The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies reading guide

The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies                                               Lynn Messina                                                                                    $12.95 trade paperback                                                                         $2.99 ebook                                                                                            Read an excerpt

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INTRODUCTION                                                                                                            Hattie Cross knows what you’re thinking: Zombie sex? Ewwwww. But she also knows that since a virus turned 99.9999 percent of human males into zombies, it’s statistically impossible to meet-let alone date-the remaining 0.00001 percent. So she writes “The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies” to help her fellow single women navigate the zombie-relationship waters.

Her practical how-to impresses the CEO of the largest drug company in the world, and before she knows it, Hattie, a reporter for a downmarket tabloid that specializes in conspiracy theories, is sitting down with the woman who single-handedly invented the zombie-behavioral-modification market. Granted access to the inner sanctum of zombaceuticals, she meets an actual, living, breathing M-A-N.

Now Hattie, the consummate professional, is acting like a single girl at the end of the twentieth century: self-conscious, klutzy and unable to form a coherent sentence without babbling. Worst of all, the human male appears to have impaired her ability to think clearly. Because all of a sudden she’s convinced a conspiracy is afoot at the drug company and it seems to go all the way to the top!

ABOUT LYNN MESSINA                                                                                               Lynn Messina is the author of six novels, including Little Vampire Women and Fashionistas, which has been translated into 15 languages and is in development as a feature film. She attended Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied English literature. Her writing has also appeared in Self and Modern Bride, among other publications. She lives in New York City with her husband and sons.

A CONVERSATION WITH LYNN MESSINA

Q. What inspired you to write The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies?                     After Little Vampire Women came out, I was having lunch with a magazine editor and we started talking about the zombie trend, which I thought had pretty much run its course. My friend countered with a seemingly endless list of zombie projects in the works—Walking Dead, World War Z, another Zombieland movie, on and on. So I started to think about zombies and what I could bring to the trend, what kind of personalized spin I could give it. Naturally, my thoughts turned to chick lit. And then it hit me: an old-school chick lit dating saga with zombies as the romantic leads. It was completely absurd, which is why I loved it.

Q. What was the hardest part of making zombies date material?                          The sex scene, of course. Zombies are, by all accounts, unrelentingly stinky blobs of rotting flesh that—unlike, say, the noble vampire who resembles a regular human for the vast majority of time. So the biggest challenge was figuring out how to make a nonsquidgy, nonrancid, nonputrid zombie that a human female wouldn’t be entirely repulsed to touch—and to do so without creating an implausible zombie-lite version. After several nonstarts, I finally came up with a viable solution: treat the zombie as if it were just another human being with a crippling mental disability. Zombified neurological decay is simply another type of chemical imbalance in the brain. The right regimen of zombaceuticals can not only control appetite and modify behavior but it can minimize odor, slow down decay and firm up a zombie’s skin so that the thought of zombie sex isn’t one hundred percent disgusting.

Q. The protagonist of The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies wrote a book called The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies, and chapters from her book are excerpted in yours. What was your process for writing these fake chapters?                            The first thing I had to do is figure out what I wanted to say in these chapters. I identified basic topics that needed to be covered: how to meet a zombie, how to communicate with a zombie and, of course, how to make love with a zombie. Then I had to make each chapter relate to the narrative that immediately followed. So the chapter on how to meet a zombie (“Chapter 13: Let’s Get It On—Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Zombie Sex But Were Too Grossed Out to Ask”) immediately precedes the scene in which Hattie and her new zombie boyfriend consummate their relationship. Once I sorted that out, the fun began because I had a total blast writing in fake-advice-column style. I work in women’s magazines, so I know the tone very well and how to mix it up—one chapter is a quiz, another is a chart, a third is a list of misconceptions. The absolute best part was poking fun at guys and relationships by exploring all the ways a relationship with a zombie resembles a relationship with a man. As the author of the Girls’ Guide, Hattie Cross is a zombie apologist, and she constantly takes little digs at human men, implying that zombies aren’t that much worse. For example, she concedes that, no, your zombie boyfriend won’t notice your fabulous new ‘do, but, she points out, when was the last time your human boyfriend noticed you got your hair cut? At one point, she even implies that dating a zombie is better than dating a man.

Q.  You’re calling this book zombie chick lit. Why?                                                       If Pride and Prejudice was indeed the first chick lit novel, then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the first zombie chick lit novel. The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies simply picks off where Seth Grahame-Smith left off—mining the comedy inherent in the marriage of zombies and women’s fiction. And, trust me, there is a lot of comedy to be mined. I owe Grahame-Smith a huge thanks for blazing a trail.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Do you identify with Hattie? Do you feel men are elusive and hard to meet?
  2. Hattie is so disconcerted by meeting an actual human male, she does several surprising and inappropriate things. Have you ever been disconcerted by a man? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
  3. Hattie mentions several ways in which zombies make better boyfriends than human males. Do you agree with some of her ideas? In what ways do you think dating a zombie might be better than dating a man?
  4. After six years of dating zombies, Hattie is used to making all the decisions without consulting her date. Do you think she’ll be able to adjust to a fully thinking partner? Do you think she might miss the easy agreeability of a zombie? How well do you think you would make the adjustment?
  5. Hattie’s career is very important to her and yet she sacrifices the story of a lifetime to save the human race. Do you think she made a smart decision? How would you react in the same situation?
  6. Hattie portrays Jake as a remarkably attractive man. Do you think he really was drop-dead gorgeous or was her perspective skewed because he was the first human male she’d ever met in person?
  7. Most post-zombpocalyptic men live in refined splendor, coasting on their rare immune Y chromosome. Hattie is very critical of this. Do you blame them? If you were one of 300,000 women left on earth, how hard would you work?
  8. Hattie describes 99.9999 percent of men as “succumbing” to the zombie plague, a term that implies they were somehow complicit in their own zombification. Should men have tried harder to fight it? What would you do if everyone around you was turning into a zombie? What’s your zombie-disaster plan?
  9. Many people Hattie meets think zombie sex is gross. On a scale from one to ten, how many ewwws would you give it?
  10. At the end of the book, Hattie writes a guide to dating dezombified human males. What kind of advice for dating a human male would you give her?
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