Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview With Rhiannon Frater!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I'm not even going to pretend I haven't been looking forward to bringing you this one. Seriously, there's been squeeing. Lots of it. And so, without further ado....

She is the award-winning author of the As The World Dies zombie trilogy and the author of several other books: the vampire novels Pretty When She Dies, The Tale of the Vampire Bride, and The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride as well as the Young Adult novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. The first two books in her zombie trilogy, The First Days and Fighting to Survive, are available now in bookstores. Siege will be in bookstores April 24, 2012. She's also just released a new novel, The Last Bastion of the Living, which she's here promoting.

Please welcome, the lovely and talented Rhiannon Frater!

John: Let's start with the basics. What made you decide to be a writer? More specifically, what made you decide to be a zombie writer?

Rhiannon: I've been telling stories since I learned to talk, so I'm pretty sure I was born to be a storyteller. As for the whole zombie thing, they chose me. I considered myself to be a horror writer, but I had no desire to write about zombies. They scared me too much! Then one day a very intense vision of a young woman standing on her front porch staring down at the zombified fingers of her toddler pressed under the front door straining to reach her popped into my mind and I was hooked. I had to write that story. And it ended up being the As The World Dies trilogy.

John: You have a knack for coming up with vivid, eye-catching titles. What's your secret?

Rhiannon: Most of my stories come to me in dreams and so do the titles. I think the only one that ended up the product of a title generator online--of all things!-- was my YA book The Midnight Spell.

John: Let's get past title and into content. There are lots of zombie books out there--what makes yours special?

Rhiannon: According to my fans it's the cinematic feel of the story and the characters. I am often told by readers that they feel they've just watched a movie instead of reading a book when they finish one of my novels. Also, they love the characters and end up deeply emotionally invested in them. My fans tell me that reading one of my books is an immersive experience, so I suppose that is why they are "special."

John: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Rhiannon: I'm an organic writer. The stories just come to me. The characters appear and it's my function to figure out who they are and follow them on their journey. That being said, I don't usually plunge into writing a story until I have a fairly good idea of where it's headed.

Now that I'm dealing with a major publisher, Tor, I am forced to write a synopsis for my proposed books. It's hell! Ugh! I hate it so much. I try to make them as general as possible because I know things may change along the way.

John: You're currently here promoting Last Bastion of the Living. We'll get to the substance of the book in a second, but first, as a Joss Whedon fan, I have to ask: Is it an accident that the woman on the cover looks distinctly like a black-clad River Tam?

Rhiannon: That's the first I've heard that. LOL. But I think the woman in the leather catsuit is a genre staple, so people may see Catwoman or Selene, too.

The artwork actually precedes the bok. It's an art piece by Claudia McKinney of Phat Puppy Art. WhenI was writing The Last Bastion of the Living, I had it on my screen for inspiration. I liked how it perfectly captured the mood of my novel. When I finished the book, I realized it was also the perfect cover. I contacted Claudia and was pleased when she agreed to sell it to me. Claudia just altered a few minor things to fit the story. I love it.

Personally, the dead terrain, the look on the woman's face, the pose, just everything, accurately reflects the story. It's a perfect cover for the novel.

John: Well, River's clothing was slightly different when she did her zombie-killing. Also, as I recall, she was using machetes, not knives. And I should probably stop talking about this in case anyone hasn't seen Serenity. *looks around guiltily*

ANYWAY! Now tell us about Last Bastion itself. What's it about? Was it fun to write? Do you have any favorite parts or scenes? (Without being too spoiler-y, of course.)

Rhiannon: The story is about the last living city on earth known as The Bastion. It houses the millions of surviving humans behind a high wall. The world was destroyed by a viral plague that created undead creatures called the Inferi Scourge. The last of the surviving earth governments worked together to create a fortified valley in a mountain range with only pass into it. That pass had an enormous gate  that was closed and locked once the last of the surviving humans entered the valley. The Bastion sat in the center of the valley surrounded by ranches, farms, a mining facility, a hydro-electric plant and a lake. It was supposed to be the New Eden. Then the gate to the pass failed and the Inferi Scourge swarmed into the valley. The Bastion ended up cut off from its resources and hundreds of thousands of people died.

Flash forward and the city is on the brink of death. Vanguard Maria Martinez is conscripted for a top secret mission that will help close the gate and eradicate the Inferi Scourge.

My favorite parts of the book are the prologue, which is an epic battle scene, and the ending, which I consider to be perfection.

John: What inspired the story?

