Earlier this week, local author (and fabulous friend) G.G. Silverman released her incredibly funny debut YA novel Vegan Teenage Zombie Huntress. In between all of her author appearances and interviews, I forced her to sit still long enough to answer some questions. If you aren’t aware of the sheer awesomeness of VTZH, here’s what you’re missing:
TWO GIRLS. (You’re feminist.)
PROM NIGHT. (You hate prom.)
ZOMBIES. (You’re vegan.)
OH, THE HORROR.
In this hilarious, action-packed, girl-powered thriller, Clarissa and Cokie go from a failed attempt at prom night feminist activism to being in a fight for their lives.
* * * * *
Clarissa Hargrove thinks prom sucks. She’s been protesting it for weeks, but the conformist sheep that go to Redvale High could care less. Not one single girl has ditched her prom gown in the name of feminism, except for Clarissa’s loyal, underappreciated BFF Cokie. But Clarissa is still on a mission to save more souls–she’ll be at prom, with her bullhorn and picket signs, telling girls they have one last chance to ditch their hooker heels and claim their independence before high school is over. That night, Clarissa drags Cokie to school to protest, but almost everyone at prom has turned into flesh-eating monsters. Trapped in a high-school zombie hellhole, the girls realize they’ve never taken a chance on love, and set out on dangerous quest to save their crushes.
But there’s one teensy little problem.
Clarissa is vegan and hates violence of any kind. Will Cokie and Clarissa survive?
A mashup of pop culture hits like Daria, Mean Girls, and Shaun of the Dead.
I know you’re asking yourself, how does someone come up with something as amazeballs as this? Don’t worry, I asked her.
DDB: How did you come up with the idea for Vegan Teenage Zombie Huntress?
GGS: When my old dog Bananas was alive, we used to jokingly call her the Zombie Huntress because whenever we walked past someone who was limping or shuffled, she would growl a little. Then, one day, on a walk, I imagined the monologue that became the first page of the book. It was essentially the voice of feminist teen girl who had only intended to protest prom, but ended up fighting zombies instead. It came flowing out of me, and I ran home to write it down. The rest, as they say, is history.
DDB: How long have you been a fan of zombies and horror?
GGS: I’ve been a horror fan since I was a little kid, about 8 or 9 years old. I used to love picture books about ghosts and vampires, but then I quickly graduated to the hard stuff, sneaking my friend’s brother’s copy of Stephen King’s The Shining home when I was about 9 or 10, reading it under the covers with a flashlight and scaring myself thoroughly. That book blew the lid off my young mind, some of the images have been seared in my memory for ever. From then on I would try to read and watch everything scary that I could get my hands on, which was hard because my mom and dad were really strict about what movies we watched, so, I had to wait until no one was home, then I’d find some really tacky B-grade horror movie on cable and watch it excitedly.
I didn’t start getting into zombies until the last 10 years or so. It started with my husband, who began playing zombie role-playing games and brought home the Zombie Survival Guide and the Zombie Combat Manual, so I was intrigued. Around that time, 28 Days Later came out, which was super scary. Then I took a little break from zombies for a while, until the last 5 years or so, when the idea of zombies become more relevant to me than ever, what with so many problems in society coming to a head. Zombies embody everything I fear, loss of control, loss of identity, rabid consumption of resources, global pandemic. Of all the subject matter in paranormal literature, I think zombies most closely mirror real issues.
DDB: How long have you been working on VTZH? What was your research process like?
GGS: I worked on VTZH for about 3 years, writing a terrible first draft over the course of a year, then throwing 2/3 of that away and starting most of it from scratch, rewriting it the next year, then editing several drafts over the course of the third year.
As for research, I was lucky to have some assistance with that, my office assistant at the time—Brianna Young–helped me find little details that enriched the story. I also did lots of internet research myself. But since the book is fantasy, there wasn’t a ton of research involved, not as much as one would do to write a book of historical fiction. So I wasn’t very consumed by research.
DDB: What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine? A critique group?
