Doubleshot Reviews is thrilled to have talking with us author, Peter Clines. Peter is the mastermind behind such works as Ex-Heroes, The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe and 14. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Clines at ZomBcon last year. Not only is he a fantastic writer, but he is charming and funny man with whom to share a conversation.
Thank you for taking time to talk with us Peter. Let’s start simple…tell us a bit about yourself.
Hmmmm… something besides the bald-faced lies I spread on my Amazon author page? Well…
I really did grow up in Maine, just a little ways south of Stephen King. Spent most of my childhood there, high school years in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and then my family moved back to Maine and I went to college at UMass Amherst. A little over a year after I graduated I ended up out in California on a whim and I’ve been here ever since.
Before I hit the point that I could write full time, I worked for about fifteen years in the film industry as a prop master, but also pitched script ideas to a couple different shows and got a fair amount of interest. Enough that I usually got invited back to pitch again. I’ve done a fair amount of entertainment journalism, high steel for concerts, been a theatrical rigger and electrician, a night watchman, a nanny, a janitor, a grocer… just a bunch of different things.
Not sure what else to say. I have a lovely girlfriend and two really spoiled cats. I’m a longtime fan of Doctor Who and Spider-Man and LEGOS. I play with little toy soldiers. I’m a passable Italian cook and a Gemini.
What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or deceased) whom you would consider an influence to your writing?
I’m juggling a couple of books right now. The Giant’s Star by James Hogan, which I’m reading for the sixth or seventh time (teenage favorite). The Undead Situation by Eloise J. Knapp. I’m finally reading the Hunger Games books and enjoying them quite a bit. And then I start the pile of stuff I got at Crypticon.
Influences… I think if you’re a writer you get influenced by everything you read, one way or another. You’ll read something and either see something really clever you want to mimic or something awful you want to make sure you don’t do yourself. Ray Bradbury was a big influence, and probably always will be. Same with Stephen King—he’s done some brilliant things with words that he just doesn’t get enough credit for. I could rattle off tons of names and probably go all the way back to people like David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana, who wrote all the shows I loved as a kid, or the pile of Marvel writers behind my favorite comics.
It wasn’t so much a decision, I think, as a response. A bunch of different comic book writers have had superheroes encounter zombies over the years, but it’s only been recently that some of the big companies have embraced the idea of a full-fledged zombie apocalypse. I know a lot of people loved some of those big-name zombie-superhero series, but it just seemed like a gigantic waste of an opportunity to me. Here was a chance to have heroes being truly heroic (something that’s far too rare in comics these days—heroism’s been replaced with melodrama) in a no-win situation and instead it was just ghouls in superhero costumes talking non-stop with some excessive gore on every third or fourth page. I scribbled down a couple thoughts on a legal pad about how I would’ve done it and… well, that was it. At the time I was a guy writing for a screenwriting magazine, so the odds of one of the Big Two letting me at one of their characters was pretty slim. Especially when, in all fairness, their take on it had done very well, financially speaking.
And that might’ve been it except I sold a couple short stories to The Harrow and Permuted Press and got my foot in the door, so to say, in zombie circles. And then my girlfriend and I got a place together. I finally had a real office and unpacked a few boxes I’d been lugging around since… well, since I moved to California. There were a couple of old sketchbooks with tons of superhero characters I’d made up back in grade school and high school. And it struck me that a lot of them were classic superhero archetypes. They’d all fit into my version of that superhero/ zombie story with no problem at all. So I started writing, and kept writing between magazine assignments all summer. And that pile of scribbles became Ex-Heroes.
In conjunction to the above, if the undead do begin walking the earth, are you prepared? What’s the Clines plan for survival?
Let’s be honest. If the undead were to actually start walking the earth, none of us are prepared. Absolutely no one. If it actually happened, it would involve mechanics none of us could grasp in a way we couldn’t understand, and we’d burn up all our ammunition shooting them in the head before we found out their real vulnerable spot is the spleen. And none of us know where the spleen is in the body, so we’d just be screwed.
Past that, I am well-prepared for your basic LA riot or earthquake. If things go much past that, my plan is to get to my friend Marcus, because he’s a much better survivor than me.
As a reader, I find I can get easily attached to a well written character and can get very emotional when said character is killed off. I’m assuming that, as a writer, you get attached as well. Have you ever dispatched a character that you had really bonded with and how did it affect you?
