Friday, December 7, 2012

Feature Friday: Lia Habel

This is Lia Habel's second Feature Friday. I'm having her back to celebrate the release of her second novel, DEARLY, BELOVED. You can check out her first interview here. This FF, has a larger bio so that you can get to know Lia even more!

Lia Habel was born in Western NY, and has lived there the majority of her life. The only child of geeky parents (although her father would never describe himself that way, despite his Halo addiction), she was reared on a combination of horror and action movies, classic literature, cult television shows, and video games. A promising start.

She attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY, receiving her B.A. in English Literature with honors, as well as the University of Leicester, UK, where she earned her M.A. in Museum Studies. Although she received an excellent education at both institutions, Lia was always unlucky when it came to finding work in her chosen field – a fact which compelled her to jump from low-paying job to low-paying job just to make ends meet. She was, at various times during her life, a makeup artist, an envelope-opener, a retail clerk, a grocery scanner, a door guard, and a substitute teacher.

The first draft of Dearly, Departed was written in 2008, during one of her many periods of unemployment. The ideas came to her in a rush, and she wrote the first draft in roughly a month. A mix of silly sci-fi and paranormal themes, equally tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious, Dearly, Departed exists as a testament to Lia Habel’s deep love of horror movie monsters, “ugly” heroes, and sweeping tales of Victorian romance. Lia is especially dedicated to keeping her good-guy zombies true to the zombies she grew up with and so ardently admires – readers will watch their favorite characters rot before their eyes as the series progresses.

 Miss Habel lives with three former alley cats. She enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (her goal is to watch every zombie movie ever made), commissioning ball gowns, and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books.

Interview:
A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Dearly Beloved?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Lia:
So far, this is the only book I've ever written where I've called my agent and just sobbed for hours--at one point I absolutely hated it and wanted to write another book entirely. I felt the plot was awful, and I think a lot of that came from the fact that I'd been laboring on it for so long. Eventually you hit a point where you've read your own work so much that it stops making sense--kind of like hearing a word so often that in your ear, its reduced to its syllables. I felt very vulnerable and uncertain. Luckily, my fantastic agent was able to talk me down. Other than that dramatic day, I just ran into the usual problems--having to fill plot holes, address issues of consistent characterization, etc. (Writing a sequel is unlike writing a first book in so many ways, but the biggest issue for me was having to pick up the characters and run with them again. A sequel forces you to scrape down and uncover deeper layers of characterization.)


How'd I fix them? Work. There's no trick to it. You just have to sit down and confront the material day in and day out. It's exhausting, but mental elbow grease is the only way to solve your writing issues. For me that did involve a lot of music binging, a lot of long walks, and a lot of introspection. I continually have to remind myself that when I'm stuck asking, "How?" that's when I really need to start asking, "Why?"

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Dearly Beloved is your favorite and why?

Lia:
I actually really love Vespertine. When I glance over my chapter outlines, she's the female character I look forward to writing the most--probably because she has the smallest amount of "screen" time. She's a nice break between the more labor intensive Nora and Pam POVs. I also find her very interesting, just on a personal level--she's extremely calculating, but there's definitely some humanity there. She's not as cold as she seems. I'm looking forward to exploring her relationship with Renfield, which I feel will probably be pivotal for her. After all, in a few years, he'll be gone; but his effect on her will last forever.

A.L.:

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Lia:
I don't feel like I have one to talk about, yet! I still view myself as a weird girl who sits in her room and tells stories. I think the day I view myself as a "real" author will be the day the flame goes out--the day I'll lose my mojo but snootily believe I still have it. There's a kind of raw, passionate creative power that comes from being an amateur, or considering yourself one. I don't follow what other people say or write about me, good or bad. I'd rather remain in my bubble of...I guess it's rightfully ignorance, but I prefer to consider it innocence. I just want to create. If people like what I make, that's enough for me.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Third book?  Something new?

Lia:
We're working on a proposal to continue the Dearly series, so I've not written anything yet. I'd like to write three more books, and that's what I'm going to pitch--Bram's really the series lynchpin, and i need room to give him a satisfying story arc. I'm also working on a standalone cyberpunk-esque YA offering. I'm really excited about a self-publishing venture I'm working on right now, though, and which I'll hopefully have out early next year. It's fantasy-based steampunk, and I don't want to give too much away! But it's a project I'm working on for myself, in order to tell the kind of story I want to tell, without the Axe of Editing casting a shadow over my neck. Kind of a literary vacation.

A.L.:
One of your favorite things is Cthulhu.  How come?  What makes Cthulhu so awesome?

Lia:
Like the other monstrous characters in my life, I just have a great deal of sympathy for him. Even Ultimate Evil has observations to make, stories to tell...I feel like those often get ignored in the Mythos. I have been tapping into All Things Tentacle for one of my projects, basing it increeeeedibly loosely on Lovecraft. I'm not sure how good it is, but I'm having fun working on it! (Of course, this is why I'm so bad at writing villains...I have far too much empathy for them.)

A.L.:
You just recently moved/are moving to a new home.  What did you look for in a new home/town?

Lia:
I just wanted to try someplace bigger--I haven't seen much more than the main drag, though! We're still getting everything set up. We're closer to Canada, now, so we're looking forward to dressing in our steampunky best and going to Christmas events. I can't wait! I come from a very small city, so it's weird to flick through the paper and think, "Ooh, there're things to DO."

A.L.:
What can fans of Dearly, Departed look forward to in the sequel, Dearly, Beloved?

Lia:
More commas! In all seriousness, though--Departed was about introducing this huge world and all this action. Beloved is where we get into the nitty-gritty and start dealing with the consequences. What happens when a city is overrun by "good" zombies--is everything just automatically going to be sunshine and roses? No way. We'll see how the living and the dead are coping with their attempt to coexist, and how the main characters fit into that. We'll also learn that there are more people who knew about the Laz long before the Siege, opening up issues of conspiracy. And all of this with tons of guns, pretty dresses, and ass-kicking. Nora and Bram are really on this roller-coaster, now; they're headed toward the heart of the action, and they can't get off.

A.L.:
What is your favorite topic to talk about as a panelist at a convention?

Lia:
I like talking about my personal experiences as a writer--again, I consider myself very unprofessional, so I don't think I've learned yet how to keep my trap shut. I like talking about funny encounters in bookstores, weird things that have happened during editing, etc. For me, it's all very new and amusing, still--I hate to think that someday everything will be old hat. I feel like an effervescent five-year-old whenever I get to be on a panel. (And I'm so short, I'm likely swinging my legs under the table, too. Just to complete the look.)

A.L.:
Who is your favorite dead guy, fictional or real, and why?

Lia:
Vincent Price, of course! Because he was seriously just the sweetest guy. I love men who have two sides, and embrace both with the same intensity--and a horror legend with a heart of gold definitely fits the bill.

A.L.:
Are you a proclaimed cat person or do you just happen to have cats and no dogs?

Lia:
I've never had a dog! I was telling my beau the other day that I like the idea of having one, but that cats are so much easier--with a dog you have to train it, take it outside, look out for it, etc. With a cat you just open the box, say, "Here you are, Cat. Litter's here, food's there. Let's coexist," and you both get on with your lives. In the end, I think I'm a cat person because I'm lazy. (Though I do love my kids. I'm a total furmom.)

The Giveaway:
Lia is giving away a copy of DEARLY, BELOVED, the sequel to DEARLY, DEPARTED.

Dearly, Beloved: Can the living coexist with the living dead?

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.


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