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Hostile Questions: Carrie Ryan

Carrie Ryan, Lawyer. What the heck was wrong with that? But no, drunk on the accomplishment of mastering U.S. law, this ambitious lass up and decided to burden the general populace with a few more volumes of bound pages. Hence The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places. With those carefree titles, you’d expect a story following the hi-jinks of a couple of randy but lovable teens who inherit a bikini shop. But you’d be so wrong! These are zombie books, my friend–big, gray, depressing, violent, heartbreaking zombie books that have sold a lot of copies to those who, for reasons unknown, revel in such unseemly entertainments.

 That’s not a cup of blood. It’s just not.

What’s all the fuss? Let’s take a big hunk-a bite out of Ryan and see how she tastes.

Just who do you think you are?

Someone who now has The Who song, “Who Are You,” stuck in her head. Other than that, I’m someone with a lot of opinions. I only eat bananas when there’s still some green around the stem and I almost always mix my metaphors. My cat thinks of me as a heater and my dog knows me as “treat dispenser.” I like to talk (the more meandering the conversation the better), I like to learn people’s stories, I too often fret over the easiest decisions, and despite my best efforts I’m usually the last to leave a party. I’m a younger sister, a youngest daughter, and a perennial people pleaser. I have a terrible memory which my husband appreciates because he can tell the same joke and I’ll laugh every time. I’m someone who likes to laugh and I laugh loud. I drink wine in the evenings, watch horror movies on the weekends, and stay up late reading more often than not. I’m really good at sleeping and really terrible at learning to play the bagpipes.

I used to be a lawyer and when I had to choose between practicing law and writing books I chose the latter. It was a terrifying and thrilling decision and I’ve yet to regret it (though I still delight in the fact that it was writing a book about zombies that allowed me to make that decision).

Where do you get off?

Usually where I’m told because, let’s face it, I’m not much of a rule breaker. Last month I got off the plane in France and despite my best efforts otherwise I eventually ended up having to get back on the plane to come home. Right now home is Charlotte, NC, which isn’t too far up the road from where I grew up in Greenville, SC. I did spend some time out of the South when I attended Williams College up in Massachusetts (home of the purple cows, and no, I’m not kidding).

Most days you can find me sitting on an old couch in my living room, my computer in my lap, and my feet propped up on an old Ikea storage box that happens to be the perfect height.

What’s the big idea?

I think it’s very easy to judge people, especially if you’ve never been in their shoes, and I’m fascinated by what it takes to push someone into doing the very same thing they’ve condemned in others. I like to put my characters in these situations: have them take an absolute stance and then push them harder and harder until they’re forced to accept their own fallacy. Setting my first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, in a post-zombie-apocalypse world made doing this quite easy.

Bookwise, right now the big ideas I can talk about involve prophecies (the anthology I recently edited: Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction) and Vikings (my first middle grade out from Scholastic: Infinity Ring book 2: Divide and Conquer). The ideas I can’t talk about involve magic and adventure, an executioner or two, and perhaps some light cannibalism (not all in the same book, don’t worry!).

What is your problem, man?

I think my dog forgot who I am because his grandparents spoiled him so much while my husband and I were on vacation. Also, I just killed a stink bug so the room smells like cilantro which wouldn’t be a problem because I love cilantro except it’s a bit off-putting to consider that next time I eat guacamole I’ll be reminded of bug guts. And it appears that the books in my house have begun some sort of experimental breeding program because they seem to be multiplying and I need to figure out where to put them all.

And of course, as with most writers, my problem tends to be whatever it is I’m working on at the moment.

Haven’t you done enough already?

Never! There are too many stories to tell, too many places to visit, too many people to meet and books to read and walks to take and mountains to get lost on. I have too vivid of an imagination to not come up with new dreams and goals!

Though the first time I had a high school student come up to me after a visit and tell me that The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the first book she’d ever finished and she hadn’t stopped reading since… that was a moment when I felt like I’d done enough.

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About the Author:

Dan Kraus, senior editor at Booklist is the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award.

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