Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Permuted Press Authors

31 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Most people would agree that the majority of zombie novels are less about the masses of flesh eating reanimated corpses, and more about the people left behind having to deal with flesh eating reanimated corpses. Today I’ve asked Three authors from Permuted Press, one of the top publishers of Zombie and Apocalyptic Fiction, about those lone Survivors in the new dead world.

Today’s Participants are:

Derek J. Goodman, author of The Reanimation of Edward Schuett.

William Todd Rose, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People.

Jessica Meigs, author of The Becoming Series.

What characteristics do you believe makes someone potentially more likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

Derek J. Goodman -  I think it’s tempting to assume that the number one characteristic someone would need in a ZA situation is survival training or skills, and I don’t really think that’s wrong, but most importantly I would say the key characteristic is adaptability. Someone would have to think on the fly, especially if the characteristics of zombies turned out to be different than everyone expected them to be. People would need to be able to expect the unexpected and then adjust accordingly on a moments notice. People who couldn’t accept what was happening or think they could stay their same static selves no matter the situation wouldn’t last long.

William Todd Rose: I think the most important characteristic is the indomitable will to survive. In this type of scenario, the majority of the people you’ve ever loved or cared about are dead; society has fallen and every day is a grim struggle for survival. The things you once took for granted — food, shelter, water, and such — are now as precious as rare gems once were. Continued existence would be bleak and grueling, so there would have to be something there, a little spark, which made you want to keep on going despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Jessica Meigs: Despite the fact that I’ve loaded my books in the Becoming series down with main characters who have military or law enforcement experience, I’ve never really believed that those are fully necessary to survival in a zombie apocalypse scenario. To me, the best characteristics that anyone can have in the zombie apocalypse are adaptability; levelheadedness; a willingness to learn, listen to, and work with other people; and a drive and a reason to live. Regardless of what training you may have, I think if you’re missing any of those key elements, you drastically increase your chances of dying in the apocalypse.

As a consumer of Zombie entertainment do you prefer stories about characters that are well prepared for an apocalyptic event, like zombies, or characters that are ill prepared, yet manage to find some way to survive?

Derek J. Goodman:  I don’t find much interesting in a story about a person who knows everything that’s coming, unless maybe you’re trying to play it up for laughs. Good drama comes, I think, when a character is put in a situation they weren’t ready for and you learn whether or not they have it in them to become more than they thought they were.

William Todd Rose: I personally like the ill-prepared characters. In one of my novels, The Dead & Dying, I actually contrasted these two types of characters in one of my protagonists, Carl. He was a character who’d always secretly wished for an undead apocalypse like he saw in the movies; he thought he had his contingency plan and knew exactly what to do. When it went down for real, however, he found that life doesn’t always imitate art; this man who thought he was prepared for the final days turned out to be just as unprepared as everyone else.

Jessica Meigs: I think of the two, I definitely prefer the latter. Most zombie stories I’ve read that involve the survivalist types who always predicted that zombies would come and are supposedly well prepared for such an event are the types of stories that read like Max Brooks’s Zombie Survival Guide: like a field guide rather than an interesting story about people. I’ve read so many stories, including a very popular series, that were highly reviewed and ranked, yet read like an instruction manual: "I did x, then I did y, then I did z, and I did it all in the following way…"  And it seems to always work out perfectly for the main character because he followed steps x, y, and z and never doubted himself or encountered anything he couldn’t handle. To me, that is incredibly boring. There’s no cause and effect, no drama, no real crisis for the character, just rote step-by-step.

Considering the world we currently live in, where people are entertained by the notion of zombies but the general population has the idea that something like that would never actually happen, I think it’s much more realistic to have novels where the characters are ill prepared–because the majority of the general population wouldn’t be prepared for something like that. I think the shock and awe effect, the scramble as characters try to figure out what’s going on and what to do to in order to survive, make far more fascinating stories than the borderline step-by-steppers.

As a writer, how do you balance a character having the necessary skills to overcome the odds of  zombie outbreak with creating true human responses to such an unbelievable event?

