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Zombie-A-GoGo Interviews

 

Saturday, February 03, 2007

10:41 AM - Bowie Ibarra

Interview with
Bowie Ibarra

by
Wayne Simmons
(aka Spiral)

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Down The Road
may seem to be, at first, a strange name for a zombie horror story, but, as a title, it speaks volumes of the simple genius of Bowie Ibarra’s debut novel. Telling the story of one man, wranglers-clad-all-round-nice-southern-boy, George Zaragosa, and his decision to go ‘down the road’ to visit his family, this isn’t a complex book. In fact, you might well be yawning until I tell you ‘the catch.’

George’s road isn’t like the one outside your window, so to speak. Alas, the road George intends to go down happens to be ram-packed full of post-apocalyptic mayhem, a million zombies and a clearly godforsaken (and everything-else-forsaken) military, who in Ibarra’s post-apocalyptic southland seem every bit as mindless, yet lethal, as the mindless-yet-lethal-zombies.

(And no, I didn’t say the George W or Iraq words… DOH!)

Fairly traditional zombie fodder, you might think… yet to write
Down The Road off as simply another for the doomsday pile would be brash, indeed. As John Hubbard, co-author of Wandering Flesh, suggests in the inside cover of Down The Road, this is a book that goes deeper than at first suspected, providing trad zombie fans with something ‘in many ways touching.’ Regardless of Ibarra’s recurring messy sentence structure and economical use of language, Down The Road does what it says on the tin, serving up a highly enjoyable, gore-stained zombie romp that should leave fans hungry for a sequel of two. And it does it all with a heart that is missing from many contemporaries…

Bowie Ibarra is a man who, as Dave Moody comments ‘clearly loves the genre’, and in so doing writes as a fan as well as fan-favourite. All the boxes are ticked, readers encountering endless shoot-outs with zombies and survivors alike, drugged-up ganglords and, of course, the ever-feverish gun-toting rednecks. And through it all, our hero George never loses sight of his simple mission to get down that muther-pumping-gaddam road, bless him, and we never lose sight of George, rooting for him all the way towards the novel’s delightfully plaintive conclusion.

As I caught up with Bowie Ibarra, in cyberspace, I began to suspect the author’s own charm and down-to-earth affability equaled that of George.

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Spiral: In a world where we have talking zombies (Brian Keene’s The Rising), sexy, steamy zombies (Andre Duza’s Dead Bitch Army) it seems interesting to find you trodding a very traditional path with Down The Road. Was there a particular reason for you going back to grass-roots zombies?

Bowie Ibarra: Well, my story is not a reaction against these fantastic works by these authors. On the contrary, when I first started writing it, I naively thought that my book would be one of the only zombie books out there. Boy, was I wrong. In a way, I’m glad I took the traditional approach, as these other books would have been intimidating had I known about them. Not knowing about their trailblazing angles on zombies, I was able to write my yarn without having these stories color and influence my narrative. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fantastic stories, but I knew I wanted something conventional and conservative, yet just as violent and stunning as any zombie story out there.

SP: What makes Down The Road different from other zombie books?

BI: I think what separates my book from the others is my emphasis on the global conspiracy angles I take. Many people are waking up more to the possibility that the U.S. government is not as benevolent or prepared for disaster as some might think. Some, like myself, think that the people who run our government have a hidden hand in many of the disasters and attacks on our nation.

When it comes to government readiness, many readers pointed to FEMA’s response to Katrina as a sterling example of what I was getting at. From the perspective of governmental benevolence, I paint a bleak picture: Disarming the populace and internment for their ultimate safety. Within the internment camps, things are not well, either. Abu Girab is yet another example of how supervised and unsupervised detention of prisoners can turn very ugly very quickly, pointing a jagged finger at the darker side of humanity and those in our military. My dad used to always say that you cram a lot of people into a small space, it’s easy to get edgy. Lets also not forget how protesters were entered into databases at FEMA camps (the old San Point Brig) during the government sponsored Seattle riots and the last New York Republican convention where protesters were housed in an old run down and condemned bus depot.
The old cliché is true: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Look at the news today. At this point it is not official, but the possibility of an actual bill being passed that could have the president identify actual American citizens as “enemy combatants” if they speak or do things considered ‘against’ our country is chilling. Even more scary is that those same people can be held indefinitely in prison, or a ‘camp’, and ‘pressured’ (the new word for ‘torture’) by sodomy or having their child raped or genitals mutilated in front of the parent as long as it is during ‘information gathering’ is outrageous. The fact that we allow it to happen is even more so.

So I write my stories from this perspective. How would the modern police state mentality deal with a zombie outbreak. The sequel goes into that even more. Whether you buy some of the implications in the story as gospel, or think its kooky ramblings of a paranoid nutter, its an interesting and unique angle for the genre, especially in these intolerant and interesting times.

SP: You’ve been described by Travis Adkins (Twilight Of The Dead) as ‘like the Quentin Tarrantino of zombie literature.’ Heavyweight Indie horror gurus, such as Dave Moody (Autumn) and Brian Keene (The Rising/ City OF the Dead) have all heaped praise on you. How does it feel to have that kind of praise from people you, yourself, admire and respect?

