Bitten, my debut zombie novel, has received some extremely mixed reviews. I thought I'd explain a few things so as nobody jumps to any conclusions as to the quality of the book.
Bitten is a character driven story--and there are over 52 characters in the story--with a main cast of around a dozen or so characters.
The story follows various people from various backgrounds, who eventually come together as their lives and destinies weave together. The one thing that might be said here is that there is no one protagonist. No one in particular is the hero. Meanwhile, everyone makes a lot of mistakes. Everyone is, at the least, their own worst enemy. It was meant to be this way. And I know a lot of people want a hero to root for, They want it so bad that when you don't give it to them they are left scratching their heads.
But I wanted the reader to despair. Nobody is altogether perfect in my decaying world, and nobody has the answer, and everyone is out for themselves. Even the sweet young Alissa Briggs, who is the closest to an actual protagonist as you're gonna get (but she's merely the thread that weaves all the other threads together).
More than one person has called the book a "teenager's sex fantasy" and totally revealed they hadn't read all the way to the end of the book.
It's no lie, there's definitely a ton of sex in the book. Is it overly graphic? Not XXX Jenna Jameson pornographic, but there are more than a few rated R scenes throughout. Coupled with the violence the book would definitely be in the hard NC-17 area if it were ever made into a movie--because editing out the sex is not an option. Let me explain why.
The reason there is so much sex in my version of the zombie apocalypse is because one of the main characters uses sex as a manipulative tool and a weapon. She has the men eating out of the palm of her hand, and the jealousy she stirs up along with the over-protectiveness of her it generates among the men who want to be with her works in her favor.
Sex fantasy indeed. I chose to write it this way because most zombie stories which have sex do devolve into sex fantasies with zombies. The sex in my story plays an integral role to the plot.
I really wish people would read the whole book before writing a review.
Although I don't want this to turn into a gripe, although it kinda is, I've noticed another type of comment I get a lot. Some people feel the characters weren't realistic enough for their taste. Well, they'd be right.
I wasn't aiming to write realistic characters in the dramatic sense. I was aiming to play in the sub-genre of pulp fiction horror, not super hyper realistic post apocalyptic fiction, which is hard science fiction, more or less, and not pulp.
So although the characters behave realistically, and talk realistically, if our veterinarian character can pick up a shotgun and use it--well then, by god, she's gonna just know how to use it. It's adventure! Not reality.
People take their zombies way to seriously, and it sometimes seems they forget one important fact... ZOMBIES AREN'T REAL!!!
Every time someone says that my characters aren't realistic, I wanna shout ZOMBIES AREN'T REAL!!! Repeatedly. Until they realize that complaining about the realism of my characters in a story as outlandish as a zombie story is a stupid criticism.
It's certainly a comment about personal taste, but that's all it is.
Speaking of which, there's a really popular character, the one I get the most comments on, who is obviously NOT at all realistic. He's the gunslinger, and seems to have stepped out of an old Western. Which is totally not realistic, but nobody seems to complain about him, because as one reader put it, "The cowboy is sooo cool!"
I have super soldiers. Mad scientists. A cowboy. A nymphomaniac. And many more.
Who said anything about realism? Why assume a fantasy, horror, with science fiction elements is going to be at all real?
My novel is violent, over the top, and unbelievable for a reason. I wasn't intending it to be a realistic "what if" zombies were real kinda story. I was intending it to read and feel like the 1950's pulp literature. If you want zombie realism, watch the Walking Dead.
The fact that people don't seem to get pulp fiction astounds me.
I blame television.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.