Ten (or more) Questions with M. Lauryl Lewis

Well, it’s time for the grand finale of Zombie Week here at A Goode One, and I’m very excited to introduce you all to the author who inspired me to focus on that theme, M. Lauryl Lewis.  Her Grace series gives a different and unexpected twist on the current Zombie trend and makes it something new and unique.

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As someone who has never really been a big fan of Zombies, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure I’d really enjoy these books. But I was surprised to discover just how heartfelt the books are, and how much I came to care about the characters.  This series is about so much more than Zombies, and I can’t wait to learn more about the author, so let’s get started.

AJ: You are a former nurse.  So does that mean some of the gorier scenes in your books could be medically accurate?

MLL: Yes, absolutely! I try to be as accurate as I can when it comes to the gore and also the few birth scenes in the series. With over 18 years in the field, ranging from hospice to labor and delivery, I not only aim to be accurate in descriptions of death and decay but I also try to build the emotions of difficult situations into the story. Many readers have mentioned that they both laugh and cry while reading my work. You can safely say that if there are tears being shed, I was likely reflecting upon my own experiences either in work as a nurse or in my personal life when I wrote those scenes. And scenes that people say are overly gory? Chances are they were based on some smaller-scale “yuck” that I came across somewhere in my work life.

AJ: It can’t be easy to write some of the more violent and disturbing scenes in your books.  How do you come up for air afterwards—how do you come back to reality?

MLL: Fun question! Yes, it can be very difficult to write some of the scenes that I do. Many of those scenes have some root within them from my own life, and so reflecting upon them can be somewhat miserable. Others I come up with from deep within my mind. Perhaps there’s something not quite right in there? There’s times where I have to literally stop in the middle of writing and just take a break. I once went for a walk to the edge of the woods behind out house. It was after dark and, well, that didn’t go well. I was scared pretty bad. Chocolate M & M’s can be of comfort, or a cup of hot tea. Some of the hardest scenes are the death of favorite characters. I mourn, just as my readers do.

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AJ: I understand that this past year was a pretty rough one for you and your family. How did that affect your writing? And how is everyone doing now? 

MLL: Yes, 2014 was the hardest year of our lives. Our oldest son, 10 at the time, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I took the entire month of May off to be at his bedside while he was in Seattle Children’s Hospital and underwent two brain surgeries. I also took a portion of June off while he recovered. It delayed my release of the 5th Grace book, and I am so blessed that readers were understanding and forgiving (my readers truly are the best!)  While our son doesn’t have cancer, his tumor is inoperable and he now faces some lifelong medical issues. It’s a rough road and emotions are still very raw. As a result my progress with projects has been slower than average while I try to just breathe some days. He really is doing well. He is such a bright young man who is kind and compassionate, and who loves life. I think he’s coping better than us adults! His prognosis is good, thankfully!

AJ: I’m so glad to know he’s doing better.  It sounds like you have a very strong family.

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Now, Praying for Grace was the final book in your Grace series.  What’s next for you? 

MLL: Actually, the Grace Series does not end with Praying for Grace. Many others make that assumption as well, which really is my fault. I ended the book with a “fast forward” scene similar to an epilogue, but it was still part of the final chapter. That “fast forward” was a setup to the next book (State of Grace) that releases later this year. It promises to have a slightly different feel than the rest of the series, and will be set about 2 years down the road in their apocalyptic world. This next book may end the series, but that’s TBD. Aside from that, I’m also working on a standalone haunting called Schiessl House, and the first in a sci-fi/dystopian/horror trilogy called The PlantedSchiessl House will be loosely based on my own paranormal experiences. The Planted: Year One will follow a group of young adults as they settle a new planet as humanity’s last hope for survival after an extinction level event on earth. Days and nights will be long on their new world, and darkness will bring monsters their way.

AJ: Can you tell me a little bit about the Sun Trilogy?

MLL: The Sun Trilogy is still a work in progress. I wrote book one, This Side of the Sun, wanting to give contemporary new adult romance a try. To be brutally honest, it hasn’t been as well received as my horror works. I had a ton of fun writing it, but I feel my niche is horror. I still intend to finish out the trilogy with Under a Brighter Sun and The Heat of a Thousand Suns, but my inner punk needs to finish my other projects first. This Side of the Sun follows Saul and Hattie as they find each other amidst a tragedy in their small town. The second is series will follow Saul’s sister Carolina as she tries to heal from a violent intrusion into her life. The third book – well, I have no idea just yet.

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AJ: You’re a mom, and a nurse, and you come across as a very sweet lady.  So . . . where the heck did the Zombies come from?  How were you inspired to write this particular series of books?

MLL: I am a total zombie addict! When I was about 5 years old, my dad spliced into the neighbor’s HBO (back in the days of rabbit ears ha ha) and I would sneak into the basement in the middle of the night to watch horror movies.  I think my addiction began with Night of the Living Dead. When it comes the Grace Series in particular, I was inspired by breaking my ankle in a random act of clumsiness in March of 2012. I was spending so much of my time in a recliner with my foot in a boot and in pain that I figured I might as well try to write a book (true story). When it comes to my choice of zombies, it just seemed natural to me. Also, I needed some new zombie material so I figured perhaps the world did too.

