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EAT. PREY. LOVE: Author Carrie Ryan Joins Us

March 14, 2011

Mystery, romance, action, oh, and the UNDEAD – Carrie Ryan’s trilogy has it all!  The first book in the series, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, introduces us to Mary, who lives in a world of barriers to protect against the Unconsecrated.  Mary questions the world in which she lives, the authority that governs, and is determined to leave the Forest, to find the ocean she’s only ever known in stories from Before.  The Dead Tossed Waves continues the story of this dangerous world, with Mary’s daughter, Gabry.  Ryan, again, presents us with a strong heroine, determined to challenge authority and question her world.  (I especially love DTW, as Ryan presents some very real questions about life and religion)  Tomorrow, the newest and final installment in the trilogy hits bookstores across the country: The Dark and Hollow Places.  I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that DHP brings us back to characters we know, introduces us to new characters, and gives us even more action, romance, and ZOMBIES!

Carrie took a few moments, while touring for The Dark and Hollow Places, to answer a few questions for our readers:

When you wrote the first book in your trilogy, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, you were working as an attorney.  How has your writing process differed, now that you are able to write full-time (if it has at all)?  What is a ‘typical’ day like for you?

There’s a part of me that thinks the old adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” is true.  I thought when I started writing full-time that I’d be able to get SO much more done (while also having a clean house with freshly cooked organic foods, etc).  Uh, no.  What I’ve found is that there’s so much more to being a full-time writer than just writing and there are days I actually have to remind myself to… well… write rather than take care of all the other work related things.  But at the same time, now I have the freedom and flexibility to really dig into what I’m working on — to give myself over to a day spent wandering around in the story and not worrying about having to do anything else.  I feel so fortunate that I’m able to write full-time — I absolutely love it!

Generally I still get to work at the same time except now I don’t have to put on makeup and suit (yoga pants FTW!).  Even though I set up an office I still spend most of my day sitting on the couch with a cat tucked against me.  Usually I check email first thing and then cook breakfast and read the news while I eat.  In the morning it’s more about organizing things: responding to emails, getting things on the urgent to-do list done, sometimes helping a friend fix a book plot.  Then in the afternoon, after I remember to eat (which surprises me every time because when I was a lawyer I lived for lunch), I realize that time’s slipping by and I’ll turn to the writing.  When I’m drafting I aim for 2,000 words a day and so I write until I hit that goal.  Then it’s back to other work related things until my husband gets home from work (which can be anytime between 6-9).  When I’m revising I tend to spend a lot more time at the dining room table with my external monitor sorting through the book.  I’ve been surprised at how varied my days have been!  I expected it to be nothing but writing but that’s rarely the case.


How and when did you become so passionate about zombies?  Did you have a definitive ‘zombie experience’?


Oh yes, I very much had a definitive zombie experience.  In fact, ever since a babysitter convinced me to watch Poltergeist when I was 4 or 5 years old I’ve steered clear of scary movies. Twenty years later, I was in law school and started dating the guy who is now my husband and he somehow convinced me to go to the opening night of the Dawn of the Dead remake.  I honestly don’t know how he convinced me and I was terrified the entire movie but I left entranced, wondering how I would act in a similar situation.  It’s not so much the zombies that fascinate me (though they do) but the idea of surviving when everything around you becomes so desperate.

After that night my husband fed me a steady diet of zombie books and movies and years later when I was looking for a new book idea he said, “Write what you love,” and I laughed and said, “The zombie apocalypse?”  Turns out he was right!


How did you decide to write for the Young Adult audience?


I’m not really sure I remember how.  Originally I intended to write romance novels because that’s what I was reading when I decided I wanted to become a writer.  However, after writing two romance novels and then taking several years off to attend law school, my focus changed.  One thing I was very aware of as a romance author is how most books have to easily conform to the genre if for no other reason than for a bookseller or librarian to shelve them.  But all YA books are on the same shelf so there’s a certain amount of freedom there — we can mix romance and fantasy and horror and really push the envelope.

Also, I think that the fears/issues that teens face are the same that adults face: we all worry about where we’re going in life, how our decisions will affect what comes next, making friends and pleasing our families and figuring out who we are and who we want to be.  The only difference is that as teens we often face these issues for the first time and haven’t built up stores of experience about how to deal with them.  There’s just so much passion and possibility in writing about teens — I love it! 

What/who do you like to read in your leisure time?


Mostly I read YA!  I really love it!  Recently I’ve been branching out more, reading books in the genre of what I’m working on next as well as research for my next project.


How would you categorize yourself as a writer (romance, paranormal, dystopian), or would you at all?


I’d categorize myself as writing YA.  As I mentioned before, that’s one of the things I love about writing YA is that I don’t have to define it more than that.  I do like to think that my books will appeal to people who like to read romance, paranormal, dystopia and/or horror.


I know I’m not alone in wondering what happened in the world to give birth to the Unconsecrated/Mudo, and would love to know how the intricate pathways and villages in The Forest came about – is there any possibility of a prequel?

This is actually one of the things I enjoyed working with in writing in first person present point of view.  As the author, I know what gave birth to this world but it’s just not something that my characters would think about often and therefore isn’t in the books (the comparison I make is how the Civil War changed how we live our lives but we take it for granted — we don’t go around discussing it on a daily basis).  I’ve definitely thought about writing a prequel but right now there aren’t any definite plans.


Can you give us a hint about what you are working on now?


I wish I could!  Right now I don’t know what I’m allowed to share but I can say that I’ve already turned in a draft of the next book, it’s not related to the Forest of Hands and Teeth books, and I’m really excited about it!

For more information about this trilogy, Carrie, and what she’s up to, visit her website at, or her blog (Carrie’s Procrastinatory Outlet) at

What booksellers are saying about The Dark and Hollow Places:

“This is, potentially, the darkest book in Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series. But it’s not because of the dead… it’s because of the living. The things that people do, the things that people become in order to survive, are truly monstrous… and Ryan drives this home with efficient grace. It’s not the undead we need fear, it’s ourselves. Beautifully, masterfully done.”

– Krys Tourtois, Schuler Books and Music, Lansing, MI

One Comment leave one →
  1. Heather permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:54 am

    Nice play on words 🙂 I was confused until I saw Carrie Ryan was the author you were interviewing!

    I absolutely LOVE these books. I cannot wait for the new one! The books are popular with my 7th and 8th graders too. In fact, I have now “lost” my copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

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