Friday, January 3, 2014

"Apocalipstick" by Lisa Acerbo

by Lisa Acerbo

Apocalipstick is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author. There is also a giveaway to enter below (US only). Be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Life is bad after the apocalypse ... the undead just made it worse.
Jenna should be having the time of her life at college. Instead, her only desire is survival. She lives in a world gone insane after a virus kills most of the population. Being alive after the apocalypse is bad, but when the undead return, hungry for humans, times turn darker. For Jenna and a small group of survivors, the goal is to reach the High Point Inn. At the inn, Jenna develops feelings for Caleb, who, while exotic and intoxicating, is not quite human. Will this new utopia last?

“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes…” ran through Jenna’s mind, another remnant of her former life. Now the graveyard was the safest place. Evil openly roamed the streets and it was coming for her.
Jenna blinked the sweat out of her eyes and took a deep breath. She swayed with exhaustion. Angels, symbols of all things God and good, adornments of the dead, swam in and out of Jenna’s clouded vision. She placed a scarred hand on the peaceful, cold stone markers, embellished with the names of forgotten loved ones. Nowadays, loved ones wanted to come back from the grave and claw your face off, devour your insides.
Jenna wanted to lie down and give up. She was tired and had lost everyone she knew. Hair lank and greasy, mud splattered clothing, old and mismatched. Instead of admitting defeat, she forced herself to stay alert, pushing matted, raven hair out of her eyes with a dirty hand. Jenna could not remember a time in her recent history where she felt clean or had a moment in which she was not fighting to stay alive. Looking around the darkened landscape, she wanted to live. She shoved to her feet once again.
Gingerly, with a limp, she started walking deeper into the cemetery. She had twisted her ankle during the jump from the gate. The last sprint had been hell. Her stomach ached where the scar stretched from side to side, but her ankle worried her most. If she could not run, Jenna would be food for the dead. Hopefully, she’d find shelter soon.
A noise echoed through what should have been deserted gravestones. Jenna froze for a second, panicked, but then instinct kicked in. She pivoted on her good foot, grabbing for the knife in her pocket. It was all she had left, after losing the gun during her escape yesterday.
Jenna ran back into the oldest part of the graveyard, until she came up to a small mausoleum. It looked more like a shack, a collage of tumbling stone and wood. She pulled on the door, but it stuck, even as everything around it decayed. She felt her way around the side. Her hand slithered across the remains of what once was a delicate, stained glass window. Shards of color caught her coat. Using her elbow, shielded by her jacket, she knocked out the remaining pieces and then painfully pulled herself inside.
Crouched on the ground, she was tempted to give herself over to tears, but instead searched for anything useful. A sturdy casket dominated the tiny interior of the room. The dilapidated mausoleum housed little of use, but someone must have been there before her. Rusty tools, wrenches, hoes, and a beat up shovel lay scattered across the floor, abandoned. They might make good weapons, but were heavy to haul. The handle to the shovel would be usable if she could dislodge it from the base.
She’d try. In addition to the mostly useless tools, Jenna found a box of matches near the charred remains of a former fire which littered the corner. Maybe, if she ever felt safe, she could light a fire and feel warm. For once. Jenna hunkered down, shovel in hand, and began to ply the handle apart from the base. She had to hurry. They would soon be upon her.

By Katie
I enjoyed Apocalipstick from the first page and found myself reading it slowly because I did not want the story to end. The characters were as genuine as the emotion. I chuckled when the protagonist's regrets in her post apocalypse world were missing shopping and listening to music. The character's thoughts evidenced Lisa's ability to write from the point of view of a teenager. The love triangle will have readers picking a "team" - either Team Caleb or Team Quentin.
I enjoyed the story, bit my fingernails during the zombie scenes and grew sad when I reached the last page. I hope the author is busy writing book two, because I look forward to reading it.

