'Red Hill' Author Jamie McGuire on Zombies and Why Amber Heard Should Play Abby
"Beautiful Disaster" and "Walking Disaster" by author Jamie McGuire marked her as a writer of New Adult romance--but, she believes that New Adult can exist in more than one genre. Take her new novel, "Red Hill": There's a love story, but it's set against the end of the world, and the characters range from co-eds to a young mother racing to reunite with her daughters. (Meet mom Scarlet in this "Red Hill" excerpt!)
McGuire shares with us why "Red Hill" is such a departure from her prior books, while still being a "McGuire novel"--plus, she dishes on her upcoming books, including a "secret novella," her New Adult science fiction novel "Apolonia," who she would cast in the "Beautiful Disaster" movie and what the Maddox brothers are up to.
Bookish: What are you most excited about giving readers with the release of "Red Hill"?
Jamie McGuire: This is something so different from what I'm known for, which is "Beautiful Disaster." ["Red Hill"] is actually three years in the making: I thought about this book back when I was cleaning--much like the main character, Scarlet--out in the middle of nowhere, and I thought to myself, "This would be the perfect place to go in the zombie apocalypse." I had my girls with me, and that got me thinking--what would I do if it happened to be their dad's weekend when something like that went down?
I'm super excited to show everyone my spin on something people have been writing about for years. Plus, I'm a huge "The Walking Dead" fan [and a] huge zombie fan. One of my bookshelves in my office is dedicated to completely to zombies; my friends buy me zombie stuff all the time.
Bookish: What inspired you to shift from New Adult romance into zombie fiction?
JM: Well, it's not really a shift. I never set out to be pigeonholed into one genre; I just like to write what I like to write. If it happens to be about angels and demons one day and New Adult the next and zombies tomorrow--well, that's just what I like. I'm not a genre writer. I just write what I'm interested in and what I think is entertaining [based] on what idea I have and whatever genre that happens to fall into.
Bookish: How is "Red Hill" different from paranormal romance?
JM: The one thing you can say about [all of my books] is, they are "McGuire novels." That's how I would like for people to see them. No matter what the story is about, it's going to be a "McGuire novel": It's going to keep you turning the pages, and it's going to entertain you for however long it takes you to read that book.
Bookish: Are there special touches you find yourself putting in to make it a "McGuire novel"?
JM: A "McGuire novel," to me, is something that keeps you turning the pages. I've heard this phrase a lot--"unputdownable." I strive, every time I write a book, to end the chapter where the reader can't stop. The reader that says, "I'm going to read one chapter before I go to bed"--it is my mission to make sure that that reader can't do [that]!
Bookish: Which books, films and/or TV shows (zombie-related or otherwise) inspired you as you were plotting and writing "Red Hill"?
JM: Well, I came up with the idea for the book before "The Walking Dead" [TV show] came out. I can't really say, honestly, that any one episode would influence [it]. I'm a big Max Brooks fan [author of "World War Z"]. I bought books on surviving the zombie apocalypse--what weapons were the best to use, how to keep yourself and your family safe, things like that. That's the kind of research I did. But, as far as just the story itself, that was all done before I'd ever seen [the "Walking Dead" TV show]. But, I do have the graphic novels--love 'em.
Bookish: A cool thing about the zombie genre is that various authors can take different tacks in explaining the zombie infection, and really make it their own.
JM: I do touch on a little bit [of that], but my characters are mostly worried about surviving and keeping their families safe and making it day-to-day. Some books and movies really go into how it started…. Most of my novels have one thing, which is relationships and how people relate to each other in different situations, and "Red Hill" is no different from that. It's a lot of emotion and relationships, and how they change during something so frightening.
Bookish: What can you tell us about your forthcoming sci-fi novel "Apolonia"?
JM: I just--literally, yesterday--finished the secret novella that I'm working on. I can't tell you what it is. Today I'm going over it once before I send it out--and then, literally tomorrow, I get to start "Apolonia." I'm so excited. I came up with the idea about the same time I came up with "Red Hill"--so, again, this is going on four years in the making. I have the whole story in my head; I just need to [get] it out.
