Siege is the conclusion to Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies trilogy, which should appeal to fans of The Walking Dead. Both The First Days and Fighting to Survive won the Dead Letter Award from Mail Order Zombie. The First Days was named one of the Best Zombie Books of the Decade by the Harrisburg Book Examiner.
The zombie illness has shattered civilization. The survivors who have found tenuous safety in Texas defend their fort against the walking dead and living bandits.
Katie has made peace with the death of her wife and is pregnant and married to Travis, who has been elected Mayor. Jenni, her stepson, Jason; and Juan—Travis’s righthand man—are a happy family, though Jenni suffers from PTSD. Both women are deadly zombie killers. In Siege, the people of Ashley Oaks are stunned to discover that the vice president of the United States is alive and commanding the remnants of the US military. What’s left of the US government has plans for this group of determined survivors
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I am inspired and intrigued by what frightens me. Writing about what I fear compels me to step outside my comfort zone and forces me to confront issues and themes that are not always easy to discuss. Creating an imaginary world where terrible things happen to fictional characters is an easier (and safer) way to deal with issues we must all face at some time in our lives such as loss of loved ones, overcoming adversity, and evolving in the face of hardship. But it also allows me as a writer to also delve into much more frightening and rare occurrences such as war, natural disasters, and apocalyptic scenarios.
When I sat down to write the AS THE WORLD DIES zombie trilogy, I wanted to address the zombie apocalypse in a realistic manner. Though the scenario of the dead wandering the earth and eating the living is highly unrealistic, I wanted the characters of the story to be everyday people who somehow manage to live past the first terrifying days of the plague. I didn’t want any Rambos or Ripleys in the mix. I wanted people who would resemble me and the reader.
Within each character in AS THE WORLD DIES there is familiarity. The characters are people we know or maybe even aspect of ourselves. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, personality flaws, and issues to overcome. Because I wanted my characters to be everyday folks, their reactions to their terrible circumstances are grounded in reality.
For example, Jenni is a battered housewife/trophy wife at the beginning of the first book in the trilogy, THE FIRST DAYS. After the devastating death of her children, Jenni is rescued by Katie. At first she is in shock, but slowly evolves throughout the series into a much stronger (yet not always stable) person. To make Jenni realistic, I drew on
the coping mechanisms victims in abusive situations develop. The mind is amazing in its capacity to adapt to dire circumstances in order to ensure survival. Jenni’s ability to basically cut off her emotions and compartmentalize allows her to survive better than people who have yet to develop these coping skills. Also, Jenni is extremely used
to living in a life-threatening situation on a daily basis, so the zombocalypse is not much different in some respects. Though sometimes readers get mad at Jenni for her immaturity (she was married at 17 and isolated from the world by her husband) and her bizarre actions, she remains one of the most popular, if not the most popular, character in the series.
Oftentimes readers of the series tell me how the characters in the book feel like friends. They worry about them, fear for them, and sometimes mourn them. I have also been told how readers feel so attached to the world and the characters they feel like they are in the action. I contribute this to the fact that they characters feel like people we know
in our everyday lives, it is easy to slip into the dangerous world of AS THE WORLD DIES with them.
Though I love superheroes and magical/supernatural characters, in the end they are far removed from me with their abilities. I know I can’t do the things they can do. But I can easily imagine myself on a rescue run with Jenni and Katie, clutching a gun, sweating with anxiety, and feeling sick to my stomach with fear. Somehow this translates to the
reader as well. I’ve heard so many stories of people having to put the book aside so their wildly beating heart could calm down. Honestly, I’ve stopped typing for the same reason.
There is a certain magic that sometimes happens in books that is hard for the author to explain to the reader, but after a lot of thought I do believe the reason why my books can be so terrifying is because the characters are not so far removed from you and me.
So when a zombie is moving relentlessly toward a character in SIEGE, the fast beating of your heart and the tremor of fear flitting through your mind is probably because you could be character facing uncertain outcome.
Now the question is…do you survive?
Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege,) and the author of three other books: the vampire novels Pretty When She Dies and The Tale of the Vampire Bride and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. Inspired to independently produce her work from the urging of her fans, she published The First Days in late 2008 and quickly gathered a cult following. She won the Dead Letter Award back-to-back for both The First Days and Fighting to Survive, the former of which the Harrisburg Book Examiner called ‘one of the best zombie books of the decade.’ Rhiannon is currently represented by Hannah Gordon of the Foundry + Literary Media agency. You may contact her by sending an email to email@example.com.
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