Interview: YA author Lia Habel

Posted May 5, 2013 by Shari in Interview / 0 Comments

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Thank you, Lia for visiting Delighted Reader today. It is such a pleasure to welcome you as one of the Authors After Dark Young Adult writers and as our very first YA author interviewee. I had the privilege of reading the first book, Dearly Departed, in your Gone With the Respiration series. I have to tell you that I found it an amazing reading experience and I plan to march onward to find out what happens next in Dearly Beloved.

* Thank you so much! I’ve had so much fun working with AAD bloggers, and I’m happy to continue that tradition. I’m very grateful to be here!

Would you please share with our readers how you came to become a writer?

* I’m not too proud to say that I got into publishing on accident! During a period of unemployment (and oh, I’ve had a lot of those), I ended up reading several popular paranormal romance novels–novels that left me feeling slightly cold, and for one simple reason.

Uh, where were the monsters? These books were supposed to be about monsters, right?

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts–in the books I read, they were all terribly sanitized. Monsters in name only. I brought this fact up with a friend, and joked that I should write a romantic story featuring real monsters–like, say, zombies. He challenged me to do it. I had nothing to lose, so I sat down and started writing about a week later. I finished the first draft of Dearly, Departed in about 45 days, after which, again at a friend’s urging, I submitted it to about 17 agencies. I had an agent six weeks later and a book contract about a year after that.

As for my craft–again, that’s the product of personal study and interest. I have a degree in English Lit (and a Master’s in Museum Studies), and thus plenty of experience with academic writing, but outside of a creative writing course I took in high school I’ve never received formal instruction. Everything I do, I do off the cuff–in fact, I think that’s what makes my writing my own.

Please share a writing tip that you have learned with any aspiring writers or something that you didn’t expect once you became a writer.

* Writing a sequel or a series is MUCH harder than it looks. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish. What surprised me most about the process of writing a sequel is the fact that you are suddenly faced with characters who need to grow, and a world that needs to expand. The first book is always easy–no one knows anything, including the writer, so characters are who they say they are and settings can be taken at face value. You’ve only got so many words; you can only share so much. But from book two onward, you have to really drill down, really get at the core of your cast and your overarching story. And that is very challenging.

Do you have an author(s) that inspired you?

* I grew up reading mainly classics, and I still love to look to them for inspiration. I love authors like Rudyard Kipling (I can pretty much quote every poem in The Jungle Books!), Gaston Leroux, and Victor Hugo. I’ll read anything with a good-guy beasty-type character in it! I also love to read comics, though I don’t do as much of that as I should, nowadays.

When you get a chance to read, what genre is your favorite?

* Nonfiction, actually. Mostly because fiction can never top reality in terms of weirdness!

If you’re not writing, what is an activity that you enjoy?

* I love playing video games–I view them as an amazing modern vehicle for storytelling. Some of my favorites include the Cybertron series (I’m kind of a Transformers fangirl–Autobot forever), Bioshock, the Arkham games and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Lia Habel
Photography credits:
WinterWolf Studios

I have noticed in the two different photos I have seen of you that you dress in lovely Victorian style gowns and hats. I love it since I’m a huge fan of wearing hats too. Do you have a favorite period outfit? Will those visiting Authors After Dark find you wearing one of these lovely ensembles?

* Oh gosh, I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Half my closet is filled with Victorian gowns, Elegant Gothic Lolita ensembles, and bits and pieces from other eras! (I mean, seriously–you never know when you’re going to need a Titanic dress.) I do love my gold Azrael’s Accomplice gown, though, because it was one of the first I ever bought. And I’ll definitely try to wear something fun while I’m at AAD–it’s a tradition!

Speaking of Authors After Dark, what do you look forward to about the convention or the town of Savannah?

* I’ve never been to Savannah before, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it! I love going to AAD, though–this will be my third year–because it puts me in direct contact with readers. I tend to be very shy, even online, so I appreciate the opportunity to chat directly with people who might like my work–and if they already know of it, and like it, even better!

Now I’m going to turn my attention to your books. How and/or when did the idea for these stories come to you?

* As I noted before, the entire thing started as a joke. My goal was to write a story that featured a believable romance between a human, living girl and a zombie who was definitely a zombie–I wanted to see how much gore I could get away with, honestly. I didn’t want to scrub Bram clean and present him as utterly harmless, utterly unremarkable, a zombie in name only–no. He had to rot, he had to deal with bodily “challenges,” he had to have a dead man’s perspective.

Nora and Bram were the first characters I came up with–the first ideas, really. They were born together, and thus came to fit one another perfectly.

The rest of the story came later, when I realized they needed a world to inhabit. I basically ended up throwing in everything that I loved, creating a world where Victorianism and computers and zombies and girls in gorgeous gowns could exist simultaneously–my world’s a touch surreal, in a way. And I refuse, to this day, to limit myself. If at one point I decide the world needs intelligent robots, by God, it’s getting intelligent robots. New Victoria’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously.

There is so much Victorian culture in this story and it felt authentic to me even blended with the futuristic technology. Would you share about any research you did?

* Most of my research was into prions–the agent of disease in my story–and technology, generally vehicular. The Victorian details were all gleaned from my own knowledge banks–as someone who’s loved the Victorian era forever and has read extensively on it, both in fiction and nonfiction. As far as nonfiction goes, I love writers like Richard Altick, Mary Roach, and Michael Sappol. Yes, I do read five-pound treatises on Victorian anatomy practices.

