Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering
Genre: post apocalyptic
Publisher: Lilt Literary
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000
Cover Artist: Laila Blake
Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.
All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.
It was in the symmetry, of course. In the fifteen shocks of hair that fluttered in the breeze, as it swept a few leaves across the square. In the thirty pairs of shoes, all pointing up at the grey sky.
Emily took another step closer. She could hear her blood sloshing in her head, like she was underwater and she moved back again, turned away to watch Song. Sparrow started to fuss: even she could tell something was wrong. Very, very wrong. For once, Emily had no interest to investigate, no need to see what they could scavenge. She just wanted to pack up her children and run.
“Aaron,” she hissed. He was walking down the line of corpses, his shoulders stiff with anger, or grief, or maybe shattered faith. “Aaron!”
For the first time since their first days together, Aaron was a wall. He didn’t turn back to her, not until she was almost stomping her feet and biting her lip to keep from screaming. His gaze was blank when he did.
“They were executed.” His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she found herself reaching for him. Her hand stilled in mid-air as though she’d only just noticed that he was much too far away. The breeze stirred the hairs on her arm and she let it sink, cradled her hand around Sparrow’s tiny head in a vestigial instinct to shield her.
“How… how do you know?” she asked, voice hardly loud enough to travel across the square.
He breathed in so deep, she found herself worrying about his ribs, imagined them crackling under the strain. He shook his head, nodded towards the ground.
“Hands are bound with zip ties,” he said eventually. “Looks like they were beaten before…”
“Come back here,” Emily said again, more urgently this time. “Please, baby.”
She could have been watching a movie, or one of those terrible war reports she remembered on the news from Before, the ones she would switch off before Song had time to understand what they were about. It occurred to her, then, that Aaron could have been one of those soldiers in the reports she was lucky enough to switch away from, replace his face with Big Bird, with John Cleese.
“There’s more behind the house,” he said in a monotone. She didn’t follow his gaze. “Must have been the entire neighborhood.”
“But… why?” Emily shook her head at herself almost immediately. Annika had been right: she had gotten cocky. She had forgotten all the things she’d seen after the end, before Aaron had made her forget that humans could be a disease upon the world, far more dangerous than the dead.
She sent one long last glance at Song, then she stepped out of his line of sight, hurried to Aaron’s side as quietly, as quickly as she could. She reached for his hand, squeezed it tight.
Her eyes were drawn downward almost against her will. They hadn’t wasted bullets. She stared at a line of fifteen gaping slits in fifteen throats, like fifteen twisted smiles. “They haven’t been dead for long, have they?”
He tipped his head back and seemed to peer directly into the bare late autumn sun before he looked back at the blood at their feet. “A week maybe,” he said. “Probably less. Hardly decomposed at all.”
She tightened her hold on his hand, tugged once.
“We can’t stay here.” She enunciated every word, slowly, quietly, trying to get through to him. They had slept peacefully, less than half an hour away from this spot. They’d had no idea. “Aaron. We can’t stay here.”
He didn’t respond right away, and it made her heart pound harder in her chest. There had been a night, years before, when he’d told her he’d never really talked about his time in the desert, that he’d never seen the point, and though she’d disagreed, they’d never spoken of it again. She wanted to kick herself now.
“Aaron,” she said, voice terse. “Song and Sparrow.” He finally stirred with those words.
“Get ‘em back in the trailer,” he instructed.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Laila Blake: I had some vague notions of studying medicine, but even then I wanted to write the kind of medical thrillers I enjoyed at the time on the side. I also found out that I hate hospitals and dealing with massive amounts of strangers every day. I studied to be a translator, in the end, but yeah, I always wanted to be a writer.
L.C. Spoering: I’ve said before it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at, but it’s somewhat true. I’m an only child so, I think, since I was young it’s been my entertainment, and my main passion.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
LB: I think it was after I finished my first manuscript and realized that I could do it, conquer that beast, so to speak. But the actual confidence to say out loud came with time.
LCS: As above, I always have. It’s as natural to me as breathing.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
LB: Really fast actually. I was a total stroke of luck -- at least it appeared to be at the time. A new ebook imprint of an established publisher bought the rights to my first novel - By the Light of the Moon - about two or three months after I finished writing it. It turned out to be a mistake. It wasn’t really finished. I was just so excited I had a finished manuscript I wanted to send it out, see what would happen - impatient amateur mistake. When they took it, I expected content editing, but all I got was bad proofreading and then it was published with no pr at all. Unsurprisingly, it did not sell very well and they wanted me to take the series into a direction I wasn’t comfortable with. In the end, I asked for my rights back. I am still working with publishers, but I really like the freedom and the control indie-publishing gives me.
