Category: zombies

Theo… or Why I Love Zombies

deviance, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, paranormal, writing life, zombies January 24, 2014

I’ve had some fun questions from readers about Theo… where the idea came from and how I got the zombie thing under my skin. I’m a mystery writer at heart, really, so the crime fiction angle comes from my science roots and years of snitching my father’s true crime books. My love of zombies is something else, and relaying this requires a look at religion, at pop culture, and my very favorite of all subjects to study… DEVIANCE.

magic-island-photo-2bFirst and foremost, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of zombies. I’m sure this comes from studying religions and the social implications of religion in general. It’s incredible to me that someone can be so immersed in a religious belief that the power of suggestion alone is enough to make them believe another human being has control of them. I’m planning another blog post on the Haitian zombie phenomena so I won’t go into detail about it, but to carry that kind of faith is both amazing and terrifying.

I took a class in college called “Deviance and Social Control.” We studied some subversive cultures like motorcycle gangs and religious cults, and the differences in how one defines deviance both within and without these subcultures. Fascinating stuff. In my own teaching module on deviance in popular fiction, I offer up the idea that in order to truly build a society in fiction, a writer has to study what their society considers deviant. When I took a look at the Haitian voodoo model, the zombie myth really stands out as deviant.

So within this subculture (Haitian, and to some extent, Creole, voodoo) we have another smaller section of believers who include zombies, botGilgameshCover420h the existence of and the act of transforming others into slaves. Western culture considers voodoo to be deviant (this definition of deviant does not necessarily mean wrong, but rather simply violating agreed-upon social norms), and the zombie is even a step further. So combine my love of religious study and deviance and BAM! There’s the zombie.

Popular culture has long been fascinated with zombies, and the first well-known Western example of this is obviously in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. But there are references to flesh-eating dead as far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Our fascination with zombies in one form or another has been around for centuries.

And while deviance can take many, many forms, is there really anything more deviant than the dead rising to consume the living? NO FREAKING WAY.

I love what pop culture has done with the zombie recently, with a few notable exceptions. I love The Walking Dead, both the TV show and the graphic novel. I love Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I love Joe McKinney’s Dead City and Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin. Wonderful stories with tension and danger. But I also love the Haitian zombie, the one under someone else’s control, used as a slave. Theo was born from my love of the zombies of Voudon. Theo’s under the strict control of societal expectations. He wants to be deviant, all the zombies in Habeas Corpse do, but society controls them as surely as the voudon master controls her minions.

HABEAS CORPSE release party and zombie swag!

Habeas Corpse, release, zombies October 31, 2013

Hey everyone!

The release date is so close I can taste it! Or maybe it’s the Twix I just snitched out of the candy jar… but no matter! We’re only two days away from Theo’s Book Birthday!

I have a Facebook author page HERE. Go give me a like, if you would please, and then check out the HABEAS CORPSE RELEASE PARTY Facebook Event HERE. Click to join the event, then come and visit me on Saturday, November 2 (release day!!). Leave me a comment or a question (which I promise to answer) and you will be entered to win one of six great prize boxes, like this one:

That snuggly little neuron is waiting for a squeeze!

That snuggly little neuron is waiting for a squeeze!


I can’t wait to share the day with you and finally see Theo out in the world. Poor zombie. He hates attention. Let’s torment him!

Special pre-release sale and pre-orders!

editors, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, marketing, publishing, reading, release, SHU WPF, zombies October 23, 2013

I started to type the title of this post as BIG NEWS! HUGE NEWS! and then realized that I *might* want to retain a smidge of dignity.

I don’t know why, because I am truly excited for you to finally meet Theo!

First thing, here’s the cover in its entirety… and seriously, Mike Arnzen wrote the most awesome blurb ever.

