I had the pleasure of reading Leah Rhyne’s debut novel, Zombie Days, Campfire Nights (Undead America), and today we get to talk to the author herself! Hello, Leah. As the author for our inaugural issue, and you get to break it in. Test the waters. Throw a few F-bombs, if you like. It’s a new magazine. Can you smell the new car smell?
Now, we’ll get into details about the book soon enough, but I wanted to touch on your [Leah’s] experiences in the publishing world with Zombie Days, Campfire Nights, as well as your experiences prior to it:
PM: It really seems like you’ve been writing for a while now. Had you written short stories prior to jumping into writing a novel? Were there any prior attempts to novels before you hit a homerun with Zombie Days?
LR: I have always loved, loved, LOVED stories. Always. I was one of those kids you see who always has a book in her hand. I always kind of wanted to write, even when I was a kid, but I was too shy and timid to even try. I would write something, think it was awesome, then re-read it the next day and practically cry with shame. Apparently I hadn’t realized the value of of editing yet…that would come with time.
I was an English major in college, but I never knew what to do with it. I really thought I was a terrible writer (still do sometimes). I was too afraid. I had tons of ideas for books, but no knowledge of how to actually write them.
The first short story I shared with anyone outside my immediate family was for TeleportUs at LitReactor. The first novel I wrote actually was Zombie Days. It just sort of…happened.
PM: In my opinion, writers are born in two ways. There are those that started writing from an early age and honed their skill from years of practice, and those that always liked reading, but never tried writing until that day that they picked it up and realized they were quite good at it. Which were you?
LR: Like I said above, I always sort of wanted to write, but never really did it. So I am definitely the latter.
PM: If the first, what do you think made you get into writing? I remember my moment was in elementary when our teacher had us make books in class. What was your “moment”?
LR: Back in 2010, I was dabbling in short stories. A good friend knew that, and as November approached, she pointed me toward NaNoWriMo. She thought it might be fun. Little did she know the experience of writing fast (and badly) would unleash the demon that is my writing career. Before that, I hadn’t considered that I might actually be ABLE to write a book.
PM: What do you think made you eventually try it?
LR: Apparently I am easily swayed by suggestion. That was really all it took. A little nudge at the right time. The rest is history
PM: Now let’s talk about the book. One of the things I really enjoyed about Zombie Days, Campfire Nights was that it was very fast paced. I mean, within the first few pages there’s intestines flying everywhere and Jenna and Michael are on the run. It struck me as a book where you find yourself thinking: Man, this author must’ve had a blast writing this. Was this the case for you?
LR: Ohmigosh, yes. It was SO FUN to write. The first draft was really quick and dirty, but I remember clearly one of the early nights. It was right after I’d decided to inject zombies into what had been intended as a typical coming of age contemporary tale. I had a zombie attack Jenna and Michael (two of the main characters) in a gas station, and Michael killed the zombie by stabbing it through the eye with a gas pump nozzle. I literally made myself laugh out loud with that…because really, it’s absurd! Zombies are absurd! But they give me the freedom to write about terrible things in a way that can sometimes be entertaining, fun, and even silly.
PM: You had an interesting cast of characters in this book. From the submissive Lola, to the tough-yet-fragile Jenna, the hopeless romantic in Michael and the logical Sam. Where did you draw all these personalities from?
LR: This is a great question, and to be honest, I have no idea. Seriously. I mean, Jenna’s sort of a young-ish me – her voice is most similar to my own. She’s the easiest for me to write. You know – slightly nerdy girl, loves horror flicks and sci-fi, and I get to indulge in the fantasy of becoming super-tough.
Sam was sort of an amalgam of a few guys I knew through high school and college. I could sometimes hear his voice in my head while I wrote.
And Lola…man, Lola is my worst fear of what I could have become in another life, under different circumstances.
PM: I read somewhere, I think it was from On Writing, that Stephen King got stuck for a long time in his book The Stand. Finally, his salvation came in the form of a bomb that destroyed half of his characters. Did you ever back your characters into a corner that you found it hard to get out of? If so, how’d you get them out in one piece?
