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    YA fiction reader, freelance editor, home-baker, moustache admirer and very small person.

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Q&A with Darren Shan, author of Zom-B Mission

I’m very excited to present to you my Q&A with Darren Shan, author of  Zom-B Mission (and about a million other books!) as part of the Zom-B Mission blog tour. So without further ado…

As a massive fan of horror writing and all things zombie in particular, I’m pretty thrilled to welcome you to The Library for Delinquents today – thanks for stopping by. And as anyone who read my review of your latest book Zom-B Mission will have noticed, I really enjoyed it! So I’m going to get straight to quizzing you about the book…

Like the rest of the books in the series, Zom-B Mission is a real page-turner and a pretty action-packed read. How do you get yourself in the mood for writing an action scene?

I don’t really get in the mood for specific scenes. All writing is pretty much the same to me — there’s no real difference writing a funny scene or horrific scene or romantic scene. I have a different connection to my work than my readers. I like to compare it to a puppet show. Readers are seeing all the colourful, lifelike gyrations from their seats out front, whereas I’m overhead pulling strings, so all I see is a world of strings. I never really get to enjoy my work the same way a reader hopefully will — I have to read other people’s books to do that.

What’s the key to writing a believable fight or battle scene?

You have to keep it realistic, or at least in keeping with the rules of the world you have created. Some of my zombies are faster and more powerful than humans, so I can take the fight scenes further than I normally would, but even then I’m always conscious of not beggaring belief. Injuries have to hurt. Healing time must be taken into account. Fear must be considered — my protagonists rarely want to fight, but are often forced to, and I make sure their reluctance and regrets are given air-time.

I’ve loved the heroine B throughout this series – she’s a tough cookie and full of internal conflict! I was pleasantly surprised to find the central character was a girl. What was your inspiration for B and how did you get into the mind-set of writing from a girl’s perspective?

I knew from the very beginning that B was going to be a girl, though I wasn’t entirely sure why — I didn’t figure that out until later in the series, when it becomes apparent why this could never have been a random choice. It wasn’t that difficult getting into B’s mindset, because she was a tomboy of sorts, and behaved in much the same way as most boys do. I think the twist near the end of the first book, when readers abruptly find out that B is a girl (having been led to believe that she’s a boy) is one of my best ever twists — virtually nobody saw it coming!

There are some pretty dark forces at play in the book, and none more disturbing than racism. In fact, I think I find the idea of the KKK rearing its ugly head again even more terrifying than the hordes of undead. What led you to combine this theme with zombies?

I’m glad you picked up on that, because it’s a key theme of the series, that true monsters who dwell among us — e.g. racists and political dictators and media manipulators — are fare more dangerous and monstrous than any fictional breed of nightmarish creature. The books actually began with me wanting to write about racism, to address it, and lend my voice to the fight against those who are trying to push racist views post 9/11 and the London bombings. I think a lot of people are afraid right now, and certain forces are trying to prey on those fears, painting a picture of “us” against “them”. For me that always ends in one way if left to progress unchecked — hatred, fascism, violence, the loss of the values that make us decent human beings. In my opinion groups like the BNP and UKIP are cut from the same cloth as the Nazis, and Zom-B is a rallying call, a warning of what can happen if we place our faith in fearmongers and hate-stirrers.

Besties Vinyl and B overcame their racial differences to be friends in the series. Do you think friendship can ever bridge the human/revitalised divide?

Yes, and it’s something I look at in book 8, Zom-B Clans. I think bridges can always be built between people (undead or otherwise!) who wish to build them, who are willing to accept others regardless of their differences.

Zombies have been around in books for a long time, but I never seem to get bored of them – and writers never seem to tire of writing about them. Why do you think the zombie genre keeps on being revived (excuse the pun!)?

They can be a good way for us to reflect on the problems that we face in our everyday lives. If a writer uses them to address social issues, rather than just focus on the goriness that is inherent in the genre, then very interesting stories can be milked from them.

If you were a character from a zombie movie or book, who would you be?

Well, she goes through hell over the course of the series, but I have huge admiration and respect for B Smith in my Zom-B books, so I’d have to say her.

Do you see yourself in any of your Zom-B characters?

There are always elements of me in all my main characters, the bad guys as well as the good, but they never serve as direct representations of myself. I use my books to reflect on my life and mind, to pose questions of myself, to try to define myself as a human being.

Manuals have been published on the subject, and just about every horror buff would have an answer for this one, but I’d like to know, what are your top tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Meh! That’s not something that grabs my interest that much, to be honest. I prefer to tackle more troubling and probing questions such as “Would you want to survive a zombie apocalypse?” or “What sort of a world could we build out of the rubble of the old?”

You’ve tackled vampires, demons and zombies in your writing – what next?

Well, I’m not working my way through the list of established monsters, though I can understand why it can sometimes seem that way! I wrote a fantasy book a few years ago called The Thin Executioner, which moved away from established stereotypes, into a world of my own creation, and I hope to do this again in my next book after Zom-B, though I can’t say much more about it right now. It might well be that I never write a book about an old standard monster again — then again, I might return to them sooner than I anticipate. I never make any long-terms plans for my books — I just go with whatever I think will best serve the needs of the stories that I want to tell. With Zom-B, I wanted to write about racism, and zombies seemed like the best way to do that, so I used them, but the monster element came second. With a good story, I think it always should.

Well, thank you to Darren for a really interesting and thought-provoking chat today. If you want to hear more from the man himself, Darren Shan is appearing at Cambridge Literary Festival on Saturday 5th April at 4pm. The Festival runs 1st-6th April, for the full programme visit www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com. Tickets: www.adcticketing.com, 01223 300085, or in person at ADC Theatre, Park Street, Cambridge CB5 8AS

And don’t miss the rest of the stops on the blog tour!



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