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Interview with V.M. Zito and Giveaway - April 30, 2012

Please welcome V. M. Zito to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Return Man was published on  April 1, 2012. You may read V.M. Zito's Guest Blog - Logic for Dead People - here.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

V.M.:  I probably shouldn't admit to this. Last December while I was writing THE RETURN MAN, I'd watch Christmas specials every night with my daughter, and a song from an old Rankin Bass show lodged in my head: "Put One Foot in Front of the Other," sung by cute claymation characters. Somehow its lyrics became my anthem for writing a novel. It's about taking things a little bit at a time, how small steps help us cross vast distances and achieve seemingly Herculean tasks. At night as I'd sit down at my desk to write, feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of pages ahead of me, I'd sing this song. If you're looking for some quirky inspiration, search it on YouTube.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

V.M.:  My list of favorites is so long that you might wonder if I understand what the word "favorite" means, since I seem to include everyone. I'll give you a shortened version: Ray Bradbury, John Banville, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Paul Auster, Shirley Jackson, William Styron, Jack Ketchum. In terms of influence, I think I've absorbed a healthy dose of Jack Ketchum into my story-telling, with a few dashes of Bentley Little, David Morrell and Ray Bradbury, too.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

V.M.:  I consider myself more of a plotter. For me, writing a novel is like a long road trip. Before I begin, I unfold the map and plan out my major stops along the way --- all the important plot points and decisions awaiting the characters. But what happens between Points A, B and C isn't really predetermined. I try to just let those smaller moments, like character thoughts and reactions, occur organically. Unexpected ideas inevitably pop up like hitchhikers, and sometimes I pull over to pick them up. Or at least slow down for a closer look before I speed away terrified.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

For me, it's the constant challenge to my self-esteem, the temptation to judge myself too harshly and compare myself unfairly to other (better) writers. Did I mention I'm an insecure mess?

TQ:  Describe The Return Man in 140 characters or less.

V.M.:  Post-apocalypse. Is your wife/husband a zombie? Hire Marco to end their misery. Oh no! Gov’t sends Marco on suicide mission. Wu! Corpses!

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Return Man?

V.M.:  THE RETURN MAN began with idle daydreaming about what it would be like to survive a zombie apocalypse --- but what if my family didn't? How would that feel, knowing that my wife or child was out there somewhere as a tortured zombie? That emotional twist interested me, and I wanted to write a zombie story that I hadn't seen before.

As a long-time zombie fan, I have very defined tastes when it comes to what I enjoy in zombie stories (and what I don't). So while I wanted to be different, I also wanted to adhere to the classic zombie mythos, avoiding the pitfalls of avant-garde zombie novels that inadvertently squelch the basic enjoyment of good ol' zombie horror.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Return Man?

V.M.:  Most of my research focused on the Arizona setting --- the landscape, the animals and plants, the general vibe of being in the desert. The science was a big part, too. I debated all sorts of diseases and pathogens before choosing my "culprit" for the zombie outbreak, and then I read articles in science journals for clues to possible treatments. The most surprising amount of research was actually needed for the Sunset Limited train that plays heavily in the story. I searched train aficionado websites, digging for information and routes, trying to get the details right.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

V.M.:  I enjoyed the character Wu --- ostensibly the "bad guy" but really more of a sympathetic foil to the main character Marco. The chapters told from Wu's viewpoint were the most fun to write; I liked exploring his side of the story, understanding him as a man. But he was also the hardest, since he comes from a foreign culture; entering his mind required a greater shift in thinking, as well as greater attention to details of life in China. (More research!)

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Return Man?

V.M.:  My favorite scene comes near the end, and I can't think of a way to comment on it without spoilers! So... my second favorite scene comes in the middle, a quiet moment in a church between Marco and Wu, in which we gain some insight into each man's personal theology.

TQ:  What's next?

V.M.:  Another novel, I hope! I'm just breaking ground on a new idea, a supernatural/dark fantasy set in the spooky backwoods of Vermont. No bloody zombies, but there will definitely be maple syrup.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

V.M.:  And thank you very much for having me! I hope everyone enjoys THE RETURN MAN, and I'd love to hear from you. Visit TheReturnMan.com and feel free to send me a note any time!


About The Return Man

The Return Man
V.M. Zito
Orbit, April 1, 2012
Premium Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages


Interview with V.M. Zito and Giveaway - April 30, 2012
The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.


