Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Lia Habel, author of the fabulous zombie novel Dearly, Departed......
Dearly, Departed has been described as a “steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead
thriller” but if you had to describe it to someone unfamiliar with the book in 5 words what would they be?
Corpses in cravats, city BOOMS.
As I’ve mentioned when I spoke to you before, I recently that the pleasure of reading Dearly, Departed before its official release and of course I loved it. The world you’ve created is so vivid and the sense of adventure is unmistakable within it—I simply couldn’t get enough. I was wondering what lead you to set it in this kind of environment? What was it that drew you to this kind of world?
A lot of different things, I think - both intrinsic and extrinsic. As a consumer of entertainment, I love adventure and action films, violent video games, comic books - basically anything that meets a baseline "three explosions or more per half hour" effects quota. I'm extremely feminine, but I've never much cared for the typical romances marketed at women - I need some bullets to be exchanged, too. That's the kind of storytelling that speaks to me, so it's probably quite natural that I ended up creating something in that vein!
The actual setting of the New Victorian/Punk Territories came to me on the fly. I wanted to create and explore a futuristic Victorian setting, as that's an aesthetic that greatly appeals to me. I usually explain the term "cyber-Victorian" to people by telling them to imagine a girl in a gorgeous bustled gown accessing her email via holographic HUD - I love the juxtaposition of high technology with vintage fashions and social mores. I think it's human nature that even as we look forward, we also tend to look back, mainly to mark our social/technological progress. I think bringing some of the past back into fashion in new and sometimes cheeky ways serves to both inspire and ground us as we move even further ahead. At least, to me it seems that way. Maybe I'm weird!
Dearly, Departed focuses on a number of different characters POV’s and all your characters are so different, with each bringing something to the story. Even the ones whose heads we don’t get a glimpse into still seem to jump off the page. Who do you find it the hardest to write about?
Probably the younger characters - Isambard, Jenny, and some younger folks upcoming. It's just a tad more challenging to fit myself into that younger frame of mind - the majority of my older teen characters are quite mature, so it's not as difficult to make the mental leap. Other than that, there are some dark places in a few of the characters' heads that it's not pleasant to visit, even though it might be interesting. Dr. Samedi, especially, has done a lot of violent things. Tom's eaten human flesh. Even Nora has parts of her mind that have been affected by violence, death, and anger. (There were some very dark jokes Nora made about her father in the original drafts that got the editing axe!) But that's the nature of the beast, and part of the "fun" - I don't have an agenda I'm writing about, but the one theme I constantly find myself touching on is that no one is 100% good or evil, and no one is ever what they seem.
We can’t talk about the characters and not talk about Nora’s love interest Bram, who I must admit is actually my favourite character. He’s so well rounded and a real gentleman and I loved this about him. He’s so honourable and respectful, just the kind of guy you can imagine taking home to meet the folks.....dead or not. Zombie aside, he is pretty spunky. What made you write him this way, instead of as one of those typical bad boys that seem to be littering YA fiction right now?
I specifically set out to write against the bad boy trend! I'm really glad people are picking up on this. I would describe Bram as a "white-hatted cowboy" - he can obviously take care of business, but he's also got that reasonable, softer side. He has a sense of humor. He couldn't love a girl he couldn't respect. I think that too often in our modern society we're sold a very shallow idea of what masculinity should be - machismo, pure muscle, goes in guns blazing, extremely serious, blah blah. I wanted to showcase a different masculine ideal. Strength is attractive, absolutely, but strength comes in many different forms. Gentleness is strength. Intelligence is strength.
The tone and feeling of Dearly, Departed is so fun despite some of the themes and events within the book. There were so many times I grinned or even laughed over the antics of Company Z and some of the things they said. I know if I ever happen to make friends with a zombie, I hope they’re just like Bram and the gang. Why was this humour so essential to the book?
There's a long, rich tradition of zom-com - zombie comedy. So I was really inspired by that. I think there's something intrinsically "funny" about dead bodies - I think it's a coping mechanism the brain uses to deal with death. We laugh at what scares us to neutralize it. So to me, with my dark sense of humor, it's natural to be as jokey as I am serious about the characters, and for the characters themselves to use gallows humor to cope with their unlives. I think the most successful zombies are the ones who laugh the most. Life's not worth living if you can't laugh.
