Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Interview With Author, J. Thomas Powell
Your book, Vermont Voodoo, features both zombies AND voodoo. What was the reasoning behind combining such distinct supernatural concepts and creatures?
I knew I wanted to write about zombies from the beginning, but with all the TV and movie versions out there I knew I'd have to do something unique. The idea of the zombie originates from stories about voodoo in the New World, and early cinema used this trope often. Since George Romero we really haven't seen much of the voodoo zombie, and it was a lot if fun bringing that monster back to life (heh heh). The problem was that most portrayals of voodoo are laced with racist stereotype, and it was a challenge to work against the stereotypes while keeping a light, campy tone.
Cool. Now let's talk about location. The story takes place in Vermont. Why Vermont? Is there any specific reason why you chose that specific location to tell your story?
I set the story in Vermont for two reasons. First, it was thematically important to s set the story in a dying industrial city, and you see a lot of that in New England. Second, I thought it would be a lot of fun making my heroes flee from the undead in a snowstorm.
Indeed. That does sound pretty fun (and scary). Next question, and it also pertains to location. According to your website, you were born in Upstate New York and studied at Syracuse for a film degree, but now you live in Texas. What's wrong? Were you trying to escape the terrible snow storms here on the east coast?
I'm so happy that I'm living in Texas these days, and yes, a big part of that has to do with the weather. That being said, I've always enjoyed moving around and seeing different parts of the country. I spent every summer as a kid traveling up and down the East Coast, and living in Texas had made it easy to explore the South, especially places like New Orleans. I get a ton of inspiration by travel. This year I had an opportunity to go hiking in Nepal, which, let me tell you, was a trip and a half. Hopefully there will be lots more international travel in my future.
It's interesting that you got a film degree. Do you also dabble in film?
I worked at a production company in NYC straight out of college where my job was to read and evaluate screenplay submissions. After doing that I got into writing screenplays, and then writing novels. I still do some video editing on the side, and my screenplays are being submitted to festivals, so who knows? Maybe you'll see some of my work on the big screen. My dream job would be to write and produce independent movies, but whatever happens I hope to stay balanced between my film life and my literary life.
Nice. Now, back to your book. Where did you get the inspiration for it?
Vermont Voodoo is the first book I've ever written, and going into it I knew my biggest challenge would be finding the material and the stamina to write something that long. That's why I choose zombies; there's lots of material to explore and I could keep myself entertained with my monsters the whole way through. The fictional city of Frostbite is very similar to Syracuse, where I grew up. But my biggest inspiration may have come from my friend Daniel Cailler and his novel, Waking. Also set in a gritty industrial city, Waking is about a group of vampires and a hunter on a quest for revenge; I had the pleasure of writing a screen adaptation of Dan's book, and Vermont Voodoo has plenty of winks and nudges aimed at Dan. We work pretty well together, and if you like my book you should check his out, too.
Groovy. Now, can you tell us about National Novel Writing Month and how you're connected to it?
National Novel Writing Month, which is more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo, is organized by the nonprofit Office of Letters and Light. Basically it's a challenge issued every November to write 50,000 words in one month or less, which is a short novel. You log your word count into their web site each day and if you reach the 50k goal by the end of the month you win... Bragging rights! And a novel. Which you wrote. It's wildly popular for writers and writing enthusiasts and a great educational tool, as well as a support system for getting that first draft on the page, as I did with Vermont Voodoo. I love NaNo.
Sounds legit. Okay, two part question. If you could have any super power, what would it be, and with said power, would you be a hero or a villain?
My superpower would be to invent doughnuts without any calories. Wait, that's not a superpower. Okay, my superpower would be hyper intelligence, and I would use that power to invent doughnuts and possibly funnel cake without any calories. That also cures diabetes. The hero part should go without saying.
Best. Power. Ever! Okay, is there anything else you would like to talk about or plug? Another project?
Of course you can buy my book, Vermont Voodoo, on Amazon in paperback or kindle format. But you should also follow me on Twitter @knid44 for updates, giveaways, promos, and general musings. I am working on a new sci-fi novel titled The Geneticist's Son, which should be out next year.
Excellent! Okay, thanks for the interview.
My pleasure. Thank you.