An Interview with T.L. Bodine

September 24, 2019, Author: Kristin Jacques
T.L. Bodine is the author River of Souls, a recent horror release and a fresh take on zombies.

 Tell us about yourself! From your roots to your branches, tell us how you planted your horror flag in the publishing world!

I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t like horror. When I was a kid I used to stay up late to watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents on Nick at Night, and I have an exceptionally dog-eared copy of Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark that I’ve had since I was probably four or five. I was an anxious kid (and continue to be an anxious adult), and I think I always found something kind of comforting about scary stories — like, so much media aimed at kids makes life out to be all light and happiness, and that didn’t always jive with my experience, so darker stories always felt more like they were telling the truth. Like, “It’s okay to be scared! Sometimes the world is scary!” 

That said, despite devouring horror media in all its forms, I didn’t really think about writing it until a few years ago. Mostly just because I didn’t think I was very scary. Horror was a genre I admired so much, I didn’t know if I could do it “right.” But the more I started hanging out in online writing communities, the less I felt I had in common with a lot of other genre writers, and the more I seemed to get along with people in the horror scene. I wrote a fantasy novel called Tagestraum and someone told me how much it reminded them of Clive Barker and it was a really flattering but also eye-opening moment like, whoa. I’ve been trying to write the wrong genre. No wonder so many projects were fizzling out! 

So around 2015 or 2016 I decided to start really leaning into it, and started posting microfiction and creepypasta to Tumblr. I wrote several horror novels in the intervening years and posted them to Wattpad. And, after falling in love with the horror small press scene, I decided to try publishing River of Souls with Journalstone — and was really delighted when they accepted me! Small presses are cool because you get hands-on treatment and it feels a bit like having a big family, with all the authors supporting each other and getting excited for our successes. It’s a really cool thing that I’m really happy to be part of. 

What inspired River of Souls? What are some of your favorite tropes of Z-fiction as whole? 

Confession: I actually don’t really like zombies very much. I know! But it’s always bothered me how, in most zombie fiction, the zombies are pretty much just generic faceless monsters that could be subbed out for anything without really changing the story. But I do really like the trend of zombie protagonist stories. The first I knew about was Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, but once I started digging I found a whole bunch more and they appealed to me a lot. Zombies as a vehicle for talking about disenfranchisement made a lot of sense to me, and I leaned into that. 

Once upon a time, the kernel of what would become River of Souls was a more straightforward near-future dystopia. No zombies, just a surveillance state and human rights abuses and a bunch of Bush-era anxieties. But the story always felt a bit flat, no matter how many times I rewrote it, until I decided to start from scratch and redo the whole thing with zombies. Creating the Undead and the city of Los Ojos, NM helped to bring a lot of things into sharper focus. It’s weird, but making the story less realistic also made it feel a lot more true. I think maybe that’s always been my experience with genre fiction. 

If Davin were dropped into any Alternate Universe (AU) setting, what odd situation would you secretly love to see your character flounder his way through?

In another life I think he’d make a pretty good spy. He’s good at going unnoticed and seeing things when people don’t think anyone is watching. (He says hasn’t he suffered enough and couldn’t he just run a flower shop or something?)

If your characters were vassals for a House in Westeros, who would they serve and why? 

Randy = A Lannister, but like, a bastard. He and Tyrion probably could have a lot to talk about over a pint. 

Zoe = House Tyrell. Loyal to her family, smarter than she looks, and totally willing to throw down if you cross her.

 Davin = Probably took the black ages ago and seems honestly relieved not to have a name or lands or titles and nobody can figure out why.

 Do you have any upcoming projects, tidbits, or teasers you would like to share?

I just finished the rough draft of a Wattpad-exclusive called Ashes, Ashes, which is about grief and revenge and murder and friendships gone sour in the wake of a suicide, so you can go check that out if you don’t mind seeing the sausage-making process of a novel posted as it was written! 

Otherwise, my next goal is to work on the River of Souls sequel, which should be exciting news for everyone who’s wondered about the loose threads at the end of the book. I’m still piecing it all together so I don’t want to make a liar of myself by giving away too many details, but I can say it should answer a lot of lingering questions about the Undead. 

Thanks again for having me, Kristin! If anyone wants to stop off and say hello, I’m on social media at: