Surviving in a Heartless world: Teen author Mya Zemlock talks about her zombie debut novel

Heartless by Mya Zemlock  

Heartless by Mya Zemlock  

Coming from Pennsylvania, how did you become interested in zombies instead of vampires? 

Don't get me wrong, I was with the whole vampire trend when it was popular. Twilight, Vampire Diaries, I was all for it. I actually still read vampire themed books, like Vladimir Tod, but not as much as I used to. The reason I hopped off of the vampire bandwagon so quickly and hitched a ride with the zombies is because zombies intrigue me so much more than vampires. They are a much more logical, possible supernatural occurrence. If I told you, in twenty years, that vampires were attacking the Earth and that we were all going to die, you would probably laugh, with no doubt in your mind that I was crazy. Even if I told you it was zombies instead of vampires, you still wouldn't believe me. But there would be that nagging voice in the back of your mind that would say, "But maybe..."

So what's so intriguing about Zombies? You must be a fan of The Walking Dead?

I am a fan of The Walking Dead. I watch the show with my family and have zombie bobble heads and figurines and such. I haven't been able to get my hands on the comics, but I would certainly love to read them.

Author Mya Zemlock 

Author Mya Zemlock 

Did you know that FriesenPress' parent company [Friesens Corporation] printed The Walking Dead

I did, actually, know that. It gave me a pleasant surprise when I logged on to your website one day to find it on the homepage.

How did you come up with the plot for your novel, Heartless? Tell us about the story a little bit. 

Heartless follows a teenage girl named Alex and her three friends as they face the zombie apocalypse and their own troubling emotions. They have to deal with trust, loyalty and the death of loved ones on top of trying to stay alive. It would make anybody a bit stressed out.

I started the story, believe it or not, in the middle. What was page one of my Word document is now page 95 of the book. I changed a lot of the plotline right there. After that, I just wrote. Then I realized that my story wasn't finished, that I still had to write a beginning. Let me just say that I don't recommend starting a book in the middle. It makes editing very, VERY hard.

Is any part of the story or characters drawn from your own life?

Alex. Alex is who I would want to be in the zombie apocalypse. Her thoughts and actions reflect my own. While I don't have the same past and experiences as her, I have the same thoughts on trust, loyalty, companionship, and survival. I think that's because Heartless started out as just me putting my thoughts about the zombie apocalypse into writing. I never thought that it would turn into a book.

Would there be a sequel for Heartless?

Yes. I'm currently writing the sequel to Heartless. It picks up about two months after the ending of the book. The epilogue is explained and recreated through the eyes of Alex. I'm not quite halfway done with it, so it shouldn't be done anytime soon.

What inspired you to be a writer, and who encouraged you to do it?

Author Mya Zemlock at a book signing

Author Mya Zemlock at a book signing

I have always loved literature. I'm constantly reading. So when I read books where I can feel the character's emotions, where my gut drops in fear or my eyes tear in sorrow, it makes me happy. It makes me think, "Wow. This book was written so well that they can get the reader to experience the same emotions as the character's in the book. I want to be able to do that." I wanted to be able to make millions of people feel what I wanted them to through words, too. 

My family and friends were the biggest encouragement. They kept pushing me to finish because they wanted to read it. I still have a certain friend, Lynne (I know, I know. Lynne. But her name is completely coincidental: I don't name my characters after people, I name them after their personalities) who keeps asking me to write so that she can read the sequel to Heartless. If that isn't an encouragement, I don't know what is.

Was it your dream to become a published author?

Not necessarily. I love to write, so I would have been just as happy being an unpublished author as a published one. As long as I feel confident in my work and am happy with it, I don't feel the need to show it to the rest of the world. It wasn't until my mother read the manuscript for Heartless did we realize that we needed to actually do something with it.

zombie me author Mya Zemlock.jpg

How was your experience with FriesenPress?

I had a good experience with FriesenPress. All of the people I spoke with and worked with were kind, patient and understanding with me. The editors did a very good job and I keep their advice in the back of my mind when I write. It's very helpful. And the Promotions Team was very helpful while trying to market my book. As this is my first book, I had no idea what I was getting into when I published it. Thank you, everybody from FriesenPress. You have helped me immensely and I am very grateful.

What advice would you give others looking to publish a book?

Be patient. Self-publishing - or publishing in any case - is a process that takes a long time. And don't hold back. These people are here to help you make your book be the best it can be. Don't be afraid to ask them questions and make suggestions. They will help you out wholeheartedly.

Now that your book is available, what are your plans? How will you be promoting your book?

So far, I've only been holding book signing events locally. But in November, I am hoping to obtain a table for a book signing at Yallfest in Charleston, SC. I mean, even if I don't get the spot to sign, I'll still be there. Would I pass up a chance like this to meet Veronica Roth, James Dashner, Scott Westerfield and other YA gods? Absolutely not!

How can people get in touch with you or buy the book?

They can visit my website at to get contact information and places to buy the book. My book is also available at my local bookstore. You can buy it online at the FriesenPress Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble's website and Don't be afraid to contact me. I won't bite. :)

Interviewed by Lauren Obee & Rasanga Weerasinghe 
Edited by: Ceilidh Marlow