Stella Blunt’s world is ending. Her parents have dragged her across the country, and she has to start over in a new school. This is a big problem, because she doesn’t make friends easily: she’s large, she’s loud, and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
The only person who likes her is the cute geek in her Chemistry class. He’s a great listener, he’s smart at science, and he loves her for her mind. Then again, she’s not sure whether that’s a good thing, considering that he also drinks brains from a thermos and walks with a lurch.
To complicate matters, undead hordes have started showing up at her door.
Can Stella take on a new school, an undead romance, and handle a chainsaw?
Written as a satirical feminist response to Twilight, Chemistry is an irreverent romp with a surprising amount of heart from debut author C.L. Lynch, who thinks that fat girls and zombies deserve love too.
Sounds like a fun read, doesn’t it? 😀 Chemistry is set to hit shelves on 15 December 2016.
Please join me in extending a warm welcome to the author of Chemistry, C.L. Lynch.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a socially-awkward, left-handed introvert. I’m one of those people who doesn’t know where to put their hands when they’re making small talk, but as soon as you get me going on a topic that interests me, I forget all that and act almost normal.
I lived in the Caribbean when I was a kid, and we moved back home to Nova Scotia on the East coast of Canada when I was thirteen, which was pretty traumatic. Even now, I don’t like hot guys looking at me; I’m afraid I’ll get spat on again. Somehow, I survived that and made friends, but bullying and ostracism crop up often in my writing. I have a degree in Psychology, with minors in Biology and English. My mother wanted me to stay in the sciences, but I could never let go of books and reading entirely, hence the English minor. When I was twenty five, my soon-to-be husband and I moved to Vancouver, where we live with our two young kids, an elderly dog and cat, a lot of dust bunnies, and too many books. I’m pretty sure we have more books than square feet in our house.
2. When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My childhood diary starts at age seven. I remember being small and banging out stories on my mother’s old typewriter. As soon as we got a computer (I was ten) I set to work on a novella which I called Follow the Animals Home. My mother had it spiral-bound with a laminated cover, and I still have it. It’s phenomenally bad. I almost want to publish it so people can enjoy it ironically because it is so hilariously atrocious. I followed it up with another, almost-as-terrible book called All That Glitters when I was twelve.
When I was growing up, I always told people that I wanted to be an author. My mother warned me that authors don’t usually make much money, so by the time I was ten, I was telling people that I wanted to be an author, but I’d be a veterinarian as a “day job”. All through high school, I would sit up late in the night working on stories that no one else would ever read. I tried to show my writing to my friends, and then my boyfriend of the time, but no one showed much interest – probably because it was still garbage. I developed a lot of negative self talk and quit, until NaNoWriMo helped me power through that, and I found the joy again. But my writing still sucked.
Then I started a blog. The great thing about a blog is the feedback you get from your readers. I learned what kind of writing style and topics tended to get the biggest reaction, and how to tell a story in a way that kept people interested and entertained. My most popular posts were about books – particularly a string of posts I wrote comparing Twilight to Harry Potter. I found my writer’s voice on that blog and for the first time I learned that I was funny. Humor was the salt that my writing had been missing.
3. Why did you start writing?
I don’t know. It was just something I wanted to do. I wanted to take the stories in my head and put them down and make them real.
4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I think it started as a joke. I had just made a series of blog posts analyzing the writing in Twilight and comparing it to Harry Potter (they exploded my traffic and five years later, they are still among my most frequently viewed posts) and I had been watching The Walking Dead. I joked to my husband that I should do a Twilight parody with zombies instead of vampires, and he liked the idea. I chewed on it some more and began to wonder whether, instead of making a parody, I should do a satire, changing some of the things that bothered me and infusing humor with a zombie love interest.
When NaNoWriMo 2012 came around, I sat down and created my main character, designing her to be the opposite of Bella Swan. I ended up with Stella Blunt, and she was such a power-house of a character that she took the story by the horns and dragged it in its own direction. I ended up with something that bears very little resemblance to Twilight, except a few key homages which would only be spotted by people who remember the story well.
5. Does your story have a moral?
Yes, I’m afraid it does. People don’t go into zombie romantic comedy books looking for lessons, but Chemistry is ultimately about taking risks in love, and opening yourself up to other people. Stella, my protagonist, is a very angry, loud, defensive person. She finds it hard to believe that anyone could really like her, and she has to learn to open herself up, let people in, and find a form of self confidence which isn’t threatened by the behaviour of other people. Sometimes you have to run the risk of being hurt, in order to develop a real relationship with someone.
6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I should say, “Stella”, because she’s the star of my novel, and I notice that all of my Goodreads reviews focus heavily on her. One called her “larger than life” and they’re right. She’s certainly hard to ignore, and I wouldn’t have a book without her giant personality.
