Sunday, March 17, 2013

About “Zombii: Cartea mortilor vii”

Here is the story behind “Noapte buna, Mihai!” (Good Night, Mihai!), my story included in “Zombii: Cartea mortilor vii” (Zombies: The Book of the Living Dead), edited by Mircea Pricajean, and published by Millennium Books in March 2013.

After going through the steampunk anthology experience, I was quite anxious to see what the next Millennium Books' project would be. And then, the announcement was made I kind of deflated… Zombies? Really? But they’re dumb and filthy. And I don’t write stupid characters and don’t do horror. It looked like I would have to pass on this project. At about the same time, SRSFF was announcing their own anthology, titled Venus—a bit too mushy for me, but it was better than zombies. I could write about love. In the end, I managed to make it not mushy at all, but this is another story that can be read here.

Soon after the announcement, AtelierKult declared zombies to be the theme of the next writing contest. That irked me a little because it meant another door was closed. I couldn’t write about something I knew nothing about and had zero interest in finding out more. I considered the subject closed and tried to put it out of my mind, but a thought kept nagging me. What do you mean I can’t write it? That was a bit of an insult to my intelligence.

So just as an exercise, I began to think about how I would write such a thing. A story that wouldn’t focus on the gore, and it would also have to be appealing to me or I wouldn’t waste my time writing it. For a whole week, I spent the time before falling asleep plotting such story. Yes, I know, not the best way to invoke pleasant dreams, but it brought no nightmares either. In order to stay away from the gore and conceal my lack of expertise in this field, I knew I had to find a different angle. So I cheated. I used first person point of view and made the readers focus on the character’s internal drama. To this, I added a bit of local flavor and made sure my zombies didn’t stink, hehe.

After everything was plotted from the first line to the last, it was time to do some research. I know people usually do it first, but I don’t bend my stories around reality, I bend reality around them. Anyway, I needed to see how zombies were portrayed in literature. My only encounter with them had taken place during middle school while watching The Night of the Living Dead, which caused me nightmares for a week. World War Z by Max Brooks was on top of all zombie book lists so I gave it a try. I gave up on it after the first fifty pages. It didn’t sound like a book I would read even without the zombies, there was no attachment to the plot and storyline. I moved on to David Moody’s Autumn. This one read much better, and I managed to get to the end without much problem. It also confirmed my suspicions that I didn’t need any more information to write my story.

I did and sent it to AtelierKult to have it critiqued and make sure I had gotten the horror part right. I must have since it won the contest. To those who don’t like open endings—I can’t stand them either—if you’re familiar with my stories then you’ll have no trouble knowing how it ends once you read the last line.

In conclusion, it’s not a challenge I would take every day, but it’s good to step out of your comfort zone now and then and try something new, especially when it ends with a satisfying “Yeah, I can do that too!”

P.S. I’m giving away an autographed copy to the first person who figures out in which town the action takes place. Close friends and family are excluded. :)

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