John Ringo is an American science fiction and military fiction author. He has had several New York Times best sellers. His books range from straightforward science fiction to a mix of military and political thrillers. He answers questions about his past Zombie novels, current projects, and plans with Monster Hunters.
JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is best-selling science fiction and fantasy author, John Ringo. Welcome, John. Your list of bestsellers is long and our interview time is unfortunately short, so I’m going to focus on some of your more recent work. Your most recent series is Black Tide, which features living zombies. What made you choose this approach?
John Ringo: I think the zombie genre, whether you’re talking about infected biologicals or walking dead or whatever, in this case, it’s infected biologicals, 28 Days Later, that type of thing, just basically a plague which has both an airborne and a blood pathogen component which causes people to lose upper level intellect and become extremely violent and also strip. But that’s actually one of the logic things to it, which is, in some of these where you have people who are going violently insane and they’re still human, they’re not walking dead, they have normal biological processes, modern clothing holds up extremely well and they would develop rectal impaction very quickly, which will kill you.
So I understand why they don’t do it in movies but essentially you have to have a way for the zombies to take their clothes off before they become non-sentient, because they can’t figure it out after that. So it’s that kind of approach is – most of these things are stupid and what I’ve saying during Dragon Con talking about this is, it seems like in every zombie apocalypse, all of the competent people die five minutes before the apocalypse starts.
JMW: I hope that doesn’t happen.
John Ringo: Because you always end up with a whole bunch of people who are really incompetent. So the essential basis of the story is that a family of four who are competent, have a plan, activate the plan, which is: with this type of situation, take to sea in a sailboat. Once they get to sea, and they do have some adventures on land first, it becomes more or less Battlestar Galactica at sea in the North Atlantic, where the story is not about how to survive the apocalypse, it is about how to bring back civilization. It is about rescuing other people and forming a community and making the world better, rather than simply, “Oh God, what are we going to do?” My publisher said – two of the characters in it are sisters, Faith and Sophia – she said the one character that isn’t listed anywhere but is in every line is hope. Anyway.
JMW: Cool. Strands of Sorrow, the fourth and final volume in the series is scheduled for publication in early 2016. How do you feel about wrapping up the series?
John Ringo: The paperback is coming out in 2016, the fourth book. I finished the series a long time ago because I wrote it in about three months, I wrote four books in about three months.
JMW: Oh gosh.
John Ringo: And the problem is is that, my wife says that I cannot finish another series. I already have too many, my readers are like, “Oh God, you’ve got so many series and you’re starting another one.” But my wife says I’m no longer allowed to finish a series because I mourned it. I mourned it. I loved writing those books so much and that comes across when you read them, I mean they’re fun, everybody that reads these things goes, “Oh, these are awesome!” But I loved writing them so much, I kept wanting to write them and there was nothing else of that story to write. It was the formation of Wolf Squadron, the beginning of the re-establishment of civilization and I got up to a certain point and was done and I mourned it. I didn’t write for two years.
JMW: Oh no.
John Ringo: That’s the answer.
JMW: Gosh and that for you is sort of not like not eating.
John Ringo: Yeah, yeah, a little bit.
JMW: Oh dear. Is there any possibility that there will be a crossover or something that would continue it?
John Ringo: Yeah, right from the beginning, when I was writing it and I should have just gone ahead and done it, maybe then I would have written for more than two years, I have a completely different universe, which is referred to as the Paladin of Shadows, first book in that was Ghost. The first book in the Black Tide Rising universe is Under a Graveyard Sky. Ghost is a completely different universe, it’s techno-thriller, it’s not science fiction. It does, however, have some fantasy aspects, not just the triple-X part but pretty much everybody asked, in that environment, what would Mike Harmon and the Keldara do? In the Black Tide environment, what would Mike Harmon and the Keldara do?
So I finally just broke down and decided I was going – never cross the streams. I decided it was time, we’re going to cross the stream and I started posting about this on Facebook. And I do a lot of snippeting on Facebook and I said, “I’m not sure that Toni Weisskopf, my publisher, is going to publish this.” And the second response on it was Toni and it was, “Of course I’m going to publish it, we’ve all wondered.”
