Ginger Nuts of Horror
A true renaissance man, 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, and holds credentials as a Master Federal Career Coach, Master Federal Resume Writer and Master Military Transition Resume Writer. He wrote the book Autism: A New Hope with Dr. Cheri L. Florence (available on Amazon.com) and edited the definitive compendium on America, the Opus Americana (also on Amazon.com and at OpusAmericana.com). Joseph has written countless documents for companies such as Shell Oil, Southern California Edison, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
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 (who was 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. This is not just a brainless zombie novel. Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters is an unpredictable adventure that keeps you guessing and waiting on the edge of your seat to see what comes next. Joe is a modern day Gilbert and Sullivan, examining humanity, society and personal relationships in a topsy-turvy apocalyptic world.
Joseph Tatner began his life as a genuine Forrest Gump (with a substantially higher IQ). His legs were deformed, requiring leg braces and orthopedic shoes for the first two years of his life. The doctor suggested he get into dancing to strengthen his legs, but he suffered from severe childhood asthma. At age 8, he finally began tap, jazz and ballet dancing and at age 9 made his television debut tap dancing in an early episode of The Partridge Family. This led to a long career in television, stage, film and radio as a true triple threat: singer/dancer/actor. Joe lost his voice temporarily to a freakish growth on one vocal cord that required surgery. It was nearly ten years before he could sing again, but he studied opera in Milan, Italy and can be seen occasionally singing and dancing on stage or in a walk-on role in the movies.
Joseph heard another calling early in his life and entered the seminary to become a priest, even studying for a year in Rome before returning to the United States, where a car accident injured his back. After a year of therapy and mounting bills, he ran an entertainment business producing shows and eventually performing again. Then he joined the United States Air Force and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. The day he arrived at his base, however, all the KC-135 tanker aircraft he was supposed to maintain were sent to the reserve unit on base, meaning the planes stayed there but he officially had no position. A year later, he resigned honorably from the Air Force after his two requests to volunteer for service in Iraq were denied.
While in the Air Force, Joseph bought his first AT&T computer. Playing the latest games required the ability to install new memory, hard drives, video cards, etc. Before long, he became a recognized Geek and was soon writing technical documents or managing complex IT projects throughout the US and overseas. He currently works from home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as a freelance writer, taking care of his 11-year-old daughter.
Despite numerous challenges and setbacks, Joseph is living proof that you can't keep a good man down. This spirit of never giving up and determination to conquer all odds is pervasive throughout Floyd and Mikki. May they live long and prosper!
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Orange County, California and have travelled all over the world as an IT Analyst, Technical Writer and Project Manager, so I have met a lot of interesting people and cultures to draw inspiration from in my writing. After working in cubicles for so long, I know what a zombie feels like. Of course, I managed to keep my sense of humor, which I incorporated into this book. I have written more scholarly works, such as working with Dr. Cheri L. Florance to write the book, “Autism: A New Hope.” I was also the editor for “Opus Americana,” a comprehensive book of information on the United States. Writing novels such as “Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters” allows me to be far more creative than the material I am normally paid to write. I grew up as a child actor and competed in speech contests in high school, then I was a paid Dungeon Master for a local comic store in college (yes, I was/am a geek), so I learned early how to create great stories. I recently moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which is a nightmare to spell for people over the phone when they ask for my address (OK, Idaho is easy to spell, it’s the city name that’s a pain).
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am almost never “not writing.” If I’m not writing some document for a client or a novel for myself, I’m jotting down thoughts, ideas and scenes for the novel I’m working on. When I do have free time, I am usually still on my computer playing some first-person shooter or fantasy role-playing game. Of course, I love spending time with my family and I always arrange for special family time when I’m not working on a deadline. I have an 11-year-old daughter and try to be a good role model for her.
What’s your favourite food?
