Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Updating a Classic (1)

When I took on the task of writing modern version of Wuthering Heights, there were several things I had to come to terms with before I began. This biggest of these issues was my hatred of Heathcliff's character. 

There are few characters in literature that I've encountered with the power to make me physically angry, Heathcliff is one of them. I clearly remember at one point wanting to throw the book across the room because I found him so despicable. 

My sympathy for him and his plight had been exhausted by the second third of the book. I couldn't believe that this was the character that I'd seen so frequently show up on online threads about "The character I would want to fall in love with." Frankly, it appalled me how romantic he was considered. For most of the book, meaning the last two thirds, I saw him as nothing more than the typical abusive boyfriend. 

I struggled with this conflict for quite some time as I was thinking about The Heights. I realized that the reader's sympathies for Heathcliff would have gone much farther with his contemporaries. A lot of the things he did which I would consider abusive, were more accepted practice in Victorian times. (It still doesn't explain why anyone today wouldn't find him repulsive, but hey, to each their own).

I concluded that the intent was for him to be that romantic character and decided that was the character I was going to create. In my opinion, his character was certainly the major component of the book that needed updating. Sympathy for Heathcliff's character need to run deeply throughout the book. This is the key to his and Catherine's love story, to any love story really. If you don't want the two characters to be together, then you don't have much interest in whether they are or aren't. 

My Heathcliff is named Henry in the book. His actions and situations are strongly related to the original, but his motivations and intentions are softened in a way as to fit our expectations of somebody in that situation today. I hope he can be seen as a more acceptable suitor...though don't expect Hindley to see it that way. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I know it has only been a few days since the last roundup, but that's okay. My favorite weeks are the ones that last only 3 days. For me, this week was all about getting back into the full swing of working full time on my book again. I did some writing while on vacation, more than I planned, but it's still not the same thing as secluding myself in my office and filling the air around me with the sweet noise of an atmosphere of my choosing. 

This was a strange week for listening in that I almost exclusively listened to material I hadn't heard before. Most of that is due to the first two entries on my list:

Natural Snow Buildings: Daughter of Darkness I-IV - Clocking in just over 6 hours long, this is an epic piece of drone folk that completely took over my afternoons. It weaves a story through it's soundscape that may be missed by some listeners who may find 6 hours of drone folk to be repetitive. As for me, it felt like the perfect soundtrack for my cloudy days working on a story about a dying planet. I love it...though I will mention that there are no vocals, which I'm fine with, just I was expecting them because of The Dance of The Moon and The Sun.

Natural Snow Buildings: Daughter of Darkness V - As if the 6 hours weren't enough, I then spent another nearly 2 hours on this follow up which went seamlessly with parts I-V. 

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - For me, this was the most highly anticipated album of the year. Anyone who has talked music with me over the past two years has heard me praise the first Elvis Perkins album Ash Wednesday. It was my favorite album of the year in 2007 and has edged it's way onto my 10 favorite albums of all-time list. Tough act to follow...but followed extremely well. So far, a sure candidate for my album of the year.

Pink Mountaintops: Outside Love - This is Stephen McBean's (of Black Mountain) side project which has put out two previous albums, both outstanding. The signature neo-psychedelic sound is a bit more understated on this album, but it works. Great voice + great craftsmanship = great listen.

It's a Buffalo: Don't Be Scared - After 8 hours of drone folk, I was in need of something like this, a straight up good indie rock record. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spending the Day in 3rd Grade

So last week I was down in Florida visiting family and while there, I made a trip to visit my sister-in-law's classroom. She's a 3rd grade teacher and her class has been reading some of my Pirate School and CatKid books this year. They all wrote me letters back in the fall and I promised to try to visit them...a promise I made good on last Monday.

Public speaking in front of children is completely unlike speaking to a group of adults. If you're uninteresting, adults will simply ignore you and do something else while your talking, but kids tend to give you their full attention and hang on what you say in a way that can freak some people out. Personally, I've always got along with kids. Talking to them is always a source of great material. 

