Lia Habel is a super new author and her debut book 'Dearly, Departed' was a spectacular read. I asked the author some questions about her first published book, her writing future and some other stuff and here are her answers!
I hope enjoy getting to know the author and her debut book. Make sure you read to the end and enter the contest. You could win yourself a copy of 'Dearly, Departed'.
Amber - Welcome to Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here as a guest! Could you start things off by telling us a little about your debut book, 'Dearly, Departed'.
Lia - It's hard to describe, because so much goes on in it! Basically, it's set a few hundred years in the future, where a tribe has arisen calling itself the New Victorians. The NVs use high technology to style themselves and their society after the First Victorian age (not precisely - they know full well that they're the NEW Victorians), leading to the creation of things like digital diaries, sleek modern electric carriages, etc. A splinter group, known as the Punks, formed and was banished from New Victoria a generation past for their anti-aristocratic, anti-digital-tech views, and they've now formed their own society in the south. Into this setting, throw some zombies - a percentage of which keep their minds after reanimating - and everything explodes!
Lia - Thanks! The ideas really came to me in one moment of inspiration. I was actually on the bus when it happened! Looking back on it now, I really think everything that makes me Me - all the horror movies I've seen, the steampunk books I've read, the games I've played, the dresses I've coveted - came roaring out on the page. The book is totally a map of my brain. Of course years of refinement followed the original draft, but the basic ideas have remained the same.
Amber - How do you pick the names for your characters? Do they have any special meanings?
Lia - Some do, some don't. Names tend to come to me on the fly, and it's not until later that I figure out what I was (subconsciously?) thinking of. The only exception is Nora - I chose her name just because I liked it. (It does derive from Honora, or 'honor,' which fits her well.) Meanwhile, Bram's name has about ten levels of meaning - originally I chose it with a sense of irony, since Bram Stoker is the father of the modern vampire, but it built up after that. For instance, there's a long tradition of good-guy zombies having names that begin with B (Bub, Bud, Big Daddy, Billy, Bobby...) so I thought a B name was apt, and it's short for 'Abraham,' and I've got a personal joke that Romero's Bub and Big Daddy are the Adam and Moses of the good-guy zombie world, respectively, so I wanted to throw an Abraham into the ring...it went on and on.
It's when you get into the secondary characters that you start getting a lot of name meanings. Baldwin Samedi is obviously named after Baron Samedi of voodoo lore. Vespertine Mink's first name alludes to her shadowy, not-quite-light-not-quite-dark nature, and Mink is an homage to The Silence of the Lambs, wherein Hannibal Lecter is described as "a cemetery mink." Pamela's named after a book called Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. Victor and Elizabeth Dearly are named after the doctor and his love in Frankenstein. And on, and on...
Amber - What came first? Dearly in the title or the surname for your character?
Lia - They came to me simultaneously! Probably the title a little before - I wasn't trying to be clever, I just thought, "Oh, that's a good idea. I'll go with that."
Lia - I started writing to amuse myself and my friends. I never thought the book would get this far! I had the idea during a period of unemployment (I had many of those), and I decided to write it for fun. It took me about 45 days to create the original draft, a little over a month to find an agent, and after that it was about two years to the release date. And I'm still in shock.
Amber - Why Paranormal, Steampunk and why Young Adult? Were these the genres you always wanted to write?
Lia - The paranormal and steampunk came from me, as I've said. I grew up loving monsters, and I adore all forms of Neo-Victorianism, so those were natural directions for my mind to wander in. The YA is the tricky part, because I would never have predicted I'd write a YA book. In fact, I tend to view the book as multi-generational, and it has a multi-generational cast - I'm not a fan of YA that does away with all of the adult characters, all of the parents and mentors and adult allies, because that's unrealistic. I did want this story to focus on young people, however - I felt like I wanted to explore those strong adolescent feelings, those feelings of passion and loyalty and mutual connection. Because this is a story that is very immediate, very centered in the present - because everyone knows how it will end. Especially for Nora and Bram. And yet, learning to look beyond the present is something Nora has to tackle.
Amber - I noticed that the Kindle cover for 'Dearly, Departed' is totally different to the paperback. Which one do you prefer? Did you have any say about what covers would be used?
Lia - I had little say in the US cover, none in the UK or German (those are the two foreign covers I've seen thus far). I got to vote for a little more hair on Nora, but that's it! Authors get very little input when it comes to visual things, I'm afraid - but they did a fantastic job. I love the UK cover, myself, because it has Bram on it! And they did such a good job with him!
Amber - Will there be more books in the series? When can we expect to see more?
Lia - There's a sequel coming out in 2012, entitled Dearly, Beloved. Hopefully there will be more - I'd like five(ish?) books to finish the series out the way I think it needs to be finished. With everything that happens in book one, the overall series has to be just as big - has to deal with heavy issues, complicated emotions. Even if I don't end up with additional publishing deals, I'll sit here at home and finish out the series and post it online!
Lia - I'm working on two non-zombie projects now, but they both also involve monsters. They're unsolicited, so they don't have a home yet. I have to write for myself - I'm horrible at writing to prompt. I don't want to share too much, but the one's definitely weird, the other maybe a little fantasy-esque? (Which is unique for me - usually fantasy is the last genre I'll read. Just never been much into it.)
Amber - I am sure that being an author has its ups and downs. What experiences have you had so far?
Lia - Huge ups and downs! The best is definitely interacting with fans. (And it's really weird to think that I have fans. I prefer to think in terms of 'people who liked the book.' That seems less egotistic.) When I hear someone saying, "I'm considering naming my kid Bram because I read the book," or "I found this photo and it's just like the scene in your book!" that's absolutely amazing to me, that people would care that much. It's very moving. The worst part by far is the people who hit on me, though. When you're in public (and I've never been in the public eye before) you can get some creepers hanging around. And I hate saying that, because it sounds like "I'm so fabulous I have stalkers!" but it's not even remotely that exciting. Just creepy. (And yet, if a hideous monster in a nice suit walked up and introduced himself, I'd be hanging all over him - I have issues.)
Amber - Alot of authors have 'soundtracks' for their books. Is there any music that influenced your books?
Lia - I have a ton! I like building huge soundtracks while I work, and then narrowing them down to 30 or so tracks afterward. I've done that for Departed, I need to do that for Beloved. I listen to everything from spirituals to metal to rap, and I change the 'main series theme' every week or so. My main series theme right now is 'This Is Not The End' by Clare Maguire, though I also love 'From My Hands' by VNV Nation. Warning: Prepare to bawl your eyes out at either one.
Amber - What books do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favourite authors/series?
Lia - Almost all of my favorite authors are dead! I love gothic novels like Dracula and Jane Eyre. I love Alan Moore to death, especially The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie was HORRID - the source material is BRILLIANT) and other comics, like Mark Waid's Ruse. But I actually read much more nonfiction than I do fiction - Thomas Lynch, Mary Roach, Richard Dawkins. Nonfiction inspires me with tidbits about science and geography and religion, anecdotes about human nature - it's my favorite thing to read.
Amber - If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be and why?
Lia - I think I'd be something that looked different, if nothing else. A faun, or a centaur, or some type of winged creature...I don't want to look human! Human is boring! Though I think I'd be a good zombie, personally. I'm betting on it if the zombie apocalypse ever happens - have you seen how whiny some survivors can get? I couldn't deal with that. I'm going to the dead side. They have more fun.
Amber - Thanks for visiting Amberkatze's Book Blog!
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