FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
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
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.