by Jay Wilburn
Ann Riley had an interesting path to being on Summer of Zombie 2016. She was not in the same social circles as many of the other authors that have been on the tour in years past. I came across her series fairly organically. Her work had an interesting voice and created characters that stood out from much of the other work out there. I had to do a little bit of hunting about on the Web to get hold of her as we had no other real connections over social media before I sent feelers out to her and others to gage interest in being part of the tour.
Southern Zombies brings in all the danger and threat that makes for an exciting undead tale. She also sets her series firmly in the American South with characters that rise out of that culture and tradition. I’m a big fan of Southern Gothic horror and literary tradition. I like modern Southern horror as well. Maybe zombies are a little too wild and unkempt to classify as Southern Gothic by any stretch, but any great story set in the South by an author that knows those roots and understands the potential of that universe of thought has a certain style and flair to it that draws me to the page. Ann Riley does that well with her breed of the undead.
Riley hails from Mississippi. She enjoys zombie fiction from all types of media, but had not seen a tale that she felt sufficiently captured and spoke to her experience. She reads widely from Stephen King to any literary story which can capture her and transport her away. In a way, she wanted to touch on the fun, struggle, and feel of growing up in the country in a rural Southern environment in her own writing. There’s no place on Earth she would rather live and she enjoys creating stories and characters that react to the undead the way her family and friends might.
What appeals to her in a zombie story is survival and rebuilding. She wants to see the people going through the apocalypse and making it the way people have to do with any and all great struggles in life. She likes to season the struggle in her work with humor too. Riley thinks this is how people mitigate their own difficulties in life. It is an important way that we cope with it all. Her story in particular shows how a family pulls together to get through a bad situation. For me as a reader, I think this may be the strongest bond I have with her story and with her characters. There is something about that which rings true to me even in the midst of an onslaught of the undead.
Ann Riley is a bit surprised by the response and success of her work. I get why it happened from reading her stories, but when she began book one, she wasn’t sure it would connect and sell at all. Once the reviews started coming in, she knew people were reading it. There is a great appeal to well written characters that seem connected to their settings and impacted by the action of the story in a real way. That’s what you get with Southern Zombies.
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com