ESP Spotlight: The Ravening

From the first page, The Ravening pounds the reader with unrelenting suspense and throat tightening horror as a family, caught in the middle of a sweeping plague, fights to stay together and maintain their humanity. With the dead rising and the remnants of society falling to corruption how will they survive?

The Ravening is Stewart Sternberg’s debut novel of post-apocalyptic horror coming soon to a Barnes & Nobel and Borders near you. I recently interviewed Stewart regarding his thoughts on the genre among other things.

ESP)   So why zombies? And why do you think they’ve reanimated after so many years of nearly being dead in print fiction?

SS)   I don’t think zombies have ever been dead in fiction, I believe they were given a jolt of adrenalin with the Romero films. The idea of reanimating corpses has always been chilling; it pushes us to confront what Shakespeare described as the “undiscovered country.” One might argue Jason and Michael Meyers are zombie-esque. They are immortal killing machines, unstoppable, and primal.

ESP)    What do you hope the reader takes away from your novel?

 SS)   I want the reader to get involved with the characters, to cheer for their survival and to hiss the villains. I also want readers to regularly  nod their heads and go: “Cool…okay…cool.” That’s what I do when I’m writing. If I don’t find myself getting excited or frightened by what’s happening on the page, I can’t expect the reader to, either. 

ESP)    Often, readers don’t take the writer’s reaction into account. Is there any part of the novel you had difficultly coming to terms with, or perhaps found spooky? After all, it is an apocalyptic book, so some of the stuff might be difficult to write about. 

SS)   There is an eleven year old boy in the book who is one of the protagonists. Throughout the entire book, I expose him to all manner of horrors. While writing, I kept thinking how the experience was affecting him emotionally. It reminded me of all the things children are exposed to regularly on television and on the internet. One of the subthemes of the novel is that, as terrifying as the animated dead might be, the real terror is the pain humans are capable of inflicting on other humans.

ESP)       Do you think your novel, or any zombie novel, connects with the real world in any way? That is to say, is there more in these works of survival fiction than entertainment?

SS)    My goal was to create a horror novel that moved along like a freight train. However, I think there’s a great deal of thematic content which can be viewed as metaphor if the reader wants to look for it. At the heart of the novel is a story that deals with the importance of family and the things we might give up in our quest for survival, things which are critical to our humanity and maintaining a sane civilization.

As for zombie novels as a whole, the fact that they are so popular speaks to a connection with the real world. If these books weren’t tapping into something in our culture, some shared fear or need, they wouldn’t be successful.

Stewart Sternberg is an educator and author living in Michigan. Married, with dogs and cat, he is currently working on The Zagreus Swarm, a sequel to The Ravening, as well as collaborating with Christine Purcell on a steampunk novel. You can follow him at and also through twitter at

2 comments to ESP Spotlight: The Ravening

  • Having read the interview, I believe that Mr. Sternberg sells himself a bit short. I have been priviledged to speak with him at length a few time about literary themes and his views on writing and I fully believe that this book will be one of those rare marvels that has the dual appeal of being accessable and enjoyable purely for the action and adventure while, if one wishes to examine it further, the reader will find an impressive thematic depth. It’s a rare treat to find a book that can appeal on both levels but I have complete faith that Mr. Sternberg will do it and I am looking forward to it.

    M. Keaton

  • I just pre-ordered my copy through my local Schuler Books. Looking forward to reading my “cameo.”