BOTD – While The Undead Situation has only recently been published by Permuted Press it was first released in 2009, could you give us a history of the novel from the first moment the idea popped into your head until now?
Eloise – I first started writing it around 2007. It was intended to be a serial novel I worked on only on occasion. I wanted to feature a different type of zombie apocalypse character, which is how Cyrus came to be. After about a year and a half my uncle finished his own novel and that inspired me to rework mine and turn it into a novel, too. He self-published on Kindle and I learned everything from him on how to work that scene (which is different now than it was back then in regard to using Amazon forums to promo your work). It was only up for a few months and got some amazing feedback when Permuted Press contacted me about signing on. From there I worked with an awesome editor and improved the book a lot. There was a pretty big delay in the release but it was because Permuted Press landed me an Audiobook deal. So cool! It was worth the wait.
BOTD – Unless I am mistaken the cover has never changed, which is unique since publishers seem to want to change artists for whatever reason; have you had to fight to keep the cover the same or has everyone been ok with it? Personally I love it.
Eloise – Thanks! No fights whatsoever. Permuted Press asked if I wanted to keep the cover because they liked it as well and I agreed immediately. I had a vision for exactly what I wanted the cover to be like and I managed to execute it just how I imagined. It took a lot of shots (maybe around 100 actually) to get the right angle and expression, then hours of Photoshop to get the coloring, lighting, and overall feel just right. Because I put so much work into it I certainly would’ve fought to keep it.
BOTD – Between photography, novels and ZMagazine, you’ve chosen a career that is based on public consumption. How do you justify and evaluate feedback?
Eloise – I typically go through the same thought process when I get feedback. If it’s generally positive I make sure to note what the person liked about my creation so I can keep doing it, thank them, and file it away in my nice thoughts drawer. If it’s negative I go one of three ways with it.
First I ask, is this person just a troll? If so I distance myself from the sting of the troll’s harsh words and disregard it.
Second is the very common hatred towards the fundamental idea behind my creation, typically coming from people who just don’t get what I’m doing. I admit… I do disregard those comments. I can see when my products aren’t someone’s cup of tea and that’s fine; not everyone is going to like what I do, that’s the reality!
Third is the infrequent, but most valuable form of feedback that I always evaluate and consider in my future work. It’s the kind where someone didn’t like what I did and they give me an honest, constructive reason why. They might drop a few compliments, but they’re also there to tell me what didn’t work and how it could be improved upon.
BOTD – What is more disappointing for you, a negative review by a stranger who didn’t give the book a chance or someone’s opinion you covet giving you what you feel is a dishonest positive review to be nice?
Eloise – That’s a hard one… Good grief, I’m not sure! When someone doesn’t finish the book and drops a one star review it makes me want to find them and strangle them. I know some will disagree, but I don’t believe in reviewing a book you have not finished, because your review is only of a portion of the book. You wouldn’t review a portion of any other product on Amazon (at least I hope not) so why would you do that with a book?
If someone whose opinion I valued gave it a great rating just to be nice, I’d be more disappointed because there’s the whole dishonesty factor at play. At least the guy who didn’t give it a chance is telling the truth, although it isn’t the most informed, educated form of it. The person who was just being nice is ultimately hurting me by not telling the truth. They might have valuable feedback since they did read the whole thing, and by not giving constructive feedback it gets me nowhere.
BOTD – To do a novel like this you obviously can’t go with the “write what you know” style and there were a few pretty rough moments in The Undead Situation. Have you ever freaked yourself out wondering how you came up with some disturbing story lines? Unless you’d like to admit experience with cannibalism in which case I have another few dozen questions to ask you.
Eloise – Ha! No cannibalism here… But no, I’ve never questioned what I end up writing. My family? Yes, they wonder where I came from and why I write what I do. I’ve seen so many horror movies and read so many novels when I come up with this stuff it feels natural. I’ve been exposed to it my whole life (almost) so I’m not surprised when I write gory fiction.
BOTD – Understandably, some authors worry about the superficial nature of people when they chose purchases so they will change to a pen name to sounds stronger; do you worry about post apocalypse readers seeing your name and casting doubt as a female author?
Eloise – I don’t worry about it to be honest. In all my time reading, researching, and being a part of this genre I’ve never seen a blatant display of sexism directed towards me or any other female author. In general all my experience has lead me to believe people who like zombie books and who are part of the community are very nice, accepting, and considerate individuals. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but it’s never been an issue for me.
BOTD – From start to finish, what has been more challenging: The Undead Situation or ZMgazine?
Eloise – ZMagazine, actually. The Undead Situation was all on me. When I started writing it there was no deadline, no need to even finish it if I didn’t want to. I took a long time to write it, edit it, and all that. No one was behind my back saying “Hey this needs to get done.” ZMagazine had a very fast turnaround time (maybe about two months), so the stress was overwhelming. Constantly emailing people about when their articles would be done, getting them edited, formatting the magazine, and doing the photography/graphics was a nightmare under such a short deadline. Even with the second edition I have more time but it’s still difficult.
BOTD – With ZMagazine are you thinking this will be a seasonal magazine or perhaps something just for conventions?
Eloise – I’m going to push for it to be a quarterly magazine at least for its first year. I don’t go to enough conventions to warrant making a whole magazine for one or two events a year—it is up on Amazon for purchasing so that’s going to end up being our primary venue to get it out there.
BOTD – What went behind the decision to open up ZMagazine for reader submissions?
Eloise – I opened it up for submissions for two reasons. First… It’s hard to crack the whip on your family and close friends—they don’t take you seriously! But really, it’s impossible to force people to write articles and produce all the content for something like this. After the first edition it was evident the same contributors were going to get burnt out on it. Second, I really wanted to open it up to everyone to expand on the ZMagazine world. It’s a great way to get quality, unique articles while meeting it’s content quota and gaining a bigger position in the zombie genre.
BOTD – Between full time school, writing and running a magazine, do you ever worry about burnout?
Eloise – I do worry and I get burnt out all the time. It’s difficult to make yourself do things when you really just want to sleep twelve hours and maybe watch some TV, but I enjoy doing what I do so that provides some amount of motivation. Sometimes I don’t touch anything to do with the magazine or writing for days, sometimes weeks at a time, but that just means I have to work harder and more consistently when I do get back into the swing of things.
BOTD – Philosophical question: are zombies evil?
Eloise – My first inclination is to say no, and I’ll stick with that. The reason why is because zombies don’t choose to be zombies. If you’re living and become a zombie by whatever means (viral, voodoo, unexplained, etc.) it is highly unlikely it’s because you chose for it to happen. It was probably an unwanted accident. It’s archaic to blame someone for something they could not control. What zombies do—kill other people—is evil, but is it really something they could stop? If the zombie was an intelligent, very self-aware being than you could hold them accountable. But for most zombies I don’t think that would be the case.
*Photo by Alexa Rae