Title: Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of)
Author: F.J.R. Titchenell
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Release Date: May 6, 2014
The world is Cassie Fremont’s playground. Her face is on the cover of every newspaper, she has no homework, no curfew, and no credit limit, and she spends her days traveling the country with her friends, including a boy who would flirt with death just to turn her head. Life is just about perfect—except that those newspaper headlines are about her bludgeoning her crush to death with a paintball gun, she has to fight ravenous walking corpses every time she steps outside, and one of her friends is still missing, trapped somewhere in the distant, practically impassable wreckage of Manhattan. Still, Cassie’s an optimist. More prone to hysterical laughter than hysterical tears, she’d rather fight a corpse than be one, and she won’t leave a friend stranded when she can simply take her road trip to impossible new places to find her, even if getting there means admitting to that boy that she might just love him, too. Skillfully blending effective horror with unexpected humor, this diary-format novel is a fast-paced and heartwarming read.
At the time when the idea first came to me for Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of), I'd spent the last three years working on The Changeling Saga, a paranormal romance-y YA low fantasy that I was convinced was going to be my breakout. I was utterly in love with it, and it did have elements that I'm still proud of, but it was a pretty by-the-numbers fantasy epic/paranormal romance story, and I was writing it while both those trends were taking a major decline. Several waves of agent rejection letters had already drilled this truth into me, and I was just beginning to come to terms with the fact that I would probably need a new project sooner rather than later.
Even in those days, while writing a very standard fantasy story, I wasn't someone who would or could write a standard golly-gee romantic and naive heroine. Audrey from The Accidental Changeling was a jaded, sarcastic little con artist, and I think the biggest problem the series had, other than being ill-timed and a generally rough early work, was that, while Audrey and her world were both decently fleshed out, they were smothering each other. I kept having to come up with increasingly convoluted reasons why she kept letting herself get caught up in the manipulative mentor's master plan and the two love interests' lifelong pissing match instead of saying, "Screw this, I'm not playing anymore."
Her common sense limited the standard tropes I could embrace, while the tropes I couldn't avoid really limited her chances to be herself.
Lucky for me, I'd also spent those three years delving into full-on horror geekery, and my habit for fantasy was beginning to feel more like a childhood relic than who I really was.
That's when Cassie came along. I was driving to work, not actively trying to come up with a new idea at all, and she interrupted whatever muddled morning thoughts I must have been having to tell me nearly her whole first chapter before I could even get pen to paper.
Cassie was different. She’s shrewd and snarky but also optimistic and upbeat. She’s a fifteen-year-old trying to figure out how this whole growing up and dating thing works, but she's already got the guts and confidence to be different, to know the boys on a human level and give their kind of geekery a fair chance.
And she's caught in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
She lives in a world perfectly suited to test and push her most basic characteristics, her self-assurance, her sense of humor, her ideas of love and friendship, and she owns every moment of it. From the moment she stepped into my head, she kicked aside the formality and distance of the third person pseudo-literary style I'd attempted before her (largely inspired by the question of what my English professor dad would think when he read it), inviting us right into her diary, her world as she sees it, her unfiltered and often undignified thoughts.
She doesn't leave any room to doubt or fudge her motivations, so already this was going to have to be the personal kind of story that I'd always intended the attempts before it to be but had never quite pulled off before, and I like to think that’s the reason that this is the one I get to have as my debut.
The first part of Cassie’s story that came to me was the moment when she sees the first zombie, formerly a boy she likes, sit up and reach for her. She reaches for him too, hoping for some kind of death-conquering miracle powered by love, then turns to the reader and says, "Oh, wait, no, this is what I really did," and bashes the zombie's brains in, because she's a geek who was already nursing a healthy fear of zombies before they came into being in her world. The whole rest of the book really developed out of that one moment.
This wasn't going to be the dead serious sort of zombie apocalypse. Cassie wouldn't allow it. There wasn't going to be any traditional YA larger-than-life heartthrob for her, either brooding or in shining armor. The guy who could make her happy would be a sweet, dorky, free-spirited class clown like her. No need for a bland female friend character to act as her sounding board; she would open up to her romantic foil and to the reader directly more readily than to girlier girls. Instead she gets a childhood girl friend she's drifted from, whom she wants to reconnect with, without really knowing how.
My concept of Cassie’s character didn't change much from inspiration to finished manuscript, though she does learn and grow over the course of the story. She has to learn to appreciate all her friends for who they are, and how to step up and be serious when the situation calls for it, without losing sight of the optimism that keeps her going.
I had a really great time with Cassie from start to finish, and I hope readers will too.
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About the Author
F.J.R. Titchenell is an author of Young Adult Sci-Fi and Horror fiction. She is represented by Jennifer Mishler of Literary Counsel and currently lives in San Gabriel, California with her husband and fellow author, Matt Carter, and their pet king snake, Mica.
The "F" is for Fiona, and on the rare occasions when she can be pried away from her keyboard, her kindle, and the pages of her latest favorite book, Fi can usually be found over-analyzing the inner workings of various TV Sci-Fi universes or testing out some intriguing new recipe, usually chocolate-related.
Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) is F.J.R. Titchenell’s debut novel, to be released May 6th, 2014. It is a Young Adult Horror-Comedy.
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