WE'RE HERE. WE'RE DEAD. GET USED TO IT!-Contest has ended thanks everyone!

Kiss of Life
by Daniel Waters
Available 5/12/09

The phenomenon that's been sweeping the country seems to be here to stay. Not only are the teenagers who have come back from their graves still here, but newlydeads are being unearthed all the time. While scientists look for answers and politicians take their stands, the undead population of Oakville have banded together in a group they're calling the Sons of Romero, hoping to find solidarity in segregation.

Phoebe Kendall may be alive, but she feels just as lost and alone as her dead friends. Just when she reconciled herself to having feelings for a zombie -- her Homecoming date Tommy Williams -- her friend Adam is murdered taking a bullet that was meant for her. Things get even more confusing when Adam comes back from the grave. Now she has romantic interest in two dead boys; one who saved her life, and one she can't seem to live without.

Quick Comment on Generation Dead: To be perfectly honest, I didn't pick up the book for a long time because I thought I knew what I would be getting by looking at the cover. How cliche I know, I'm so ashamed. A zombie cheerleader! Not another chic lit YA novel in a supernatural disguise!
I can totally kick myself for thinking that. Picking up Generation Dead and reading the depth of emotion lurking inside the pages was an overwhelming revelation. And I certainly never expected to find a character like Adam. Waters also surprised me with his take on the mythology for zombies- or rather the differently biotic - by making them coherent and non-bloodthirsty. But the danger for them is startlingly real. They have to live with the stigma of zombies and no rights protecting them from prejudice, abuse, or even murder.
The end of Gen Dead absolutely broke my heart, but knowing that Kiss of Life as soon to hit shelves was not just a ray of hope, it was like the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm. I can't wait to read Kiss of Life, and I can't wait for one of you to win a copy.

IB Teen talks to Dan Waters
IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who
would you choose

DW: My top-of-mind response was Buddy Glass because I think he might be the fictional character I would most like to hang out with, but there are probably better choices if one is considering overall benefit to humanity. I guess an obvious choice would be Superman (although I'd pick Power Girl, because she has all of his powers plus the powers of being A. female and B. gorgeous), but then I thought it might be actually doing humanity a disservice to bring to life someone whose sole purpose was to solve all our problems for us. So then I thought maybe a common enemy like Galactus or Sauron would be a good thing, something that unites the world in purpose, but then I worried that the broad social policies of say a Sauron would be too attractive for a large segment of the world's population to pass up, thus defeating my initial reasons for giving him life.

Maybe I should stick with Buddy Glass.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?
DW: With a few scars and bruises, like most other people. I enjoyed my teen years, although it isn't a time of my life I'd care to revisit, except for maybe 19. 19 was pretty cool. Actually 17 was really good, too.

The key to surviving any attack on the psyche is to have a rich interior life. Most teens are inward-looking and introspective already, which is half the battle. The other half is to be able to understand other people and society; reading widely and playing sports can help with this. Pickup basketball and frequent trips to the library made for a much healthier teen Danny.

IBT: As a zombie fanatic myself, I though your Zombie mythology was refreshing
and fascinating
. How did you get from brain eating zombies to the Differently

DW: Thank you.

The decision to eschew brain-eaters in favor of my kinder, gentler zombies was almost purely instinctual, but it was one of those almost reflexive actions that made more and more sense once the initial blush and frenzy of writing cooled and I started to figure out what it really was I was trying to do with the story I wanted to tell.

There were a number of things about the modern American myth of the zombie (basically ignoring voodoo traditions and thinking Night of the Living Dead forward) that struck me as being rich material to work with. In most Romero inspired treatments, individual zombies aren't really much of a threat (unless they are/were a close relative! Then you’d better watch out!). All you need is a ten foot head start or a baseball bat to avoid a lone zombie. But collectively, zombies have power. This is where zombies differ from say vampires, which are basically undead superheroes, able to fly, beguile, perform acts of incredible strength, etc. I liked the idea that the “monster” of the story, in societies’ terms, was pretty much powerless.

Another concept that often got lost in “traditional” zombie fare was the degraded humanity of zombies. Many of the post-NOTLD films seemed to be about maximizing kill count rather than exploring the idea that zombies are basically us, but dead. But then, maybe maximizing the kill count was the point, the idea that one can cathartically experience what it is like to waste dozens of people that were just like us not so long ago? This to me is one of the most frightening aspects of the American zombie myth.

I also realized that many of my favorite science fiction/horror tales were also zombie stories, in a way—1984, The Stepford Wives, The Body Snatchers. Much like the brain eating zombie stories, these stories were all about the fear of assimilation, the loss of individuality to a homogeneous horde, the destruction of one’s personality and identity. I’m not sure that people today have that fear—the fear that society will assimilate them—that they did years ago. People are more free to carve themselves out as individuals, to reinvent themselves continually, to add 62 pieces of flair to their Facebook page—but the fear of today is that a person can be as individual as they can be and society just might not care. I’m thinking of this great story in the parody newspaper The Onion where Marilyn Manson does his level best to shock and get a rise out of a middle American neighborhood—at one point going door-to-door wearing “a suit of human noses”—and the reaction is this very blasé, world-weary “whatever”. Or those cable or satellite commercials, whatever they were, where a suburban mom is serving lemonade to Freddy Krueger/Jason Voorhees-esque movie monsters or gang members and explaining how she used the cable or satellite services’ “parental controls” function to block them out so her kids won’t be exposed to their particular worldview—much to the remorse of the tearful monsters/thugs. I love those commercials! They completely flip the dynamic of the Stepford wife and make the soccer mom the most powerful being in the universe!

