Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead by Tony Faville, edited by Felicia A. Sullivan, and with cover art by Robert Elrod, was not what I expected at all; the title led me to believe that this would be a humorous undead tale about a detective, Dick Tracy-style, but, instead, this was a serious and elaborate crime/mystery/thriller with zombies. Granted, there was not a lot of undead action (I would have liked more zombie scenes), but I love that Faville was willing to go back to the 1950s Cold War Era for an outbreak setting.
Avery Nolan is a private detective hired to find a missing scientist. The scientist was working on a reanimation experiment to help soldiers. Both the FBI and the KGB are involved, but I don’t want to risk ruining the story by discussing that angle any further. Even with the emphasis on the crime drama and intrigue, there are touching moments whenever Avery is among his friends and daily acquaintances. I liked that Avery could be moved by little things, and wasn’t just strolling through the story as some tough-guy working a case. It’s Avery’s POV that provides the novel’s engaging quality. Allow yourself some time to get into the plot, and you’ll understand.
I initially delayed reading this novella because I was put off that Faville would break away from the post-apocalyptic setting of Kings of the Dead. As much as I like authors that think outside of the usual zombie clichés, I’m sometimes reluctant to read something that includes a genre I don’t normally read…in this case, that would be crime noir. But, one of the reasons I am a fan of Faville’s work is that the man tells a damn fine story, again and again.
It’s great to have you back at The Zombiephiles, Tony. Last time we had you here for an interview, we were introducing you to our readers, and discussing Kings of the Dead. Tell us about your journey from KOTD to Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead. How did you end up writing zombie noir?
Thanks Ursula, it’s great to be back. Avery Nolan…. Well, I was sitting at my computer on an early Sunday morning, and I had a mental flash of a scene run through my head, yeah, I’m weird like that. I quickly wrote down the scene and then looked at all of my current works in progress and saw that it would not fit into anything I was currently working on. So, I shelved it, and set it aside for sometime in the future when I could use it. Later that night I was sitting there watching TV, when I grabbed the keyboard to my iPad and started writing. Less than an hour later, I had the first thousand words laid out for Avery Nolan using the scene from that morning. My wife asked me what I was doing, and I asked her why she was asking, and her answer was that I was sitting over there laughing and smiling while writing. I read those first thousand to her and she just sat there smiling herself until I was done, then told me, You need to write that!
So, to answer your question, how did I end up writing zombie noir? It just kind of happened. I grew up watching Mike Hammer and Humphrey Bogart movies while reading Mickey Spillane, so I have always been a bit of a fan of noir. It apparently was just the right time to meld my two favorite genres.
You not only changed your style of writing for Avery Nolan, but you went back in time, AND blended several sub-genres…genres that aren’t usually found together in the same story. Was it difficult for you to switch gears like that? Were you deliberately trying to avoid another post-apocalyptic tale?
That’s the funniest thing about writing Avery Nolan, it wasn’t difficult at all to switch gears. Sure, I had to pause a couple of times and say, whoa, that’s way too modern here, remember where we are. But for the most part, it just kind of flowed and worked for me. I have always told my wife that I felt I was born about 50 years too late, I guess that shows in the story.
Your characters and storyline were so well-developed, it seems like this story could be successfully transformed into other mediums. Have you considered turning Avery Nolan into a graphic novel? I have to admit, I envisioned you and Robert Elrod working together on something along those lines while I was reading.
Funny that you mention Elrod. When I told him what I was writing, I gave him an idea of what I was looking for in a cover, and when he showed me what he had done, it was like he was in my head. The cover was exactly what I had been imagining. As for a graphic novel, I totally agree, it would make for a great medium for Avery. However, I have heard other authors say the hardest writing they have ever done was taking their own work into the graphic novel/comic circle. I don’t know if I am at that level yet.
What exactly was your writing process for Avery Nolan? I’ve pictured you with a really big chalkboard, mapping it all out…seriously, with all those twists, how did you keep everything straight in your head?
Close, but since I am a gadget guy, I had notes apps on several different devices trying to keep the story straight. I can’t tell you how many times I went back through it just to make sure I had everything lined up just right. I did something with Avery that I had never done before, and that was jump around in the writing process, so that made it a lot more difficult than it had been with Kings, which was written from beginning to end. I would get an idea, hop onto my computer and write out the idea, then find the right chapter to place it into. Honestly, it was ugly and not too different from guerrilla warfare.
Are you planning to turn this into a series? If so, do you think Avery might have to deal with zombies again?
Avery is screaming to be brought back to life. I do have a little bit of a treatment laid out for him that would open him up to battling all sorts of things, both natural and supernatural with a heavy supernatural twist to it. My biggest problem is that Avery Nolan was released on July 8, 2011 and only broke 30 copies sold a couple of weeks ago. Every one who reads the book, loves it and wants more. My problem has been getting people to read the book. Even when I would offer coupons for a free download, it was being ignored. I am one of those people that if I do something that gets no reception, I tend to stop doing what I am doing. While I loved writing Avery, and want to write more, I am having a difficult time getting it into my head that it’s okay to write something that doesn’t sell. At the same time, I am so far from recouping any of the money it cost me to get Avery out there, that I can’t afford to do another one. With that said, Avery sold more copies last month than in any previous month, maybe, just maybe, Avery is going to start getting recognized for the fun romp through 1959 New York City that it is.
What can we expect from you this year? Any hints?
Unfortunately, we can’t expect very much from me this year. While I have three works in progress right now, I have some physical issues that I have been dealing with. I have an old neck injury that has become filled with osteoarthritis, and has been giving me incredible amounts of pain and grief for the past several months. With my day job being at a desk and working on a computer all day, it takes everything I have just to make it through that. The idea of coming home and jumping on a computer for another 3 to 4 hours is more than I can bear. My physician has placed me on some new meds that are starting to help, so I hope to be able to get back to a keyboard again in the near future.