Interview – J.L. Murray, author of Jenny Undead
Interview with J.L. Murray.
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by J.L. Murray, author of the soon to be released Jenny Undead. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, J.L.
J.L. Murray: Since we’re friends, you can call me Jesse.
SPS: Thanks, Jesse. For any of our readers that haven’t come across any of your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
JLM: Sure. I write strange fiction. I’ve mostly stuck to fantasy in the past, but Jenny Undead is sci fi, which is exciting. I like to blur the genre lines. I have a fairly popular urban fantasy series called the Niki Slobodian series, and the mythology-based After the Fire series.
SPS: Today sees the release of Jenny Undead, what can we expect from the story?
JLM: It’s set in a postapocalyptic world, a decade after a disease is unleashed and the world is plagued by zombies. It’s become sort of a Thunderdome kind of landscape, where Heathens (non-religious) and Righteous (religious) have to coexist together. Jenny is a Heathen with a past. Her mother was the scientist who infected the world, and Jenny and her brother were subject to some pretty brutal experiments back when everyone was desperate to eradicate the disease. Jenny ran away, leaving her brother behind, something that has haunted her for the past ten years. When she hears that her brother might be residing with a cultish Righteous group in an abandoned subway, she pretends to be Righteous so she can look for him. She does find him, but he’s strange. He’s undead like a rotter, but he’s walking and talking and thinking like the living. Jenny thinks she hallucinating. But when she dies from infection, she wakes up dead and craving human flesh. And she finds out there are others. Thirteen children survived her mother’s experiments. With a cryptic note left by her mother claiming she could be the cure to the disease.
SPS: How does it differ from your previous works, the Niki Slobodian series and After the Fire?
JLM: Besides being science fiction, Jenny Undead is far darker than anything else I’ve written. You’re basically in the head of a girl that gets turned into a zombie, and you’re privy to the changes and urges such a change entails. She is filled with rage and wants to eat people. But she also remembers what it’s like to be human, and has all her memories from being alive. Including being in love, which plays a huge part in her struggle.
SPS : How does she cope, does she embrace the changes she’s going through?
JLM: (laughs) She does not. She hates everything about it. Before the change, Jenny basically had a pretty good life for being in a zombie apocalypse. She had friends, she had a boyfriend that was crazy about her. When she became undead, she felt that everything had been taken from her. In a lot of ways, she’s grieving and trying to find a way to deal with the way she feels.
SPS : Tell us about some of the other characters we meet?
JLM: Besides Jenny, who is pretty badass in her own right, there are a lot of very colorful characters. Casey, her long-lost brother, who becomes something of a moral compass for her. Trix, Fisher, and Grayson, other members of The Thirteen. Sully, who Jenny thinks is her friend, but who turns out to be not very nice at all. And of course, Declan Munro, Jenny’s boyfriend, who goes a little crazy when he thinks Jenny is dead. There are punks, zombies, serial killers, scientists, and even a psychic thrown in for good measure. It’s a crazy ride.
SPS : Who do you think the book will appeal to, is there anything out there you would compare your new story to, to help readers?
JLM: I actually can’t think of any books that are similar. I Am Legend came to mind a lot when I was writing this, but I would never compare myself to Richard Matheson. That just seems like sacrilege. Anyone that likes zombies, or dystopian fiction, or even urban fantasy will probably like this. It’s dark and gritty, but there’s also a twisted kind of love story as well. It’s dark, but like a lot of my books, there’s always a note of hope in the story.
SPS : How do you think fans of your other books will find Jenny ?
JLM: My fans are pretty amazing. I know at first, some people were a little wary of reading a zombie book. But for the most part, they’ve been jumping up and down with excitement. It took me longer to write than I thought it would, and I’ve gotten more than a few emails asking me when I was going to be done. The language is a little saltier than my other books, but if a few f-bombs don’t bother them, I think they’ll love Jenny.
SPS : What would you like readers to take away from reading Jenny Undead?
JLM: It’s okay to be a zombie.
SPS: Prior to JENNY UNDEAD, you have released five novels in your NIKI SLOBODIAN series. We’ve heard great things about the series, how pleased have you been with the response?
JLM: Over the moon. The Niki books are by far my most popular series, and I couldn’t be happier. I hear from complete strangers all the time about these books, and I still can’t believe how much people like them. It’s overwhelming. I never thought that I would achieve that sort of popularity so quickly in indie writing, but I think Niki really speaks to people. She’s strong and smart and can take care of herself, and she has a charming homicidal streak. She’s a great character and really fun to write about.
SPS: Can you give us a brief idea of what someone could expect if they picked up a copy of book 1 ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’?
JLM: I think if Philip Marlowe had been thrown into the war between Heaven and Hell, he would be Niki Slobodian.
SPS: We understand you’ve had a think about whether you’ll continue the series, please tell us there’s a positive outcome? Do you feel Niki still has plenty to say?
JLM: Oh, I think she still has some adventures left to tell about. I’ve got some big plans for the next one.
SPS: After the Fire is your other published work. It sounds a great story. How was it to write something different to Niki’s story?
JLM: After the Fire was a really difficult book to write, mostly because I was writing from the viewpoint of all these gods and goddesses, so they weren’t easy to connect with at first. They’re all very powerful, but have been left in a situation where they’ve become vulnerable. And it’s very hard for them to admit that they aren’t as mighty as they used to be.
SPS: Can you tell us about Eleni and where the inspiration for her came from?
JLM: I’d been reading a lot of Slavic mythology at the time, and I had this image of a woman imprisoned in an iron box who doesn’t speak to anyone but a wolf that comes to her at night. Of course she evolved a great deal from there with the development of the world, but really she started as a woman with fantastic power who was made impotent by being trapped in a metal box.
SPS: Do you have plans to continue telling Eleni’s story, or is the novel a standalone?
JLM: I do have plans for a few books in that series. Book one really just scratched the surface and introduced the readers to Loki and the Fates. It’s just a matter of having the time to write all the books I want to write.
SPS: Back to the present. What we can we expect after Jenny, further books in the series or something else?
JLM: I have three Jenny books planned, but I thought I’d sneak in a Niki book before I continue the series. I may be writing a standalone this year as well. I haven’t decided which one.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
JLM: Yes. I had a short stint in the published world years ago, and I decided that it wasn’t for me. I like being indie and working on the projects that speak to me. I love having control over the content and financials for my books. And I love not having someone to tell me what to do.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
JLM: Don’t worry about branding or advertising or getting your name out there. Just keep writing. Write your ass off. Don’t even look up until you’ve written five books. Then put your nose back to the grindstone and write five more. Eventually success will find you, but you have to do the hard work first. The writing always comes first. Always.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
JLM: I read a book by Mercedes Yardley last month and fell in love with her writing. Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu was a gem and so much fun to read. Also, a new press called Ragnarok Press is putting out some really impressive stuff. I contributed to their Kickstarter their highly anticipated and amazing collection of stories called Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, and they have a zombie Western series called Dead West (co-written by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin and Kenny Soward) that’s a lot of fun.
SPS:Thank you for joining us today Jesse, and good luck in the future.
JLM: Thank you, this has been a lot of fun.