AJ: With Zombies being such a popular trend right now, did you have to avoid other books and TV shows in the genre while you were writing, or were you able to keep your own work separate?

MLL: The thought of NOT indulging in zombies makes me want to cry! Sadly, I cannot give up the genre even for the sake of my own work. The only time I feel it interferes with my own writing is when I discover that my ideas have coincidentally mirrored someone else’s. If I discover that prior to publishing, I change my work because I have a horrible fear of being accused of copying others. I also rack my brain when I have a new plot idea to avoid writing anything too similar to other materials out there. I opted to NOT use a mall for scavenging or living within, for example. Also, within my series there were zombies with their jaws and arms cut off, but then the episode of The Walking Dead that introduced Michonne and her “pets” aired. I immediately altered my storyline. I have not read TWD comics but do religiously watch the TV series. That being said, my series has two main kinds of zombies, referred to as ROAMERS and RUNNERS. TWD (TV) has recently introduced the town of Alexandria, whose residents call the dead “roamers.” While I’m quite confident that the show did NOT get the term from me, I didn’t get it from them either. And so, unless it’s in the comics, I call dibbs.

AJ: What was the last book you read, and would you recommend it to others?

MLL: Ahhh…that’d be the Emily Goodwin Contagium zombie series. YES, I recommend! I know you asked about one book, I but I absolutely LOVE recommending other authors. A new author has hit the scene who has mad awesome skills. Check out Shana Festa’s Time of Death series (also zombie).

AJ: If you could have lunch with any “big time” author from any era, who would it be?  What would you ask?

MLL: Hands down, one of my favorites – Charlaine Harris! I think I would ask her questions about her Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series, wanting some answers as a reader. I would also likely ask her how she got started. I would want to know what makes her mind tick.

AJ: Why did you choose to go with self-publishing rather than traditional?

MLL: The choice was fostered by my intense lack of patience. I did what I thought I was supposed to and queried literary agents for oh…2 months? I got plenty of rejections out of the 50 or so queries I sent off. I got tired of that in a hurry. I did some research into self-publishing, utilizing Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) as my source. I jumped into it not really knowing what I was doing and what-do-you-know an agent asked for a full manuscript to read about a week later. Being the honest person I am, I informed her that I had self-published. She kindly retracted her offer to read my manuscript but asked for the sequel once it was ready. I ended up never sending off that second manuscript and have never looked back. By this point in my new career as a novelist, I also have to be real and recognize that income plays a role as well. Since retiring as an RN, my books are what helps supplement our family’s income. Writing allows me to stay at home with our kids and most especially to be available for our oldest son with his health needs. Frankly, if I were traditionally published it’d be a huge income cut.

I honestly have no interest in going with a traditional publisher at this point. Self-publishing affords me complete control of content, editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, and even price. I guess I like control.

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AJ: If any of your kids want to follow in your footsteps and become writers when they grow up, what advice would you give them?

MLL: “Follow your heart and dreams because you can do anything you want!” I would tell them that writing’s a tough go at making a living and they should have backup plans (like a day job). Our kids are only 11, 10, and 7 right now but we already talk about education, college, dreaming, and we encourage reading for fun. So, really, the advice starts this young. The most important thing to us, aside from good health of course, is that the kids all grow up to have a passion for what they do. We talk about that often.

AJ: I heard that you have some exciting news when it comes to the Grace Series, do you care to share?

MLL: Yes! It’s very exciting! One of my readers is a make-up designer. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in collaborating with her on a collection dedicated to the series. Nessa’s Naturals is a line of all-natural mineral make-up. Vanessa decided about 10 years ago that she didn’t like the harmful ingredients of most make-up lines available, so began to create her own. She started small and has turned it into a full time business. I ordered some of her products and fell in love, and was so excited to hear she wanted to custom-make a line linked to the Grace Series. And so, she has developed 3 unique colors of eye shadow (Hope, Zoe, and Roamer) and a lip glaze (Blood Orange) and will combine them in a set along with my personal favorite eye-liner (smoke monster). I actually got my set in the mail from her yesterday and it is even more than I imagined it’d be. She’s done an incredible job. The set will be available near the end of this month, so be watching!

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Nessa’s Naturals: www.nessasnaturals.com

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AJ: How Exciting! The make up looks great – especially the lip glaze!

How can people find you and your books?

MLL: My books are available through all major ebook platforms (Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc) as well as through my website as PDFs. Book 1 of the Grace Series (Grace Lost) is always free! I love to interact with readers, so welcome people to contact me.

My website and blog is www.zombieauthor.com

AJ: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions.  I wish you all the best with your books and the make-up line – and of course, with your son’s health. I hope he continues to get better.

MLL: Thanks, Amy, for such a fun interview!

***

If you are an author or blogger who would like to be interviewed for “Ten Questions With –” please contact me at AuthorAJGoode@gmail.com.

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