I used to volunteer in a school, reading to the same kid once a week for the entire year. One day, the boy I read to got into an argument with a girl who had joined us. She was telling me about a book her older sister was reading called "True Ghost Stories." The boy rolled his eyes and gave the simple response "Fakes." Anyone who has read the first CatKid book will find something familiar in that argument as it made it's way into that book.

For the class visit last week, I decided to read the first few chapters of Pirate School #8. There were three classes there (about 75 kids) and they were all excited, especially when I had them join in every time "Arrr!" appeared, which as any good pirate knows, is rather frequently. It was only the second time I've read Pirate School to a group but it went very well. When reading aloud, you're either feeling it or not. 

My favorite part is always the question and answer period that follows. Given access to ask an adult any type of question that pops into their minds, kids can come up with some great ones. Here's some of the more interesting ones:
  • (In response to me stating Man U was my favorite soccer team) "My question is two questions and they're connected. First, were you upset when Manchester United lost 1-4 to Liverpool...."
  • "CatKid is a girl who can turn into a cat, right?"
  • "Mine's not really a question, but do you know what the best thing about WalMart is? Their low prices."
  • "Are any of your characters based on like people you know?"
  • "How do you write such good stories? You really draw me in with all the questions in the book?" (This one very much impressed me)
  • "My little brother is evillllll" (said in a creepy voice with scary hand gestures)
I've mentioned before how I often feel disconnected to my books after their published, especially the children's books. This is where these readings become such an enjoyable event. To see how involved kids get with the books definitely makes me feel proud that I'm doing something worth doing. 

I've never cared so much about becoming a "bestselling" author. For me, it's always been more important that the books make an impact on whoever reads them. This is why, when I hear from parents that their kids were "playing" Pirate School or CatKid or even Supertwins, it's better than any sales numbers ever could be.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Great news! 

I learned yesterday that Zombie Blondes has been optioned for film rights! Now, for any of you that may not know how that crazy business works, that doesn't mean there will ever be a Zombie Blondes movie...but it does mean somebody wants to make one and has paid for the right to try. 

I don't want to give away too much information, but I will say I'm very impressed with the resume of the person who acquired those rights. I've seen many of the things he's done and am a fan. He's also pretty well connected and very excited about the project, which means there's a good chance zombies will be invading theaters at some point. 

More to come on this in the future...for now, I'm just going to enjoy daydreaming about what might be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

So, I know it's not officially the weekend but I'm on vacation for a long weekend...so it's still the weekend for me until tomorrow. Here's the music review for the week, better late than never.

Gliss: Devotion Implosion - Around this time last year, I was in L.A. and picked up Gliss's last album at Amoeba and upon one listen they became my new favorite L.A. band. This album does absolutely nothing to change that. 

Richard Swift: The Atlantic Ocean - Richard has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters of the past 4 or 5 years. His last album was spectacular and the series of eps since have been great. This album...not so much. Despite being named for my favorite ocean, it just seems a little off. It sounds like a Richard Swift album, but with some unfinished "things" going on throughout. I add it here, but if you don't Richard Swift, you should.

Julie Doiron: I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day - Yes, I did get this because there's a CatKid on the cover (I'm not above admitting to choosing things by their covers). This is a solid album. Sounds like early Catpower. Nothing you haven't heard before, but a nice mellow listen for the workday.

Pete Doherty: Grace/Wastelands - Okay, so I'm a Pete fan. I think he's mistreated by the 'loids and brilliant songwriter. Babyshambles is great, but I was worried about this solo effort. No need to worry. It's amazingly low-key and a great piece of storytelling.

Mando Diao: Give Me Fire! - the newest release is more diverse than their previous. There's a lot of range on this one, from the usual Britpop sound to songs that would fit a '70s hard rock abulm.

