I read Eric Gregory’s story, “The Harrowers,” back when it appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, and let me just say: it is an amazing story to re-read. Ezekiel, a man on the bad side of debt to powerful people in the city, finds himself assigned a strange job. A kid who calls himself P.K. (for Preacher’s Kid) has been sent to him to take out into the wild beyond the city’s gates in order to find his father, a harrower who preaches to the undead before sending them on their merry way to Heaven’s gates. But all may not be as it appears, and Ez finds he may have a lot more to lose than to gain in the end.
This is a reminder, too, that Zombies: More Recent Dead is now available! You can order it from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon, plus check out this great review from Think About Books!
1. The Writing Question: Writing can be a tough profession, particularly for beginning authors who get “no” more often than “yes.” How do you cope with rejection?
Rejections still bum me out. But I think the ability to take them (more or less) in stride is one of the most useful skills you can develop as a writer. You shouldn’t shrug off a rejection, because it’s very often a sign that your work needs work. But you can’t let it break your confidence, either — sometimes an editor’s just overloaded with good stories, or hates second-person and only read the first paragraph, or published a story about a lonely dinosaur chef last month. Sometimes your work isn’t quite there, but it’s not so very far. You have to learn to read rejections in aggregate, revise accordingly, and pick up and submit again.
It’s a writing skill that translates pretty well to other areas of your life, too. When I got out of grad school and started applying for jobs, I was reeeeally glad for my years of experience with “Thank you, but…”
2. The Zombie Question: What part of the zombie trope do you find yourself most drawn to or most irritated by?
I don’t know if this counts as a trope, but I’m drawn to the conceit that zombies are just a fact of life, like in Kelly Link’s “The Hortlak.” Zombies who aren’t the product of some particular apocalypse but just happen to inhabit the world. It frees them up to be stranger, less predictable and more interesting.
This isn’t the case in my story, exactly, but I tried to bring the same sense that zombies aren’t the only (or even the main) thing that matters in the world, that there are other ways to be eaten alive.
3. The Random Question: What are you reading currently?
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which is a big, ornate mystery set in the New Zealand gold rush, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.
I’m also slowly savoring Nathan Ballingrud’s collection North American Lake Monsters, which won a Shirley Jackson Award this year and just amazes on every page.
Eric Gregory lives in Carrboro, North Carolina. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Betwixt, Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction, and elsewhere. Find more at ericmg.com or on Twitter at @ericgregory.