Monday, April 23, 2012

Siege Tour Stop - Review & Interview

RIGHT? How awesome is today!? I am beyond thrilled to have Rhiannon dropping for the Siege Blog Tour. First you will see my glowing review of Siege, the final book in the As The World Dies trilogy which is my favorite EV-ER. Then I've got a super awesome interview with Rhiannon to show you. If you haven't read this series yet, don't worry - everything is SPOILER FREE! So you have to read this, and then go get these books because if you don't, I may cry.

Rhiannon Frater
Series: As the World Dies: A Zombie Trilogy, #3
Release date: April 24th, 2012
by Tor Books
Goodreads / Purchase
The zombie illness has shattered civilization. The survivors who have found tenuous safety in Texas defend their fort against the walking dead and living bandits.

Katie has made peace with the death of her wife and is pregnant and married to Travis, who has been elected Mayor. Jenni, her stepson, Jason; and Juan—Travis’s righthand man—are a happy family, though Jenni suffers from PTSD. Both women are deadly zombie killers. In Siege, the people of Ashley Oaks are stunned to discover that the vice president of the United States is alive and commanding the remnants of the US military. What’s left of the US government has plans for this group of determined survivors.

Spoiler free even for those new to the series.

Wow. Just. Freaking. Wow!

I read The First Days and thought it was an all around great zombie novel with strong characters. A few weeks later I read Fighting to Survive. Only a few pages in did I realize that by that point, I was completely invested in these characters. They got into my heart, they made me laugh and cry, they made me love them uncontrollably, and I always will! Not just Katie and Jenni, every single one. Even crazy Calhoun (he's freaking awesome!). By the time I read Siege, this had become of my favorite series, I didn't want it to end, and I envy those who get to experience it all for the first time.

Siege, the final book in the As The World Dies trilogy, is undoubtedly the most emotional of the three, as well as the most life changing. Katie and Jenni are as bad-ass as ever, and as in Fighting to Survive, zombies are only the start of their problems. Even through all the death, through all the despair, it's surprising how much happiness you can feel in every little corner. It's wonderful to see how strong humans can be, how selfless, how much we are willing to do to assure we kick this zombocalypse's ass! Realism is one of the strongest trait of this series. Everything that happens, every single thing - including the undead, is incredibly realistic. So yes, I talk about it as if it was real, because if the dead started walking today, THIS is what we would be facing; this is how humans would react.

The suspense, the anticipation, the terror - I can't get over how remarkably well written it all is. Action scenes so intense, flashing from one character to another, making us experience the terror through glimpses of every one's horrifying situation. I could see it so clearly in my head it might as well have been happening to me. Heck, it definitely felt like it was. The emotions are all so deeply vivid. This is it, this is the finale, people die - a LOT of people die, not only is it the first book to ever make me cry, she has me relive these deaths every time loved ones learn about them; every time a character reminisces, it's like a stick to the heart.

Really, do yourself a favor, and read these! Don't shy away because it's a zombie book. Sure there are zombies, and I won't be the one to tell you it's not terrifying, but this story is not about the terror and gore, it's about survival, it's about humans joining together and starting over, it's about rebuilding a society that has been torn apart by infinite horror. You will be frightened, you will be touched, you will experience love and loss, and I can assure you- it WILL stick with you!

5 Hot Espressos (x1,000,000)

As The World Dies: A Zombie Trilogy:

Want to read my thoughts on the previous books?

Interview with Rhiannon Frater

Q. Siege is officially releasing tomorrow (!!), honestly, how does it feel?

It’s a huge relief. I have spent over six years in the world of Jenni and Katie and to finally be at the end of their journey is an amazing feeling.  It’s liberating, too. I can finally move on to all the other stories I have rattling around in my brain.

But it’s also bittersweet because I will miss them enormously.  They’re two of my favorite all-time characters.

Q. How is the Tor version different from the self-published edition of Siege (or the whole series for that matter)?

One of the things the older fans of the series assume is that the Tor versions are either unchanged, or that I was forced by Tor to make changes against my will.  I have had a few fans say, “Oh, I won’t read them. I have your real vision.” I quickly respond that the Tor versions are my real vision and the ultimate versions of the story. I wish everyone would read the Tor editions since I now regard the self-published ones as a rough draft.

Because of the online inception of the AS THE WORLD DIES story, I had a lot of scenes that were actually “filler” for days when I didn’t feel like posting. I also started to buckle a lot to fan demand on some things (the Senator, the ending of SIEGE) and I later regretted it. But I had already self-published the books by that point and felt I would be somehow betraying the original online fans if I changed anything.

