Zombies are all the rage at this moment. While much cooler than the previous vampire trend, you can’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about the undead in a post-apocalyptic world. Lucky for me, I’ve been a huge zombie fan since I first saw Return of the Living Dead way back in my teen years. Author Scott Lefebvre is hoping to use this zombie love-fest phenomenon to crowdfund his upcoming book, The End of the World is Nigh, which will be a mixture of short stories and a novel. In one of the more interesting ideas in recent memory, $50 backers will answer a lengthy personality survey and be written into the story, with an unknown fate.
“I figured that if someone made a contribution I would offer to write them into the novel,” Lefebvre said after a friend suggested he go the crowdfunding route to finance this piece. “It was either this or get a second job and give up my dreams like everyone else.”
While Lefebvre plans to focus more on the characters, the story will take place 10 years after what is referred to as “The End of the World,” a time when an overcrowded and underfed world led people to resort to cannibalism, which, in turn, turns them into “your basic zombie, a brainless walking chomping eating machine.” The scenarios will “integrate post-apocalyptic themes, which have always been interesting.” Ultimately, this will be a story about “love and hate and life and death,” but with seemingly everything a horror fan would love.
To keep things tight, this project is limited to 50 backers. Interested parties can sign up until October 31, and there are many packages to choose from. Certain backers will have their likeness illustrated within the story. Look for an early 2014 release date.
Motif: This is a very interesting idea. How did it come about?
Scott LeFebvre:Thanks for thinking it’s interesting. I wrote two short stories for an anthology called Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead. It was a zombie-themed anthology, and I wrote the same story from two different points of view with two completely different characters. One was third person, which I published under my name, and the other was first person, which I published under my pen name. The interesting thing was that the editor accepted the story under my name with only minor editorial suggestions. The other story, submitted under my pen name, she tried to rewrite and I had to fight back to keep the story the way I had written it. Turns out that she didn’t like the person that she imagined my pen name was.
I’m sure you can see the irony inherent in the situation.
The editor invited me to come out to HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be part of a book-signing booth to celebrate the launch of the book. When I show up, the editor is freaking out because the case of books that was supposed to be there wasn’t, so essentially, we would be three unknown authors at an empty table for the weekend. I decided to print copies of the story I wrote under my name so at least I’d have something to offer convention attendees who stopped by the booth. They could consider it a sneak peek or an appetizer before ordering the entree and at least I wouldn’t be sitting there all weekend with a stupid grin on my face.
I gave one of the print-outs to Jerry Chandler from Synapse Films, and to my surprise he read it that night and the next day asked me, “Where’s the rest of it?” I hadn’t thought of it as an intro. I thought of it as a self-contained story, but I now realize that I accidentally wrote the introduction to a much larger work.
That was eight years ago.
I honestly forget why I decided to pick-up the project again. It just came to me one night and I started writing some stories in what I’ve been calling Nigh World or The World of Nigh. I felt like finally writing the novel-length version of it and I put a sample paragraph on Facebook and asked if anyone was interested in reading the complete story if I wrote it. My friend David Lavallee Jr. gets the credit as the first person to suggest that I go the crowdfunding route to get the money I needed to fund the writing of the project.
I figured that if someone made a contribution I would offer to write themselves into the novel and [Motif contributor] Rick Laprade helped me to put together the rest of the contributor reward prize tiers.
Motif: Do you have a basic plot written? Will this be a novel or a collection of short stories? SL: The basic plot is that it’s 10 years after overpopulation and food scarcity cause people to resort to the soilent green solution, but in this scenario, the food product made from human protein does to humans what feeding cow meat to cows does. It causes a fever, then a coma, causing the death of the cognitive faculties, but not killing the host or satiating the hunger for food. So you get your basic zombie — a brainless walking chomping eating machine. My novel will be set 10 years after what everyone in the novel refers to as “The End Of The World,” so I can integrate post-apocalyptic themes, which have always been interesting to me.
But the plot is less important to me than being able to tell evocative stories about a set of characters. Zombies and the apocalypse are just a metaphorical threat and a backdrop for me to use to write a novel about love and hate and life and death.
It will be a novel, AND a collection of interconnected short stories with characters appearing as cameos in other stories. Think Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson, but on a national scale, and with cannibals and zombies. Or think Stephen King’s The Stand except without the sides of good and evil being as simplified and polarized, and with cannibals and zombies.
Motif: How do you plan to incorporate all of the characters into your story? Is there a limit?
SL: I set the limit at 50 because I wanted to give everyone who contributed a satisfying character arc and not just give them one-paragraph on one page as their honorary mention fro their money. I know how hard you have to work to earn 50 dollars these days, and that’s the contribution level you have to donate over to be written into the book.
I think it was wise to cap it at 50, but I would consider more if someone decided to contribute at a higher level. Essentially more characters just means a longer book.
I don’t think it’s irrational to think that this could be as long as Stephen King’s The Stand, or if the project is successful and I’m able to serialize the novels, I could go on indefinitely. Characters may come and go, but the world I’m building will continue to exist.If you’ve seen Richard Linklater’s film Slacker, you understand the way that characters can pass along a narrative baton like a relay-race and that’s kind of what I want to do. I want to write a post-apocalyptic zombie-epidemic multi-layered relay-race of a novel.
If a short story is a song, I want to write a symphony.
Motif: How did you connect with the illustrators?
SL: I worked as a brand manager for a horror-genre merchandising company for five years and then went on to coordinate horror conventions. Part of the job was going out to horror conventions and selling the merchandise to the thousands of attendees. When you’re a vendor at horror conventions, you run into the same vendors again and again and they become kind of like your carny family. I met a lot of talented artists who were well able to draw zombies during those years and if I was impressed by their work, I made a mental note to remember to get in touch with them. I can’t mention names yet as I’m still lining up the artists, but I’m planning on begging, borrowing and cashing in 10 years of favors for this project. I may be able to lure some of the best artists working in the industry if all I ask them for is one small picture of a zombie, which every horror artist secretly likes to doodle between paying projects anyway.
Motif: When you do plan to have The End is Nigh published?
SL: I think that being able to have the project finished for a January 1st launch in 2014 is a not unrealistic goal. I know it sounds insane, but I write faster and more confidently than anyone I know, especially when I can clearly see the narrative arc of a project. I can clearly see what I intend to do with The End Of The World Is Nigh. I can write 40 pages a day, times 50 characters equals a 2,000-page book and I can write it in two months if I wanted to work myself to death and use all of the proceeds to buy myself robot fingers. I think giving myself three months to write between 700 and 1,000 pages is definitely a realistic goal and only half of what I’m capable of if I can have 24-hour access to caffeine and nicotine and sleep was optional.
I’m also planning on publishing sections of the book, chapter by chapter, on the book’s blog. I may make an invite-only private group on Facebook or Google+ so that contributors can read their stories as soon as they’re finished or as their character develops in the story and make suggestions on which course the novel should take.
I’m not planning on writing this novel by committee. Suggestions, although always appreciated, are like wishes. Sometimes they come true, and sometimes they don’t. I reserve the right to do what I please with the characters, and as long as it’s for the good of the story, I won’t apologize except as consolation that someone’s character had to die because it made narrative sense. I figure as long as I don’t make a paying character a pedophile or a bestiaphile or a necrophile or a necro-pedo-bestiaphile, then all is fair in the fictional. But people have to accept the fact that it’s a post-apocalyptic zombie-epidemic project. People are going to die.