by Lia Habel
Thank you so much for the opportunity to write a guest post! After writing a treatise about part of my book and scrapping it, I’ve decided that what I really ought to talk about is love – because that’s what we’re all going to AAD for, right? Besides, the topic of zombie love never gets old (although it may rot and fall apart).
I’ve been asked many times why I chose to go with zombies for my romantic heroes, and I’ve given many answers – that I just like zombies, that the entire thing started as a joke, that I wanted to tackle a monster that would probably be a challenge to sell to other people. Ultimately I think it’s that final answer that lands closest to the mark. Somewhere in childhood I picked up an aversion to handsome princes and a love for all things ugly, exotic, and “normality challenged.” I wanted to slap Christine Daae for picking Raoul over the Phantom; I wanted the cursed prince to change back into a beast; I demanded a girlfriend for the Gill-man. I think as a little girl I somehow got the impression that the handsome, dashing heroes in my storybooks were fine, and didn’t need my name to pad their already miles-long fan rosters – whereas the lonely monsters, on the other hand, desperately needed at least one person in their corner. This is probably a form of narcissism masquerading as selflessness, but nevertheless, I’ve always sided with the weird. And zombies are no exception.
Zombies are perennially interesting monsters because they’re not monsters at all – they’re fully human, just with slightly different “proclivities” and a whole truckload of additional limitations. A body in a coffin doesn’t stop being human just because it’s gone stiff as a board, after all. Zombies are people too, to put it in bumper sticker language. (http://www.cafepress.com/+
This is what makes them both terrifying and tragic, and such great metaphor
fodder. When I began writing, though, I knew I didn’t want to approach them
from that “tragic” angle – I’d had it up to my ears with brooding paranormal
heroes, and I wanted to try a different approach. Therefore I set out to
emphasize their humanity, their ordinariness, and their strength.
I have many nicknames for my lead zombie guy, Bram, among them “the undead Marine” and “the white-hatted cowboy.” Because he was the main vehicle through which the reader would hopefully come to sympathize with the undead, I knew the focus had to be less on his physical attractiveness (although he’s not entirely unfortunate in that regard), and more on his personality and heart. Thus I chose to make him A Good Guy, a young man imbued with nobility, honesty, patience, intelligence, and sensitivity. He can kick ass when he has to – and oh, does he kick ass – but he also has a softer side. If he’s showing teeth, it’s usually because he’s smiling. I wanted readers to see that and realize that just because he has a rare and debilitating condition, just because he’s destined to turn into the stuff of nightmares, doesn’t mean he’s evil or inherently unlovable. If nothing else, I wanted readers to have to wait until they had a solid excuse to want to run away from him. In time, they might get it. But not yet.
Some people seem to think that the hardest part of my job as a writer is building my zombies into likable, even crushable characters – but actually, that’s the easiest part! The way to sell zombies as love interests, partners, and friends – the way to sell any type of monster, really – is to address the superficial stuff head on, and then delve deeper. In order to capture the popular imagination, I think monsters need to step up, own how different they are, and then get on with life. Luckily this disarming “take me as I am” attitude is one I find extremely easy to adopt when getting into the heads of my zombies, as after you’ve died, you really have very little to lose. Because what’s the worst that could happen – someone kills you again?
The best part of this entire exercise – and I still consider becoming an author an extremely weird, albeit happy accident – is the fact that I’m able to create characters that essentially have nothing except their wits and their guts to help them gain public attention and acceptance. They’re not beautiful, spectacular, or mystically-powered. They’re just dead bodies that refuse to lie down, dead bodies with amazing stories to tell. I’m so grateful for the chance to share those stories, and to show the world how I’ve viewed monsters since I was a child.
Lia Habel was born in Jamestown, NY, and has lived there the majority of her life. Her first book, Dearly, Departed, is a sweeping tale of zombie-living romance set in a cyber-Victorian/steampunk future. When Dearly, Departed sold, Lia was swimming in debt incurred from her studies and years of un- and underemployment, with only a few dollars to her name. Miss Habel enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (she has watched over a hundred of them), commissioning ball gowns, and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunities she has recently been given.
Read Amanda's review of Dearly, Departed.
Love can never die.
Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?
The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.
But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.