Interview with the Author
Hi Lisa, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Apocalipstick.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I adore Stephen King and have read On Writing by King many times. During the summer, I completed Joyland and, more recently, Doctor Sleep. King is such an amazing storyteller and his characters are written flawlessly. I hope if I continue to practice, one day I will possess a modicum of his talent.
What age group do you recommend your book for?
I would recommend the book for adults, new adult audiences, and older teens. At the high school where I teach some of my senior students have read it. Hopefully, they liked it. In addition, a fellow teacher had a class of freshmen read it. They are still slogging through, but I am going to give an author talk to them soon. I will find out what they think ...
What sparked the idea for this book?
The zombie apocalypse, of course. Reading some of the recent book releases in the genre and watching movies like Shaun of the Dead and World War Z sparked the desire to try my hand at writing my own zombie novel. Unfortunately, if a zombie apocalypse comes soon, I am a goner. I am a slow runner and have no ability to wield a weapon. I’d be the first to die, so let’s hope zombies don’t rise up for a few more years.
Here's hoping! Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
Jenna, the main character, came first. She lives in this crazy, deadly post-apocalyptic world overrun with stalkers, another name for zombies. I love Jenna, the hero of the story. She is tough, smart and sassy and has this innate ability to stay alive in the craziest situations. What more could you want? I’m not sure if she is all that likable; a zombie apocalypse can cause some people to be on edge and grumpy, but she is fiercely loyal to her friends, and that counts for a whole lot when you fight the evil undead.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Writing a romantic scene is scary. They are much harder to write than the zombie battles. I grew up in a very traditional, very Catholic family, so love scenes can be tough to write at times, but I am starting to get over that fear. Book two will be zombies and romance 2.0.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope the message conveyed through Apocalipstick is similar to what made some of the classic zombie movies so interesting to watch. Dawn of the Dead (1978) used the zombie genre to make a comment of society and consumerism. When I began the novel, I wanted my audience, on some level, to relate to the characters in Apocalipstick and the struggles they face in the story. Every day, people fight small battles, whether it is with school, jobs, illnesses, or family problems. At times, people also lose hope or feel detached, similar to the characters called the “others.”
How long did it take you to write this book?
Three years. I worked on the dissertation for my EdD at the same time. There were times academic writing started to drive me crazy, and at that point I would turn to creative writing for a while.
What is your writing routine?
Coffee fuels my writing in the morning. After many cups of coffee, some coherent thoughts enter my mind and I attempt to jot something down. I usually write in the morning for an hour because it is quiet. I tend to get up at 4 am or 5 am to start the process. I am a high school teacher so in the summer I can relax and sleep in later. During the summer, I am home alone with our three cats and my daughters who are college age. I can write for as long as I want any time the mood strikes me.
How did you get your book published?
Eternal Press. Love them. They are a small indie press and have been wonderful every step of the way. The book is available on their website.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Keep going. It took me a long time to write something coherent. Many bad books ended up in the recycle bin before I produced Apocalipstick. I’m still learning from everything I write and from my reviews and fans. The goal is to continue to improve and one day, hopefully, write something many people would like to read.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I ride (sit on) horses, but I am really awful at it. My daughter has been riding since she was four years old and I wanted to stay involved. We ended up buying one horse when she was a teen and then rescuing another, a thoroughbred and former racehorse with arthritis. I love trail riding and take lessons, but cannot improve. I have a mental block.
What does your family think of your writing?
My daughter and step-daughter have read and re-read the book, and my daughter was instrumental in telling me what was really and truly awful when I first started writing Apocalipstick. She is also the one who helped me think of the title. My family is supportive and loves that I write as long as I promise not to make them repeatedly proofread and edit the first drafts.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
My father suffered from schizophrenia. In many ways, his disease shaped my life as a child and young adult. I know he loved me, but living with him was hard and there was always tension in the house. In college, I wrote a short story for my creative writing class about my experiences growing up and my professor and class thought it was fiction.
Did you enjoy school?
Not really. I was an unmotivated student in high school and college, but now I love it and recently completed my EdD. My initial lack of motivation helped me decide to become a teacher. I want to make learning enjoyable for the students I teach. Is it working? I have no idea.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I hated reading in elementary and middle school until my mother finally allowed me to read Judy Blume. Blume wrote about what was happening in my world and I was hooked. I read every book she wrote and that started my love of reading, which continues today.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I majored in English during college, thinking that I wanted to become a journalist, but instead became an English teacher at the high school level. While a full time teacher now, I have also continued to write and publish. Before turning to fiction, my articles appeared in the Connecticut Post, Trumbull Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter. Writing a novel was on my bucket list, so now that I have completed the goal, I am changing my bucket list entry to writing a series of books.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
As I mentioned, I was not a motivated student. When a teacher in high school gave me an “A” on a creative story, it was the first time I was motivated to write more, to practice, to improve. I also remember the same teacher had us read a novel, A Patch of Blue. After reading this story, my world was changed forever. I wanted to be able to write stories that change how others see the world.
What was your favorite book as a child?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I tear up every time I read it.
Who were your favorite authors as a child?
I grew up reading novels by Judy Blume, Johanna Lindsey, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, among others. While entirely different genres, these authors inspired me to want to read more and write fiction. Is it odd that I love both horror and romance genres? I love authors who can create vivid conflicts and life-like characters in relationships, romantic or otherwise. These days I am inspired by the books my high school students read like Twilight, the Chicagoland Vampires series, and The Hunger Games. I enjoy reading romances with action and adventure, and I hoped to create a book with those elements.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I am so lucky to work in a high school where the library was able to purchase a bunch of copies of Apocalipstick. I have been able to sit down and talk to teens about the book. It gives me some great ideas for future stories. Students are brutally honest (in a good way) and I have received great critique from them. One of the main points to change - too many minor characters. This is remedied in the second book.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Apocalipstick was my first book, but book two in the series is coming together. Jenna and Caleb undergo a challenging quest. They leave the safety of the inn and their travels resemble the traditional journey of the mythological heroes brought to light by Joseph Campbell. There are also many unexpected twists for the characters and someone rises from the dead, but not as a zombie. I was working on my first book and already planning the next book in my head, thinking about the changes and developments that would happen to Jenna and Caleb, the main characters.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lisa. Best of luck with rest of the series.

About the Author
Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct faculty at the University of Phoenix. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and two horses. When not writing, she mountain bikes, hikes, and tries to pursue some type of further education - she's working towards an EdD.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two print copies and a $20 Amazon gift card (open to US shipping only).