Derek J. Goodman: I’ve seen some writers that have a tendency to write characters that, when they are prepared and skilled and know what they need to do, that means the character is stoic and doesn’t get affected by the bad things going on around them. That’s fine at times, but personally I think it gets boring when you see it too often. Even if a character knows what they’re doing, I like to find something humanizing about them, maybe something that throws them off their game. The hardass likes puppies, the smile-less killing machine once lost a little sister and this situation reminds them of the car wreck that killed her, etc. There’s always a way to fit something like that in there and do it without making it feel forced.

William Todd Rose: A lot of my characters are flawed and damaged people. They’ve been changed by the things they’ve seen an experienced and, as such, have moments of weakness. Sometimes, they reach the end of their ropes: they don’t want to go on, they feel as if they reached as far into their reserves as they can. So it really goes back to my answer to the first question: they have to push through the shock, grief, and post-traumatic stress and continually get their shit together to keep on living.

Jessica Meigs: I think this is the point where I start referencing my books.

As I’ve said before, the ill-prepared storyline is something I favor more than any other. In my series, starting with the novel THE BECOMING, I use the character Cade Alton to show that, while you might have a skill set that would theoretically prepare you for such an event, that doesn’t negate any human responses you might have. In the first novel, I introduce Cade Alton, who is one of the series’ four major characters; Cade has a background that would, you’d think, prepare her to survive just about anything: she spent seven years in the IDF, training and performing as a sniper. However, just because she had a background that was thoroughly steeped in the military (and not only military, but in a country’s military service that allows women on the frontlines), that doesn’t prevent her from making what, in hindsight, are incredibly stupid, incredibly HUMAN mistakes. Indeed, when the Michaluk Virus reaches Memphis, Tennessee, and her infected boyfriend attacks her, Cade doesn’t jump into action and immediately fight back. She doesn’t utilize the skills she spent seven years learning immediately. Instead, she freezes. She panics. She goes into total reactionary, break-down mode until she’s FORCED to take control when her best friend cracks. She isn’t able to just whip out a pistol and shoot her boyfriend in the head, because it’s her BOYFRIEND. It’s someone she loves. The thought of killing him does not immediately cross her mind. This is, indeed, only human. At that point, Cade had never faced anything like a zombie in her life. No one had. So when she freezes up, it’s because she can’t process what she’s seeing: no one could. It’s only through the rest of the series that you see Cade come into her own and become a force to be reckoned with (especially in The Becoming: Under Siege, which is currently being written, and the untitled fifth and sixth books).

Ultimately, it’s a very careful balancing act to take a highly skilled character and keep them human. Some writers, I think, are seduced by the skill set of the character, and as a result, they tend to focus on those skills at the expense of human reaction and human emotion. I try my absolute best not to do this (though I have no doubt that, at some point, I’ve probably slipped up somewhere), because I find the human experience and human psychology to be by far the most fascinating part of apocalyptic stories.

While the humans tend to take center stage, in many novels zombies are more than just the catalyst for a human story, but characters themselves. We’ve seem  novels from the Zombie point of view, Voodoo Zombies, Demon Zombies, Zombie Private Investigators and Zombie gangs. Are there any aspects of Zombies as characters that you wish were more explored? Conversely, are there any aspects about Zombies that you feel have been played out?

Derek J. Goodman –  I would like to see more of an idea of zombie culture. Whether you keep them as fairly brainless or upgrade them and give them emotions, there has to be something in there that drives them, even if its just holdovers from when they were alive. I haven’t seen a whole lot of that out there yet and think some amazing things could be done with it. As for things I’m tired of, could we please get past the idea that the question of fast or slow zombies is important? Why are we still fixating on this? We can do so much with the concept of zombies yet we’re stuck on this endless debate about their speed. It’s played out. Let’s examine something else about them.

William Todd Rose: Personally, I love to read authors who do new and interesting things with their undead characters. There can be a lot of back and forth about what does or doesn’t constitute a zombie and, to me at least, those arguments get old very fast. As authors, we should be stretching our imaginations and trying to find new ways to look at the genre. Why would I want to limit my own creation by imposing someone else’s preconceived definitions upon them?