I’ve killed lots of characters I liked a lot, but it’s not like I’m killing them randomly for no reason. Some people like to cheer senseless deaths in their stories because it supposedly makes things much more real. I think that’s nonsense and it just lessens things. While someone might die “randomly” in one of my stories, at the end of the day I’m the one writing it. I can give you exact reasons why this person had to die at this time for the story to work. There’s no randomness. In the end, it’s all got to serve the bigger story.
There’s that great tagline from Braveheart— “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” I think that’s a good way to look at characters. There are writers who kill characters by the dozens and it means nothing to them or the audience because these characters were never developed past a name and a hair color. It’s not a tragedy that someone in my books died, it’s a triumph that I made people care enough about a fictional character that “killing” this collection of words on the page caused a serious emotional response.
It is obvious you are a storyteller, as your latest release -14- was, in my opinion, amazing. It was very unique and highly engaging. Tell us the story of how -14- come to be.
It was another mulling over it sort of thing, where a couple different ideas I’d been playing with came together in my head. I can’t talk about all of them without giving stuff away, but there’s a few simple ones.
Part of it was the characters. Silly as it sounds, I haven’t written anything where the main characters were just average people. They’re superheroes or legends of literature. And I thought it’d be neat to have really average people. Y’know, people who can’t afford to take time off work or tweak their schedule any way they want. I think a lot of people can relate to being trapped in a job–or in a life–that they sort of drifted into and can’t really get out of.
And part of it was the building. The apartment building in 14 is very loosely based off the first building I lived in when I moved to Los Angeles. I’ve always found apartment living kind of fascinating. In some ways it’s just like living in a dorm in college, but there’s a lot of ways it’s different. Overall, people stay very closed-off in apartments. There’s not as much camaraderie. It’s not that uncommon to never know your neighbors in an apartment building, but I’m still really good friends with a lot of people who lived in my dorm in college. So I was thinking about the kind of incidents or events that can turn an apartment building from a bunch of strangers into a community.
And when I moved out, my girlfriend and I—macabre people that we are—started joking about things we could leave for the next tenant to find. Because, really, what does anyone know about the last person who lived in their apartment? Anything could’ve happened there. Births, deaths, murders, robberies, parties, orgies—who knows?
So all these ideas, and a couple others, were simmering in my head for about two or three years before I had the chance to sit down and write it all out. The first draft poured out in about six or seven weeks and it’s the biggest thing I’ve written to date (even with some of the gigantic cuts I had to make later). It’s the biggest thing Permuted Press has ever put out, too.
I’m currently finishing up the third draft of Ex-Communication, the third Ex-book. If I can keep to the schedule, barring major problems, it should be out in time for the holidays.
After that is a little thing I’m currently calling Dead Moon. It’s a sci-fi/ horror story, set two hundred or so years in the future, where the Moon has been colonized and become a giant graveyard to make more space on Earth. Bodies are shipped up there and there are stations manned by teams of caretakers. There’s a solid little tourist economy based around people coming to see Aunt Millie’s grave and the like. And then, of course, things go horribly wrong…
The funny thing is, I actually started this book years ago, right after Ex-Heroes, but then got sidetracked by the whole mashup craze and ended up writing The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. And then there was Ex-Patriots and The Junkie Quatrain, and then Permuted Press had just bought another sci-fi/horror story (Bryan Hall’s Containment Room 7) and didn’t want competing books, which worked out well for everyone because by that point I really wanted to do 14…
Tell us three “interesting facts” about Peter Clines. Be creative, something fun you don’t share with just everyone.
I’ve got a mild obsession with ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, and have since I was in grade school. No idea where it came from. I know when I saw the Doctor Who episode “The Pyramids of Mars” in fourth grade I was already fascinated with all things Pharonic.
I still have my original proof-of-purchase mail-away Boba Fett action figure, the one released before The Empire Strikes Back even came out. Fett always look a little odd in green to me, because for ages it was burned into my mind that he was pale blue.
Chimpanzees remember me fondly for years. Fun story, but too long to tell here.
Last question, since I am usually over-caffeinated, because I love my coffee and since my rating system for reviews is based on espresso shots…what is your favorite coffee drink? If not coffee, is there another drink that is a must during your day?
I must confess I am a freak among writers. I don’t like coffee. I don’t like most hot drinks, honestly. No idea why, they just don’t sit right with me. I desperately tried to like tea in high school so I’d seem cool and couldn’t pull it off.
Instead, I drink Diet Pepsi. I used to drink tons of regular Pepsi for the sugar rush and caffeine, then about ten years ago I was working with a trainer and I switched to diet for my weight. Now I’m trying to cut back on that, too. At which point I’ll probably just have to get addicted to caffeine pills…