DS: Many authors dream of being able to write full time for a living but never quite get where they hoped to be. Did you always know that you would reach this level as a writer? When did you realize that you had made it as a professional writer?
JM: I had no idea I'd ever be this successful, and I am deeply grateful for everything that's happened to get me here. The switch from part-time writer to full time happened when I switched from nonfiction books to novels. That was a risky choice that paid off.
DS: Your biography is extraordinary by any standard, not just as a writer. If you had to choose a single accomplishment that you are most proud of in your life so far, what would it be?
JM: The thing that really hit me hardest -in a good way-was when ROT & RUIN won a bunch of statewide awards around the country. Those awards were for books that encourage reluctant readers to read. ROT & RUIN and its sequels have been called 'gateway' books for that reason, and that stuns me. To know that kids -particularly boys- fell in love with reading because of my novels...that's amazing.
DS: Between your books on zombies, both fictional as well as nonfiction, and your appearance on The History Channel's documentary, ZOMBIES: A Living History it's safe to say that you've become a bonafide authority on the world of the undead. Can you share with us what first interested you in the living dead?
JM: I became interested in flesh-eating living dead at age ten when a buddy of mine and I snuck into the old Midway Theater in Philadelphia to see the world premier of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. My friend was traumatized. I was enthralled. Since then I've seen every zombie movie and read every zombie book I could. Mind you, zombies aren't my only favorite monsters -I'm very partial to vampires and werewolves, too-but I do love my life-impaired fellow citizens. I've even written a nonfiction book about them: ZOMBIE CSU: THE FORENSICS OF THE LIVING DEAD.
DS: There's been an explosion in the zombie apocalypse fiction since you first published ZOMBIE CSU back in 2008. Despite being dismissed as a fad it doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing. Why do you think there is such a hunger for these types of stories?
JM: Since zombies have no personality they can't actually get stale, in terms of their use in stories. Zombies represent a massive shared threat. The stories are then all about how people deal with that threat. So, really, zombie stories are stories about people in crisis. That's pretty much the basis for ALL fiction. So, that isn't a well that's likely to go dry anytime soon.
DS: There is no doubt between your vast body of work and the teaching you do to help writers become authors that you've managed to influence a new generation of up and coming voices in fiction. Who are some of your influences?
JM: I had the great good fortune as a teenager to meet and get to know Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, both of whom took time to give me advice on the art of writing and the business of publishing. That was so crucial and so unexpected. Since then, I've taken inspiration from a number of authors whose works really speak to me. Shirley Jackson, James Lee Burke, and Elmore Leonard in particular.
DS: Can you take us through your process of how you move a story from idea to full creation? Do you rely on outlines? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JM: I'm a process man. I usually outline my stories, though I seldom adhere completely to the outlines. I allow for organic growth during the writing process. I often start with the first chapter and then jump forward and write the ending. I do that with novels and short stories. I like knowing where things are going so I can build subtlety and clues into the narrative.
As for ideas...they're everywhere. Writers are seldom short of ideas. However I prime that pump by reading extensively about science, politics and psychology.
DS: You seem to have mastered the art of successfully writing for several different genres, including horror, science fiction, thrillers, and young adult dystopian. Most authors would be delighted to see the success you've had in one of these categories. With so many fans clamoring for more how do you choose which project comes next?
JM: Deadlines steer my life. My agent and I make sure that we fit each new project into a calendar, and then it's my job to produce works on time. I love the pace and I love the variety. And I often put elements of one story in another so that my various readers can cruise across genre lines. For example, Joe Ledger shows up (as an older man) in the last two books of the ROT & RUIN series; and Crow from GHOST ROAD BLUES, runs into Ledger and other characters in short stories. Like that.