Jessica Meigs: I love, to some extent, the idea of a story from a zombie’s point of view. It’s why I have an entire chapter in The Becoming: Revelations from a character’s point of view as they go through the transformation from human to one of the infected.

However, I think that, barring some exceptions, the zombie point-of-view idea is something that should be used sparingly at the risk of overdoing it (especially after the popularity of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion). There’s only so much a reader would be able to stand of graphic descriptions of a zombie eating flesh from the zombie’s point of view.

As for aspects about Zombies that have been played out…I think in zombie lit, the biggest thing that has been played out would probably be the J.L. Bourne-style novel or the Z.A. Recht-style novel: heavy on the military tactics, light on characterization. Bourne and Recht did it well, but they were also some of the first. Since then, I think, a lot of (not all of, just a lot) stories that take that same storytelling bent have done it to the point where it’s so overdone, it’s like reading the same novels over and over. It hardly ever changes. I think if you’re going to do something from that perspective, it’s time to bring something new to the table, because the whole of the Military Zombie Book style has been overdone.

All of your books feature unique characters that you not see in other examples of the Genre. If it was not for the zombies, or the events that put them where they are in your story, what kind of life do you thing your characters would have had?

Derek J. Goodman -  With most of the characters in The Reanimation of Edward Schuett, since it takes place a whole generation after the Zombie Uprising, they probably wouldn’t exist. Rae especially, since she’s the daughter of two known zombie killers and they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Edward is the only one who could have gone on to a different life. I picture him having the so-called "average" life, watching his daughter grow up, probably losing his job when the factory where he works downsizes, starting up a moderately successful small business of his own, then going on to retire to a life of fishing and dying of a heart attack at some old age. That’s probably a life he would have much preferred than what he got.

William Todd Rose: Bosley Coughlin, my time travelling protagonist in The Seven Habits, would have continued on just as he always had, I think. The most important person in his existence would have continued to be himself and he would have eased his way through the rest of his life without ever knowing a true connection to another living soul. Would he have eventually given up his regime of drugs and the occult? Probably not. He would have continued to search for something he couldn’t quite define and yet simultaneously run away from it as well.

Jessica Meigs: This is such a hard question, because I have trouble thinking of my characters in that way. I’ve toyed with ideas like this in the past, but considering the circumstances I’ve stuck them in in the Becoming series, it’s hard to envision them outside of those circumstances. I’ll do my best, though, and focus on just the main four: Cade Alton, Ethan Bennett, Brandt Evans, and Remy Angellette.

I think Ethan and Cade would have both definitely stayed in the domestic, suburban-style lives that they were living (and enjoying) in Memphis at the beginning of THE BECOMING: living next door to each other, socializing, just generally enjoying their lives and having fun.

Brandt and Remy, though, are a little harder to figure out. Both of them were on downward spirals in their lives prior to Michaluk: indeed, when the virus broke out in Atlanta, Brandt was…well, I won’t say where he was physically, but emotionally he was in a difficult place. His child had died, his wife had left him, and he’d joined the military at twenty-six to get away from his life. But then several months before the Michaluk Virus broke out in Atlanta, his parents had died, and he was struggling to help his younger sister Olivia complete medical school at Emory. There was very little left in his life for HIM, and I can imagine that he’d probably have descended into alcoholism at the first available opportunity. He was, in summary, very much emotionally damaged. The apocalypse, I think, gave him purpose, especially after he’d met Cade.

As for Remy, well, I can definitely say that, if not for the zombies, she’d have ended up in jail. In fact, as we’ll come to see, on the day the virus hit her home city of New Orleans, she had just been arrested and was in a holding cell–and not for the first time. Her life was in a drastic downward spin; she almost compulsively did things that would get her in trouble and screw up her life. Even after the zombie outbreak, this didn’t stop. If anything, I think Remy displays some sociopathic tendencies (such as her single-minded pursuit of the infected to the point of recklessness) that are really going to come into play the further along the series goes. But I like to think that this makes her a much more interesting character because of it. 🙂

Thanks to our participants. Check out Permuted Press for more Apocalyptic, Horror and Zombie novels. You can click on the images above to find my reviews of these audiobooks.