GGS: I used to write first drafts long-hand, then transcribe onto the computer, but as I’ve gotten more comfortable about writing directly on the computer, I now do first drafts on my laptop. I tend to enjoy quiet while I write, I’m not the kind of person who can blare music and still be able to think. I may go so far as to play nature or ocean sounds to make it feel like I’m writing outdoors. As far as having a routine goes, it’s not super strict. Because I’m self-employed, my life is fairly flexible. I make sure to take care of client work first in the morning; as soon as that’s done, I transition to writing. It’s important to me to have forward motion in my writing life as much as possible, so I’m really good at buckling down and getting work done when small chunks of time open up. But I also don’t beat myself up if I’m not super prolific on any given day.
I absolutely have a critique group, and my group is vital to my success as an author. They point out mistakes and things I hadn’t thought of. I’d be bummed if our group had to split up. It took me a long time to find them and they are important to me.
DDB: Why did you decide to self publish? How complicated has the process been?
GGS: I decided to self-publish because I wanted to gain first-hand experience of the production life cycle of a book, what it takes to bring a book to market. I also wanted to have as much control as possible in my book’s birth. That said, I spent a year taking all kinds of classes to learn the ins and outs of publishing, to make sure I fully understood what I was getting into. Having many of the skills required definitely gave me confidence; I’m a branding consultant and graphic designer, and I also have a solid understanding of marketing. It was still important to have a team, though. For instance, I hired a web developer to help me with my website, and I hired an editor to do developmental book edits and proofreading, and I hired an e-book producer to handle the e-book creation. But I designed the paperback myself and as well as the cover, and I’m really proud of the way they look. People are very impressed when I show them my book.
As far as complication, I’d say that being organized and having a realistic schedule keeps things from getting frustrating. Things weren’t so much complicated as they were time-consuming. Launching a book is tons of work. When you think you are done editing, add six months. It’s also important to have a strong vision for what you’re doing and guard that vision at all times. At the end of the day, your name is on that book, and you need to do whatever it takes to be proud of the final product.
Also, whether you are self-publishing or not, it’s important to start getting out there and making connections long before you have a book to sell. Get some kind of website up, start having a social media presence. That way, when your book is finally ready, you’re not scrambling to create your brand. The path has already been paved.
DDB: What advice do you have for inspiring writers? What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
GGS: My biggest advice is that writing rules are meant to be broken, and that your authenticity as a story-teller is king. Don’t worry about emulating anyone else. Embrace all that makes you unique. Find your voice. The people who get you will find you.
As for what I wish I had known when I started out—I wish I had known everything! But there’s no way you can know everything, you just have to learn as you go along. And that process takes time. To that end, I’d say the best thing you can learn, above all, is patience.
DDB: What are you working on next?
GGS: I’m working on Stoners vs. Moaners, the next book after VTZH, where the story of the same night is told from two other kids’ point of view. I’m also working on a short story collection for adults, creepy stuff. It’ll be very different from VTZH and Stoners, more literary with touches of horror, genre-bending and a lot darker than other stuff of mine that you may have read. I’m also working on a novelization of a short story I wrote a few years back. Let’s just say I know how to keep myself busy.
DDB: Do you have a favorite book? Movie? Television Show? What are you reading right now?
Favorite book: I’d say right now it’s a tie between Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—both are breathtaking in their sheer genius. I love lots of other books, though.
Favorite movie: Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my all-time faves, but I also have some faves that are not horror. Cinema Paradiso is up there on my list, as well as The Matrix. I’ve also obsessively watched Mean Girls. For zombie comedies, I love Shaun of the Dead as well as Cockneys vs Zombies. My tastes are pretty eclectic. The kind of story doesn’t matter so much as the quality of the story-telling.
Favorite TV show: I’m obsessed with Bob’s Burgers. Tina Belcher totally gets me. Other faves include The Walking Dead (natch), Orphan Black, Syfy’s FaceOff, The Returned, and so many more. We live in an age of really good television!
Reading right now: Undaunted Courage, the story of Lewis and Clark. I’m fascinated by stories of people who achieved the impossible. When writing feels daunting, I try to remind myself that there are people out there who’ve accomplished way more difficult things, and it gives me the courage to keep going.
DDB: Last thoughts?
GGS: Success is individual; don’t try to compare your writing career to anyone else’s. We are all on our own path. Most of all, be nice, and remember to have fun.