Have you always known that you wanted to write novels?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer—I was one of those kids writing six page “books” in elementary school and harassing the other kids to buy them—but it was a long time before I realized that writers actually produce novels. I spent a long time viewing novels as these magical things that just sort of happened.
Once I figured out that people actually create novels, I absolutely knew that I wanted to be a novelist. I couldn’t imagine anything better in the world.
How did the idea for Feed develop?
I love zombies and I love epidemiology, and my big problem with a lot of zombie fiction is that “well, it was a disease” seems like an easy answer, but really isn’t. So I started thinking about what sort of a disease you’d need to actually have a zombie apocalypse—and the thing about diseases is that they don’t actually want to be slatewipers (diseases that wipe out the entire susceptible population), because doing that also destroys the disease itself. I started tinkering with my post-zombie world, trying to figure out what it would take to rebuild society, what kinds of social structure would arise…
I’m also fascinated by the difference between terror and fear. Fear says “do not actually put your hand in the alligator,” while terror says “avoid Florida entirely, because alligators exist.” I figured terror would be a huge component of the post-zombie world. Everything arose from there.
What kind of research did you do while writing this novel?
Feed was a fantastic excuse for me to watch every zombie movie made in the last thirty years and call it serious research. It was an even better excuse for me to audit epidemiology courses and read books with titles like Virus X, The Speckled Monster, and Return of the Black Death: the World’s Greatest Serial Killer. It was a good time.
I also did a lot of practical research. We “staged” several of the fight scenes, to confirm that our distances were accurate. I went to firing ranges, and watched how people handled their firearms. I was unable to drive across the Sacramento River railway trestle, but believe me, the idea was there.
Are there any particular people, events, or places that you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from just about everything. Many of the locations in Feed are places that I’ve actually been, or adapted from places I’ve been. The Republican National Convention conference center, for example, was largely inspired by the crowds at the San Diego International Comic Convention. In terms of people, I read a lot about Hunter S. Thompson and Steve Irwin while I was working on the book, and tried to embody some of their more iconic character traits in my lead characters.
Feed offers a distinctive take on a post-apocalyptic zombified world by viewing it through the eyes of three young bloggers. Do you think blogs will ever overtake mainstream media — without the assistance of a zombie plague?
I think it’s already happening. Newspapers are adapting and moving online, but much like more and more people are looking to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show for their news, I think more and more online readers are looking to the blog community. Once you figure out the signal to noise ratio, it’s a great way to get your news. I think what we’re getting here in the real world is much more organic than the functions of blogger society in Feed, because they were actually forced to organize, while here, the blog society is allowed to evolve.
At one point Georgia explains to the readers how the infrastructure of the blogging world is set up: Newsies, Stewarts, Irwins, and Fictionals. What kind of blogger do you think you’d be in their zombie-infested world?
I’d be a Fictional. A seemingly suicidal Fictional, given that I have a lot of Irwin tendencies—my first reaction to something horrible is usually “ooo, let me see” and reaching for the stick—but I’d totally spend most of my time writing epic poetry about the movement of viral bodies.
Is there any particular scene in Feed that you love?
That’s like asking me to pick my favorite zombie kitten! I have several favorites, but at the end of the day, I think I have to go with Georgia and Shaun in the van, after Rick leaves, and through her blog entry. I cried like a baby the day I wrote that. I actually hadn’t realized how hard it would be until I had to do it.
Zombies aside, is there anything (fictional or otherwise) that sends you screaming in the other direction?
I can’t stand leeches or slugs—anything without bones just creeps me out completely. Also, I can’t take things being pulled out of people. That horror movie standard where the infected character starts pulling out their teeth or pulling off their fingernails? Yeah, that’s where I go for popcorn. I freak out.
At the same time, if you have something horrific and decayed, I am so there.