Audiobook Review: The Becoming: Revelations by Jessica Meigs

31 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Becoming: Revelations by Jessica Meigs (The Becoming, Book 3)

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 12 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Revelations is a strong finale to the trilogy, giving us a completed story yet setting us up for future explorations of the Michaluk plagued world. Meigs creates compelling characters and thrust them into a devastating world, allowing them to show their cracks. With each new edition, the world of The Becoming becomes more and more intriguing.

Grade: B+

One of the things I try to do each Zombie Awareness Month is to provide tips and tricks for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse based on my in-depth experience of listening and reading other people’s stories.  Yet, I feel like I have neglected one key crucial demographic, the Zombie Apocalypse Bad Guy. Not everyone will be a plucky survivor looking to stay alive while struggling with the moral quandaries of the new situation. A few of you may turn out to be one of the many varieties of human scum that will plague the Wastelands, and you too will need tips on Survival. Yet, how do you know if you are a bad guy? Well, if your Zombie survival strategy is to outrun other Survivors, you are a normal human. If it’s to kneecap other survivors so the hordes get to them first, you are probably a bad guy. Do you have a pit of Zombies pets that you use to threaten your fellow survivors with? I’m leaning towards Bad Guy. If your idea of an Engagement Ring is a dog crate and handcuffs… Total Douchebag Bad Guy. Bad Guys can also include Mad Scientist performing experiments on the living, crazy dudes with armored Zombies, Scumbags who rob women and children and leave them on the side of the road, and anyone who’s Post Apocalyptic Soundtrack is a mixed tape with Kenny G and Nickleback on it. So, as a bad guy, you may get a crazy smart idea, like, “Hey, let’s kidnap the good guy’s girlfriend and make him come to us.” This is a classic Bad Guy ploy. Suggestion though, not all women are easily kidnapped and held. Try to avoid kidnapping say, bad ass former IDF snipers, because if you do, it will probably be you who needs to be rescued.

The Becoming: Revelations is the third book in Jessica Meigs Becoming Series, and the one that closes out the first main arc of the series. After the events at the close of Ground Zero, the survivors of The Michaluk Virus are holed up in a safehouse licking their emotional and physical wounds. When a mysterious enemy kidnaps one of the group, it sets off a series of events that reveals deep secrets that goes back to the very origin of the virus. With Revelations, Jessica Meigs has moved her series more into Mira Grant territory, full of science and twists on the typical zombie tropes. While still full of adventure and plenty of zombie action, Revelations is less about surviving the rise of undead and more about adapting to the changed world. So much Zombie fiction deals with the here and now, and Revelations has enough of that in it to make any thriller fan happy, but there is a real look to the future that offers very interesting avenues for exploration in future editions that you may not get in the typical zombie survival tale. One of the main thing I have liked about Meigs writing is her ability to show true tension filled human interaction in a highly stressed situation. At times her characters act like real assholes to each other, yet there is an unmistakable bond there even within the more contentious characters. Even the romantic subplots are murky enough, full of confliction and a concern for the future, to feel more than just some kissey kissey in a sea of death. Meigs doesn’t take it easy on her characters, showing us at any point in the story one of our favorites can be taken off the board with little or no warning. At points, I questioned her main antagonist. Her decisions seemed so scattershot, so illogical that I felt she was too unbelievable and questioned why anyone was following her. Yet, I shouldn’t have doubted Meigs. She created a reasonable explanation for her badies actions that was much more than a Bond villain monologue. She even managed to make us feel a little sympathy for the cold hearted bitch. At times it felt like Meigs was playing the worse game of chess in the world, scattering all her pieces across the board, then attempting to find some way to bring them all together. Luckily, she managed to pull it all off, bringing things together for a strong climax. The Becoming: Revelations is a strong finale to the trilogy, giving us a completed story yet setting us up for future explorations of the Michaluk plagued world. Meigs creates compelling characters and thrust them into a devastating world, allowing them to show their cracks. With each new edition, the world of The Becoming becomes more and more intriguing.

