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Vaughn Surprises in Zombie Wonderland [Interview]

Zombie Wonderland by Piper Vaughn is anything but a typical zombie story. Emery has a crush on a regular customer by the name of Ross, and Ross shows up on Christmas Eve to warn Emery about the undead outbreak. Ross even has a survival plan in place. Of course, Emery thinks he must be dreaming because he was hoping to see Ross for the holidays — just not under these extraordinary circumstances.

That’s right…it’s a story about two GUYS falling in love during a zombie apocalypse. Why not? I’m sure there are gay zombie fans who will appreciate a story that doesn’t feature yet another heterosexual couple. In fact, I am sure there are zombiephiles who will appreciate yet another story that expands the undead genre even further, gay or not.

Vaughn does an excellent job blending several sub-genres such as horror, suspense and erotica. While some might have a problem with the detailed sex scene, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen someone complain about sex in a zombie story (just ask Bowie Ibarra)…which doesn’t make sense to me because I’m pretty sure there are people who would get it on in an apocalypse, if they thought they might die in the next 24 hours…especially if they had the kind of fortification and supplies that Ross inherited from his grandfather.

I expected Zombie Wonderland to be a humorous holiday story with zombies thrown in, but Vaughn’s creation turned out to be a serious piece with quite a surprise scene. I thought it would be appropriate to ask her over to The Zombiephiles for a visit…

Be honest…do you have an interest in the zombie genre, or did you think zombies would make a cool catalyst for getting your characters together?

Oh, I am a long-time zombie fan. The story came from my love of the zombie genre, rather than just the need for some huge catalyst for these two characters to hook up. I’d been mulling over ideas for a while, and finally this just popped in my head, totally at random. Zombies and Christmas, I thought. Why not? I actually have another, longer, story planned in this same world as well.

Many authors enlist the help of specialists to advise on details such as weapons, science, etc. Did you have to consult anyone before writing the detailed sex scene between Emery and Ross?

No, not at all. I did research for hotwiring a car and stuff like that, but I’ve been writing M/M sex scenes for years, since back in my fan fiction days. For me, the writing process is constantly evolving as I finish more manuscripts and learn new things, but I didn’t consult anyone specifically for that scene. I am involved in a big M/M romance group on, though, and I have occasionally asked the men and other authors in that group for advice. For a gay romance writer, that group is a great resource.

I know a lot of people are unaware of the M/M romance genre as a whole, but it’s growing fast. You’d be surprised at the amount of stuff out there, and there are even several more zombie related stories, too, that I can think of right off the top of my head.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when you wrote Zombie Wonderland?

I did. As I said above, the M/M romance genre is growing fast and I’m thrilled to be part of it. I know there are romance fans that are also zombie fans and zombie fans who might appreciate a side of romance with their horror. Those are the people I intended this story for. But, of course, if this book draws in new readers, too, who might have never tried either M/M romance or zombie horror before, you won’t catch me complaining. :)

Some people might think everything was a bit convenient for Emery, while others might argue that not everyone has to have bad luck during a zombie outbreak. Do you think either opinion has any validity?

Sure, I think they both do. Personally, I don’t think that Ross and Emery had it all that easy, but I can see how it would seem that way. Honestly, I’m not always a fan of stories where one thing after another goes wrong. Sometimes people get lucky. Sometimes they catch a break. I like there to be some hope, and from the hints given in the story, some people might correctly assume that Emery has had a difficult and lonely life. I thought it was his time.

Was it difficult writing a short story with so many sub-genres involved?

Partially. It was difficult to find a balance between the developing romance and the zombie violence and gore. I didn’t want one to completely overshadow the other. In the end, I like to think of it as a love story that just so happens to take place during the onset of a zombie apocalypse. I’m a romance fan first and foremost. I always start there and usually the rest of it tends to develop as I go along.

What was your publisher’s reaction to your story? Will you be doing more projects with Less Than Three Press?

I was actually acquainted with one of the owners of Less Than Three Press online, so before submitting Zombie Wonderland to them, I sent her an email to ask if it might be something they’d be interested in. I’d already had it rejected by a different publisher because they didn’t feel it was a good fit for their Christmas collection, and I was worried it might not be able to find a home. Luckily, LT3 was more than just interested. They offered me a contract less than a week after I submitted the manuscript. :)

As for future projects, I already have two more short stories coming from LT3 in the next couple of months, and I definitely have plans for more. I love working with them. They’re great people.

Any chance of you writing another story with zombies, or revisiting Emery’s world during the post-apocalypse?

Yes, actually. As I said above, I have another story planned in this world. It won’t necessarily be revisiting Emery and Ross, but it will be another M/M romance set during this same apocalypse. This one will either be novella or novel length, though, and hopefully available as a paperback in addition to the e-book format.

Thanks so much for having me! I was honored to be asked for an interview, and really happy to hear that you enjoyed the book. :)

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