Radio Moscow: Brain Cycles - I enjoyed their first album when it came out two years ago. A very '70's guitar hero kind of album, but seemed to be lacking something. Like their Alive Records label mates Buffalo Killers, this second LP delivers on what the first one lacked. A clear progression from the first and a much richer album. 

Boston Spaceships: Planets Are Blasted - This Robert Pollard's (of Guided by Voices) new project. Sounds like GBV, but a little more structured which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A good rock record...something there are too few of these day.
Natural Snow Buildings : The Dance of the Moon and the Sun - This is the real find this week. It's 2 hours and 30 minutes of drone folk heaven. Even with it's length, I've made time to listen it to 4 times in the past week. I can't wait to get their newest (which runs over 6 hours). They are like a slightly mellower Jackie O Motherfucker, with more singing. 
Edan: Beauty and the Beat - The one hip hop selection to make it onto the list. Intelligent rhymes and great beats and I think it will take a few more listens before I'm ready to declare it a hip hop classic.

Benimie Oynar Misin: Bulent - Turkish folk singer/songwriter from the 70's. Not so very different American counterparts, but just as good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


With the new book only a month away from being in stores, it's around that time again when I start nervously searching the internet for first reactions. It's not that I live and die by reviews, or that I even write with any conscious thought of trying to please anyone other than myself. But that doesn't mean I don't care. I just believe that any artist's first aim must be to satisfy their own expectations. The hope is that what pleases you will be appreciated by others. There's a huge difference between that and actually setting out to please everyone else first and foremost.

So, if that's the case, why do I bother searching out what readers have to say? The easy answer is that I, of course, want everyone to like what I've done. It might not be the reason for writing it in the first place, but once the book is done, it most certainly becomes my focus. I've heard other writers describe the publication of a book to be like a parent sending their child off into the world. You no longer have any control over what happens to it. It's on its own and so you just hope you did right by it when it was under your care. 

I know their are writers who swear they never read any reviews. More power to them, I could never do that. It's reviews and reactions that keep the book alive for me. Otherwise, it's just another item checked off on a long list. It's also a way to revisit a book for me. Typically when a book comes out, I've been finished with my revisions on it for about a year. Waiting for reactions has a way of bringing it back to the present like nothing else.

As for The Heights, it's showing up a lot on people's list of things to be read. But I still have yet to discover that first review anywhere. Though, I did have one very positive email which was encouraging. Thanks again Lewis and Maddy :) 

Until that first review shows up, I'll keep searching with my fingers crossed and that first-day-of-school feeling in my stomach.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From Nowhere to Somewhere

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way an idea develops and evolves. Sometimes I get an idea for a book and it comes to me as a complete package. All the essentials are there...the characters, the story, and the format. Other times, there's only one piece of it that comes to me and it takes a lot time to figure out what to do with it.

My chapter book series CatKid was like that. CatKid took a long road to becoming a book. The character came first. She was a character I started drawing, bored out of my mind in any number of endless meetings when I still part of corporate America. 

Coffee was the fuel that kept the fires burning back then. One of the perks of giant companies is free coffee everywhere. I was on a 10 cup a day habit when CatKid first appeared. The office used plain white paper coffee cups, which I favored as a canvas. As people droned on about things I barely cared about, I would scribble scenes on these curved cups. A half-girl, half-cat figure quickly became one of my favorites. I would draw her doing all kinds of things like shopping for candy, riding ponies, playing baseball, etc. etc. 

I would finish off these drawings by having CatKid say rude or funny things. "You stink!" was a favorite. Then I would leave these cups on the desk of a coworker as a little present (sometimes even complete with a last sip of rank old coffee). My own office was littered with them, most of which I eventually had to throw away...though I still have 2 originals in my office now, complete with stains of six year old coffee.

There were no stories in the beginning, just random bits of comedy. But over time, her personality developed. I became aware of certain things that CatKid liked and didn't like. In fact, anyone who worked at Scholastic Book Clubs during the first half of this decade became aware of things that CatKid liked and disliked. She became ever present in the office.