Chocolate. No, cake. No, chocolate cake! I enjoy all kinds of food, but avoid insects—even if covered in chocolate. I love a good steak (cooked medium), hamburger or pizza, but I eat my vegetables like a good boy.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Perry Como (just kidding). Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack had a sense of class that America has sadly lost.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
They are not mutually interchangeable, so I don’t prefer one over the other. Some things are weird or dark, but not horrifying.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
My tastes are very eclectic. I grew up reading Ellery Queen, Leslie Charteris, G.K. Chesterton, the Bible and other classics. I also read every book by Father Montague Summers and various medieval historical tomes. I loved reading various history and science books growing up. I hated reading Chaucer and Shakespeare in high school, but later grew to appreciate both. I learned Latin so I can also read the walls inside churches in Italy.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
“The Breakfast Club.” I couldn’t stand to be locked up with that group. Other than that, I love the original Universal Studios classics: “Dracula,” “The Wolfman,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” I loved the first two “Aliens” movies.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Zombies. That’s why I wrote “Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters.” When a zombie story isn’t outright laughable, they are usually pathetic. Let’s face it, zombies just aren’t scary. The only horror involved is that you might turn into one, but when they usually shuffle along at a snail’s pace, you deserve to get bit if you can’t outrun them. Most zombie stories have holes in the plot you can drive a truck through, so I wrote FMZH to be realistic, yet funny. Everyone loved it so much, I finished writing book two and am halfway through book three. The “fourth book” in the trilogy will be a spoof of the entire series, tentatively titles “Floyd and Mikki vs. the Martians.”
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
My perfect neighbour would be “The Invisible Man,” as long as he was quiet, too. Not that I’m a recluse, but if there is a wild party on my block, I want to be the one throwing it. My nightmare neighbour would be Oscar Madison. Tron could move into my basement right away.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Too many people are trying way too hard to be brilliant. There are a ton of books on the marked, but very few Stephen Kings, which is why I don’t try to be him. There are also too many people that try to jump on a bandwagon. After the success of “World War Z,” thousands of people who had never written a book before said, “I can write a zombie book!” Some of them have even been published. That’s fine with me, but I wrote my book as more of a spoof of the genre. It literally started out as a bad joke while waiting in an airport, when I said to my fiancée, “I should write a zombie book, “Floyd and Wanda: Zombie Hunters.” She loved the idea but hated the name “Wanda,” so it became “Floyd and Mikki.” As I got into it, however, the novel took on a life of its own, and I wrote it as seriously as possible. That, in the end, is what made it so funny, although it has some truly horrifying elements as well that are guaranteed to creep the reader out. The growing relationship between Floyd and Mikki throughout the book is pretty realistic as well.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was “The Federalist Papers.” I’d rather not mention the name of the book that disappointed me, but it was tedious and poorly written, although many said it was great.
How would you describe your writing style?
It depends on the genre. My technical writing is professional, pedantic and perfunctory, as it should be, but I have written a wide variety of other books as well. I have written in Old English for a medieval novel and other books in standard English. For “Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters,” I wrote in very simple sentences, playing with the English language quite a bit by using characters who had little education.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Yes. I was very pleased to receive a 5-star review from Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite. Although my fiancée and friends who read the book loved it, I wondered if a professional reviewer would get it, since it’s not your typical horror novel. Fortunately, Anne-Marie did. She said it was “laugh out loud” funny, and that I had “a brilliant turn of phrase, a fantastic aptitude for telling a story.” My favourite line was her conclusion, “Despite all of the zombie movies out there, this is one I would love to see on the big screen.”
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
It is very difficult to write a good “boo scare” into a novel. In a good horror movie, something can jump out at you when you least expect it, but you can’t do that in a book. I managed to achieve the same effect in a different way, using dreams and altered perceptions of reality, where the reader and/or the characters aren’t sure of reality. However, there are several really good boo scares that would work in a movie.
Other than that (and other writers will hate me for saying this, but it’s true), I don’t find anything about writing difficult. In fact, since I write technical documents for a living, it is rather boring and formulaic, yet I am one of the top writers in America at this kind of writing, with literally hundreds of happy past clients. That kind of writing is almost instinctual for me now, since I have done it so much. It is almost formulaic, so I need another outlet for my creative writing.
In high school English class, I learned about creating an outline, filling it in, and fleshing it out to write a story, but I have never done that in writing fiction outside of class. I create an outline when I write technical documents, but I find that far too mechanical for writing an engaging story. Recently, I read a couple of articles with advice on plotting a story, but I have never done any of that either.
Writing a novel for me is like reading a novel for most people. I find out what happens in a story when I write it, and often times, I can’t wait to see what happens next. To be sure, I have a solid concept of the story I plan to write, and often have many of the scenes prewritten in my mind (or notebook), but when I sit down to write the novel, I let the story take me wherever it goes. In the case of Floyd and Mikki, I originally had just the two main characters and the ending and nothing more. As I began writing, more scenes came to me, with a general idea of where they might fit in the book, then I plugged them in when it seemed most appropriate. Often I knew I had to write numerous chapters to get me to a scene I wanted.
