‘Debut Author Spotlight’ is a new feature here at Book Chick City. We will be showcasing a debut author each week from the genres of horror, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. We will give you all the relevant book information as well as an insight into the author.
Lia Habel was born into a time of unparalleled ugliness – it was called ‘the Eighties’. It was horrible – but yet it brought Lia the video for Thriller by Michael Jackson, and a burning interest in zombies followed. A self-described ‘zombie anthropologist’, Lia is attempting to watch every zombie movie ever made. She lives in Jamestown, NY with her three cats, Ebeneezer, ZZ and Bloody Mary. Dearly Departed is her debut novel. Photo Credit: www.winterwolfstudios.com
RELEASE DATE: 7th June 2012 | PUBLISHER: Corgi | GENRE: Zombie, Young Adult
She’s a beautiful, headstrong orphan, he’s a sexy, sensitive…. zombie. The unconventional but tender love story of Nora and Bram is the heart of this sharp, sassy and blisteringly-paced debut. In the wake of a cataclysmic ice-age, a new society has emerged. Victorian customs and clothing are now the norm, and wealthy families own carriages and estates, while others have nothing. And when Nora Dearly leaves her exclusive boarding school for the holidays to return home, she is dragged into the night by the living dead. Luckily for her, this particular crack unit of zombies are good guys – sent to protect her from the real nasties roaming the countryside and zeroing in on major cities to swell their ranks. Nora must find a way to defeat the evil undead – alongside noble (and suprisingly hot) zombie Bram.
What’s DEARLY DEPARTED about?
Even for me, trying to describe DEPARTED (and the series overall) is rather difficult! It started out as a joke shared amongst friends, and was written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, so it ended up becoming this huge, unapologetic mishmash of everything that I love. The story takes place a couple hundred years in the future, after various calamities have forced humanity to migrate toward the Equator and form new tribes and civilizations. One of these groups, the New Victorians, is attempting to model itself on the Victorian past – but through the unabashed use of high technology. (I always tell people to imagine a girl in a beautiful bustled gown accessing her email via a holographic heads-up display – that’s sort of the idea.) The NVs are in conflict with a splinter group, the Punks, who view the New Victorians as entirely too decadent and heartless.
So, while these two societies bicker over issues of authenticity, truth, and class…the zombies emerge. Unlike some other zombie stories, though, a portion of my walking dead folks manage to keep their personalities and sense of self-control after reanimating, allowing them to interact safely with the living for a period of time. Thus the stage is set for my two main characters to meet – the New Victorian living girl, Nora Dearly, and a dead Punk boy, Bram Griswold.
I won’t even mention the airship. Trust me, a lot happens in this series.
Tell us a bit more about the hero/heroine
I tend to describe Nora as “an adorable porcelain doll with a shotgun.” She’s equal parts tough tomboy and cute little feminine thing, and she’s comfortable with both aspects of her personality. She’s this little ball of furious energy, and she’s very open with her opinions and emotions. I love strong female characters, but I think there’s this tendency to imagine strong girls and women as always cool and collected, almost emotionless, and extremely physically skilled. I wanted to try to mix that up a bit. Nora wants to be physically involved, even when she can’t be, and therein lies her stubborn strength. She’s incredibly loyal, dedicated, brave, and capable of absolutely selfless love. Even though she comes from the NV side of the border and has lived a life of relative privilege, she has a good set of priorities and a solid sense of her own identity. She’s seen a lot of tragedy in her life, too, which I think is what primes her for her eventual relationship with a zombie – she knows what it’s like to watch people die, and she’s willing to go through it again just to have such an amazing guy by her side, even if only for a short time. But she’s not just there to be a love interest – she’s always in the middle of the action.
Bram, meanwhile, is more man than boy. Normally when I write teenage romance I have to age the boys up a bit in my head, because otherwise my “oh gosh, that’s a KID, eww!” reaction kicks in (I’m an adult, after all!) – but with Bram, I never have to. He’s extremely mature for his age, and is constantly concerned about the other people in his life. His ultimate aim, in any situation, is to reach the best possible solution for all parties involved. He’s patient, giving, intelligent and a natural protector (at the age of sixteen, he was working in the mines to support his family, and still worries about them) – but above all, he’s just a really good guy. I think we have enough bad boys out there – I set out to create, with Bram, the ultimate white-hatted cowboy. Someone who was purely the hero. And the sad thing is that eventually he won’t be able to be the hero anymore, as his condition progresses and he eventually rots apart and gives in to his cannibalistic desires. But he’s going to fight for every second he can get, before that happens.
How did you research DEARLY DEPARTED?
I watched a ton of zombie movies. Seriously. What research I do for the series tends to be geographic, technological, and medical (I’ve emailed prion researchers before and gotten responses, which was fun!), but mostly I just make stuff up. I’m sure I get about 80% of my facts wrong, but the stuff I come up with manages to sound convincing, at least.
Is DEARLY DEPARTED the first in a series or a stand alone?
It’s the first in a series – the second book, DEARLY, BELOVED, debuts on September 25th in the US. I’d eventually like to write about four or five books, because I’ve always been open about the fact that the series will end when Bram dies, and I need to get him there. I like to talk about that fact so that readers won’t feel betrayed by the eventual ending, so they’ll know what they’re signing up for. I think a lot of YA series feature “happily eternally after” endings, anymore – I want to write something different.
When is your favourite time to write?
I like it when the house is completely empty and still. Normally I’m sequestered in my room with earplugs jammed in my ears, because I can’t handle distractions of any sort, but when everyone is gone I can wander about and stare out windows and generally enjoy myself.
Where is your favourite place to write?
My room, which is also my office. I have to write on a desktop computer; I can’t stand laptops. And I can’t imagine writing outside the house at all – people who go to coffee shops to work just blow my mind.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
The only things I can think of are adult – a little too adult to recommend to a younger audience! (Nothing outrageous, I just tend to err on the side of caution.) I actually don’t read a lot of YA fiction, although I know the rules state I should be devouring it at a phenomenal rate, for the simple reason that when I see someone else do an amazing job with a concept (say, vampires), I then feel like that concept is “done” and I shouldn’t bother exploring it. Naturally, this hobbles my creativity. I love to read nonfiction, though – right now I’m really enjoying THE UNIVERSE IN A SINGLE ATOM: THE CONVERGENCE OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY by the Dalai Lama.Which authors do you admire?
Which authors do you admire?
I usually turn to the classics when I read and when I look for inspiration – I love Gaston Leroux, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling (I can still sing half the poems in the two JUNGLE BOOKS – yes, I made up tunes for them as a girl), George Eliot, and Bram Stoker.
Describe yourself in five words
Insane girl seeking monster boyfriend.
I’m working on two non-zombie projects right now, both involving monsters – I always have to have something I’m writing for myself. As soon as I’m done with the first draft of the one project (SUCKER – a cyberpunky YA novel that’s either pro-religion or anti-religion, I really can’t tell, myself), I’ll be working on a proposal to continue the DEARLY series.
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