Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour – Stop #6
“Behind The Scenes: Lizzie Borden Zombie Hunter” by C.A. Verstraete
The word fantasy often conjures up images of fairies, swords, wizards, and tales in different dimensions. But like any genre, there also is a dark side.
Mention dark fantasy and the images change to blood, vampires, surreal creatures, and the dark of night. Monsters. Oh, and yes, zombies. They’re the creatures that not only lurk in the night ready to suck out your soul, but they stalk you by day in search of your flesh, too. And as gruesome as they can be, zombies make the perfect villains—they’re the things we fear; the monsters that come at you without end. They’re the stuff of nightmares.
Monsters can also be the perfect solution to an unsolved crime as I offer in my novel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. As horrific as the real-life crime is, it’s still hard to imagine a woman so heartless and selfish that she could hack her own father and stepmother to death with a hatchet as she was accused of doing on August 4, 1892.
While the jury, for various reasons, declared her not guilty of the crime in June 1893, once I studied the autopsy reports and photos, I knew I’d found the perfect fictional reason as to why the spinster, Sunday School teacher could have committed such a terrible crime. It made perfect sense… if her father and stepmother had turned into zombies.
Time, of course, determines how you approach a crime. As this year marks the 125th anniversary of the murder trial, the crime is distant enough to be part of history. Fantasy also allows you to insert monsters into a story. Monsters actually make sense since nothing can be a horrible as real life. They can be vanquished, but the human soul has a darkness that often can’t be cleansed.
And since monsters aren’t real, it’s up to the author to provide a reason as to why they would be there, as in Lizzie Borden’s story. In Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, Lizzie becomes a kind of dark heroine who kills for a reason—to save her sister, and her city, from the evil her father might have had a role in.
Admittedly, writing about a killer, any killer, is not for the squeamish, though having grown up reading about Chicago’s gangsters and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre must’ve softened me to it early on.
But I know I’m not alone. Crime fascinates, judging from the various crime shows, movies, and documentaries available to watch, and the endless true crime novels. The unknown, the wondering how someone could do such a thing, draws us in. It’s the struggle to understand how, and why, that seemingly nice man—or woman—next door could do the most horrible of things and kill.
That’s the clue to writing dark fantasy, I think. It’s taking someone we thought we knew… and giving them a reason for their evil by inserting another evil like monsters or zombies. In Lizzie’s case, it’s enough of a reason to make her almost sympathetic, even if in real life, she would be the most pathetic of people—someone who killed for the oldest of reasons: greed and money.
About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter:
Every family has its secrets…
One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies?
Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.
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