Plot Outline:B Smith has been reunited with the murderous maniac clown, Mr. Dowling. To her shock and consternation, he's desperate to make B his partner in crime. Mr. Dowling disgusts her, but B thinks she can see a way to control him and maybe even save the world. But it will involve a sacrifice far greater and more surreal than any she has contemplated before...
Author Notes:I started work on Zom-B Bride on the 8th of June 2011, and finished my final edit on the 19th of June 2014.
After the horror... comes the romance! I'd known from quite early on that B was going to be wooed by Mr Dowling -- I'd even jotted down the title, Zom-B Bride, in my notes of 4th of August 2009, when I was trying to flesh out ideas from book 4 onwards, although a lot of the plot was still unclear to me at that stage. What I knew for sure was that B was going to get married, and that it would be a wedding quite unlike any other!
Back in 2009, I didn't know how many books there were going to be in the series. By the time I came to this book, the structure had solidified into a nice quartet of trilogies, similar to the structure of The Saga Of Darren Shan. (It's interesting to note that I didn't intentionally set things up that way in either case -- it was simply the way the stories resolved themselves.) The first three books were about establishing the ground rules, running B through the early stages of the zombie apocalypse, following her as she wanders through the chaos of London under siege, introducing a lot of the main characters without telling readers too much about them. Books 4 to 6 were about slotting her in with the Angels and introducing the rest of the main cast. Books 7 to 9 focused on the one hand on B's struggles with Dan-Dan, but in reality were mainly about lining her up with Mr Dowling, and putting her within reach of that all-important vial of Schlesinger-10. And books 10 to 12 would follow her as she attempted to get Schlesinger-10 into the hands of Dr Oystein, in a bid to vanquish the zombies and hand control of the world back to the living.
Having said that, in 2011 Schlesinger-10 wasn't actually called Schlesinger-10, and Clements-13 had a different name too. My working titles for the pair of viruses were Zomex and Pandortia. When my editor pointed out that these names were confusing, I renamed them in honour of two ladies who worked with my agent, Emma Schlesinger and Rachel Clements. It was tricky, to be honest, keeping the names and viruses clear inside my own head. I often got them mixed up, or got the colours wrong! Luckily I was able to catch all those mistakes (I hope!) over the course of the editing process.
I had lots of fun describing Mr Dowling's lair. Although he's a huge presence in the series, we see very little of him over the course of the first nine books. In fact, I think fans might be surprised by just how little he features -- if you read back through the series, and look for scenes that he's actually in (as opposed to scenes where characters are talking about him) you'll find there are only a handful before Zom-B Bride. This was deliberate on my part. One of the thing's I'd learned from my other series was that if you show too much of the villains, you risk diluting their essence, of rendering them less monstrous in the eyes of the readers. So this time round, I was determined to keep Mr Dowling's involvement to a minimum. (Though I did succumb to temptation and give him a starring role in the additional short book, Zom-B Circus, as a little treat for fans who wanted to see more of him.) While I describe his lair in a lot of detail in the early drafts, I ended up writing even more about it, when my editor asked me to really ramp up the grossness factor -- that's the sort of editorial input I like!
The key thing in this book, though, wasn't about grossing readers out, but in revealing a very different side of Mr Dowling. The main theme of Zom-B has been not to make assumptions about people in life, to keep an open mind. The world can very rarely be boiled down to simple black and white explanations, and I've tried to show at every turn along the way that this is really a world of greys, where the good guys can do terrible things, and where the bad guys can in reality be a lot more humane than they seem. It wasn't about trying to make Mr Dowling suddenly develop a good streak, but rather to show how he is to a degree a victim of fate, a man who could have been good, but who wound up going the way of evil for reasons beyond his control. And he's also a man who is open to the possibility of change, reaffirming another of the touchstones of the series, that there's hope for all of us, that even the worst person in the world can pause, re-evaluate their life, and change.
We don't meet any new characters in this book, but one of my favourites from the series is finally given a name -- Holy Moly! I wasn't sure if the name was too corny or not, but it seemed to suit the adorable little menace, so I went with it. Holy Moly is another character that we don't see a lot of in the first nine books, but the baby will feature heavily (and crucially) in the last three, and as I already said, it becomes one of my favourite characters by the end. I hope my readers end up being as taken with the mini monster as I am.
It was nice to bring back Mrs Reed too. I'd planned to have her return from the beginning, although I wasn't sure in what capacity -- I hadn't sussed that she would be a great teacher for the babies, but when I got near to this point and began thinking about how I might reincorporate her, it jumped out at me and I saw that it could only ever have played out this way.
I knew the marriage wasn't going to last, and that it would all end in tears, but there still a lump in my throat when I was writing the wedding scene. I tried to bring as much true romance to the table as I could, within the warped framework of the series. When they wed, B honestly hopes that she can make a go of it as Mrs Dowling, and I hope that readers feel that way too. When she's forced to turn on her husband, she's genuinely regretful, and I shared that regret. In an ideal world, I'd have let them enjoy a long, happy union. She would have been a positive influence on Mr Dowling, and the clown would have adapted and regained his humanity. They would have worked to clear the world of the living dead and its other menacing tyrants, to make it a safer, happier place.
But, hell, that wouldn't have made for an exciting final couple of books, would it?!?
And those two books WILL be exciting. Zom-B Bride slowed the pace down, which was necessary after what had happened in the last couple of books, but it picks up again in Zom-B Fugitive, when we start our wrapping up of B Smith's tale. It's going to be fast, it's going to be frantic, and it's going to be furious. The sprint to the finishing line starts here...
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Zom-B Bride (usa)
Zom-B Bride third draft (UK)
Zom-B Bride (uk)
Zom-B Bride second draft (UK)
Zom-B Bride first draft (UK)