Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hellforged Release Day Party & Giveaway with Nancy Holzner

Got Zombies

First of all, I want to thank Roxanne for hosting my release-day celebration on Fang-tastic Books. I'm excited that Hellforged hits bookstore shelves today, and I'm thrilled to be here for the occasion. So thanks, Roxanne!

Since Deadtown came out last year, one question I'm often asked is, “Why zombies?” Although Deadtown and Hellforged aren't about zombies—they're about the struggles of shapeshifter Vicky Vaughn to hold back the demons that threaten both her and the city of Boston—zombies do form a big part of Vicky's world. What are they doing there? Zombies usually belong to the world of horror, not urban fantasy. They're gross. And their main purpose is often to kill off characters in horrible ways and then get satisfyingly slaughtered by the protagonist and allies.

My zombies aren't like that. In the world of Deadtown, a plague swept through downtown Boston, instantly killing every human it touched. The unstable virus quickly morphed into something no worse than a bad cold, but two thousand Bostonians lay dead in its wake.

Paranormals were immune, so they managed the quarantine zone and dealt with the bodies. Then, three days after the plague hit, the zombies began to rise.

Deadtown's zombies aren't shambling brain-munchers. They're intelligent, they can talk, and they have personalities, just like the people they were before the plague. Some believe that those afflicted were never actually dead—no doctor would go anywhere near the bodies to examine them until long after the threat of contagion had passed, so no official death certificates exist. Whatever happened, the virus took a permanent toll on its victims: they have spongy green-gray skin, blood-red eyes, and stiffness in their limbs. Zombies are nearly impossible to kill, but they don't heal, either. Sunlight destroys their skin. They have superhuman strength.

They're always hungry, but they can eat any kind of food. They do run into some trouble, though, when they catch the scent of fresh human blood; it stirs up an uncontrollable blood lust that tends to make social situations a tad awkward. That’s why they can’t leave Deadtown without a permit.

Deadtown's zombies may not fit traditional definitions of what a zombie is. Still, if a similar plague happened in real life, you can bet that someone, somewhere would call the survivors “zombies.” And the label would stick.

In Deadtown, I wanted to explore how society might react if a large chunk of the population suddenly turned into monsters. In a sense, zombies are Deadtown's lepers. They're seen as less than human, feared, shunned, and shut away from the mainstream. I also wanted create zombies who were characters, not just props for target practice. There's Sykes, the “good cop” in human-zombie Goon Squad patrol pairing; Clyde, the zombie doorman who was a minister before the plague; and Tina, zombified at fifteen and determined to live like a normal teenager—or her version of one, anyway.

In Hellforged, something is killing Deadtown's zombies—leaving them really dead—and I wanted to make this a problem that matters. After all, in most zombie fiction, dead zombies are a good thing. In Deadtown's world, plenty of Bostonians would agree. But these zombies are Vicky's friends, and she's determined to protect them. I hope readers will be rooting for her to succeed. When one of the members of my writers' group, reading an early draft, said, “Oh, my God. You just killed a zombie and I cared,” I knew I was on the right track.

Zombies symbolize many things in fiction, mostly fears. They've been said to represent the fear of death, of disease, of mindless consumerism, of the “other,” of the id untempered by any superego, even a bourgeois fear of the working class. Deadtown's zombies show the other side of such fears, that even those who fall prey to the very worst fate still have a point of view, still have hopes, dreams, and fears of their own. They raise questions about what's human and what's monstrous. I hope you'll enjoy reading about them!

You can read the first chapter of Deadtown here and of Hellforged here. Stop by Nancy's website to explore the world of Deadtown and say hello!

Giveaway Time!

Nancy has offered to give away a fun prize pack today- a zombie prize pack which includes a signed copy of Hellforged, a button that reads "My Zombie Ate Your Honor Student," and a bottle of Hard Candy nail polish in the color Zombie

To enter the giveaway please comment on this post with a question for Nancy, you could ask about zombies, her books, being a writer or anything you wish.

