FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
Today’s guest is Ann Christy, author of the Between Life and Death series. Follow teenager Emily as she makes her way through a world comprised of three groups: humans, deaders, and the flesh-eating in-betweeners.
Ann, welcome. It truly takes a brave individual to take a call from Alien Jones’ space phone.
NOTE: BOLD = BQB; ITALICS = ANN
Q. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, does it? Take my pal, Bernie Plotznick, for instance. All he ever wanted to do was become a successful rap mogul but instead, he’s freaking out because life set him smack dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. That made me think of Between Life and Death protagonist Emily.
As the description of The In-Betweener states, “At eighteen, Emily thought life would be different. Dating, college, and maybe giving her mom a few reasons to worry were the plans she had in mind. Now, she talks to herself and smashes heads with her favorite sledgehammer.”
Do you have any advice for my 3.5 readers who thought life was going to be X only to be mortified upon discovery that it is actually Y?
A. What’s that saying? Making lemonade or something when life gives you lemons? Well, that’s rot. What you do is pour vodka in your glass, squeeze one of those lemons like it’s a wallet filled with cash, and then chug it. After that…and a couple more, because lemons are plural…sit down and re-prioritize. Nothing is set in stone and any path can be strayed from. Find the path you want…and more vodka.
Q. In this series, you’ve got several groups. Nanites. Deaders. In-betweeners. I also have a hunch not every human can be trusted. That’s usually the case even when there’s not a zombie apocalypse afoot. Is there a group that is particularly nastier than the rest or are they all equally awful?
A. Everyone is awful in their own way, just as in real life. Everyone is also awesome in their own way, again as in real life. Okay, not everyone is awesome because I’ve concluded that there are actually people in real life who are 100% asshats. My books reflect that reality on occasion. To actually answer your question, though: In-Betweeners are alive, but were dead for a brief period, only to be revived by their nanite constellation. Since they lack much of their humanity, they function really as animals, with instincts and drives making up the motivations for action. That, to me, makes them the most scary because it’s so easy to see ourselves in that. Of course, humans always suck. So, there’s that.
Q. You’re a recently retired Navy officer, which no doubt comes with a great deal of training and experience. Does any of that come in handy when you’re writing and how so?
A. Yep. That it does. Like pretty much every Naval Officer, I did many jobs, some of them all at the same time. For the last 16 years of my service, I was supposed to be a scientist, but I was also a deployer, battle planner…you name it. “Science” is a rather broad term, but like everything else, I worked in more than one field, often melding multiple fields together for specific needs. That sort of versatility really does help when writing complex worlds. And, incidentally, slightly more plausible reasons for the Z-Apoc to happen, which is super fun.
Q. What made you take the leap into the writing world?
A. Hugh Howey. I had no clue a writer was lurking inside me like a whiney wanker demanding to be let out. Alas, there was. It’s like having a perpetually hungry and tired three year old rattling around in my head. Most unsettling and I’ve developed a craving for nuggetized chicken on top of it.
Oh, you wanted a serious answer? Okay. It really was Hugh Howey. I read Wool when it was still new and only had the one volume out…and by that I mean the first little novella, not the book. After part two came out, I started thinking that I’d like to see someone with some freaking morals and sense of right in power once in a while. That started the whole thing percolating in my head. I asked Hugh if I could write it, he said yes. I had zero clue that thousands of people would buy it within a couple of months of me putting that unedited piece of brain-scream out. But they did. And they liked it.
And then I learned you can actually hire editors, so things really picked up steam after that. It’s the greatest job I never knew I could do.
Q. Your Silo 49 series takes place in the world of Hugh Howey’s Wool. As an aspiring self-publisher, I bow down to Hugh the way rock and roll fans worship Black Sabbath. Is it humbling to think that you’ve displayed such a high level of writing talent that Hugh’s trusted you to work within his world?
A. Well, to be truthful, I don’t think he actually trusted me with it. I think he’s just generous and let almost anyone play in his world. That said, I did adhere to canon well and I’ve got a great memory for detail, so I hope I didn’t muck about with established dogma too much. And I prefer to worship the Scorpions because Rock You Like A Hurricane is the best rock song ever, closely followed by the entire Back in Black album by AC/DC. Just saying…
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: Here I am! Rock you like a hurricane! Here I am! Rock you like a Hurri…CANE! OK, that’s enough of that, I don’t want to have to pay the Scorpions royalties.
Q. At least 2 out of my 3.5 readers are aspiring writers. What advice do you have for someone just getting started?
A. It’s not good yet. Really, it’s just not.
And right now you might be saying, “WTF!? I’m going to one star the shit out of you.” But wait, there’s more.
What I’m really saying is that the moment we start writing, we become writers (no matter any other profession we might keep so bills get paid) and as writers producing a work that might be considered art (or a butchery of art depending on the audience), we’re too close to our work to be objective. One of the biggest flaws in writing is that it’s hard to see the flaws in our own work. Very hard. Impossible at times.
If you’re thinking of becoming a writer, then also search for an editor at the same time. Call it the cost of doing business. And no, a friend who happens to have majored in English is not an editor. They’re your friend. Editing is super important. Other than that, just let your mind take over and create what you want. I don’t believe (not even a little bit) that writers are some special breed, that we’re born to it, or anything of that sort. Everyone has a story inside them, probably hundreds of stories. Get that bad boy out and into the world!
If you really can’t afford an editor at the moment, then you can use my Four Views method, which does work for short stories and such pretty well. If you can’t have a professional edit for flow, then at least get rid of the errors and the Four Views method helps with that. Here they are:
ANN’s FOUR VIEWS METHOD
One – On the screen, read-through from your word-processing program, which is what we all do anyway while we’re writing.
Two – Text-to-Speech from Word or whatever your word processing program is.
Three – Send the file to your kindle and read it like a book. You’d be amazed how many errors you find that way.
Four – Print it out and read it aloud to yourself in a room. Not from the screen, read from paper. You’ll see errors because your brain processes reading aloud from paper differently than reading silently.
Q. Thank you so much for your time. Before I go, do you have any other survival tips for my friends and I as we continue to brave our way through the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
A. Yes. Yes I do.
First: Twinkies are mandatory and not just because the most awesome comedic zombie movie ever says so. They don’t rot. I’ve experimented.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: Bonus points to my 3.5 readers if you can guess the movie in the comments.
Second: At it’s most basic, momentum is force over time (really, it’s way more complicated but this is a short answer). And this is important. What it means is that the longer your swing with that hammer (or axe, or baseball bat), the more head-smashing potential you have. Take big swings.
Third: I would stock up on garlic and silver bullets, because if the z-poc ever really happens, then all kinds of supernatural bullshit is about to come out of the woodwork and that means freaking sparkly vampires and weregophers and other craptastic stuff.
See you on the other side!