Another thing other writers will hate me for saying is: I have never had writer’s block. Ever. In more than 40 years of writing. Numerous articles have been written on the scourge of writer’s block, but for me, this is no problem. When I absolutely get stuck after a chapter and have no idea what to do next, I simply start writing. Some of the best chapters I have written came when I ran out of ideas. In “Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters,” some of the most touching scenes between Floyd and Mikki have come after a big action scene. I knew the next big scene I wanted to get to but had no idea how to get there. So I just had the characters start talking and I narrated their inner feelings, hopes and fears. It brought a much deeper level to the book, exploring the relationship between a man and woman that nearly everyone can relate to. It made the book so much more powerful.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I would never write anything with specific details on how to conduct criminal activity, or something that might encourage copycats to commit crimes in real life, inspired by something in one of my books. I actually have a master’s degree in National Security Studies and my master’s thesis was in antiterrorism. When I write action or crime fiction, I make sure I deliberately leave out critical details. For example, there are many ways to make homemade bombs, but I left all of them out of Floyd and Mikki.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
It’s not a book, but like many other people in the world, I would kill Jar-Jar Binks. Over and over again. In every way imaginable. just about any of them would be hysterically funny.
What do you think makes a good story?
What makes a good story is a good story. People say good characters are important, and they are, but if you write a novel about Jesus and Ghandi sitting in a room staring at each other, it won’t be very interesting. There is a reason “Waiting for Godot” is almost never performed in theaters and was never made into a Broadway musical.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
It depends on the characters. In most cases, it doesn’t matter what you call a minor character, but the name still has to fit. In “Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters,” I have characters named Zeke, Jackass and Skinny Slim (everyone loves old Zeke), plus more “boring” character names like Dave, John and Pedro. I also have many ethnic characters with common ethnic names In book two, which I am still cleaning up, I have a Hawaiian character named Ensign Lokepa Kahanamoku, and his nickname is “Lolo” (Hawaiian for “crazy”). He is a tough US Navy Seal with a heart of gold and crazy sense of humor.
Of course, I take the writer’s prerogative of including several “inside joke” names, such as one lady named “Adelaide” (my fiancée was in the musical, “Guys and Dolls.” Colonel Trowbridge, who shows up at the end of book one and is a major factor behind the scenes in books two and three is named after a close friend of mine. My friend was a captain in the US Air Force, so I gave him a promotion.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I haven’t really evolved creatively. When I was around 11 years old, I wrote several chapters of a novel about a futuristic submarine. I was a big “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” fan. I wrote some poetry, some prose, and started novels that I never finished. In high school I won many trophies in expository, impromptu and extemporaneous speech. As a child actor, I had the gift of watching and imitating people, imagining the thoughts that were going on in their head, and I used this to create characters on the stage and in my writing. Now that I am 53 and work from home as a writer, I get my paid/professional work done and have time to be more creative. I am most created at night, often typing away at a keyboard long after midnight.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writer?
A solid mastery of the English language and a vivid imagination. I deliberately break a lot of English grammar rules in “Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters,” but I know when and why I am breaking them. Sadly, with the state of education in the United States today, many people won’t even notice. However, for those who are aware, they will find odd little plays on words sprinkled throughout the book. To them I say, “Yes, I meant to say that.”
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
“Get away from me now or I’ll have you arrested!” No, wait, that wasn’t an author. That was my mother. Seriously though, I get a lot of advice from people who are NOT authors. “You should write a book about…” “You should put this in your book…” “You should have a character like this…” In nearly every case, I deliberately do NOT take their advice. I want my novels to be from my own brain from my own ideas. One of the rare exceptions is a scene with a bunch of bootleggers taking a break from running away from zombies to make their own liquor in book two. My friend Glenn suggested it and I found a place to fit it in, just for him. When I write a story, I make sure I avoid any movie or book that has a similar theme.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
There is a book on how to publish your own work that says the chances of being a good writer, copyeditor and book cover designer is zero. I laughed my head off because I am all three, and have done so professionally for years. That being said, marketing has become much easier with the rise of computers. I wrote several of my novels more than a decade ago that were never published. Like every successful writer out there, I had a drawer full of rejection letters. I had an agent for my medieval fantasy novel, “The Black Lore,” and it made it to the final cut of a major publishing house before it finally died. Several other novels suffered the same fate. There was great interest, but without an established name as a writer, it was nearly impossible to get through the pearly gates. With the rise of Amazon, it is much easier to get published with a smaller publishing house, such as Munched Kitty Publishing. Unfortunately, that also means that there is a lot more low-quality work or just plain crap on the market. The trick is still to build your name to get recognized and have someone notice you through all the clutter.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Floyd and Mikki are both my favourite characters. They are like yin and yang: you can’t have one without the other. Mikki is young and impulsive and a little bit crazy, while Floyd is overly cautious and likes to plan everything out. Like all good romances, they hate each other at first, but Fate keeps them together until they become devoted to each other. The one thing they have in common in a sense of right and wrong, which is hard to figure out in a post-apocalyptic world where everything is upside down.
