Steven Ramirez was kind enough to stop by and talk about his new zombie horror novel, Tell Me When I’m Dead.
So, Steven, Tell Me When I’m Dead is not your everyday zombie novel. There’s something quite special about it. Do you think it has anything to do with your previous experience regarding script writing?
Actually, it has everything to do with screenwriting. I wrote my first novel many years ago, and I tried to go the “literary” route. You know, spending a lot of time inside the protagonist’s head and all that. I’ve always adored movies, and when I began writing screenplays I got accustomed to the rhythm.
In movies, there are “beats” or key moments that must happen at certain times, otherwise the movie feels slow or disjointed. For my zombie novel, I tried putting those beats into the story to see if they could work. Of course, the difference is the medium. When you are watching a movie, time passes differently than when you’re reading a novel. So it remains to be seen whether I succeeded.
The other thing about movies is that they are purely visual and aural. So I used a lot of imagery and sound description to give the reader the sense that they were seeing and hearing the story unfold in their head. I hope it worked.
What was it like to go from writing movies, to short stories, to the first novel in a series?
Each of those formats requires a different approach. A screenplay cannot be directly compared to fiction because it’s really a blueprint for a movie that hasn’t been made. It’s actually quite technical, and must follow a strict set of rules, so that a page translates to roughly a minute of screen time and builds accordingly.
Short stories are different than novels because they must encapsulate an idea that can be explored in short form. Usually, you don’t introduce a lot of characters. And I like to throw in a twist at the end, leaving the reader either laughing or feeling uneasy.
Novels are fun because you can expand on an idea and get into all kinds of trouble, introducing new characters as you go, and writing big.
Whatever form I write in, my brain just goes there and I am comfortable. It’s like playing golf vs. baseball. Each requires special skills, but when you’re playing one or the other, your mind and body just go there. Okay, that’s the writer talking. I haven’t played baseball since I was a kid, and my golf game stinks. But you get the idea.
The characters in this book are simply outstanding, and the story is compelling, but just what inspired this idea? Where did it all come from?
That’s the eternal question, isn’t it? I have no idea. Okay, I can say that I had this story rattling around in my head for a few years. Originally, it was about this guy whose friend dies but is still hanging around and doing bad things—not a ghost, mind you. He’s really there. But he’s not a zombie, just a guy.
Then I read Richard Matheson’s brilliant novel, I Am Legend. Though his story is really about one man attempting to survive in a world of vampires, they could just as easily have been zombies. Then it all came together in my head, and out popped my book.
Rumors have it that there’s a sequel in the making. What can we expect for Dave in the future?
I have a pretty good idea of where I would like to take Dave, if I decide to write a sequel. Right now, I am in the middle of two unfinished novels, and I have another five or six that I want to write. Depending on how the zombie novel does, I may push out the others and start writing the sequel.
One of the major themes in Tell Me When I’m Dead is faith and, more importantly, Dave’s lack of it and how he finds it in the end. I’m not being coy here, but if there is a second book, a major theme will be about that faith being sorely tested. Also we need to learn how the outbreak started in the first place. The truth is going to be much worse than what happened in the first book.
Sounds promising. Keep us all posted. Thanks for speaking to the fans.
Something is weird in Tres Marias. Looters, paramilitary wackos, and now zombies? Dave Pulaski doesn’t want any of it. He just wants to stay sober, raise a family and live his freakin’ life. Yeah, good luck with that, Dave.
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