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Claire Riley Talks About Her Zombie Novel ‘Odium’

Stephanie Lunsford, Promotional Representative of Monique Happy Editorial Services, interviews Claire Riley, author of Odium.

Stephanie Lunsford: Welcome, Claire! Tell us a little bit about your book.

Claire Riley: Odium is set a couple of years into the post-apocalyptic world. Survivors have built a safe haven—a walled city to protect themselves from the living dead. But all is not as it seems. The new government behind the walls are ruled by tyrants, intent on reigning with an iron fist. Survivors have to starve, steal, beg and trade for their very survival. Nina, our main character, has had enough and takes a stand against them, heading off into the overgrown world beyond the walls with a young girl named Emily-Rose. The world is not how she imaged. A beautiful dystopian landscape resides where she thought it would only be death and destruction.

With only her quick wit and snarky attitude it doesn’t look like they will get far together, however they chance upon another group of survivors, living a life above the ground and away from the dangers of the deaders. However, the deaders aren’t only thing left to fear in this new world. And fear will not be ignored, or forgotten.

SL:  From reading your books I found that some might be able to use it in the event of an apocalypse.

CR:  Well, a lot of my answers came from survival questionnaires I gave out to my readers. I promised to write them into the book in some way. Some were very small parts, simply a name tag, while others were huge leading characters. Some of the answers were hilarious and bound to get you killed within minutes, others were so damn clever! So I got ‘real’ answers from ‘real’ people. I think that gives Odium and Odium Origins an edge that some books don’t have.

SL:  How did you come up with the title?

CR:  I like to have titles that mean something. My first novel is Limerence, which is a huge attraction to another person combined with an obsessive need for them the feel the same, and then there’s Odium, which is an intense hatred or dislike of something. I figured it was a good fit for how people would feel about zombies.

SL:  How long do you take when writing your books? When you started your first book was it a planned series or did it just grow as you wrote it?

CR:  It generally doesn’t take me long when writing, although it feels like forever. I write out a loose plot months in advance and then before I sit down to write the book I go through and flesh the plot out more, fill in characters names and whatnot. As you know a lot of my characters are based on ‘real’ fans of the series, so I have to add in new characters or put some meat on the bones of the ones that are already there. I always knew it would be a series when I was writing but I honestly don’t know how long the series will be. I like the world that I’ve built, and the characters are constantly changing, so in theory readers shouldn’t tire of the books.

SL:  Who designed the covers?

CR:  I design all my own covers. It’s a job I love and hate equally. Lucky for me I have some close writer friends who I can go to with a finished cover and they tell me honestly if things are not working.

SL:  How important is a good editor to you?

CR:  An editor is very important. As I said on TW Brown’s blog recently, as a writer you should edit, edit and edit some more. Then send it to your editor and when you get it back from them edit it some more. I’ll be honest though, you’ll always find something wrong. Typos are my evil nemesis! I can spot then so easily in other peoples work, but in my own I miss them all the time. I guess the eye sees what it wants. I’m lucky that I have a really cool editor (Amy Jackson Editing on Facebook) and we get along extremely well. Her notes make me laugh, and vice versa. She edits grammatically, helps me with content and tells me if my sarcasm is funny or not and she Americanizes my work for me, because in my head Odium and Odium Origins were always set in America.

SL:  What are your current projects? Can you share a little of it with us?

CR:  I’m currently working on the sequel to Odium, and the sequel to my other novel Limerence. I also have several short zombie stories underway which will be in anthologies by the end of 2014 and I’m super excited by them. One of them in particular is a charity anthology, so all proceeds will be going to The V Foundation.

I would hope by the end of 2014 to have out the Limerence sequel, the Odium sequel and another Odium Origins novella—at the very least. Like I said previously, I can write fast when the inspiration is there, and my fans are inspiration for me. When they ask me for something, I work my hardest to produce it for them. For instance, I never intended to write the novella that came out, but my fans asked for more background on some of the characters so I wrote it for them. I’ve added a small excerpt for you to share of Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella. Part One.

SL:  I know it’s important to every author to get reviews for your books, do you read your reviews?

