INTERVIEW: H.E. Goodhue, author of Zombie Youth: Playground Politics
H.E. Goodhue is an author and educator. Zombie Youth: Playground Politics is Goodhue’s first published novel. It is the first installment in a new series from Severed Press that has been called “unrelenting”, “thrilling and exciting” by both fellow authors and literary critics. Since its release in April, Zombie Youth has posted sales throughout the US, Europe and Australia. H.E. Goodhue currently resides in New Jersey with his wife, daughter and two hardheaded pitbulls.
H.E. was kind enough to chat with SF Signal about his book, zombies, what scares him the most, and more!
Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Did you always see yourself becoming a writer?
H.E. Goodhue: For the past nine years I have been a teacher. Currently I teacher 6th grade math. I began writing at an early age as a means to deal with recurrent nightmares. My parents suggested that writing down these dreams might help them not to continue night after night. This worked, but had the inadvertent effect of engendering a love of horror within me from an early age.
I began writing various types of stories, but always found myself returning to the genre of horror. Oddly it just feels the most comfortable and enjoyable to me. Go figure? Most of the stories I wrote were simply for my own enjoyment, though at the tender age of 10 or so I tried to sell some of my nightmares to a well-known children’s horror anthology. They passed due to the nature of the stories, but it completely floored and inspired me to receive an actual response from them, not just a form letter.
A few years ago I completed my first full-length novel, which was overwhelmingly rejected, but this caused me to reflect upon my intent and purpose. So when I began Zombie Youth: Playground Politics I decided to return to what I had learned as a child – just write something for me and if others get behind it, great. If not, so be it because I had written for me anyway. Though I will admit I was elated when Severed Press decided to release Zombie Youth as a series.
HG: Zombie Youth: Playground Politics is the first novel in a new series that centers around a group of students trapped within their high school during a viral outbreak that kills, reanimates and in some cases mutates anyone over the age of nineteen. The students are left with no supervision or any of the typical societal constraints, so the world is basically theirs to rebuild and reshape. They strive to endure and battle the monsters that were once their protectors and mentors, but rebuilding an undead world proves more difficult than any could have ever imagined.
I have been a huge zombie nerd since childhood, but had never written a story within the genre. One day at work another teacher and I began debating what would happen if zombies got loose in our school. I kept returning to the idea that the students would do better than the adults, largely impart to the plastic nature of children’s understandings of the world and the inherent resiliency that accompanies youth. As I reflected upon this debate it struck me that most stories within the zombie universe lack children. Now, I’m not saying that I look forward to the day that kids face the undead, rather that I just found it odd that they seemed to magically disappear whenever the zombies rose. Eventually these discussions lead me to write a short story, but I loved the characters and found myself unable to do them justice within a few pages. 350 pages later Zombie Youth was born, though it still lacked a title.
After some back and forth with various titles my wife suggested Zombie Youth. I really liked the title, but had no understanding of its political context. After researching the term I discovered that it was a derogatory term used by those who are scared of a politically motivated younger generation. This entire idea enraged me, but also connected with the drive behind my novel. I wanted to showcase the strength and potential of young people, so I removed those aspects of society that I felt stood in their way. I just choose to do so with zombies. In some small way I wanted to take this term away from those who used it to debase young people with vision and a drive to do something with their world. I hope that I have succeeded in doing so.
KC: Why do you think zombies (and all things zombie) have become so popular in recent years?
HG: The monster du jour always seems to reflect what is currently going on in our world. There is widespread fear of economic collapse, over-population, disease, food shortages, war, etc… All of which are very fertile grounds for zombies. The entire concept of a faceless, nameless horde of people rising up to destroy our society connects directly to fears of societal change and terrorism. Things are changing within our world and change makes people uncomfortable. It also evidently makes them want to read about zombies.
My hope is that zombies are able to retain their inherent value as a means of social commentary, though I am somewhat skeptical. At its core, the zombie genre seeks to question the fragile ties that hold together our society and this questioning needs to happen now more than ever. Otherwise we’re destined to consume each other in one form or another.
KC: What are some of the biggest influences on your writing (authors or otherwise)?
From an early age my parents exposed me to writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells. I was fascinated by the worlds these men constructed between the pages of their books. Richard Matheson is another writer whom I find inspiring. He sought to create stories that not only entertained us, but that also had some valuable societal commentary sandwiched between their lines.
There are also many current writers from whom I draw inspiration in one form or another. When Zombie Youth was in its early days I received some great advice and assistance from writers the likes of David Dunwoody, David Moody and Mark Tufo. All of these guys have been great and I feel truly indebted to them for taking the time to answer my questions and offer support and advice. I was a completely unknown writer and they easily could have chosen to ignore me, but these guys understood that writing is a community and you need to treat people well.
Beyond literature I draw a great deal of inspiration from music. Many times when I want to capture a certain mood or emotion I will play songs that evoke that feeling within myself. Music has been a constant muse throughout my entire life and I would be hard-pressed to accomplish much without it.
KC: Zombies are certainly scary, but what’s something that you find truly terrifying?
HG: Truly terrifying? The thought of my daughter becoming a teenager loosens my bowels, but thankfully she is only a few months old. But if I had to be honest I have a real issue with heights. I guess I won’t be having any glorious mountaintop showdowns with the undead.
I also have to say that I’m more than a little concerned with the state of the world. Having recently become a father, I want my daughter to have the best world possible, but many factions within it seem determined to cling to antiquated views, which will serve no purpose beyond ruining our society and suppressing change. It’s dangerous to believe that our way of way of life has achieved a state that no longer requires social or political evolution because when we do we’re well on our way to extinction.
KC: What are you reading now?
HG: I tend to be reading more than one book at a time. I just finished the first Walking Dead compendium, which was great. Currently, I am reading an anthology of H.P. Lovecraft and a few different zombie books. Beyond that I have to say that I am really looking forward to reading Harvest Cycle, David Dunwoody’s newest novel, as well as some by my fellow Severed Press authors.
KC: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to struggling writers?
HG: Overall, I would say write about the things that speak to you. Many writers fall into the trap of trying to force a genre or story simply because it’s popular. When that happens, it shows. Writing is a labor of love, so you had better care about your subject matter. To that end, love your story enough to re-read it and edit it a few times. There is an overabundance of quick to print books that lack structure and editing. Remember if you don’t want to read your story more than once, then no one else will.
Beyond that I would stick with it. There are going to be a hell of a lot more “no’s” before that one “yes” so hang in there and keep going. And perhaps most importantly of all, be good to people, regardless of whether they are a fan, critic or fellow writer.
KC: What’s next for you?
HG: There’s always a few trunk novels knocking around my office and head that I would love to flesh out and finish, but I have been devoting the majority of my time to the Zombie Youth series. I recently finished up the second novel in the Zombie Youth series. It’s going through some edits and beta reads, but overall the story is complete and I am really excited to bring this storyline to the fans of the series.
News from the Zombie Youth universe can always be found on my Twitter feed (@HEGoodhue), my blog, or on my Goodreads page. I welcome any feedback or questions from readers and greatly appreciate their support.
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