Guest Post: Why I Put My Zombies Behind Bars

Welcome to our first guest blogger, Marty Shaw, who writes about putting zombies in prison (a topic I’m most interested in since I’m currently writing a zombie in prison short WEIRD). Welcome Marty!

To paraphrase Doctor Who, zombies are cool. All you have to do is take a stroll through your local bookstore, click over to Amazon, or switch the TV to AMC for The Walking Dead, and it’s easy to tell that animated, rotting corpses are the ‘in’ thing these days… and it’s about time the iconic zombie shuffled his way into the cultural spotlight.

When it comes to my debut horror short story, Dead Man Walking, I’d like to sound impressive and talk about endless hours of market research and polling readers to discover their interest, but I really didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I simply ran with a thought that popped into my head one night while I was at work.

While I’m a full-time writer these days, I was a correctional officer in a prison at that time, and the nights can be long and boring… and don’t get me wrong because boring can be good. When it comes to being in a prison, boring is great, because the alternative can get messy.

During one of those long stretches of night when the inmates were locked up in their cells to sleep, my mind took a macabre turn and wondered what it would be like have a zombie running loose within the prison walls. Yes, my brain occasionally slips its leash and wanders off into some really strange places. Of course, there’s never just one zombie because one bite leads to another, which then leads to another. Pretty soon, there’s a full-blown zombie apocalypse happening behind the brick walls and razor wire.

After the initial idea oozed into my brain, I started really thinking about how it would work in a location where you can’t even walk from one end of the hall to the other without going through at least two locked doors. Does a lock really stand a chance against the undead? The answer is yes… and no. In the world I created, it all depends on the particular zombie because not all zombies are created equal.

Another reason for Dead Man Walking to be handled the way it was is that I wanted to create a zombie origin story. There are plenty of zombie movies and books out there but the vast majority of them feature a world that has already fallen to the undead. I wanted to back things up and show the beginning; give readers a last look at the world they know before it starts to crumble.

Working in a prison can be quite an educational experience, and there’s one part in the book that always brings up one particular question. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers but the answer is yes, you can use powdered coffee creamer, a 9-volt battery, and steel wool to create a certain effect employed by the main character at one point in the story. I might have taken a little dramatic license to enhance the effect but it’s probably still not something you should try at home.

I’d like to thank Jesse for inviting me over to share my thoughts with you, and I really appreciate the fact that I get to keep my brain in this zombie-infested neighborhood because I need that little piece of gray matter to keep my next book, Little Demons, on track for its February release.

You can catch up with me at my website, or find me on Twitter @ItsJustMarty. Feel free to stop by anytime. I don’t bite… much.

Ok, this story sounds awesome and thanks to Marty for jumping in to guest! I’m off to buy “Dead Man Walking” right now! You should, too!