Rhiannon: I had a really vivid dream about Maria Martinez looking out her window of her fiat and saw The Bastion. I love science fiction, dystopian, and zombie books, so I was hooked immediately when I saw the world.

John: What writers (or other fiction-makers) inspire you?

Rhiannon: George A. Romero, Joss Whedon, and Alfred Hitchcock are definite influences. Romero taught me to concentrate on the characters, Whedon taught me to kill my darlings, and Hitchcock taught me how to build up suspense and deliver surprises.

I've also been inspired by Bram Stoker, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury. All three have written stories that have completely transported me to other worlds.

Modern writers that I really enjoy are David Dunwoody, J.L. Bryan, Scot Westerfeld, Susan Kay Quinn, Ann Aguirre's sci-fi and dystopian works, and Ally Condie.

I can't name a favorite since I read in so many different genres and it depends on my mood.

John: Whedon fans unite! *high-fives* The biggest compliment I ever got was a Tweet from a reader yelling at me for "Joss Whedon-ing" her. That may or may not have had to do with a character I killed off....

What advice would you give to others who are considering writing as a career?

Rhiannon: It's very hard. Educate yourself not only on how to write a novel, but on the publishing business itself. The first major task is to actually finish a book, but chances are your first book will be rubbish. Don't give up. Keep writing, keep learning, and choose the publication path that you are willing to put all your time and energy into.

John: When you write a series, do you find fans' expectations intimidating? Does fear of not living up to those expectations make the writing process harder?

Rhiannon: Writing a series is a pain in the ass. That is why I'm trying to limit how many I'm working on at one time. Right now I have three. As The World Dies Untold Tales is one book away from completion. The Pretty When She Dies trilogy needs two more books. And the Vampire Bride series is probably going to be my long-term ongoing series.

I've already learned the important lesson to write the story that wants to be told and disregard all other influences. Yes, I want my readers to be happy with the story, but at the same time I have to stick with the rules in the world I've built and with the personalities of the characters. Sometimes characters do things that readers won't like and that's just the way it has to be. I don't meddle in the story. I learned that lesson long ago. If you try to force a character to do something that is against his/her nature or push the story in a direction that doesn't fit the plot arc, the whole thing derails. I know things happen in my books that readers may not necessarily like, but at the same time most of them understand why.

When it gets very hard is when you're on the last book of a trilogy and there is so much expectation in the minds of the readers. But again, I write the story that wants to be told and hope they enjoy it.

John: Imagine for a second that a movie studio (perhaps Lionsgate?) approached you and wanted to make your As The World Dies trilogy into movies. Suppose they wanted your input on casting. Who would you want playing Katie, Jenni, Travis, and Juan?

Rhiannon: As The World Dies is optioned. I have even helped with the pilot script. Whether or not it's greenlighted or not is a whole other story.

For Katie I would love Kristanna Loken, Odette Annable for Jenni, Kuno Becker for Juan, and Ben Browder for Travis.

John: Wow, didn't know that. Good for you. If it does get greenlighted, I will definitely be going. Congratulations.

Now then, let's look into the future. You seem to have several projects in the works at the moment. Care to tell us about them?

Rhiannon: I'm presently writing Pretty When She Kills, the sequel to my vampire/necromancer/zombie book Pretty When She Dies. It's a lot of fun to be back in that world after a four year absence. After that I hope to finish up my YA collaboration with dark fantasy author, Kody Boye, before moving on to a new standalone novel.

In the near future I have two short story collections coming out: As The World Dies Untold Tales Volume 3 and Cthulhu's Daughter and Other Horror Stories.

John:  There's been a lot of grumbling lately (including from me) about the KDP Select program and Amazon's new sales algorithms. Any thoughts on that whole kerfluffle? Has it affected your sales?

Rhiannon: Not noticeably. I tried the KDP Select Program with mixed results. I'm keeping one or two books on it, but took Pretty When She Dies off. I'm hoping to continue to establish my name as a solid writer so that my primary marketing strategy is name recognition.

John: Are you, like every other author out there, planning world domination? If you are planning it, will you be silly enough to tell me so?

Rhiannon: The world? Bah. Universal domination is what I'm aiming for.

John: Not lacking for ambition, I see. Well, Rhiannon, it's been a pleasure having you on the blog, and I hope you'll come back for your next blog tour.

Readers (or potential readers) wishing to find Rhiannon around the web can do so at:

Her website
The As The World Dies website
On Facebook
On Twitter
And on her blog

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