Shells chats with author Robert R. Best

With writing stories, do any of your life experiences float into characters or settings?

It's impossible to avoid, really. The best writing draws on the experiences and emotions of the writer. But it's risky to do it intentionally. You shouldn't go through your memories trying to find good fiction. You may end up in diary or wish-fulfillment territory. So I try to just write the best story I can and leave it at that. Then I’m surprised later when my wife Laura points out elements that relate to something real in my, or our, lives. And when I think about it, she’s right. I was drawing on that without even thinking about it.

What is or has been your most challenging moment as an author?

There’s a storyline in Ashton Memorial about an estranged father trying to reconnect with his children. And the children do not respond like he hopes. Writing those parts brought up a lot of feelings toward my own father and my parent’s divorce. And unlike the answer I gave above, I was aware of this as I was writing. This made writing those sequences very difficult because it was touching very raw stuff and I knew it.

Where did the idea for The Memorial trilogy come from?

Two things. One, I saw Night Of The Living Dead as a kid in the early 80’s. It freaked me out in a way the slasher films of the time (which I also love) never had. Out of that came an enduring love of zombies, with the slow, George Romero-type being my favorite.

And two, my wife Laura asked me for a zombie book. She shares my love of the genre and wanted me to write something with zombies. So here we are.

Can you tell us a bit about the first two in the trilogy, Lakewood Memorial and Aston Memorial?

Lakewood Memorial is set in the small rural town of Lakewood. A young single mother named Angie works as a nurse’s aide at the namesake hospital of Lakewood Memorial. She is at work the night the zombie outbreak begins and is trapped in the center of the hospital with a small group of survivors. Her children – Maylee and Dalton – are at home with a babysitter when the zombies attack. The entire book is set in that one night, with Angie trying to escape the hospital to get to her kids, and the kids trying to get across town to her. My goal with it was to write something fast-paced and streamlined.

The second book, Ashton Memorial, is a little more ambitious. In it, the survivors of Lakewood travel to the nearby big city of Ashton. Eventually they end up at Ashton Memorial Zoo, which has been locked down to keep the zombies out. But, things have gone downhill inside as those trapped there have started to turn against each other. Tribes are formed and resources are fought over. The book is over twice as long as Lakewood and we get deeper into the characters we met in the first one. We also get hints at the larger mythology of the series, which will be dealt with in the third book, World Memorial.

The last book in The Memorial trilogy, World Memorial, is coming out in late 2011. Can you tell us a bit about this book and how did it feel to end this series?

As I type this, I’m actually still writing World. It’s taking longer than I thought but the target is still the end of the year. I’m pretty deep in it and can share some things.

It’s going to be weird. We’re going full-tilt into the mythology that was only hinted at in Ashton. The characters we've followed through the other two books will be back. The book is set three years after the events of the first two, so we’ll get to see the apocalypse in a more advanced state than before. The setting will be the most rural of the three books, with the bulk of the action taking place in backwood and forest settings.

So, I guess that makes three things I can share right now about World. Backwoods, post-apocalyptic and weird.

You attended many conferences, how do you feel that has helped you as an author?

It’s interesting because I’ve never been to a full-on writing convention. All the conventions I’ve gone too have been general horror ones. And I’m always torn between promoting the books and just enjoying the convention as a fan. So I try to balance the two. One the one hand, conventions further my love of the genre and feed my horror fandom. And on the other hand, I get to meet readers and talk to them. Which encourages me that people are actually reading and (hopefully) enjoying the books.

Are there any upcoming events you will be attending you can tell us about

I will be at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh this September. Horror Realm is a great, growing convention and the 2009 event was the first convention I went to. So it has a special place for me.

What should we as readers look for in the future from Robert R. Best?

I have several ideas I’m kicking around. The main one, and most likely my next project, is a werewolf novel. I also have a mini-anthology of related short stories in mind. That one will probably be e-book only. I also want to get more into podcasting of my fiction. So expect some audio stuff eventually.

Where can people find out more about you?

I do have a website that’s not updated as often as I probably should, but you can get information and links to all the books at

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