Peter Cawdron is a super awesome dude. He wrote this great book, 'What We Left Behind,' that puts a whole new spin on zombie origins. You all should read it. I would have flown down under to interview him in person but I'm afraid of spiders. So I sent him 37 emails. Let's see what Peter had to say about reading, writing and zombies!
1. It’s the zombie apocalypse and writers have got to stick together to survive. Pick 3 authors to be on your zombie apocalypse killing team and tell us why you’d choose them.
Peter says: Max Brooks, because between World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide, he’s clearly thought about how to survive in the zombie apocalypse.
Andy Weir, author of The Martian. If we get trapped in a building, he’ll figure out how to science the shit out of the situation. At the very worst, we’ll be eating potatoes for the next decade.
Richard Preston, author of Demon in the Freezer, because seriously, smallpox makes the zombie virus look lame by comparison. Most fictional zombie outbreaks have an R(0) value or reproduction value of 1-2 (being largely based on the R(0) value of rabies which is also spread by bites), whereas at it height, smallpox had an R(0) value of between 11-18. Smallpox was contagious on a level zombie writers don’t even dare imagine, and it was utterly devastating, and yet humanity defeated it. Richard documents concepts such as ring-fencing infected areas in his book, so he’d be a great addition to the team.
Meredith says: I think this is the best group so far! You've included all of my favorite authors! And I loved Demon in the Freezer. What a great book. The biochemist in me devoured that in two days.
2. If Stephen King and J. K. Rowling were drowning in a river, who would you save first? And now you have to tell us why.
Peter says: As much as I love Stephen King’s writing, I’d have to go with J.K. because she came out of obscurity to write novels that stirred a generation and got kids reading for enjoyment again. As a writer, that’s my goal—to have people switch off TV, close down facebook, and forget Candy Crush for a while because they’re so engrossed in reading a novel.
3. We authors are voracious readers. My TBR list is approximately 8 miles long. What are you currently reading?
Peter says: I’m notorious for not finishing books. I started Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama in 2004 and I’m just over half way, and unfortunately the same is true for many a good novel on my kindle. I tend to devour autobiographies and real-life stories (like Richard Preston’s Demon in the Freezer), but it’s a rare fictional book (like World War Z and the Martian) that keeps me flicking pages until the very end.
At the moment, I have four anthologies from the Future Chronicles series on my Kindle, and the Immortality Chronicle is about to drop later this month. I thoroughly enjoy these as they’re short stories, giving me a broad exposure to a variety of writers, and they’re bite size, which suits my reading style.
4. What is the one book that you could read a million times and never get bored with?
Peter says: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. They’re tough to read, as they were written in the 1800s, but they’re remarkably insightful. I’ve read both of them twice, and still marvel at how far ahead of their time they were. Anything by Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins quickly falls into a similar category.
5. Last year my favorite read was The Martian by Andy Weir. What was your best read of 2014?
Peter says: I loved The Martian. Well, I hated the monotonous deliberation over potatoes, but once the book got beyond that point, it was engrossing.
My favorite read from last year was Eleanor by Jason Gurley. I had the opportunity to read an early draft, and then a little later the independently published version before it was picked up and re-edited/expanded, so I’m looking forward to reading it a third time when it is re-released in 2016. The writing is solid. Jason’s characterization is brilliant. For me, the mark of a good book is when I forget I’m reading and become engrossed in the characters and the situations they’re facing. Eleanor did that for me.
6. This year my favorite read has been The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2015?
Peter says: Nomad by Matthew Mather, as it’s a gritty, realistic look at what would happen if a relatively small black hole were to pass through the solar system. At first, such a concept seems absurd, but Matthew paces the book really well and weaves in actual science. His afterword describes how similar celestial intrusions have happened in the past, making it more plausible than I’d like.
