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"Lucky Stiff" by Tonia Brown

I've never read Erotica. I've only read one Romance novel from cover to cover in my life. It's not a comment on either genre, it's just not what I prefer. I'll admit it, I blushed when I read the first sex scene in Chapter 1, and I'm far from a prude. After I got over my initial shock, I was able to make it through the book.

Here is the blurb:

Meet Peter Lyles, a young man unremarkable in life but unforgettable in un-death. After he accidentally overdoses while on spring break, Peter's friends do him the dubious favor of bringing him back to life. Or rather, they turn him into a zombie with the help of a little old fashioned Voodoo. Peter's journey through the unlife takes him from the homebrewed sex magic of a mysterious swamp-dwelling Madam, to bouncing from bedroom to bedroom all across the globe, and finally leaving him with a career as the hottest gigolo not alive. All the while, he must deny his hunger for human flesh while sating his passion for, well, human flesh. At turns humorous, at times touching, but always sexy, sexy, sexy. "Lucky Stiff" will leave you wanting more Peter. He's just that good.

The story was intriguing. It was completely different from the zombie novels I usually read and write, but it was enjoyable. As I mentioned on Monday, I like pretty much all things zombie, and I like to experience new things, so this was fun.

The only problem I had with the story was the time frame. Ms. Brown stretches the story out over 15 years, and I thought that was a little long. It could have been condensed into 5 years and still had the same meaning, but it worked. I just pushed time out of my mind and enjoyed the ride (yes, pun was intended).

Aside from the sex, the book was a great coming-of-age story. Tonia did a great job of catching a 19-year-old boy's voice and showing how he "grows up." The writing was full of feeling and wit (a lot of tongue-in-cheek jokes), and it pulled you along from beginning to end. I really enjoyed Lucky Stiff, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different.

As with the other authors, Tonia was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Q) What inspired you to write this book?
When working on the erotic horror novella THE BLOOMING, I had to decide if the zombies were going to be involved in sex scenes. I’ve read others attempts at it and it’s always disturbing. I decided against it for that novella, but it got me thinking: Could someone write a story with zombie sex and it not be skin crawlingly disgusting? LUCKY STIFF is the answer of yes. Or, at least I hope it is.

Q) How long did it take you to write the book?
Not long, considering the length. I dropped 97k words in 56 days. In perspective, my novel THE COLD BENEATH took almost three months and its only 79k long. Writing Peter’s life story was more like taking dictation and less like writing a novel.

Q) Can you talk about the book's evolution and publishing history?
I originally wanted to submit Peter’s torrid tale to Ravenous Romance, because they had displayed interest in zombie erotica around the time I was writing it. But I overshot their word count pretty early on so I had to scrap that idea. After I finished the first draft, I started to worry about where to submit it; the tale isn’t strictly horror, and it’s a little gruesome in some places for just the label of romance.

By then I had appeared in a few Library of the Living Dead anthologies, and through their forum I found the most excellent editor (and now wonderful friend!) Stephanie Kincaid. With her help I got it in shape, presented it to the head of the LOTLD, and he accepted it for publication. I decided to take a stab at formatting the book myself, and was able to snag the very talented Philip Rogers for the cover and interior artwork.

Overall it was an amazingly smooth process. Granted I took on a lot of the work myself (out of desire, not obligation) but I found I liked having so much creative control over the publishing process.

Q) What are you trying to get across or understand as you write?
Usually I don’t try to make a point beyond trying to weave a good story. I really just try to write something I think folks will enjoy reading. If something preachy slips in—like Peter singing the praises of monogamous relationships in LUCKY STIFF—then it’s a byproduct of the story telling, not a deliberate attempt at social commentary. No soapboxes here.

Q) Why do you write?
Because I enjoy it. When it ceases to be fun, I shall cease to do it.

Q) What other kinds of genres do you write?
Steampunk, horror, humor, erotica. (And everything in between.)

Q) What can readers expect from you in the future?
I recently signed with Books of the Dead for my zombie road trip novel SOUL SEARCHING. It’s written in the vein of the old “Road To…” movies. (You remember those don’t you? The ones with Bing and Bob?) Only this one features a geek, a stripper and a zombie. Oh, and Satan, of course.

I’ve also been working with an agent to get my steampunk horror novel THE COLD BENEATH ready for publication. It’s set in post Civil War America, and centers on a disastrous mission to reach the North Pole by means of air. I don’t want to spoil it, so let’s just say it involves airships and zombies. Nice!

Meanwhile, you can catch my ongoing steampunk weird western webserial RAILROAD! It’s a fast paced tale of gunplay, gadgets and grit, featuring a train that lays her own tracks and a crew unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I update it every Monday morning, and the story will go on as long as there are folks interested in reading it. (And yeah, there might be a zombie aboard!)

Q) Will there be any more stories from Peter?
I get asked that a lot and I can only say perhaps. There might be a short story or two, but I don’t think there is another novel. Peter has told his tale.