Wednesday, December 12, 2012
BIR2012: Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel
You recently posted on Facebook that you found a list you wrote before Dearly, Departed was ever written and "Sexify Zombies" was the first item on the list. I think you can safely check that one off. I have to admit that zombies freak me right out. I can't even look at the covers of the Walking Dead comics in the local comic shop without shivering. But Bram is just amazing. He's such a sweet and lovable character. What inspired his character? Is he based on a real person or is he based on your ideal man? (He is pretty Ideal!)
Aww, thank you! See, I don't tend to view Bram as ideal--I know that authors have to fall in love with their characters a little, but I also have to *be* Bram when I'm writing as him, so I guess from where I'm sitting I get to see both the good and the bad. Nobody's perfect.
Nevertheless, when I set out to write Departed I knew I wanted my hero to represent a different kind of male character. Specifically, I think that YA fiction tends to skew heavily in the "bad boy" direction. We see a lot of heroes and love interests who are very dark, very broody, very troubled--and that's fine. I mean, that kind of character can be incredibly hot, and I'd be a hypocrite of the first order if I judged anyone for liking them. When I was a teen I was all about Edward Rochester and the Phantom of the Opera; angst is alluring. But now, looking back on that time from an adult perspective, I'm also able to see how unhealthy those types of characters can be.
With Bram, I wanted to create a guy who had a *lot* going wrong in his life--but who was able to deal with it and keep his head. I mean, the guy's dead, he's in the middle of a war, he's lost his family, his home...but he's still smiling. He's still enjoying life. He's loyal to his friends and true to himself. He wants to leave the world a better place than he found it, because he *accepts* that he must leave it. He's incredibly strong, and also vulnerable in an honest, "take me as I am" sort of way. I think it's that strength and the quality of his character that combine to make him so attractive both to Nora and to readers. I think Bram comes from the part of my brain that refuses to give up, no matter how hard things get.
I also thoroughly enjoy Renfield... he's just so quiet, intelligent and unassuming. I find myself wanting to keep him as far as possible from a certain "lady" in Dearly, Beloved. What inspired his character and will we be seeing more of him?
Ren is my token nerd! I had to have one, because I love nerdy, geeky guys--they're just so cute. I wanted a genius-of-all-trades to cover my backside as far as plot holes were concerned, too ("Oh, I know all about hydroponic gardening!"), so it worked out really well. However, like you noted, I didn't want him to be too stereotypical. Renfield is also a consummate gentleman, tends not to judge those around him too harshly (as snarky as he is), and is really, at the end of the day, one of the more socially adept characters in the series. (I like writing *kind* guys. I know, I'm weird.) I'm also personally fond of his appearance--it's so much fun to work off his skeletal form, he's really visually striking compared to some of the other zombies. (He also has some weirdness going on with his skin--we haven't gotten to that yet, or heard his reanimation story. Bum bum bum.)
As for seeing more of him--of course we will! I'd really like to get up north and see his family at some point, but I'm not sure if the series will ever get there. His relationship with "that lady" will continue, for better or worse...really, I think his impact on her will form a large part of her character going forward.
Nora is a young lady after my own heart. She's willing to engage in adventure and she'll do whatever must be done to protect those that she loves. Is she based upon you yourself or someone else?
Definitely not me! While Nora comes from part of my personality (as do all of my characters), we're not that alike. I have a temper and a mouth on me, but I'm better at reigning them in than Nora is; in fact, I'm often too shy to do or say much around other people! I tend to be very reserved, almost a little socially paranoid. ("She didn't eat the cookies I made for her. SHE MUST HATE ME.") Nora's far less inhibited and far more open with her thoughts and emotions; I tend to describe her as a little ball of energy pinging off of everything in her environment. In fact, she's often the most difficult character for me to write--I can slip into "Bram Mode" much more easily than I can Nora. I think it's because there's so much going on in her head, it's hard to pin down the main issues I need to work with her on and eventually write about.
None of my characters are based on anyone I know, either--mostly because I'm afraid of being sued! (See? Paranoid.)
As for the overall setting of the Dearly Departed books, did you set out to combine dystopia, steampunk and zombies or did it just happen naturally for you?
