Nano Interview: Kristal Stittle

Today we chat with Kristal Stittle, author of the SURVIVAL INSTINCT series.

DD: Thanks for plugging in, Kristal! First off, tell us about your SURVIVAL INSTINCT zombie series. We're four books in - is there more to come?

KS: Thanks so much for having me!  Survival Instinct and its sequels are about several people from various walks of life, and how they adapt and survive (or not) the situations that arise from the outbreak of a zombie virus.  Each chapter follows a different character than the one before it, and I’ve tried to give each character his or her own voice, their own way of seeing the world.  I once had a reviewer say that some of the chapters felt like they had been written by a different author, so I think that means I succeeded?  There is definitely going to be a fifth book, but I’m not yet sure what form it will take.  I have a growing pile of short stories, all of which take place in the same world, and I’m planning to compile them into an anthology one day.  There’s an idea for a longer story percolating in my mind, but until I start writing it, I don’t know if it’ll be a full novel, or a novella that I can group with the collection.  Right now I’m stretching my legs in other genres, but I always end up back among the zombie hordes.
DD: The story follows survivors in the wake of a zombie outbreak. Are there social norms that can become liabilities once social order has collapsed?

KS: Definitely, for sure.  This is a huge topic, one that can cover our reliance on electricity, to farming, to buying and even washing clothes.  If I had a mind for it, I could probably write a whole essay on the topic, but I think I’ll narrow it down to something much shorter.  I’d say there’s a new social norm to photograph or record everything even remotely interesting in your life, and that’s not always a good thing.  We’ve already had problems with people getting in the way or getting hurt because they were watching events unfold through a camera lens.  I think that taking pictures partly removes you from the situation, so you’re not as focused or aware of your surroundings.  When bad stuff is going down, you need to look out for yourself.  You should be thinking about whether you’re in danger, not how many ‘likes’ or views you’re going to get.  Also, where I live, the social norm is to not be a hunter, so once we lose our access to prepared foods, especially meats, we’re done for.  I know I would certainly starve if I lost my source for chicken nuggets!

DD: On the flip side, do you think there are any behaviors considered "antisocial" or "abnormal" that could help a group thrive? (As opposed to a sociopath only looking out for him/herself.)

KS: As someone who tends to be a bit unsocial, I certainly hope so!  There is one skill that I think would be very helpful: being able to keep one’s self occupied.  When you don’t socialize a lot, you find other things with which to fill the time.  Provided someone is able to share those ideas with the group, it could help keep boredom from setting in.  The collapse of society wouldn’t be all destruction and mayhem all the time, and you need to keep from going stir crazy.  It’s abnormal to not want to go out and do things, and there will certainly be times when you need to stay in place for extended periods.  The more knowledge and experience the group has to draw from, the better.  Also, where I live, I’ve heard it’s apparently a bit abnormal to carry around a pocket knife all the time, but I have to say, even in day-to-day life, people who know I have a Swiss army knife always end up asking to borrow it for one thing or another.

DD: Do dreams and nightmares inspire you as a writer? Do you record your dreams?

KS: I seem to have very vivid dreams most nights, but I don’t often record them.  The best ones, though, I’ve stored their details away in various notebooks, because I definitely want to explore them in the future.  I think some have the potential to make good books down the line.  So yeah, I definitely say they inspire me.  I’m also fairly certain that my subconscious has held onto a few details of some dreams that it sprinkles about in my work.

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

KS: I’m always a fan of more animals.  Lots of people I know have pets, including myself, so I’m always wondering about them.  There’s a reason for all the dogs and cats in my series, haha.  I’d love to see some exotic animals though, the ones I don’t have much experience with.  I think it would be cool to see what someone who knows about kangaroos would have them do should a zombie approach.  As for less, I’m a bit tired of there always being that one guy who wants to take over the leadership role of the group, and causes problems because of it.  Those people definitely exist, but I’ve come across one too many stories where, from the reader’s point of view, the leader hasn’t done anything wrong and the guy who wants to take over is just a selfish jerk.

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