I came across an author who has recently self-published a zombie novel. As many of you know, I’ve been planning to self-publish Oasis once I’ve got it done. So, my interest was piqued and I contacted him. His name is Tony Monchinski, he’s a nice guy, and his book is called Eden by Tommy Arlin. And since I know most of you are already interested in zombie apocalypse fiction, I thought I’d introduce him (and his novel) to you.
Tony was kind enough to give a virtual interview. Here’s how it went.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your day job? What are your hobbies?
I am 35 years old and live about an hour north of New York City. I am a high school special education teacher and usually teach history classes (to learning and emotionally disabled students), though lately I find myself more and more involved in mathematics education, so go figure. I’ve been teaching for ten years now. Got my start in a middle school down in Selma, North Carolina; spent time as a teacher with the Peace Corps in the Caribbean; a year in South Korea; and have been in Westchester teaching the past seven.
I’m a family man and my wife and I have a son (little Tony) who is a year and a half old and are expecting a daughter (Honah Lee, like in Puff the Magic Dragon, though it also has meaning in Hangul [Korean]) next month. I love being a dad! It is totally awesome.
My “hobbies” include reading, writing, and more and more photography. I don’t have a lot of spare time because I am also in graduate school, in the middle of writing my dissertation (PhD) in Political Theory. I do find time to catch up on the zombie genre and just recently returned from Maryland’s Horrorfind Weekend convention where I met George Romero and many of the cast members of his films, everyone from Ken Foree to “machete zombie” to “Hare Krishna zombie.” I gotta give props to my friend and fellow teacher Jim Doller and his Maryland Zombie Crew crew (John, Pete and Chris) for getting me into that.
What do you like to read?
Because it feels like I’ve been in school since forever, I usually am reading something nonfiction. Lately its all been related to my dissertation, a lot of stuff ranging from ethics (Kant, Utilitarianism, feminist care ethics, etc.) to education (specifically John Dewey, Paulo Freire and feminist pedagogy). But I make time to read Cormac McCarthy, George Pelecanos, Andrew Vachhs, Russel Banks, Sherman Alexie, and a few others. I also am an avid comics reader and make sure I read whatever Robert Kirkman is doing (The Walking Dead being an obvious favorite).
I grew up reading a lot of fiction, everything from pulpy men’s action adventure stuff (like Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan; Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist and Track; Jack Hild’s S.O.B.sâ€”Soldiers of Barabas, etc.) to people like Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams to the fantasy of Tolkein and Terry Brooks to the early good stuff of Stephen King and of course comics like Devil Dinosaur, GI Joe and Godzilla.
I also like to read newspaper and magazines and probably subscribe to eight or ten different magazines. As far as the horror genre is concerned, I really like the few copies of Rue Morgue Magazine that I have seen.
Is this your first book? What else have you written?
Let’s differentiate between what I have written and what I have published. I have written four or five novels which I need to revisit, revise, and get out there sooner or later. Eden by Tommy Arlin is the first novel I have published and I sort of put that out there myself with a print-on-demand publisher (Booksurge, an Amazon.com company). Tommy Arlin, incidentally, is a character in some of this other fiction that goes unpublished.
I have two academic texts out and a third on the way. One is a high-level English conversation text for Korean-language speakers that I developed while I was living in South Korea. Another is titled The Politics of Education and details how everything that goes on in our classrooms, from kindergarten to grad school, is political in nature and what that means. Sense published it. Springer is putting out my Critical Pedagogy and the Everyday Classroom next month. I am also in contract with Springer for a second book, Engaged Pedagogy, Enraged Pedagogy, whichâ€”because I need to get my PhD doneâ€”won’t be completed until 2010. I am grateful to Spinger and my series editor Joe Kincheloe for believing in me enough to allow me to do two books; Springer is one of the largest publishers in the world and they recently got into publishing education stuff, so I am very excited about this.
I am also active in the bodybuilding and powerlifting magazine industry. I have a monthly column that appears in MuscleMag International which I write and shoot (photograph) for. I have written articles, taken pics for, and otherwise appeared in Planet Muscle, the now defunct RX Muscle, Muscular Development Magazine, and Powerlifting USA. I am a big fan of these sports although I was never very good at them (I mean I was never quite as good as I’d have liked to have been).
Tell me a little about Eden by Tommy Arlin.
Eden by Tommy Arlin is all about what happens when the s— hits the fan. Zombies have taken over our world. Humans are holed up in little fortified compounds. Eden is one such compound located in Queens, New York, in a setting very much like one I grew up in.
The story itself is about a man named Harris, a decent, honest man, who is infected by zombies in the first sentence. The book charts his decline and the unfolding of his plans for revenge against those he perceives responsible, interspersed with flashbacks that detail the outbreak and how Harris came to be in Eden. It’s a story of how extreme situations bring out the best and the worst in our species.
How long did it take you to write Eden?
It took about three years off and on. I’d write, put it down, come back to it. When I finally had a publishable copy I put it down, walked away for almost a year and then came back to it. That way when I read it I was almost like a beta reader, a second someone who gets a fresh perspective on the overall work. There were parts I’d forgotten I’d written and it was nice to be surprised. I also found a number of errors-from spelling to continuity-that I was able to put correct.
When the inevitable zombie apocalypse finally strikes, what is your plan?
Now that I have children,,,something like this would be really f—ed up. I’d have to fend for my family. I guess I’d raid the local Wal Mart first and stock up on ammo. Maybe try and commandeer a boat and someone who knew how to pilot it and make our way up the Hudson River into Canada or down into the Caribbean (the only thing worse than the incessant heat for me would be undead cannibals attempting to devour me and my offspring). Basically kiss my ass goodbye, but I’d go out with a blast! Thanks for the interview and readers can check Eden: By Tommy Arlin out at Amazon.com.
Thanks for taking the time, Tony, and best of luck with your book.