Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview + Giveaway with Kim Paffenroth, author of Pale Gods

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming author Kim Paffenroth to the blog as part of our Spook-tastic Halloween event! Kim is here to talk about his upcoming zombie novel , Pale Gods, and share with us his favorite Halloween-y reads and spooky stories!

I haven't read Pale Gods yet, but am certainly looking forward to it! It sounds like a great story with a very interesting and well-thought-out premise! 

I also have the pleasure of hosting a giveaway of Kim's fantastic book, so be sure to scroll all the way down and enter! :) And great news - it's INTERNATIONAL! 

Welcome to Bookish, Kim! Thank you for taking part in our Spook-tastic Bookish Halloween! :) How would you describe Pale Gods to those who haven't heard of it yet?

I used to describe it as "A zombie Moby-Dick" but then I realized that was setting up everyone's expectation for zombie whales, of which there are none in the book. But those who love Melville's classic (or dread it, because of being forced to read it), I think will find here the plot and the symbols, but in a contemporary, more accessible, zombie form: a story of one man's obsession with the unfairness and violence of life, and his mad quest to lodge his own, violent complaint against all the senseless brutality of his world.

What were the challenges in bringing this story to life? Did you have to do any research for your book?

This is the second time I've set a significant amount of a novel's action on board a sailboat. (The first was Dying to Live: Last Rites.) And I know nothing of sailing. So that took a lot of research. And as is usual with contemporary zombie stories, there are a lot of guns, some of which I wouldn't know about, even if I did a lot of recreational shooting myself (which I don't), so I needed to get a passing acquaintance with military weapons like the 25mm chain gun.

Can you share with us a few of your favorite quotes from Pale Gods?

I'll give you my favorite, as it was one of those moments when I had completely captured what I wanted of the original Ahab in my new character, Jacob:

Jacob continued to stare at Ridley, still clutching his chin. “When I take my hand away, if you say one word of kindness, one single syllable that sounds like mercy or compassion or remorse, I’ll dislocate your fucking jaw.”

What are some of your literary inspirations? Favorite books/authors?

Well, we already have Melville out there! Dark, classic literature, esp. Dante, Dostoevsky, and Flannery O'Connor. I think a lot of her short stories are borderline "horror" as they are, but with such a deep (and weirdly orthodox) religious sensibility. 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Well, like the original, it's all about the journey. I'm there to take readers through a particularly horrible world that is recognizably similar to ours. I'm not sure I'm even there to privilege Ridley's point of view over Jacob's (just as Melville makes it very ambiguous how/why we should prefer Ishmael over Ahab). Maybe I'll go back to the original for the "message": "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians."

What is your favorite paranormal creature and why?

I think the Medieval, Jewish story of the golem is a really uplifting one, since in most stories, the thing is created to protect a persecuted community, and there's no sense that the use of the supernatural is displeasing or disrespectful to God. But, like the Frankenstein monster, it can get out of hand. I like that as a metaphor for either technology or magic, or any human yearning for something better and more powerful.

Halloween is almost upon us. To me that means horror movie nights with popcorn, tricks and (hopefully) stacks of yummy treats, and, perhaps most of all, the chance to scare someone and experience the thrill of being scared myself. What does Halloween mean to you?

I think it's the holiday that has the best balance between stuff for kids and stuff for adults, more lighthearted stuff and more threatening, scary stuff. Therefore my thoughts of it are similarly split between remembering taking my kids trick-or-treating, when they were smaller, but then later, going to the most gore splattered haunted attractions I could find, when my son was a tween. So the holiday itself contains all the different elements we use to cope with evil - we make fun of it, deny it, dance around it and pretend it doesn't exist, or throw ourselves into it (safely) and get really scared.

Do you have any real-life spooky stories to share with us? Any supernatural experiences or blood-chilling encounters?

No. I think my experiences are epitomized by the one time I went to a house that was supposedly "really" haunted, and the owner showed us around, recounting the various drafts or cold spots or premonitions he'd experienced. Someone in the group asked, "Why do you think only you could sense these things, and not the other members of your family?" He replied, "I've wondered if I'm just more attuned to the spirits. Or, maybe it's because I'm the only one in the family who smokes a lot of pot." Maybe.

What are some of your favorite scary stories? Any favorite horror or thriller books/authors?

As I said, in literary circles, I'll put Flannery O'Connor down for weirdness or creepiness against anyone who's labelled "horror" as to their genre. Among current writers, I'm most familiar with those in the zombie genre, and I like the work of Brian Keene, Joe McKinney, and Dave Wellington.

What's the scariest / most memorable horror movie you ever saw?

Doesn't everyone have to say The Exorcist? I mean, even edited for television, that thing is crazy. I find myself remembering and cringeing at An Apt Pupil. And for guilty pleasures, I'd say The Funhouse - that's a fun monster/slasher mashup that I've always appreciated.

Fill in the blanks:

1) If I was magically transported back in time to the Dark Ages, I'd... promptly die of something.

2) I'm a pro at... teaching. The only thing I've ever patted myself on the back about.

3) I'm addicted to...World of Warcraft.

4) I'm scared of...failure.

5) The last book I faked reading was... I can't ever remember doing that.

Last question: I'm super curious and I'm sure your fans are all wondering about it too: are you working on a new book now? If so, when can we expect it? Can you share some juicy details to keep our appetites going?

Only at the idea stage right now! I'm sure it'll be zombies, and something from some classic of literature!

Pale Gods by Kim Paffenroth

"Kim Paffenroth has emerged as one of the towering voices in zombie fiction. He is always clear, always insightful, always full of questions that probe the human condition; but with Pale Gods, he's set the bar impossibly high for the rest of us. His trademark erudition is on full display here, and his tremendous capacity for empathy too, but the real joy for me was in the tale's unfolding. Paffenroth has a real gift for keeping you guessing, and Pale Gods is Paffenroth at his very best. I loved it."

-Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Inheritance andThe Savage Dead.

2 copies of PALE GODS (thank you, Permuted Press!)
RUNS TILL: October 31st
OPEN TO: Everyone - it's an International giveaway!
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