Carrie Ryan answers your questions (zombies, writing, and more)

If you were to chose a single weapon, with the knowledge that you would be killing zombies with it, what would you choose? and why? (I friggen love zombies!) (James Loveless)

You know, a lot of people reach for something like a shotgun but that’s only good for so long (until you run out of bullets). There’s just logistically no way to ever have enough bullets to face down a zombie horde so I’m a bigger fan of something like a shovel — long stick with a sharpened horizontal blade at the end. That way you can push the zombie off and knock them down and then decapitate them.

How do you find the balance of being descriptive without being overly gory? (useless)

That’s a great question! I think for me it’s all about the focus — there’s no reason to show gore unless it’s important to the scene. Also, my characters have lived their whole lives surrounded by zombies so they’re not as phased by their presence as we might be. The gore is a part of their every day life and, since I write first person, they won’t comment on it as much unless it’s something out of the ordinary to them.

Can you give us a day in the life of Author Carrie Ryan? (Rowena Wright)

LOL – it seems to change every day! I actually just blogged about what I thought my day to day would be like here and what reality is here. Generally my days follow a similar pattern (when I’m home) which is to wake up and check emails, cook breakfast and read the news, and then settle into my to-do list (which can be anything from emails to interviews or blogs). Around the middle of the afternoon I realize that I haven’t written anything on my current WIP and I’ll switch to that before trying (and often failing) to get to the gym by the end of the day (and then usually back to work after that).

Do you ever feel like you get carried away in your writing? Do you make action included in every other chapter or less often?? How do you maintain that balance ofaction-filled and somewhat realistic?? (Adriane Sims)

I definitely get carried away in my writing which is one of the best feelings ever! I love it when I lose all sense of the world around me and of the passage of time and just exist in the story and the words flowing. I’m usually not that cognizant of pacing in terms of “this chapter had action so the next won’t” or vice versa, I feel like it’s more of an internal gut feeling. I really do think that we internalize pacing by reading a lot and so I’ll often think, “You know, I think it’s time we amp up the action” and I’ll focus on that.

What zombie novels/TV shows/movies/poems/commercials/etc. inspired you the most? (V. Gregan)

When I first started writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth in 2006 there weren’t as many zombie books and movies out as there are now (I love that there’s so much now!). My first experience with zombies was with the Dawn of the Dead remake and that’s what really sparked my interest. I then watched all of George Romero’s movies, moved on to 28 Days Later and devoured The Walking Dead graphic novels. If it has zombies in it, I’m there 🙂

What is your favorite aspect of writing? Such as characters, setting, theme, etc.? (Alex B.)

Hmmm, that’s tough to answer. I think my favorite aspect is when all of those aspects fit together. I feel like a lot of writing is trying to piece together all these various elements and it’s such a fantastic feeling when the pieces fit and everything supports everything else.

What are problems you often face writing paranormal fiction? How do you fix them? (Rose Granger)

I think one difficulty of writing paranormal fiction is trying to make something that could never happen seem realistic. For example, I spent a lot of time talking with parasitologists and biologists about how to make the zombies in my world and at the end of the day the answer was, “well, zombies could never happen but we could get close.” And so you end up having to get as close as you can and creating a framework of rules to make it seem realistic.

Do you ever make people you dislike into characters that turn into zombies? Just for vengeance. (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

AHAHA, in my head I definitely do 🙂

In Dead-Tossed Waves [which is out in paperback now], the point of view is from Mary’s daughter Gabry. Is there a reason you switched points of view from the first book to this one? What kind of challenges did that present? Did your writing process change between the two books? (Trevor)

I’d originally written The Forest of Hands and Teeth as a stand alone story and I was excited to jump back into that world when my editor asked for more. But as I started writing The Dead-Tossed Waves I realized that I hadn’t set up enough character and plot arcs in the first book to sustain Mary through two more. It kind of felt disingenuous to me to get her to the end of the first book and then say, “Psyche! Just kidding, it’s not over!” At the same time, I wanted to explore the world outside of the Forest with someone who’d grown up there so telling it from Gabry’s point of view seemed like a natural fit.

I think every book presents its own challenges and I know I initially struggled with the distinction between what my author voice is versus what the character of Mary’s voice is. She was such a strong character in my head I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to shake free of her but it wasn’t long before Gabry, and then Annah for the third book, took over 🙂

In closing, what single best piece of advice would you give to a hopeful young writer, in a sentence?

Don’t forget to actually write and remember what you love about it.

Why must you write? What would you do if you weren’t a writer? (Or, what was the best job you had before becoming an author?)

I’ve just always wanted to be a writer — it’s my absolute dream job! I can’t imagine my life without books! I think the “job” I loved best before becoming a writer was being a student. I loved learning fascinating things! I know that makes me sound really geeky but law school was a blast: interesting classes (that only took up a few hours a day) and wonderful people to have fun with.

What book, story or poem brought you greatest comfort as a teen?

There are two poems that come to mind: “After a While” by Veronica Shoffstall ( and Desiderata by Max Erhmann ( Both of these I copied into my journals as a teen 🙂

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