My friend Christine Verstraete is a remarkable woman. She crafts miniatures (go visit her website), breeds seahorses, churns out magazine articles, and writes ZOMBIE FICTION. Her latest has a historical mystery bent: Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. I remember when we were sitting with our writing group at a Kenosha restaurant, and she brought up the idea.
"Drop everything and write it," I told her.
It's a great book. I know, I've read it. And I'm fortunate to have her on my blog. We're swapping blogs as part of this nifty Mystery Thriller Week. Lots of stuff going on for readers and writers. Here's the link.
Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author of the alternate history/horror/mystery novel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, which answers the question, what if Lizzie Borden did kill her father and stepmother… because she had no other choice?
You’re working on a novella right now…what’s it about?
I wanted to explore another aspect of Lizzie’s hometown, so I’m working on a story about the haunted aspects of Fall River, Massachusetts, with Lizzie’s doctor and neighbor, Dr. Seabury Bowen as the main character.
Do you have any more historical zombie novels planned?
I did start Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2 – continuing the story and adding more strange twists. So far, so good! It’s fun writing about her again.
What is your favorite setting description from Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter?
I really loved the courtroom scene with the skulls on the table. It’s based on the actual trial, though I added some strange twists and a flashback for Lizzie, of course. My second favorite is the jail scene and an unexpected visitor.
Describe a typical writing day for you.
Sit at the kitchen table with the laptop. Visit Facebook. Write. Visit Facebook. Write. Bad habit. Ha!
How do you approach plotting a novel? Chapter outline? Rough idea? Fly by the seat of your pants?
I have to outline or I get nowhere. I have a bad habit of starting in the wrong place so it takes me several rewrites to get the story started the way I want it. I’m going on a partial outline this time as I’m still figuring out ideas. I’ll fill it in as I go along since I wanted to start writing.
How do you build your main character?
Reading about a real person lets you fill in the blanks as to their character and how they view things, especially since much isn’t revealed about Lizzie as a person in the trial transcripts or newspaper records. It allows you to fill in the details to fit the story.
To me, her character reflects the things she faces – strength in facing and doing the unthinkable, fear that her life may end if she’s found guilty of her father and stepmother’s murders, a bit of recklessness and flaunting of conventions (after all she’s facing the gallows), and a vow to protect her sister and fight for her town, even as she’s mostly rejected by society. Takes a strong person to do that, I’d say.
What is your favorite mystery character from books or movies…and why?
I like Agatha Christie, but I’ve been watching Father Brown on PBS and like how he gets in there and investigates, even when he’s usually warned by the police for being so nosy!
How do you approach building a mystery around a zombie tale?
The main mystery with Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, is, of course, whether she committed the murders or not. Adding zombies gives a plausible reason for why she did it. And then there’s the second mystery with the explanation and unraveling of why the zombies came to be there in her hometown. Made sense to me.
I’ve read Stephen King for years and once I watched The Walking Dead, I was hooked. Yes, it’s gross and rather brutal at times, which I’m not always a fan of, but the storyline and the characters kept me watching. (The difference is watching it vs. reading or writing it, I think. It doesn’t bother me in print. Your mind fills in the details without the Technicolor gore.) Zombies are simply another, albeit bloodier version, of good vs. evil. And I admit, it pushes your creativity to find new ways to describe the blood and guts. Ha!