Tag Archives: Bride of the Living Dead

Bride of the Living Dead: Lynne Murray’s Virtual Book Tour

Debbie says:

In honor of Body Impolitic’s regular blogger Lynne Murray’s new book, Bride of the Living Dead from Pearlsong Press, of course our blog was a natural stop on her virtual book tour. Since we’d already announced the book’s publication, I thought it would be nice to have an author interview.

cover image of BRIDE OF THE LIVING DEAD: text on a pink background

Debbie: In her cover blurb, Laurie [Toby Edison] calls the book “Jane Austen meets the Marx Brothers.” Is that the tone you were aiming for? Did you have a catch phrase of your own for what you wanted the book to be?

Lynne:: Laurie’s comment was more than I could have hoped for. I have studied various writers’ work, particularly when I was trying to write action scenes in mysteries, which don’t come naturally to me, but when I read Austen, I just feel like I’m living in her world, eavesdropping on her pointed remarks. The Marx Brothers are also total fun for me, so to be compared to both in one sentence is tremendous. If I had a catch phrase it would have probably been less inspired, so I’m going with Laurie’s!

Debbie: Your heroine is “midsized,” i.e., she’s fat by contemporary obsessive standards but she probably wouldn’t have been considered fat in a different time and place. Did you choose that size for her consciously, or was that just “how she is” for you? If you did choose it consciously, what went into your choices?

Lynne:: When the hero or heroine of a book is any size over “slim” in our season of insanity where vaguely average characters bemoan how fat they are, a writer is dealing with very loaded words to describe a character’s size. When I first consciously chose a fat heroine, Josephine Fuller, I introduced her as “over 200 pounds” because I was reacting to a book where a fat joke was made about an elevator being broken if a woman over 200 pounds got into it. That served Josephine Fuller well.

However, with this book, I specifically did not want to use a dress size or a given weight. When you drop numbers into a fictional text, you stir up reactions like: “Oh, she’s way too fat, totally fatter than me, I can’t relate to her at all.” Or for the more radical reader: “She’s not fat enough for me to identify with.”

Instead, I made the point that Daria could seldom find clothing in her size in the stores and when she needed something beyond jeans and a T-shirt her mother took her to a seamstress to have clothing made for her that fit. I wanted to make Daria’s experience of being too big to fit the most important factor.

Debbie: I’m very interested in Oscar [Daria’s boyfriend/fiance], who is human enough to be grumpy and nervous, and is still a remarkably good model for how a heterosexual man can treat a woman he’s dating (and later engaged to) respectfully, while still holding his own ground. Is that aspect of his behavior based on any models you know of in fiction (or film or other story format) or did you construct him from scratch? What’s your favorite thing about him?

Lynne:: It’s hard to pick one thing about Oscar, because he has a lot of the elements that I most admire, and I’ve been fortunate enough to know several men (and to be married to one) with such qualities. To me, Oscar is the quintessential good guy–smart but non-manipulative, funny, and happy to laugh at life’s absurdities. Often when a man says he wants a woman with a sense of humor he means he wants someone who will laugh at his jokes. Daria would probably scare off such a guy. But Oscar has the rare and wonderful gift of being confident enough in his own self-worth to enjoy it when Daria gives as good as she gets. Oscar has integrity, he takes responsibility, and he has friends who value him because he values and supports his friends.

Debbie:: And while we’re at it, what’s your favorite thing about Daria?

Lynne: Daria is surprisingly good at making the best of a bad situation, being able to laugh at adversity helps.

Debbie: You don’t mention this in your answer, but that sounds like something that Daria and Oscar have in common. Having that attitude to share it will probably serve them well after the book ends.

Do you have a sense of humor like Daria’s, or are you able to step outside yourself enough to construct a sense of humor really different from your own in a fictional character?