CatKid became part of official office documents, she showed up at every meeting, and I even had t-shirts with CatKid on them that I wore frequently (still do actually). I knew it was a book project eventually, but the stories eluded me for a good two years. In that time though, other characters had evolved around her...a best friend and a boy she absolutely, positively did NOT like. 

During this time, I attempted stories in a variety of different ways. I wrote a few chapter length stories in third person. I tried writing a few stories as easy readers. None of them felt right though. It wasn't until I wrote the first story completely in CatKid's voice that it came together. The CatKid books were born. Once I started writing the books, it was actually pretty simple. CatKid had been speaking to me for years, writing them became almost an act of taking dictation.

The most important lesson I learned from the path CatKid took was to never just focus on one idea at a time. I like to keep a few things going at all time, but keeping them all in various stages. I prefer to only be writing one thing at time (though sometimes deadlines make that impossible), but I like to keep things stirring because there's no predicting the course any given project needs to take. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

This week was a good one for new musical discoveries. Some of these had been on my wishlist for a while, so I was pretty excited. For the most part, there's a good meloncholy sound the list that mirrored the mood of what I was working on.  

Kid British: Leaving London - the one decidedly not downbeat selection. It's a debut single with three good pub rock tunes on it. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but a good listen for the end of a work day.

I Am Oak: Ols Songd - Released last year, but a folk record very much sounding the like '70s singer songwriter albums that I love so much.

Dikanda: Ajotoro - This is a polish gypsy folk band that I'd been wanting to hear for awhile. This probably got the most spins this week. It was the perfect soundtrack for writing about a world with a dying sun.

These Arms Are Snakes: Tail Swallower & Dove - This album came out last fall, but I just heard this band for the first time last weekend. It sounds like a mix between Jesus Lizard and Circus Lupus...which is a sweet sound to my ears.

Starsailor: All the Plans - The new Starsailor album just came out. This is one of those bands that I keep listening to because I loved their first album. Their others were all okay, but veered away from the original sad sound that attracted me. This one returns to that a bit and it's easily my favorite of theirs since that first album.

Johnny Dowd: A Drunkard's Masterpiece - A gothic country album that I wish were just slightly darker. Johnny sounds a little like Ralph Stanley, which keeps me listening. 

The Wood Brothers: Loaded - A perfect candidate for the catagory "The '70s Want Their Music Back" but this folk album is a great one.

Franz Ferdinand: Tonight - I wrote this band off about two years ago and had no interest in hearing this until I read an article about the way they pushed themselves trying to make this album. I loved their first one...HATED that lazy second one...so I didn't know what to expect. I was very plesantly surprised. Lots of interesting tempo shifts and electronic influences. 

Verbena: Pilot Park - I'd been searching this EP out for a few years. Verbena's first two albums are among my favorites and the singer's (A.A. Bondy) solo album was one of my favorites of last year. This is Verbena first ep that has been out of print forever. I finally found it. It has a decidedly more country feel than the albums. I love going back and hearing how a band's sound evolved.

Charles Mingus: Paris 1964 - Mingus is king and this is just another amazing recording with his name on it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Living in A Story

My lack of posts this week was not due to laziness. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I neglected thinking about other works that I've written in favor of working on the project I'm currently engrossed in. 

I started writing a new novel two weeks ago. It's a middle grade novel whose concept has been floating around in my head for months. The outline was written last fall, but I let it simmer for awhile before tackling it. This was partially due to other obligations and partially because I felt the story was lacking something...mainly, the character. I knew the main character's course, but I didn't feel as though I knew her yet. She was born, but still needed to mature in my head for a bit.

There's a process involved in a novel that takes a different course with each book. But over the years, there's a basic pattern that evolves. It always starts with the initial idea. Sometimes that's just a phrase that I imagine someone saying, or a place that intrigues me, or a random stranger's face that strikes me as one that I want to make up a story for. From there, the real work begins.

