Mira Grant is the pen name of amazingly prolific writer and blogger Seanan McGuire. Grant was finally able to quit her day job in 2014, so she could write full-time and add even more titles to her extensive list. “It’s been two years of self-employment,” says Grant. “I’m still learning. Budgets aren’t easy, either of time or money. I’m still figuring things out. But I’m still moving, and I’m still not bored. Saying ‘I quit’ was the smartest thing I ever did.”
Grant came up with her pen name because she wanted a separation between her horror/sci-fi writing and urban fantasy titles. “I wanted a pseudonym for my science fiction because I wanted to create some distance between it and my urban fantasy work. Mostly, I wanted people to judge the Mira Grant books on their own merits, not based on how much they read like something they’d expect me to write,” says Grant.
Grant has published the zombie trilogy Newsflash—Feed, Deadline, Blackout—and will be adding a fourth book to the series in September, Feedback. When asked to describe the series, Grant says, “The zombie apocalypse happened more than twenty years ago. Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t all die out, largely because we’d had years of horror movies to tell us how to behave when the dead start walking. We fought back, and we won…sort of. The dead still walk; loved ones still try to eat you if you’re not careful; the virus that caused the problem in the first place is still incurable. But at least we lived, right?
“The Newsflesh trilogy is a story about blogging, politics, medical science, espionage, betrayal, the ties that bind, the ties that don’t, how George Romero accidentally saved the world, and, of course, zombies. It’s thoughtful horror, and horrific science fiction, and I’m very fond of it.”
While doing research for the Newsflash series, she reveled in the varied ways she was able to spend time getting things ready for the writing process. “Feed was a fantastic excuse for me to watch every zombie movie made in the last thirty years and call it serious research. It was an even better excuse for me to audit epidemiology courses and read books with titles like Virus X, The Speckled Monster, and Return of the Black Death: the World’s Greatest Serial Killer. It was a good time,” says Grant.
While working on the series and a couple of short one-offs, Grant looked for a fresh approach to the zombie genre. “I love zombies and I love epidemiology, and my big problem with a lot of zombie fiction is that ‘well, it was a disease’ seems like an easy answer, but really isn’t. So I started thinking about what sort of a disease you’d need to actually have a zombie apocalypse—and the thing about diseases is that they don’t actually want to be slatewipers (diseases that wipe out the entire susceptible population), because doing that also destroys the disease itself. I started tinkering with my post-zombie world, trying to figure out what it would take to rebuild society, what kinds of social structure would arise…”
Grant also wanted to up the horror factor and really scare her readers. She says, “I’m fascinated by the difference between terror and fear. Fear says, ‘Do not actually put your hand in the alligator,’ while terror says, ‘Avoid Florida entirely, because alligators exist.’ I figured terror would be a huge component of the post-zombie world. Everything arose from there.”
With the success of her Newsflash series, Grant is pleased that her dreams have become reality. “I have wanted to be a horror writer my entire life. The fact that Feed is more science fiction was sort of accidental, because I am in love with the transcendent ‘why,’ but I wanted to write my take on zombies so bad,” she says.
“What’s kind of funny is that Feed was started long before the current zombie boom. I spent a couple of years kicking the world around in my head before it got a story to go with it, and then it took me about two years to write the book, because I was still trying to feel my way into things. So the timing of it all was just an incredibly happy accident.”
Along with her frequent publishing schedule (she usually comes out with several novels and short stories a year under both her pen name and real name), Grant is a constant blogger, which was a huge influence on her Newsflash series. She’s even been able to make a little money with her blog writing. “When I was getting ready for the release of Deadline, when it was coming out soon, I decided that the appropriate way to get people excited about the book would be to write a novella in thirty pieces, and publish a piece on my blog every day for a month…during a convention, a week-and-a-half-long trip to New York, and a doll traders’ expo. And I managed to do it without missing a single day,” says Grant.
“And when it was all done my editor at Orbit was like, ‘Hey, that thing you did, you want to sell it to us?’ So I said, ‘Sure,’ and they bought it, and they put it in the Orbit short fiction program. So I think that that actually counts as ‘monetizing my blog.’ I’m very proud of that.”
But along with that Internet presence comes problems, especially with comments from angry readers. After a mishap happened with the timing of a hardback book and ebook (which she had no control over), Grant was shocked by the vitriol she got via e-mail. “The amount of hate mail I received in a twenty-four-hour period exceeded the previous eighteen months. I was called a ‘greedy cunt.’ I was called a ‘stupid whore.’ Pretty much any variation of ‘cunt,’ ‘whore,’ or ‘bitch’ that you can come up with was applied to me directly,” says Grant.
“I had several offers to ‘rape the stupid out of me.’ I had one particular master of the rape threat threaten to rape my best friend in front of me repeatedly, so that I would understand his position—somehow raping my best friend is equal to you not getting an ebook when you want it, when when you want it is prior to the release date. And I looked at the fact that I was crying so hard I was shaking, and I said, ‘You know what? That’s why I have a personal assistant.’ And I gave the password to that e-mail box to my PA, and told her not to let me see anything.”