"Apolonia" is about a girl named Rory Reardon, who is an introvert; she doesn't have any family and very few friends. She's not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed heroine that we're used to; she's more like Lisbeth Salander from "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." She's pretty street-smart, and she's in college; this is another New Adult [book]. She takes an interest in this boy Cy--he's extremely smart. They met being research partners. To make a long story short, Rory and Cy become very close; he gets into some trouble; she has to get him out of it, and that's where she finds out who he really is, and all of his secrets. Basically, they both have to work to get him to a certain point and a certain time, or else the whole world is going to be in danger.
Bookish: When you return to the "Beautiful Disaster" series, you'll be writing a follow-up about Travis Maddox as well as his brothers Trent and Thomas. What can you tell us about that?
JM: The first book will be Trent's book; we have a title, but we're not releasing it yet. It's going to be each of their stories, [which] are all different. There's a reason why I have to write Trent's first, which is so I don't give away Thomas' story. I'm going to start writing them in January . They're not going to be prequels or sequels; they'll be their own stories. Of course, Abby and Travis will still have cameos. They're going to intertwine a little bit--especially Trent, who was in "Beautiful Disaster."
Bookish: How will Trent's and Thomas' stories mirror and be different from Travis'?
JM: We know the Maddox brothers are pretty ornery; of course, Travis is everyone's favorite a**hole. What's going to be fun about Trent is that he is Travis--which is an angry, fly-off-the-handle bad boy--times 10. So, Trent's story is going to be really fun to write, and push those boundaries and go even further than I did with Travis' character.
Bookish: To what extent are you involved with the "Beautiful Disaster" movie?
JM: Pretty typical of any author having a book adapted to a movie, not a lot. I don't know a lot about the film industry, but that's the way I prefer it. I've read the script; I know that they're looking for a director to attach. Other than that, I don't really have my fingers in it because I probably wouldn't be much good if I did. [Laughs.]
Bookish: Who are some of your dream actors to play Abby and Travis?
JM: I don't watch a lot of TV--"The Walking Dead" and "Inside Combat Rescue" are about the two I watch. [Laughs.] So, I really don’t know a lot of new Hollywood. I don't envy the person that's going to cast Travis, because, for one thing, everyone has his or her own version. I have people posting pictures of who would be "the perfect Travis" every day, and they're all so different. No matter what, it's going to be difficult. Also, they'll have to find someone who can actually carry off Travis' vulnerable side plus his crazy-angry side. That's a pretty wide range for any actor.
For Abby, [one person I think would be great is] Amber Heard--I love the way she looks. She was recently in ["Paranoia"] with Liam Hemsworth, and I saw her and immediately thought, "There's Abby, right on the screen!"
Bookish: What makes you believe New Adult is here to stay as a genre? Do you think it will be further broken down into subgenres such as "dystopian New Adult," "paranormal New Adult," etc., the way we've seen romance and YA develop numerous subgenres? Why or why not?
JM: Possibly. I didn't know about New Adult when I wrote "Beautiful Disaster"; it wasn't a household name the way it is now. I didn't set out to be one of the first New Adult authors; it just happened. Right now, you're seeing a saturation of the market. That's one of the reasons why I was determined to write "Red Hill." [I wanted to] set myself apart from what a lot of people are doing right now. New Adult's very saturated right now. You see the same stories: the bad boy and the virgin.
I think it's a great genre that should stay around. I think it's important that young adult and adult [readers] have that buffer that sets apart high schoolers and college-age [characters]. I think it should stay around. It's a great idea for there to be subgenres within [New Adult].
Jamie McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of five other novels: "Walking Disaster," "Beautiful Disaster," "Providence," "Requiem" and "Eden." She and her husband, Jeff, live with their children just outside Enid, Okla., with three dogs, six horses, and a cat named Rooster. Please visit her at JamieMcGuire.com or facebook.com/Jamie.McGuire.Author.