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Taste Test: First Time Dead [Interview]

First Time DeadFirst Time Dead is a series of anthologies that not only have an undead theme, but welcomes new authors into the zombie genre. May December Publications has successfully expanded the subgenre to the delight of zombiephiles, while offering up a buffet of newbie writers to sink our teeth into. Best yet, if you like the taste, many of these first-timers have gone on to write even more zombie stories.

With MDP’s unique way of choosing the stories, editor TW Brown has created several collections that consistently maintain the suspense and terror from one page to the next, entertaining the readers story after story.

Author and editor, TW Brown, answered a few questions for me about the First Time Dead anthologies…

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Q. Why was it important to you to give a chance to unpublished authors to have their work showcased for the first time?

I think getting that first piece out there can be the most challenging. And, in all honesty, there can be a bit of a “good old boy” network at times. I think giving new authors that chance to be seen is important and help build a bit of confidence.

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Q. You changed up the formula by publishing a volume with authors who have been previously published, but had never written about zombies. Which formula produced the better zombie stories, in your personal opinion?

Both had their merits, but I think I would prefer to stay with the more pure of the ideas and, if I do another, return to the true “first time” author. That said, the plan is to do the next one with a more broad and inclusive theme. The “First Time DEAD’ title will become “Fresh Blood” and be a general horror theme.

Q. MDP has published a lot of anthologies in a short amount of time. Do you think the zombie anthologies, such as the FTD volumes, do any better than the other themes? And, do you prefer zombie anthologies to zombie novels and/or zombie series?

Actually, the anthology that has done the best is Spiders followed by the first Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology. The anthology that has performed the very best among our zombie anthologies is Eye Witness (our first). As for my personal favorite from our collection, overall, I would say the Hell/Chivalry set. I do have some stories that are among my all-time favorites that are scattered among them and have considered doing a “best of” anthology that showcases the ones I am most enamoured with from the bunch. I enjoy the shorts, but I prefer a good series even beyond a stand-alone simply because it gives you time to really get vested in the characters. I think an author gets the chance to show his or her chops with developing characters that have time to grow and adjust to their experiences

Q. What has the reception/feedback for the FTD volumes been like?

Most has been very positive. No matter how good something, though, there are always detractors. However, from writers, the response has been incredible.

Q. A lot of people thought the interest in zombies would have faded by now, but they appear to be beating out the other popular undead, vampires, as well as other “monsters.” Why do you think this genre is continuing to draw more fans?

People are seeing, with offerings like The Walking Dead, that it is more than just the gore. The stories (if told right) are a great deal deeper. The characters are more important than the monster. Sure, there is that ripping and rending scene here and there, but the zombie story allows for much more. This is a monster that you cannot simply beat. I believe that people will look back at Kirkman with as much respect for his contribution to the genre as Romero. He has elevated the zombie to mainstream and shown characters with depth that change and grow organically with the experiences. I almost feel sorry for Brad Pitt and Max Brooks. Max had the first book in the genre to really plant a flag on the best seller list. Pitt snagged it, but it took forever to come out and people were already spoiled by The Walking Dead. (And I won’t even touch the disparagement between book and film in that case.)

Q. You’ve also contributed quite a lot of stories to the zombie genre yourself. How difficult has it been to juggle the work of an author AND editor?

Truthfully, we are doing major cutbacks in the anthology realm. My books are demanding much more of my time and have built a fairly respectable audience. In addition, I was also hired as the editor for Mark Tufo and John O Brien late last year. I was called in for their newest offering and then given the job of going through their back catalog. I am up to date with John, but I still have a few of Mark’s to polish. We don’t want to abandon the anthology, but there is a lot of work that goes into the process and I will not just pump them out to fill shelf space. I want to maintain the quality that we have been able to offer.

Q. What other zombie stories/anthologies/series can we expect from MDP in the near future?

We will probably offer three definite entries per year. Our charity anthology (this year it is by invitation with proceeds going to the V Foundation for Cancer Research and I have already received an affirmative from names like Mark Tufo, Joe McKinney, James N. Cook, and Armand Rosamilia), a Fresh Blood, and because they are so much fun, the Midnight Movie franchise. There could be one or two added to the mix, but that will depend. I also edit for all of the authors under the MDP label and they are a prolific bunch. I think we have four or five other series between them and then a handful of stand-alone novels. With Zomblog coming to an absolute final book in October (the trilogy turned into a six-pack due to reader requests) and a new DEAD book every 4 months, the new Ava series and my non-horror Dakota offering, my plate is full. But I can’t complain…I get to do what I love for a living.

I encourage zombiephiles to check out all the undead horror that MDP has to offer at TW Brown’s Amazon Author page.

Zombies moan. Zombiephiles moan back.

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