#NanoInterview: Rhiannon Frater

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Rhiannon! First off, tell us about the original THE LIVING DEAD BOY. 

RF: The original book was written long ago (2010) for my nieces and nephews. At the time they were between the ages of 4 and 15. They’re diehard zombie fans, and they were annoyed that there weren’t any zombie books where kids their age were the heroes. I remember one of my nieces just bugging me like crazy to write about kids fighting zombies. These kids are so zombie crazy, that the littlest wept bitter tears when she wasn’t allowed to watch The Walking Dead series premiere. She was four at the time.
One time, when my brother was visiting me with his family, he pulled me aside to say that he was grateful that I had prepared his kids for the zombie apocalypse. He knew that they would be able to handle themselves if anything happened to him.
“I will totally shoot you in the head if you turn zombie, Dad,” my niece promised.
“Yup,” her brother agreed.
I thought that was pretty hilarious, but it also inspired me.
So the gears started spinning and I thought, “Well, how would kids who are zombie fans handle the z-poc?”
Out of that question Josh and his fellow Zombie Hunters (their club) were born.
I guess you could say The Living Dead Boy is very much a Goonies versus the zombies type of book. Though it is centered on kids, there is a lot of death and mayhem. Since I wanted the youngest of zombie fans to enjoy the book, I did dial back my descriptions of the gore. That hasn’t deterred adult fans from loving it, too. In fact, I suspect adult zombie fans just add in the gore with their imaginations.

DD: The sequel is LOST IN TEXAS: THE LIVING DEAD BOY 2. Where do we pick up after the events of the original?

RF: It picks up a few hours after the first book ends. I considered a jump ahead in time, but that didn’t feel right. I, personally, like zombie stories that take place the first days of the z-poc. Exploring how people react in disasters is something I really enjoy. I used to work on federal disaster relief grants. I spoke with city and county officials and with the survivors. The disasters were everything from wildfires to hurricanes.
So, we rejoin Josh and the surviving Zombie Hunters as they’re traveling on an Austin Metro bus that is part of an evacuation convoy. Most of the kids have lost all their family, and Josh is lucky enough to be reunited with his dad, a former Marine. Josh’s big struggle at the beginning of the book is trusting adults to keep everyone safe. He’s very well-educated on zombie films and books so he’s just expecting the worst. Though he’s twelve, he’s a very smart kid. And he’s right. Things go very wrong, and he once again has to step up into a leadership role with his friends.
My beta readers, who are all adults, have loved the new book. That’s a very rewarding feeling after not being in the world of Josh and his friends for six years.

DD: What's your process like? Do you have a writing schedule, word goals and the like, or does it just come as it comes? Maybe a little of both?

RF: When I finally feel an idea is solid enough to write, I do try to write every single day. It’s not always easy. I suffer from basal joint arthritis thanks to writing by hand for many, many years. I wrecked my thumb joints. So I sometimes struggle with pain.
One thing that is very true in my experience is that the mere act of writing helps open up the story. It does feel a lot like watching a movie in my head and transcribing what I write. And the more I write, the more details I see.
I’m slowly increasing my daily word count, testing how much stress my joints can take, but I don’t hit same high word count I used to. That stings a bit.

DD: Do dreams inspire your work? Do you keep track of dreams?

RF: All my books are born in dreams. I dream very vividly. My dreams are like mini-movies. Of course, not all dreams are worthy of a book, but once and a while I’ll wake up and know that I just dreamed something with a ton of potential. I use Workflowy to record the details of the dreams that feel like the seed of a book. Sometimes those ideas take years to germinate, and others are just ready to go immediately.

DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

RF: Well, going back to my experience working on disaster grants, I do wish we’d get away from the nihilistic viewpoint of everyone being evil. I visited areas that looked positively post-apocalyptic and listened to the survivor stories. Over and over again, I was told how complete strangers rescued people that were trapped, and in the aftermath, shared what little food and water they had. They also helped each other with shelter, and finding loved ones (including pets). There’s always going to be some bad stories, but overall it was very heart-warming to hear tales of great heroism and kindness in the face of terrible disasters.
Humans aren’t perfect, but we do survive in communities. That’s something writers often forget.
I’d also like to get away from the evil military trope. I know so many men and women who have served bravely and selflessly in the armed forces that are just amazingly good people. I hate that they end up as villains in a lot of zombie stories. The same with police officers.
Again, there are always going to be a few bad ones in the mix, but I’d like to see things a bit more realistically portrayed in zombie fiction.
Happily, since when I first started writing in the genre all the way back in 2005, there are a lot more women writing about zombies, and we’re getting a lot of very solid, positive portrayals of female characters. That’s been very heartening.


