The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome Sarah Lyons Fleming, author of the Until the End of the World series, which I’ve heard called “zombie chick lit.” Margo Maguire, a former Jaunty and the author who recommended these books to me, calls them “Friends Meets the Zombie Apocalypse and Kristan Higgins in Zombieland” (hi, Kristan!).
I’ve totally been stalking Sarah since I started the series. I read all three books and the novella in rapid succession, and I CANNOT RECOMMEND THEM HIGHLY ENOUGH. I was completely engrossed in the story, the characters, and the world Lyons created. Even if this isn’t your typical read, give it a try. There’s romance, suspense, laughter, tears. Keep reading to find out how to win a DIGITAL copy of UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD series (3 books!).
Shana: Welcome, Sarah! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so thrilled to be able to ask you all my questions. First of all, tell our readers a bit about your books.
Sarah Lyons Fleming: Thanks, it’s my pleasure! I think you nailed the books in your great description above, but here goes: The series is about Cassie Forrest and her friends surviving in a world brought to its knees by a zombie virus. They must escape NYC for the safety of the cabin that belonged to Cassie’s parents, who were preppers (people who store food and supplies for emergencies). Add in a little lost love, sarcasm, clashing personalities and undead altercations, and there you have book one. The other books are a continuation of their journey to survive.
I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, “Eww, zombies? And romance? Why is she even on this site?!”
But I don’t really write about zombies. I write about the people facing the zombies—their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses. It allows me to explore how a devastated world and the fight for survival can change a person for the better or worse. No character is perfect. They argue and laugh—they laugh a lot—and they can be petty and generous and loyal and weak and brave at any given moment, just like us. They’re human.
The main theme of my books is love—romantic, platonic, familial, and everything in between. They’re about finding hope even when it seems impossible.
Shana: I agree 100%. The series is really so much more about hope than zombies. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the series? Did you know you were writing a “zombie chick lit” when you started the trilogy?
Sarah: My dad handed me Malevil—a novel about survivors of a nuclear holocaust—when I was ten, and I’ve been hooked on post-apocalyptic stories ever since. But, aside from YA novels, there weren’t a lot of books that featured females as the main protagonist. Most were men, and often they were military men.
I wanted so badly to read a book with an older character like me (or me ten years ago, when I was thirty *sigh*), that I decided to write it myself. And, because I’ve always loved chick lit, it was a no-brainer to include the friendships and humor often found in that genre. Also, I’m the kind of person who’ll crack a joke at any moment (or at least think of one and have to bite my tongue), so there had to be humor even at the darkest times. You can blame my Irish half for that.
Shana: I love Cassie’s humor in the series.
During the zombie apocalypse, your characters have to learn to survive without modern conveniences. How do you know so many survival skills? For example, in So Long, Lollipops, Peter is trapped in a house and dying of thirst, so he taps the hot water heater. How do you know that kind of stuff?
Sarah: Short answer—I’m a little crazy.
Long answer—I was the girl who grew up in Brooklyn, NY and read survival books on the subway ride home from high school. Even growing up in the city, I spent a lot of time in the woods during the summer, and it’s always been something I’ve felt a burning desire to know. Plus, I really like having a lot of food in my pantry, and water filters and Swiss army knives make me happy.
I guess the long answer is quite similar to the short one, eh?
Of course, I do need to research at times, but I admit I know a lot of random survival tips. I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse! Okay, maybe not ready…but I might not die until the second week.
Shana: I would so die on the first day! Wait…maybe after reading this series I could make it two days.
I loved how you used stargazing to draw Cassie close to Dan in And After, and then how you used it again in All the Stars in the Sky to bring Cassie and her “family” full circle. Are you an amateur astronomer or did you research constellations?
Sarah: That required research. I can pick out the Big Dipper, and then I’m lost. Even with all my research (of course I can now find Cassiopeia) I still get turned around up there. But I love the stars, as well as their stories, and I’ve made it my mission to find and memorize them all one of these days.
Shana: You definitely know how to figure out the worst thing that can happen to your characters and then make that happen. Avoiding spoilers, did you know from the beginning who was going to survive and who wasn’t?
Sarah: I started Until the End of the World as a standalone, so I didn’t have the whole trilogy mapped out by any means. Without giving anything away, there was a character who was slated to die when I first started Until the End of the World. And then s/he didn’t. S/he surprised me by becoming a more important character than I’d ever dreamed, so that 100 pages into writing book one, the course of the entire book changed and became a series (with a novella thrown in).
