Daily Archives: October 11, 2015

#31ZombieAuthors – Day 11 Interview – Rachel Aukes – Dante Zombified

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My guest today is Rachel Aukes, author of The Deadland Saga.  Set in a zombie infested midwest, the first book of the series, 100 Days in Deadland, was named one of the best books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.  The trilogy concluded in May of this year with Deadland Rising.

Under the pen name, “Berinn Rae,” Aukes also wrote Stealing Fate, a USA Today recommended read.

Ahh let me see here.  Pick up the old space phone.  Dial up Rachel.  It’s ringing.  Hmm hmm la la la.  Hello!

RACHEL: Hey, BQB. Great to hear from you! How’s life treating you?

NOTE:  BOLD=BQB; ITALICS=Rachel

51thgaVbyUL__SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Q.  Terrible, Rachel.  I’m currently riding out a zombie apocalypse in a small locked room.  Outside, zombies are desperate to get in here and gobble me up like a nice Christmas ham.  Inside, I’m stuck with my insufferable ex-girlfriend, who complains about everything I do.  Naturally, I feel like I’m trapped in the seventh circle of hell. 

But I don’t want to bother you with my personal problems.  What I want to know is what inspired you to weave that classic English 101 staple, Dante’s Inferno, into 100 Days in Deadland?

A.   I’d always wanted to write a zombie tale but never found the right inspiration… that was, until I was watching O Brother Where Art Thou one night, which is a quirky retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. Dante’s “Inferno” popped into my mind, and instantly I knew the zombie tale I needed to write.

Oh, and look at the bright side. You’re not trapped inside with two ex-girlfriends.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  TWO ex-girlfriends?  What am I, Hugh Hefner?

Q.  The series continues, mashing Dante Alighieri’s other writings with zombitastic goodness.  I’m going to go out a limb and guess you’re a lover of the classics.  If you could zombify another classic novel, which one would it be and why?

A. I do love the classics. Most modern stories I’ve read seem to be simply new versions of old stories. If I zombified another classic, I’d go for The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy (a newer classic). I think it’d be a hoot to write a fun romp of a witty master of disguise who rescues people during the zombie apocalypse.

Q.  Your protagonists come from two very different backgrounds.  Cash is an office worker with few survival skills while Clutch is a battle hardened veteran/PTSD sufferer.  Do disasters have a tendency to bring people together who would normally never have anything to do with one another?

A. I believe disasters unveil the best and worst in people by throwing them into inconceivable situations without a lifeline. Cash and Clutch never would’ve met in their normal lives. It took Cash running from zombies on the interstate and being given a lift by Clutch in his big rig for the two to be given the chance to meet… and discover that they made a perfect zombie-killing pair.

Q.  You’ve also written sci-fi romance under your pen name, “Berinn Rae.”  What are some of the key components of a good sci-fi romance story?

A. Sci-fi romance needs to have the same ingredients of any good story—a tempo that turns the page, characters we can love or hate, and a plot that makes us think. For sci-fi romance, you sprinkle on a happily-ever-after ending (or happily-for-now in the case of my stories since I’ve never been one for Disney princess stories). Then, stir in elements of science fiction. In my Colliding Worlds trilogy, an intergalactic war came to earth.

Q.  Rachel, you’ve received accolades from USA Today and Suspense Magazine.  Did you ever dream you’d get this far when you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keys?)

A.  Hell, no. I began writing because I had too many stories playing bumper cars in my head. I was ecstatic when people paid money for my stories. Whenever my stories receive accolades, I’m downright delirious. I love telling stories—that I’m fortunate enough to be building a career out of it makes me feel like the luckiest person on earth.

Q.  Speaking of, how did you end up writing professionally?

A. After I wrote my first story (a paranormal thriller), I shopped it around to a few agents and small presses. One of those small presses gave me my first break (This was before self-publishing had become a big thing). With that first sale, I learned the full editing process and the publishing process on a publisher’s dime. Not long after, I wrote a sci-fi with mild romantic elements and got a three-book deal with a larger house for the Colliding Worlds Trilogy. It took me three years before I dipped my toes in the self-publishing waters with the Deadland Saga, and I’ve never looked back.  

Q.  Thanks for taking the time to help a nerd out.  Before I return to my own seventh circle of hell, do you have any last minute words of advice that could help my friends and I survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

A. Use the ex-girlfriend as bait so you can escape. It’s a win-win situation… for you, anyway.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Not a terrible idea.  I’ll submit it to the group and let them mull it over.

