I just finished up an interview with zombie/vampire independent novelist Rhiannon Frater. For those of you who are into zombie fiction, she has some freaky work for you to read. For those of you who are writers, she’s got some encouraging things to say to you, too. Here’s the interview:
Thanks again for agreeing to an interview. Tell us a little about yourself and why you write.
My name is Rhiannon Frater and I am an Independent Author based in Austin, Texas. I have written for a couple of magazines that covered the entertainment scene in Central Texas. I am presently concentrating on writing stories with horror themes that take place in Texas. But I do have a very Gothic old world vampire novel coming down the pike in the near future.
I write because I don’t have a choice. I have stories floating around in my head and the compulsion to write. I enjoy it tremendously. And I enjoy sharing stories with readers, so it all works out.
You’ve got a book in print right now “As the World Dies: the First Days.” Tells us, if you would, a little about it and how it came about.
As The World Dies: The First Days it the first book of a zombie trilogy that I accidentally wrote. What do I mean by that? Well, I was heavily influenced by a dream a friend had and one day at work, I had an inspired moment where I saw a woman standing on the doorstep of her home, staring at tiny fingers pressed under the front door reaching toward her. I quickly jotted down a short story named “Tiny Fingers’ during my break and posted it on a zombie fiction forum. I ended up getting some very good feedback and people wanted to know when the next part was going to be posted. Suddenly, I knew there was much more to the story. It took two years to write and post online. The fan response was quite intense. The fans encouragement is what inspired me to pull down the story, rewrite/revise/edit it and create the trilogy.
Do you read any zombie apocalypse literature besides your own? If so, what do you like?
I’m a huge fan of George Romero. I have read his scripts for Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead (the unfilmed version) and his script for Resident Evil (which was awesome) that was not filmed. I’m also a huge fan of “I am Legend.” I think that novel was amazing. The closest anyone has come to making a faithful adaptation to film was The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price.
When I started writing the zombie story, I had been reading a lot of zombie genre fiction online, but found most of it empty. Characters and situations just didn’t ring true to me. Then I realized I wanted to have a fresh voice in the genre and I should write what I felt worked. I ended up swearing off all zombie novels/stories until I’m done. So the moment I finish the As The World Dies Trilogy, I will be buying a slew of zombie novels!
I know what you mean. I bought a softcover copy of I Am Legend about 4 months before I finished writing Oasis. It just had to sit on my desk until I was done writing. Anyway, you’ve recently posted a preview to your new book “Pretty When She Dies“. What can you tell us about it?
Pretty When She Dies was based on a dream I had that was so vivid and intense I almost believed it was true. That dream is the first three chapters of the novel. I was so intrigued by the nightmare, I wanted to know what else happened. So I wrote the rest of the novel.
I believe this vampire story is a departure from a lot of what is out there right now. I feel vampires have been taken over by the paranormal romance genre. There are some very good books in that genre, but there are a lot that are really pretty bad. At this point, there are so many books that are carbon copies of each other, it’s disheartening. The paranormal (or horror) aspect of the novels is often lost. I’m also very disgruntled with the constant triangles (hot female heroine, sexy vampire, sexy werewolf).
Pretty When She Dies is about a woman who isn’t a super vixen. She really doesn’t have her life together. She tends to drift through life and run from difficult situations. When she wakes up a vampire, she finally starts evolving and trying to figure out exactly what her place in the world really is.
There are vampires, necromancers, zombies and vampire hunters in this tale and it takes place in modern times in Texas. It’s horrific, sexy, scary, funny, and suspenseful.
Any news on book two of the “As the world Dies” series?
Book two, As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive, needed some intense retooling and I’m almost done. I hope to have it with the proofreaders very soon. Book three is going to have to wait until early next year for its rewrite. I need a little time to play in other worlds before heading back into the zombie one.
Let’s finish up by talking about self publishing. Before you self published, did you try to get you book into a “traditional publisher”?
I did fire off a million submissions in my early twenties. I’m glad nothing ever came of them. I don’t think my writing voice was defined at that time. Also, I had no idea what the publishing world was about and probably would have signed any contract put in front of me.
I started submitting again last year, but this time I took the time to do a lot of research on the publishing world. The more I learned, the more despair I felt. The lack of creative control, how royalties work (or don’t work), the gatekeepers of the submission process (agents), and how the whole system is set up as a whole, was very distressing.