Habeas Corpse final cover

Here’s the whole blurb:

“Dexter meets Deadite in Nikki Hopeman’s HABEAS CORPSE — and what a treat this novel is. It’s rare that a debut novel can reignite a subgenre, but Nikki Hopeman’s book just might be the most clever zombie story to hit the shelves in quite some time. Hopeman writes a book with brains, in every way:  fun and funny, gory and glorious, this witty tale of an undead ‘Riser’ who bends his unique talents toward investigating crime has single-handedly resurrected my interest in brain-sucking freaks.  Such a clever premise.  I can’t wait to read her next one… but till then I think I’ll happily just read this one again!” — Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Play Dead.

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Arnzen at Seton Hill, and he’s amazingly talented and a really wonderful teacher. I was floored by the blurb and am humbled.

So, on to business!

Habeas Corpse is available at a special pre-release price of $2.99 for the Kindle only for a few days. Get yours here. You can also preorder the paperback edition here.

This has been such an incredible journey for me. I owe a huge shout-out to RJ Cavender, who helped make the book what it is and Marc Ciccarone and Joe Spagnola of Blood Bound Books for seeing the potential in Habeas Corpse. They’ve been so great to work with.

And now it’s up to you, my lovely readers. I hope you love Theo in all his zombie dorkiness as much as I do.

Tagged again! Questions about Habeas Corpse

publishing, writing life, zombies November 30, 2012

The excellent writer Kristin Dearborn tagged me in another round of blog questions. Kristin’s book Trinity is available right now from DarkFuse. Go get one!

Each week an author provides his or her answers to the ten questions below and then tags five additional writers, each of whom answers the questions on the subsequent Wednesday (I’m early, since I have a busy few days ahead of me), again tagging five writers, and so on.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

I’m currently working on the final edits of my novel Habeas Corpse, and I’m writing the first draft of the next book in my Corpse series, Edas Corpse. Since Habeas Corpse is the first in the series and will be published first, we’ll take a look at it in this post.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

This novel actually started as a short story. I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and Dexter. I also love Richard Matheson’s “The Funeral,” particularly the humor elements. The original short story featuring my zombie, Theo Walker, also included vampires and ghosts and was a humorous take on what a police force might be like if it included the undead. After a few of my beta readers took a look at the short story, they told me the idea had novel potential, so I revised my idea into what is now Habeas Corpse.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

I’ve struggled with this question for quite awhile now. This novel has elements of horror, humor, and mystery. It just didn’t fit into any one genre. I had no idea how best to market this story, so I actually am working with a professional editor to help me refine the story enough to classify it. Now I can pretty comfortably call it a horror novel. There’s a great deal of dark humor and, yes, zombie gore.

My vision of Theo... just make his complexion a little grayer.

My vision of Theo… just make his complexion a little grayer.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, geez. This is fun, because I tend to find pictures of my characters online to help me have a clear picture of what they look like. I find it helps me with consistency– no blue eyes turning brown halfway through the novel. The actor who I chose to help me with Theo is James McAvoy, in his rumpled, geeky glory. Detective Gavahan is played by Goran Visnjic, no doubt. Marjorie Frey would be played by Zhang Ziyi and Kaley Cuoco would play Shelby.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Zombie Theo Walker is a forensic technician with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police… and the evidence is tempting.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

At this point in my career, I’m not an advocate of self-publishing. I have a feeling Habeas Corpse will be published by a small press.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I started the novel version of Habeas Corpse in May, 2011 and had a completed first draft by the end of the year. It was a really rough draft, though, and I went through a lot of revisions. I’d say I had a first decent draft done by March, 2012.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hate making comparisons, but I’ve been told Habeas Corpse is kind of a mash-up of The Walking Dead, Dexter, CSI, and True Blood. I can’t get a bigger compliment than that. I think the Dexter comparison, more the books than the show, is probably closest.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Like I mentioned above, Matheson’s “The Funeral” definitely sparked this story for me. I love the combination of different characters in the short story. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter rolled together with the zombie mythos intrigued me. What if Dexter’s Dark Passenger wasn’t a secret? What if it was something he struggled with everyday and everyone expected him to make a stupid move? What would it be like to live under the pressure of scrutiny just because of what you are? I’m also a science nut, which definitely comes into play here.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Habeas Corpse is set twelve years post-zombie apocalypse. There’s a bit of social commentary in the story concerning zombie rights, since they’re integrating into society. The world is a different place. It’s also set in the great city of Pittsburgh, so anyone with a soft spot for the Steel City will appreciate the details. My science background was of use in Habeas Corpse, and much of the forensic information is as accurate as I could figure. I actually met Dr. Cyril Wecht while I was working revisions, and he’s the inspiration for Dr. Libitin.

