Michael Laimo

What if?

That’s really how it always begins. You ask yourself, “What if…” and then you fill in the blank…a blank that can take about 400 pages, or a year, to complete.

Prior to starting my new novel Dead Souls, there were two ‘what ifs’ nagging to be explored. The first idea echoed back to my childhood years, and the ever-spooky ambience that gave me the willies when I went to church. I was raised a catholic and was made by my parents to attend religion classes and church. As one who’s always looked at life from a very scientific point-of-view, I saw the stories told in church about Jesus rising from the dead to be rather, uh, horrific. And frankly, let it be known: I still think it’s all rather scary. Think about it--you have millions of people worshipping a man who presumably come back from the dead.

With this in mind, I figured there has to be a ‘reason’ behind this amazing event other than just writing it all off as a miracle.

So then…what if Jesus’s rise from the dead wasn’t a simple miracle? What if there had been a darker explanation for this rather unearthly occurrence?

After considering this, I found myself going back to the “What if…” again, and looked at my second idea: what if people rose from the dead for a reason completely different other than those described by the slew of classic and modern-day zombie originators? I’d had the idea in my head of having zombies walking the earth by means other than exploding satellites, nuclear activity, or germs. What if…(and there’s that omnipresent question again) my zombies actually had souls in them…the souls of those caught in a web of black magic, who in order to escape their spell, must return to earth in the bodies of their recently deceased ancestors.

Hrmm…and what if, just what if, Jesus’s rise from the dead was due to similar circumstances? This really set the wheels turning, and in a couple weeks time, I’d had an outline for a book that contained not only zombies, black magic, and a study of the ‘real’ reason behind Jesus’s rise from the dead, but there was also a lot more of what I love in a horror novel…what I love to put in my horror novels: murders, monsters, blood, guts, and a lingering sense of dread that makes a reader squirm in their seat.

It was quite a cocktail I had brewing, one that took quite a long time to ferment…but man, was it worth the wait. I say this because I feel that Dead Souls is my very best book. It took a lot out of me. But it was worth all the blood I sweated. And it will always make me search for an even grander way to answer that haunting question that will never leave me for as long as I live.

What if…?
Dead Souls--coming from Leisure Books, February 2007