Floyd and Mikki are fiercely loyal to each other and although both are definitely from the lower classes, they have an indomitable sense of nobility about them. They are Everyman and Everywoman lost in a world where everything wants to kill them. Unlike most zombie stories, which focus on the hero trying to find a cure, these are two forgotten citizens with no special knowledge and no unusual skills—just a determination to survive. And yet, in book three they inadvertently find the key to ending the zombie menace and save humanity.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I wrote several characters in this book to show the worst of humanity. One of the creepiest parts of the book is not what you would expect. Miss Adelaide is a spoiled wife who lives with her rich husband and several of their country club friends on a flotilla of houseboats roped together on a lake. Think “Caddyshack” meets “Waterworld.” Her utter denial of what has happened to the world around her and her desperate need to control everything according to proper manners and protocol is more than a little disturbing. Her Mexican servant accompanies her husband and his friends on a golfing outing to shoot any zombies that might wander onto the course, yet she is more concerned about making sure her iced tea has the appropriate amount of vodka.
In book two, a group of lazy slobs take over a camp where Floyd and Mikki have been living in harmony with the land, trying to find a little peace in the world. They destroy the place out of neglect after Floyd and Mikki leave.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
All of the above, please! Actually, I’ve appeared on television and stage, and I even filled in for a popular radio host several times, so I’ve had fame and it means nothing to me. I am who I am. I make fairly good money in my current job and I am not the kind of person who needs to trade in his jet ski for the latest new model. I drive a 2008 Honda Fit. I have the respect of my family and friends. Who cares what people I don’t know or people who don’t like me think? I don’t.
I have the same attitude as a writer that I have as an actor: if I can make people laugh or cry and forget their troubles for a while with a moving presentation or a compelling story, that makes me happy. I love fans and am actually humbled when they appreciate my work and want to see more.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The work I am most proud of hasn’t been published yet. It is a trilogy of about 1,000 pages called “The Black Lore.” it is written in quasi-Olde English and was my masterpiece. It has great characters, a compelling fantasy story, and explores human feelings in depth. But then, there have been brilliant, moving works about animals and who does everyone in America seem to love? Grumpy Cat. “Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters” is my Grumpy Cat. People love to laugh. They love to forget their troubles and disappear into a world of fantasy.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
When I first moved to Washington, DC, I had no job, so I wrote a great book that outlines my philosophy on managing an organization. It flopped. I couldn’t get anyone interested in it. The title was, “RHIP: The Key to Business Leadership Success.” RHIP stood for Respect, Honesty, Integrity and Pride. Years later, I learned that the more popular acronym stood for, “Rank Has Its Privileges,” which was the exact opposite message I wanted to convey. I may publish that book one day in the future, but I need a different title.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
My current book, “Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters” represents the most of my creativity. I combine a lot of elements in this book, which is a comedy, horror, love story. I managed to pull all of those off successfully, with a lot of action and interesting characters long the way. I also broke free of grammatical rules occasionally to play with the English language. My other books were all representative of their genre, but this one breaks the mold in many ways, which was the point.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book, entitled, “Autism: A New Hope,” was written for Dr. Cheri L. Florance, one of the top doctors in the world on the subject of Autism. Dr. Florance was the the doctor who invented a cure for stuttering. Later, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she developed a cure for that as well. Her work is remarkable and working with her was a great honor. The book is still available on Amazon.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Q: Can I give you a million dollars?
A: Yes, please!
For more information on Joseph Tatner Follow the links below
Amazon Author Page: Coming soon. Once the book is officially published in October, 2014, the Reader’s Favorite 5-Star Review will also be posted on Amazon. The eBook will be release in October (in time for Halloween), then you can “Give the gift of zombies” at Christmastime in the form of a paperback book.