Pick a Card...

The deck is stacked against our heroes...

Promotional images for Book I of The Strange Dead - imagined playing cards for a nonexistent RPG based in the world of the story.


#NanoInterview: Travis Adkins

Travis Adkins is returning to zombie fiction with MISTS OF THE DEAD. I've had the pleasure of reading the to-be-published dark fantasy epic and had to have Travis in for a Nano Interview.

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Travis! First off, tell us about your new project, Mists of the Dead.

TA: Hi Dunwoody! Thank you so much for your interest!

Mists of the Dead is my love letter to the zombie genre, Victorian poetry and prose, the fin de si├Ęcle, Ravenloft, and all my favorite things. The setting and theme allow me to pay tribute to the type of zombies rarely utilized in fiction.

DD: Meanwhile, audio versions of Twilight of the Dead and After Twilight: Walking with the Dead came out this summer. Prior to that, it had been a while since we’d seen dead things from you!

TA: Yeah. I disappeared. I got married, lived in Doha, Qatar for two years, and then returned to the Zombie Capital of the World, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I live now with my wife and four cats, just a stone’s throw from the Monroeville Mall. I couldn’t be happier!

But I wasn’t just idle in my time off. I was reading and learning and experiencing new things. I’m an older, humbler, and (hopefully) slightly wiser Trav now.

DD: What’s your writing process? Do you have a schedule, word count goals, etc., or does it just happen as it happens? Somewhere in between?

TA: Full disclosure: I don’t consider myself a writer, but I do think I’m a doggedly creative person. It can come out in a lot of ways. Editing and designing books for others can satisfy the itch; so can a video game where I have total creative control of the main character. Sometimes, though, only writing down my ideas will do.

As for my process, it’s intense, and probably not the healthiest way to write. (But it’s the only way I know how.) I take extensive notes over years. In fact, Mists of the Dead was fully written in notes before I sat down to write it. Other novels in this universe are mostly fully-formed, too. Then, when I’m ready, I wake up at 3:00 in the morning, sit at my desk in the dark with my laptop open, and start punching those keys. I’ll write until I need to stop to sleep.

DD: Do dreams inspire you? Do you keep track of your dreams?

TA: Hmm. Not really. My dreams are disappointing. The reason being, I think my brain has trained itself to be such a skeptic, that nothing too outlandish can ever happen. Say, for example, I had a dream that started out with me walking through a strange house, exploring, wind gusting through the open windows, dusk approaching, and obviously this is a setup for a haunted house, right? But because I now there’s no such thing as ghosts, instead there’s a little kid stealing pots and pans in the kitchen. And I’m like, “Hey stop that you little bastard,” and he’s smacking my hands with a frying pan.

So, yeah, realism is the reason I couldn’t bring myself to continue the Twilight of the Dead narrative. The mythology of that world just wasn’t tenable. (I was barely twenty I think when I wrote it, and what the hell did I know about anything?) So, with Mists of the Dead, as funny as it sounds, I wanted to write a novel that could actually happen. This might not make sense, but to my nit-picky brain it does.

DD: Is there anything you’d like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

TA: I’ve been gone so long I don’t know if I have a right to criticize. On top of that, I don’t know what all’s out there, but I know there’s a lot! I’m trying to find my place in the community again, so it’s not about me being accepting, it’s about others being accepting of me. See there? Humble.


#NanoInterview: Michelle Suhar

As described on its official Facebook page, the SBC Zombie Walk is "a means to raise awareness of global hunger issues as well as collecting nonperishable goods for the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana in Shreveport." This year's event (Saturday, October see the FB page for location and times) will also feature the grand opening of the Necro Manor haunted house.