About V. M. Zito

Interview with V.M. Zito and Giveaway - April 30, 2012
V. M. Zito resides in Connecticut, USA with his wife and daughter. When not writing, he spends his weekdays working as Creative Director at a New England ad agency and his weekends running on trails. THE RETURN MAN is his first novel.


V.M.'s Links

TheReturnMan.com
Facebook.com/TheReturnMan





The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of The Return Man from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Favorite novel, movie or TV show featuring zombies?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Monday, May 7, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog by V.M. Zito - Logic for Dead People

Please welcome V.M. Zito to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Return Man was published on April 1, 2012 by Orbit.


Logic for Dead People

I love comic books. And to love comic books, sometimes you have to throw real-world logic out the window. A megadose of gamma rays turns Bruce Banner into the Hulk? A cosmic space storm transforms four astronauts into the Fantastic Four? A radioactive spider-bite mutates Peter Parker into Spider-Man? Err... umm... sure, why not. In reality, they'd all die of horrible cancers and radiation poisoning. But on the comic page, we just accept it and move on. Don't ask too many questions, or else the entire concept crumbles. And what fun is that?

It's a lot like 'suspension of disbelief' -- the mental state necessary to enjoy fiction as a reader -- except it goes further, asking us to jump even wider gaps in believability.

I call this 'Comic Book Logic.' And I think it applies to zombies, too.

I realize this might be hard to accept. We live in an era of vast knowledge, constantly expanding our understanding of life, technology and the universe; even last month, scientists came closer to pinpointing the ever-elusive 'God particle' in subatomic physics. We crave answers. We want to take it all apart and see how shit works, because we're certain it's better to know.

In college, I was a biology major (although I never finished the degree); even today I'm still fascinated by the cogs and wheels that make life function. So you might think I'd be pretty eager to know exactly how a zombie works. I mean, we're talking about a dead body that gets up and walks around and tries to kill us. For that to be possible, a few things have to happen...

For example, which biological systems are still ticking below the clammy grey skin? Does the heart beat? If not, how do the muscles get energy without a steady blood supply? Does a zombie digest the people it eats? Does it poop? I have never seen a pile of zombie poop.

See what I mean? The more questions you ask, the more that follow, to the point of distraction. The trend today in zombie entertainment is to offer answers -- pseudo-scientific explanations that sound plausible enough, at least until you ask the next question -- but be careful. Comic books went through a similar stage in the 80s, when writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller enforced 'reality rules' on their superhero characters and in the process almost killed them. Comic artist David Mazzuchelli said it this way: 'Once a depiction veers toward realism, each new detail releases a torrent of questions that expose the absurdity at the heart of the genre. The more "realistic" superheroes become, the less believable they are. It's a delicate balance...'

George Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, launched the zombie apocalypse with Comic Book Logic, hinting that radiation (the Silver Age comic's greatest plot device!) from an exploding space probe may have caused the dead to rise. But even George realized that no explanation could possibly withstand the scrutiny of science, and in his follow-up Dawn of the Dead, he transcends logic entirely by issuing my favorite proclamation of all time:

'When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.'

Shazam! Theology trumps science. The zombie apocalypse is God's plan. Zombies can walk because God freakin' wants them to, okay? And to make sure we get the point, in Day of the Dead Romero explains that maybe God 'just wanted to show us he's still the Boss Man.'

In my novel THE RETURN MAN, I tip-toe to the edge of the 'scientific answer.' I couldn't resist; my inner biology student was curious, and the main character Henry Marco is a neurologist who would naturally be interested, too. But I also took George's advice to heart and backed off before taking a full flying leap to a conclusion. Ultimately, the only explanation for our beloved flesh-eating zombies is either an inscrutable God... or good old Comic Book Logic.

Which do you believe in?


The Return Man
V.M. Zito
Orbit, April 1, 2012
Premium Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.





About V. M. Zito

V. M. Zito resides in Connecticut, USA with his wife and daughter. When not writing, he spends his weekdays working as Creative Director at a New England ad agency and his weekends running on trails. THE RETURN MAN is his first novel.


V.M.'s Links

TheReturnMan.com
Facebook.com/TheReturnMan
Interview with V.M. Zito and Giveaway - April 30, 2012Guest Blog by V.M. Zito -  Logic for Dead People

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