INTERVIEW: Mira Grant, author of “Everglades”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“Everglades” is about that moment that I’ve always assumed would have to come in the middle of any sort of siege–the moment where the adrenaline gives out, and you have to figure out whether you’re willing to live in the world of the aftermath.  It’s about the inevitability of natural selection.  And it’s about alligators.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I was thinking about the day the zombies come, and the way that everyone either divides themselves into “hero” or “cannon fodder.”  It got me wondering, how many people would you have who weren’t either?  Who just sort of stumbled into survival, and then couldn’t hack it?

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Weirdly enough, no.  I really love the UC Berkeley campus, and it was very easy to sort of see the structure the survivors would build as they waited for salvation.  I think the hardest thing was remembering that it was early days of the Rising, and not going too far into the reasons that the dead were walking.  It didn’t matter to the story.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I was a UC Berkeley student, and we’re the sort of school where school pride probably would make it through the zombie apocalypse, even if we had to cancel a few home games.  I’ve always had a passion for reptiles and virology, which gets you looked at sort of funny when you’re a perky little blonde girl…and one of the most chilling things I’ve ever done was go into the Florida Everglades to see the gators.  That sort of thing really makes you realize that Nature has things much more efficiently designed to survive than we are.  We’re just blinks of an eye to the alligator.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

This is sort of a trick question–see, “Everglades” is set in the universe of my Newsflesh trilogy (Feed, Blackout, and Deadline), just about twenty-five years earlier.  For the Newsflesh books, I had to consult with several virologists, some climatologists and meteorologists, and subject matter experts on about a dozen other subjects, just to get things into the shape they needed to be in.  “Everglades” didn’t take any specific research, because all the research was already done.

What is the appeal of zombie fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

I hear people say that zombies are the “guiltless” monster.  Vampires are supposed to be sexy now; werewolves are under a curse; even the slashers usually have some sort of a motive.  The zombies are just there to make you die, and that makes it okay to kill them with cheery abandon.  I think a lot of the appeal is the flexibility of the archetype–fast, slow, smart, brainless, the zombie can be whatever you need it to be in order to make the point you’re trying to make.  Most of all, the zombie is a completely democratic monster.  Anyone can become a zombie.  Anyone can be eaten.  When the zombies come, all the borders between us dissolve, and it’s just humanity versus a monster we don’t need to feel bad about destroying.  Writing about zombies is exciting because it’s an opportunity to write about people boiled down to their inner core, without worrying about morality about what they’re doing.

Also, it’s a great excuse for chainsaws.  Everybody loves a good chainsaw.

What are some of your favorite examples of zombie fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Let’s mix-and-match literature and film, just for the sake of balance.  I loved The Living Dead, of course, since it managed to collect a lot of my favorite stories about the undead; I also really, really enjoyed World War Z, Patient Zero, and Monster Island.  All four of those were intellectual approaches to the zombie issue, for the most part, and they all had their strengths; I’m a big virus nut, so I really appreciated the science in Patient Zero, and the human psychology in WWZ.

Moving on to film, I love Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 for being zombie chick flicks, Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead for being zombie date movies, and Slither for being my favorite zombie movie of all time.  And, in the final category of “no, really,” Evil Dead the Musical.  Nothing makes me happy like a man with a chainsaw hand belting out songs about destroying the forces of undead evil.