Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) is author of the exciting new post-apocalyptic zombie adventure series Newflesh, including Feed, Deadline, and the yet-to-be-published Blackout.
Feed has been described as 'a masterpiece of suspense' by Publishers Weekly, and 'the zombie novel Robert A. Heinlein might have written' by Sci-Fi Magazine. So now, in an exclusive interview, Mira Grant comes to Ramblings of a Teenage Novelist to tell us how to write exciting novels, the ins and outs of zombie fiction, and exactly what we should do if the dead rise!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Mira Grant!
Ramblings: First things first. Feed is a complex and exciting dystopian sci-fi novel, incorporating all sorts of unexpected elements. Where on earth did you get the inspiration for your post-Rising novels?!
Mira: From a weird noise in the bushes near my friend Michael's house, the behavior of pack animals infected with diseases which alter their brain chemistry, watching too much television, and Michael getting frustrated and telling me to write about a presidential election and shut up about my lack of a plot.
Ramblings: There's a lot about the impact of pre-Rising horror movies and George Romero on post-Rising society in your books. Did any particular zombie movie, novel, comic, videogame - or something else - particularly influence the world of Feed?
Mira: I say that Feed is a cross between Transmetropolitan -- a wonderful comic book about journalism and politics, written by Warren Ellis -- Night of the Living Dead, and The West Wing. There was also a lot of influence from a weird little zombie movie called Night of the Comet. Really, I am steeped in modern horror media.
Ramblings: Most of us are bloggers here and After the End Times plays a huge role in your Newsflesh series. How did you come up with the complexities of the blogosphere?
Mira: I blogged for ten years, and then I just tried to chase the logical trends a little further. Sadly, I didn't predict the rise of Twitter and Tumbler. I would so totally have bought stock.
Ramblings: Both of your Newsflesh books so far are really quite big books, but they read very quickly because they're so fast-paced and action-packed. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers on pacing?
Mira: If things are too slow for too long, blow something up. If your story doesn't allow for literally blowing something up, find a way to do it figuratively. I love the quiet, introspective moments, but sometimes you have to admit that those are meant as seasoning. Boom is what's going to keep things moving.
Ramblings: Your post-Rising world is really complex and wonderfully detailed - you've thought of everything from architecture to air-travel! How on earth do you keep track of all your thoughts and ideas?
Mira: I actually maintain a private continuity Wiki, both for the Newsflesh series and for my urban fantasy novels. That doesn't keep me from making errors, but it keeps me from contradicting myself. Most of the time.
Ramblings: Your Newsflesh books don't really fit neatly into any genre - they're zombie novels, but it seems to me that they're far more about the society than the actual corpses. How would you define them, and are you pleased with the effect the mixing of genres has created? How far did you set out to create the series we know and love today, and how much did it evolve in the brainstorming process from your original idea?
Mira: I call them 'medical science fiction thrillers,' and I'm absolutely delighted with the way the mixture of genres has played out. People who don't like horror have enjoyed them, people who don't read medical thrillers have enjoyed them...it's just amazing to me how cross-genre they've become. Everything evolved from the question 'what if we had the zombie apocalypse, and lived?' I am continually surprised by this series.
Ramblings: You've imagined the zombifying virus, Kellis-Amberlee, in great detail. How much research into nasty diseases and viruses did you have to do?
Mira: Hours and hours and hours and hours. I read books, audited virology courses, attended lectures, and talked about necrosis a lot during dinner. I have very tolerant friends.
Ramblings: Feed and Deadline would look awesome on the big screen! Would you like to see them turned into films? Who would be your ideal cast?
Mira: I would absolutely love to see them turned into films. I'm not a casting director or a screenwriter, so I leave those pieces up to the people who specialize in cinematic awesomeness. I'll stick with writing books.
Ramblings: Why did you decide to use the pseudonym Mira Grant in writing the Newsflesh novels, and not your own name, Seanan McGuire?
Mira: So a bunch of years ago, Disney decided that they wanted to release R-rated movies, but knew that no one would take an R-rated Disney film seriously. So they created Touchstone, the 'mature' branch of the Disney family. The Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire division is like the Disney/Touchstone division. It's to give context for what's inside the story, not to conceal who wrote what.
Ramblings: I've heard that you listen to music while writing. Is this true? Do you listen to different albums/artists/types of music for each story you write?
Mira: I listen to music constantly. While writing, while walking, sometimes while sleeping. It would be weird if I didn't. I make playlists for every book, but most of the time, I'm listening to my entire 8000+ song playlist on random shuffle. This can make for some very odd combinations.
Ramblings: Some people are inspired by history, others by stories in the news. What inspires you and makes you want to write?
Ramblings: Deadline finishes on probably the biggest cliffhanger known to man (or woman)! I've heard that you've had some complaints about the ending?
Mira: There are people who will complain about anything and everything. Yes, some people have disliked the ending. I'm sorry about that, but I really think the one place a cliffhanger is acceptable is in part two of a trilogy.
Ramblings: Deadline is written from Shaun Mason's point of view. How different was it writing from his POV as opposed to Georgia's?
Mira: Every POV character is different. He's got a very different approach to life, and he's a lot crazier than Georgia. So I just sort of wind him up and let him go.
Ramblings: Georgia is passionate about the truth and Shaun. How far do you think that her character reflects your own?
Mira: I'm very fond of facts and research and clear-cut yes/no answers. I'm also a lot sillier and more quixotic than she is. So I'd say we're different people.
Ramblings: You've written over 3000 poems and 314 songs. You're also an artist and frequent blogger, not to mention published author of a huge number of books. Do you never sleep?!
Mira: I do not sleep.
Ramblings: You said on your website that the worst feeling is having no idea when you last saved your work when the computer crashed. Have you ever lost a substantial amount of your writing in this way? Do you find it difficult to re-create the scenes you lost?
Mira: I have. I lost the entire first part of one of the Toby books once. It was devastating. Re-creating it was almost impossible, and I'm still not sure I did it right.
Ramblings: If you lived in the post-Rising world, how well do you think you'd survive? I'm guessing you'd be an Irwin? What about all those blood tests?
Mira: If I lived in the post-Rising world, I'd probably be an Irwin, and I'd have been living there for most of my life, so I think I'd do okay. If the Rising happened tomorrow, I'd be toast.
Ramblings: Feed has really gone viral. How much was its success a surprise to you, and how much did you know, in your heart of hearts, that what you'd written was really good?
Mira: I think all authors are a little insecure in our own worlds. It's been a surprise and a wonderful, wonderful adventure, and I couldn't be more grateful.
Ramblings: Feed has recently been placed on a list of classic dystopian novels alongside 1984. How much was post-Rising society influenced by the dark side of 21st Century life and politics?
Mira: Very much. I think that, sadly, we're allowing a lot of our choices and thoughts to be dictated by this amazing culture of fear that's grown up over the past ten years. A zombie apocalypse might have been kinder. I wanted to comment on that, because I think it's just incredibly unhealthy, and it needs to stop.
Ramblings: And finally, if the dead really did rise in 2014, how would you prepare yourself, and what would your advice to the rest of the world be?
Ramblings: Thank you so much, Mira!
You can reach Mira's personal site and related sites here:
Seanan's website (aka Mira)
What do you think of Feed and Deadline? Tell us in a comment below!