Interview: Lori Titus on zombies and her novella Lazarus

I first came across Lori Titus through her Flashes in the Dark ezine, a great online mag which features horror flash fiction, author interviews, and more. Since then I’ve discovered she’s involved in far too many things to mention, but it’s only lately that I’ve had the chance to sit down and read her work properly. Today she joins us to talk about her various writing projects.

From running ezines and radio shows to writing webfiction and releasing your own books, you have your fingers in many pies. Out of all your projects, which is nearest and dearest?

LT: Writing will always be my first love, but I have been happily surprised by how much I enjoy doing the radio show. I’ve also realized how fun it can be to edit; that sounds odd to say, but I really do like polishing up an author’s work and making it tighter.

Flashes in the Dark (ezine) has been a great outlet for me. I get to promote other writers’ work as well as my own, and do some networking. I’m always happy to see the stories post and get positive feedback from our readers.

Writing webfiction has been a great learning experience for me, too. It helped me to realize that I can concentrate on creating larger stages for my characters to act upon than I have in the past. It’s also helped me get used to writing on a deadline.

Tell us about your latest project, Lazarus.

LT:The story centers on Luella Pembry. She comes to town, hoping to complete a task for her recently deceased husband. Lazarus is known as a site of “re-animation” of the dead. Armed with a device that Marcus created, and her own special abilities, Luella wants to stop the risings that occur there.

She meets with the town sheriff and the mayor, hoping to secure their assistance with her plan. It soon becomes clear that there is more going on in Lazarus than meets the eye. Luella has to decide whom she can trust, and what needs to be done to help save Lazarus.

What in particular sparked the idea for this novella?

LT:I got the first bit of inspiration for this story years ago when I visited a ranch in Central California. The desert has an odd beauty about it, and you think about the expanse of land and how you feel small in comparison. Someone made a comments about things being “dead” in this area — just a comment on the grass and vegetation that had dried up in this particular place. It got me thinking about the Old West, how the towns in movies always seemed dead and desolate. I thought it sounded like a perfect place for zombies.

Lazarus protagonist Luella Pembry is a strong, independent woman. But what is she like beneath the surface?

LT:Luella has had a tough life, and she has learned to project an outward air of confidence. She’s had to face down all manner of frightening things, and has suffered personal losses (particularly the death of her husband, Marcus) that have affected her profoundly. Inside, she is always fighting her fears of death and loneliness. She also feels that her abilities, blessing or curse, force her to live her life in a certain way.

How does Luella compare to Marradith Ryder, the protagonist of your webfiction The Marradith Ryder Series?

LT:Luella has accepted her situation, her lot in life, so to speak. Marradith is young enough to still think she has the answers to everything, and stubborn enough to pretend that she does even when she hasn’t got a clue. Also, Marradith is still growing into her abilities. She still has to learn about team work and dealing with people.

Luella is more mature, more focused, than Marradith. In some ways, Luella’s a bit colder, and a little prim.

Earlier this year you released Green Water Lullaby, a 5-story collection set in the fictional town of Chrysalis, South Carolina. Tell us more about the setting.

LT:Chrysalis is a beautiful , secluded town, surrounded by woods. It’s a place with a lot of nasty secrets. People disappear, killings take place, and life goes on, with barely a raised eyebrow. There are revenge stories, werewolf tales, warlocks, shape-shifting demons, and a tender love story featuring a ghost. All the stories are very different, but share a dreamlike quality.

Fear is a common theme throughout your work. Why do you think that is?

LT:Fear is such a great motivating factor in our lives. Many things that we do (or don’t do) are reactions to one form of fear or another. Fear of intimacy, fear of the unknown, fear of loss. Stories that focus on horror (or the paranormal) are great ways to open up discussions about things that might otherwise be too unpalatable to talk about if hit head on.

And since fear is such a strong emotion, there are all kinds of drama that can be produced by it.

It seems to be a year of releases for you. How have the writing and publishing experiences for Lazarus and Green Water Lullaby differed?

LT:Green Water Lullaby was my very first book, so I had no idea what the actual process of having it published was going to be like. With Lazarus, I knew better what I wanted to look for in a publisher, as well as what I wanted to do myself as far as promotion.

Though oddly, Green Water Lullaby and Lazarus were never supposed to be books, to begin with.

I was writing furiously on Marradith for a while, and I decided I needed to write something else in between. I started off with the story “French Doors”, and then wrote one more short story a month for a while. The last one was “Green Water Lullaby”. When I looked back, I realized that all the stories were in the same town. That was when I first decided they should be put togther as a collection.

Lazarus also came about in a strange way. Tonia Brown was editing a steampunk collection, and I wanted to submit a story for it. Going over my old notes, I found my original idea that I had socked away, about zombies rising in a desert town. I started writing the story. I soon realized that I had gone way over the word limit. Tonia suggested that I give the editor over at The Library of the Living Dead Press a look at my manuscript. They accepted it, and everything went from there.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

LT: Oh, yes! I have another novella coming out at the end of November called Hailey’s Shadow. It’s about a woman who can see and hear evil entities. I am also writing a story for Jim Wisneski-Bronyaur’s 12 Days of Christmas.

I have the first draft of a Marradith Ryder novel done, though I intend to hold onto it and tweak it over the holiday before it goes for the first round of edits. I’m hoping to be even busier in 2011 than I have been in 2010, if possible!

Which stories or novels that you’ve recently read would you recommend to the horror-hungry readers out there?

LT:There are a lot of great books that you can find from independent presses right now. I highly recommend Mr. Moon’s Nightmares by Jonathan Moon, and LivinHell by William Pauley III. Tonia Brown has several releases out, of which Lucky Stiff is the latest. There are new books I’m looking forward to next year from Jodi MacArthur and Angel Zapata.

So where can readers go to keep up with all your work?

LT:Readers can check my blog or my web-zine, Flashes in the Dark. Starting November 7 2010, Tonia Brown and I will also start a new talk show, Flashes in the Dark Radio.

I have to finish off the interview with a question of ultimate importance: would you rather fight ten three-foot trolls, or one ten-foot troll?

LT:Oh, I hate trolls!

I’d rather handle the big troll. Ten little trolls means too many sets of hands, teeth, and feet to fight! If I’m going to do this, I hope you’ll give me a good shotgun, at least. With silver bullets, just in case?

My review of Lazarus will be coming shortly is now online, but in the meanwhile if you’re based in the US or Canada, you can enter the Goodreads giveaway to win a free copy of Lazarus (ends November 2nd). Be sure to give Lori’s work a spin: she writes highly atmospheric horror.

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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One Response to Interview: Lori Titus on zombies and her novella Lazarus

  1. loribeth215 says:

    Thanks for doing the interview, Anna :)

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