Hello, ghosts and ghouls!
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview my good friend and author Zach Bohannon, and in honor of the release of Empty Bodies: Deliverance on September 1st, here it is!
Zach is the author of the Empty Bodies series, The Witness, Lines of the Devil, and many other awesome horror works. If you haven’t read his work before, I highly suggest that you do.
A little bit of my background with Zach: I actually signed up for his mailing list on his website when I found his Instagram account and I was in need of some new reading material. He was running a contest where he was giving away a copy of his book of short stories, and I won! We emailed back and forth a few times about the giveaway and his writing, and it’s history from there.
So, without further ado, my interview with Mr. Bohannon!
TK: What in particular made you want to write horror?
ZB: When I was younger, I was probably when I was 5 years old or so (and this is probably my first memory of horror), any time that Halloween or Friday the 13th came on the TV, I was terrified of it. I was extremely terrified of seeing Jason or Michael Myers; they just scared the shit out of me. I kind of think that’s where my obsession began. I gave into it and I said “I’m going to try watching these movies” and I did and I fell in love with them, especially Halloween. Halloween is probably the horror movie that’s most influential on me. Getting into horror all together. I love that movie.
What’s funny is that when I Was like 14 I tried writing my own script for a Halloween movie after H2O and what’s funny is I called it “The Resurrection of Michael Myers” and the next movie was called Resurrection.
TK: Look at that, you have a sixth sense up in there!
ZB: Later on, as a teenager I got really into heavy metal music and started playing in metal bands and my love for horror kind of just stuck. It made sense with the music I was listening to, but the 80s Slasher films were really my main influence, which is why I ended up writing The Witness because I wanted to pay tribute to that stuff so that’s why…it’s just inside me to write that stuff; I love dark stuff, I love metal-
TK: You love being scared!
ZB: Yeah, it’s all good.
TK: That was good that you mentioned The Witness…of all of the books you’ve written so far, which was your favorite to write and why?
ZB: You know, I like them all for different reasons. I don’t know if I even really have a favorite yet, to be honest with you. You know, the latest book I just did, Lines of the Devil was a lot of fun, and probably…maybe that’s my most fun book just because you know I put…that book is very cathartic. There’s a lot of personal stuff in that book. That book basically represents my 20s.
Southbound is based off a real shop that I used to hang out and get tattooed in, the venue that the main character Terry plays in, that’s a venue I actually used to play gigs at, there’s a lot of stuff…in the middle of the book there’s a dream sequence where Terry’s thinking back on a friend of his that was killed in a car accident, that whole thing was real and that’s a best friend of mine that passed away the same way, so that book was fun to write…it was hard to write at a lot of points. […]You know, being able to think about my 20s and all the time I spent playing in a band, mentioning favorite bands and stuff was a lot of fun.
The Witness was cool because I got to do a lot of crazy shit to people.
TK: Yeah, everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing to someone you were allowed to put in that book and no one questioned it.
ZB: But the more I sit here and talk, the more I think the most fun book to write was probably Empty Bodies because it happened very naturally, it was gonna be a short story but it all of a sudden became a lot more than that because I had so much fun with it, it’s also the book I plotted out the most. So that book, I actually wrote what every chapter was going to be about. And some stuff changed and I was kind of able to weave in and out, but I think what made that book the most fun was I was just getting started, I had no pressure on me because no one knew who I was or anything. Now writing the other books, I have an audience.
TK: Has anyone ever stopped you on the street and been like “Oh my god, I read your book!”
ZB: That has no happened with books; that’s happened with music quite a bit.
ZB: Yeah I actually got stopped a few years ago here at Guitar Center in Nashville, someone who recognized me from a band I was in ten years ago…in a different state. […] but not with books; a lot of people that read don’t know what their favorite authors look like. […] But yeah, probably that one for that reason because there was no pressure, and I’m okay with pressure, I mean it’s good, it’s people reading my stuff, but I didn’t have people emailing me saying “hey when is this book coming out?” so yeah, probably Empty Bodies, but they’ve all been fun for different reasons.
TK: Well you answered my next question because we got into it (about The Witness), it was “which character do you relate to the most of all the books you’ve written?” I’m sure each of them has a little bit of you in it.
ZB: Yeah, for sure, definitely. Every book definitely has me in it. You know Will, when he’s in the warehouse in Empty Bodies, that’s where I work as my day job, so that’s a real place you can go to.
In The Witness, you know, I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and so that’s where that book starts. When they go to Rebecca’s house, there’s a scene where they first pull up to her house, and her mom is in the garage smoking and doing crossword puzzes…that’s my parents’ house in Mississippi and every time I go home my mom is on her iPad smoking and doing crosswords in the garage.
In Lines of the Devil, Terry is the most [like me] for sure, and he’s a mix of different people, there’s some of me in that and there’s also some guys I played in bands with and stuff…but probably a mixture of him and Will would probably be the two most like me.
TK: If you could go back into any of your books and rewrite one scene, what would you change?
ZB: Just one? That’s really, really tough actually….if I think of something as we go, because I might, I’ll tell you. But I think the reason why is because I do so many revisions, that I rewrite the stuff I want to rewrite before I put it in.
TK: So what gets published ends up being exactly what you want it to be instead of publishing it and saying “eh I don’t really know how I feel about that”
TK: So this is a fun one…if the film industry picked up one of your books to become a movie, which would you choose to be filmed, and who would you cast as your lead?