So who’s up next? I’m going to tag Ann Kopchik, Jenn Loring, Patricia Lillie, Carla Anderton, and Natalie Duvall.

Brains and entrails and spoons, oh my…

genre fiction, research, zombies November 28, 2012

Zombies. Shamblers, moaners, walkers, undead, the risen, biters, crawlers, uglies. Mindless masses of once living humans craving human flesh.

Whatever you want to call them, they’re terrifying. Death by zombie isn’t pretty, what with the gnawing and the gnashing of teeth. Having one’s brains scooped from his or her skull and chowed upon doesn’t sound like the most peaceful way to slip into the hereafter.

No one wants to become a zombie, either. The idea of wandering the planet restlessly searching for my next meal isn’t exactly appealing. Depending on the type of zombie and the writer’s preferences, there is a question of whether or not the zombie is aware of their predicament. Is the soul of the person still behind the decaying face, unable to control his or her movements and base desires?

These are the questions we are faced with when the walkers come knocking. Nothing about zombies is pleasant, including their actions and the manner in which they feed. Is it fair to downplay the violence associated with zombies? When we, as readers, are confronted with something as horrifying as the walking dead, is the writer somehow obligated to domesticate the monsters? Or do readers of zombie fiction prefer the full experience, the visceral terror and grotesque details of the legend?

My novel, Habeas Corpse, is the story of a zombie who is trying to reintegrate into a post-apocalyptic society. Theo Walker discovers he can relive the last moments of a dead person’s life when he consumes their gray matter. Eating human flesh is the only way the zombies in my novel can feel emotions or experience chemical sensations, like sexual pleasure or anxiety.

If you look at the classic zombie movie, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the violence is understated. The audience was very different then. These were people accustomed to I Love Lucy, Gomer Pyle, and Gunsmoke. Fast forward to today, and we’ve got movies like Zombieland, The Dead, and the upcoming film adaptation of World War Z. Even movies meant to be comedic like Shaun of the Dead, and YA novels like Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series incorporate more violence and gore than ever before. The modern zombie connoisseur cuts his teeth on The Walking Dead, and if you’ve been watching that over the last few episodes, you know what gore is all about.

Does the modern zombie reader want to return to the homogenized, nonviolent zombie of Romero’s time? I don’t think so. Today’s zombies fans want realism. They don’t want the story sugarcoated or dumbed down. In fact, most zombie fans expect a healthy dose of gore and complain if they don’t get it. Fans of the TV version of The Walking Dead did just that after a season of what they saw as too little action and too much sitting around the farm. This season reflects the fans desire for more zombie killing, blood, death, and the struggle for survival, not just avoiding the walkers.

In Habeas Corpse, Theo depends on ingesting human flesh in order to feel emotion and experience stimulation. Eating the flesh is more than opening his mouth and inserting the food for Theo; the act of eating heightens his senses and brings him closer to the state of humanity he’s lost since dying. It’s a “whole” experience for him. The sensual nature of savoring the entire experience is essential to understand his motivation. The story would not be as effective without the graphic descriptions of the consumption of human flesh.

Leave me a comment. Do zombie fans expect or even want gore? Or should zombie stories be homogenized to fit a larger audience?

Happy Thanksgiving!

zombies November 22, 2012

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday (at least those of us in the States or Americans celebrating elsewhere)!

I also hope your turkey decides to stay dead! Gobble brains… gobble brains…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!