Tell us a bit about your writing process? What goes into a typical day of writing for you?
When I'm drafting, I'm usually going for about 3,000 words a day, 5 days a week. I'm a very fast writer, as you can tell! (I was doing 10,000 word days when D,D was in its first draft.) I normally work from the time I wake up to about 5 p.m. I work from home, so luckily a lot of typical daily activities can take place around the writing - but the downside is that I can't turn my brain "off" neatly anymore. I can't just pack the work part of my life away.
When I'm editing, same thing goes - I usually have a page number or chapter quota that I need to reach to stay on schedule. I try to balance pushing myself to meet my personal number goals with allowing the ideas to flow naturally. Even if I produce 3,000 words of garbage, I still want to produce that daily. Garbage can fertilize flowers! If I get one awesome sentence out of it that can be reused, the work is worth it.
I have my best ideas when I'm away from the computer, though. I go for long walks, and I listen to a ton of music.
If you ever feel victim to the Lazarus Syndrome how do you think you’d cope?
I like to think I'd be one of those well-adjusted, laughing zombies! I think if my life were thrown into focus like that, I'd want to continue living precisely as I liked - freedom would be the most important thing to me. That means more Victorian ballgowns, more dances, and more tea parties! I might also get the courage to go up to guys I like - that'd be a first. (I'm really shy!) But what would I have to lose?
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, real or fictional who would you want to meet and why?
My lifelong "real person" crush is Vincent Price. I was in love with him as a little girl. He was such a huge figure in horror and sci-fi, and yet also such a generous, intelligent gentleman - again, that perfect balance of power and kindness. Also, he was freaking hot. Then again, I have a thing for facial hair! (Robert Englund is his successor in many respects, and I also had a childhood crush on him, but Mr. Englund scares me a lot more than Mr. Price! Even though, by all accounts, he's the kind of man who'd give you the shirt off his back. I honestly think the horror genre attracts some of the sweetest guys.) At any rate, I wouldn't just want to meet him because of the crush thing - he was truly interesting and well-educated, and I'd just love to have a chat with him.
I simply adore the cover for Dearly, Departed, both the US (which is my fave) and the UK one which we received here in Australia too. How much say did you have in choosing the cover and were you happy with the ultimate outcome?
I had no say on either. I love the UK cover - they got so many little details right! I love the US one, too - I got to take a peek at a few models for it, and I got to lobby for more curls (yay Photoshop), but other than that both of them were out of my control. I'm very happy they chose pink for the background - it's the girliest zombie cover ever! Go me!
And finally, anything you want to share with my readers about Dearly Beloved, the sequel to Dearly, Departed? Obviously, I know that you can’t give anything away—where would the fun be with that—but any hints about what’s in store for Nora and Bram next? Besides lots of romance I hope, hehe....
D,B might be a little more serious than D,D - but that's a good thing, I think. The humor has to complement some of the dark things the group is going to have to deal with, and the fantastic elements have to be balanced out by the more realistic. But I hope it will be fun! There will be new zombie characters, some one-liner characters from D,D will become pivotal, we'll learn more about the Dearly family itself, and we'll get to figure out what Michael and Vespertine have been up to....
6 quick questions: (there were only five, I made one up!)
Whoops, my fault there....although I love your extra question =D
1. Cake or Ice cream? Cake!
2. Lucky number? 66.
3. Favourite holiday destination? New York City.
4. Favourite colour? Red.
5. Night or day? Night!
6. Brain-eaters or flesh-eaters? Flesh-eaters!
And let me end by thanking you again for being interviewed Lia! It’s so great having the chance to speak with you and learning more about Dearly, Departed. I wish you all the luck on its release and hope others enjoyed it as much as I did!
Love can never die.
Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?
The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.
But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.
In Dearly, Departed, steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.
Lia Habel was born in Jamestown, NY, and has lived there the majority of her life. The only child of geeky parents (although her father would never describe himself that way, despite his Halo addiction), she was reared on a combination of horror and action movies, classic literature, cult television shows, and video games. A promising start.
Dearly, Departed is her first novel.
In her own words:
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Find out more about Dearly, Departed on Goodreads and head to Lia's blog for an excerpt!
And a big thank-you again to Lia for joining me today!