Returning to Rundberg

Back in 2005 (was it really six years ago? Weird!), Frequency Press had just released my first graphic novel, Drive.  It wasn’t exactly setting sales records, but the fine folks at Frequency were itching to get started on something else, and I wasn’t about to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.

At the time, zombies were already hitting big in comics.  It was early enough that folks weren’t talking backlash, and I thought zombies would allow me to tell a ridiculously over the top action story, which I really wanted to do.  My brain started turning, and by the time I came back from a weekend camping trip, I had the first draft of A Trip to Rundberg‘s script written down in a notebook.  I was excited about the book, which told the story of a band of survivors in the small Indiana town of Millwood, and I thought we might have something really cool on our hands.

That December, A Trip to Rundberg hit stands.  It did pretty well, certainly better than Drive.  So maybe it wasn’t setting sales records or anything, but it wasn’t performing pathetically.

In the following years, however, I started wanting to go back to Rundberg.  I’d promised to tell more stories of the Millwood survivors, and I had dropped a short story or two.  The Rundberg story nagged at me, though.  Through a few script decisions that were completely my fault, I had told a story that I thought I could have told better.  I had designed the book to read fast.  Not just fast, but ridiculously fast.  Looking back, it wasn’t the best choice.  The characters were interesting folks, and I had every chance to let them breathe a little more.

So that’s what I decided to do.

At first, my return to Rundberg was going to be a novella.  I wanted to release a 40,000 word novella with periodic illustrations.  I don’t know why I had this scheme.  It just seemed like the way to go.  As I started writing, however, I kept looking back at these characters to see what they’d been up to before their trip to a zombie-packed town in search of food.  How had they live before and during the zombie outbreak?  I wanted to find out.

Due to a ridiculous timeline that saw me wanting to bust out the novel in time for an upcoming deadline, I wrote the first two drafts of the novel in about two weeks, sending chunks at a time to my pre-readers.  I made the deadline, but the book wasn’t in any kind of publishable shape.  So I took my time and crafted the story more thoroughly.  As I wrote, I started toying with what I thought was an interesting theme.  There had been too many zombie novels that made mankind the ultimate villain.  “Man is the real enemy” is kind of a zombie staple.  I wanted to tell a story where mankind deserved to survive.

I like to think that’s what I did.  You’ll have to be the judge of that, though.  What I can say is that I’m very proud of Scavengers.  I think it’s one of the strongest things I’ve written, and I hope you enjoy it.  If you’re coming to World Horror in a few weeks, pick up a copy of the paperback. Until then, grab it for your Kindle.