I used to jump right into a story after that thought, but over the years I've learned that many of them aren't enough for an entire book. It's a lesson I learned the hard way (see my previous post referring to a closet full of unfinished manuscripts.) Now I always think the idea through enough for an outline. This outline is never written in stone and gets changed almost immediately after I start writing. But the outline process allows me to identify any shortfalls in the story and how to pace the action through an entire book. 

Once I've convinced myself that I'm onto something, I usually need the second spark of inspiration. For this book, it was seeing Coraline and remembering the book as I watched. The whole time I found myself thinking what a great story it was. I walked out of the theater motivated. Writing is weird like that. There's these moments when you feel like sitting down and just pounding out page after page. That's how I felt watching that movie.

Over the next few days, I played with an idea. I wrote a brief scene completely unattached to any previous idea. I didn't know where I was going with it and realized quickly that I wasn't going anywhere with it. But in the process I found that I'd discovered the character for the story I'd conceived of months before. So I pulled out the outline and went to work.

There's always a quick burst once I write that first page. I've always pictured writing like being in a blank room and slowly you start to fill it in with details. I think that's why I always get off to a fast start. I'm so eager to start painting the picture. But as soon as those first splashes of color are there, the real work begins. It's like working on 10,000 piece puzzle of an image of the sky. It's methodical and careful. But soon, it all starts to come together. The world and its characters become as real to me as anything else. At that point, the writing process becomes about navigating through the plot and steering the characters in the right direction and making sure they stick to the parts they're supposed to play. 

I'm smack in the beginning of the middle of this book right now, just at the point where everything has been set up and now the action is starting to roll. It's always one of my favorite parts of the process, which is why I've neglected posting here. It's hard to break away from a story when it's going well. Someone has to keep their eye on the characters and keep them from getting into too much trouble. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

My New Book

My new book The Heights comes out next month and I'm really excited about it. It's a retelling of Wuthering Heights, set in San Francisco. Heathcliff (named in Henry in my novel) and Catherine are teenagers and I chose to tell it in alternating first person from each of their points of view.  Since the original was written in third person, from the point of view of an observing character, I thought this was a way to bring something new to the story. 

As I was reading Bronte's book, I found myself imagining what Catherine and Heathcliff were thinking. She wrote it in such a way that you can't help but do that. The voices I gave them are what I imagined their inner personalities be like. 

The challenge was to get their voices to be very distinct. They both have such unique perspectives and it had to come through in the way they thought. It became almost like writing two novels at once. I went through many drafts of rearranging things and breaking things down. It was frustrating, but by the end of it, I felt like I accomplished what I wanted to do. 

It was a great feeling. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

This week's music finds ran the spectrum. I've been busy writing a children's novel that's part science fiction and part Victorian fantasy and in a funny way I think these selections show that. Music sets the atmosphere for me when I write. When I'm working on a project, I pick music that mentally fits the mood for where I want to be.

Earth: The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull - Earth have been around forever. Dylan Carson is most famous for being the one who found Kurt's body. But somehow their drone rock never feels tired. Not as good as Earth 3, but still a great gloomy soundscape.

Tommy Jay's Tall Tales of Trauma - A lo-fi treasure from 1986, recently re-released. These are home recordings that capture the desolation of a Harrisburg winter.

Bersarin Quartet: German chamber/ambient music with classical roots. A very dramatic sound, not as dark as Wappenbund, but equally as good. 

The Alice Island Band: splendid isolation - folk album from 1974 (but originally written in late 60's). Has a just enough pysch-sound to keep it interesting.

Wale: Hate is the New Love - so, as you can tell, I've been into Wale. This 2007 mixtape is superior to Paint a Picture. The go-go beat continues and the head nodding never stops. Standout track: ADD Pt. 2

Dave Bixby: Ode to Quetzalcoatl - A little heard Psychedelic folk album from 1969. Depressing and uplifting at the same time.