But honestly, my favourite character is her Dad. I don’t know where his personality came from, but next to Stella, he’s probably the biggest source of comedy in the book. Tim Blunt is a weird and quirky guy, but he’s also a great husband and father. He’s a ton of fun to write, but then he also surprises me by spouting wisdom when I least expect it.
7. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Chemistry.
Loud, defensive, impulsive, snarky, sassy
8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Me, huddled on the couch with my laptop precariously balanced on one thigh. There would be a can of Diet Pepsi nearby, and a mess (like dirty dishes or a pile of laundry) that I keep casting guilty glances toward. Then a baby starts to cry or my phone buzzes to let me know that it’s time to go to work, and I heave a sigh, close the laptop, and go back to the real world until the next time I can escape for a while.
9. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I’ve used them, and I’ve gone without. I think it really depends on the writer and how clearly the story is already laid out in your head.
10. What is your favorite book genre?
Probably children’s fiction, honestly. I read a lot of YA, and I even read the occasional grown-up book (I love Jane Austen, and I impatiently await new Robert Galbraith books), but to me, the best stories are usually written for children and teenagers.
11. What is your favorite book?
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. If there were any justice in the world, that little book would be the most widely read book in the world. Stargirl is about being human. It’s about true selflessness, and caring about others without caring about what others think. It’s about whether you could undergo social rejection to be with the person you love, and it does all of that with Jerry Spinelli’s inimitable style – he manages to infuse the feeling of epic myth, even when telling a story about a high school in modern day Arizona. It’s one of those books that makes you want to be more true to yourself, and to be a better person. It’s a short read, and easy read, but it’s the kind of book that changes how you think about everything.
12. Any project in the works?
I have the sequel to Chemistry about three-quarters written and the third in the series about one quarter written. I actually have a sneak peek to the sequel included at the end of Chemistry.
13. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
That’s difficult to answer, because I spend so much time editing. I write the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, so that’s 50,000 in a month, but 50,000 isn’t actually all that much – Chemistry is nearly twice that length and History will probably be closer to 150,000 or more. But then I can happily spend years editing, and adding, and editing, and adding, and finally editing, and deleting, and editing, and deleting… until I feel that the story is the shape that I want it to be. I wrote Chemistry in 2012 and I’m just publishing it now. That’s years of editing and sending it out to be read by my beta readers and then editing again before I decided that it was good enough for strangers to read.
14. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Ooh, great question. I could go on for a long time about that, and I did on my old mommy-blog. The short answer is this: A good story has a character who you like, but who has a flaw. The character should undergo a character arc which rectifies this flaw. Meanwhile, the plot should be full of conflict and twists and turns, so that you don’t end up where you thought you would, but it is awesome when you get there. If I can predict an ending, I’m disappointed. When the character doesn’t grown and change and learn, I’m disgusted. What’s the point of all that misery if nothing changes? A good story ties up loose ends, too. The ending should tie in all of the plot lines, all of the scenes, and details. If a scene doesn’t matter to the ending, it doesn’t belong in the story. Finally, a good story makes you care. You should care about the protagonist. You should care what happens to them. You should care about how it ends. Good stories make you feel feelings.
15. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write, and learn about writing. People like to think of writing as this kind of God-given talent. Like, either you’re a writer or you aren’t. That’s not how it works. Some parts are probably ingrained – if you don’t enjoy writing, you probably shouldn’t write, for example. I’m often baffled by whole writing groups full of people who don’t actually seem to want to write. But if you enjoy writing, then it’s important to remember that it’s something to be learned. At first, you’ll probably use purple prose. You’ll have passages that don’t go anywhere. You’ll have characters who don’t use contractions. You’ll have adverbs everywhere. But if you read about writing, and pay attention to how your favourite authors write, and read more about writing, and then write some more, you’ll get better. You’ll learn to cut out the dialogue tags, and to infuse conflict into your scenes. It’s like learning to play an instrument – you need to learn how the instrument works and then practice, practice, practice.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Nights out or nights in?
IN IN IN, OH GOD PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO OUT
2. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis. I’m not sure I want to hear people’s thoughts.
3. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Past. I want to see a dinosaur SO BADLY.
4. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel. With a big bathtub.
5. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Money. I can get THAT back, you know?
6. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
7. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?
The second. It happened to me. I ended up changing my mind and marrying him.
8. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
9. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
Tornado, I guess… at least I’d get to fly before I died…
10. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Abandoned road. I’m actually more likely to have someone stop and help me – the science of human behaviour fascinates me.
11. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
I guess I could tell myself the milk was cheese
12. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
What did you say?
13. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
Can I have a book in the coffin?
14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Two inches tall. That would be adorable. I could ride around in people’s pockets.
15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
The Walking Dead. I’d find Carol and cling to her like glue.
Thank you for joining us, C.L.!
Readers: want to connect with C.L.? You can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Also, be sure to check out her author website.