Zombie: A Love Story
Looking at life’s big questions through an existential lens is something that many people do during the fall in New England, but Zombie: A Love Story takes it to the next level. A fast-paced confrontation on the meaning of life and free will, the story examines what lengths lovers will go to in order to stay together. Facing complex dilemmas that touch on eugenics, overpopulation and a dying planet, author, Tina DiMeo, weaves an unrelenting tale that leads the reader to think about society, oppression, freedom and love.
On the outskirts of a desolate city, a lone man marches west towards his destination. Only hours before, things had been different, vastly different, but now the landscape has changed, and so has he. What he’s become, he has yet to determine.
Zombie, A Love Story is a horror story that encompasses all of the macabre elements found in any zombie tale. But it’s also a love story, one that tests the relationship between man-turned-zombie and the woman who will do whatever it takes to keep him, while also trying, herself, to survive.
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
The audience for this novel stretches potentially across a vast age range, from readers in their late teens to adults into their mid- to late-50s (some of whom were viewers of the first zombie tales, such as Night of the Living Dead, which set the stage for the on-screen proliferation).
It goes without saying that there should be enough fodder for the male reader, since the subject matter in the story can be seen as typically “masculine.” The story offers the audience a glimpse into the life of primarily one zombie who was affected by certain conditions that led to apocalyptic destruction, making him only a partial zombie. He still possesses human characteristics while retaining the zombie penchant for feasting on flesh. The other main character is female, and her post-apocalyptic life becomes geared towards remaining with her “zombified” man at all costs. This story, therefore, will attract female readers since, for a good portion of the book, the chapters alternate between her story and his, one in which he is slowly making his way back home amidst constant challenges.
The story also introduces a new concept: that of a “mutation” in the zombie “type.” Where the old-style zombies initially became affected, transformed, and assumed the typically lumbering gait and mindlessness that we generally equate with zombies, we come to discover that those affected or “turned” by the hybrid zombie are, with the help of human DNA, mutating into faster killing machines, able to hunt humans with greater accuracy, and possessing greater mobility and an adeptness—in a rudimentary way—at communication. Zombie is a modern-day love story with an unusual premise, and interesting twists and turns along the way.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
The title just came to me. I conceived of the idea for a zombie love story in 2005, when I was pregnant with my third child and had stumbled across the film, “28 Days Later.” I fell in love with the genre and sought out other films with zombies and post-apocalyptic themes. In doing so, I realized that no love stories existed in the genre, so I conceived of the story line, but it wasn’t until 2009, after baby no. three and after pursuing my Master’s degree, that I finally drafted the plot. I started writing it that year and finished it in 2011. I’ve been editing it ever since and finally got it into print by Halloween of this year.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
The cover art was designed by e-Book Launch, which is a fantastic online cover design and manuscript layout company. I requested that the cover art relate in some way to a lone traveler on foot, and that it incorporates imagery thematic of the subject matter.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Most definitely Sarah. In writing the story, I put myself in her place and tried to think about how I would manage in a similar situation, and whether I would take the steps she has taken. She made some good decisions and some very bad ones, and I think something can be gleaned from her vulnerabilities.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I like Penny, but I also don’t like her. I think she has the best interest of others at heart, but I also think she allows principle and doggedness to stand in the way of reason and understanding. Sometimes rules don’t always apply, sometimes there needn’t be explanations for things, and that’s where her faults lie . . . in not seeing that life isn’t always tidy.
If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
Truth be told, it’s not the story, but the amount of time in which I got it to print. While the idea and initial story line came to me roughly nine years ago, it took too long between the idea and the actual writing of it, and even longer for the editing, to get it to the point where I was comfortable with it for consumer consumption. Now the market is saturated.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
Well, without giving too much away, I was going to have Sarah turn in the end in the hope that it would have been plausible for her—considering the male character’s condition—to have her re-appear (in the event of a sequel) as a hybrid of sorts. Problem was, I’m not sure I could have made that fly in light of the condition of the others he’d turned. There was one other factor that might have helped enable that in an anomalous way, but I don’t want to divulge that, or I’ll reveal too much. In addition, I received input from my reviewer who suggested that there’d be no hope for humanity with the ending left that way. That made me realize that the ending was unclear, and it would have left the reader wondering less what happened to her, and instead regretting her death, as that’s how it would have been construed.
What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
I don’t know of any other books similar to mine, only because I haven’t been looking. When I was writing the story, I did a cursory internet and book search on zombie love stories, so as to avoid duplication, and nothing emerged at the time.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
Writing is my passion. Aside from that, I like teaching—I like the dynamic of it and I really enjoy the interaction with my students. In my spare time cooking and entertaining is my thing, as is putting my feet up for a good period film or anything in the post-apocalyptic realm. I do love reading, but there’s little time for that these days.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
Through my website – www.zombielovemania.com. I don’t require an email address for feedback, but it should be included if someone is seeking a response.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’d love to write a sequel, and have one in mind, but I can’t go through a condensed version of what I just accomplished over roughly five years unless there’s a demand for it. People are pumping out a lot of pulp these days, but I need to take the time required to try to put out something containing some level of substance.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Spread the word!
Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Unfortunately, I don’t know much other than to follow Ernest Hemingway’s supposed advice: “Write drunk; edit sober.”
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’d love feedback (constructive) on the story itself. I’d also love for the sequel—if there is one—to be inclusive of input from others . . . a collaboration of sorts. People can email me or post comments on my blog (which can be accessed through the site).
And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:
The trees thinned and came to an end. He had reached the periphery of the park. That’s when he spotted her—a woman, sitting on a bench, her back to him. She was alone, but for a dog situated a few yards up, combing the grass with its muzzle.
“It’s almost nighttime. I should probably head home.”
She was on the phone.
“No, there’s no one here,” she paused, “and it’s a little creepy.”
“I know, Mom, I know. I’m going home now.”
Her head was cocked to one side and her elbow rested on the back of the park bench to assist her in cradling the phone.
He waited, edgy as a racehorse at the starting gate.
“Well, I had to walk Max. And anyway, I just couldn’t sit in my apartment watching any more news about this tragedy, obsessing over what might have happened to Lisa and Mark . . . and the kids . . . and everyone else . . . like, half the country.”
“No. Some of my neighbors were out. One of them happens to be a scientist at MIT. He said if we hadn’t gone down by now, we were safe.”
Another long pause.
“All right. I’ll see you tomorrow. Say bye to Dad for me.”
“Fine. Then I’ll call you as soon as I get home. I’m leaving now. I love you.” She clicked her phone off.
That’s when he ran for her. She had no time to scream as he lunged for her neck, sinking his mouth into skin made deliciously luminous by the park lights.
He bit ferociously in an effort to puncture the porous membrane that insulated the underlying muscle. Finally it split, and blood oozed into his mouth, warm and deep, and he drank with fervor, relishing the tang of the sweetly metallic elixir.
Her dog began to bark, flaunting eager teeth. He bent down and picked up a rock in one hand, then pitched it at the animal, striking it square in the face. The dog yelped and dashed away.
He resumed his task, tearing at unctuous muscle and the sinewy tendons that fasten them to bone. Eager for his fill, he barely chewed.
He felt primitive . . . alive.