I set out to combine the things that I love, and ended up throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. It just sort of melded together in my head and flew out of my fingers. I think the futuristic setting helped a lot with that, as I was able to frame any setting or plot questions in terms of what I'd *like* to see happen. I don't view the setting as dystopian at all; I'd love to live in New Victoria! I'd love to both wear Victorian dress on a daily basis *and* still have access to my Playstation! That excitement definitely fueled my initial storytelling; I got to shape just the sort of world I'd like to inhabit.
According to your blog, you own a number of Victorian gowns. I'm sure it's tough to choose but do you have a favorite?
Oh gosh, I don't think I can. Probably my bubblegum pink princess gown, because so far it's the only dress that was not only made for me, but designed for me. No one else on earth has that dress, and so it'll always be special for that reason. I've been told that when I wear it I look like "steampunk Princess Peach"--which is *totally* awesome. I need to find an eight foot tall linebacker and make him my Bowser for an event.
Also, what is your favorite accessory for Victorian/Steampunk wear? Parasols? Jewelry? Hats?
Everything! The accessories...oh, God. They take up far more room, time, and money than the gowns. The entire shelf in my walk-in closet is taken up by hatboxes full of gloves and fans and ribbons; two drawers in my dresser are nothing but corsets and bloomers. I just love everything, and I love putting together outfits where I'm perfectly coordinated down to the stockings. And yet, in my head? Zombies and guns. I'm like the frilliest 14-year-old boy ever.
What Anachronistic/Steampunk events do you attend?
I've gone to Steampunk World's Fair twice, and really enjoyed it both times--I'm thinking about going again this year. Aetherfest in San Antonio was amazing last year, too. I also had a lot of fun on the alternate history track at DragonCon, though I don't expect to attend again soon--too big for me. I like smaller, more intimate conventions where you can meet people and actually develop relationships; big events like DC and SDCC just don't do much for me anymore. (Although they are exciting.)
Do you collect anything funky or quirky?
Nothing terribly shocking. I do like skulls, so you'll find skulls all over my apartment--on my dishes, on my shelves, on my pens. I have a pearly white human-sized skull bank I use to collect spare change for eventual antique shopping! My mother and I both collect those little voodoo doll keychains; I have a whole box of those kicking around somewhere.
Oh, and perfume. I'm a scent junkie. I'm not allowed in Sephora anymore. The top of my dresser is one big perfume display.
What are your writing habits like? Do you have certain music playing or require certain snacks? Do work for a specified amount of time every day or to a specific word count?
Depends on the day. When I'm drafting, I'm aiming for about 3000 words five days a week (which is basically a chapter), and so I'll wake up, guzzle down my coffee, and get right to work on that. I have to produce that word count, if it takes me two hours or ten--even if the words themselves are awful. Bad writing can always fuel good; one great idea, one great phrase, one great character name, etc. When I'm editing, I'm aiming for about two chapters a day.
Outside of that hardcore schedule, I'm very flexible. Five days a week doesn't have to be Monday through Friday; I work from home, so I can work weekends, work nights, whenever I like. I'll also leave all of my files open on my computer, so I can drift back into my office and write whenever the urge strikes me, or rush in and correct a word choice in the middle of cleaning. I often find I do my best editing when I'm away from the computer; getting out and exercising, especially, or listening to music, helps me to realize when I've written myself into a corner or made a mistake in character canon, etc. (Writers forget things about their own characters! It happens!)
During the crunch I need coffee, things that are easy to chew, and absolute silence. Other than that, I'm good.
My husband feels that the threat of zombocolypse is so probable that he needs to buy a katanna, just in case. Inquiring minds also want to know, in the event of a Zombocolypse, what is your plan for survival?
Once things calm down (and I adhere to the Romero canon, where even the most violent zombies eventually regain a certain level of higher cognitive and emotional ability), I'm going to position myself as the living envoy to the zombie tribe. Eventually they'll be in a position, I think, where they'll need to trade (medical supplies?) or establish borders, and I'm just the woman for the job--I'm compassionate, understanding, and able to withstand gore that would make lesser men faint. I'll be the zombie ambassador!
...or I'll go wading optimistically into a zombie horde in a suit and heels and be torn apart. You know. Either-or.
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