Q & A with the author of “The Zombie Doctor” Frederick S. Blackmon

What inspired you to write this novel?

I used to like watching AMC’s The Walking Dead. I was a big fan until recently. I think the series writers just became way too emotionally-manipulative and obvious with their writing conventions. So, I decided to start my own zombie story. It was a lot of fun!

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

My writing style depends on the story that I’m trying to tell. In the case of The Zombie Doctor I chose a writing style that was visceral, descriptive and fast-paced. I knew that this wasn’t a mainstream literary novel. It was more like pulp fiction. And the genre is horror/suspense so I needed to use lots of descriptive language to put the reader on edge. I’m not sure if it’s different from other writers. I just know that I don’t follow the rules. I just try to concentrate on telling a good story.

Does this novel carry a message?

Absolutely, there is a message within The Zombie Doctor. I think all stories about a zombie apocalypse are trying to tell us something about the nature of our society. My message is that we tend to give life to our worst fears and nightmares. Yet, why?

Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?

I sometimes use my own habits, failings, and charms with my characters. Mostly, I craft them as mixtures of all the people and personalities that I like and dislike. That’s part of the fun of writing! Sometimes, my characters have the opposite habits and opinions. So, it’s a chance to be someone else for a moment.

Who is your favorite character from The Zombie Doctor?

My favorite character from the book is actually one of the zombies. It’s a character named Quincy who Dr. Greene finds in a rundown bar. She keeps coming back to this bar to recharge her batteries so to speak and she has conversations with Quincy while she’s there. He’s like her own pet zombie.

Did you have a set plot or prefer going wherever an idea took you?

The general ideas and the characters come first. I always work from an outline eventually though. The Zombie Doctor started with the opening scene where Dr. Kayla Greene is walking alone on a barren highway. Somehow, I’m able to see the potential of the entire story from that opening scene. Then, I just start crafting an outline and just plug away at it, scene by scene. It’s a battle, but I think I won.

Do you reply back to your fans and admirers personally?

I am absolutely approachable and I try to reply to everyone who reaches out to me. I don’t think I have fans and admirers yet, but I like to stay connected to my readers. I have always been a very social person, so my books are a great way for me to engage with other people.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

I definitely listen and take into account what my readers are saying about my work. I used to hate criticism and still sometimes people tell me that I don’t take criticism well. It’s something that I struggle with daily. Yet, I’m always evolving as a writer. If a bad review feels genuine and constructive then I will always take it to heart.

What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?

My advice to aspiring writers is to read a lot. Read lots of books and get the language and style into your sub-conscious. You’re gonna want to develop an intuition for what feels right in a book. Then, I’d suggest that you get organised. Make character sketches. Do the outlines. I know it’s the boring stuff, but it will help you when you’re stuck midway through the process. Ultimately, my advice is just to persevere. Don’t listen to negativity or accept rejection. Just keep writing for your own enjoyment and eventually others will share in that joy.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I have had periods of writer’s block. It’s very frustrating for a professional writer because the world won’t wait for you to figure it out. I’ve got commitments. I’ve got deadlines. I’ve had bouts that lasted for days, some that lasted for years.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

You’ve just got to get back in the saddle. I’ve put aside books and just started writing other things. The Zombie Doctor actually helped me break out of a writer’s block because I was struggling with a mainstream literary novel called Blood for Karen. It was such a serious, intense writing experience that it just drained me. So, I chose to write something fun and entertaining. That’s how I got The Zombie Doctor. 

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The most important thing about a book is how it makes you feel. The worst thing a book can do is leave you unaffected. A good book impacts the writer. It impacts the reader. Either it was just a good read that left you feeling entertained, or it hit you deep in your soul and you’ll never be the same. Both reactions are suitable. You’ve just got to feel something after you read a book.

What do you want people to feel after they read The Zombie Doctor?

I want people to feel like that was fun to read. (laughs) I have some serious books that I’ve written and most of my fun material never sees the light of day. Here is a fun, scary, entertaining book that you can enjoy anytime and anywhere. It doesn’t have to always be earth-shattering literature. Read this book because it’s fun.

Is this a standalone novel or a series?

When I first started writing The Zombie Doctor I thought it was just a single story that would serve as an appetiser until the next season of The Walking Dead started on AMC. It was the characters though; they demanded more time. So, I followed them. There will definitely be more books in The Zombie Doctor series. Who knows? Maybe even this will be the next zombie series on TV.

Is writing a book series more challenging?

I would say it’s easier than writing a standalone novel. Most authors will probably agree with me. Take Game of Thrones for example. George R. R. Martin is a brilliant writer, but he doesn’t know how to end the story, so it just goes on and on. It’s actually a weakness that I share. Just about all my stories are a series. It’s because I’ve developed a passion for these characters and the world they live in. I can’t let them go completely. I really respect authors who know how to create a great ending. It is probably the most under-rated quality of fiction writing.

Who do you read? Are there any authors that you follow or greatly admire?

I am a big fan of Aldous Huxley and Alexander Dumas. Those are my classic heroes. Brave New World and The Count of Monte Cristo are my favorite books. I’ve read them both dozens of times. I also read a lot of Stephen King and Michael Crichton. I’m very critical of my heroes though because I always read their work with a mind to write better than them. I wish they were my rivals, but they’re on another plateau really.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

I am terrible at working outside jobs. I either get fired or I quit after a few months. (laughs) But I have found a sense of satisfaction from working as a self-employed copywriter. I write articles all day long for a long list of clients. I enjoy it because I get to write about things that interest me like cars, coffee, fitness and technology. And I can’t quit or get fired. (laughs)

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

I don’t think it gets in the way of my writing. Well, for one thing, I am writing for a living so I’m always working with my craft. It’s different though. I’m not writing stories. Yet, I find that it’s good to get away from the novels for a bit and I’ve had less occurrences of writer’s block because that pressure isn’t there, you know. I have something. I have a job. If The Zombie Doctor doesn’t sell a million copies my family will still be fine.

Are you satisfied with your success?

I don’t think that I am all that successful actually. I’m a very ambitious person and I have yet to achieve the level of success that I’ve wanted from the time I was a child. I suppose I am successful though because I am a professional writer and I can largely write whatever I want. The flag keeps getting pushed further and further up the mountain though. There was a time when I just wanted to publish a book. Then, I wanted to have a publishing company. So, success should never be fully obtained.

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give your former self?

I would go back and tell myself to stop messing around and do good in school. Stop chasing girls and trying to be some damn cool. Just focus and do good. (laughs) I don’t think I would have listened to myself at all.

Subscribe to our book recommendations