I've been hard at work on Jenny Undead, and a lot of fans have expressed concerns that I'm diverging from urban fantasy to write a zombie book. One fan said, "I really dislike any genre that's so gory, but I guess since it's you that's writing it I'll just have to trust you." Another said, "Zombies? No thanks."
All this genre criticism really bothered me to tell the truth. But today (with a little help from my friend Nick) I realized the problem. We were seeing this in different ways. People were expecting me to write a formulaic people versus zombies shoot-em-out with nauseating amounts of gore. And me? I just had all these characters in my head, and they just happened to be in a post-apocalyptic world where there happened to be zombies.
So picture this: there's this girl. Jenny is her name. She ran away from home as a teenager and was living on the streets when a group of anarchists found her. Well, one anarchist, really. His name is Declan Munro, but his friends call him Munro. Jenny calls him Declan. Jenny and Declan have been happier than most during this so-called apocalypse. They and their friends have been using the downfall of humanity to blow up government buildings. Because they're quite sure that people will try to start up civilization again once the zombies die out. It's just that the zombies are taking their sweet-ass time.
So now you have the setup. Jenny is also searching for her brother, Casey, who she left with her mother when she ran away years ago. She's heard through the grapevine that he's still alive. But then Jenny gets bitten. And her life is over. Or is it? She wakes up a few days later with all the attributes of a zombie, except her mind is still intact. And there are others like her, including Casey, her long lost brother. They're called The Thirteen, because that's how many of them there were left alive after Jenny's scientist mother experimented on them when she was a teenager. And with Jenny and Casey, they've now found five of the thirteen originals. And they think they might just be the cure...
But, see, I had an image in my head when I became interested in writing this book. You have this guy that's completely in love with this girl. They're anarchists, but it hardly matters. Everyone falls in love at some point in their lives. Except, when Jenny is bitten, Declan knows she has to die. When she disappears before she turns zombie, he just assumes she's gone. He's devastated and goes a little mad. And then you have the scene that I have stuck in my head on repeat. The first time Declan sees Jenny after she "turns." It's bad enough seeing the woman you love after she's forcefully changed into a mindless drone. But there's this moment, this crystal-clear moment. Jenny speaks to him. It doesn't matter what she says, because zombies aren't supposed to be able to speak. Jenny assumes he's going to try to kill her, so she runs away, and Declan is left standing there, his whole world suddenly blowing apart. He can't even talk he's so shocked. Obviously he follows her.
This is not a romance. This is not a normal emotionless zombie book. This is not a post-apocalyptic punk rock dream world. Except when it is one of these things. And also, when it's all of these things. There are religious cults, there is violence and cursing and explosions, there is fear and revulsion and breathless despair, and there is love. And I'm hoping people will like these gritty characters as much as I do. They've been knocking around in my head for a while now, and it will be something of a relief to finally let them out.
I'm planning on writing all three books one after the other, so the entire trilogy should be available as quickly as I can write them. I hope fans of the Niki Slobodian series will give Jenny a chance. But if they don't, that's cool too. The Thirteen won't be a series for everyone. But I'm still tingling with
J.L. Murray is the bestselling author of the Niki Slobodian series, After the Fire, and Jenny Undead.