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Monday, June 13, 2011

Interview with Steve Hockensmith, author of PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls & Dreadfully Ever After

Steve Hockensmith is the author of 2 titles in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series: the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and the sequel Dreadfully Ever After.  (And I don't feel even the slightest bit mean when I say I find them vastly superior to PPZ.  Also, I just accidentally spelled "superior" the Brit way.  I fixed it, but the Jane is going to my head, I think...)
Steve got in on the JnJ fun last year with a guest post and an interview, and he's back this year with a follow up!
Check it out:

Follow up from last year's interview: Last year we talked about the difficulties and advantages of writing a prequel, and having to write towards a foregone conclusion. How has writing the sequel been different? You have more freedom now, but what has it been like deciding where this story goes now, and depicting The Marriage, which seems to be hard for many readers?
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (Quirk Classics)As you note, I was hemmed in with the prequel. The story could only end one way. So I enjoyed the freedom I had this time around. But there was a burden that came with that. It was all the more important to find a rationale for the story -- a reason for it to exist. One could look at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and say, “Well, that’s that. The story’s done.” If you’re going to jump up and say, “No, it’s not!” you’ve really got to back that up. What’s left to say? I struggled with that for a while, but eventually I figured it out. At the end of PPZ, Elizabeth has to give up her warrior ways when she marries Darcy. That’s the happy ending. But is it really so happy? Wasn’t Elizabeth, to some extent, giving up her identity as well as her sword? Once I sank my teeth into that question, the writing started zipping along nicely.

What are some of the difficulties in writing a story using established (and beloved) material? And is anything sacred in writing a zombie Austen tale, or is it all fair game?
Oh, there’s plenty that’s sacred. Case in point. When I was working on Dawn of the Dreadfuls, I thought about writing Jane as a complete biyatch. On the surface she’d still be all sunshine and light, but when we finally got a chapter from her perspective we’d see that her goody-two-shoes vibe was just an act. Underneath, we’d finally see, she was a raging cauldron of bitter resentment and repressed libido. I just couldn’t go through with it, though. It would’ve been a betrayal. As much as I poke fun at Austen’s characters, I have to stay true to them, too. Or at least stay true to them as they were depicted in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That’s something a few of my Janeite readers seem to overlook. The source material I was working from wasn’t the original book. It was the mash-up, which not only added a lot (such as, you know, zombies) but cut a lot out, as well. I’m an old fanboy at heart, so you can bet I take continuity seriously.

If you could completely rework any Austen character, who would it be and what would you make of them?
I feel like I did that to some degree in Dreadfully Ever After. Mary Bennet spins off in a direction Austen would’ve found unthinkable. But it’s not totally out of left field. Mary’s starting point, I hope, is consistent with her original incarnation. She’s opinionated and, in her own quirky way, aloof. But I chose to look at those traits as strengths, especially in a culture that doesn’t entirely accept zombie-slaying warrior-women. She’s didactic and judgmental, yes, but that’s what enables her to rise above convention and go her own way. She’s able to become a “liberated woman” 150 years ahead of schedule.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After (Quirk Classics)What's your favorite scene you've ever written?
Oh, wow! Making me pick a favorite from among my babies. Cruel! And difficult. Hmmm. There are lots of little moments I remember with pride. The blood trickling down the attic stairs at the end of Dawn of the Dreadfuls, for instance, or Lady Catherine’s final fate in Dreadfully Ever After. Favorite scene, though? I guess if I had to pick one from the PPZ series, I’d go with the last chapter of Dreadfully Ever After. I was really pleased with how that turned out. I like quiet, elegiac endings that get across a feeling of closure and departure, and I think I pulled it off there. Plus, I liked letting Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have the last word. I love those two.

If you could be a fly on the wall during any Austen scene, what would it be and why?
That’s hard to say. There are so many classics. It’s easier to tell you what I’d want to avoid: any scene with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Man, that broad gives me the creeps. If I were a fly on the wall, I can only assume she’d have one of the servants squash me.

What's next for you?
Thanks for asking! I’ve got a few projects I’m trying to get off the ground, but nothing’s taken flight yet. Suffice it to say, whatever you see next from me is going to be very, very different.

Jane, twitter-style: If you could tweet 1 message to Jane (140 characters or less) what would you say?
That’s easy. “THANKS!!!”

Thanks to you, too, Steve!  Make sure to enter my giveaway for a complete set of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies books, courtesy of Quirk.  And stop by tomorrow for my review of PPZ: Dreadfully Ever After!

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