Lynne:: That’s a question I’ve never considered, but I suspect that I’m not so flexible. My best guess is that Daria’s sense of humor is similar to my own. From time to time I do try to sharpen up my wits by reading about how professional humor writers hone their writing. I keep having the yearning to write a straight-up farce, but when I attempt it, I start building layers into the characters, and the structure of a farce is notable for sacrificing depth for a kind of Rube Goldberg mechanical action. Much as I love to see a well-done farce, I’m not sure I could write one. But the question does make me want to ask another question back atcha—how can someone step outside themselves to create a different sense of humor? Examples, please!

Debbie:: I’ve seen books where the characters have very different senses of humor, different enough that it doesn’t seem likely to me that the writer has all of them. Terry Pratchett comes to mind here as a funny writer whose characters often have widely varying senses of humor. I don’t write fiction, but I expect that one way to step outside of your own sense of humor is by observation; seeing what kinds of things are funny to various people, and what kinds of ways different people express their senses of humor, and bringing those differences onto the page.

Did you consider putting in a supernatural/horror element to go with the title? If so, why, and if not, why not?

Lynne: The title was the very last part of the puzzle piece to fall into place long after the book was complete. For years the book was called A Guide for the Dysfunctional Bride, but Daria’s T-shirt collection and love of old monster movies became more and more important to the story as I went through many revisions of the manuscript.

I brainstormed with publisher, Peggy Elam, about horror movie titles at least one candidate became a chapter heading–“Attack of the 50-Foot Wedding Planner.” Bride of the Living Dead was my favorite, but I went back and forth about it for some time because I didn’t want to raise false expectations among fans of the undead. In fact, one zombie-loving blogger, mystery author Dani Fredsti, read the book with that expectation. She was kind enough to say that she came for the zombies and stayed for the humor. But her reaction and comments from zombie fans on her blog made me consider what the book would have been if I’d taken the story into the horror realm—zombie wedding caterers, vampire tuxedo rental companies, werewolf indie film directors. It would have been a different book for sure!

Debbie:: Maybe that’s next?

What went into the way you handle Sky’s anorexia? Have you known anorexic people? (Spoiler question: do you think Daria’s wedding is part of what enables Sky to seek treatment? And did you purposely not tell us how successful the treatment is, or is that just where the book ended?)

Lynne:: Honestly, to the best of my knowledge, I have never been close to anyone suffering from anorexia. However, I have been exposed to other conditions where a loved one is either secretly or defiantly pursuing a self-destructive course, and I think the frustration that friends and family members feel must be similar. I’m also proud of my characters in Bride of the Living Dead in that they came together as a family to optimize a situation where treatment was not a simple or affordable option. As far as Sky’s future, I wanted to create a situation that reflects real life in so many chronic, physical and mental conditions, where treatment is one day at a time and success is not so much a destination as a way of building better ways of coping and trusted resources to call on when the disorder arises again.

Debbie:: Thanks for writing the book! I really enjoyed it, and I’m sure lots of Body Impolitic readers will follow suit.

A Book Birth Announcement–My New Fat Friendly Novel, Bride of the Living Dead

Lynne Murray says:

It’s been eight years since I had a new novel published. If I did “happy and proud” like normal people, I’d say I was thrilled to my new book in print. Bride of the Living Dead, a romantic comedy for women who love horror movies was officially published June 1 by Pearlsong Press. The actual emotion I’m feeling is closer to relief (whew! a book in print again) and anxiety (Eek! Must do book promotion again).

Bride of the Living Dead cover

I’m still somewhat shy about promoting my own work. I have come a long way since 1994. That year I went to a women’s Fat Fest conference with the goal of attending Laurie and Debbie’s workshop on how they published Women En Large and body-positive books in general. When I got to the conference I froze and couldn’t bring myself to go to the workshop or even introduce myself to Laurie and Debbie, even though they were approachable and their workshop was designed to encourage. Such is shyness.