BI: I’m very proud of that. It’s an honor to be mentioned by these greats who I do, indeed, admire and respect. They are the ones who are the backbone of the zombie genre, the ones you always see talked about when it comes to zombie literature. So for them to take the time to give me a compliment about my work is an absolute honor.

When Travis brought up the ‘Tarrantino’ similarity in the second edition, I was flattered. Tarrantino really moved people with ‘Pulp Fiction’. Then I think about Quentin being an Aries like me and I thought it was an even more fitting comparison. I watch his movies sometimes and think, ‘man, I know where he’s coming from’.

I write my stories without ‘rules’, in a way. Naturally, I try and write using the proper form and sentence structure. But like Tarrantino, when it comes to the storyline, elements, and perspectives, I try not to limit myself by the typical conventions of the art form or the opinions of the mainstream. I try to express myself as openly and completely as possible, revealing dark aspects and noble virtues that I think we all share as a humanity. Like in acting, the more you are real and truthful, the more people will be moved by it. Whether it’s a feeling of joy, sadness, lust, anger, if you’re making people feel something with your particular artistic medium, then you’re doing right. It feels great.

SP: We’ve seen the Southern states in horror before, namely the Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Deliverance… Apart from living in the region, what made you choose to base Down The Road there?

BI: A wiser man than myself once told me, ‘write what you know’. For example, I love England, but for me to write a story about zombies in London wouldn’t work, as I only have a general understanding of London from Shaun of the Dead, Monty Python, and old Doctor Who shows. I’ve been all around south Texas, and I know it pretty well. So it makes more sense for me to put a zombie outbreak in the republic of Texas.

SP: Down The Road, itself, has endured quite a journey before finding somewhere to call home, in Permuted Press. Tell us about the highs and lows, twists and turns…

BI: It started several years ago. I had just got a real job and a little one room apartment in Austin. Naturally, I had a collection of zombie movies and watched them over the weekends. When I got dial up, I searched the ‘net and found a website called ‘homepageofthedead.com’. I read some of the short stories in there and was impressed. Having dabbled with writing virtually all my life, I decided to give it a go. I threw in “night of the living dead” for mood writing and wrote the first chapter. I didn’t touch it again for several years.

Then a friend commented about a colleague of ours writing and publishing a book in only several months. Granted, that is an exception to the general rule, but it lit a fire under my ass. I decided I was going to hammer out
Down the Road and find a publisher.

Within months, I had finished it and started searching out a publisher. Being a little lazy, I found a self-publishing company called Authorhouse that blew sunshine up my butt about how great they were and how great my story was. I found it to be immediately like buying a car, hearing how great they are and how happy authors were. They also had a list of things I could do, though I had to sink a lot of dough into any and all of the endeavors. I opted to take the minimal route, getting it published and out there. I put the promotional efforts in my own hands, as I had already sunk a little over a grand to get it out there. I always had the idea that my book was a kind of book you’d find at a convenience store or grocery store. Small and soft cover. It was pulp style zombie horror, in my opinion. The minimal it needed to get out was fine by me.

Naturally, I went to ‘homepageofthedead’ first. Neil Fawcett, the man who runs the site, was extremely gracious to allow me to give away two of my books on his site. The response was slow, but ultimately, a confirmation that I had written a good piece of zombie horror. The kudos came in steadily for a long time. It wasn’t for a while that I heard a really bad review. Everyone in the early phases was very kind and helpful with their critiques, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The way I saw it, I was a beginning writer. Any and all critiques were helpful in my growth as a writer.

It was around this time Travis Adkins, a total stranger, e-mails me and says he loved my book. He then offered to tweek it here and there and see if he could get it off the boards with a legitimate publisher, Permuted Press. At first, I was skeptical. Who was this guy and what did he want? After several e-mails back and forth, I decided the man was sincere and chose to give it a go. The only thing I felt I had to lose was the publishing house I was with, which seemed like a good idea.

I was right. Travis Adkins is one of the most magnanimous people I’ve ever had the chance to call a friend. He adjusted the original work, got my foot in the door with Permuted Press, and even took the time to send the book to noted writers for reviews. Not only that, but with the accolades his story
Twilight of the Dead was receiving, I could not go wrong letting this guy work some magic on my story.

In the end, the 2nd edition is fantastic thanks to Travis and the boys and girls at Permuted Press. It was the right move all along.

I also want to take the time and say to any aspiring writer, write! Write every day. Whether it’s a sentence or five pages, write. If its for personal use, great. If you want to share your self and your story with the world, do it. Find a way. Get it out there. Get a second job, drive a cab, something, if you need money to get it off the boards like I did. In the end, I’m technically still a little in the red, but the opportunities are even greater now. Without risk, there is no real reward. Taking that risk with Authorhouse was one of the best choices out there, though perhaps a bit audacious.

The bottom line is that I had faith in my story. I knew it was a good story and knew I wanted to share it everyone.

SP: What are your top-ten horror novels (and how any of them have inspired you)?