But the point of all this is the modern concern that being allowed to exist or being a fully realized individual in a society doesn’t necessarily mean that your voice will be heard by that society. The zombies in the world of Generation Dead aren’t looking to assimilate other people (via ‘turning’ others through the consumption of their brains) or replace them–they are actually looking to rejoin society, a society that they believe will be made better and stronger by their participation.

And then there’s the multiple levels of zombie-as-consumer, etc. that are so fun to work with. I could go on ad nauseum. Basically I either riffed heavily on or inverted as many traditional zombie tropes as I could think of.

IBT: How have the books/movies you've read inspired the books you've written?
What are you currently reading?
DW: Everything you read, watch or experience goes into the big Hadron collider in your head, and when you write, all of those images, thoughts and ideas hopefully come back out in interesting ways. Sometimes the influences are obvious and overt, others are subliminal to the point where even I might not recognize them until I reread/re-watch whatever it was that influenced me in the first place.

I'm currently reading stacks of non-fiction, books you would generally find in the "Cultural Studies" of your local bookstore, for a project I'm working on. I also made a list of the "Twenty Works of Fiction that Most Influenced Me as a Writer" and have been reading those as well. I’m realizing as I reread some of these formative books that their impact on me as a writer and a person is considerable.

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the
ideas that didn't make it

DW: I think all of my ideas make it onto the page—some page!—eventually. Scenes, characters, whatever else can and do end up on the cutting room floor.

Early drafts of Generation Dead were far different from the final result. One of the main characters—a point of view character—disappeared entirely, gone. He got in the way, he was dull, he added nothing to the story and subtracted much. I still felt oddly guilty and criminal when I removed all traces of him from the book, even though it was the right thing to do.

I cut one especially horrific scene from the book because it didn’t work with the rest of the book. I can’t tell you about it though because it may show up in a later work!

IBT: What is your favorite type of hero?
DW: Sandwich, definitely.

I don't know that I have a favorite type of literary hero—I like flawed heroes, perfect heroes, inept heroes, antiheros—whatever is right for the story. The unity of a story is more important to me than following a particular “type”.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a
necessary evil

DW: I always try to start from the position of "seek first to understand". Quite often you find that people have different definitions for the words involved; unless we start from a position with a commonality of meaning we’re kind of stuck.

Let's say the "necessary evil" folks believe that "censorship" = "expunge the work/genre in question from our libraries, schools, and bookstores, and then salt the cultural soil from which it sprang so that nothing may ever grow there again", than we are likely to have a serious difference of opinion that I--as a writer or really just a member of society--have a moral obligation to oppose strenuously.

If however, the necessary evil contingent has a more tightly focused belief, such as "censorship" = "make it more difficult for children to gain access to certain works without clearing certain societal/parental channels first", then we may have some common ground.

I’m opposed to censorship, but I think there’s a tricky line to walk as someone who writes for teens or children. I believe that cultural artifacts have the right to exist—even if they are “offensive” to a segment of society. Art’s “purpose” quite often, is to offend segments of society, to overturn the status quo.

That being said, I also believe in the family’s right to limit their own exposure to cultural artifacts, especially where children are concerned. There’s a lot of garbage in the world, even—believe it or not!—on bookstore shelves!

The toughest question that I ever have to field—even tougher than these questions!—is “my son/daughter is X years old. Is your book appropriate for him/her?” The answer is—I don’t know. I don’t know your child! I don’t know you! I can tell you what my publisher recommend, or I can point you to various sources that many educators consider reputable for a recommendation, but even the best intentioned of these organizations might ascribe to a moral world view that differs from yours. That being said, I think my book is both entertaining and “worth” reading, that it would be wrong for a parent to prevent indefinitely a child who wanted to read it from reading it. I also think that most teens can "handle" serious subject matter, and that such subject matter improves and enriches their lives and therefore the lives of everyone around them. But who cares about my opinions?

Maybe I should say something like “My personal belief is that this book is appropriate for just about anyone, but it is up to you, preferably in conjunction with your child, to determine at what age it is appropriate for them.”

Yeah, that line is guaranteed to boost sales!

My answer hearkens back to those commercials I mentioned previously. I absolutely believe in the right for Freddy Krueger and the fictional The Wire-esque thugs to exist, but I don’t intend to let my young kids access them until I feel that they can understand them for what they are.

Sorry for the multiple digressions, but certain issues are too complex to answer definitively. I don’t pretend to have done so here.

On a side note, I’m surprised and hurt that no one has banned Generation Dead that I’m aware of yet.

IBT: What's next for you after "Kiss of Life"?
DW:I'm working on a few different things, all young adult projects. I recently turned in a third Generation Dead novel called Passing Strange to my editor.

IBT: If you woke up tomorrow to a traditional zombie invasion, what would your
escape plan be
DW: My plan would be to make myself less tasty.