There is one publishing house, Permuted Press, that specializes in zombies that has a good reputation. I was going to try to submit As The World Dies to them, but its submissions were closed. I basically gave up at that point and was very depressed.
What made you decide to self publish?
My husband was upset that the rejections from publishers and agents were based on a short query letter I was submitting and that no one was actually reading my writing. He knew I had a fan base waiting for the books, but I was stuck. He began looking into independent publishing behind my back. He is a huge proponent of the new media and once he had a good idea of what we needed to do, he approached me. I was very resistant at first, but as he talked to me about publish on demand services, creative control, and the ability to get my work out to readers, I realized he was onto something.
We spent a few more months studying up on independent publishing and getting feedback from people I’m close to. We put together our plan and went for it. It was a lot of fun getting the artwork from our friend Detra and working with our proof readers and editors. Learning how to layout the book and the cover was annoying, but I think we did pretty good for our first time out.
How have you liked working with createspace.com?
It has its pros and cons. Setting up the novel was pretty easy. I like their member dashboard and how it tracks the steps toward publication. I also like how they keep track of sales. The royalties are really good through Createspace and the books are automatically listed on Amazon.com. Search Inside and the author’s blog are easy to acquire as well if you’re signed with Creatspace since it is an Amazon.com company.
I wish the company had a phone number for customer service. At this time, everything is handled through email. That can become annoying.
Who did the cover for your first book and your upcoming release? Were you involved in the design?
Detra did the cover for As The World Dies: The First Days. He is an amazing artist. He is originally from San Antonio and he moved out to California. He’s a great person and artist. I told him what I wanted. He interpreted my desires into a cover that I think is just fabulous. He perfectly brought the two main leads of the story to life on the cover.
Rose Munoz did the cover for Pretty When She Dies. I saw the photograph on her Excentric Vision Photography myspace page and rang her up to inquire about it. She immediately said yes to us using it for the cover. I really love her work and hope to work with her in the future on the next book in the Pretty When She… series.
What have you done to promote your work? What results have you seen?
I have a built in fan base because of the time when the story was online. I know a lot of them are supporting this endeavor. I have a writer’s blog that gets quite a few hits on a dailty basis. I’m a friend of Permuted Press and I have a subforum on there. I have done one online magazine interview with TREI Magazine and one blogtalkradio interview with The Odd Mind Magazine. I really enjoy doing interviews, honestly!
I will also be attending conventions as well. The first one is Fear Fest 3 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Without a doubt, word of mouth has definitely driven sales. I would say this is the major force behind my success. People love the book and pass on the word.
I have to give a huge shout out to Dr. Pus’ Library of the Living Dead podcast. For the last few episodes, the first chapter has been presented in segments complete with sound effects, voice actors, and music. Dr. Pus has been a firm supporter of the book and he’s been amazing.
What’s next for you?
Pretty When She Dies will be out in November. We’re trying to get As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive to the proofreaders and the artwork commissioned. I hope to be working on a brand new novel during the month of November just to give me a fresh world to play in. The zombie nightmares are getting annoying.
Is there anything else that I really should have asked you?
1. Is it worth it being an Indie Author? Yes, it is. It’s very liberating, a lot of hard work, a ton of fun, and something I’m enjoying. If someone is willing to find proof readers, editors, artists, and do a heck of a lot of work themselves, then I would say to go for it. I have loved working with my husband on the books and it feels so good to present the books the way I feel best represents my work.
2. Have I had any offers from publishers for my novels? Yes. I just turned down an offer for the trilogy. It was awesome and flattering to get the offer and I respect the publisher a lot, but I don’t feel I’m ready yet to give up my status as an Indie Author at this time. My husband and I made a game plan when we started this and we want to play it out and see how it goes.
3. Would I ever consider signing with a publishing house? Yes. Absolutely. I will weigh each offer and consider how they compare to my success as an Indie Author. If they will help me in my personal writing goals, I would definitely ponder signing on the dotted line. But, at this time, I’m happy with my status as an Indie Author.
Just one last question. What’s your plan of action for when the zombie apocalypse finally hits?
I’m in Texas. We got guns. Lots of guns. I think we’ll be fine.
Unless they’re running zombies, then we’re all screwed!
Thanks again for your time Rhiannon. Everybody make sure to check her out on the web.