I recently had the pleasure to read South African speculative fiction writer Baileigh Higgins, an author whose work was brand new to me. Her most recent novel is The Black Tide I: Remnants, the first book of a new apocalypse trilogy. A full review of the book is available here at Bewildering Stories magazine, if you'd like to check it out (and I really recommend that you do!). After I read The Black Tide, I was lucky enough to have an online chat with Ms. Higgins about her latest book, her current projects, and what's to come.
Baileigh, thank you again for doing the interview with me! So, without further ado, here we go: I am a huge fan of the apocalypse genre, and based on the two book series you have published, you seem fascinated by the idea of it, too. I know that what I consider a great book in the genre is more than just a gore-fest, but it will delve deeper into an exploration of the human condition in the face of disaster. What originally drew you to explore the subject of apocalypse, and what keeps you captivated with it?
I have always been fascinated by the idea of an apocalypse. Whether it be aliens, zombies, disease, or climate change, it doesn't matter. Though I will confess that I have a soft spot for zombies. The first book I wrote was a Zombie Apocalypse novel and will always be my favorite for that reason.
What draws me to the genre is the depth and range of emotion it evokes. The way it peels off the outer layers of pretense that we all wear. I believe that when law and order are stripped away, your true inner nature is revealed. Add to this the stress of surviving in adverse conditions, being faced with the suffering of others, especially loved ones, and you will find you are a very different person than you always thought you were. The sheer strength of will, tenacity, and survival instinct people exhibit during disasters never ceases to amaze me. Though conversely, the depravity and horror to which some give way always pains me. I am the kind of person who prefers to think we can rise above such dark impulses. That even when you are at your lowest, when you experience your darkest times, you can always choose to be more, to be better than you are, and I hope my writing reflects that.
I completely agree, Baileigh. I think it is exactly that type of emotional nakedness that draws writers and readers alike to apocalyptic fiction. I always wonder--as I'm walking down the street or buying groceries in the store - what would I do it the apocalypse happened right this second? How would I react? Sometimes, my husband and I will jokingly talk about our zombie contingency plan. Do you have a serious or not-so-serious plan for the apocalypse, and what type of apocalypse are you mentally girding yourself for?
If I'm honest, I'm not as prepared for any kind of disaster as I'd like to be. I don't have a bug out bag, or emergency supplies, or a secret bunker. (Damn but I'd love to have one!) I don't even have a weapon. Add to that the fact that I can't run to save my life, and I'd probably be one of the first to die in an apocalypse. This is a running joke between me and friends. Seriously though, I am planning on getting my act together. I'd love to go green. Plant my own vegetables, use solar polar etc.I might even buy a treadmill!
Oh, and as to which type of apocalypse I'd like to prepare for: Zombie of course! Or aliens. That's the most fun type to plan for. Much more interesting than something political or environmental. Though if zombies really took over or aliens invaded, I'd probably panic and do something stupid. Maybe heroically sacrifice myself for loved ones. (I like to think I'm that noble but who knows?)
My in-person writer's group has a survey that applicants have to take in order to be considered. We've found the most important question to determine if someone will fit in with the existing members of our group is: "When the zombies rise up, what is your plan of action?" My answer to that question was similar to yours: "Probably die, ha ha." After all, in a zombie apocalypse, someone's gotta be the zombies, right? :)
In your most recent book, The Black Tide I: Remnants, you tackle a different kind of apocalypse than zombies. A very virulent and deadly plague sweeps across the world, eventually ending up in Ava's South African hometown of Riebeeckstad. I thought it interesting that the story is told from what I feel is an underrepresented subset of survivors. Ava is a young adult, and her sister Lexi is ten years old. What made you want to explore an apocalypse from a younger and less worldly perspective?
I wanted to write about younger survivors because I believe children and teens can be very resilient and strong when called upon. Much more so than adults give them credit for. I also think surviving an apocalypse at such a young age would change them in radical ways, ways that I would be happy to explore.
With the release of The Black Tide I, you said on your blog that, "I wrote this book with Ava being as real to me as any of my friends. She lives in my head and in my heart, whispering (and sometimes demanding) certain directions in her life story." As a writer myself, I know that not all characters are created equal--some you love and some are just a compilation of words. When you write, does a story (or characters) often get away from you and take on a life of its (their) own? What is your writing process for a book like The Black Tide?
My process is pretty simple. I find a basic story line and start writing. As I go, I create characters and events on the spot, doing research as needed. Ava and Lexi were created that way. I'm a total pantser. But with The Black Tide, I had certain ideas of what kind of book I wanted, and I tried my utmost to force Ava in that direction, thinking I knew best. While it was not a complete failure (early readers liked it) I was never happy with the result. I knew that what I had written was not true to the real Ava, and I ended up rewriting the whole thing.
Ava certainly took on a life of her own. She was a very vivid character right from the beginning with real flaws and quirks. During the rewrite, I allowed this to show more, and let her nature dictate where the story would go. I'm now very happy with the final product and confident that I represented her as she is, warts and all.
What are you writing right now? Any new series in the works?
I'm currently working on three different series'. Variety is the spice of life, after all! The first is my Zombie Apocalypse Series of which book 1 and a complimentary short story collection is out. Book 2 is due out end of May. Then there's The Black Tide II - Rebellion, of course! That one is now on pre-order and will go live on 18 July 2017. The third and final series is called Death's Children. It's a series of novelettes about the adventures of children and teens during the Zombie Apocalypse. Cat's Eye is out and I'm now working on Ryan's Luck which is the second in the Series. So yeah, I'm a busy girl and there's lots more to come for my readers.
The best place to find out more about my available books and upcoming works is my website. There you can also sign up for my newsletter and get the first book in the Death's Children Series for free. Hint: I give lots of free stuff away. I also have a Facebook page you can like and an Amazon Author Page you can follow.
I do not do appearances or readings at the moment as I live in South Africa and most of my readers are located elsewhere. But I'm always available for a chat and love connecting with my readers. Simply contact me through my website.
Great, thanks so much for chatting with me, Baileigh!