As many of you know by now, I have a new novel coming out called, RABID HEART. I’ve been doing a lot of press for this novel and it’s been pretty exciting—having another new book published is exciting, period. That said, I get asked in every interview: “How did you come up with the idea for Rabid Heart?” I figured I’d discuss that here today:

A few years ago, I was offered to sell a zombie romance story to St. Martin’s Press for an anthology called, “Hungry For Your Love.” RABID HEART started there…but it wouldn’t stop going. Before I knew it, I had written 30,000 words and had to stop because my story for the anthology had to be no more than 5,000 words. So, I wrote a completely different story for the anthology titled, “ROMANCE AIN’T DEAD.” After that, my other novel, THE ARMAGEDDON CHORD, was sold to another publisher and I got busy promoting that and then started ANOTHER new novel. A year after TAC dropped, I returned my focus on RABID HEART and finished the first draft and then reworked it numerous times until I was happy with it. I was lured back to finish this novel because I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I like it a lot. It got under my skin in a way that Cormac McCarthy’s, THE ROAD, got under my skin. My stories aren’t happy with happy endings and that’s how I like my fiction. And that’s why I was so into RABID HEART—it’s a legit and deep story full of darkness and the hope of getting through that darkness…

Lori Perkins—the editor who bought my story, “ROMANCE AIN’T DEAD,” and had it published with St. Martin’s Press, started her own indie publishing house years ago called, Riverdale Avenue Books. They recently launched a new horror-line, an imprint they call, Afraid Books. Lori approached me with a great deal and I took it. Lori’s wisdom and experience as a 30-year veteran in publishing has only made my confidence grow and will out RABID HEART in the hands of readers worldwide. 

RABID HEART: The books’ premise falls right in with zombie and virus driven material—and I admit, I’m a huge fan of all of that and did inspire me. I’m such a huge fan of zombie films and apocalyptic films/concepts. I’m quite aware that the zombie genre is saturated with zombie movies, zombie books, zombie comics, zombie toys, and more. Being original is paramount for me. To that end, I feel RABID HEART stands apart because it’s a bit DEEPER of a story than most. That’s not a diss on anyone else, it’s just that on TV and whatnot, zombie stories happen fast, with injections of horror and action that gloss over the meat of the story. I wanted to tell the story of Rhonda Driscoll in reality—the reality of pure terror and PTSD one would suffer in this fucked up, apocalyptic scenario. Not to mention how one would deal with a loved one who became infected and homicidal. With that, I liken the setting of RABID HEART to something akin to Day of the Dead meets 28 Days Later meets The Road. Pure horror on one hand, survival in a bleak and lethal world on the other hand—with a protagonist desperately clinging to love, which is already lost in one respect, but it gives her purpose to live. There is a bit of a genuine love story here, albeit, under fucked up circumstances. 

I also tried to make the “virus” that sets off the pandemic to be based in reality as much as possible. I referenced Richard Preston’s, “THE HOT ZONE,” for much of that.

I’d like to add that zombies have always been more horrifying than anything in cinema for me. Romero had it down, man. The Walking Dead has it down. That said, I’m quite aware that the zombie genre is saturated with movies, books, comics, toys, and more. Being original with this novel, this concept/story is paramount for me and I think I’ve succeeded.

Now, RABID HEART is a “stand alone” novel with no sequels or series planned. It’s a departure from previous works. I tend to always write stand-alone stories. With RABID HEART, I tried some new things that came to me as the story took on its own life. Like, I had always wanted to write a story with a strong female protagonist. I had a recent press release where I mentioned this and that I was raised by strong women and I have strong women around me now—and so I made the main character in RABID HEART, Rhonda Driscoll of bits of actual women I know. This was a first. Another departure is that I’ve never combined pure terror with a love story before…sure, my short story, “ROMANC AIN’T DEAD,” had some of that, but even that was more voodoo-in-the-suburbs and short versus this novel about a horror planet and heartbreak. 

I like writing different ideas all the time…I doubt I’ll return to this same type of “concept,” but I’ve learned to NEVER SAY NEVER…

—Jeremy Wagner 10/03/2018