Open to US Shipping Only

Please include your email address with comment

Winner TBA Wednesday January 5


the cautionary tale said...

This sounds great. Usually zombies make me nervous and I can't read stories about them but I would read this.
maddy56 at ufl dot edu

debbie said...

I would like to ask, did you do any research into plagues or pandemics for this series? I would love to read the books. I have been a fan of zombies for a long time. I am glad you are putting them in a different light.

SandyG265 said...

I enjoyed Deadtown and am looking foward to reading Hellforged. What gave you the idea to make your zombies different?

sgiden at verizon.net

Brandi said...

How do you usually come up with a baseline for a new story. Is it be dreams, things you see in real life that inspire you, etc?


nancyholzner said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I enjoy reading horror novels, but zombies tend to make me a bit nervous, too. :) I think that's why I wanted to do something different with them. When I was writing Deadtown, I knew I wanted two things: an event that would force people to acknowledge the existence of paranormals and a Boston setting (because I think Boston would be a fun place for that to happen). A zombie plague seemed like a good solution.

Because Deadtown is straight-up urban fantasy and not a post-apocalypse novel, I didn't want the existence of zombies to become a "kill or be eaten" kind of conflict. I wanted to explore how these zombie-like people would be integrated into society--or not. It struck me that people would at first be thrilled that their loved ones hadn't really died in the plague, but with time, they'd realize that these "monsters" were different (in a very disturbing way) from what they'd been. So that's how the idea started and grew.

nancyholzner said...

@debbie: I didn't do tons of research into plagues originally, but I've done more as the series has continued. Deadtown's plague feels like the Old Testament kind to me--it strikes quickly and with a precision that feels almost like the hand of God. The cause of the plague will be revealed in Bloodstone, the third book in the series, which I'm working on now.

@Sandy: I'm glad you liked Deadtown! As I mentioned above, I wanted to make the zombies something more than a mindless threat. That kind of zombie can be fun, but so can a teenage zombie in a pink mini-skirt. :) The character of Tina, once she charged into the book, helped to define the zombies for me.

@Brandi: Everything is fodder for a story. I got the idea for Deadtown from an agent's blog post in which the agent was complaining about the phrase "so-and-so wrestles with his own personal demons." I thought it'd be kinda cool to write about a character who exterminates other people's personal demons for them. When something like that catches my attention and I let myself play with it, all kinds of story ideas can arise. :)

Bethany C. said...

Huh, that last part about the zombies symbolizing our fears of things like death and disease was really interesting. I'd never thought of zombies as symbols for anything.
Have you ever named or modeled a character after someone you knew in real life?


nancyholzner said...

Hi Bethany,

I have, but just once. When I was writing Deadtown, the image I had in my mind for Vicky's niece reminded me of a friend's daughter, so I gave Vicky's niece her name: Maria. Happily, the real Maria enjoys having a character named after her, even those she's 14 now and a lot more grown up than her counterpart in my books. :)

van_pham said...

Hi Nancy!

How many books are planned for the series? and What are you currently working on?


nancyholzner said...

Hi, Van!

I'm currently polishing up Bloodstone (so to speak), which is book #3 in the series. My plans for the series are for a total of seven books.

Linda Henderson said...

I just wondered, do you see yourself writing other genres?

seriousreader at live dot com

zombabex said...

Well, obviously you must have a zombie survival plan? I would like to know what that could possibly be.
I, myself, am a very huge zombie fan. I have almost every -of the dead movie possible. I was given the nickname zombabe from friends, and also have a Support Zombies magnet on my car. Anyway, enough of my rambling.

Stacy (Urban Fantasy Investigations) said...


How many books will be in your Deadtown series?

Urban Fantasy Investigations

Michele Roland said...