BI: As I think about this question, I realize I’m not really a real ‘reader’ anymore, per say. In my youth, I spent hours reading about ancient civilizations and cultures in my dreams of being an archaeologist like Indiana Jones. I also explored paranormal phenomena, UFO’s, and the occult in my pursuit of being a parapsychologist like the Ghostbusters. My senior year in high school and early college days found me reading horror novels, but strictly Stephen King. But I haven’t read much since then.

The horror novels that really moved me back then has to be Stephen King’s
The Shining. Never in my life had I been so frightened in broad daylight in my own back yard. It was a feeling like never before. So when it comes to horror, The Shining is number one.

After that, the Bachman books are second. I really loved
The Running Man and thought it was exhilarating. The Long Walk was also disturbing. After that, I really only read movie novelizations for Friday the 13th.

There is one exception when it came to my horror reading. I did read Clive Barker’s
In the Flesh. Talk about strange. It was a fantastic read, but very strange and not what I expected.

In lieu of the horror novels, books that have inspired me are Alexander Dumas’
The Three Musketeers. That book is probably the greatest work of fiction I’ve ever read. It had action, adventure, intrigue, and a sense of honor and nobility that I admire to this day. Call of the Wild was another book that was absolutely moving to me. Classic. You can’t be a conspiracy kook without intimately knowing George Orwell’s 1984. Claustraphobic, frightening, and dark, it is one of those books with an ending that really affected me for hours afterwards. It is a fantastic, enduring, and prophetic work. The Most Dangerous Game stands out as another story that moved me.

The single most important book that I have ever read is David Icke’s
The Biggest Secret. This book totally blew my mind and I have not been able to look at the world the same way ever again. My reality tunnel and perception of truth, faith, and human existence was shattered and I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces since then. It’s a bit outrageous, and if you can make it past the first few chapters, it is really a fantastic documentation of the malevolent bloodlines that run the world.

Along these same lines,
Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins was another work that prepped me for the political viewpoints I currently hold.

SP: Top ten horror flicks (and how they have inspired you?)

BI: I might not have had much to say about horror books, but I’ve seen my share of horror movies. Man, Friday the 13th was my first horror movie, and I was not prepared at all for what I saw in that film. The birth of the ‘slasher’ genre. Being a small child and watching a woman slide down a wall with an axe in her head is easily the beginning of me getting a little screwed up in the head.

If we’re talking horror movies, I know number one is
Night of the Living Dead. Tied for number two is the original The Fog, a movie that chills me to the bone to this day, and the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Just the opening ‘flash photography’ moments were enough to creep me out. I remember thinking because the two goofballs in Summer School were fans of it, and because the teacher played by Mark Harmon let his summer school class write a book report on it that I could handle it. No way, Jose. It was one of the only movies that my friends and I had to turn off and not finish when I first saw it. The torture scene at the dinner table was just too much for me back then. It’s pretty tough for me even now. These were two movies I saw as a kid that scared (and emotionally scarred) the holy bejesus out of me. Number three needs to be the Friday the 13th series, as they are all outgrowths of the same story. Specifically 1, 4, 6, and Jason Goes to Hell. Return of the Living Dead, Part 2 before 1 is in at four. Part one ended up growing on me in my adulthood, as I thought in my youth it would be too much for me. Lucio Fulci’s Zombi at five. The Fly and Aliens tied at six. At seven, Hellraiser 2, a movie that kept me horrified and scared the entire movie, even as a teenager who was used to this kind of stuff. Eight is Halloween 2. I must put Dawn of the Dead, Land of the Dead, and Day of the Dead tied by preference at nine. Shaun of the Dead at ten, a total inspiration to all and a fantastic homage to George Romero.

Honorable mentions include
The Shining, which was another movie that screwed with my head when I was a child. Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors was one I enjoyed as a young teenager.

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SP: So what’s next for Bowie Ibarra?

BI: Well, I’ve more or less got the second part of Down the Road finished. It’s called Down the Road: On the Last Day. I anticipate it coming out during or before next spring. I’m currently writing what I like to describe as a ‘slasher’ style novel called “92%”. I won’t give away too much of what it’s about, but it guaranteed to have the usual political implications with the usual blood and lascivious content. I have also been formulating the ideas for the third and final Down the Road called Down the Road: The Fall of Austin. I’m trying to find a publisher for a story I’ve written called Pit Fighters: Baptism by Fire about a stable of no holds barred fighters getting their start. I’d like to turn that story into a series. I’m even considering writing a series of stories called Heroes of the Squared Circle. With the recent success of one of my roller derby family, Melicious, and her book on the sport, I’m even considering writing my stories and experiences in roller derby. But we’ll see about that.

All in all, I’m just trying to live a normal life with my family in this crazy world and provide for them as much as I can and balance my artistic life with that. Quick shout out to my wife Edith Yedida and my baby girl Gwendolyn Maya. I Love you both.

And here’s one to all the people who have supported my work and given my book a chance. Thank you ever so much. I hope you will continue to give my work a chance and best wishes to you all.

And thank you once again, Spiral, for this chance.

Down the Road: The Last Day is now available at Permuted Press! Click here!

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