1. How did Plague Town come about? By that I mean, could you give us a sketch of your creative process for this book from start to finish? I’ve always thought it was interesting how some people piece a story together from a few fragments, and others have the entire plot, setting, characters, etc. done before they even start writing.
Plague Town first came about when I was approached by Lori Perkins, who was then an editor at Ravenous Romance, and asked if I’d be interested in developing and writing a series that was, in her exact words “Buffy … but with zombies. And different.” Oh, and she wanted the protagonist’s name to be Ashley. With those perimeters, she set me loose to write up a three book outline (or what passes for an outline in my world since I totally suck at writing and working from one), which she planned on pitching to other publishers for the print rights. Originally all three books were going to be eBooks at Ravenous, but that changed when the series was acquired by Steve Saffel @Titan Books. Now on to the creative process. Well, first see above for my feelings on outlines and then add “I hate them the fiery passion of a thousand burning hot suns!” and you’ll get the idea that I’m one of those writers who pieces my work together from a smattering of ideas, story fragments and a couple of characters in mind. So when I started, I had the name of my heroine, the way I wanted my particular version of the zombie virus/plague/outbreak to happen, and the directive to have a certain Buffyesque feel to it. Since I’m an avid Buffy (and Firefly) fan, I was already totally familiar with the show and had a good idea of what elements I wanted to use to give Plague Town that flavor without having it be derivative. In other words, capture some of the stuff that makes Buffy work so well while creating something new.So starting with all of the above, I sketched out a few ideas for a three book story arc and started writing. Most of the characters developed as I wrote. I had no idea who my other wild cards were going to be until they actually made their first appearances in the book. And while I had a basic ‘this is how I want it to end’ and a few plot points along the way, same with the plot. I’d research certain things for a scene and found that the research led to other cool ideas, which I wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t done the research for something totally different.
2. Why zombies? And what’s the scariest thing about zombies?
Well, first of all, as told above, I was given a very specific directive (Buffy, but with zombies), so that was a no-brainer. Second, I’d already written three short stories published in various anthologies that were in the zombie genre and I’ve been a fan of that particular monster for years. I’m no zombie-come-lately when it comes to my love of the genre; my first date movie was the original Dawn of the Dead. As far as them being scary, for me I’d say the scariest aspect is that they just don’t stop. You can run and you’ll eventually get tired. They may shamble after you at a slow pace (I prefer the slow zombies to the fast ones), but they will not stop coming after you. One of the most iconic scenes in the original Night of the Living Dead is the zombies converging on the farm house, more and more appearing to join the hordes scratching, clawing and pounding to get to the tasty humans trapped inside. If they know you’re there, they will not stop trying to get to you. And that, to me is really creepy. You can’t reason with them, you can’t bribe them.
3. I loved the mix between the plot with Ashely and the cut scenes between the zombies/other citizens dealing with and/or being taken down my zombies and the havoc they leave behind. Why did you include that in the book? I’ve never seen anything quite like it in an Urban Fantasy that I can remember andI really enjoyed it.
Well, it started with Egg Chen’s quote from Big Trouble in Little China: ” that’s how it always begins. Very small.” That quote just popped into my head and was the first thing I wrote down. That inspired me to show Patient Zero, and I thought a few third person perspective scenes showing the outbreak spreading would be a good way of opening the world upto the readers instead of just being stuck in Ashley’s first person point of view. It allows me to show rather than tell what’s going on elsewhere, and I think it also helps move the story forward. The response to those scenes has been really positive, which definitely has inspired me to have more of them in Plague Nation!
4. Did you always know that Ashley’s boyfriend was going to be disposable? Why did you decide his death was necessary? I was shocked when he didn’t make it, but I really felt like it was a catalyst to getting Ashley on the move.
Poor poor Matt… yes, I actually knew he was gonna die from the get-go. One of the very story points I actually was certain about before I started writing. I think his death was necessary to put a very real and personal face on the zombie outbreak for Ashley, something even more personal than getting bit herself. I also wanted to set her up from the beginning as someone who can deal with the extraordinary as it occurs, and the contrast between the way she and Matt handle their first zombie encounter (Ashley handles, Matt freaks out) shows that really clearly. And let’s face it; someone acts like he did and they’re pretty much guaranteed to get killed. That all being said, I ended up liking Matt more than I thought I would when I first started writing his character so I did feel kinda guilty about killing him. Which is probably a good thing because hopefully the readers were sad to see him go too instead of going “oh, hey, Matt’s a Red Shirt!” right from the get-go.
5. What was the hardest part to write in this novel? Was there anything that really made your grind your teeth in production of the novel from drafting to revisions?
The revisions were definitely the hardest parts to write. The original draft was relatively easy, but then i started working with Steve at Titan (otherwise known as Dark Editorial Overlord and yes, I gave him that nickname) and I gotta say I have never worked so hard in my life on any writing project as the revisions for Plague Town. Honestly, I can’t think of any specifics right now because even the revisions for Plague Town now seem like a walk in a very pleasant park compared to the hell of Second Book Syndrome I’m going through with Plague Nation.
6. Who was your favorite character to write? I personally enjoyed every time Nathan was on the page. He’s just very go with the flow and “I’ll handle it,” which I thought might be fu to write, not just read.
I love all of them. Nathan is definitely fun and you’ll be happy to know, you’ll get more of him (and his backstory) in Plague Nation (and the backstory has been SO much fun to write!), but I love my wild cards. Tony and Kai and their “bromance” and pop cultural reference exchanges are totally fun to write… and I’m very fond of Lil. I like Simone’s no-nonsense demeanor and unflappable calm (except when dealing with Nathan), and writing Gabriel’s character was enjoyable, although I have to admit I like his self-righteous vegan asshat side just a little bit more because it’s more fun to write that kind of dialogue. Mind you, I’ve nothing against vegans, but I have met a couple who could give Gabriel a run for his money in terms of standing on soap-boxes and preaching. Okay, fine, that’s where I got some of his dialogue. :-) And to those of my friends who are vegan but don’t give me stink-eye if I’m eating a hamburger on occasion, I love you. You know I do!! Hey, can I digress or what? :-)
7. If you could share something with new writers about writing or publishing, what would it be?
“Never give up, never surrender!” Seriously. It’s hard. No matter how much you love writing, there are times when it’s like chipping through a cement wall with a bobby-pin. Getting published can be the same way, so continually work at what you do, be willing to take constructive critique, and if you do choose to self-publish, make sure what you put out there is as good as it can possibly be. I
8. And if you could tell your fans one thing, what would it be?
I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been to get emails from readers telling me how much they like Plague Town and asking when the next book is coming out . I mean… fan mail!I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of getting positive feedback and “meeting” readers and other writers, and you all make the days when the writing process just sucks the cosmic wang totally worth it!
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Another thank you to Dana for taking the time to do this interview and for being willing to come by today! I really appreciate it. If you want to learn more about Dana and her work visit her site here.