I have been a voracious fantasy and horror reader for most of my life (all 44 years gasp!), and I am a big fan of your books! My family and friends think that I should try writing a book of my own, and I am very interested but scared at the same time! Do you have any tips for novice writers on the best way to transfer an idea for a storyline from brain too computer?!

nancyholzner said...

@Linda: My first published novel, from a small press, was a mystery. That's another genre I really enjoy. (I also write how-to and reference books for my day job, but that's a different beast altogether.) I'm currently working on an idea for a dark historical fantasy, as well. That's the long answer to your question, so I guess the short answer is yes. :)

@Zombabex: Zombabe--I love it! To escape from Deadtown's zombies, all you really have to do is distract them with junk food, so it's always a good idea to carry Twinkies. :D

@Stacy: I've got the series plotted out through seven books. I think that's a good length for a series.

@Michele: That's a great question. I wanted to write for years before I figured out how to start. For me, part of the problem was the idea of writing "a novel"--it seemed like such a huge, complex, impossible undertaking. Then I realized I was looking at it all wrong. You don't write "a novel," you write a scene. And if "a scene" feels too big to attack, you write a sentence--and then you ask, "What next?" Realizing that a novel is really a series of manageable scenes connected together made it much easier for me to tackle the process. Good luck! (And thanks for saying you enjoyed Deadtown.)

Estella said...

I have not heard of this series before. The books sound very interesting.

What horror authors do you read?

kissinoakat frontier dot com

LSUReader said...

Nancy--I really enjoyed Deadtown and am looking forward to Hellforged. Since so many before me have asked the questions I would have asked about your series and writing inspirations, I'll ask about your personal reading: What three books are atop your TBR list? Thanks for visiting. (Email in profile.)

Amy said...

Hi Nancy,

Do you plan on writing about other creatures besides zombies in the future? Would love to read your books as I haven't read any zombie books yet.


nancyholzner said...

@Estella: Stephen King, of course. Jonathan Mayberry, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Poppy Z. Brite. Sara Gran's "Come Closer." Some Peter Straub and Clive Barker. I also like 19th-century horror by Poe and Shelley. (Btw, I hope you'll check out my series!)

@LSUReader: Thanks! I'm really happy to hear you liked Deadtown! Right now, the top three books in my TBR pile are all from the same series: Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. I just started Daughter of the Blood after several people I knew were amazed I'd never read it.

@Amy: My Deadtown series isn't really *about* zombies, although they're present in its world. The protagonist is a shapeshifter who traces her lineage back to the Welsh goddess Ceridwen and exterminates other people's personal demons for a living. So even though zombies play an active role in the books, the series is really more about shapeshifters and demons than it is about zombies. (There are werewolves, vampires, and other creatures in Deadtown, too.)

Barbara E. said...

I think it's great that your zombies are more than just mindless, shambling monsters. It will certainly make for a more interesting story. I'm wondering how long the zombies living in Deadtown can live - if they stay out of sunlight. Indefinitely, or will they have a normal human life span?

heatwave16 said...

Hi Nancy!!! Since I totally over-indulged during the holidays, can your zombies can weight? Do they have super metabolisms? :)

What is your favorite zombie movie? I loved Zombieland.


nancyholzner said...

@Barbara: No one knows the answer to that question. The plague happened three years before the events of Deadtown, so it's too soon to tell about life span. But zombies are almost impossible to kill. The police have special exploding bullets that can kill a zombie if you use enough of them. And in Hellforged, some of the zombies are dying mysterious deaths--and Vicky has to figure out why. As for sun exposure, a "zombie sunburn" results in orange, deeply pitted skin that never heals. It's not pretty, even by zombie standards, but it won't kill them.

@heatwave16: Near the beginning of Deadtown, Tina the teenage zombie notes that she can eat as much as she wants and not gain any weight. As she puts it, "It's the only thing that doesn't suck about being reanimated." :) As for my favorite zombie movie, it's probably a tie between Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. As anyone who's read my series knows, I like a little humor with my zombies.

Tore said...

