I recently had the opportunity to interview Eloise J. Knapp, author of THE UNDEAD SITUATION from Permuted Press, a novel about the zombie apocalypse told from the point of view of a person uniquely suited to surviving it, someone who couldn’t care less if everybody died: Meet sociopathic survivalist Cyrus V. Sinclair. Learn more at www.eloisejknapp.com.
Craig: What have you contributed to the genre?
Eloise: When I set out to write my first novel I had one idea in my mind; I wanted to create a character unlike any I’d read of before. One who doesn’t fear the zombies, who is prepared for the apocalypse, and is ready to make tough decisions no one else is willing to. Don’t get me wrong, I love the I’m-so-afraid-can’t-make-it-through heroes, but it gets old. I’ve contributed a different type of main character to the zombie genre, one who generally defies those norms. Love him or hate him, Cyrus V. Sinclair is a truly unique guy.
Craig: What makes zombies so interesting to write about?
Eloise: There’s something about the relentless determination of a zombie that has always appealed to me. No one can stop them or negotiate with them. They are single goal oriented and will never give up. These aspects of the zombie are what would ensure their success in overwhelming the living population and dominating the world. They also allow for so much creativity in deciding how the zombies came to be and their other nuances, not to mention they’re a delightfully gory vessel in delivering an apocalyptic tale.
Craig: Which writers do you particularly admire, and what did each teach you about the craft or profession of writing?
Eloise: When I was about twelve I discovered Bentley Little. What blew my mind about his work wasn’t so much his writing style (which is awesome, mind you) but his content. The actual storyline of his novels and short stories are so trippy. He is one of the few writers who actually frightens me and has a lasting effect. From him I learned to be open to bizarre ideas.
Craig: What’s the last book in the genre that you particularly enjoyed?
Eloise: To be honest I’m still reeling over Jim LaVigne’s PLAGUESVILLE USA. It was an indie novel when I first read it, since picked up by Permuted Press. Everything Jim wrote was just so cool! It combined everything I love about the apocalypse (cannibalism, weapons, and weird societies to name a few) into one massive novel.
Craig: Which of the following appeals to you most about the genre—zombies, survival horror, apocalypse—and why?
Eloise: Survival horror is my favorite. Reading and writing about the depravity of a collapsed society has always interested me. I love seeing peoples’ different takes on how low humanity will fall in the face of an apocalypse. THE ROAD is a fabulous example of what is so appealing about the human aspect of the genre. It might not have zombies in it, but it has everything else that makes a great apocalyptic novel.
Craig: What is your approach to writing?
Eloise: While I’m writing I like to freestyle for a bit and let my creativity take me where it wants. The characters do and say what they want, the world develops on its own accord. Then I take the reins in once I see where things are going and write an outline which I follow quite closely unless some type of revelation strikes and I’m motivated to do otherwise. While I’m writing I keep notes in a separate word document for things I need to fix or implement later/earlier so I don’t forget.
Craig: How do you complete a novel?
Eloise: After I finish the first draft I go over that list of notes I mentioned and edit with them in mind. I try to do the best I can on my own to clean things up and eliminate inconsistencies, spruce the writing up, etc. Then comes my favorite part: sending it out to test-readers. I mostly use my family, asking them to read and track changes or give me feedback. Right now I’ve lined up some marvelous people to help me out on my second novel. I then listen to their feedback and implement it accordingly.
Craig: Without naming names or quoting, what is the worst review you ever received on Eloise: Amazon, and if you could respond to it, what would you say?
Eloise: All my worst reviews are the same. They are from people who don’t “get” the novel. They despise the characters because they don’t see where I was going with them, and that’s okay. When I wrote THE UNDEAD SITUATION I knew some would really dislike my mains. I do respond to my bad reviews, but I don’t attack the reader. Instead I thank them for reading it and say I’m sorry they didn’t like it. Being able to drop a polite comment on a negative review gives me personal solace without starting a flame war.
Craig: What makes a great character?
Eloise: I generally enjoy characters that have strong personalities while still being relatable in some way. I don’t have to agree with every decision they make, as long as there’s some aspect of them I do agree with. Great characters are developed on multiple levels: their personality, their past, and how they deal with the present are important factors in how well they are created.
Craig: What are you working on now?
Eloise: Right now I’m working on the sequel to THE UNDEAD SITUATION as well as the next edition of Z MAGAZINE(first magazine written by zombies, for zombies). I’ve finished TUS2 and am in the stages of editing it myself. I’ve learned so much since writing my first book. I feel like I’m better at every aspect of developing a novel, so I’m excited to get this one to the public.
Craig: Thanks for joining us, Ellie!