This was my first zombie apocalypse-type story and it has me thinking emergency preparedness. Can you share some advice with everyone about surviving an attack by your rabid zombie predators?

* For me, surviving the zombie apocalypse is a matter of time. If we’re talking about the “real world,” I go by the Romero model, which means that zombies retain a certain amount of memory and problem-solving ability. (The whole point of the zombie classic “Dawn of the Dead” is that the zombies were returning to the mall because they were “mindless consumers” when they were alive–that indicates that they remember going there, that they remember the good feelings the mall gave them.) As time progresses, Romero zombies regain even more of their intelligence. (E.g. “Land of the Dead.”) Therefore, if you can just survive through the initial “scary zombie run run” period, you should eventually get to a point where the zombies actually want nothing to do with you, or at least aren’t actively hunting you.

So…let’s say six months’ worth of supplies, ability to shelter in place with multiple fallback positions, and a bunch of magazines. You’re good.

There were two different covers for each book and I loved both of them. Did you have input into the cover art ideas?

*No, not at all. Most authors have very little say in their covers–but I love all of mine. They’re amazing! (Although I was permitted to look through some modeling portfolios, and I did have a little input where her hairstyle was concerned!)

Bram is the noble and courageous zombie hero in your story. Much was revealed about him including the fact that he has been getting tutoring lessons when not sent out to battle the hordes of mindless zombies. What’s his favorite and worst school subject?

* Bram’s never been to school–he was homeschooled by his mom. I think he’s a very well-rounded guy, though–he’s equally interested in everything. Science and history tend to get his attention, though; while he enjoys reading, I don’t think he has the patience to sit and pick apart literature line-by-line. To him, a story’s a story. I don’t think he’d see the point in over-analyzing it.

Now Bram and the others in Company Z are representatives of the well-adjusted zombies. There is mention in the book that this level of awareness is determined by the time it takes from the point of death to reanimation with the short time making the brain higher functioning. Is it just random or are certain people more likely to reanimate quicker?

* Nope–it’s sheer luck of the draw. Therefore, all of my good-zombie characters are incredibly lucky people–and also incredibly strong. Maybe willpower has something to do with it, on a deep systems level, but once you’re dead, you’re dead–you can’t exactly force yourself to wake back up.

There were many times when the zombies were listening to music in the story and I loved their eclectic tastes. What was Nora’s taste in music? Is there a special song that would be Bram and Nora’s song?

* I think Nora likes anything with a beat–but then again, I could see her listening to things that are softer, too, so long as they were sufficiently dramatic. Sitting here now, some bands I imagine for her would be things like Evanescence, Kalafina, Kamelot, Within Temptation.

Bram and Nora have a TON of songs. I love music, and keep enormous playlists on my computer. For them, I like ‘Let It Be Me’ by the Everly Brothers, ‘The River’ by Puscifer, and ‘Waiting for the End’ by Linkin Park.

Are there any current or future writing projects that you are working on?

* Right now I’m working on an ongoing podcast series, Mr. Grinspoon’s Girls–it’s available every week, for free, at my site. I’m also editing a YA book that involves tentacles, and working on my first adult book–I can’t share much about that, obviously, and it’d be published under a different name, but it’s a new challenge that I’m enjoying. I love trying to write things that, two months ago, I would’ve claimed I’d never write–it’s the best way to teach myself new things.

Any other comments?

*No–whew! You write great interviews!

It has been wonderful learning more about you and your books. Enjoy your time in Savannah at Authors After Dark.

* Thank you so much!

Dearly Departed by Lia HabelDearly Departed
by Lia Habel

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.


Lia Habel
Photography credits:
WinterWolf Studios

Lia Habel was born in Western NY – as far as it’s physically possible to get from New York City and still be in the same state, and official spooky abandoned farmhouse territory. As an only child of good geek stock, young Lia was lovingly reared on horror movies, video games, and Victorian novels. She developed an affection for horror movie monsters early on, often challenging her weary mother with lists of reasons why Jason Voorhees might yet be saved or excuses for Darkman’s cackling insanity. As she grew older and her natural sympathy extended to ever more serial killers, swamp monsters, sentient fanged beasts, and reanimated gents, her mother began to worry what her daughter might one day bring home.

Despite this promising start, Lia went on to live an unremarkable life. Although she entertained vague thoughts of one day writing (comic books, specifically), it was only her love of literature that compelled her to pursue her B.A. in English Lit from SUNY Buffalo. Afterwards, ever the generalist and lover of Old Things, Lia moved to the UK to attend the University of Leicester and get her M.A. in Museum Studies. Several scattered internships and jobs followed, but Lia was never able to obtain long-term, serious work in her chosen field. She wrote the first draft of Dearly, Departed while unemployed, because it seemed like more fun than filling out job applications. Ultimately, she ended up procrastinating herself into a wonderful career.

Miss Habel currently lives with three former alley cats and far too many Victorian ball gowns. She enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (her goal is to watch every zombie movie ever made), and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books.


Photography credits:

WinterWolf Studios


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Shari is the Delighted Reader. Married to her Prince Charming and mother to two Princesses and one Prince. When she is not slaving away as Cinderella she loves to get lost in the pages of a good book. Never without a reading device and a few good paperback books, because she never knows when she might get 5 minutes to read!

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Midnyte Reader
8 years ago

I sat in a panel that Lia was in in AAD NOLA and I looooved what she had to say about monsters, etc. Her story of how she got into publishing is pretty cool.