FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
My guest today is Deirdre Gould, who has strategically placed herself in Maine, where cold temperatures make the zombies run slower and remote isolation means zombifying viruses take longer to spread. Better yet, harsh storms make it so no one thinks Deirdre’s crazy for prepping.
In other words, she finds it to be a primo spot for writing the After the Cure series, which chronicles a world in which “the December Plague” has turned humans into violent, bloodthirsty, cannibalistic monsters.
I just hope they don’t eat me. I taste awful.
Let me see if I can Deirdre on the space phone.
Q. Hello Deirdre. Are you a prepper and if so, I’ll ask the question I’ve posed to other prepper authors this month. Why? Are we all doomed or is it just a better safe and sorry thing?
A. Hello BQB, things are getting pretty dodgy for you and your comrades! I hope I can help! Am I a prepper? Well, yes and no. What lots of folks forget about Maine is that most of it is very, very rural. And in the winter, when the tourists go home, even the cities are kind of rural. There are some places, like my home town, that first got electricity within my lifetime (and I’m in my 30s). Not only was a significant portion of my childhood spent without running water or electricity, but even after we got put on the grid, it wasn’t reliable. For a long time, it wasn’t unusual for the power to go out at least once a week. It’s still pretty normal for it to go down once a month or so. And although our power workers are truly the best, it’s a big state (landwise) and once the power goes out, it could be out for a few hours or several days.
As recently as the 1998 ice storm, my family spent two full weeks with no power and no running water. And winter up here is no joke. You know that Stephen King book. The Storm of the Century? Yeah, we have one of those at least every year. Really. Had to turn one of the kids over to Linoge like six years ago. So almost everyone has a wood stove, most rural places still have an old hand pump well (and someone that lives there knows how to prime it and is constantly reminding people not to fall in), and lots of us have pantries stocked full at any given moment. Especially because we can our own goods. And because for many people, the closest grocery store is forty five minutes to an hour away (everything is very spread out here). Solar panels are big here, when people can afford them. Homemade windmills too.
But I don’t know anyone who has a bunker, unless it’s been turned into a root cellar after the Soviet Union collapsed. Or a gun unless it’s for deer hunting. While a packed pantry is good, I try not to store more than about six months worth of anything, it’s just not practical for my particular family. And while Mainers have a reputation for being curt or crotchety, we really do take care of our neighbors instead of try to hide what we’ve got from them. And I know there are lots of very generous preppers out there who do the same, but I’ve also heard stories about secret storehouses and guarded water sources. But probably somewhere in the back of almost every Mainer’s mind is the memory of someone helping them out when they most needed it. Whether it was being rescued from an icy accident, sharing water with each other during the ice storm, or that emergency delivery of wood or oil in the worst part of February, we’ve all got them. Even in this modern world, we wouldn’t survive out here without each other. Besides, having the neighbors over is an excuse for a party. I like to think of us more as the Hobbits of the Prepper world. We do it because it makes good sense, and because we are always expecting company. Not because we’re all doomed.
Q. Soap. Water. Tacos. iPads. Netflix. Showers. All these great inventions become lost in a zombie apocalypse. Why do zombie fans fantasize about a world where all these things we take for granted are lost?
A. I think it’s that old urge to pit man against nature. We want to imagine that we are tough enough to measure up without our crutches. We’ve conquered every bit of this old earth (there’s even a litter problem on Everest and tourists in Antarctica), so there’s no place left for those that feel that drive to explore, to prove that rugged individualistic streak. Much of apocalyptic fiction is concerned with the end of civilization, of course, but why? Is it because there is something inherently wrong with showers and readily available bacon? For the majority of these stories, no. It’s not really about damning our current way of life (though lots of these stories contain “warnings”), it’s about wanting to do better. About wanting to be better. But we all know we are creatures of habit. We won’t stop what we like unless we’re forced to. We won’t make a better world until the one we live in is destroyed. These stories aren’t about losing technology and history and massive portions of the population. That’s just a byproduct. The real story is about the people that emerge when they are forced to do without. To do without modern implements, without the convenience and interconnectedness of society, even to do without the most basic and precious commodity we have, other humans and their brain power (cause it’s being snacked on). It’s about being alone in an unfamiliar world and not only surviving, but making that world a better place. Starting fresh. That’s what we all really want to do. Start fresh.
Q. You provide your readers with an interesting spin on the zompoc genre, namely, your series begins “after the cure” has been found. This cure turns the Infected back to normal, regular humans but alas, they have to live with the realization of all the horrible things they’ve done.
I hate to ask for spoilers, but here’s the question that pops into my mind. A zombie turns back to normal. Should we blame him for eating other humans or should we be all like, “It’s cool, man. You were a zombie.”
