Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Joseph Tatner, Author

Joseph Tatner, Author
What you need to know about Joseph Tatner’s FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS, according to reviewers, is that it is “a hilarious foray into the world of zombies.” Tatner approaches the world of zombies with humor, yet quickly adds that he intends the story to be “compelling” with “colorful characters” and the book does include “truly creepy parts and genuine horror.”

Tatner, a child actor and the son of a well-known 1940s musician, turned from technical writing to telling zombie stories, a favorite genre of his wife, after seeing World War Z with its "new spin."  FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS is the first of a series. The second book, Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Slayers, Dawn of the Living, is due to be released soon. 

Don’t miss the excerpt at the end of his interview.

Q: Why zombies? What drove you to choose this genre to tell your story?

Joseph Tatner: Actually, I have never been a fan of zombie movies. I think they are the dumbest of all monsters and I don’t like excessive blood and gore. However,  my wife loves zombie and monster stories. She and I had recently seen World War Z in the theater, and while we were waiting to change planes in an airport, I joked that I should write a book called, “Floyd and Wanda: Zombie Hunters.” She didn’t like the name Wanda, so I changed it to Mikki. I liked the new spin World War Z had taken and I decided to write something completely different with a lot of humor.

Q: Reviewers say FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS is “a zombie book with a difference.” What makes it different?

Joseph Tatner: First, it is very funny. Although I do include some truly creepy parts and genuine horror, the book is easy to read and makes you laugh. But I think that what really sets it apart are the characters. The two heroes aren’t one-dimensional by any means, and you learn more about them as the book (and their love for one another) progresses. The living and undead creatures and people they encounter are also interesting and fun. At one point, Mikki adopts a zombie kitten as a pet, despite the fact that Floyd hates cats – especially undead ones. Floyd and Mikki get on each other’s nerves, yell at each other, joke with each other, laugh, cry, etc. They have real questions about life and almost no answers. They are real people caught in an unreal situation. Readers can really relate to them.

Q: A key theme among reviewers about FLOYD AND MIKKI is that it is “an amazingly funny book.” How important is humor to telling your story? Or, for that matter, how important is humor to any story?

Joseph Tatner:  Humor was critically important because although there are many die-hard zombie fans, there are also many people who don’t take the genre seriously. I wanted to have something for everybody, and everyone loves to laugh. I wanted this to be like the movie Galaxy Quest. It’s a spoof about Star Trek and Trekkies, but whether you love or hate Star Trek, you will probably love Galaxy Quest because it has a compelling story with colorful characters and a lot of humor. I wanted this book to have the same appeal.

Q: Why did you set FLOYD AND MIKKI in a post-apocalyptic America? Could your zombies have existed in our current world, e.g., zombies who resemble everyday people shopping in the mall or supermarket?

Joseph Tatner: Actually, the timeline is contemporary, as if the Zombie Apocalypse could start today. While other stories focused on how the infection began, spread, etc., I wanted something different. Unlike the hero in most stories, neither Floyd nor Mikki have any clue what created the zombies. They do what they can to learn about the creatures and survive against all odds. They each had been alone for nearly two years, and this sense of isolation was crucial to set the stage for their first meeting. They don’t like each other, don’t trust each other, and don’t respect each other, but for all they know, they are the last two people on Earth. That forces them to deal with each other, and eventually to rely on each other. The more they learn about each other, the more they come to respect and even love one another, until they are fiercely devoted to each other.

Q:  You have had a variety of careers, including child actor, dancer, technical writer, as well as two diverse degrees -- a BA in Communications and an MA in National Security Studies. Now you are a writer. Of all of your careers, what is your favorite? What caused you to turn to writing fiction?

Joseph Tatner: I love telling stories, as an actor or a writer. As an actor, I learned to observe people and create a variety of characters. Obviously, this is a very useful skill when writing characters for a book. Actually, I made my living for years as a technical writer. It’s really nice to write something a lot more creative.

Q: Reviewers applaud FLOYD AND MIKKI as an “Amazing story, great characters and a really good plot.” Did you write it to entertain or did you intend to deliver a message? A warning?

Joseph Tatner:  I definitely wrote it to entertain, but there are a lot of deep questions raised in the book – all without answers. Floyd and Mikki question whether there is a God, what is right and wrong when the rules no longer apply, what obligation do they have to others in an every-man-for-himself world? They really don’t know, but like all of us, life is a search for meaning. Every reader will have his or her own interpretation, and that was intentional as well. It brings the reader into the story in a cerebral way that is highly unusual for a zombie story.

Q: Why do readers care about the characters Floyd and Mikki? What makes them engaging?

Joseph Tatner:  Floyd and Mikki are Everyman and Everywoman. Like all of us, Floyd and Mikki just want to live every day without drama and complication. But also, like all of us, drama and complication plague our lives. In their case, that drama and complication is raised to the extreme, but they are really just simple people who want to be left alone to live their lives. They have the same thoughts, questions, feelings and needs that we all have, so watching them struggle to survive everyday against all odds makes them the underdogs. We all love watching underdogs triumph. By making them as real as possible, the reader can see himself or herself in the characters, which makes the story more engaging.

Q: Is the concept of heroes vs villains relevant to your story? Are zombies essentially the “bad guys?” What makes a compelling villain? Do you need villains to have heroes?

Joseph Tatner:  The concept of heroes and villains is essential to the story. The big question is, what is good or bad when a society falls apart and there are no rules? The real “bad guys” in the book are the living. Zombies are mindless and somewhat predictable (at least in book 1), but human beings are not. There are criminals and gangs that raided and looted and killed when society fell apart. They gathered all the gold and jewelry they could rob or steal, only to have it all end up being worthless. Yet, they still murder and destroy whatever is left in society. There are many levels of good and evil in the people Floyd and Mikki meet, and they become heroes without ever intending to be.

