You might know that I’m the author of The Zombie Bible, a series of novels retelling biblical stories as episodes in humanity’s long struggle against hunger…and the hungry dead. But below, you’ll find 11 things about me that you might not know. I was challenged to write this list by a friend.
1. “Stant Litore” is a nom de plume. It comes from stant litore puppes, a line in Latin from the Aeneid. “They stand at the shore.” At the fall of Troy, while the city burns behind you, you’re fleeing for your life with the last of your kin, and those ahead of you call out, “The ships stand at the shore! The anchor is already drawn up. Hurry!” The ships are waiting to carry you over the sea, and this moment of loss and grief while the world burns is a moment of embarkation, too. Every moment is a moment of embarkation for a future across dark waves that you can’t yet see, and for me stant litore is a good reminder of that. What the fugitives don’t know is that on the other side of that sea, they’re going to found mighty Rome.
2. The goats’ midwife. My dearest childhood memory: leaving my window open a crack on cold February nights, listening for the bleating as the goats began to kid out in the pasture. On those nights I would jump into rubber boots and go running out across the frost. Dozens of coyotes yipping at the scent of fresh blood from the hill to the east, and the low, steady barking of our barrel-chested dogs. Attending the births in our herd by night is the thing I remember most clearly from my young years.
3. How I met my wife. I met my beautiful wife through online dating. Sometimes that really does work. At the time I was an impoverished college student who relied entirely on buses, and she drove an hour to meet me, a remarkable sign of interest. After our first date and our first kiss — what a kiss! — I walked home in a world that had more colors than I had known existed, and brighter ones. I sang quietly to myself the whole way. That was nine and a half years ago.
4. I teach. I have taught Shakespeare courses at a university, private workshops for aspiring novelists, and seminars at my local church focused on religious studies and world religions. My most memorable moment teaching: leading a troop of eight students on foot, with our props on our shoulders, to a local assisted living campus for seniors, where we performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One of the students wrote a solo into our script and sang it, and one of the seniors, who had sung for a living, wept during the performance; afterward, the young student and the lovely old woman wept together.
5. I have an unreasoning and irrational fear of jellyfish, though my wife finds them beautiful. I do have an enchanting memory of my wife looking over the balcony at the Adriatic on our honeymoon cruise, calling out with childlike joy, “Jellies! Jellies!”
6. My favorite novel of those I have written is “What Our Eyes Have Witnessed.” My favorite character is Regina. Please do not tell my other characters this, as they will get frightfully jealous, and at least a few of them are violent.
7. The first horror movie I ever saw was “Hellraiser” (or possibly one if its many sequels), at about age 5 or 6. I think it was on a TV in my father’s repair shop. All I can remember clearly is Pinhead and someone chained up. Actually, even earlier than that, I saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, which possibly explains my lifelong fascination with zombies.
8. My favorite song, and the one most packed with nostalgia for me, is Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” The song that makes me think of my wife: Lifehouse “You and Me,” our wedding recessional. The song that silences me in awe at the universe and at us within it: Hildegard von Bingen’s “O Quam Mirabilis Est.” When I was first learning Latin, I once wrote the lyrics to that medieval song in the dark before dawn in four-foot-tall letters in the snow between the chapel and the humanities building at the Jesuit school I attended at that time. My military roommates, returning from class to find me studying Wheelock’s Latin at the dining room table, promptly demanded to know if I was the one who’d written a giant hymn across the campus snow. Ancient languages are my wine and my violin and my dark drug.
9. I walked a way along the pilgrims’ road to Santiago de Compostela after backpacking through France, and though I did not complete the pilgrimage, I have never forgotten it, and I think I completed some other pilgrimage in my heart, up there in the misty Pyrenees and the Basque country, though now, twelve years later, I am still trying to figure out what pilgrimage that was. The journey and the people I met moved me.
10. I have never successfully bioengineered a velociraptor. Though not for lack of hoping for one. Prehistory fascinates me, and Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth is one of my favorite books. Also, my guilty pleasure is rereading Jurassic Park fifteen times, starting at age eleven. I like dinosaurs. I also like baluchithers and giant dragonflies and titanoboas.
11. The Ghost Girl. It is possible that I saw what may have been the ghost of a murdered girl once, after dark, in one of the darkest places on this earth. Some day I will tell you the story.