After watching the 2004 remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ Florida author Shana Festa developed kinemortophobia, a fear of zombies.
‘I used to be terrified of zombies,’ Festa says. 'I’m talking crippling fear. Couldn’t go outside alone at night, couldn’t close my eyes in the shower, couldn’t sleep unless hubs dragged the dresser in front of the bedroom door. I knew I couldn’t have two crippling fears – the first being spiders, which will never go away – and since zombies was the irrational one, I immersed myself into the genre and eventually Stockholm syndrome set in and now I can’t get enough of them.’
In her battle of phobias, the zombies lost to the spiders, but readers of zombie fiction ultimately won.
In May, Festa celebrated the release of her debut novel, ‘Time of Death: Induction,’ published by Permuted Press.
Of course, zombies play a role in the plot.
The first installment of the ‘Time of Death’ trilogy, ‘Induction’ is a classic zombie apocalypse tale in the style of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and 'The Walking Dead.'
In the novel, zombies terrorize the city of Cape Coral, Fla., and force a nursing student named Emma, her loving husband and her dog Daphne to fight for survival.
‘The day-to-day struggle of survival is a large theme within ‘Time of Death: Induction,’ Festa says.
Festa is a registered nurse living in Cape Coral, Fla., with a loving husband and a dog named Daphne.
So is art imitating life here?
‘I won’t even fib and say ‘inspired by’ or ‘loosely based on.’ What you read in ‘Time of Death’ is my dog,’ Festa says. ‘As much as true-to-life as Daphne is, Emma is pretty spot-on to my personality and experiences. It just felt natural for her to narrate through her journey. Let’s just say, I was able to keep in character easily. The possibilities are endless with a character like Emma. Because of her nursing education, I’m faced with infinite paths for her to take.’
While ‘Induction’ is her first novel, Festa is no stranger to fans of zombie fiction. Her alter ego, The Bookie Monster, is home to a popular Web site chiefly devoted to reviewing and promoting zombie fiction.
As The Bookie Monster, Festa is a prolific reviewer of zombie fiction, a hobby which she says helps her writing.
‘I hear many authors say they don’t read within their genre,’ Festa says. ‘I’ve asked a few and their explanation was so that they didn’t subconsciously steal from a book. To each his own and all that, but I would much rather know what everyone else is doing so I don’t inadvertently regurgitate the same concepts. And there may be a little bit of me that wants to see what others are doing and make sure I do it better. Of course, I’m biased, so I don’t know if I’ve really done it better, but I do know that I’ve done it differently.’
Readers on Amazon are raving about ‘Time of Death: Induction’ with 53 of 54 reviews receiving four or five stars.
Festa is a thoughtful reviewer, but admittedly nervous when her book is the one under the microscope.
‘Each role comes with its own set of challenges,’ Festa says. ‘As a reviewer, I work very hard to always review a book, never an author, so that becomes a barrier that I have to push through, especially because I have become friendly with so many authors. I pride myself on reviewing constructively and always qualifying a specific star rating with what I liked, what I didn’t like and what could have made it better.
‘As an author, it is so nerve-wracking to read a review. I hold my breath till the end and hope for the best. I’m fortunate enough to only have one negative review at this point, and the review actually made me laugh. The reader loved the characters and the writing, but didn’t enjoy the lack of a fairy tale ending.’
Festa's creative output during a writing project in 2013 revealed her capability to pen a full-length novel.
‘Another author, Jackie Druga, asked if I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2013,' Festa says. 'I had never heard of it before. I didn’t even know I had a book in me until I was 30,000 words in and reread it. I thought, 'Hey, look at that, I guess I can write a book.’
Festa never considered reinventing the classic Romero zombie when writing ‘Time of Death.’
“Nope,’ she says. ‘Nothing different. And that was a personal choice. My favorite zombie fiction highlights the traditional zombie. As a fan, I have an expectation of what I need from a good undead piece of work. I shared that personal preference with my readers. Instead of focusing on trying to wow readers with shiny 2.0 zombies, I gave them characters they could believe.’
The second book of the ‘Time of Death’ trilogy is titled ‘Asylum' and is scheduled for release Dec. 1.
'I’m by no means a deep thinker when it comes to writing,' Festa says. 'My only goal is to entertain. I want a reader to stay immersed in the story from the very first to the very last page, and then shake their fists in the air screaming at the fiction gods, ‘WHYYYYYYYY … WHY IS IT OVER?’ Then of course, I want to leave them jonesing for more.’