal readers, I do look forward to seeing what you think about this… especially since I am about to embark on just such a journey. And is it a feeling of betrayal? Abandonment? Do you think the writer is getting too big for his britches? Do you look forward to seeing if they can turn you on to something new, but in the style that you have come to love? Or… do you wait for them to come crawling back with a story that fits the mold of what you came to love about them in the first place?