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Works in Progress: Inside the Mind of a Maine Horror Writer
12/27/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter

Have you ever wondered what goes inside the mind of a good horror writer? Today, for the latest in our occasional series, "Works in Progress," which examines the creative process from the perspective of the artist, Tom Porter has this profile of a relatively unknown, but increasingly successful, Maine horror writer.  The popular Zombie Fallout series includes six books.  And it's become so successful that a media production company has recently acquired the film and television rights to it.  Tom Porter has more.

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Works in Progress: Inside the Mind of a Maine Hor
Originally Aired: 12/27/2012 5:30 PM

Mark Tufo

In 2011, Zombie Fallout four - "The End Has Come and Gone" - reached 13 on the Amazon best sellers horror list, just three places behind Stephen King.

The hero of the books is Michael Talbot. Talbot is a regular guy who finds himself fighting for survival when the zombie apocalypse comes - the result of a government innoculation program gone wrong.  Author Mark Tufo (above) says good horror fiction tends to mix the horrific with the mundane - and that's why it's important for his protagonist to be a regular guy rather than some sort of  Hollywood-type superhero.

"I wanted to write it from an angle where Mike Talbot is the lead character, he's kind of an everyday guy," Tufo says. "I've read more zombie fiction than I'd care to where Rambo and his whole group of friends are going out and laying waste to everything, and it's just, he's a regular guy and he finds himself in extraordinary circumstances, and he does everything he can to keep his family and friends alive and to survive."

Alongside the blood, the gore and the flesh-eating, there's also humor. In this audiobook excerpt, from a passage near the beginning of the first book, Talbot and his family are fleeing the hordes of the living dead in his wife's car.

Audio book excerpt: "I was able to get out of the alley before the majority of the zombies could begin to block us in. I winced when I side-swiped one, not because I had hit something, but because I knew from the force of the impact I had just put a dent in my wife's car. I didn't even look over towards her, but the right side of my face was melting from the glare that was directed at it."

"I never thought of myself as a writer, I never thought I was going to have a career doing it," Tufo says. "I wrote a story out of the blue, kind of, it kind of took off, had a life of its own."

At 46, Tufo only became a full-time writer last year, when, as he put it, the success of his books meant he was able to quit his day job on his own terms.  He lives in Midcoast Maine, but was born in Boston into what he describes as a blue-collar background. After serving in the Marine Corps for five years, Tufo went to college before entering the corporate world, working mostly in I-T and Human Resources.
Tufo says he dabbled in creative writing while at college, but got back into it seriously a few years ago quite by chance, when he stumbled across the manuscript of a story he had written as a student.

"I was actually out in the garage working on my wife's brakes and I needed a tool," he recalls. "And I pulled down a box and there it was. And I never did finish her brakes because I sat down and read the rest of the story and I figured I'd finish it."

Not being able to find a publisher, Tufo decided to self-publish on Kindle. He still self-publishes, despite his obvious success. It took a few years for his books to start selling. Key to that, he says, was the decision to employ an editor.

Mark Tufo: Editing's expensive and when we first published we weren't selling, so it's kind of hard to justify spending a thousand dollars on editing, and so we put the first book out there and we thought we had down pat, and we started getting crucified in reviews, so we bit the bullet and actually paid for an editor and cleaned up it up as good as we could.

Tom Porter: It's something that needs to be done.

Mark Tufo: Yeah, I wouldn't recommend self-publishing without editing.

Tom Porter: How about your writing routine? Do you have a daily routine, something you have to do to get in the right place for writing?

Mark Tufo: You know, getting up - the one thing people find strange is I have to have music blaring while I'm writing. I've kind of tried to figure it out, that maybe by having it so loud it drowns out the rest of the world.

Tom Porter: What music do you like to write to?

Mark Tufo: It's usually Rock 'n Roll.

Tom Porter: The classic rock 'n roll.

Mark Tufo: Yeah, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones.

Tom Porter: Do you think living in Maine helps? A lot of horror writers seem to live here - it's a spooky place, at times.

Mark Tufo: It's isolated.

Tom Porter: Does that help the writing?

Mark Tufo: Well, I can turn the music up louder without the neighbors complaining.

Learn more about author Mark Tufo.
Photo by Tom Porter.


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