Without a doubt, Jenni and Katie from the AS THE WORLD DIES TRILOGY (THE FIRST DAYS, FIGHTING TO SURVIVE, SIEGE) will forever be two of my favorite characters ever to inhabit my novels. Both are complicated women with their own unique sets of obstacles to overcome. They are bonded by the world gone terribly wrong and strengthened by their friendship.
They are also two of the hardest characters I’ve ever had to write.
I never set out to create either one of them. They just showed up in my psyche one day, demanding that their story be told. As the story evolved, their unique personalities became clearer. The challenge of writing both of these women was that I had to step outside my own personal life experiences. Jenni’s mental struggles, impulse control issues, and severe dissociative disorders were something I had to research in order to portray her accurately. Katie’s sexuality was an aspect that I didn’t truly understand as a straight woman. I had to do a lot of research about bisexuality by reading articles and interviews with out bi people. I have been told by quite a few bisexual fans that I did an excellent job portraying Katie, but to my dismay, some (straight) readers still define her as a lesbian (which she is not).
It would have been a lot easier to just make two uncomplicated women be the heroines of the AS THE WORLD DIES trilogy, but I feel it’s the complexity of the women that makes their story and their friendship quite poignant. In SIEGE, Jenni and Katie clearly show that their love for each other is a powerful force that compels them both to great acts of bravery and self-sacrifice.
Jenni and Katie both have their demons to battle and their weaknesses to overcome. In THE FIRST DAYS, both women choose to survive and fight to live. It’s a conscious choice Jenni makes when she finally runs to the safety provided by Katie and her white truck. Katie also chooses life when she decides to escape into the Texas Hill Country with Jenni. Both are traumatized by the extreme losses they experienced, but find strength and comfort in their burgeoning friendship. That friendship is the foundation for their new lives.
I knew by the time I hit the second chapter of THE FIRST DAYS what Jenni and Katie’s fates would be by the end of the story. There is an event shared by the two women in SIEGE where both are faced with the same choices they had on the first day of the zombie uprising and finally are able to do the terrible tasks they wished they had done before. It is one of the most difficult scenes I have ever had to write.
The challenge was to bring their evolution full circle.
Between the two women, Jenni was the most difficult to write at times. Her psyche is shattered from years of abuse, she’s immature from being isolated in a terrible marriage, she disassociates from reality, she has serious impulse control issues (she punches a zombie!), and tends to live fast and loose with her own life. Yet, she is probably the most beloved character in the entire series.
Free of her abusive husband, she falls into a sexual relationship with another survivor that turns into love. She dedicates herself to her step-son. She becomes the loca zombie-killer. Jenni’s determination to be someone new, someone different from the battered trophy housewife she was before the zombies is a quest readers can understand and love her for. There are things Jenni does that no other character would do. She has a crazy sort of bravery that is inspiring, yet terrifying.
In SIEGE, while all the other fort survivors are trying to plan how to rescue some people from a pack of zombies, Jenni just draws her gun and starts firing. No planning, no strategy, just kill the zombies. It’s moments like this that both irk people and make people love her both in the story and out.
Jenni’s biggest moments in her personal story arc come in SIEGE. She finally starts facing her demons at the end of FIGHTING TO SURIVE and in SIEGE she makes huge steps toward healing. Part of her healing is finally facing the guilt she has over not saving her children on the terrible first day. In the end, the loca, as Jenni is affectionately known, with all her impulse control issues, mental problems, and immaturity, is probably the one character that does the right things for the right reasons even when logic says otherwise. And for that, she is probably one of my favorite characters of all time.
Jenni’s best friend/sister/mother-figure is Katie. If I could be any of my characters, it would probably be Katie. Her cool, calm demeanor, strong will, and fearlessness make her a powerful character in the narrative. Katie’s role is often one of influence. She tends to see things quite clearly and is able to push people in power in the direction she feels they should go. She doesn’t crave direct power, but she won’t hesitate to let her opinion be known. She’s very astute in her observations and understands the underlying dynamics of the fort power structure better than anyone.
In comments she makes to other characters, we get a brief glimpse of Katie’s life before the zombies rose. Katie was very successful in her professional life and had found happiness in her marriage with Lydia before the zombies rose. But it’s fairly clear she had a pretty messy love life before Lydia. As a bisexual woman she dated both men and women and it’s clear that there were sometimes overlaps in previous relationships. She’s engaged to marry a man when Lydia walks into her life and steals her heart. There is an old joke that people are either squirrels or monkeys when it comes to love: squirrels leap from branch to branch over empty spaces, while monkeys tend to not let go of a branch until they are holding on to another. Katie was a monkey before Lydia, and after her wife dies, Katie doesn’t want to let her heart move on. Katie struggles against her nature to find someone new because she doesn’t want to let go of the love of her life. Despite the fact Katie does eventually move on, her love of Lydia is still an important part of who she is.
Once Katie embraces her new life, she embraces it fully. In SIEGE Katie isn’t in the thick of the action as much as she was before because part of her moving on is the choice to have a baby. It’s a bold decision because it’s still a dangerous world, but it is also a huge signifier in her confidence in the walls Juan and Travis have built. Having a family is the ultimate signifier of life continuing despite the zombies.
One of my favorite scenes in SIEGE is when Katie stands up for herself and ventures into the dangerous deadlands to make a stand not only for the ones she loves, but all of the surviving humans. Travis may be the leader of the fort, but Katie is its conscience.
Even though Jenni and Katie’s story does expand outward to include a larger cast of characters, at its very heart AS THE WORLD DIES is about Jenni and Katie, their friendship, and how they both save each other from a cruel world.
Rhiannon Frater 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 and THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. All three books in her zombie trilogy, THE FIRST DAYS, FIGHTING TO SURVIVE and SIEGE are now available in bookstores everywhere. Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook
Thanks to TOR I have the entire AS THE WORLD DIES trilogy to give away (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege) to one lucky winner.
This giveaway is US/Canada and ends 2nd May 2012
To enter please follow Rafflecopter instructions below.