I think it says a lot for the narrating skills of Christian Rummel that I just listened to two of his audiobooks in relative proximity to each other and didn’t suffer any sort of cognitive dissonance wondering why a Battlecruiser Captain was fighting Zombies in Post Apocalyptic Atlanta. Rummel again brings his strong characterizations and spot on pacing to Meigs Apocalyptic world. He has a strong grasp of these characters, although I did feel Ethan had a bit more of a country twang than I remember in the first two novels. This, of course, probably better suited the character, and further helped delineate him from Brandt, which was something I remember struggling a bit with in Book 1. Where Rummel really shines is in all the mayhem and craziness of the climatic scenes. Meigs packs a lot of emotional punches into the mix of action and zombie mayhem, and Rummel finds just the right balance to deliver these moments. I have grown to really enjoy these characters, even when they totally frustrate and annoy me, and much of the credit goes to the excellent narration skills of Christian Rummel. Now, we must wait and see where they all go next.





Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Tantor Audio Authors and Giveaway!

30 05 2013

 

Can humanity survive the rising of the undead? What skills will be most important when trying to survive in the time of cannibalistic undead? Today I ask my panel of experts to chime in on all things Zombie Survival. Today’s guest all share one thing in common beyond being awesome undead bards, they have all had their books produced by the wonderful people at Tantor Audio!

So along with today’s answers, we will be having a Giveaway. Two people will receive a Zombie Audiobook pack including titles from each of the participants in today’s roundtable. To enter, just leave a comment answering the following question:

What one skill do you have that could be your saving grace in a Zombie Apocalypse?

Please make sure you include a way for me to contact you if you

The Giveaway is for the Continental US, and ends Thursday June 6th at 11:59PM. 

Jesse Petersen author of The Living With the Dead series.

 

Scott Kenemore, author of Zombie, Ohio and The Zen of Zombie

Mark Tufo, author of The Zombie Fallout Series, and The Book of Riley

Wayne Simmons, author of Flu and Fever

When discussing training for Zombie Survival, many people focus on the obvious, weapons training, martial arts, wilderness survival skills and the like. What is one often neglected skill that seems useless today but may be essential in surviving the coming Zombie Apocalypse?

Jesse Petersen: I think most people would be stuck on basic survival skills. You’d figure out weapons pretty fast and hopefully it wouldn’t come to martial arts very often with zombies, but when it comes to getting potable water, making a fire, finding food once things go bad, I think a lot of people won’t have those skills. Hopefully they’ll be able to figure out libraries. LOL A good argument for making sure we fund those. ALOT.

Scott Kenemore: I’m not of the opinion that a true zombie apocalypse would be survivable in the truest sense.  Therefore, I think it’d be important to focus on having as much fun as you possibly could.  I think taking a bunch of Molotov cocktails up to a roof and then throwing them down on the zombies would be a pretty fun way to go out swinging.

Mark Tufo: CARDIO! – I think most folks over-estimate the level of their physical fitness. Now I’ll use myself as a prime example. In High School and College I was what many folks considered a jock, I played baseball, football and ran track. Even played hockey on the side. Then I joined the Marine Corps where they honed that conditioning into a fine tuned machine, which I summarily dismantled with 15 plus years sitting behind a desk. So my head says ATHLETE, my body says not so much. My only chance when the zombies come is thatthe person next to me ate an extra burrito for lunch! Man I have got to clean my treadmill off. 

Wayne Simmons: Running. Seriously, a good pair of trainers and the common sense to uproot and fly at the first sign of trouble will up your survival chances no end. We all love the have-a-go-heroes in zombie books and movies, but were the z-poc to happen for real, those guys would be the first to go. The runners and the hiders: they’re the guys who’ll last longest.

You’re on a long business trip, 1,000 miles away from home when the Zombie Outbreak begins. What do you do? Find a place to hole up and wait out the wave of undead or grab your gear and attempt the classic cross country Zombie Apocalypse Road Trip?

Jesse Petersen: Road Trip! Seriously, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from trying to get to my husband and family. So I’d be road tripping it and I’m sure I’d pick up some crazy sidekicks (one of whom I’m sure I’d have to kill at some point).

Scott Kenemore: I think a lot would depend on the terrain.  Flat, desert areas would be the biggest challenge.  There would be nowhere to hide.  I think you want variations in terrain when fighting and hiding from zombies.

