What are your published works, and what are you working on?
I have six books in a series called Sirens of the Zombie Apocalypse. It features a 104-year-old great grandma, her 16-year-old grandson, and his girlfriend as they first attempt to get out of the dying city, then try to stay alive in the suburbs. Without giving too much away, the central theme of my zombie apocalypse is that somehow elderly people over the age of 100 have an immunity to the virus and various private and public agencies are conducting research on these test subjects. The problem is that they are the first to die in the chaos. So, when my old woman is found by these people, it presents many challenges for the two youngsters. And of course the zombies never stop coming.
I’m working on a new series of YA Dystopian novels set in the same universe as my zombie books. However, this takes place in underground bunkers well after the zombies forced everyone to hide. In this world, a young girl is part of the last group of teenagers in her dying society. She and her friends discover a way out into the world only to find other empty bunkers. Everything changes when she finds one that has survivors. Then she’s faced with the truth of her people, the vaults across the desert landscape, and the future of humanity.
This series will launch in the first quarter of 2017.
If someone was just hearing about you for the first time what 1 thing would you want them to know?
I’ve been publishing books for a little over a year. I’ve been reading zombie books for almost two decades. I’ve tried to write my novels so they weren’t too much like other stories already out there. Not an easy thing to do! I believe my main character—the centenarian—gives me a lot of room to explore new ground without getting tiresome. Lots of people are going to be dependent on others if the zombies come, and I enjoy writing about her because she was once a strong and vibrant woman. She hates depending on others. On the other side, the young teenagers could easily outrun the zombies and get themselves to safety, but they can’t leave “Grandma” to die in a gutter. It forced me to get creative while still keeping the story moving. The zombies have no such handicaps!
Did you always want to be a writer?
Far from it. I’m in my mid-forties, so paid writing is brand new for me. However, I’ve spent most of my life writing for entertainment. In my teen years I played role playing games, and fashioned stories under the guise of being a dungeon master. Those were unique in the sense the story played out in real time as the adventurers were part of it. Later I dabbled in short stories because I enjoyed the storytelling aspect that came out of those games. My degrees were in History and Geography, my career was spent in IT, and in my free time I read a lot of zombie and post-apocalyptic fiction. When you toss all that into a big cauldron, hand me a pink slip from my IT job, and then set me loose, the end result is six novels about zombies, with many more books on the way.
What has been the biggest adventure of your life?
I’ve been to Moscow, Russia and Minsk, Belarus. I’ve climbed fourteeners in Colorado. I’ve run several marathons and a 50k ultramarathon. I’ve done a 75-mile mountain bike race in Wyoming and 100-mile road bike rides in Missouri. I’ve been to most National Parks west of the Mississippi. In short, I can’t sit still.
However, the biggest adventure of my life has been having children. Each day is a new challenge and I’m fond of telling my kids (both under 10) that each day I wake up and see them it’s the best day of my life. Everything else is secondary.
If zombie apocalypse were to happen tomorrow would you be prepared?
Yes and no. I have weapons, food, and other survival gear that, on paper, makes me “prepared.” However, if the grid went down, my dead neighbors were trying to kill me, and my living neighbors were threatening/begging me, I’m not sure preparation matters. I think this is the crux of many zombie books, and what makes them so entertaining. When the rubber meets the road, will we have the mental strength necessary to do whatever it takes to keep our loved ones alive. I’d like to think I could, but anything can happen once the zombies are banging on doors.
What 3 things do you feel everyone should have to be ready for a survival situation?
Guns. If you can’t defend yourself from zombies or opportunist criminals, no amount of good planning will matter. It’s fun to pretend you can survive with knives, crossbows, or martial arts, but a bad guy can shoot you through your front window and end your glorious career as a zombie killer pretty fast. If you’re going to hunker down, food and water are the obvious next choices. If you are going to be mobile, an all-terrain vehicle is probably a key survival check box to tick off. I’d probably include a decent water filter in either case to help you stay alive for a few more weeks after the food gives out.
Who would you want with you if civilized society fell apart?
Some of the strongest and most resourceful people I’ve ever met have been part of the Boy Scout leadership program. The Boy Scouts show up in a couple of my books, because my son is in the organization, and I’m constantly amazed at all the survival skills they teach. It’s almost like they know what’s coming…
What 2 books would be in your bug out bag, knowing you would have to read them over and over?
There are some manuals that would probably be most useful, such as Where There is no Doctor or the Encyclopedia of Country Living, but if I had to pick fiction books I would grab Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, and One Second After by William Forstchen. Both are entertaining guides to surviving after the civilized world takes a screaming leap off the bridge.
If we were thrown into the dark ages what would you miss most?
Modern medicine. If it weren’t for modern medicine, most of the people I know today would be dead. On a less serious note, I’d miss my computer the most. That soft hum of a computer fan has kept me company for almost three decades. I’d be lost without her.
What is the most surprising fact about you?
I love reading about zombies and watching television shows about them. I’ve studied military history since high school and watched countless war movies. Some of my favorite books and movies take place in the lawless world after some kind of apocalypse. But, and here’s the fact, I really hate senseless violence.
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Valerie Lioudis is the co-author of Aftershock: A Collection of Survivors Tales available on Amazon.