LCS: We decided to take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves. I’ve had interest in my books before, but I feel like indie publishing is a better choice for me at this time.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
LB: Yes, I’m also a translator. I work in an office part time, very early in the morning, and I translate press clippings for a media analysis firm. I also freelance sometimes.
LCS: I’m an administrative assistant in two different physician practices. I spend a lot of time learning about neurology while taking notes and making appointments with patients.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
LB: After Life Lessons: Book Two is the last installment of a dramatic post/apoc series with a women’s fiction bent and a romantic streak.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
LB: We self-publish together; our outfit is called Lilt Literary. I also work with Ladylit Publishing and have a number of short stories in Cleis Press anthologies.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
LB: That’s such a hard question, mainly because I almost never go from original idea straight to writing it. Not least because whenever I have a new idea I usually still have a project going on. I often let them marinate for a year before I ever start working on them. But from starting to write a novel (around 80k) to finishing it, I’d say around 3 months, longer if I derail myself or have several projects at once. And then there is editing and rewriting etc.
LCS: It depends on the book, definitely. Together, we once wrote a first draft in two weeks; I’ve gone a year writing one book before. Mostly, it takes me roughly 3-4 months to start from the first word to end on the last, but, as Laila said, it’s almost never a straight line, and rarely starts from the moment of idea.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
LB: In the near future, Lorrie and I will start publishing an Urban Fiction series, that - like After Life Lessons - takes a classic genre and mixes it with our own more character-driven flavor. I am also trying to conclude my fantasy series this year and then we’ll see what the future brings.
LCS: I’ve got several upmarket contemporary manuscripts in my stash that I’d like to release when the time is right. We’ll see when they find their way out.
What genre would you place your books into?
LB: I have a thing for speculative fiction - whether it goes all the way into fantasy, sci-fi -- like After Life Lessons -- or just a hint of magical realism. But I also publish some erotica.
LCS: Most of what I write strays close to lit fic, in that I like to play with structure and telling just as much as the plot. I’m also keen on YA a lot lately.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
LCS: In After Life Lessons, it’s a tie between Kenzie and Song. I have a soft spot for the young, and I loved seeing how their reactions differed from the adults around them.
LB: Kenzie, of course. But I also have a massive soft spot for Emily, the female protagonist.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
LCS: Over the years, I’ve found the optimal time for writing, for me, is first thing in the morning. It’s partially because I’m very busy throughout the day with my day job and kids and family obligations, but I also swear it’s because I don’t have enough wherewithal to be self-critical before my first cup of coffee.
LB: I wish I could stick to one, but to me routines are like drugs - they come with diminishing returns, so ever so often I come up with a new one. I also have a tendency to forget the best routines and when I remember, they sometimes work again, like they are brand new. Suffice to say, I tend to be a little all over the place.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
LCS: Most of them. I appreciate it when people take the time to review with thoughtfulness, even if they didn’t care for the story.
LB: Yes, definitely. It would be rude not to, I think. Plus, I’m way too curious and I want to know what my readers think, whether they love the same things I loved writing. That connection is really special and important to me.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
LCS: I’m terrible with titles! Almost all my working titles are a single aspect of the story (like “coffeeshop” and “car”) and I have a hell of a time naming them after. It’s like trying to name a twenty year old.
LB: I usually have a working title that I come up with either at the beginning or throughout the book. And most of the time, the final one comes together organically - but I’ve also stewed over word association clouds and mind maps to find one.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
LB: They can do, in the hands of a skilled team. Of course, the more flawless a book, the harder it is. Two of my all-time-favorites are Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, both directed by Joe Wright. I also think the Hunger Games trilogy works better as a movie series, because that forces a wider perspective, that I think fits the scope of the world.
On the less successful side… every attempt of turning The Neverending Story into a movie, and actually, Blade Runner. I know it’s a classic and all, and it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. But the sheer chasm between the genius of the book and what the film ended up being is just staggering to me.
LCS: Agreed on a skilled team, including a writer who knows what works in a book doesn’t always work in a movie. William Goldman (whose The Princess Bride is one of the best book to movie adaptations out there) has done a lot of adapted screenplays, including Stephen King’s misery. I read that King was upset that he changed the scene of Annie cutting off Paul’s foot to simply crushing it with a sledgehammer, but Goldman advised he watch the movie and see why it worked better. In the end, King was grateful he made the change, and understood that such a graphic scene, while it was fantastic in the book, would have taken away too much from the story to see.
Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.
L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.