LR: I read that too, and I always keep it in my back pocket. I think with Zombie Days, I never quite got to that point, though I definitely had to blow some shit up by the end. Probably Lola was the closest to getting stuck, but she somehow always squirreled something away in HER back pocket that got her out of tough situations.
PM: While you were writing this, on regular errands to the market or store were you constantly strategizing what you’d do if a group of zombies burst through the doors?
LR: Oh, hell yes. Life got a little easier when my husband surprised me with my very own Louisville Slugger (Jenna’s weapon of choice). It makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I can take care of myself and my family if push comes to shove.
WARNING: The following can be considered spoilers.
PM: I really like where the book left off. Lola, who at first glance is utterly impossible to like, is a pretty dynamic character. Her character, for the most part in this book, was defined by the horrible men in her life and around her. Rarely did we get a moment that where she was allowed to be just….her. So it think it’ll be interesting to see where you take her and I’m even more curious how she will interact with Sam. Now that BJ and Chase are out of the picture, will we like the Lola that we find?
LR: Oh, Lola. Poor, misguided, abused Lola. Not to give any spoilers, but she’s got some interesting choices ahead of her in Book 2. Seriously – I had fun taking her out of her comfort zone (terrible as her comfort zone actually was) and giving her an important role to play.
PM: I really liked the subtle creep factors you threw in. The “Playground” was probably my favorite of these, because you didn’t reveal much and allowed the readers to imagine what was behind that door. It was expertly done. There was also the moment where Jenna and Chicken were crawling through the tunnel. Were there any moments that you wrote that gave you chills?
LR: You hit the nail on the head here….the tunnel gave me the CREEPS!! Picturing it still makes me shudder. Thinking about being stuck under a building’s foundation, with all the creepy-crawlies that could be there. YECH.
Also, the darn Preschool of the Damned, as I liked to think about it. I’ve studied the Holocaust my whole life, and I tried to pull pieces of what I imagined Mengele’s laboratory was like…and then I threw it all into a preschool. Clowns freak me out anyway, so…..yeah. Yikes.
PM: Now about your future endeavors! So you recently announced that the second book in this series, No Angels was picked up by MuseItUp publishing. When is this slated to come out, and how thrilled were you to hear that it found a home?
LR: Book 2 (tentatively titled No Angels) is coming in October, 2013, and I can’t wait!! Book 1 will also be released in print at that time -seriously, I may cry when I finally get to hold it on something other than my Kindle! I LOVE my Kindle, but I still love printed books more.
PM: I’ve the privilege to read some of your stories through a writing competition as well as the Scare Us competition over at LitReactor in which your story won the honor of being critiqued by Chuck Palaniuk, so I know you have the chops to take your writing into new territories. Have you considered what your next writing endeavor will be, after Zombie Days?
LR: Well, I’ve got a light-sci-fi book called JO, about a girl who’s converted into sort of a modern-day Frankenstein monster. That one is done, and I’m trying to find it a home. And I’m writing more of a traditional sci-fi book right now – it takes place on a faraway planet, and follows a group of mothers as they try to save their families, and themselves, from an unknown enemy, and a government that has thrown them to the wolves. After THAT? Who knows! 😀
PM: Lastly, since Pantheon Magazine is obsessed with Greek Mythology, we have to ask you this question: If you were a Greek God/Goddess, which would you be?
LR: Good lord, I had to google about for a few for this one. I’ve settled on Lyssa, the Goddess of Madness. Because…well, you have to be slightly mad to embark on a writing career, don’t you think? (Also, I like her name…)
PM: It’s been really awesome having the chance to chat with you, Leah. We wish you luck with all your future writing endeavors and hopefully you’ll stop by again to talk about No Angels!
LR: No, Matt – thank you SO MUCH for letting me come on over and blather on for a while. It’s been a great experience!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Leah Rhyne is a Jersey girl who’s lived in the South so long she’s lost her accent…but never her attitude. After spending most of her childhood watching movies like Star Wars, Alien(s), and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and reading books like Stephen King’s The Shining or It, Leah now writes tales of horror and science-fiction. Her first novel, Undead America Volume 1: Zombie Days, Campfire Nights, released in the fall of 2012. She lives with her husband, daughter, and a small menagerie of pets. In her barely-there spare time, she loves running and yoga.
You can buy her book on Amazon HERE.