Q: The First Days has been heralded as ‘one of the girls in a sea full of boys.’ How does it feel to be writing in a subgenre that is predominantly occupied by men?
A: When I wrote The First Days I was aware of the lack of both female characters and female authors in the genre, but frankly, I just wanted to write the story that was in my head. That the two lead characters, Jenni and Katie, are women didn’t really personally strike me as odd, but the reaction from the readers told me that I had broken new ground. I have had some negative comments from male readers and authors, but it’s been pretty miniscule. I would say a vast majority of my fandom is male and they are incredibly supportive. Sometimes I have felt like the only girl on the playground, but more women are coming into the genre and that is good.
Q: The novel begins ‘somewhere in Texas.’ Can you describe what that location may be and how the state’s geography influenced your writing of the novel?
A: It starts in a Texas city that could be San Antonio, Austin, or the Fort Worth/Dallas area. Since Jenni and Katie end up in the Texas Hill Country, those are the three most likely suspects for their city of origin. The story takes place in just one area close to the center of the state and I tried to relay how massive the state actually is.
Q: You initially wrote The First Days as well as its subsequent sequels online. How did transitioning to book format change the story, if at all?
A: I was writing it while on the road for work, so I didn’t always have access to what I had posted the day before. There were continuity issues with the first version and I dropped the ball on some characters. Going back and revising the books has given me a chance to rectify my former mistakes. I think the plot is sharper, the characterization richer, and the book overall is just a lot more solid.
Q: How did you create the mythology for your version of the zombie?
A: Since the story is in Texas, I needed to take into account the fact that Texans have guns. Slow zombies wouldn’t be a huge threat in Texas. I had to make them fast so society would collapse. It made sense to me to slow the zombies down as their bodies were ruined by decay, the elements, and the fact that zombies don’t feel pain. For example: A zombie gets caught in a gate. Its arm is tangled up in the barbed wire. It wants to get free, so it pulls and pulls until its arm finally tears off. It doesn’t feel pain and it just made itself a much less effective eating machine.
Q: What can readers expect in future sequels to The First Days?
A: Zombie mayhem, character deaths, solid action, emotional moments, and Jenni and Katie being at the center of it all.
From the Tor/Forge July newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from our July newsletter:
- Got A Job in Magicland? By L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
- At the Abyss by David Hagberg
- Another Method by David Drake