Zombie walk founder & friend Michelle Suhar plugs in for tonight's Nano Interview:

DD: You began this event in 2008. What has the response and growth been since then?

MS: It has been 8 years since the first walk, which was then the Shreveport Zombie Walk. The last official Shreveport Zombie Walk was held in 2012. Those five years saw nothing but growth and success. The number of attendees and the amount of food we raised for the local food bank just kept going up! After a 3 year hiatus, we are back this year and ready to shamble and groan for a 3 good causes: Food Bank of NWLA, LifeShare Blood Centers, and Renzi Education & Art Center. These are all local organizations that benefit, so we are directly helping the Shreveport-Bossier City community.

DD: What other madness can attendees expect?

MS: Not only are we having costume & tattoo contests, a kids area, numerous door prize drawing, live music, and food/merchandise vendors on hand, we are also having some special guests! Casey Orr AKA “Beefcake the Mighty” of the band GWAR is a featured guest, as well as artist Brian Steward of Fangoria Magazine. Local artist Nicole Woods of VooDeaux Tattoo is our featured local artist, and the Twin City Knockers Roller Derby team will be out to meet with fans and lend their support, as they have since 2011. Since we are working in conjunction with NecroManor – the BEST local haunted house around – we are helping to promote their grand opening, which will take place during the zombie walk event! Since the haunt is attached directly to the event center where the walk is being held, attendees can purchase tickets to be of the first people to experience the haunt this year, all while enjoying the zombie walk events.

DD: Describe some of the coolest zombies you've seen shambling by.

MS: There have been SO MANY amazing zombies at our walks over the years! I will never forget Little Orphan Annie Zombie and her poor little Sandy dog. That was an amazing piece of work – it looked like her spine was falling out of her back. Of course, one year a whole group showed up as the cast of The Walking Dead, and that just blew everyone away! Probably one of my favorites, however, was in 2011 when Zombie Gallagher made an appearance and smashed a pumpkin in the street!

DD: You played Barbara in a stage performance of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Do you get into an undead character for the zombie walk?

MS: I played Barbara on stage in 2009 & 2010 at the East Bank Theatre in Bossier City. That was my first time to ever be in a play. It was so much fun! As far as getting into undead character for the zombie walk…I always want to go all out and do a really cool zombie costume, but sometimes I stay so busy planning the walk event and I just throw something together last minute. Whatever I look like, whenever it’s time to zombie walk I get into brain-dead mode, drag my leg and moan for brainssssss!

DD: Tell us about your work in the world of zombie fiction.

MS: I have a few short stories published in the Zombology and Zombology 2 anthologies, as well as in Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology, which I co-edited with best-selling horror author Joe McKinney. I am proud to say that Dead Set won Bronze in Best Horror Category of the 2010 IPPY Awards. As for now, I am working on my Bachelor Degree in Psychology, so I write more school papers than anything! I still write for fun on my website DianePrince.com. I have so many horror story ideas in my head. I write down notes in my writer’s journal so that when the day comes that I can write for fun more often, I will already have several bits of inspiration to draw from.

DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?

MS: The world of zombiedom is immense. I know so many people who like zombies now just because of The Walking Dead television series, and I think that is so great! I myself am an avid reader of the comics and watcher of the show! For those who really enjoy The Walking Dead – or a newbie to the zombie genre – I would suggest going back and watching all of the old, original zombie movies. Start with “I Walked with a Zombie,” and then watch Romero’s films in order. Papa George’s movies are social commentaries. A zombie apocalypse may seem corny - yes it will most likely never happen - but if you put that aside and really think about the underlying message, then you can fully appreciate the genius in Romero’s work. Then I would say watch Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland - 2 of the best zombie films ever made. In the world of zombiedom, we need more diversity of ideas and the best place to start is in books! People should definitely check out all of the wonderful zombie authors that helped open my eyes to the genre, like David Dunwoody himself and Kim Paffenroth, just to name a few. There are so many good books out there that are about nothing but zombies! As far of what zombiedom needs less of, I would simply advise that people NOT watch the World War Z film…just go read the book instead, it is WAY better!
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