Over the years since I have got a little bolder. Women in the mystery world literally reach out through Sisters In Crime, an organization that that helps women writers to find our inner Brazen Hussy and dare to put ourselves forward despite conditioning not to shamelessly self-promote. I learned that people who may like your book are not mind readers. They won’t know your book exists if you don’t spread the word. I did that with my mystery series featuring Josephine Fuller, sleuth of size who doesn’t apologize, right up till it was cancelled.

I must have relaxed a little because I’m about to tell you how Bride of the Living Dead was conceived.

In 2002, for a raft of reasons I won’t go into to avoid ranting, most of the major New York publishing houses drastically cut the ranks of their so-called mid-list authors–i.e., non-bestsellers. I had a deadline to submit a fifth Josephine Fuller book for approval or rejection. I felt tremendous pressure to produce a book a year to stay in the publishing business and I ended up submitting a book that didn’t meet my own standards.

To give you an idea of that book’s flaws, I’ll just say that at one point in the novel a giant sinkhole opened up, swallowed several buildings and forced all the characters to run for their lives. Such things can happen in real life with enough rain, unstable ground, etc. But when they happen in a work of fiction, it says something about the author’s mental state.

I felt surprisingly relieved when St. Martin’s Minotaur rejected the book, even though it meant I had to get off the carnival ride of the publication biz with little hope of a return ticket.

My agent at the time made an interesting request: could I turn the rejected book into a women’s novel?

“What is a women’s novel?” I asked.

She pointed me to Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed, which I had already read and liked. It had a likably big, beautiful heroine. It was funny. No giant sinkholes.

The word my agent was trying to avoid saying was “chick lit”—the latest incarnation of romantic comedy. Humorous novels in general get little respect. Often, those of us who put humor in our books do so because we can’t help but do it, an irresistible compulsion. Romantic comedy has none of the intellectual allure that hovers around mystery novels. But I’m a hopeless humor addict, so I read a bunch of books reputed to be similar to Good in Bed. I re-examined my rejected book. It was resolutely wet and muddy and could never be retooled into anything sparkly, frothy or even funny.

But maybe I could write a romantic comedy if I could do it on my own terms.

Chick lit comedies revolve around a smart-mouthed, young woman dealing with self-esteem issues, snarkily competing with other women for a mate, shopping for shoes, and/or dreaming of an ideal wedding drama.

I get the self-esteem issues, but share absolutely none of the other obsessions.

The wedding idea made sense. Mating of one kind or another is the basis of comedy. “Tragedy you die, comedy you get hitched,” literature professor, Dustin Hoffman, explains when trying to puzzle out whether Will Farrell is trapped in a comic or a tragic story in the movie Stranger Than Fiction.

At last I wrote a book about a big, beautiful, rebellious heroine who gets dragged reluctantly through paths of rose petals when her wedding is planned by her perfectionist, older sister. I thought it was funny. It said some things about marriage and family and it contained no giant sinkholes.

No major publisher wanted to invest in the book. One editor from a publisher famous for its romances rejected it with the comment that they had just published a book where the heroine lost weight before the wedding and didn’t want another.

Say what?

If even a casual reader could imagine that my book endorsed weight loss, serious rewrites were in order. I polished the book, then called A Guide for the Dysfunctional Bride, until I had it where I wanted it.

Every possible publisher in New York rejected Bride, but finally it found a home with Pearlsong Press, a publisher committed to Health at Every Size in fiction and non-fiction. Pearlsong’s founder, Peggy Elam, and I have established the kind of working relationship with that is only possible with a small press where every book is a labor of love. Brainstorming email sessions batting ideas back and forth led to a new title inspired by the indie film critic heroine’s love of monster movies: Bride of the Living Dead.

And now the book is born, the Bride is out in the world, now we’ll see where she goes. I’ll be available at during several telephone and on-line events on my virtual book tour, plus we’ll certainly be announcing another book tour stop right here at Body Impolitic. Come learn more about the book!

Laurie says:

It’s really hard to do romantic comedy well.  Lynne does it fabulously. I read the galleys of Bride of the Living Dead;  It’s clever,  funny, and I love the politics.