Do you have any suggestions for someone who would like to write a book for the first time. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read your books. Tore923@aol.com

joder said...

Hello and thanks for the giveaway! I love the sound of these books and would love to read them. What do you attribute to the sudden popularity of zombies?

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Thanks for being a guest today Nancy. It's always wonderful to have a new author drop by.

I have a review copy of Hellforged and I am looking forward to reading it. It's at the top of my to-read pile.

Saint Andie said...

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, do you have a particular songs/singers/bands that provided inspiration for your characters or certain passages of your novels?


Gabrielle Lee said...

Sounds like a great read. Is there humor in your books or are they horror? Do you or will you write about other mosters?


Julie said...

What an interesting take on zombies. I like that the zombies are still like the people they were before the disease hit. I'd definitely like to read this series.


*yadkny* said...

Hi Nancy!

I haven't read a good zombie tale in a long time and this one sure looks and sounds good so count me in! Regardless I'll be putting these books on my wishlist:)

Question: What are planning to write in the future? More zombies?


Leni said...

What feedback have you received from fans of the traditional zombie stories? Have they embraced a new take on the genre?


nancyholzner said...

@Tore: One of the things that helped me when I started writing fiction seriously was joining an online writing group. Everyone in the group could submit a weekly post of up to 2000 words for feedback (and you had to give feedback, as well). Two thousand words may not sound like a lot, but the steady writing and feedback spurred me to write more. Plus writing weekly posts of 2000 words or less helped me to break down the big task of writing a novel into smaller steps by focusing on scenes. As I mentioned above, writing "a novel" can be intimidating, but writing a scene feels more manageable. Good luck (and have fun with it--that part's important).

@joder: That's a good question. I do think zombies are related to fears, and the popularity probably has something to do with fears and uncertainty arising from recent economic troubles. But I also think the popularity was building before the recession began. Zombies adapt well to both horror and humor, so we can blast our fears with big guns or laugh at them. That makes them kinda fun.

@Roxanne: Thanks again for hosting my release-day party! Your readers ask great questions. And I hope you'll enjoy Hellforged.

@Saint Andie: I'm one of those writers who prefers to work in a quiet environment if possible. Listening to music (especially if there's singing) tends to pull me out of my story and into the song.

@Gabrielle Lee: There's definitely humor in my books. I like to read books that balance action/drama/darkness with humor, so I try to do that, too. My series is more straight-up urban fantasy than horror, although I've become very interested in dark fantasy lately.

@Julie: Thanks! It was fun writing zombies with a twist. :)

@yadkny: I hope someone buys the books off your wishlist for you! :) I'm going to be continuing the Deadtown series (complete with zombies) for several more books. I'm currently working on Book 3, Bloodstone, which will be out next fall. I'm also developing an idea for a standalone dark historical fantasy that I'm dying to get to work on.

nancyholzner said...

@Leni: I've gotten some very positive feedback from traditional zombie fans, including a couple of authors. I think it helps if readers go into my books knowing that my zombies are different from those that belong strictly to horror.

donnas said...

Sounds great. Congrats on the release!

What fictional character would you love your characters to come across in a book if it could be anyone?

bacchus76 at myself dot com

ladydi6497 said...

I cannot wait to read HELLFORGED. I like that your zombies are not just the run of the mill variety. Most of the time they are mindless killing machines but you have made them so much more.

EdgesAngel23 said...

I dont usually read books about zombies, but these books have changed my mind! I am curious as to how you came to want to write about "Zombies"?
The books sound so awesome!! Can't wait to read them!!
Ashley A

nancyholzner said...

@donnas: Because I use Welsh mythology as a background for the series, I like to draw on characters from that tradition. In Bloodstone (book 3 in the series), Myrddin Wyllt makes an appearance. He's one of several legendary figures who were combined to become Merlin in the tales of King Arthur.

