Q: You took a different approach in I Left My Brains in San Francisco in that your protagonist, Neeta Lyffe, isn’t the big hero of the day. Can you explain?
A: Neeta lives in Los Angeles, but is in San Francisco at an exterminator convention when there’s a huge zombie infestation that covers both San Francisco and Richmond, California, which is across the bay. In addition to city-wide attacks, there is a huge, coordinated zombie attack on a refinery. So zombies on a massive scale in an area Neeta isn’t familiar with, but where she’s surrounded by experts in field of the zombie extermination. It didn’t make sense for her to come charging in and take over.
While Neeta does have the brains and experience to coordinate a large-scale defense against the zombies, she is by nature a doer. She’d much rather be in the fray, chopping off the heads of the undead than in a command center coordinating and worrying about her friends. Plus, you have to admit that chopping off zombie heads is more exciting to read about. In addition, she didn’t have access to all the pieces of the mystery to put everything together, but others did, so I let them take the natural lead.
Besides, I really liked the idea of the teamwork, multiple heroes each contributing to the success of the mission. That’s how it works in real life.
Q: But Neeta was so kick-butt in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator! Isn’t this a demotion for her?
A: I think it’s a more realistic character progression, actually. Neeta never wanted glory; she just wants to do her job as an exterminator and keep people safe. She also has a lot of baggage she’s working through, part of which was learning to depend on others.
But never fear! She gets a lot of opportunities to kick zombie butt—or more to the point, slice zombie heads.
Q: Tell us about some of the other heroes in the book, then.
A: Two of my favorites are Tess and Earnest. Tess, I think, is a little like me, in that she does not consider herself anything special and certainly not strong or heroic. She fangirls over zombie exterminators, yet is sure she could never compare to one. In the end, however, she’ll put herself in danger to save her friends. Earnest, on the other hand, has been living to be a hero. He reads books on how to be a hero (and takes a lot of crap for it, too) and in the end, his dream comes true.
Q: The big zombie crisis at the end , however, is solved by teamwork?
A: Yes! Scientists will piece together the purpose of the infestation (which is really an attack), and Storm Mattherson, the pompous commander of Richmond’s Z-Mat department, coordinates the hundreds of exterminators battling zombies. Then, you have heroes like Tess and Earnest handling things on a local level, and of course Neeta and her partner Ted are in the fray taking out zombies. There are lots of smaller interactions, like with Marcel. Marcel is kind of a slimy character who created a video on home zombie defense to make a buck, but that video gives an elderly woman enough knowledge that she can save a young woman who has a key piece of information the scientists need in order to determine the end goal of the zombie attack in time to alert Richmond.
Q: What about the next book, then: teamwork or clear hero?
A: I guess I’ll have to wait and see—the next Zombie Exterminator novel with Neeta will take place in a casino, and I may do another one based on Marcel and his season of Zombie Death Extreme, the reality TV show he won which led him to make the video. However, the next story is “Shambling in a Winter Wonderland,” and will have Neeta and Ted as clear heroes. It goes live Nov 19 at http://skizombies.karinafabian.com, and is to raise funds for Operation Homestead.
PS from Karina: “Are You the Next Zombie Idol?” singing contest! Damnation Books and I are looking for someone to sing the theme song I wrote for I Left My Brains in San Francisco. I have the words and the tune; but we need a singer. We are offering prizes for the best singer, the most creative audition video, and are giving one in ten entries a copy of the e-book. Hurry! Contest ends Nov. 1st. The details are at http://fabianspace.blogspot.com/p/are-you-next-zombie-idol.html