Mark Tufo: First off, that I’m a thousand miles away is bad news, my separation anxiety would be kicking into high gear by now. So yup I’m going to be that guy that treks across the country against all odds.

Wayne Simmons: The smart thing to do would be to hole up. But I’m something of a migrating man by nature so would probably go on the road trip. It’s curiosity, too. I’d want to watch the world around me going to hell rather than hide away in the arse end of nowhere, waiting for the zeds to wait for me. It would be the death of me, of course, but hell…

Stop what you are doing right now, and look around the place you currently are. What are the positive and negative aspects of your current location if undead hordes where heading your way right now?

Jesse Petersen: Well, I face a window, which is positive since I can see them coming, negative in that they can see me and if they break it, I’m screwed. I don’t really have access to weaponry here except for heavy things on my desk, but I have a few of those so I might be able to Shaun of the Dead a zombie (like they do with the records) and get to a gun if I needed to. It’s not the worst place, for sure, but it’s no bunker.

Scott Kenemore: I’m in a pretty tall building, so I think I’d be okay for a while.  Also, it has elevators.  Are zombies smart enough to operate elevators?  I’m thinking no.  Therefore, our first step is to barricade the stairwell…

Mark Tufo: My home has some decent positives in the fact that I live out in the sticks. Less people means less zombies. Defensive wise I have some holes but nothing a strategically placed Claymore mine wouldn’t take care of.

Wayne Simmons: Positive: I’m at home. I live in a ground floor apartment, situated at the back of the block. The garden’s secure and surrounded by a high wall.

Negative: We haven’t got much food in the cupboards. Almost no tinned stuff. Bugger…

 

In all the books and movies about Zombies that you have read, what one Zombie scenario do you feel is the least survivable?

Jesse Petersen: The faster the outbreak moves and the larger the population that is transformed at once, the worse it is. If it moves to animals, that’s it. We’re an extinct species and our planet goes back to the trees, I guess.

Scott Kenemore: Zombies on a sumbarine or airplane would be pretty terrifying.

Mark Tufo: Well with all the zombie movies and books I’ve devoured doesn’t seem to be any of them where folks do particularly well. Least survivable? I’d have to go with the countries that have banned or limited access to firearms. Sure you can kill zombies a hundred different ways, me personally, I don’t want to be swinging a hammer.

Wayne Simmons: The police station hole-up. Sure, you’ve got all the guns and ammo you need. But those doughnuts are gonna go stale real soon

What is the one quality that the characters of your books seem to share that has helped them to avoid joining the Zombie Smorgasbord?

Jesse Petersen: I think Dave and Sarah and everyone who works closely with them all share the quality of hope. They continue to TRY whether it’s try to get to a certain place, try to make life livable or try to get a cure. They don’t give up because they cling to the hope that things could be okay again. If you don’t keep that, you lie down and die.

Scott Kenemore: I think you have to be innately curious about zombies.  It’s not enough just to be terrified and run in the other direction.  People survive when they take a moment to figure out what they’re up against.  This means studying the undead and figuring out– to whatever extent this is possible– what makes them tick.  What do they want?  How do they try to get it?  Understanding these things is the first step to longer-term survival.

Mark Tufo: The main characters in my books seem to share strong bonds of family and friendship. The want and drive to protect everyone else even at the expense of themselves, I think that above all other reasons is why at least some of them have survived.

Wayne Simmons: They wear GREAT trainers…

Thanks to these great authors for their answers. Make sure to click the audio images above for my reviews of their books.





Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Young Adult Zombies

28 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

While Zombies have been around for centuries, they are currently hitting the mainstream in a big way. Zombies are not just for adults anymore. Young Adult authors are using zombies of all shapes, sizes and speeds to tell their stories, and they aren’t holding back on the darkness and gore. Today I have asked some of the Top Young Adult authors some questions on Zombies and Young Adult Literature.

Today’s Participants are:

Ilsa J. Bick Author of The Ashes Trilogy.

Darren Shan, author of the Zom-B Series.