@ladydi: Thanks! That's exactly what I was trying to do. :)

@EdgesAngel: I read some zombie books, but it's never been a genre that I'd watch out for specifically. I wanted to include zombies in Deadtown's paranormal cast of characters because I felt like I could do something different and fun with them.

Thanks again, Roxanne, for having me here!

Becky said...

Great giveaway! My question is do you plan to make spinoffs with the success of your human-like zombies? Maybe like how they live from their POV day-to-day? Help us better understand your thinking process with how intelligent they are.

darkreader said...

This series sounds great! I have been reading more and more zombie books!
Do you think this is a new trend in paranormal that will stay?

Tabitha Blake said...

WoW! Zombies seem to be the new trend. What made you want to write about Zombies?

Tabitha Blake said...

Oh forget to leave my email. Here it is. Tabithablake@ymail.com

CrystalGB said...

Hi Nancy. I loved Deadtown and I am looking forward to Hellforged. Wishing you a great 2011.

elaine cantrell said...

Zombies without brains are boring, but this sounds a lot better. Do you intend to do a series with other paranormal cratures?


katsrus said...

Hi Nancy. I love zombies. My question is "What are your favorite kinds of zombies?" Love your book covers. Adding these books to my reading.
Sue B

throuthehaze said...

What are some of your favorite zombie books?

throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Chelsea B. said...

Hi Nancy :-)I was wondering, what celebrities do you think your cast of characters look like? I always like to hear author's answers to that question :-)


Sherry said...

I had not heard of these books before but they sound very interesting. I will have to check them out.


nancyholzner said...

@Becky: Tina, the teenage zombie who's Vicky's self-appointed sidekick, is writing her memoirs. (If Justin Bieber can do it, why not a teenage zombie? LOL) I'll be putting excerpts on my website over the coming months.

@darkreader: I think there will always be an audience for zombie fiction. Zombies will come and go in the mainstream, like any other trend, but as long as we have fears, we'll have zombies to embody them.

@Tabitha: Zombies provide the context for my main character, who's a shapeshifter based on Welsh mythology. I just thought it'd be fun to try a new twist on zombies. Back in 2006, when I started writing Deadtown (which was originally titled Zombie Town), I had no idea that zombies would be popular when the book came out three years later. I got a bit lucky that way.

@CrystalGB: Thanks so much! I hope you'll enjoy Hellforged.

@elaine: I agree with you that, when it comes to characters, brainless = boring. :) The main focus of the Deadtown series is on Vicky Vaughn, who's not a zombie but a shapeshifting demon fighter. Her race, the Cerddorion, is based on the story of a shapeshifting contest in the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh tales. The Deadtown section of Boston is home to all kinds of paranormals. So there's quite a bit of variety in the series.

@katsrus: I'm very fortunate to have the super-talented Don Sipley as my cover artist. His art is really eye-catching. I think my favorite kind of zombies depends on what I'm in the mood to read. Horror-style zombies are perfect when I'm in the mood for a good scare. But I do like some humor with my zombies, too. Mario Acevedo writes good zombies in that vein.

@Raelena: I read Jonathan Mayberry when I'm in the mood for zombie horror, and Mario Acevedo (just mentioned above) when I want some humor in the mix. I enjoyed the Belfast setting of Wayne Simmons's Flu. I haven't yet read Joan Frances Turner's Dust, but I've heard good things about it (if you don't mind gore). Another on my TBR pile is The Reapers Are the Angels.

nancyholzner said...

@Chelsea: I always have a lot of trouble with that question! LOL I think Vicky might look a little like Keira Knightley when she has short hair. Kane looks a little like a young Richard Gere. Tina could be Dakota Fanning with lots and lots of makeup. :)

@Sherry: Thanks! I hope you'll like the books!

Roxanne Rhoads said...

So the original winner never responded so a new winner is chosen and it's... da da dahhh

Tabitha Blake said...
Oh forget to leave my email. Here it is. Tabithablake@ymail.com

December 29, 2010 12:59 PM