As for the other characters, they were goners from that moment on.
Shana: I read that you have kids (see, I said I was a stalker). I know the challenges of writing with a busy family. What’s your writing schedule like?
Sarah: I love stalkers! Wait…you know what I mean.
Yes, I have two kids, ages five and eight. It can be challenging, but now that they’re both in school I have more time. Because I work at home and am self-employed, I guard those six hours as much as I can. That means I ignore errands and cleaning and many times I don’t answer the phone—my boss is very strict about personal calls during work hours. And I hate cleaning, so it’s not as if that’s a hardship.
I work school days, a few hours on some weekend afternoons while my husband, Will, entertains them, and I set aside a couple/few nights a week to write when they’re in bed. The other nights I hang with the husband—can’t neglect him either!
Also, headphones are very, very wonderful inventions.
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Sarah: I’m at work on a zombie series that takes place in NYC, in the same world as the Until the End of the World books. Many people have written me to ask what became of some of the characters, and this will be their chance to find out!
Shana: I can’t wait! Seriously, I am tapping my fingers impatiently.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you have any skills to survive a zombie apocalypse? How long would you make it?
One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win the entire series of ebooks (Three books, plus the novella). You must be able to read on Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The winner will be announced Sunday.
Until the End of the World (Book 1)
Cassie Forrest isn’t surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends. After all, she’s been on a self-imposed losing streak since her survivalist parents died: she’s stopped painting, broken off her engagement to Adrian and dated a real jerk. Rectifying her mistakes has to wait, however, because Cassie and her friends have just enough time to escape Brooklyn for her parents’ cabin before Bornavirus LX turns them into zombies, too.
This is difficult enough, but Cassie’s tag along ex-boyfriend and her friend’s bratty sister have a knack for making everything, even the apocalypse, more unpleasant. When the two attract a threat as deadly as the undead to their safe haven, Cassie’s forced to see how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. And it’s a lot farther than she’d anticipated. This, coupled with Adrian’s distant voice on Safe Zone Radio and, of course, the living dead, threaten to put Cassie right back into the funk she just dragged herself out of.
Survival’s great and all, especially when you have leather armor, good friends and home-brewed beer, but there’s something Cassie must do besides survive: tell Adrian she still loves him. And to do that, Cassie has to find faith that she’s stronger than she thinks, she’s still a crack shot and true love never dies.
Sarah Lyons Fleming is a Laura Ingalls devotee, wannabe prepper and lover of anything pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic—or anything in between. Add in some romance and humor, and she’s in heaven.
Besides an unhealthy obsession with home-canned food and Bug Out Bag equipment, she loves books, making artsy stuff and laughing her arse off. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she now lives in Oregon with her family and, in her opinion, not nearly enough supplies for the zombie apocalypse. But she’s working on it.
Jaunties, welcome historical author Jessica Peterson back to the blog and read on to find out how to win your copy of her latest release Undercover Scoundrel.
What is it about scoundrels that we find so irresistible?
Scoundrel is just a fancy word for bad boy; they come in all shapes and sizes. Is it the biker dude’s devil-may-care attitude that makes our toes curl? The rake’s dangerously suave sense of confidence? The vampire’s dark looks, or his promise of an eternity sleeping next to him in his super luxe silk-lined coffin?
Sometimes there is nothing more delicious than a taste of forbidden fruit, whatever flavor you prefer.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the thoughtful, kind-hearted hero as the next reader. And I don’t think being scoundrelly and being sweet are mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s when those two things come together – when the bad boy’s good side is revealed – that the magic happens. Maybe beneath the hockey captain’s gruff exterior, he harbors a thoughtful, deeply loving heart; the secretive spy may treat his targets with amused disdain (disdain that is served shaken, not stirred, of course), but treats the target of his affections with love and respect.
There’s just something so right – so satisfying – about seeing that sweetness, that vulnerability, come out. Especially when we see the bad boy doing a good deed for his lady love. The hero of my latest Regency-set release, THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL, may be a scoundrel twice over – Henry Beaton Lake is a spy with something of a rakish past – but he’s got a seriously mushy soft spot for his long lost first love, Lady Caroline. In many ways, Henry is master of his universe, but the tables are turned when he’s reunited with Caroline after a decade-long separation. Yes, he’s still a scoundrel with a wicked smile and a closet full of skeletons, but Caroline brings out his softer side.
And I don’t know about you, but I happen to think the mushy, ooey-gooey stuff can be just as sexy as the bad boy stuff.