Sean Beaudoin, author of The Infects

Growing up in the 80’s most of the Young Adult Novels I read were about Chocolate Wars, being The Cheese and becoming Invisible (So, yeah, I went through a Cormier phase) Today, it seems there is so much more diversity in Young Adult novels. What do you thing makes Zombies so interesting to today’s youth?

Ilsa J, Bick: I’m not so sure they’re more or less interesting today than they were in the past. These kinds of books were around for us, but they were marketed to adults. (Remember: the Borg of Star Trek: TNG are really very much the same thing when you get right down to it; they even walk like zombies–either that, or goose-stepping Nazis.) I think YA writers today have more freedom to write the stuff that kids might want to read. What we churn out, though, is really no different than anything you could’ve read in science fiction and fantasy (the YA lit of my day) or horror. It’s only that kids don’t have to read about adults in these situations; they get to read about themselves saving the day.

Darren Shan: I was (and am) a big Robert Cormier fan too! I’m actually trying to do some of the same things in my Zom-B series that he did in his books — encourage young readers to question the received wisdom of their elders, to think for themselves, to fight for a better and less cynical and manipulative world. I just do it with a bit more blood and gore! To be honest, I’m not sure why zombies are so hot at the moment. While interesting stories can be woven around them, as monsters I do find them rather one-dimensional, so I’m surprised by just how fascinated the mass market currently is with them.

Sean Beaudoin: Well, zombies were pretty interesting to me in the 80’s too. Don’t forget Evil Dead (evil book), Re-animator (evil scientist), Return of the Living Dead (punk rock/evil army experiments) and the original Dawn of the Dead (evil mall). I think everything is cyclical. There was plenty of demented violence in the comic books I was reading then. The technology is just better. Z in HD.

When writing for Young Adults, how do you approach the darkness and gore of the world of a Zombie Apocalypse differently than if you were writing for Adults?

Ilsa J, Bick: I don’t approach it differently at all. Nothing I write is more or less gory than an episode of The Walking Dead, a graphic novel, or the latest shoot-em-up video game. When I include a traumatic or horrible detail, it is to reinforce that actions have consequences. Pull a trigger, someone may died, and while it’s a horrible thing to see, it may, in fact, be more horrible to do.

The main difference, I think, between adult and YA lit is that these stories provide kids with a vicarious avenue for grappling with seemingly insurmountable odds–an awful, ravaged world–and winning, surviving, and doing the right and noble thing. All you have to do is think of the end of Matheson’s I am Legend to see the difference. One is nihilistic; a YA novel is likely to be much more hopeful. It kind of has to be because, at a certain level, what you’re really writing about is the scary transition from childhood to adulthood: to the moment when the kid works up the courage to walk out the door of his house into the wider world.

Darren Shan: I don’t. I learnt long ago (to my surprise) that when it comes to gore you can get away with an awful lot in YA books. Adult watchdogs aren’t that bothered about violence in books for teenagers — they tend to only really object if sex is brought into the equation. Personally I think it should be the other way round, and that in a truly healthy society we would be more concerned about our children’s obsession about weapons and fighting than in their interest in sexual curiosity. But this is the world in which we live, so when it comes to writing for young readers I have to be careful on the sexual front, but have a pretty free hand when it comes to the darkness and gore. That being said, as dark as my novels for young readers get, I do handle them differently to my books for adults, in that I try to introduce moral elements. For instance, I never condone the use of weapons. I always encourage readers to engage in conversation before relating to violence, pushing the message that most problems can be solved peacefully if we can engage openly and directly with those who we see as our enemies – although  in my books, for dramatic reasons, this rarely happens! There is a clear line between good and evil in my YA books — while I don’t hide the darkness of the world from my readers, I do always say to them that it’s a darkness they can light up if they have the courage and the drive, that they can make the world a better place if they’re prepared to knuckle down and be better people than their elders.

Sean Beaudoin: I pretty much write exactly what I was going to write anyway and for some reason they keep publishing my stuff. I don’t write specifically for any age group. Some study just showed that 50% of people who buy YA novels are adults anyway. My new book, Wise Young Fool, definitely pushes the envelope. I’m sort of still half surprised I haven’t been arrested yet. But that may just be because it isn’t out until August.

