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Today’s guest is Rachel Higginson, author of the zombie apocalypse romance series, Love and Decay. Currently in Season Three, it’s the story of Reagan, whose dreams of a happily ever after go up in smoke when she’s forced to run her zombified high school sweetheart over with her mother’s car to keep herself from becoming zombie chow.
Born and raised in Nebraska, Rachel spent her college years traveling the world, the highlights of said journey including Eastern Europe, Paris, Indian Food and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka.
She came home to marry her own high school sweetheart, who luckily, has yet to become zombified. When she’s not writing, she’s either raising her four children or reading.
BQB: Rachel, thanks for taking my call.
RACHEL: Thank you! I’m so excited to chat.
NOTE: BOLD=BQB; ITALICS=RACHEL
Q. Love and Decay is serialized in a television-esque style. Season Three came out in May of this year and you expect Season Four in December. As you describe on your website, during a season, each episode comes out in the form of a novella of around 20,000 words. When all of the novellas are out, you put them together in a seasonal omnibus.
Thanks to streaming media and the ability to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, television has drastically improved in recent years. What inspired you to serialize your work and is there any benefit to doing so as opposed to releasing the entire season in one novel up front?
A. It was my husband’s idea actually. He thought it would be a great way to get more content to my readers faster. 20,000 words seemed easy to him. While it’s not actually easy, it is so much fun. And the 20k setup forces me to write in a different way than I would a full length novel. These episodes are intense and action packed. The plot-building is stripped down to bare bones to allow everything that needs to happen happen in a four chapter novella. If I were to write the same story in a 100k novel, I would write it completely different. It would be the slow build to the climactic moment. And while a zombie apocalypse book can be nothing but action-packed and exciting, the build-up would still be stretched out over time and chapters. The novellas give me permission to pack a punch with each episode. The story arc is still there, but it’s less of a consistent rise. It’s more like taking a roller coaster up the side of a mountain- you’re always going up, but it’s the most exciting way to get to the top.
Q. I have to admit the idea sounds interesting. We’re all so busy these days that the idea of sitting down to read an entire novel can be daunting for me, whereas the idea of perusing 20,000 words every two weeks seems doable. What do your readers think of this approach?
A. They love it. They also hate it! They love it because they get to stay engaged with a fictional world they adore for six entire months. I finish a novel in a few days, a week at most. And then I fall into book depression because I have to leave that story behind. With the novella setup, my readers don’t have to leave the Love and Decay World. They get to stay involved for six entire months. And with how the episodes are set up, each read is exciting, each novella propels the plot forward. There isn’t time for slow, calm, world-building chapters. Each novella has to be an adrenaline-pumping ride through the zombie apocalypse. They hate it though because they really are short reads. Some of my readers can finish them in an hour. And then they’re forced to wait for two weeks to find out what happens next. They don’t like that part- and I really don’t blame them. But I secretly think they love the anticipation. That’s half the fun!
Q. Reagan falls for one of the Parkers, the brothers who come to her aid. Love is hard to find even when the world is running smoothly and the damned aren’t trying to crack open your skull just to feast on the sweet, juicy innards. For cynics like me, is there any way you convince us that love in the time of a zombie apocalypse is possible?
A. Oh for sure! I think it’s human nature. We’re not meant to be alone, live alone. Even at the end of the world. The greatest goal of humankind is to be known and understood. And there is no greater way to know and understand a person than by loving them. I would think even more so in a zombie apocalypse where fear and uncertainty rule the day. Sure, there’s also a lot of killing and running for their lives, but love happens in all those in between places. Even if it’s not convenient, it’s something we can’t stop. We are designed to love. But then again, I’m a romantic.
Q. The undead aren’t the only ones after Reagan. Not to give too much away, but threats come in the form of a stalker and bounty hunters, just to give some examples. What is it about a zombie apocalypse that brings out the worst in people? Can anyone be trusted when zombies are afoot?
A. In my vision of the zombie apocalypse, men and women are ruled by fear. Sometimes that manifests in helping others survive and sometimes that manifests in grappling for control in any way that you can. In our world today, there are bad and good people. I think circumstances in a zombie outbreak would only amplify those roles. Without standards or authority, bad people are free to do as they please, free to find control anyway that they can. If they can control a situation, there is nothing to fear. That makes it nearly impossible to trust people. You can’t predict how another person will react to their fear or living with fear on a daily basis. But I can’t believe everyone would turn to their darker instincts. There will always be good people in the world or maybe just people who cope better. Trust can happen, but slowly. Or very quickly, depending on the life-threatening situation you find yourself in. 🙂
Q. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that might help my friends and I survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
A. Stick together and get creative! You’re going to need a lot of weapons, so you might have to be flexible with the definition of “weapon.” But whatever you end up using, make sure that sucker is dead before you turn around.