 JR. and His Soulettes: Psychodelic Sounds - This week's kidcore find was recorded in 1970. The group is made up a boy and three girls and they can really get the funk on. Great musicianship.

Andre Nickatina: Daiquiri Factory Cocaine Raps Volume 2: Hip hop from 2000 but with a decidedly old school, Sugar Hill Gang feel to his flow. But the beats are more experimental in places, giving this a very interesting sound.

Night Shadow: The Square Root of Two - Psychedelic garage rock album from 1968. Reminds me a lot of 13th Floor Elevators.

 Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children - This is the only album on the list that I didn't hear for the first time this week. I discovered this album back in the Fall and loved it. But I listened to it again this week after not hearing it in months and I loved it just as much. Simply put, it's the best turntable trance album I've ever heard. It's the sound of being a child on a summer day and diligently working on your coloring book. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nothing wasted, Nothing gained

Unfinished manuscripts, false starts and deleted scenes are things every writer accumulates over time. Things that just didn't click for some reason. Ideas that were so clear at the time but for whatever reason didn't come together. Or didn't work in the project you wrote them for. I have tons of these. 

I have entire folder on my computer filled with documents that I originally wrote on my SmithCorina Word Processor during my freshman year at NYU. They were saved on hard disks. I've had to convert them through four different software upgrades. They lost all their formating, but I keep them anyway. I also recently found a notebook of things I wrote in high school amongst an entire bookshelf in my office, stacked with unused drafts of every novel I've written. I keep these things because I know there are pieces in them that I can use at some point. I think it's something you have to believe to ever become a writer. 

The process of accumulating these scraps is so frustrating that I think it's what causes most young writers to give up on it. There's this incredible feeling of having wasted your time when you write 250 pages of a book only to realize that you've lost the story. A few years of that will drive most to quit. That's why I always try to think of writing like I do with painting. A painter doesn't finish every painting. Or musicians. They don't finish every song. But pieces make it into later works. You can hear this if you listen several demo versions of songs and then the finished ones. A great example of this is the song The Other Improv on With the Lights Out. It was a one off free form that lasts 9 minutes. But there are lines in that improve that make it into two other songs that appear on In Utero. That's the way I treat writing.

"Morgan puts her hand on my chest and pushes me. Holds my chest flat so that it's hard to breathe and I struggle for air. Impossible for me to scream and the air is filled with so many sounds like the screeching of heavy machines but it is only the grinding of zombie teeth.

It burns when her teeth penetrate my stomach and tear into my flesh. Teeth working deeper like bloody chainsaws, ripping veins and getting thirstier with each new layer. Painfully peeling back my skin like tearing open Christmas paper. Feels like I'm being licked with the fire tongue of a demon as my body is torn open with bones poking out at all angles when the other girls join in. Their teeth too long and too sharp, made for shredding organs and pulling apart abdomens.

I feel them swallow my hands and swallow my feet and I try my best to scream but I cannot hear anything except the gnashing of teeth and the warm breathing against my face." page 91 Zombie Blondes.

That passage was taken from an unfinished novel I'd written three or four years before writing Zombie Blondes. It wasn't zombies tearing apart the main character in  that story, it was some kind of aquatic fishboy monster. It was scene that always stuck with me. As I was writing Zombie Blondes and reached this point in the novel, I knew I needed something pretty strong and graphic. 

I immediately thought of this scene and searched the folder on my computer titled POSSIBLE PROJECTS. It took some searching. It could have been from one of several rather experimental novels that I'd attempted. Luckily I have a fantastic memory and was able to narrow it down to three written during my drinking days at the International bar located just around the corner from my 7th Street stomping grounds.  

I found it, read it, changed a few lines and that's it. It found it's place. Every scene has it's place, but sometimes it's not always where I thought it would be. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Price of Popularity

I put the uniform on the bench and stare it.

