Mark Scioneaux is a pioneer in today's horror literature market. As a popular horror author, Mark, along with Robert Shane Wilson and Jennifer Wilson, has been able to attract top talent to his publishing company, Nightscape Press. He has recently started a zombie serial that opens with its first episode, Hollow Shell. Mark was willing to share the story behind this thrilling zombie epic.
Synopsis of Hollow Shell:
Hollow Shell follows the journey of Chris and Dawn as they navigate through a world devastated by a zombie outbreak. Chris needs to get to West Virginia to make sure his wife is okay. The problem is they are in Louisiana. They will set out on a journey where they'll encounter zombies, humans—both friendly and maniacal—and other obstacles that get in their path. They will also learn about themselves and grow closer, something which may or may not be a good thing.
V: You’re obviously a man who wears many hats; tell us about the most rewarding experience you've had while engineering the rise of your company, Nightscape Press.
MS: Nightscape Press has been a rewarding experience for so many reasons. For starters, my business partners Robert Shane Wilson and Jennifer Wilson are two of the most brilliant, hard-working people I know. Together, we have created a product that we are proud of and so are our authors.
What's rewarding to me is knowing I've done right by those who've trusted us with their book. When they get excited by good reviews, I get excited. I'm helping make their dream a reality, but I couldn't do it without their trust. Nightscape is taking off, but the authors we work with deserve a fair share of the credit to its success.
Hollow Shell is a very unique title for a zombie story. Can you describe how the title connects to the characters and events that happen within its pages?
I wanted to stay away from cliché titles such as "Blank of the Dead," or anything too zombie related. The words hollow shell stuck out to me because they represent two things. One is being the zombies themselves as just shells of their former life. But also, the humans who survive are stuck in the same mold. They are different, and as life goes on, they become dead and hollow on the inside. It's how I think people would become when faced with the destruction of their routine lives.
If you were to compare your protagonist, Chris, to any popular film or book characters, who would you choose? Why?
I wanted to make Chris somewhat relatable to the reader. He's just an average guy who is skilled in certain things, but in others not so much. He's your prototypical survivor. He's not a police officer, or a soldier, or some master of combat. For some reason, the image of Joseph Gordon-Levitt pops into my mind. When I created him, I used myself as the base for him. I obviously don't look like JGL, but I wanted to see what decisions would I make if faced with this journey Chris is about to undertake. I think in the end I created a relatable, but unique, character.
Popular media has convinced some people that a zombie apocalypse really could happen; how do you take an unreal scenario and make the terror your characters face seem authentic so that readers can experience it?
The unreal scenario is flesh-eating ghouls hunting you relentlessly. A very real scenario is a total collapse of society. Though my story features zombies, they are by no means the main threat. I want my readers to think about what would happen and how different life would be if all the laws and rules of society no longer applied. How would people act? Would they become total anarchist, or stick to their morals? Chris and Dawn will encounter plenty of these people, and along the way, they will both be tested morally. Sometimes the decisions will be easy, but there will be some very hard choices to make as well.
I feel what's lost on the public who fantasize about a zombie apocalypse is the dangers humans would present. I feel they would be far more ruthless and deadlier than the zombies.
A lot of zombie stories depict societal collapse and its implications, but your story seems to focus on a conflict between man and nature. Can we expect a different sort of conflict to be highlighted through the series, or will other conflicts add to the challenges that Chris will face?
I wanted to do things a bit different in showing real emotions within the main character, Chris. He will have conflict with his feelings for his parents, the outbreak, Dawn, his wife, and a deeper struggle understanding God through tragedy.
Along the way, various conflicts will arise from the many scenarios they will find themselves in. In Part 1 I focus on the zombies being dangerous. In Part 2, I focus more on the human aspect of an outbreak. Each part will introduce something new while sticking to the same plot line.
With so many zombie novels on the market, what makes your new serial stand out?
A few things, I think. The first is the attention I pay to character detail and development. I love a good "crunch and munch" zombie tale, and Hollow Shell has its fair share of gore and blood, but the main focus is the characters living in this new world. I believe this is why products such as The Walking Dead have been so successful and while I'm not saying this is the next The Walking Dead, I do think if you're a fan of one, you'll be a fan of the other.
With self-publishing came a wave of poorly written and edited zombie books. I've had my story edited twice and proofread numerous times. If there are typos or errors, I tried my best to catch them.
Lastly, I just haven't seen that many serial-type books on the market. I think this could be something people follow and get into. I hope so, anyway.
Do you often follow a process when you create one of your stories? Did you do anything differently with Hollow Shell?
I tend to outline my stories in great detail, and Hollow Shell was no exception. An outline helps me follow a path and reduces the chance of writer's block. Though the outline is thorough, I still change things up and add or delete if I feel inclined to. That's what is so exciting for me regarding this serial. I don't even know where it will end up, but I have some ideas.
Finally, do you have any advice for new writers?
Other than the normal "write every day" advice, I'd say believe in what you write and have confidence in your abilities. Also, write for yourself and no one else. Never give your work for free (unless helping a friend or donating to a charitable cause), and always proofread your work prior to submitting for publication.
Hollow Shell: Part Two is set for a January 2013 release.
Mark C. Scioneaux is employed as an industrial hygienist by day and a horror writer by night.
He is the author of numerous short stories appearing in various anthologies by Blood Bound Books, Severed Press, Evil Jester Press, and others. He is also the author of the thrilling zombie novel, HOLLOW POINT, and the editor of the anthology, BIGFOOT TALES, under the name Mark Christopher. His smash-hit novelette, The Glass Coffin is available for download on Kindle. His newest novel, THE CITY OF WOE: THE EPIC TALE OF DANTE’S JOURNEY THROUGH HELL, is currently being shopped to numerous publishers. His zombie serial, HOLLOW SHELL, was published to Kindle in October.
He is the founder of Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology. Teaming up with Cutting Block Press, they will send all proceeds from book sales to amfAR, an international AIDS charity. It features some of the biggest names in horror and several stars on the rise. He is a co-owner of Nightscape Press, and a member of the Horror Writers Association.
He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife, Jessica.
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