A. No worries, that’s not really a spoiler, that’s one of the biggest questions of the series and why I started writing it in the first place. Remember that the non-zombies aren’t totally innocent either. They would have had to kill to survive as well. In the world of After the Cure, some of the Immunes killed even when they didn’t have to. But they didn’t know that the zombies would be cured. Should we blame them too? How does a society function when everyone is a killer? You’d think that it would just fall apart. But we know, from our own human history, that it happens. We don’t have zombies, but we do have war and atrocity and cruelty. But when the war is over, when the conflict is resolved, people still have to go home. Maybe their neighbor was on the opposing side. Maybe their boss at work betrayed them to the opposing side. Maybe their grocer was their prison camp guard. But somehow, life goes on, people still interact, even when it seems incomprehensible. So that’s a running theme throughout the series. Who is guilty? Who is evil? How do people live not only with their neighbors, but with their own memories?
Q. In the first book of the series, a court psychologist and a defense attorney work to bring those responsible for the virus to justice. I could be wrong here, but I can’t think of another zombie apocalypse series where the reader actually gets to see a zombie apocalypse end and people turn their attention towards rebuilding society. How did you come up with the idea for this?
A. Actually, it was from reading truckloads of zombie books! I love them, I can’t get enough of them, even the ones that fall into a sort of formula. But after tome number gazillion and one, I realized that the causes of zombieism were always kind of limited. For the most part, it was either a deadly virus or some chemical spill that caused zombies (with an occasional voodoo spell or electrical malfunction thrown in). But I’d never seen a zombie story where a bacteria was involved. That’s it, that was where it started. I started to wonder why nobody ever used a bacteria, and I realized that it was because a bacteria had the potential for an antibiotic, a cure, where a virus didn’t. It violated one of the most cherished rules of zombieism: They can’t be cured, so all you can do is kill them. It’s part of the “fun” of zombie fiction. There is no moral quandary about killing them because they can’t come back. They aren’t “people” anymore. Zombies who can’t be cured might as well be a tornado or locusts or a volcano, just a natural disaster to be avoided or beaten. But what if that rule changed? What if people discovered that not only could the zombies be cured, but that once they were cured, they could remember everything that had happened while they were sick? And what if they found out late? Really, really late.
If they were anything like us, the first thing they’d do is try to find someone or something to blame for what had happened. Something to excuse their own guilt. That’s why the trial became the initial frame for this world. But are the defendants really guilty or just convenient scapegoats?
Q. What motivated you to start writing?
A. I’m one of those weird people who never wanted to start doing this for real. I mean, I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a little girl, but I never wanted to be a writer. I went to school for something very different, but when I was in college my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I took a year and a half off from school to help her. It meant many, many really long days of driving and sitting in doctor’s offices and hospitals (remember, everything is far away in Maine!). So to amuse myself, I started writing a novel. I didn’t finish it and set it aside for a long time, but I thought about it often and I’d add a bit here and there. Finally, the year my oldest child was born, I heard about Nanowrimo and decided I was going to finish this book (I think it had been about 7 years since I started it at that point). At the end of November I had a draft and put it away. Three years later, I’d been laid off from my copywriting job and struggling to find something else and honestly just couldn’t find anything. So I sat down and worked on the book for another year. I pretended it was just going to be for me, that I didn’t care about anyone reading it, but I started reading all these sites by agents anyway. Finishing the book made me more confident and I started working on other things, just for fun. I submitted a few pieces but everything I was reading on the agent sites convinced me that I shouldn’t even bother trying. Nobody ever took on new writers any more. I had a better chance of winning the lottery as being picked up by even an agent, let alone a publisher. And then I heard about KDP. I decided I had nothing to lose, and posted one of my finished novels, just to see what would happen. It was addictive. I got sucked in. I still considered it a hobby, something for my spare time, pretty much until last year when I started hearing from readers. Then it started to get serious, because someone besides me actually cared what happened to my characters. I’m now firmly entrenched and I actually sometimes feel guilty because I enjoy doing this so much, it feels like I’m goofing off instead of working a “real” job.
Q. Thanks for talking with me today. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice for my friends and I that might help us survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
A. Well, you are a couple of weeks in now, you’ve probably got some nicks and scrapes by now. You are going to want to keep any wounds clean and free from infection. In a world where antibiotics will be hard to find, you are going to need some easy alternatives or else that blister on your foot could mean amputation in a few weeks, or worse. Honey is a great topical antibiotic. It can be rubbed directly onto small wounds to fight off infection before you bandage them. For internal or systemic bacteria (like listeria from that bad deli meat you ate from the mall after the coolers lost power), if you have a silver dollar or a piece of real silverware, some water, and a battery, you can make some colloidal silver to fight that nasty bug off. Use too muc, though and your skin will turn a lovely shade of blue, permanently. If you listened to Sarah Lyons Fleming on day one, you probably have some baby wipes to clean yourself, but what are you doing about those nasty blood spattered weapons? Those things are crawling with zombie virus. Washing them won’t completely kill the germs, so you’ll need to find some copper. The pipes in your building probably aren’t doing much good now, if the electricity is off. Hack off a length of copper pipe. At night (or whenever you stop to flop down, exhausted from the near constant run/slaughter/run combo) place your pipe over the weapons. In two hours or so, almost all the germs will be gone, even a foot away from the actual copper! Here’s hoping you make it to day 19!