Q: What’s next?

Joseph Tatner:  Floyd and Mikki 2, of course! I am proofing the second book, Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Slayers, Dawn of the Living now, and am about 20% finished with Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Destroyers, Zombie Trek. Book 4 in the trilogy (pun intended) will be, Floyd & Mikki vs the Martians, which will spoof the entire series as Floyd and Mikki get abducted by aliens to fight in an arena similar to the Predator movies. Mikki loves to blow things up, so this way she gets to blow up an entire planet. A character oddly similar to Doctor Who will show up in that novel. If I can find the right illustrator, I may turn the first book into a graphic novel, as well. I also have a prequel short story simply entitled, Mikki, which I am currently shopping for publication in a horror magazine in the US or UK. It tells the story of how Mikki transforms from runaway teenager to Zombie Hunter as the Zombie Apocalypse begins. In addition, I have an action/adventure novel called Caribbean Heat and a Dungeons & Dragons style trilogy called The Black Lore that will be published soon, but I haven’t begun the final proofreading and I want to get at least the first three Floyd & Mikki books done first, as everyone keeps nagging me for more. Apparently the story is pretty addicting!

Q: Tell us about Joseph Tatner. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Joseph Tatner: I unwind playing Neverwinter and other computer games, but as corny as it may sound, I really like spending time with my family. I have a lovely wife and young daughter. I always make time to do something special together, whether it’s a road trip, visiting the mall, or just staying at home watching movies.

About Joseph Tatner

A true renaissance man, the author Joseph Tatner holds a BA in Communications and an MA in National Security Studies. He has written numerous published Web and print articles, books, technical documents and promotional materials.

After writing so many technical manuals over the years, Joseph nearly turned into a zombie himself, so he has a unique insight into the mindless void of a soulless drone. Yet like his father before him, Jack Tatner (a famous musician in the 1940s), Joe has kept his offbeat sense of humor. He has a unique talent for taking an otherwise normal situation and turning it on its head, then twisting it again with delightful, thought-provoking results. Joe is a modern day Gilbert and Sullivan, examining humanity, society and personal relationships in a topsy-turvy apocalyptic world.

Unlike most zombie books, which are as dry and mindless as the creatures they feature, this first book in the trilogy packs plenty of action and creepy horror as Floyd and Mikki rely on each other, their wits and whatever supplies they can scrounge as they travel through the Midwest to New California Haven, the last safe zone in America. Lost in a shattered world populated by the undead, they don’t know what caused the infection or how to stop it. With wry humor and snarky comments, they encounter plenty of action, colorful characters and riveting horror as they fight to stay alive and help others along the way. This is one zombie novel for readers with a brain!
Suddenly, a light flipped on, shattering the total darkness. Floyd had to blink a few times to adjust. Then he got the shock of his life.
“Holy crap! You’re a girl!” he exclaimed, noticing the obviously feminine figure for the first time. He removed his face mask.

“No shit, Sherlock. You figure that out all on your own, did ya?”

She wasn’t just a girl. She was a hot girl! What the hell? She spoke with a southern drawl that Floyd couldn’t quite place. It certainly wasn’t Texas. Tennessee? Georgia, maybe?

She wore short, tight jeans that she had cut off right at the top of the thigh and a T-shirt cut off just below her ample breasts. She removed the football helmet to reveal light blonde hair tied into unbraided pigtails. Two fountains of yellow hair tied with rubber bands erupting from the sides of her head. She wore pink cowboy boots—or cowgirl boots—and the stem of a Dum Dum lollipop was sticking out of the side of her mouth.

If it weren’t for the size of her chest and the granite gaze in her eyes, Floyd would have thought she was about 15. Whoever she was, she sure knew her way around a shotgun and was far more mature than her young face would indicate. In a saner world, she would have been safe at home, playing with dolls or getting all dolled up herself in some fancy dress for the prom, instead of sneaking out after curfew to kill undead monsters. Buffy the Zombie Slayer.

“How old are you?” Floyd asked.

“Old enough!” she snapped back. “But don’t get any funny ideas or I’ll gut you like a fish and cut you into bait!”

Ignoring the mixed metaphor, Floyd knew by the look on her face that she wasn’t kidding. He began to seriously wonder what he had gotten himself into.

“Hey, no problem!” he insisted, throwing up his hands in surrender. “I’m Floyd. What’s your name?”


“Mikki, huh? What is that, short for Michelina or Michelle or somethi-”

Before he could finish the sentence, Mikki was up in his face screaming at him with a large, evil-looking combat knife that she seemed to have pulled out of nowhere pointed at his throat.

“Don’t you call me Michelle! Don’t you never call me Michelle! You hear me? I’ll cut of your balls, stuff ‘em in your mouth and sew up your lips! We clear?”

“We’re clear! We’re clear!” Floyd stammered. When Mikki retreated, Floyd carried on. “Damn, girl! In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on the same side here.”

Mikki paused and looked him over carefully before saying, “Maybe. We’ll see about that.”

“So what were you doing out there anyway?



“Yeah, shopping! You think cans of food just grow legs and walk their way down here by themselves?”

“I guess not.” Floyd also guessed that hunting zombies every day hadn’t exactly taught her much in the way of manners, either, but he kept that thought to himself.


Purchase sites
Author Links
Web site (includes sample chapters)
Twitter address @FMzombies

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