As you may have heard, the 12th book in the DEAD series, DEAD: End is now available. Any good writer will always have a group of readers that are his Beta readers…the people that read what the writer considers to be his finished work and then make notes and offer feedback on possible fixes or errors that can slip past. I “discovered” a new method a while back when I was doing DEAD: Snapshot–Leeds, England. During that book, I was sending a chapter a day to my Betas and I even let them vote on who would be the “victor” between the two main characters. I felt this provided much more in depth feedback and allowed me to make corrections earlier that kept the continuity solid.
As DEAD: End was in the process, I received a letter from one of my Beta readers asking to be removed. After only reading that first line, my initial gut reaction was “Great, I just lost another to the devoted little band of haters out there.” But then I continued reading and discovered one of the best compliments that a writer can receive. I want to share that with you here:
I hope your weekend’s been great, so far. I just wanted to write and let you know that I’m very sorry, but I’m requesting to be removed from beta reading this particular book. I’m having more trouble with coming to the end of this series than I realized and the deaths of so many of my favorite characters at one time is just working me over. When Steve, Carey, and Kevin died in your other books, I had to step away, as well, and I’d often go back to reread the books before them for a couple of weeks, before I could continue. I didn’t think I’d have this issue with this one, as it’s the last. I always consoled myself with the fact that there’d be other books afterwards and I’d look forward to those. Now it just kind of leaves me feeling hollow. I know it’s probably silly, to take character deaths so hard, but I think that’s a sign of how good your writing is and how well you’ve developed your characters, that we, the readers, would feel such a bond for them, even while knowing it’s a zombie book and no character is safe in this scenario. I even tried to detach myself to them, but it’s impossible to do. 🙂
I do want to thank you very much for this opportunity, however, and I’d love to continue reading the Snapshot series, as well as your other books. It’s just this particular one I don’t feel I can. I wouldn’t do you any good at all as a beta reader if it takes me ages to push through it and get you my notes too late. I don’t feel right about any idea of holding you up or getting the honor of reading before publishing, so regretfully, I must bow out. I would like to say that what I’ve read, thus far, and deaths aside, it’s been wonderful writing, as we can expect from you. You certainly know how to pull on a person’s heartstrings 🙂
I read that and sat back at my desk just taking it all in. To have somebody share that sort of emotional connection with words that I strung together was mind-boggling. As a writer, you just hope that you can have something resonate with readers, but to see it manifested in such an emotional level is perhaps one of the proudest moments in my life. I thanked her and said she was always going to be a welcome member of my Beta team, and then I asked if she might share her feelings on the DEAD series. She was kind enough to comply as well as writing an introduction for DEAD: End. I step aside now and welcome Melena to my blog as a guest. Take it away, Melena!
I remember buying my first DEAD book, DEAD: The Ugly Beginning. I got it because one, it was a series, and two, the reviews intrigued me. I don’t know what it says about me that the warnings readers gave of graphic content and violence were what spurned me to buy it. I don’t know what else it says about me that after reading, I thought they overreacted a bit. That I should stop watching so much television, maybe.
Don’t get me wrong. The book is violent and graphic. It’s a zombie book, afterall; but more than that, it’s a book about the unraveling of civilization. A book about, as much as we might not like to consider it, the true nature of so many human beings breaking through the thin veil of what usually keeps that nature repressed. It’s also a book about surviving insurmountable odds. A book about living, a book about dying. And those things are what had me eagerly buying the next book. Then the next. And the one after. I became a bit obsessed, to be perfectly honest. And when I reached parts of the book that had me declaring I wouldn’t read any further (usually deaths of characters that I really liked) I would go back and read again the previous books.
There have been very few books in my life that I’ve connected so strongly and instantly with. I wish I could tell you why, exactly, that I feel this way with the DEAD series. I enjoy the writing, of course, the stories and the twists that DEAD delivers up, but mostly I think it comes to the characters and how much I enjoy them. Steve, Kevin, Vix, Juan…these people became dear friends who I enjoyed peeking in on every day, hearing what they had to say and what new unsettling events would befall them. I enjoyed reading of men and women becoming heroes while fighting an endless army of mindless, hungry beasts that couldn’t be reasoned with.
The DEAD books are more than books about zombies. While there is plenty of undead action, you’re also caught up in the lives of all these characters who continually draw you into their stories, their victories and their defeats. I think, more unsettling than the zombies, of course, are the ‘bad men and women’ who remind you that in that kind of scenario, it’s not always the obvious adversary that you must protect yourself from. Rather than humanity coming together to fight one common enemy, it tends to break apart, leading to a greater distruction of mankind. I think these realistic moments in a book full of improbable monsters is what really brings this series home for me. It is what unsettles me and frightens me. That TW Brown doesn’t skirt around these things and that he writes incredibly graphic and intense scenes is what continually draws me in and keeps me interested.
Do I like when a favorite character dies? Hell no. Absolutely not. I hate it. I miss that person and I revisit older books just to see them again. But that’s honest writing. And hate it that I do, it’s what has touched me and what keeps me singing the praises of his novels. I’m so happy that I was in the mood for what I thought would be a quick roll in the hay with an exciting genre of books, and that I was twisted enough in the head to think what others were complaining about was right up my alley. Because I didn’t get just a random quick fix, I got a love affair, I got an addiction. I got something that excites me, depresses me, and makes me feel human. Not DEAD.