CR:  Yes, I read them all. Sometimes it’s not a good thing, but I like to know what people take away from the stories. Good or bad. I respect and appreciate every opinion. The hardest thing about reading reviews for me anyway, is when a reader has missed something in the story, or thinks that I haven’t researched and got something wrong. I research everything, and I welcome anyone to ask me about things at any time. With reviews you can’t comment or even kindly let the reader know that you DID research or that they missed something within the story (it’s easily done, and I do it myself) If an author comments on anything it can be read as aggressive and then you get labelled as an author behaving badly, when really you were just trying to help the reader enjoy the story to its fullest. I can understand why it looks like that sometimes though, some authors can be pretty terrible about criticism. But most of are good about it. I don’t expect everyone to ‘get’ every part of my stories – as much as I’d like it – people are all different, and readers will connect with different characters in different ways. That for me is why I like reading reviews, to see what part readers connected with.

SL:  Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you overcome it?

CR:  Every writer gets writers block from time to time, the best way I find to overcome it is to move on to a new scene. I normally move on to a really high adrenaline scene to get my blood pumping and my fingers typing. Then when I go back to the previous scene I find I’m less stuck on the details and ready to move forward with it.

SL:  What books have most influenced your life most?

CR:  I base my writing on the styles of Bram Stoker and George Romero, mixed in with my own snarky style. So I guess Dracula and Night of the Living Dead were HUGE influences for me. I’ve tried to take vampires and zombies back to their roots. I don’t want a new edge, I want the old edge back, when vampires were scary and zombies were slow—and I had a chance surviving against them! That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the new styles, I just prefer the old ones.

SL:  Do you see writing as a career?

CR:  Eventually yes, that’s the goal. At the moment I’m a mother to three young children, a wife, I work and I run a home, so the bulk of my writing is done when the little one naps and well into the early hours. It’s tiring to say the least. I wouldn’t change a thing right now, but I’m hoping that in the future I can write full time and then I can go to bed at a normal time instead of staying up until 3am typing!

SL:  If you had to choose, which writer would you consider an inspired influence?

CR:  I love Jesse Petersen’s style. She’s one of my absolute favorites! Her humor, style, characterization, it just hits the spot for me. I also love Mark Tufo his stories rock my world. It’s the same as stated, the humor, the characterization, and the fact that he isn’t afraid of his characters. None of them are safe and I love it, and it’s something that I try to incorporate into my own writing. It keeps both myself and the readers on the edge of their seat.

SL:  When writing about zombies how did you decide to describe your zombies, how the virus was released, how the characters would work together?

CR:  I don’t talk about the ‘how.’ Of course the characters have theories and ideas but I like the mystery behind it all. It was always one of my favorite things about Night of the Living Dead. It was so new and scary because you didn’t know who was safe or how it started. Of course when you find out the reason it went a little flat for me, and that’s how I feel about most zombie books that go into ‘how’ it started. I sort of feel like, ‘does it really matter?’ It’s started, let’s not get bogged down with the facts and get to surviving this hellhole already! My books are very character based, throwing unusual people together in unusual circumstances and seeing how they get along whilst surviving a world of the living dead. I try to write as realistically as possible. Deaders are dead, they’re rotting and revolting, bloated and falling apart, but they also feel no fear and no pain.

SL:  Give us three ‘good to know’ facts about you. Be creative. Tell us what else your readers would like to know?

CR:  Well, I’ve no idea what my readers would want to know about me! I’m a Gemini and a redhead, I collect mugs, love cake, hate sprouts, and am a huge fan of the Die Hard and Rocky movies! I love 80’s classic movies, and most genres of music. I love karaoke, but I can’t promise that I do it well, and I drink bitter and swear like a sailor! I guess that’s more than three… Finally I just want to say a big thank you to everyone for reading my books and for contacting me, sharing pictures, comments and leaves me reviews. As an author it makes you feel so good knowing that all those hours you sat and typed, ended up with backache, and sore wrists and headaches from staring at the screen was worth it.

SL:  Claire, thanks so much for talking with us today!

You can find Claire Riley on TwitterFacebookPinterestGoodreadsAmazon, and, of course, Claire’s website!

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