"Go on already," Miranda barks. She pushes it closer with an anxious shove as time ticks away toward the time we're du out on the field. I stare at the uniform, one hand pinching my lips and the other running my fingers over the stitched M sewn into the sweater vest.

Black as midnight.

Black badge of honor.

A superhero suit that will grant me special powers the instant I put it on. -- page 134 Zombie Blondes

I've always envisioned popularity to be more like a costume than anything else. What you wear and what you say is part of what identifies one as popular. More often than not, the concept of popularity is closely associated with conformity. To become popular, one must be willing to sacrifice some things.

The zombies in my book are a metaphor for this concept. Through, I explore this idea of what someone is willing to give up in order to gain popularity and all the benefits that come with it. Giving up your friends and certain hobbies is easy, but giving up your life for it? No way, right. Well, maybe. The lure of being liked, feared, admired, and borderline worshipped is quite attractive. 

These are things that cause Hannah to ignore certain signs around her that warn of danger. I read a review online where someone complained that Hannah seemed clueless. It was so obvious that there were zombies about. This is where the appeal of popularity comes in. 

Hannah's not clueless. She's fully aware from the opening chapter that something in Maplecrest is wrong. She chooses to look the other way on purpose. Because the question remains throughout, how much is she willing to sacrifice? She hasn't decided yet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Art of Slow Motion Horror

"My heart races as I make my way up the driveway. The wind picks up, rustles through the branches like the sound of cars speeding by on the highway, as pine needles rain down like matchsticks. A chill runs through me at the thought of peeking in the window and finding rotting corpses with the flesh chewed down to the bone.

I take a deep breath and count to three."  page 106 Zombie Blondes.

There's basically two approaches to horror, be it movies or books. The first is the fast-paced, thrill-a-minute approach favored in most slasher flicks. The other is to create a place that slowly grows more and more strange until the reader/viewer feels uncomfortable in the world that's presented to them. 

The best examples of this type of horror can be found in the Japanese horror films and novels of the last decade. Take the movie Dark Water. The Japanese version is a brilliant movie. It relays heavily on long still shots of hallways or rooftops to create an eerie feeling. There's very little in the movie that you can point out as traditional horror. The horror isn't American gore and violence...it's the unsettled feeling that penetrates as you watch it. In contrast, the Hollywood remake infuses the first approach into the film. The Dark Water remake is ripe with fast-cuts and "creepy" music as tricks to give it an adreline feel that, in my opinion, takes away everything that was clever about the movie. 

I find the fast-past approach to typically end in cheap scares while the careful unsettling approach produces a real sense of discomfort. It's the approach I took when constructing Zombie Blondes. I took great care to make Hannah's world and her issues very realistic. The idea is to lull the reader into the story, make them feel comfortable, so that when Hannah encounters moments of creepiness, the reader will feel them too. I think it's because I took this approach that many people have complained that "nothing happens" in the book. I disagree. 

I've never read a book that took the first approach and succeeded in making any sort of lasting impression. Films can use it and still be effective. The shock value of pulling aside the shower curtain in Physco is a perfect example. But that's a visual impact. In my experience, when that approach is taken in writing, it inevitably comes out weak. No amount of exclamation points can make you feel shocked. 

Zombie Blondes's slower pace is what gives its impact. As a reader, you get to know Hannah. You care about her. It's what makes her different from the endless parade of victims in a slaughter flick. But I understand the frustration of those who pick up the book wanting a zombie rampage. They're looking for the Dark Water remake instead of the original. It's probably why Hollywood redid it the way they did. It's in our culture to want things fast. It's a matter of taste, but personally, I prefer the art of slow motion horror.

I didn't set out to write a book that terrifies. I wanted to write a book that first and foremost stayed with the reader. It was more about a person in a situation than it was about that situation itself. The fear in Zombie Blondes is for someone and not of something. Anyone who has yet to read the book, I ask that you keep that in mind. I promise, it will enhance your enjoyment of it.