Together, they make a pretty potent combination. I wonder what scoundrels have tickled your fancy – any particular bad boys with good hearts capture your imagination? For me, it’s gotta be the ultimate scoundrel, Rhett Butler, along with the cutie Eggsy from The Kingsman (if you haven’t seen that movie yet, rent it ASAP, if only because Colin Firth is in it!).
Please share your favorite scoundrels for a chance to win a signed copy, along with some fun author swag, of THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL!
As always, a big thanks to the ladies of The Jaunty Quills for having me. It’s always fun stopping by and saying hello!
Comment below to enter to win a signed copy, along with some fun author swag, of THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL (U.S. and Canada only!). Winner announced and contacted Sunday.
As you probably saw on the news, the weather in Texas the past month has been a nightmare. We’ve had rain and more rain. So when a monster storm blew through in the wee hours of the morning following Memorial Day, there was absolutely no where for the water to go. I woke about 2 in the morning because the lightning and thunder were so continuous and so loud. Even Princess Galen woke up about forty-five minutes later because the lightning was so bright.
We lost power for an hour or more, but when we looked out windows, the water hadn’t pooled or risen in the lawn or street. This wasn’t true of my friends and neighbors living only a mile away. I started getting texts at about 2:30 a.m. from a friend who was staring at water covering the wheels of cars parked on her street. An hour later the pictures were of water almost to her front door. The water stopped rising then, but many, many people weren’t so lucky. The bayous spilled out of their banks, inundating many homes with 3 or more feet of water. People were stranded at the Rockets’ game and on highways where water below some of the underpasses reached 11 feet.
The worst part was that the storm came under cover of darkness, and so many people didn’t how high the water had risen until too late. Some people lost everything, including their lives.
But when daylight came, so did a new flood. A flood of heroes. Men may hold most positions of power, but women rule the world. A half day hadn’t even passed before groups of neighborhood moms who usually met to sip wine or have playdates had organized donation drop-offs, meal trains, and sign up sheets for those in need. Moms who needed help sent out calls, and the calls were answered. Moms showed up to help other moms pack, wash clothes, babysit kids, run errands, or rip baseboards from sodden walls. Wherever there was a need, there were and still are hands to help.
I saw moms out with kids pulling wagons full of cleaning supplies, food and water to help those affected by the floods. These are the everyday heroes, who will never make it on the news or have their picture in the paper, but they are heroes nonetheless.
Of course, it wasn’t just people affected. Animals were in the path of danger. In this video, the owner of a doggie day care near me videos his trek through chest-high water to reach the building and help the overnight worker rescue the dogs.
If you want to help the doggie day care, you can do so here.
Do you know of any everyday heroes? Give them a shout out here because they deserve to be recognized too.
Robyn was supposed to blog today, but her internet is still out from the floods in her area earlier this week. I told her I’d do it for her because even though there was historic flooding in Houston, where I live, last night and today, I was lucky not to have been affected.
I know some of you are living in areas right now that are under water restrictions or in the grip of a drought. I sincerely wish we could give you some of our rain because we have way too much. I’ve pretty much exhausted all of my rainy day activities for kids. Princess Galen insisted on reading every single beginning reader/BOB book to me today. All I can say is that Biscuit has a lot of friends–kittens, frogs, ducks, and hens.
I managed to pull her away from all the cats on mats to go for a short bike ride. That seemed safer than braving the streets, some of which still had high water even late into the afternoon. A lot of people were out bike riding, and it was fun to wave to families biking together as we passed. That’s not something you usually see at 2 on a Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes maybe we all need a rain day to make us stay home from work and school and spend some time together reading or bike riding.
I’m not making light of those who lost their lives or their homes in the flooding. I certainly didn’t want a storm or flooding, but I am thankful for the extra time with my family.
And now I am really ready for everyone to go back to work and school!
Have you ever been through a flood or hurricane or natural disaster?
I’ve returned from the Romantic Times Convention in Dallas. It was a whirlwind of reader events, workshops, and parties. The first thing I did upon arrival was to check in, whereupon I got these room keys
and was greeted by these elevator wraps.
One look down from my room, and I had a bird’s-eye view of the restaurant and bar.
One of the most fun workshops was one where we authors gave the readers a chance to write their own blurbs after randomly selecting a hero, heroine, trope, and keyword.
I also got to be part of Eloisa James’s Flaunt Your Fascinator event. Readers and I made fascinators with tables full of material.
Some of them looked like this when we were done!
There was plenty of food,
plenty of swag,
and plenty of tiaras!
Hope to see you next year!