The following is an interview with Justin Robinson regarding the recently released zombie-themed short story anthology, Undead Worlds 3. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Robinson about the inspiration behind this latest installation of Reanimated Writers Press’ anthology series, his approach to writing short stories versus long-form prose, what readers can anticipate from his story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of the zombie anthology, Undead Worlds 3, from Reanimated Writers Press! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the Reanimated Writers group, as well as the writing prompt behind this third anthology?
Justin Robinson: The Reanimated Writers are a group of authors who all write in some corner of the zombie subgenre. Some of us are incredibly experienced in navigating the rough waters of publishing, and some of us are just getting started. We share tips, serve as sounding boards, publish anthologies, host short story competitions, and, sometimes, we just post silly zombie memes on our Facebook wall.
Undead Worlds is the flagship anthology of the Reanimated Writers, and we’ve done one every year since the group was founded. The idea is that we can introduce new readers to the worlds in our novels with short stories, and then using the marketing savvy of the group as a whole to get those stories into the hands of as many readers as possible. Longtime fans will enjoy another trip to our worlds, while people who might have never heard of us otherwise might be motivated to look into our work. Each Undead Worlds is entirely standalone. Just because this one has a 3 at the end doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up first and enjoy it without spoiling yourself.
The prompt is incredibly loose: Write a zombie story set in your world. That’s it. Then, if you make it through the submissions process, you’re in the book.
BD: What can you share with us about the premise of your short story, “Twice-Dead Man,” and the inspiration behind the story?
JR: For the last two installments, I submitted stories that bookended my zombie noir novel, Undead On Arrival. That book is a standalone, and I didn’t think I could do yet another story in that world without becoming redundant, or developing it far beyond the confines of what I set out to do in that book.
Instead, I turned to my City of Devils series. It’s, by far, the most popular thing I’ve done, I enjoy writing in it, and it features zombies in it, albeit in a vastly different context than most stories. I also knew that this was by and large a zombie apocalypse book, meaning most if not all of the stories would be set in a bleak future after the zombie hordes have destroyed civilization; while the City of Devils series is set in an alternate 1950s with every kind of monster you can think of and civilization is more or less functioning as well as it ever did. As I started thinking about a story, I came to a basic idea I couldn’t shake. The book was going to be wall-to-wall bone-crunching violence and nihilistic horror, so wouldn’t it be funny if smack-dab in the middle there was a murder mystery where the victim was a zombie?
From there, I teased out a plot. I set it in The Nocturnist, a nightclub that longtime fans know well, and told the story of a small-time zombie gangster getting bumped off in what looks at first to be a mundane mob hit. Characters from the novels get cameos, partly as a treat for the fans and partly to introduce new readers to the variety in the stories. This story might turn out to be unexpectedly important in the sweep of things too.
BD: When writing short stories (as compared to your work in writing novels), do you feel that you approach the storytelling process differently or that it requires a different set of tools to build the world and characters?
JR: Short stories are ridiculously hard, because you’re introducing a world, characters, a compelling story, and delivering a twist, all in a few thousand words. Readers can be expected to know certain tropes, but as I was writing a weird noir tale for a zombie apocalypse audience, I couldn’t lean on specific tropes that can often smooth over rough edges of a story. Learning how to write short stories at all took me some time, and I’m still learning how to do it effectively.
BD: Undead Worlds 3 offers an eclectic mix of authors and writing styles. Do you feel that the collection offers a jumping-on point for readers to get a sense of each author’s voice, as well as resources to find more of the authors’ work with which they most connect?
JR: That’s the entire purpose! This is our strongest collection yet, but the other two volumes are well worth reading. If you have any interest in horror in general or zombies specifically, you’re bound to find some author whose style you like. And from there, you’ll probably have a whole series you get to dive into.
BD: Is it possible for other horror writers to get involved with the Reanimated Writers group, and how would they go about doing so?
Not only is it possible, it’s positively welcome! Search for the Reanimated Writers group on Facebook and *Evil Dead voice* join us!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you would like to share with our readers?
JR: A Stitch in Crime, the fourth City of Devils book, will be out in March of 2020, and I’m presently working on the fifth. Both are departures from the first three—those follow Nick Moss, the last human detective in the city, while these tell the stories of some of the monsters he’s met along the way. Both books provide a deeper look into the world and a different perspective. Stitch stars Jane Stitch, a Bride of Frankenstein-style character searching for the identities of the women whose corpses made her body, and the fifth book, presently titled Unwitch Hunt, stars Hexene Candlemas dealing with the fallout of what happened to her in book 2, Fifty Feet of Trouble.
BD: Lastly, where can our readers find more information about Undead Worlds 3, as well as your own work?
JR: Head over to the website or join us on Facebook. You can find me across the spectrum of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon) at @weirdnoirmaster, and my website is weirdnoirmaster.com.
And as a special Happy Halloween, I have a brand new free story to share! “Tombstone Math” is available on my publisher’s site here.