Jezri's Nightmare Books

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Zombies, Pizza and Cadaver Dogs: My Interview With Anthony Armstrong

A few months ago I read a new zombie book by Anthony Armstrong. It was a new take on the zombie apocalypse and I thoroughly enjoyed it. (You can read my review here.) But I was left with questions, so today I am interviewing Anthony... and I'm not alone. Jeff Hollar has decided to help with the questioning.

Lisa: Hello Anthony. I really enjoyed this twist on the zombie apocalypse. Tell us about Cadaver Dogs.

Anthony: Sure thing, but first, let me say thank you for inviting me here…I like what you’ve done to the place.  Cadaver Dogs is a novella about the zombie apocalypse, but honestly…at the heart, it’s the story of a man trying to deal with the loss of his wife.  He is numb, he feels like a failure, and he does what he needs to survive.  

Lisa: Cadaver Dogs is a unique take on the zombie apocalypse. There are aspects of the virus that are different from everything that has ever been depicted. How did you come up with the concept?

Anthony: They’re not zombies in the classical sense, but they’re called that for lack of a better word.  Without revealing too much, I only needed the brain to be infected…I had other uses in mind for the bodies, and they needed to be somewhat living instead of the typical rotting corpses.  The entire story idea came from just having the television on in the background.  Some crime show mentioned cadaver dogs, and even though I had heard the phrase and knew what they were trained to do, I was really enchanted by the sound of it for some reason that day.  I immediately went into my office and wrote the words ‘Cadaver Dogs’ on a piece of paper and started thinking about how I could work that title into a concept.  I really liked the thought of a group of people searching for the dead the same way their namesakes do.

Lisa: Now I read the book and I loved it, but there were a few things that confused me… well, one major thing most of all, and I don’t want to give away spoilers but dude… they had electricity. I always picture the zombie apocalypse with no power because after a while, even generators run out. So what’s the story there?

Anthony: Thank you, and I am extremely glad you asked this question.  To explain, the compound they are using for shelter is an old data/call center, many of which are equipped with massive generators  to prevent data loss in the event of a black out.  I wrongly assumed most people would know that…oversight on my part.  However, in your review of the work (thank you for the four stars, by the way) you stated that Eric had electricity in the cabin.  I’ve gone back and re-read the work numerous times, and I don’t know what gave that impression.  There was no electricity in the cabin.

Lisa: Really? *pulls out Kindle* I don't want to argue with you, but right here...  The cabin's sensor light came on as we walked up to the porch... Doesn't that indicate electricity? 

Anthony:  Merely an oversight on my part, however there are battery powered lights that are readily available

Lisa: Ah... well ok then,  lol.   

Jeff: Pineapple: Pizza topping or dessert ingredient.

Lisa: Leave it to Jeff to ask about pizza... which he hates...

Jeff: I don't particularly dislike it.

Lisa: You don't particularly love it either.

Jeff: Quit putting pineapple on it and maybe I would.


Anthony: Both, actually.  I also use whipped cream as a dessert topping AND a floor wax.
Lisa: Do you have a job outside of writing?

Yes.  I work in the wonderful and exciting world of insurance, but I’d much rather discuss my writing or my band, November Mourns.

Lisa: Wow, multi-talented. Author, insurance and plays music. What has been the worst advice you were given as an author? 

Someone once told me to automatically throw out the first ending I write to any piece as it would be the weakest and most obvious.  I have never once done that.  I do, however, come up with a number of alternate possibilities, and try them all on first before deciding which will work best for my piece.  Sometimes that first one is the right one, sometimes it’s not.

Lisa: What has been the best advice?

My favorite has been the phrase “Vomit it all out.  Clean it up later.”  I find that I sometimes want to go back and either correct spelling or grammar as I’m writing instead of getting out whatever it is that’s flowing at the moment.  All of that can be picked over and fixed later.  It is so much more important to get the idea out first.  I have to remind myself of that quite often.

Jeff: What is the most negative feedback you ever got from somebody when you told them you wanted to be a writer and how did it affect you.

When I first started writing, I shared a story with someone close to me.  (Keep in mind, I write horror, so the story was not about bunnies and lemonade, I assure you.)  He told me it sounded like something the Columbine High School shooters would have written.  Initially, I was shocked that someone would have the balls to compare a simple short story to a national tragedy.  That still seems beyond ridiculous to me, but it made me realize that not everyone is going to get, understand, approve of, or enjoy what I write.  It toughened me up and made me even more determined to write for my own enjoyment and not think about popular opinion.

Jeff: Who would you say are the major influences in your writing style?

Anthony: Damn it, man…that’s a tough question.  I learn something from every author I read, and I would be happy if I could write one tenth as well as any of the following people, but here is a list of folks who have made me set the book down and say “WHOA!  I wanna write something like *THAT*!”: Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Richard Matheson, Brian Hodge, Dennis LeHane, Jonathan Maberry, Duane Swierczynski, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z. Brite, Tim Waggoner, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Graham Masterton, Daniel Woodrell.  The list goes on…  

Jeff: What genre would you absolutely love to write, but you have found out would never work for you?

Anthony: I don’t know that I could say something would ‘never’ work for me, but straight realism doesn’t seem to be my friend.  There always has to be some exaggerated element in what I write.  I have tried things outside of horror, though, and some worked alright while others didn’t.  I think there are things I’m not quite ready for.  I love hard-boiled crime and took a stab at it with a piece called ‘Winter’s Call’, but even that was pretty over-the-top in places.  I would like to try that genre again sometime, hoping that I grow and get better the more I work on it.

Jeff: How do you motivate yourself to write, when the odds of making it as a writer seem so insurmountable with so many indies out there.

Anthony: If ‘making it’ were my goal, I would have given up many years ago.  I have been at this for a long time and I find that as long as I write something that I want to read…something that pleases me…it doesn’t matter if I ‘make it’.  Sure I would love to support myself with my writing and would jump at the chance if it really came about, but I aim only to please myself.  The process of creating something is very cathartic to me.  Sometimes it’s what I do when I need to understand something about myself or my current situation.  Sometimes its only purpose is to blow off steam.  When I have an idea that digs at me, I will write it because I need to get it out.  If the well is dry, so to speak, I don’t sweat it…I know something new will be along shortly and I’ll get that motivation to write like a maniac again.  When the piece is done, if I like it, I will submit it to publishers.  If I don’t like it, I consider it practice for the next piece.  When I’m not writing fiction, I paint.  When I’m not painting, I’m writing and playing music with my band.  I’ve sold plenty of fiction, I’ve sold some paintings, I’ve played many, many shows, but I don’t do any of this to ‘make it’…my motivation is keeping myself sane.  

Lisa: Okay, and moving on... Cadaver Dogs ends at a cliff hanger. Are you planning a sequel? 

Anthony: Well, I honestly hadn’t considered it at first.  I like the thought of leaving the reader to decide what the future holds for Eric.  I have heard, though, some people are not satisfied with the cliffhanger.  There is a sequel in the works, providing, of course, that Stacey Turner at Angelic Knight Press and I are pleased with the work
Lisa: Awesome! I can't wait to read it. If you would like to read Cadaver Dogs... and you do want to, you can find it on here. Thank you to Stacey Turner who helped arrange this interview, and Angelic Knight Press.


  1. Really enjoyed the interview with Jeff and Lisa's Q&A. I look forward to reading Cadaver Dogs, Anthony.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share with us. I really enjoyed the interview :)