June 30, 2018
December 18, 2017
I was able to catch up with author Leroy Benes, whom I happen to know quite well, in order to discuss his work and future plans. Leroy Benes is the Author of Horde Zero, the first in a series of zombie books, and Cursed Rivalry, which he considers to be dark or paranormal fantasy, 'for lack of a better description.'
Shane Eide: Horde Zero and Cursed Rivalry are each the first of a different series. Would you tell us a little about each title and and how they fit into their respective wholes?
Leroy Benes: Horde Zero was a spontaneous idea that developed into something bigger. I wanted to write something in the zombie genre that flirted with other genres. It starts out like a bizarre murder mystery and then spirals out of control. I suppose I ran a great risk by raising the reader's curiosity regarding something which, ultimately, is not satiated in the way they would want until later in the series. I have a rough idea of what I want to happen and I anticipate writing three more books in the series. Each book will be written from the perspective of a different character. I'm working on the second part of the series now, which takes place a decade after the events of the first.
As for Cursed Rivalry (part of The Cursed Career series), my idea was to write paranormal mystery that would ultimately fulfill the demands of both fantasy and horror, though horror to a lesser extent I suppose, though the imagery is certainly there. I'm working on a second part now and I'd say I'm about two thirds of the way through it.
SE: Have you always been a fan of the zombie genre? What were are you trying to do with the Horde Zero Series that might not have been done before?
LB: It's funny because I'm embarrassed to say that I've always had a sort of peripheral appreciation of the genre but never cared for its specifics. I'm not too crazy about horror movies, nor am I a zombie aficionado. Nevertheless, the very simple nature of the concept and its ability to produce many complex permutations are what drew me to the idea. Also, I always felt that the zombie genre produces works that often have interesting beginnings but which have few options as to how one might conclude the story. I wanted to write a series of works which wouldn't simply approach the zombie genre from the idea of mere survival, but which would be working toward some kind of answer, one which, along the way, might raise all kinds of interesting questions about the nature of violence, ontology, sovereignty, power and the nature of human interaction. If there's one thing the zombie genre has prided itself in, its depicting humans in an extreme state of crisis. It's my contention, however, that all of civilization is built on dealing with states of extreme crisis.
SE: What can we hope to expect in the next volume of Horde Zero?
LB: Part two follows a group of characters who have devoted their lives to clearing the world of the undead and inspiring others to do the same. I don't want to give too much away, but they are invited into a community whose rulers are entirely secret and around whom many mysterious things take place.
SE: What can we expect from the follow up to Cursed Rivalry?
LB: The main character, Sebastian Moorhead, has relocated to Portland Oregon with his business partner and mentor in order to track down a sorcerer connected to the events of the first book. But Sebastian is distracted by his newfound immortality. It alienates everyone close to him so they end up having to take on the brunt of the work. It's far more surreal than the first book. Sterne and Leatramonte were some of my inspirations behind this one.
SE: You mentioned that you were writing both books at once. Are those the only projects you're working on right now? Do you find that it's better to work on one project at a time or several at once?
LB: I tend to work on more than one. I'm terrified of boredom. Writing two radically different books at once keeps it interesting.
SE: What is your writing process like?
LB: I write quickly and edit slowly. I do it when I can. I get frustrated if I don't write every day, but I don't do it every day. I've never been good at taking notes and drawing up outlines, but I've had to make myself better at it given the complexity of some of my ideas for the future.
SE: What might those ideas be?
LB: I want to write a fantasy series. Very multi-layered and quick paced. I don't have much of it outlined. I love alien invasions. I've always wanted to write an alien invasion book. I started writing one once but hated the outcome and gave up. I have an old post apocalyptic book I'd like to dig out and doctor up.
SE: Do you read much while you're working on a project? Are you reading anything interesting right now?
LB: Probably more than I should. I'm rereading Gore Vidal's essays. I'm rereading Borges. I reread more than I read new stuff these days. I'm working my way through Canetti. I'm dipping into Auden's essays.
SE: Did you ever think about publishing through traditional means?
LB: Didn't even occur to me in the past. Though I may in the future if it seems worth it.
SE: Any advice for aspiring writers?
LB: Don't let anyone tell you you can't write drunk. But don't let anyone tell you you have to. It's better if you don't. You're going to hear a lot of absolute rules when it comes to writing, but ultimately you're going to have to find the method that works for you. It's almost like an esoteric process in that regard. But have fun too. Find a way to enjoy research and note taking too. That's probably not extensive advice, but you got me on a good day.
SE: Thank you.
A fat zombie chased some people in a park. It was too slow to catch them. They killed it.
The Iowa Writers Workshop is a great place to spend lots of money learning how to write short fiction about people who go to Iowa to learn how to write fiction about people who go to school in Iowa.
Institutionalized art always breeds a similar set of results, if only technical. It's not the same as an art movement, in which a community shares a set of common values which inevitably cause certain themes to recure in different people's work. When money is involved, however, there usually comes a time when certain kinds of works are deemed unacceptable because members of staff know that they can't keep their jobs if they represent artists whose values run counter to the establishment.
I'm simply using the Iowa Writer's Workshop as a symbol for something that can potentially happen to any of your artistic endeavors. I'm not saying that you can't learn from these programs and that no one should teach you. I'm saying that you'll burn a lot of money to have people tell you what not to do.
The internet is a great resource to find groups who will help you hone your craft for free.