Lee Pletzers is a prolific writer, editor, publisher, reviewer, and all around neat guy. His passion for zombies is matched only by his skill for creating genuine fear and bloody mayhem. He is worldly, well read, and a jack of many trades. I was thrilled that he was able to take a mo’ and answer some questions for ravenous zombie fans.
WLF/ZZN: Hey, Lee. (WLF note: Lee is an awesome name, BTW) Thanks for taking time to answer our Q’s. Zombie fans want to know: what do you find especially compelling about writing in the zombie genre?
Thank you for having me and yes, I agree, Lee is an awesome name. The thing I find most compelling about these creatures is their single minded focus. They have one goal and it drives them, nothing else matters to them. They must attack, they must bite, and they must feed. It’s the very basic human desire: the need for survival. It’s a part of our basic make up and running on instinct is what drives zombies. Still, I think there is more to them than attacking and feeding. This is an aspect I explore in most of my zombie tales.
WLF/ZZN: Please tell us about your very first encounter with the cannibalistic undead.
My very first encounter was a voodoo movie made back in ’56 or somewhere around that time and shown on TV. A witch doctor raised a man from the dead and he was like a slave to the witch doctor and did his bidding (and killing). It was kind of boring, if I remember correctly. (WLF note: Ha! Don’t let Rob Zombie hear you say that; it’s his fave!) I was watching it on the Sunday Horrors film slot. Late night Sunday, you could always watch a Hammer Horror flick or another horror movie.
That was my very first encounter; then came Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which is a mixture of demons and the undead.
WLF/ZZN: You’re a prolific short story writer. Do you prefer shorts to full length novels?
I prefer novels. The short story form didn’t move me until 2001 when my story was accepted for a Halloween anthology. The short form has grown on me more than I thought, especially in the last couple of years when my novel writing kind of hit a dry spell. I have ideas all the time but until recently I couldn’t find the characters to take part.
I read short stories all the time now I have many anthologies in my collection. I also purchase many stories on Amazon and Smashwords and if I enjoy the story I usually buy the writer’s novel (if they have one). It’s the best way to find new writers to follow or not to follow. As most short stories are 0.99, it’s easier to take a chance on an unknown than spending $14.99 or more on the ‘hope’ you will enjoy it.
WLF/ZZN: I’m aware that you wear many hats in the horror world: writer, editor, publisher, reviewer; which is your favorite?
Writer, naturally. It’s what came first. I started the publishing biz to help a lot of talented new writers get a bit of exposure. We need a lot of new blood out there in the market. With Amazon and Smashwords we are seeing a lot of that start to happen. Of course, not all the books released are as publish-ready as the writers think. I have been selling stories for almost 11 years now and only recently found an editor who clicks with what I am doing in my stories. A friend once said: Self editing just doesn’t cut it these days.
I enjoy reviewing books I read. I try to review every month but sometimes I don’t have the time to finish the book and get a review out within that month. I am always looking for guest reviewers.
WLF/ZZN: Are The Zombie Virus, and The Day of the Zombie connected?
No, there are very different. The Zombie Virus is basically zombies in space. A crew comes across a dead ship and decides to board after scanning for life forms and finding none. There could be valuable cargo onboard so they enter. They find a child and a bunch of the undead.
And The Day of the Zombie is a tale telling of a small island (New Zealand) that somehow missed the zombie uprising. The country breaks off into their own gated communities with guards and schools and all kids are taught how to battle with zombies if they ever came ashore. Years later, word that a Maori Elder is hosting a Waitangi Day celebration in Wellington and all are invited. The story is told in first person where one of the survivors documents the events.
WLF/ZZN: Tell us about The Armageddon Shadow.
This is a love story–yeah right! Actually in a way it is. In 27BC a quiet man who wants only to farm and live a quiet life with his wife and son is thrust into the role of leader when, after the slaying of his wife and son at the hands of the Elder’s guards, he takes up arms against the Elders and takes a large army onto the war field. The battle fails and he is drowned as an example to all who would go against the Elders commands.
As the water washes over Darrian, he cries out to the gods to help him seek revenge for the death of his son and wife. His cries go unheard. Until, in desperation, he turns to the underworld. Taking his last breath, his cries are answered.
Giving the revenge he seeks and destined for an eternity in Hades, Darrian reenters Hell but on the descent his stead bucks and he topples off. Climbing out of the darkness, he enters our time, unknowingly carrying a disease.
This is a very in-depth story and passive horror readers would love it but those paying attention will see the bigger picture as this is not a simple revenge tale.
WLF/ZZN: The book’s description references hell and also the evolution of humanity. How would you respond to those who say that Christian themes and evolution don’t really go together?
Evolution is a natural process. Whether you believe it or not will not stop it from happening, but, evolution in the book is massively different than what the scientists believe.
WLF/ZZN: What’s your favorite aspect of this book?
The way the multiple threads weave together to create a ‘whole’ picture of what is happening; and, according to a reviewer, the sympathy for the bad guy.
WLF/ZZN: Your short story The Cold hints at zombies that are unconventional and possibly more dangerous than Romero’s usual fare. I’m intrigued. Please tell us more.
The Cold was my first professional zombie sale and during the ‘thinking’ part of the story I was wondering why zombies always act in groups but are also acting for their own benefit. Could there not be some kind of communication between them and a form of leadership develop?
I explored this idea briefly in the writing of this story. I didn’t want to go too deep into this field as I wanted to sell the story, plus the time wasn’t quite right for thinking zombies.
WLF/ZZN: If a reader was unfamiliar with your work, where’s the best place to start? How can fans get their mitts on it?
They can visit my Amazon page.
They can visit my Smashwords page.
My homepage and blog.
WLF/ZZN: Any new zombie movies, comics, games or books that you’re especially stoked for?
Unfortunately, nope. I have yet to come across a zombie tale that is not the standard fare that hundreds of writers are employing these days. However in saying that, I do enjoy Eric S. Brown, David Dunwoody and D. L. Snell’s zombie work. If anyone has any recommendations (especially e-versions) please let me know on my contact page.
WLF/ZZN: What are you working on currently that fans should be aware of?
I’m working on a Zombie novella of a vastly different kind of zombie. This takes place after the zombie uprising, it throws new light on zombies and again: evolution. This tale is told from a document that the MC is creating.
A captured pregnant zombie gives birth to a normal child. But is he normal? Five years held in a lab for observation yields an intelligent child not afraid of his mother. Deeming the experiment a failure, the directors funding the project command the mother and child exterminated.
WLF/ZZN: I understand that you speak fluent Japanese. Can we assume then, that you’re also a fan of Japanese horror?
Japanese horror can be awesome but it is very different to US horror as there are a lot of internal thoughts spoken as VO. In a way this builds up the sense of dread for the lead character, but if you are not used to it, it can be distracting.
WLF/ZZN: Thanks a lot, Lee. Before we close, do you have any advice for youngsters who want to work in the horror biz?
Get a tough skin, ‘cause you will be kicked to the ground and if you want to be a writer and you’re serious, you need to get back up on your feet and accept that not everyone will love your work. Write what you want to write. Don’t follow the status quo. If you have a good idea and you believe in it, then write it.