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INTERVIEW: Ethan Reid on THE UNDYING: SHADES, What Really Scares Him, and What Comes Next

ethanreidEthan Reid received his BA in English with Writing Emphasis from the University of Washington and his MFA from the University of Southern California’s MPW Program, where he studied under author S.L. Stebel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Tarloff.

Ethan is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the International Thriller Writers and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Ethan currently lives in Seattle.

Ethan kindly answered my questions on his followup to the fantastic The Undying, The Undying: Shades.


Kristin Centorcelli: I really enjoyed The Undying. What do readers have to look forward to in The Undying: Shades?

Ethan Reid: Jeanie’s story continues, as she heads deeper into Europe fleeing the undying, all the while trying to stay alive in a scorched, ruined world. Following the long winter, she heads south, raising the orphan boy, Rennie, who she took under her wing in Paris. The book is a journey into their lives years after the events that started the endgame, where Ren comes of age among survivors in what could be the last village in all of southern Europe. From there, Ren seeks the truth behind the event that caused the apocalypse, and the strange evolution of the undying ones into new, horrible creations called shades.

KC: How would you say Jeanie has changed the most since the events of The Undying?

ER: After so many years, Jeanie struggles to keep a firm grasp on her innate sense of optimism that she held so deeply in book one – what helped keep her alive. Faced with life in a foreign world so far from Seattle, where no seed grows, and no child has been born since the catastrophic occurrence. As a mother, she sets her own desires aside, and tries to raise Ren in an post-apocalyptic setting. Tries to teach him how to live, scavenge, and fight, and give him a chance to survive.

KC: The Undying was set in Paris, and the new book is set in Spain. What kind of research did you do for this one?

ER: I toured Spain and the towns in the book, visiting Sevilla, Ronda, Barcelona. I’ve long held an affinity to Paris, but I have to admit I was surprised how much I adore Barcelona. When in Spain, especially southern Spain, you really feel the Moorish influence in so much – architecture, food, even the language. It was impossible not to have this Spanish-Moorish marriage work its way into the story.

KC: Was it easier for you to write Shades since you’ve already laid much of the groundwork for the series?

ER: Partly? I think every book gets easier to write than the last. But then new characters take you on fresh journeys, and every novel deserves to stand on its own two feet, even within a series. I wanted to write Ren’s story in Shades, so in a sense I had to discover his character in the telling. The world I didn’t have to recreate as much, as you say the groundwork is set, and Spain is such a stunning setting in itself, although its now much worse off than when we leave Jeanie in book one. Years of winter, followed by acid rain, has created an untenable planet. There is no status quo. And the darkness in Rio is spreading.

KC: You’re a pro at writing scary stuff, but what books have truly terrified you?

ER: The novel The Exorcist scared the shit out of me. As did the movie The Ring. The Road left me feeling desolate, but didn’t terrify. Way back in the day I found Whitley Strieber’s Wolfen as creepy as hell. If I delve deeper, I think the more realistic novels of Stephen King’s are horrifying. I found his utterly realistic novella “Apt Pupil” very chilling. The closer to reality, the guess, the more it can climb in the cranium and really settle in. It’s what I try to do in my writing. Take implausible scenarios and make them as realistic as possible. If the reader can relate, the more easily they feel for the characters. And be scared, to boot.

KC: What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known prior to publication?

ER: Keep writing what’s in your heart. Don’t try to control the things you cannot. And utilize Twitter, newsletters, and Goodreads, early on in the process.

KC: What has surprised you the most about publishing a book?

ER: It requires way more social media time that I’d prefer. Much of what I have to do now keeps me from what I love doing – writing.

KC: Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year?

ER: I finally read The Martian by Andy Weir. Boy, awesome stuff. Great humor throughout. Coming up, I’m looking forward to reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I also have Wool by Hugh Howey ready to go. But World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters is next on my list.

KC: What’s next for you?

ER: I’m working on the third book in the series. We’ll see what happens next to our survivors!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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