Book Nerd Interview
Lia Habel was born in Western NY – as far as it’s physically possible to get from New York City and still be in the same state, and official spooky abandoned farmhouse territory. As an only child of good geek stock, young Lia was lovingly reared on horror movies, video games, and Victorian novels. She developed an affection for horror movie monsters early on, often challenging her weary mother with lists of reasons why Jason Voorhees might yet be saved or excuses for Darkman’s cackling insanity. As she grew older and her natural sympathy extended to ever more serial killers, swamp monsters, sentient fanged beasts, and reanimated gents, her mother began to worry what her daughter might one day bring home.
Despite this promising start, Lia went on to live an unremarkable life. Although she entertained vague thoughts of one day writing (comic books, specifically), it was only her love of literature that compelled her to pursue her B.A. in English Lit from SUNY Buffalo. Afterwards, ever the generalist and lover of Old Things, Lia moved to the UK to attend the University of Leicester and get her M.A. in Museum Studies. Several scattered internships and jobs followed, but Lia was never able to obtain long-term, serious work in her chosen field. She wrote the first draft of Dearly, Departed while unemployed, because it seemed like more fun than filling out job applications. Ultimately, she ended up procrastinating herself into a wonderful career.
Miss Habel currently lives with three former alley cats and far too many Victorian ball gowns. She enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (her goal is to watch every zombie movie ever made), and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books.
Quite honestly, I didn't read a lot of YA lit growing up, and I don't read as much as I should now. I think I grew up juuuuust before the YA explosion (Harry Potter just started getting big in the states when I was in high school), so while I remember classics like Judy Blume's books, I don't think I was exposed to much else. I grew up reading the classics of children's/middle grade literature, things like A Little Princess and The Giver, and then graduated at an early age to reading books aimed mainly at adults. (Solidarity, young people out there doing the same thing.) Ultimately I chose to write a YA novel simply because the story I wanted to tell was mainly about young people; the characters dictated the genre.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I'm actually really shy. I think people look at my Victorian outfits and my online persona and imagine that I'm very extroverted and gregarious, but I'm not. I prefer to be alone with a good book, and I tend to get very socially anxious at events. I'm good at covering it up, though!
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I think I wrote my first "book" (NaNoWriMo project) in college. So I was nineteen or twenty, probably. It was awful gothic tripe (though I did steal something from it for Dearly--the name Nora! I've just always liked that name).
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
History taught me that humanity has always been humanity. There is no such thing as a golden age, no time during which things were "better." People have always been simultaneously hateful and loving, cruel and merciful, spiritual and atheistic, striving and lazy. There is nothing new under the sun, no real frontier--just different settings for the endless play of humanity. Society has been "declining" since the dawn of time. Some might find this depressing, but I find it marvelous to know that I'm part of a huge, ongoing opera of human experience. It helps me frame my faults and put them into perspective.
Did you learn anything from writing Dearly, Beloved and what was it?
I think most of the learning happened on the back end--Beloved really put me through my paces as a writer. At one point it brought me really low; I was sobbing on the phone to my agent, telling him how much I hated the entire thing, how I wished I had time to scrap it and start over fresh. Luckily, my agent took this really well and used it as a teaching moment--he basically told me that every single writer feels that way at some point, because we're so close to the source material and have to deal with it day in and day out. We begin to doubt our own abilities and perception. I'm a very introverted, self-reliant person, but Beloved taught me that I need to listen when other people are telling me something is good or works--that they're not lying. That I can depend on them.
What do you feel is the most significant change since Dearly, Departed?
Probably the depth of the material we're dealing with. Writing a sequel is a totally different animal, I've learned--in the first book in a series, you get to treat topics lightly, you're introducing everything, the setting and the characters are shiny and new. In subsequent books, you need to dig deeper--your hero needs to develop flaws, your romance needs to develop cracks or grow stronger, you have to expose more subtleties of action and core belief. It's very challenging, but ultimately very rewarding. For example, book one sets up this world where zombies and the living are going to attempt to get along, at least in theory--book two deals with how that might actually go down.
Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing Gone With the Respiration Series?
Renfield is my secret favorite character. I think I need to retell the entire tale from his perspective, at some point. While I like Bram, personally? Ilove nerds. So I'm totally crushing on the skinny zombie in the corner! I'm looking forward to exposing more of his past as the series progresses; for instance, we haven't even gotten to his reanimation story yet, and it's a doozy.
For those who are unfamiliar with Nora, how would you introduce her?
"Oh, her? That's Nora Dearly. She's a mouthy little thing with aspirations above her station...well, no, not in that fashion. That'd be too ladylike. No, she likes to imagine herself some sort of commando and run about with heavy weaponry, throwing herself into the most absurd situations. It's the most scandalous thing I ever saw. And she's being courted by a corpse. Can you imagine? No, she'll never be part of the good set. But the sad thing is, I don't think she even cares."
What part of Bram did you enjoy writing the most?
I much prefer to write Bram during his quiet, tender moments, as opposed to all the action hero stuff. (Although I love action hero stuff!) But the quieter moments allow me to expose his past, his character, his underlying moral system--and I find all of those far more interesting.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think Samedi and the Phantom of the Opera would have a ton to talk about. Topics might include "Engineering Booby Traps on a Budget" and "Dude, I Am Rotting and I Have a Love Interest, Stop Wallowing Down Here in the Basement and Take That Singer Out to Dinner." Then again, I have a sick sense of humor!
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Oh gosh, I don't think I could pick one. Especially because when it comes to writers, I tend to like very specific qualities about them--for instance, the way James Lileks can take a photograph and spin an entire scenario out of it, describing it so vividly that you can smell the air there, or the way Rudyard Kipling strings words together until they sound like a bar of music. Maybe Gaston Leroux, at the end of the day--his pulp detective work was so amazing, and so weird for its time. I like weird!
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
To write what you love, and write what you want to see out there. Seriously--it's the only thing that's gotten me this far. If I'd tried to write a book to take advantage of a trend, or to try and capitalize on a fad, I'd be nowhere--my boredom would've been evident in every word choice. Instead I wrote a story I liked, a story I felt the world was lacking, with no hope of return...I just combined everything I loved, went into it with a sense of abandon, and stand before you now as a published author. So really, take your passions and run with them. Don't try to be someone you're not.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
"How are you?"
What is your happiest childhood memory?
I spent part of my childhood in Michigan, and I really miss the long walks I used to take, completely alone, in the woods. I loved tramping along through the waist-deep snow, scaring deer and flocks of turkeys, and exploring. I remember one time coming out of a clump of trees, in the twilight, and realizing that if I'd taken one more step, I'd have gone tumbling down an enormous hill into the valley below; it was a thrilling feeling.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I served an internship at a toy museum once, which was just as awesome as it sounds. Only job where I've been able to get away with playing DDR all day! (Did I mention there was a whole exhibit on video games? Again. Awesome.)
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
Probably my mom--because if nothing else, she'll make me laugh.
When was the last time you cried?
Earlier today. I'm clumsy, and I stubbed my toe really badly while working out!
Where can readers stalk you?
I'm at @liahabel on Twitter, but more often found on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lia-Habel/163950880328231?ref=hl) along with a cast of two--my mom and my boyfriend. We have lots of irreverent adventures together.
That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.
Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.
Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.
As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.
Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.
Nora is the type of heroine that sets herself apart from the usual. She is obviously strong and never plays the role of the damsel in distress. Instead of the male lead coming up with all the plans, she is the brains behind them. Bram is the type of character that has the heart of a true hero. Knowing that his days are limited, he lives every day like it is his last. The character development displayed in this second book is absolutely amazing.
With so many facets of this amazing story happening, it can be easy to get lost. However, the writing style of author Habel is able to lead readers to an enjoyable reading experience. It converts a complex story into a highly interesting adventure. The multiple points of view are a clever way for readers to fully grasp the different perspectives of the characters. Although the ending comes to a satisfying halt, there is a slight cliffhanger feel that will keep readers clinging on for the next installment.