Canadian 'author' Victoria Dunn - aka Victoria Higgins and Meghan Dunn
The prospect of diving headlong into a muddy, smelly bog is scary enough for most people.
But add zombies into the mix and you’ve got a truly terrifying combination.
Yet that’s the plot of a new book by two Canadian horror writers who have stumbled across the idea of setting their latest book in the tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells – home of the World Bog Snorkelling Championships.
The book, Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies, is described by its creators as an “urban fantasy/comedy/action/ adventure novel with zombies”.
And the writers of the book admit that they have created the world partially in their imagination simply because they can’t afford to come to Wales to visit.
The main character, Alice, is a former telephone psychic who works for an organisation dedicated to ridding the world of the supernatural.
When rumours of a “Stage Two zombie outbreak” threaten the World Bog Snorkelling Championships, part of the World Alternative Games in Llanwrtyd Wells, Alice and her colleagues head off to save the townsfolk and the zombies.
Author Victoria Dunn is actually a composite name for Victoria Higgins and Meghan Dunn. In the course of their writing together, the women have grown to refer to themselves as single entity Victoria.
“When we write, we brainstorm the plot together and split up the chapters between us. Then we exchange these first draft chapters to rewrite them.
“The final product’s been swapped back and forth so many times that we can hardly remember who came up with what idea first. So, we joked that we’d developed an evil hive mind, and named it Victoria Dunn, a combination of our names.”
The novel began life as part of a 72-hour novel contest in 2009 when it gained third place. Victoria was interested in zombies and looked for a suitable venue to play out the drama.
“The zombies became Welsh by fortuitous accident. We decided that a zombie invasion of a tiny town would be easier to write in three days than one set in a sprawling metropolis.
“So we googled ‘smallest town’, and then narrowed our search to the UK because we both loved the movie Shaun of the Dead.
“That’s how we stumbled across the smallest town in Wales, Llanwrtyd Wells, and fell in love with it.”
Even though the book is set in Llanwrtyd Wells, Victoria is still a stranger to the real town.
“Unfortunately, neither of us can afford to visit Wales, and our tiny Canadian publisher just won’t finance a book tour there.
“However, we do fantasise about someday finding a publisher in the UK and holding a book launch at the World Bog Snorkelling Championships!”
“Although, bogs and books don’t always mix well, so we might hold a zombie beauty contest at the Neuadd Arms Hotel instead.”
The fascination with Llanwrtyd Wells grew as Victoria continued to research it.
“We loved the story of how, back in the 1970s, the townsfolk of Llanwrtyd Wells realised they couldn’t survive on sheep farming alone, and decided to create bizarre festivals to attract tourists.
“We also admired the Man versus Horse Marathon – the horse doesn’t always win – and the Saturnalia Wobble, a pub crawl on mountain bikes. We were so impressed by this town’s ingenuity and sense of humour that we decided they definitely deserved a Zombie Wobble.”
The women say the book has been well received by Welsh people in their hometown of Ottawa so far.
“We have an active Welsh community in our city and we know of one person who bought our book for a bog snorkeler. We even had the opportunity to chat with two people who’d lived in Llanwrtyd Wells while we were working on the book
“However, based on conversations at book fairs, it appears most of our readers don’t know much about Wales and haven’t heard of bog snorkelling.”
Victoria acknowledges that there may be some errors owing to the fact that they are only virtually acquainted with the area.
“We’ve likely got some things wrong by accident and we did have to make a couple of changes to the real location to accommodate a zombie horde. We joke that we’d love a quote for the back cover of the next edition from an organiser of the Bog Snorkelling Championships angrily denouncing our book for all of its inaccuracies. No doubt increasing the odds of this happening, we’ve even included a Welsh phrase or two in the book. We’ve got our fingers crossed that online translator Babelfish didn’t let us down, and turn them into something horribly insulting.
“Ultimately, we hope our novel will convince our readers that Wales, and specifically Llanwrtyd Wells, is a brilliant place to holiday.”
As well as the book, Victoria has released a trailer explaining the plot, complete with tiny crocheted versions Meghan did of the book’s protagonists including a zombie sheep. Filmed in stop motion, it features a catchy song by Trevor Strong of music-comedy group Arrogant Worms, because, says Victoria, “every novel needs its own song”. The cute, crafted zombies are a world away from movie representations of these slavering monsters, and Victoria says that’s because zombies are people too.
“When zombies look at you, they don’t judge or discriminate. They see a tasty treat regardless of your race, religion, social class or terrible taste in clothes. Zombies also don’t give up or get discouraged. It doesn’t matter that they’re rotting, can only moan ‘brrraaaiiins’ and their limbs have a habit of falling off. Zombies pursue their goal, your tasty brains, with heroic tenacity.”
The next trip to Wales for Alice in her role as supernatural hunter is likely to be a long way off.
“Next, we plan to have Alice and Welly visit Iceland. However, when it comes time to promote the sequel, a Welsh acquaintance suggested we write a short story about Alice and Welly getting stuck in Swansea and visiting the nearby town of Mumbles. We’re definitely tempted.”
The Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies ebook is available from www.smashwords.com. ~Kirstie McCrum for WalesOnline