What popular singer or hit TV series cast would you most enjoy seeing facing down a horde of carnivorous undead?

Ilsa J, Bick: NCIS: I want to see Leroy Jethro Gibbs and especially ex-Mossad operative Ziva David kick some undead butt.

Darren Shan: Singers and actors are harmless. I’d like to put Simon Cowell up before
them. Soulless puppet masters are the ones we should be wary of in this life, not their eager-to-please puppets.

Sean Beaudoin: I would love to see Ted Nugent quickly run out of ammo and then be eaten by a busload of zombie Girl Scouts. As far as TV, it wouldn’t bother me at all if a ravening hoard gorged on that Millionaire Matchmaker chick.

What aspects of today’s youth do you feel makes them better suited to surviving in a Zombie Apocalypse over us ummm…. older young adults?

Ilsa J, Bick: To be honest, I don’t think they’re well-suited at all. Most kids spend their entire lives these days staring at teeny-tiny screens and texting madly instead of having an open-ended conversation. They have no ability to sit quietly and do nothing, or notice much of anything that isn’t fed to them through earbuds or on a computer. Many have the attention span of gnats. A couple nights ago, there was some special Jeopardy for college kids, and while these guys knew about YouTube and songs, they had no idea what latitude and longitude were. So they’ll be both lost and starving. The only thing going for kids today is they might be faster, but only if they occasionally get off their butts and go for a walk or ride a bike. Otherwise, I think they’re dead meat.

Darren Shan:They are creatures of hope. I’m no benign hippy. I know children can be even crueller and more heartless than their older counterparts. But they also have a capacity for change that a lot of us in the greying brigade lack. Countless generations of children have grown up to make the same mistakes that their elders have, becoming money-driven, self-obsessed, planet-harming monomaniacs. But I keep hoping that coming generations will find a way to break the cycle and take us in a more positive direction. A zombie apocalypse could be beneficial in the sense that if the slate is wiped clean, maybe the young can build a better world out of the ashes of the old. That’s a concept I explore in Zom-B.

Sean Beaudoin: I don’t think teenagers believe anything any more, which is greatly to their advantage. Twenty years ago we all still were sort of under the impression that The Authorities would show up at any given disaster and take control and save our collective fannies. At this point any smart 17 year old knows you gotta make your own contingency plan, gas up the mini van, steal a few pallets of canned beans, and head for the hills. Let the walking appetizers stand there crying and bitching because the zombie cops haven’t shown up yet.

Most of characters in your novels are embroiled in some stage of a Zombie Apocalypse, spending each day fighting for their lives. What type of lives do you think they would have had if instead, they lived in a zombie free world?

Ilsa J, Bick: Well, if you’ve read my books, then you know my guys were haunted from the get-go. I’m not convinced their lives would be any better. In fact, in a couple cases, I think having to focus their angst on an apocalypse saved them.

Darren Shan: This isn’t actually the case. Without giving too much away, in Zom-B there are two types of zombie — the standard, braindead type, but also a small band of living dead teenagers who have regained their mental faculties (albeit while still needing to eat brains to survive). These are the central characters of the series. I wanted to look at what it would be like if you became a real monster, and if it’s possible for human kindness to exist in even the most unlikely of places. For some of these characters, the zombie apocalypse is actually a weird sort of blessing, as it forces them to become better (undead) people than they would have been in ordinary life. In a nutshell, the main message of the series is that there’s hope for every single one of us — even those of us who for whatever reason find ourselves strewn among the seemingly damned…

Sean Beaudoin: Well, I think it’s pretty clear that Nick wasn’t having the greatest life. But I think everyone feels that way at his age. I certainly did, and so did everyone I knew. Anyone who seemed too pleased with their lot was probably spending too much time with the airplane glue. It’s possible that is one of the themes of the book, if I believed in themes: there’s really not that much difference. Survival is relative, but the love of a girl in steel toe’d boots is eternal.

Thanks to Ilsa, Darren, and Sean for stopping by. Look for more Zombie Roundtables this week, plus reviews of Zom-B City and The Infects.