Not Another Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Dystopia Novel!

I’ve always had an idea in my head for a film about the rage outbreak, as depicted in 28 Days Later. I’ve imagined the opening scenes, time and time again. This idea has been germinating for years.

Like Tina in Bob’s Burgers, I have a complicated relationship with zombies. My favourite zombie film is Dawn of the Dead; The Walking Dead Tina Belcherand Fear The Walking Dead have been part of my life for years (although, I do think TWD has really had its day) as well as another great TV show, Black Summer (visceral and brutal). That’s not to say I like all zombie films and shows, for every good one, there are probably at least ten that are utterly dreadful (Zombie Nation, take a bow.)

Recently, I read an interesting trilogy of books called Plague Land, Plague Nation and Plague World which isn’t really a tale of zombies but a strange infection that physically assimilates humans into its invading mass. How the infection starts, spreads, and how the dwindling humans desperately try to escape made for a curious read. I’ve simplified the story as there is so much more to it, but I’m not a reviewer.

 

There’s also the usual dystopia novels I’ve read over the years. The most devastating being The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a bleak, heart rending story of one man and his son trekking across a devastated US to reach the coast where the father believes they can find safety. The book, like it’s film adaptation, packs an emotional punch to the gut, but is so subtle, the tears did not flow until I’d finished the last page. I’m not sure I want to write something that emotionally wrenching.

The next paragraph contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2.

As a gamer, I’ve really enjoyed The Last of Us parts 1&2. Like all good RPG’s, the stories are wholly immersive, gripping, and invoke all sorts of reactions. Part 2 in particular, with its character swap part way through in which the player HAS to play the antagonist plays with your feelings as their personal story unfolds. I may have been #teamellie all the way, but for the hours I played as Abby provided an alternative perspective to the story. Her tale of vengeance becomes clear, you understand why Ellie and Joel are the bad guys in HER world. Whilst I may not have rooted for her entirely, I was able to empathise, and this puts a big question mark over the morality at play.

They say to write what you know. 

As a fantasy writer, I have been well prepared for writing Horizon Skies (my current nemesis) and Sanctuary of Stone (stalled WIP) as most of my library is fantasy fiction. From a young age, when I first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, fantasy novels have fuelled my imagination more than any other genre. 

I do read other genres though; I have horror (James Herbert) dystopia, science fiction and a few contemporary novels. I’ve read classics (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens), and I love Kathy Lette. It’s important not to restrict one’s reading material, particularly when the goal is to be a writer. I’ve currently got it into my head that I want to read Dante’s Inferno.

All of this, the TV shows, the movies, and the books; all have given me the tools to write this new story. Ok, it’s not an original idea, I’m well aware of that. But, maybe I can add my voice, my take on it, and write something that will appeal. I’d love to join the ranks of female authors who have written successful novels in this genre. 

In less than a month, I’ve written eight chapters, the story continually plays out in my head. I know where it’s going, how it’s going end, who survives, who doesn’t, and a lot of awful stuff in-between. Aside from writing a good story, this is also an opportunity to explore my darker side, a place in my imagination not populated by myth and magic, but with fear and anxiety.

What Is Happiness?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness”: “The state of being happy.”

Seems a bit of a lame definition. Let’s try happy instead:  “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Much better.

However, it’s possible for someone to express happiness when they feel anything but. Someone suffering crippling depression or anxiety can still laugh at a joke or sitcom whilst on the inside, they are crumbling.

I seem to exist in a perpetuate state of melancholy. No matter how much I can laugh at things, the deep rooted sadness within me is always there, ready to pop up and remind me that what I’m feeling isn’t true happiness. I’m simply able to express amusement at certain times.

I am definitely not happy though.

Sometimes, I feel geared up ready to go, and I spend productive time on my writing. Whether it’s editing and revising Horizon Skies or trying to get past the block with Sanctuary of Stone or exploring new ideas, those are the times I feel a modicum of something approaching joy. I’ve always retreated into a fantasy world to escape reality. It’s a defence mechanism, something I’ve been rather adept at since I was a child. My books have always been my sanctuary, through the stories told, I am transported to other worlds, other realities. If I didn’t have such a love for reading, I don’t know what sort of state my mental health would be in now.

I feel the weight of the world, heavy on my shoulders. Veganism has done so much for me, but I have to close myself off to the realities of WHY I became vegan in the first place. This doesn’t mean I stop fighting for animals, I never will. I just don’t need to be exposed to farm footage, lab footage or any kind of media depicting the abuse, torture and murder of any animal. ALL animals are innocent, and undeserving of cruelty. You may love your cat or dog, but how are they different to a cow or a pig?

I’ve had a great idea for a story, which I am now working on. I’m up to eight chapters already, and I’ve only been working on it for the past few weeks. This is unprecedented where I’m concerned! The genre has been done to death (post-apocalyptic, zombie invasion), but I’m hoping I’ll be able to lend a new voice to it. There’s no point having an idea in your head and not doing anything with it. 

Maybe this whole happiness concept is what holds me back sometimes. Maybe I don’t feel capable of finishing my work because I’m scared of the response I’ll get. When I first sent out to agents, I submitted without the weight of expectation, I knew it was highly unlikely I’d get picked up straight away, but I didn’t let it put me off. I received some lovely feedback which was definitely more than I could have hoped for. I’ve kept those e-mails as they’ll be the agents I approach on the second round.

Maybe I’m not deserving of happiness? Maybe I came into this existence to experience  the desire for it instead?

I don’t know. What I do know is that when I am melancholy, I know who I am. It’s like my natural state, and quite possibly, true happiness would be a strange experience.