Guest Post: Zombies in YA by Rusty Fischer

Write Like No One's Watching:
A Guest Post on Zombies, YA and Trusting Your Own Writing!

Do you trust your own writing? When you sit down to write, are you confident about what youre putting on paper or constantly looking over your shoulder wondering if it might find a home? If people will like it? If it will be “popular” or not? These are questions I think every writer has to answer at some point in his or her career, and ones I hope to put to rest at least a little with this post.

When people hear I wrote a book called Zombies Don’t Cry, the first question out of their mouths is usually, “Why zombies?”

The answer is simple: Im a big fan of underdogs. At this point, Id rather see a movie about Robin than Batman; Id rather watch Tontos exploits than the Lone Rangers.

So when I started writing YA about two years ago, I was instantly anti-vampire. Not because I dont dig vampires my next book, in fact, IS about vampires its just that they were the Batmans at the time; they were the Lone Rangers.

I wanted to write about Robin and Tonto, you know? So I looked around the Teen/YA section and tried to find the most underrepresented genre on the shelves. There were vampires, there were werewolves, there were faeries and goblins and demons and ghouls, but… where was all the zombie love?

At the time, there were only a handful of zombie books to choose from. Thats not really the case anymore, but I still feel that, compared to vampires and werewolves, faeries and ghouls, zombies are still the ultimate YA underdogs.

So, back to the question: “Why zombies?”

Its all about confidence. I figured this was a “blank canvas” niche; one where there werent a ton of rules laid out yet, one where I could open a blank page and start writing and make up my own rules.

Vampires have the whole sunlight, mirrors and stake through the heart thing. Werewolves have full moons and silver bullets. Zombies? All we know about them is pretty much you take off the head, they stay dead.

Fine, I can work with that, but… but… what would it be like to go to school as a zombie? What would zombies wear? Would they date? Could they date? Were there good zombies? Bad zombies? Zombie laws? Zombie cops? It was YA so I certainly couldn’t have my MC running around chopping other zombies heads off, so… how to put them down without decapitation?t give up!

It was a challenge, it was a fun one and knowing that I could write my own rules gave me a lot of latitude. Rather than sticking to the accepted rules for vampires and werewolves, I could play by my own rules.

The only problem was, most agents and publishers were as anti-zombie as I was anti-vampire and werewolf. There was a ton of rejection but, at this point, I was so into my zombie world I couldn

And here comes the confidence part: the more I got rejected, the more I said to myself, “Well, shoot, if nobodys ever going to see this anyway, why not REALLY go to town?” So I quit worrying if New York editors would like it, or if it would “fit” on the bookstore shelves, or if “the cool kids would like it.

I wrote a book that I wanted to read; not necessarily the 42-year-old graying beard me, but the nerdy spazz 16- or 17-year-old me who still listened to the Star Wars soundtrack and read Stephen King behind his math book. It was really freeing because I was literally writing for an audience of one.

You know how they say “dance like no ones watching”? Well, when it comes to zombies, and YA, and picking a genre or a word count length or even a publisher or an agent, here is my advice: write like no one! s reading

Write for yourself, write for your friends, write for the small, not the big; write for the underdog, not the hero. Write the story you want to read and somebody, chances are many somebodys, will want to read it to.

I dont think publishers and agents want to read the same old thing anymore; I know kids dont. As Zombies Don nears its publication date and it gets in the hands of more and more reviewers and It Crym seeing more and more feedback, what Im finding is literally hundreds of avid, excited, encouraging, honest, unabashed YA readers and bloggers who are not only enthusiastic about their genre of choice but absolutely sophisticated in their reading tastes.

They are a market who, I believe, welcomes the new and shies away from the trite. They may devour vampire book after vampire book, but even in that I can see the trend veering more toward sophisticated, far-reaching series and also kind of the anti-sparkly vamp set with Fat Vampire and the like.

Its an exciting, vivid and bold time full of opportunities for YA writers who can find their voice, speak to this sophisticated audience and write with absolute, utter confidence.

My advice to YA writers (and zombie lovers)? Know who you are, know who your audience is, know what you want to write, tell a great story and do it in a new way. To me, those are the keys to writing for YA.

And always remember, dont just dance like no ones watching; write like no ones reading!!!

About the author: Rusty Fischer is the author of Zombies Don’t Cry: A Living Dead Love Story, due out from Medallion Press in April 2011.

Visit his blog,, for news, reviews, cover leaks, writing and publishing advice, book excerpts and more! And look for his next book, Vamplayers, due out from Medallion next year!


  1. I have to say, I haven't ever read a Zombie novel. I understand what you mean about them being the underdogs. Thinking about it, I can only think of one Zombie YA book that I've seen around the blogs. There must be more, but only one title has stuck in my head. I'm wondering though, can animals become zombies too or just humans?

  2. What an absolutely FUN post.

  3. This post put a smile on my face - and zombies - ooh! :D

  4. I really want Zombies Dont Cry plus have your read Rusty's zombie poems I wasa hysterical. Great interview/post

  5. Interesting post, I don't think I have read that much Zombie fiction.


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