7. You’re a writer by day and a superhero by night. (Take off those geeky glasses Superman) What’s your superpower?
Peter says: Oh, I think superpowers are overrated. Everyone loves the Avengers, X-Men and Superman, etc, but the real superpower is intelligence. As a species, we’ve spent thousands of years trying to solve problems with sheer might, but it was only when we started to use brain power that we made some serious progress. The scientific revolution lifted us out of the Dark Ages, blitzed diseases such as Polio and Smallpox, and just a few years ago, Australian researchers developed a vaccine against cervical cancer. Just think how incredible that is… we can prevent a form of cancer from ever occurring! To me, that’s cooler than x-ray vision or flying through the air. And hey, we do fly through the air (in metal cylinders). So I’m with Andy Weir when it comes to things like cancer, let’s “science the shit out of this.”
8. I have writing spots all over my house: my desk, my couch, the patio, and my bed. Where’s your favorite spot to write?
Peter says: At a desk in my bedroom. Boring, I know, but with some soft music playing, it works for me. As for editing and revising, that mostly occurs on an iPad while I’m on the bus going to and from work.
9. We’re supposed to love all of our children equally, but there are some scenes I’ve written that really stick out in my mind. Tell us your favorite scene from one of your books.
Peter says: Zombie bowling… In the novel What We Left Behind, the main characters are faced with hundreds of zombies converging on them, plodding up a hill. And at the time, I didn’t know how I was going to write them out of trouble. So I stopped and thought. What could they use around them. Hey, what about rolling cars down the hill into the zombie horde? And after a few gutter balls, they start collecting strikes. Good clean zombie killing fun :)
10. Sometimes a little too much of myself slips into my characters. Which one of your characters most resembles you?
Peter says: Kane, a bad guy from my novel The Road to Hell. He struggles with the conflict between loyalty and honesty, eventually realizing that loyalty is not such an admirable trait after all. As much as loyalty is lauded in society, real moral strength comes from honesty. And that’s something I personally had to learn in life. In the right context, loyalty is a wonderful attribute, but honesty always trump loyalty.
11. I’ve always got tunes rocking while I’m writing. Tell us five songs that are on your playlist.
Peter says: Rather than individual songs, I hope you’ll allow me to talk about albums, as songs are too short by themselves when writing. Depending on my mood, I enjoy writing to anything from Green Day’s American Idiot to Norah Jones Come Away With Me. Yeah, not the most consistent of music collections, huh? I also enjoy the live albums of David Bowie, John Mayer and Elton John (there’s 8-9 minute version of Rocket Man that is out of this world)
Meredith says: It's like the playlist gods parted a soul and I got half and you got half. I love that version of Rocket Man. And my John Mayer live albums are always on repeat, "Where the Light is: Live in Los Angeles" is my absolute favorite album to listen to.
12. If you could tell an aspiring author one tiny tidbit of information, what would you say?
Peter says: Set realistic expectations, and keep them. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Writers are exposed by their writing, and so critical reviews can be tough to take, but keep learning, keep growing as a writer, keep looking for how you can improve, and pace yourself. Write because you love to write, and everything else will fall in place.
Peter says: Thank you for having me on your blog, Meredith. Happy reading & writing.
Meredith says: Thanks Peter! I love your writing. If you haven't read any of Peter's books, you should! Follow the Amazon Author link below and read a few.
Connect with Peter
(This is Peter. He's a cool guy)
About the author:
Peter is an Australian science fiction writer, specialising in hard science fiction.
Hard science fiction is a misnomer as far as categories of literature go, as it sounds harsh and difficult to understand, but that is far from reality. Hard science fiction is simply plausible science fiction, fiction that is written in such a way as it conforms to the known laws of science, and that makes it more interesting, as there's no magic wand the protagonist can wave to get out of trouble. Peter's forays into hard science fiction could best be described as informative science fiction or enjoyable science fiction.
Peter is a fan of such classic science fiction writers as Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton and their influence on his style and story lines is readily apparent. You can follow Peter on Facebook or Twitter or find him posting some interesting tibit on his blog http://thinkingscifi.wordpress.com/