Ladies and gentlefunk of the Jackverse, I have the pleasure of bringing to you yet another new author to the zpoc genre!
Stand and cheer.
No really, get off your butts and shout for none other than Lana Sibley!
JW: Sing with me “Christmas time is here … zombies thrive on fear. I can see your brain is sweet, it’s all I want to eat.” Ahhh that time of the year when consumerism peaks and love for your fellow human rises to incalculable heights. It’s also the time when The Walking Dead takes a hiatus and the hate-filled skies drop tons of fluffy snow onto the lap of humankind. It’s when zombie carolers knock on your door, sing you a lovely holiday song, and expect a snack of thought meat in return.
I kid, I kid. Seriously… no?
Okay, let’s get this hayride back on track. You’ve written a story in the All Things Zombie: The Gathering Horde collection. When your story was selected, what was your immediate reaction?
LS: Hi Jack, I’m pretty freakin’ excited to join the ranks of the Jack’d! Just as I’d never imagined ever having a story published, I never dreamed I’d ever be Jack’d. Plus, I’m making big points here with my friends, so thank you for that!
To answer your question, my immediate reaction was complete and utter disbelief when I saw my name on the list for acceptance of my short story into the All Things Zombie: The Gathering Horde anthology. I knew that there were some amazing established authors that I really admire with stories in the collection. How could my little story possibly be chosen to be included in an actual published book right alongside theirs? I also have friends who submitted stories, and we had passed them around among us for review, suggestions and moral support. I was completely blown away by their talent and the tales they were telling. Who were these people and how had they been hiding so much talent from me? I was actually rethinking my decision to submit my story, but one of my dearly loved, but pushy friends blackmailed me into sending it in at the last minute.
Hot on the heels of disbelief was excitement. There are four of us in our little impromptu cheerleading squad: Giles Batchelor, Shannon Walters, Ramona Martine and myself. Each one of these people has provided me with so much love and support, and I was ecstatic and relieved that every one of us had stories that were chosen to be included, so that no one felt left out.
Maybe there was a little fear too. Or a lot. This was the first thing I’d ever really written outside of a college creative writing class a lifetime ago. At least anything that someone other than myself would see, and it made me feel…exposed.
JW: I remember that feeling – the vulnerability of handing over your work to someone outside of your mind. The process of creation is a very emotional and personal thing. Words, characters, and stories are guarded like children and the idea of sending them out without your protection can be gut wrenching. After writing over twenty books, this is still the case. I write “The End” and know that the book will eventually have to be handed over to beta readers, editors, and proofers. But while is it heart breaking to hand it over, it is, at the same time, thrilling. The idea of someone else enjoying my work, on whatever level, is exactly why I do this.
To share. To take someone on a journey. To enlighten, educate, and entertain. That is my goal with every single word I write.
LS: Definitely part of it is putting something that personal into someone else’s hands. It’s scary waiting to see what their reaction will be. Feeling vulnerable, for me, came more from the possibility of what I wrote allowing readers to see more of me than I was prepared for, if that makes any sense. Maybe it’s more so because it’s the first thing that I’ve put out there. It would be interesting to see if I’d feel the same about anything further I might write or if it’s something you become more comfortable with along the way.
On the other hand, I’ve been surprised and happy at the feedback I’ve gotten from the story and proud of having written something that others enjoyed. That’s a great feeling!
JW: You do become more comfortable with the idea of putting yourself out there. The way I look at it is pretty black and white. Once I’ve published a book, the story is now for the audience and not for me. I trust readers will care for that story and the characters in the same way that I did.
The one thing you always have to remember is that readers want you to succeed. They want to open up your story and be blown away. Few readers crack a book thinking, “Prove to me you are worth my time.” That idea, alone, eases the stress of handing a book over to the world.
But then, you realize that one word, “world”, is pretty large. I look at sales and realize people on the other side of the planet are reading my work and it’s equal parts humbling, empowering, and frightening. Thankfully, we write about the apocalypse, so it’s quite fitting.
LS: That’s very good advice for a newbie to remember. It’s on the same order of being shy, you get over it when you figure out that everyone else isn’t focused solely on you. At least that was my experience with shyness way back when. In the same vein, lack of confidence leads to overthinking just how much analyzing readers are actually putting into what you’ve written. I’m an avid reader and what I look for first and foremost is to be entertained. I would imagine that’s true for most readers out there. Hello epiphany! Thanks for leading me to the water, Jack.
I also think that what you say about readers actually wanting you to succeed is nowhere more true than in the community of apocalyptic and zombie fans and writers. I’ve never met more genuine, generous and gracious people than those I’ve gotten to know within Facebook groups like ATZ (All Things Zombie) and Zombie Book of the Month. In my experience, both authors and fans have not only been willing, but eager to give others a boost when they need it or offer invaluable advice. I feel blessed to have been able to go from being just a fan of some of these writers, to having made real friendships with real people that I have so much respect and admiration for. Maybe it’s because deep down we’re all really just fans, and up until the recent explosion in the zombie genre it just wasn’t that easy to get your zombie fix on. Now we’re all giddy with the choices open to us.
In my opinion, many of us are drawn to this genre because, at the heart of it all, the stories are about survival, friendship, love and building a familial bond with people who care about each other and can be trusted to have each other’s back. It’s not really about the zombies or whatever other event leads to the apocalyptic situation the characters find themselves struggling through. In a way, this community has provided a measure of that connection we seek without actually having the undead trying to eat you. Which is a relief, because I’m slow.