When Tor bought the series, I was relieved. David Dunwoody said something to me about his novel, EMPIRE, that had the same roots as AS THE WORLD DIES as an online serial.  I had mentioned to him that I liked it, but it didn’t have the panache of his later works.

“Well,” he said with a grin “I was writing for fun. It wasn’t my real writing.”

That was an a-ha moment for me. The online serial and, therefore, the original self-published versions of the book, weren’t my real writing either. I had written AS THE WORLD DIES for fun on a whim.  Therefore, when I signed the deal with Tor, I was excited about making the trilogy be the best they could be.

The new versions have lots of new scenes, a streamlined, yet expanded storyline, greater characterization, and are just so much better now. 

SIEGE did have the most changes out of all three. I sliced out a lot of extraneous stuff (the filler days), and restored my vision of the ending.  Some of the scenes I removed because they didn’t add to the overall story arc will appear in UNTOLD TALES VOLUME THREE.

Q. You have worked a long time on this series, what is your absolute favorite/most memorable moment in regards to writing or publishing it?

This is very hard to answer. This series has given me a ton of “firsts.” First fan email, first convention, first panel appearance, first book signing, etc. 

I think my biggest moment was when THE FIRST DAYS received a Starred review from Publishers Weekly. It was like winning an Oscar. I felt like it validated my writing career and the series.

Q. As the World Dies is filled with incredibly realistic characters, who was the most difficult to write and why?

Otis Calhoun!  Oh, my!  Writing a schizophrenic was not easy at all.  He was an enormous challenge.  My editor was constantly afraid he was ending up a cliché, and I understood her fears. She wanted to excise some of his scenes, worried that he was just comic relief, but I just couldn’t do it.  He’s a fan favorite. People love him.

I did read up on schizophrenia and watched some films that portrayed the way people with the illness see the world.  It was a challenge to make him endearing while he was being really, truly annoying at the same time.

The only scene I wrote from his perspective gave me a splitting headache. It was really rough to get into his mindset. I do feel bad for Calhoun because at one point in his life he was obviously brilliant (and still is), but his handicapped by not being treated for his illness.

Q. Along with the undead, ghosts are a part of the series from the start but they become a lot more present in Siege, why did you decide to add them into the story?

A famous line from Dawn of the Dead is “When hell is full, the dead will walk the earth.”  I really liked that idea and it inspired the ghosts. I do write horror novels, so the supernatural element of ghosts didn’t feel like a far stretch to me. C’mon, we’re taking about cannibalistic dead people! Yet, I knew some people wouldn’t like the idea.  For some reason a few fans of the zombie genre really like to keep their zombies rooted in the reality of our world.

But, since the AS THE WORLD DIES universe is not our world, I wanted to go beyond just the ramifications of a mass extinction event not only in the physical realm, but the spiritual realm as well. I’ve had my own odd experiences of the ghostly kind, so I wondered what would happen when so many people died horrible, tragic, violent deaths.  Since the idea behind ghosts is that they are trapped by their unexpected demise, I began to ponder a world not just full of zombies, but ghosts. And would some of those ghosts try to make a difference in the world of the living?

As you said, the ghosts are there from the first book. I deliberately made the reader wonder if people (like Katie) were just imagining them. But by the end of FIGHTING TO SURVIVE, it becomes more apparent that there are ghosts about. 

In SIEGE, with the rival of Rune, a biker and a medium, it is confirmed that not just zombies roam the earth, but ghosts. He can see the trapped spirits and that becomes vitally important to the fort.

Furthermore, I’m intrigued by the mythology that surrounds the beginnings of civilization, and since the fort represents a new Eden, a new beginning, I liked the idea of seeing their mythology coming into being. And what if the supernatural element of the mythology isn’t fanciful, but real?

At one point I did consider removing the ghosts due to pressure from the fans of the original online serial, but like I said, I am a horror writer and I felt ghosts and zombies actually go well together.

Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege,) and the author of three other books: the vampire novels Pretty When She Dies and The Tale of the Vampire Bride and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. Inspired to independently produce her work from the urging of her fans, she published The First Days in late 2008 and quickly gathered a cult following. She won the Dead Letter Award back-to-back for both The First Days and Fighting to Survive, the former of which the Harrisburg Book Examiner called ‘one of the best zombie books of the decade.’ Rhiannon is currently represented by Hannah Gordon of the Foundry + Literary Media agency.

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