Q & A with Zombie Editor Felicia A. Sullivan

When I profiled Felicia Sullivan earlier this month, she gave me some really great answers. I had to condense and paraphrase a bit because of space constraints. I hated to lose all those great comments. So, I am republishing the whole Q & A. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Ms. Sullivan is interesting and funny.

Approximately how many zombie authors have sought your services?
Wow. At least fifty, though not all of them sought me out directly. I work for several independent publishers, including Permuted Press , whose catalogue is zombie-heavy, and some of the books have come from the publisher and not the author. I also want to note, however, that I do not edit ONLY zombie books, but I do have to admit they are my favorites.
Where, how, and with whom do you live?
I live in Silver Spring, MD, walking distance to the DC line, in a very lovely, older, well-established, crunchy granola, tree-hugging, walking community kinda hood. I don’t drive (never have), so I am purposely ensconced in an area in which I can conduct all of my business and pleasure without having need of a car. I can get to two different airports, the metro train, the Amtrak train and Greyhound (all of which can get me everywhere I need to go) by either walking or a train ride.
Every other thing I need (groceries, mall, post office, farmer’s market, Whole Foods, hardware store, art supply store, movies, vet, library, bars, doctors, dentists, live concert hall, hundreds of restaurants of every kind of food from nearly every country, and even two pool halls, are within walking distance. In addition to three Starbucks stores and four non-Starbucks coffeehouses. I truly love my hood and have some of the best neighbors ever.
I work at home as a full time freelance editor, and I am also a jewelry artist, though I have so much editing work these days I don’t get to make jewelry as much as I would like. I miss it….it’s a wonderful creative outlet.
I live with my husband Victor and four of our combined six children (we each have three biological children – me: 2 girls ages 20 and 19, 1 boy aged 16; him: 3 girls ages 21, 17 and 11), a 160 pound Rottweiler named Shiloh, who thinks he is a lap dog, and a 50 pound Pit Bull/Boxer named Tika.
Describe your top three pet peeves in English grammar/usage. (FYI, mine are apostrophes, agreement, and spelling)
My top three pet peeves in general would be poor spelling, improper word uses (your/you’re, its/it’s, their/there/they’re, horde/hoard) and poor grammar.
My number one pet peeve in contemporary English language is “textspeak”. LEARN THE LANGUAGE, and stop trying to WRITE A BOOK like you are THUMBING A TEXT. Because “da zombs iz on da way” just does NOT have the same intelligence as “The zombie apocalypse has begun.”

A special place in hell is reserved for Oxford comma haters.

How did you first become involved in editing?
I have been editing in some form for the last 20 years, either doing favors for friends, working in the legal field, and working for a literary agent.

How did you become involved in editing in the zombie genre?
The short answer is Rhiannon Frater. I randomly found Rhiannon’s book As the World Dies shortly after discovering the zombie genre. I read and reviewed her book on Amazon, and the review was both glowing and critical at the same time. Rhiannon contacted me based on that review, I ended up editing two of the books in that series, and all of her books since then. She is very vocal in her support of me, and a lot of clients have come my way because of her. I am good at what I do, yes, but I totally give her a lot of credit for the successes I have had. She and I have since become fast friends.
Briefly describe the process of editing a zombie novel.
The process of editing a zombie novel is the same as editing any novel. The first thing you have to do is read enough to get a sense of the author’s “voice” and what they are trying to do, so that when you do make changes, you do it in the way the author would do it, and not in the way you would do it if you had written the book yourself.

You of course search for any plot holes or unconnected story lines, and make sure the important characters are well developed. You check grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure, and you have to decide which bad grammar to leave in, because the zombie apocalypse will not discriminate, and some people who survive will indeed have bad grammar. But you also want to make the book both readable and enjoyable for people who do have good grammar without turning them off.

A good editor will also make sure the science makes sense; that the “cause” of the outbreak is believable and the disease/illness/virus works in a realistic way.

And sometimes, just sometimes, you remove some of the clichés because they are so….cliché.
What do you like most about zombie authors and their fiction?
What I like most about zombie books, and any other type of post-apocalyptic fiction, is not the “monsters” really, it’s the survival aspect of those who remain. How they choose to act when the laws of civilization no longer apply, what they do to survive, how they survive, and whether or not they become better people throughout the process. As morbid as it sounds, there’s just something appealing about being a survivor in the midst of global chaos. Not that I want it to happen, but if it ever does, I’d like to think I would be one who would rise to the challenge.
What were the qualities of the best zombie novel draft you ever received?
I don’t want to either single out or shame anyone in answering this, so I will say diplomatically that I generally receive two types of zombie novels:
A really good novel that happens to have zombies in it;
A ZOMBIE! BOOK! WRITTEN BY A FAN! WHO LOVES ZOMBIES! AND HAS A LOT OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!! And contains ALL THE CLICHES OF ZOMBIE BOOKS AND MOVIESSSS!!! And the requisite rape scene. (Stop doing that, people, by the way.)
When I receive the first kind, I edit as I would any other quality book. When I receive the second kind, I try to turn it into the first kind, while still retaining the author’s voice and intent.
If the zombie outbreak first started at a conference for horror writers, would it be quashed immediately? What would happen?
HAHA! Good question! Mostly because nearly every one of the horror writers, and particularly the zombie writers, has some Plan of Action they would follow in the event of a zombie outbreak. In their plans, they are all badass heroes and survivors.
But seriously? I have been to many horror conventions, and it already looks like the outbreak has happened, so who would even know if it was real?
Like, there are people walking around with oozing wounds and bite marks and shiny gory innards hanging out, and they are pretending to attack people. So if it was to suddenly turn REAL, how would we even know?
I think it would be a minute before anyone realized sh*t had just got real. And by then, it would probably be too late to do much about it, being trapped in a hotel convention room with a horde of people, not knowing who was truly the enemy, and only having fake weapons and all.

Thanks, Jule, so much for this opportunity. It’s been fun answering the questions.
Thank YOU,  Felicia Sullivan.