Tuesday, 10 January 2012

20 Questions with Iain McKinnon

"See that guy over there. That's Iain McKinnon."

When someone like David Moody points you in the direction of a sci-fi author with two zombie novels to his name, it's a good idea to pay attention.

Mr McKinnon keeps a survival kit and a crowbar close at hand... just in case. And with two terrific books, Domain of the Dead and Remains of The Dead, under his belt (and a possible third on the way) we couldn't miss the opportunity to pick Iain's Braaaaaiiiin! Here's what he had to say about writing, zombies, gaming and other such geekery.

"We're all fucked now."



Why zombies and how did they come to be the cornerstone of your work? Zombies are the only thing that scared me. Vampires, werewolf, witches, hobgoblins none of them ever frightened me. But Zombies, the breakdown of civilisation, the transmogrification into the every enemy you feared. Becoming one of them and their relentless tenacity. That struck a chord with me.

Do you mostly write in the morning, daytime or the witching hour? Just depends, I used to do most of my work late at night, Remains of the Dead was mainly write at the local leisure centre when my wee boy was in soft play or at swimming lesions. These days being a stay at home dad I write around the school day.

Name one writer who has been a major influence on your work and why? Frank Herbert. I'm dyslexic so I find reading a chore on the whole. As a teenager I discovered Dune and devoured the book. I like that Frank didn't spend time on useless description. He painted a vivid and imaginative world with tons of fine detail but he focused on the important things to progress the story. Many authors you read and you get the feeling they're being paid by the word. Not Frank. Rich and yet frugal. And then there is the level of intelligence with which he treats his reader. He doesn't explain much of what he writes about. He expects the reader to make the connections as the story unfolds, to hold on to unfamiliar concepts until they are revealed by context or plot.

One book you think everyone should read. Have to be Dune.

Do you think genre fiction has finally got the recognition it deserves? I don't think fiction has ever been underrated. I start off both of my Zombie novels with extracts from the Epic of Gilgamesh the oldest recorded story. Humans need fiction, we learn by it. It vales the truth behind entertainment. From fairy tales to films mankind has an unquenchable thirst for fiction.

Zombies - slow or fast and is there room for both? I like my zombies slow mainly as I'd never survive against runners.

Blunt instrument, firearm or blade? Flanged mace would be my weapon of choice. Guns run out of ammo and bladed weapons, unless you have had years or training, are as dangerous to you as they are to the undead (what if you nick yourself then get some infected blood in the wound?).

If you could save just one luxury, what would it be? There are too many, my laptop (with a power supply), moist toilet wipes, Coke. Depends how bad it gets. Being dry and fed and safe may be the ultimate luxury.

What do you think is most likely to cause an actual zombie outbreak? We'll drill through the ice of some frozen Antarctic lake to find an ecosystem that has been evolving in isolation for 4 million years. Among the microbial flora and fauna will be the agent of out demise. Not that I've thought about it you understand.

What is your number one piece of advice for surviving a zombie apocalypse? Stay calm. Don't get panicked and make poor decisions.

If you were a character in one of your books, what would be your opening line? "We're all fucked now."

How much has music played a part in your work? Music is a great catalyst for me. I'll often put on a piece of music that encapsulates an emotion for me when I'm trying to engender that emotion in my writing. I also listen to music when I'm out walking to help me formulate ideas.

If you had to live in a clich├ęd alternate reality would you choose medieval fantasy or futuristic sci-fi? Got to be Sci-Fi. I'm a pleasure seeker and I can see technology delivering all manger of comforts and labour saving devices as well as entertainment. I'm basically a very lazy person. Also going into space would be cool.

If you had a super power, what would it be? The ability to see 10 seconds into the future. That window would be enough for you to avoid being hit by a car, or know the right thing to say or to make money in a casino. But not enough to freak you out by letting you see your own death.

Star Wars, Star Trek or Sci-Fi curious? Love them both. I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan, I would say I'm a Sci-Fi writer rather than a horror writer, just I have a very dark streak.

Has Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons & Dragons), and the phenomenon he spawned, influenced you in any way? Yes he has. I never played Dungeons and Dragons but I did play Warhammer, Shadow Run and a myriad of other role play games in my youth. I loved to GM games and guess much of my writing apprenticeship came from plotting those adventure games.

Do you see the influx in zombies in entertainment as good thing and do you think we are headed the right way for the genre? For me as a fan of zombie entertainment it’s great news. One of the reasons I started writing a zombie novel was to the fill the void in good zombie fiction. As for direction? I doubt it. The big budget stuff tends to favour the running zombies and the low budget stuff is usually very badly written. Granted the Walking Dead TV serious has been phenomenal, let’s hope there are more like it just over the horizon.

Dead Island, Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty Zombies or 'They just haven't made one quite right yet'? A friend of mine made a mod for Battlefield 2 that I just love. 200 zombies against a solider with just 100 rounds of ammo, truly terrifying.

Do you have a guilty pleasure you are willing to share? An interest completely unrelated to the genre? Neil Diamond. I do like a bit of Neil Diamond. Even seen him in concert.

What's next for Iain McKinnon? I have a Sci-Fi called From the Torment of Dreams that's almost complete. I'll be looking for a publisher this year for that one. I also have an occult thriller I'm working on too and I've also just finished doing some research for a possible third zombie novel.
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You can keep an eye out for the third book in his 'of the Dead' series and anything else Iain is getting up to by visiting Iain McKinnon's website.



Get Yer Zomb On

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