Hi, my name is Erin and I wrote a zombie book.
There. I admit it, loud and clear.
My idea for HOUND started as a short fiction submission for Permuted Press, the same place where my short story SAVAGE was picked up. I decided, hey, if I can get one story picked up by this press, perhaps my chances are good for getting a second story published with them. The anthology was all about a world after the zombie outbreak (instead of the running and screaming that takes place in most zombie films. Think, Resident Evil: Extinction instead of 28 Days Later.)
I love, love, love dystopian fiction. I also am a fan of zombie movies and video games for the most part. (Not a big fan of the old “classics” though.) My muse was off running full sprint, and I wrote a story about the childhood of who would later become the main character in a full length novel, albeit under a different name.
For the short story, I was all giggles. How cool are zombie gladiators? I felt I had come up with something original. Even with the short story was rejected, the editor commented on liking the idea, but the story ending was predictable. Then it was time for NaNoWriMo, and I wanted to participate for the first time. And I needed a fresh, new idea.
So I wrote HOUND. By the end of it, I was thrilled. I felt I had something different – something beyond the genre of b-movie running and screaming from zombies, and always populated with one-dimensional characters with very big boobies that make up the cliché. I wrote a zombie story about the characters, not about zombie fodder in the form of human beings.
Characters for me are alive, rule my books, and drive anything that happens. Most often I have a general outline, but then I’m as much a slave to my characters as the person who will eventually read the finished product. They dictate what I write.
But, I thought, zombie books don’t have deep characters, right? Aren’t they only clichés and card board cutouts with the purpose of being food for zombies? Of course, I’m making some assumptions here – based on the most general stereotypes – because I never read zombie fiction, and I certainly never intended to write it myself.
Somewhere in the mess I convinced myself that I was writing something else. Sure, there are zombies in my book. But this is about bigger things, I told myself. This reaches into other genres, I said.
I should have known when my first beta reader told me how she talked to her friends about the “awesome zombie book” she was reading that I was kidding myself.
As I’ve discussed in other posts, zombies seem to be a love or hate thing, but I guess so are a lot of things in a lot of different genres. There are people who hate spaceships, but I’m writing a book with a spaceship as my next WIP. I guess I was worried that HOUND wouldn’t be taken seriously if I pitched it as a “zombie book.”
A long walk with Erik involved me digging myself a hole and backing myself into a corner, where my feigned logic promptly collapsed on top of me.
“Zombies are popular and you have something original,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you pitch to market that’s hot right now?”
Tara Maya, who did a beta read for me, was arguing the very same thing, including the statement: You wrote a zombie book, and a damn good one. Deal with it.
So here I am, finally deciding on a genre. I put the word zombie in my query letter. I’m officially calling my manuscript science fiction/horror.
I am dealing with my fear of being a pigeonholed as a zombie fiction writer, one day at a time. And in the end, I can always get a pen name, right?
Anyone else ever have trouble finding their genre? How do you deal with categorizing your story if it straddles two or more genres?