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BQB’s Zombie Apocalypse Survivor’s Journal – Day 11

“I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way into eternal pain,
I am the way to go among the lost.

Justice caused my high architect to move,
Divine omnipotence created me,
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me there were no created things
But those that last forever—as do I.
Abandon all hope you who enter here.”

-Dante’s Inferno

I felt like I was in the seventh circle of hell.

Typical Blandie

Typical Blandie

“You’re so useless, BQB,” whined my ex-girlfriend, Blandie.  “A real man would have rescued me already.  A real man would have swooped me up in his arms and whisked me back to his house for drinks by now.”.

“Maybe you should call Troy,”  I said.  “Or Channing.  Or Lance.  Or one of those perfectly coiffed hair muscle bound douches you assured me you weren’t sleeping with behind my back even though you totally were!”

“Oh whatever,”  Blandie said.  “A real man wouldn’t have his head stuck in the past.”

“Call the Mighty Potentate,”  I said to Alien Jones.  “I want him to vaporize me and put me out of my misery.”

“He won’t do that,”  my alien buddy replied.  “He believes in you too much, though personally, I wonder if he might have jumbled his prophecy.  Not that I’d ever tell him.”

“Why do you keep writing on that stupid blog of yours, anyway?”  Blandie asked.  “Writing.  Please.  Lame.  I mean, ‘Hello?’  It’s the twenty-first century!  No one reads anymore!  Get your head out of the clouds!  Duh!”

Bernie was fast asleep.  VGRF distracted herself from Blandie’s blatherings with Alien Jones’ space phone, playing a rousing game of Car Thief Mayhem: Mobile Edition.

Can't get enough of that Car Thief Mayhem

Can’t get enough of that Car Thief Mayhem

“When are you ever going to stop being a nerd and grow up, BQB?”  Blandie asked.

“You know what?”  I asked.  “No.  Forget it.  It’s not even worth it to tell you off.”

“Oh whatever,”  Blandie said.  “Like I care.”

“People are different, Blandie,”  I said.  “I act like a nerd because I AM a nerd.   You made me feel like shit for years, that there was something wrong with me…”

I put my arm around VGRF and snuggled her close to me.  Her eyes remained fixated on her video game.

“…it wasn’t until I met this goddess that I realized it was ok to be me, that there’s nothing wrong with being a nerd.   I am nerd, hear me roar, in numbers too big too ignore.”

“Aw sweet!”  VGRF said.  “I just ran over a crack dealer and stole all his money!”

Blandie blew a raspberry, making a big “PBBBHHHT!” sound.

“Whatever.”

Blandie was a big fan of the word, “whatever.”

“You’re a nobody, BQB,”  Blandie said.  “You think you’re somebody but you’re not.  The whole time we were together, you were just this big geek who played with action figures and read comic books and wrote boring stories and wore dorky glasses and….and….”

Blandie’s eyes welled up and tears poured out.

“BQB, the human is leaking,”  Alien Jones said.

VGRF paused her game.

Bernie snored.  He could sleep through anything.

“…and you were always THERE FOR ME!!!”

Blandie broke out into full weeping mode and threw herself at me, blubbering incessantly as she forced her words out between sobs.

“You never cheated on me like Troy did and you didn’t steal my life’s savings and run off with my sister like Channing did and I don’t even want to tell you what Lance did…”

“Um,”  I said as I timidly patted Blandie on the head.  “There there?”

“I’m going to die alone in the zombie apocalypse and my last thoughts are going to be about how I gave up the only man who ever truly loved me and that he’ll never take me back now because he’s in love with a girl who buys all of her clothes from the dollar store!”

“This is all JC Penney, bitch!”  VGRF said.

Blandie snorted and cried some more until she passed out and fell asleep.  Gently, I rested her head down onto one of the bug out bags, letting her use it as a pillow.

“I’m the man,”  I said.

“What?”  VGRF asked.

“I’ve found the love of my life in you, plus the girl who broke my heart is beside herself in agony over losing me.”

“Please,”  VGRF said.  “That’s just the zombie apocalypse talking.  When she wakes up, she’ll go back to chewing you out again.”

“True,”  I said.  “Being locked in this small room with her is like being trapped in…”

“Hell?”  Alien Jones asked.  “As described by the human writer, Dante?”

“Exactly,”  I said as I picked up the space phone.  “Come to think of it, I know an author who could shed some light on this.”

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