ZB: Wow, that’s really good, and actually really easy. Lines of the Devil. I can tell you that the main character, because I do cast actors for all my characters; Terry, my vision for him, was Ryan Hurst. If you’re not familiar with him, the most notorious thing he’s been in lately is he played Opie in Sons of Anarchy, so a lot of people know him from that…he’s also the main kid in Remember the Titans. I would probably cast him as Terry because that’s who I thought about the whole time, so he’d be the perfect fit. But definitely that book…Empty Bodies would be cool but we don’t need another zombie thing. The Witness would be just another slasher story, it would be fun and it would be cool to see, but we’ve never seen a tattoo artist that’s demon-possessed so I think that would be the coolest movie for sure.
TK: I would love to see that, actually, now that you put it out there like that. That would be something that I would want to watch.
ZB: That would definitely be the one I want to see, it’s the most original idea.
TK: So do you have any advice for aspiring horror writers?
ZB: If it’s something that you really want to do, like, when I went into this, I’d had some success from my non-fiction book and I had really enjoyed doing it, and I said “you know, I want to write fiction, but I don’t want to just write fiction, I want to sell fiction”. There is a difference; some people just want to write for fun, and that’s cool.
It’s not necessarily something that you have to do every day…I recommend it, if you really want to finish the book you should write every day…if you don’t do it for a couple of days you could end up forgetting things, and everyone I know who writes will give you the same advice: you should try to write the first draft as fast as you can and just get it out of your head, you can fix it later.
But my main thing is try to write every day, no matter what it is. You can write for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, 500 words…you’ll make a bit of progress every day and it all adds up.
Write every day, and read a ton. Mainly of the genre you write; read other stuff too, don’t force yourself to read anything you don’t want to read, but know the genre you’re writing.
TK: I like that, too. We’re getting into the fun ones now…who is your favorite horror creature? It can be vampires, zombies, Cenobites…
ZB: To be honest with you, it’s probably cenobites. I had this obsession with the Book of Revelation and Hell and stuff, so really, I guess I could say demons overall…angels and demons. I mean I have a demon tattoo on my arm, and angels on my upper arm. So angels and demons, really. That’s what really draws me to Hellraiser, especially Scarlet Gospels. It’s really cool how Clive described hell in all that stuff. So yeah, that’s probably my favorite. I’m eventually going to really write some angel and demon stuff, but I’m waiting because I have an idea of this series I really want to write, but I’m waiting until I’m a better writer than I am now because I want it to be really good.
TK: The zombie apocalypse is happening; where is the first place you go and who do you bring with you?
ZB: I guess that I’d go to the office that Will is trapped in at work [in Empty Bodies]. Hopefully, if it happens, I’m at work because I’d know where to go from writing that part.
TK: I wonder what that would be like…do you get a phone call? Does it come on the news that everyone is just dead in the middle of the street? I don’t know if I’ve ever told you my plan for the zombie apocalypse…I just don’t want to be a part of it. I will take a Valium and lay in the street and say “okay, someone bite me”. Just…nope.
ZB: In all honesty, of course I’d want to be around my wife and my daughter, because I think if I was at work and something happened, I would just have so much anxiety because I’d be 25 miles from home. So hopefully…I’d be at home. I’d be with them and I’d hopefully be able to figure things out. And we’re in the south. Everyone has guns in the south so…good luck to the zombies coming down here to start some shit up.
TK: Okay this is my favorite question that I came up with so I hope no one else has asked you this: what is the one question you wish someone would ask you?
ZB: I am so tired of this question…I’m totally joking. I really want Stephen King to ask me “will you write a book with me?”
TK: Not that kind of question! More like an interview question. I would love if Stephen King was like “do you want to go on a date with me?” That’s my ideal question.
ZB: …I really don’t have an answer, I’m totally blanking.
TK: Fine, I guess we’ll move on to the next question. –sadface- What future plans do you have for your writing?
ZB: I pretty much have the rest of the year planned out. I can’t talk too much about what I’m doing but I have a collaboration planned, there’s a novella I want to write, and then some time towards the end of the year I want to write an Empty Bodies 4, that won’t be the last book in the series, there will probably be about 5 books, and I know probably not this year but next year, I’m going to try to write a sequel for The Witness. I’ve gotten asked about that a lot, and obviously I left the end open for a sequel. So hopefully next year, I’ll be done with Empty Bodies, and I’ll probably start another series.
TK: Do you ever get sad when you finish a series or a book and you have to say “this one is finally done and I never have to touch it again”? Are you sad or are you excited?
ZB: You know, it’s funny, I kind of want to be done writing Empty Bodies. I like the characters and I like writing the books but it was never my intention to write a series, my intention was to write standalones….but as a writer it’s smart to write series. But I think when I finish that last sentence and hit publish, I’ll be sad.
Right now, because of where I’m at, I have so many ideas for stuff I want to write, so when I get done with a book I’m already thinking about the next one. So when I went out of Lines of the Devil I thought “oh crap, I have to finish Empty Bodies like now”.
TK: (after a long discussion, Zach finally thought of a question for me to ask him) Okay! So what kind of music do you listen to when you write? It shows up in a lot of your books so sometimes I know.
ZB: It’s funny, because it actually took me a while to be able to listen to music (while I wrote), because the lyrics would mess with me, so I’d be listening to the words but trying to type. Then I started listening to instrumentals or classical music and even instrumental heavy metal music, then I tried listening to lyrics again and it was fine. The main thing I’ve been listening to, though, is actually instrumental. It’s a heavy metal band called Animals as Leaders. That’s been the main thing I’ve been listening to while I write.
A big thank you to Zach for divulging some information about some of his projects to come, as well as telling us about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of being a horror writer!
Check out the Empty Bodies series…Empty Bodies: Deliverance comes out September 1st!
You can find his work at zachbohannon.com.