So the special circumstance universe is very hard to explain but involves a tribe in the country of Georgia who are called the People of the Axe and the Mountain Tigers and once they get to the fall of civilization part, the zombies have taken over everywhere outside of the valley because the valley has vaccine, which is made from human spines, they have it because they don’t care about the human spines. The question comes up, “How are we going to fight back? There’s not enough bullets. We’ve got a lot of bullets, we don’t have that much.” And one of the team leaders, Oleg, replies, “Keldara. They were known as the People of the Axe.” So everywhere else, they were using 50-caliber machine guns, fighting their way through it with M6s or M4s and M16s and AK47s and in the Valley of the Keldara, they’re using axes.
JMW: Ah and they’re going to get lots of spines, aren’t they? Yes they are, oh boy.
John Ringo: Yes they are. They have a vaccine production facility because the thing about the vaccine in the Black Tide universe is it’s like the original rabies vaccine, it requires that you collect the viruses and then do what’s called attenuation, which is you kill the viruses. And the only place that you can find the viruses are on infected higher-order primates. So you have a choice of green monkeys, Rhesus monkeys, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, humans and you run out of all of the other ones pretty quick.
JMW: Yeah and it does bad things for the ecology anyway. You’re about to embark on a very exciting project with Monster Hunters International. Can you tell our viewers a little bit about that?
John Ringo: I was reading the MHI books because I was supposed to be doing a collaboration with Larry Correia as senior author. I’d come up with a new universe, Larry was going to write it, I was going to be the senior author. I wanted to see how he wrote and I liked the universe. I do what’s called ideation a lot, I sit in the dark smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee or smoking cigars and drinking coffee and think and concentrated daydream, if you will, and I came up with this concentrated daydream of a monster hunter in the 1980s instead of the current day period of the monster hunters.
There’s a reference in one of the books to “we learned from the monster hunters of the past,” and so this was the memoirs of a guy from the 1980s who was one of their top hunters named Chad Gardenier. And I just had, once it really started taking me in – when things start taking me over, I just – there’ll be long periods, like two years where I don’t write and then you cannot stop me writing. One of the reasons that I’m looking forward to going home, I love Dragon Con, one of the reasons I’m looking forward to going home is I’m in write mode and I want to go write. So I had this idea and sat down and started writing and three, four weeks later, I had two books done, I was starting on the third and I had a book and a half done and I was posting stuff on Facebook and it’s like, “Has anybody told Larry about this?” Oh yeah, hang on a second, I suppose I should – “Hey Larry, I’m writing you a universe, do you mind?”
And I just write stuff, I don’t, people are like, oh, you have to do a synopsis and an outline, you have to do this, you have to do that, man, when it’s time to write, I just sit down and write whatever.
JMW: So, what are you working on now? You’re in writing mode.
John Ringo: God, what am I working on now? At the moment, I’m working on an interview.
John Ringo: When I get home, I will either pick up the third Monster Hunter book and finish it or I will just keep writing on the Keldara book. I’ll probably keep writing on the Keldara book. The problem with the Keldara book is that I had three or four really cool ideas and I’ve used them all but I’ll come up with some additional cool ideas and I’ll probably go back to writing the Keldara book. For those who are familiar with the Keldara, it’s stuff like Chief Adams walking down the road to put in a mechanical ambush, they’re expecting a whole wave of infected so they’re laying stuff out, so he’s got a Claymore in both hands, he’s got a directional line in his left hand and he’s got a six-foot sword in his right hand, so he’s got a Claymore in both hands.
JMW: Oh God. Oh God. We are coming up against the end of the interview and is there anything else you’d like to add, your last word?
John Ringo: I was just talking about snippeting and money and all that stuff. I don’t write for money. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of necessary, it does pay for kids’ college and it keeps the roof over everybody’s head. But money is my way of keeping score with how many people like my stuff and how much they like it, because it’s a very, very good way to keep score and what I really like is affecting people’s brains. When I write, I cry, I laugh, I gasp, I feel terrible, I feel elated, all of the emotions that you have when you read are even stronger when you write and that’s one of the addictions to writing for me.
But another addiction is the knowledge or at least the hope that – the first book in the Monster Hunter is called Grunge and the ending of Grunge is the biggest rip-your-heart-out I think I’ve ever written. It’s very, very close and if I want my readers, no matter how tough they are, I don’t care if it’s the freaking commandant of the Marine Corps, should be having tears streaming down their face at one particular scene. That’s why I write. To take my tears and give them to so many other people and where I’m getting the belly laughs and give them to as many people as I can. That’s really what it’s about for me.
JMW: Well I don’t know where we could go from there except to say thank you John and thank you for BuzzyMag.com.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.