For York author Laura Bretz, zombies aren’t all blood, guts and gore. She’s more interested “in the humanity of a story than the monster inside,” she said.
So her story that appears alongside 31 other female authors in the zombie anthology “Darlings of Decay” focuses on a romance: A high school guidance counselor separated from the love of his life on the first day of the zombie outbreak.
We caught up with Bretz to hear more about her writing.
Book Buzz: When or how did you begin writing? Have you always focused on horror stories? What draws you to zombies?
LB: Writing stories in one form or another has been part of my life ever since I can remember. I’ve always had a very active imagination and writing those stories down became my passion but it wasn’t until recently that I began to focus on the horror genre. It’s not necessarily the zombies that draw me into the genre — it’s the characters Kirk (Allmond, Bretz’s writing partner) and I have created and the story they have to tell. I’ve always been much more interested in the humanity of a story than the monster inside.
BB: Are there challenges in writing zombie fiction, with pre-conceived notions of what people expect?
LB: There absolutely are challenges. When George Romero created and subsequently popularized the zombie, he set a very high standard of what zombies “should” be. There are many people that won’t pick up a book or see a movie if the zombie doesn’t fit the traditional Romero-style. The challenge with zombies is that there are only so many ways you can write about a shambling, brain-eating creature from Hell before people get bored with it. Kirk and I have decided to evolve the zombies in our stories. We absolutely have the traditional zombies but we’ve also created something much more. Finding the balance between the two schools of thought is so important. Otherwise you end up alienating the core group of zombie lovers.
BB: “Darlings of Decay” features 29 other female authors — is that unusual in the horror genre?
LB: They actually did a re-publish and added two additional female authors to the anthology, which brought the total to 32 female authors. The entire zombie genre is overflowing with male authors. It feels like it’s a 10:1 ratio, so getting this many female zombie authors in one place is very rare. When you look at the market for zombie-lovers, it’s males between the ages of 18 and 35 and the writing style is also geared toward that market. We’re all trying to change the preconceived notions of zombie literature, one person at a time.
BB: How did you become involved with the anthology? What’s your story about?
LB: Kirk saw fellow author Chrissy Peebles looking for other female zombie authors to come together for the anthology. He let me know about it and I sent her a message that I’d love to be part of it.
My story is about high school guidance counselor Ryan Fullerton who is separated from the love of his life on the first day of the outbreak. The tale takes the reader on a journey through his madness, illness and ultimate reunion with her. It truly does follow the path of a traditional love ballad, which is definitely something unexpected in the zombie genre. Kirk and I have worked very hard to make our zombie stories different from the norm. I mentioned earlier about the average demographic of zombie enthusiasts being males from 18 to 35. However, our readers (Kirk and mine) are females from ages 25 to 44. We’re doing a great job of differentiating ourselves from the rest by focusing more on the living and less on the dead.
BB: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
LB: My friends are always my greatest source of inspiration, but ideas can come from just about anywhere. I could just be hanging out by the pool on a lazy Sunday and am struck with fantastic dialogue between two characters. Or maybe I overhear someone say something outrageous on the street and somehow turn it into a dramatic zombie battle. It really could be anything from anyone, anywhere at any time.
BB: You’ve written several books with Allmond. What are you working on next?
LB: We’re working on the sixth book in the “What Zombies Fear” universe as well as various short stories. We also have an ongoing series called “Will of the Dead” under the name of Laura Kirk. I have a solo project called “The Book of Kris,” which is also set in the apocalyptic “What Zombies Fear” universe. We’ve created a world so rich with possibilities that the book potential is nearly endless. Kirk and I have big plans for the upcoming books and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
BB: Do you have a plan for a zombie apocalypse, should it happen?
LB: To be honest, Kirk is the real zombie expert and he really does have a “bug out” plan should the zombie apocalypse occur. My plan is to stick with him and hope for the best. I know that’s not very glamorous, but it is what it is! But in all seriousness, if you want to read the full in-depth plan, you can check it out on zombiepreparedness.org.
Name: Laura Bretz
Lives in: York
Occupation: Author and admissions assistant
Hobbies: Writing, reading, singing, painting, playing roleplaying games
Online: Author Laura Bretz on Facebook and www.whatzombiesfear.com
To purchase: “Darlings of Decay” is available anywhere e-books are sold. Other titles by Bretz and Allmond are also available in print form at The York Emporium and at Irvin’s Books.