Strong Women of the Apocalypse
Almost a decade ago, I wrote an online serial called As The World Dies with two female protagonists fighting to survive in a zombie-infested world. The reaction to the initial installment was immediate. The majority was thrilled to see a different sort of hero killing zombies, but a small minority was furious. One of the naysayers mockingly called it “Thelma and Louise meets the zombies.” I loved that phrase so much, I used it to describe the story when I self-published it as a trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, Siege). Later, a reviewer updated the phrase to “Thelma and Louise meets The Walking Dead”, and that’s the tagline my publisher, Tor, decided to use when they reissued the trilogy.
My main characters, Jenni and Katie, made such a huge splash in As The World Dies because the zombie genre at that time was filled with male heroes, and women (and children) were expendable accessories to those heroes. Oftentimes, the gruesome death of a female character was used as an emotional motivator for the male. Some readers considered my online story with two female protagonists a bit blasphemous. Others embraced Jenni and Katie wholeheartedly, relieved to finally see women treated as capable human beings. The friendship between the two women and how it empowers them throughout their adventures was very different from the norm, but it was also something the readers loved. Despite some of the barbed comments directed at me, I stuck to my figurative guns.
Now, nearly ten years later, I’m known for my female protagonists, and it’s not so unusual for women to take lead roles in zombie/post-apocalyptic fiction.
In my three latest releases (yes, I’ve been busy!), I’m happy to say that I have some awesome female characters in the lead roles.
Jenni and Katie return in Deadly Night, a novelette set between The First Days and Fighting to Survive. I wrote the story for my fans and because I miss the two women so much. The As The World Dies trilogy is complete, but I do have a side project called The Untold Tales where I explore side stories within the same universe. Revisiting Jenni and Katie, their friendship, and their battles in a world overrun with zombies was incredibly emotional for me. At the crux of the new tale is how each woman deals with the loss of loved ones and how important their friendship is to their survival.
In The Mesmerized, Minji Nordim, a tattoo artist from Austin, Texas, struggles to save her husband and two small daughters from a terrible supernatural event that threatens to destroy the world. Minji is a different sort of character for me, because she’s a wife and a mother of a living family. In some of my other works, my main characters were dealing with the loss of their families, but Minji is actively fighting to save her own. Though she’s covered in tattoos, has dreadlocks, and likes to kickbox, she’s still a mother willing to do whatever it takes to save those she loves. It’s her maternal love that keeps her fighting until the end.
The Last Mission of the Living has a very different setting and protagonist. Set in a futuristic world, The Bastion is the last city of humanity. The extinction event threatening the world was brought about by a virus that reanimated the dead into rabid creatures who want to bite, infect, and spread the virus. Vanguard Lindsey Rooney is brilliant hacker who always keeps abreast of the inner workings of The Bastion at the top levels of government, but she has lost a lot of loved ones and has a lonely existence. I absolutely loved her character because she’s absolutely comfortable with who she is and she’s brave in the face of things that would send most screaming. She’s also quite loyal, and a relationship she forms with another soldier is an important part of the story. Lindsey is a bit more of an action star than my other female protagonists, but it’s her intelligence and cleverness that makes her such a dynamic character.
Though female characters are often stereotyped into specific roles in fiction, the reality is that women are just as diverse as males in what makes them tick, inspires them, and motivates them. The one thing I do love about writing female protagonists is breaking away from those tropes and making my characters as realistic as possible. I believe that a relatable heroine is an important part of writing an exciting fiction story that both men and women can enjoy.
Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.
You can find her online at:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Rhiannon-Frater/e/B0027DLFL6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Email: rhiannonfrater at gmail.com