Today marks the second stop on the official Blog Tour for author Carrie Ryan’s newest release, The Dead-Tossed Waves – book 2 in her planned trilogy documenting a world ravaged by the zombie apocalypse. You can check out the first stop on the tour over atCynsations and her interview with Carrie yesterday.
Poignant. Memorable. Heartbreaking. These are words that describe Carrie Ryan’s work – and The Dead-Tossed Waves is no exception.
We are proud to have the incredibly talented Carrie Ryan over for a chat about her book, and to talk about her own favorite zombie books/comics/movies. Without further ado, we give you the awesome Carrie!
The Book Smugglers: Ever since delighting and terrifying mainstream audiences vis-a-vis George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, zombies have been an iconic “monster” in popular culture. Some authors and films use zombies for the obvious schlock, horror and gore…but some authors, like yourself, use the zombie story as an insightful critique of human nature. To you, what does the zombie represent? Why do you write about humans living in a zombie-plagued world?
Carrie: Wow, great question! I think the zombie can represent so many things: the inevitable and inescapable march of death, fear of the future, nihilism, uncertainty about the world. In my stories I think the zombie often represents existence for existence sake — the idea of plodding through time for no other reason than to occupy space. This is something that I think we all wonder about at some point — the idea of why am I here, what do I contribute to those around me, what will I do with my life?
As for why I write about humans in a zombie-plagued world, I think I’ve just always been fascinated by the idea of survival and the extremes people will go through to stay alive. I’ve always been fascinated by books like Hatchet or movies like Alive. The zombie apocalypse is something that the world wouldn’t recover from quickly and I really enjoy pondering the question of what you do when everything you’ve ever known so radically changes?
The Book Smugglers: There are some striking themes in THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES – the loss (and restriction) of knowledge, fear of the known and unknown, and in the midst of this oppressing fear, love and the will to survive. Instead of overwhelming bleakness (i.e. Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and other post-apocalyptic novels), there is the light of hope in your books – can you tell us why you choose this path for your stories? Are you an optimist?
Carrie: I’m glad you see the hope in my stories because to me it’s definitely there! I think that since the dawn of time people have had to struggle to survive and carve out a place in the world but even in the most daunting of circumstances, they find time for love, friendship, companionship. To me this is what life is about — it’s sort of the phrase you always hear that life isn’t about the destination but the journey. My characters could focus only on getting through the life they’ve been given or they can choose to take advantage of the calm moments.
I like to think of myself as an optimist though I think I have an uncanny knack for coming up with the worst-case scenarios (which served me well as a lawyer).
The Book Smugglers: Another resonant image in both of your books is that of fences and barriers. These enclosures keep inhabitants safe from The Unconsecrated/Mudo, but simultaneously imprison them – not only are the walls obstacles, but their fear and lack of knowledge shackles them too. Do you think these barriers are more harmful than helpful? If you were faced with the decision to stay safe behind the fences or risk the outside world, what would you choose?
Carrie: I definitely think the lack of knowledge is more harmful than helpful — I think that it’s hard to ask someone to make a decision about their life without giving them all the tools they need to make that decision, including all relevant information. At the same time, I think Sister Tabitha withheld knowledge purely out of love (you learn a lot more about her in my short story Hare Moon coming this summer in the Kiss My Deadly anthology edited by Trisha Telep).
To use another quote I had in my “quote journal” growing up: “a ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are built” (William Shedd). This is how I see Gabry in The Dead-Tossed Waves. I think it’s easy to want to stick with the status quo and avoid scary/hard to take risks. I remember the first time I had to go to court and I was terrified. My initial reaction was to say no but if I wanted to learn, I had to overcome the fear (yes, my fly was down when I stood up in front of the judge so I figured it could only get better from there).
That’s a great question, what would I choose? I think there are a lot of people who live very happy and fulfilled lives in my books — people content in Mary’s village and in Gabry’s town and so I don’t think they made bad choices for wanting to stay behind their barriers. At the same time, I know Mary would never be content to stay safe and Gabry made her decisions out of fear which constantly held her back. I’d like to think that I don’t make decisions out of fear, but that I’m also not reckless — that I appreciate what I have.
The Book Smugglers: Why did you decide to write Young Adult novels, as opposed to any other genre or category?
Carrie: When I was in high school I read about a romance author who said she sat down to write after reading a book and thinking “I can do that!” Reading those words I thought to myself “if she can do that, I can too!” And I think that because I was reading romance at the time I always assumed I’d write romance when I grew up. For a couple of years after college I did write romance and then after law school when I dedicated myself to writing again I realized that what really inspired me were young adult books. These are the books that taught me to love reading, to escape in other worlds and kept me up late speed reading to the end. The idea that I could join those ranks was just too tempting for me to give up!
I also really love that young adult books are all shelved in one mass — you can combine romance and sci fi and fantasy and horror and anything else and not worry about where you’ll get shelved in the bookstore.
The Book Smugglers: What books do you recommend for readers, ravenous for more books like yours after they have devoured THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES?
Carrie: Anyone interested in the zombie apocalypse would probably enjoy World War Z by Max Brooks. For tense dystopia I’d recommend The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. For action Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant and for romance Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Season by Sarah MacLean.
And now, for Carrie’s Favorite Zombie/Post-Apocalypse/Dystopia Books/Comics/Movies!
1. World War Z. Max Brooks is just a genius with this book — not only does he go through the zombie apocalypse step by step but he creates a huge cast of very distinct voices and stories along the way. Utterly absorbing.
2. Dawn of the Dead. I know most people hate the remake, but it will always have a place in my heart as the movie that started it all.
3. Night of the Living Dead. George Romero’s movie that really created the modern zombie (though they weren’t called zombies in the film). I actually really hated this movie the first time I saw it because I was so frustrated at the characters inability to get it together to survive. But then I heard Romero talk about the point of the movie which was society’s inability ot get their act together to solve really big issues in the world like poverty, hunger, war, etc. This made me love the movie.
4. Shawn of the Dead. This zombie flick perfectly nails the kitch humor of zombies and then the utter pathos and despaire that can come along with it. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard at a movie or been more moved.
5. The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman notes that his goal with this graphic novel series is that it has no end — there’s not set story arc but instead he just wanted to explore what happens to people constantly trying to survive after a zombie apocalypse.
6. Left 4 Dead (1 and 2). Brilliant video game with lots of zombie killing.
7. Zombie Fluxx is a fun little card game where the rules are constantly changing. And one rule is that every time you draw a zombie card you have to groan like a zombie – best rule ever!
8. 28 Days Later. Sure some zombie purists don’t count this as a zombie flick, but these fast zombies are utterly terrifying.
Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Carrie Ryan is a graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Law. A former litigator, she now writes full time. She lives with her writer/lawyer fiancé, two fat cats and one large puppy in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are not at all prepared for the zombie apocalypse.
A huge thank you to Carrie Ryan! And make sure to check out the next stop on The Dead-Tossed Waves blog tour! Tomorrow, she’s at MTVNews.com’s “Hollywood Crush”.