Long and Short Reviews welcomes Zillah Anderson whose debut book The Inheritance has recently been released by No Boundaries Press. Leave a comment on this interview to win a download of the book. Her most recent book, Knocking Down Heaven's Door, is the story of a small town teen girl who feels misunderstood and is an outsider.
"For various reasons she gets stuck going to church camp one summer and struggles to balance out her views of religion with her awkward social life and her quirky love of classic rock. It’s an odd combination of themes, but the main character is so out there and snarky that it was a blast to write!" she said. "I’m not a total cynic. I like having stories that explore deep themes and can offer a little bit of hope. I think as we grow up we forget how our lives really were as teens and get scared about portraying anything that might be controversial or indecent in that age frame. Let’s face it – adolescence is awkward and controversial because you’re stuck with trying to balance out how you’re told life is supposed to be with what you’re actually going through. It’s when you’ve got to start figuring out what you really feel about things in your life, and getting to explore that through music and a smart-mouthed character was a lot of fun."
"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I wondered.
"I try to tie into the theme without being too clever. The Inheritance refers to the fact that the two characters are father and daughter, and despite having a strained relationship the father has passed on a certain way of looking at the world to his daughter. With Knocking Down Heaven’s Door it’s a play on the Dylan song, but I wanted something that encompassed the classic rock theme, the spiritual theme, and the fact that the character is very blunt and can be in people’s faces. She’s cynical and snarky. She’s not one to just wait around for an answer."
Zillah has always loved stories and has been drawn to what happens to characters. She was always encouraged to read a lot of different types of books, and she's always had a pretty wild imagination.
"I feel like growing up in the eighties helped – the cartoons and kids stories were much more out there than things today," she explained. "It was perfectly fine for parents to take their kids to movies where the Care Bears battled Necronomicon-like books and My Little Ponies faced world-destroying ooze. As I grew up I started really getting fascinated by how people interact and react to each other. As young people we’re fed a lot of lines on how we’re supposed to feel about people and things, and what the 'right' way to approach a situation is. And those things just aren’t true. I love dealing with plots or subplots that bring up those interactions or uncomfortable feelings that people don’t want to admit to, and I like turning situations on their heads."
Zillah's a fan of clever plots and a lot of detail, but they have to come from somewhere. At the end of the day, stories about the people that make them up. Magic and romance are great, but Zillah wants to know how those things affect the characters—not just that A happens then B happens then C happens before a clever plot-twist and more narration.
"I want there to be tangents that give me a clue how these people react to things so later on when something intense starts to happen I’ll already know that it’s gearing up to be a fabulous part of the book because the characters are going to deal with it in a way that makes me want to read more," she said. "I feel like we’ve gotten into this age of formulas, where everyone’s looking for the next big thing and books can be five hundred pages without much really happening. It’s frustrating. At the end of the day, I’m a reader. I will read anything – it can be about regular people or abominable snowmen for all I care. If the characters are believable and the author is really working to make me care about them, then I’ll definitely stay with it to the end. If I feel like it’s more of a fleshed-out outline or things get bogged down by vague events that I’m supposed to care about then can’t, I’m not going to feel compelled to finish the book. And if that’s the case then I’m not going to just shrug my shoulders about that title, I probably will recommend other titles instead."
"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I asked. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"Sometimes I move on to a different story if it’s not something that’s contracted. I tend to be a little creative ADD so at times bouncing from one thing to the other helps and makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. Sometimes I just need to put it away and let the idea ferment on its own. Ideas are sneaky like that – they like to be missed and sneak up on you unawares, especially in the car or the shower. And sometimes, especially if I know I’m just procrastinating I really have to just focus and push through it and fix anything I deem unworthy later on. Sometimes it just takes getting things on paper. It’s like exercising: it’s good for you and there are days you just aren’t feeling it, but once you get started it’s almost always better."
"What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?" I asked.
"Read a lot and read everything. The point isn’t to read to figure out a specific formula – it’s to get a lot of different things in your consciousness and to see what works for you and what doesn’t. I will admit that I get frustrated with people who only read the hot YA-oriented releases. I love Harry Potter as much as anyone and I think it’s fairly well-written, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t read Dumas or Clive Barker or Shakespeare or nonfiction. Read outside your comfort zone, especially if you’re a new writer. And you definitely have to keep trying and not take rejection too personally. There’s no magic bullet. Even when you start to get published it’s up to you to promote yourself and put yourself out there. There’s no 'this is it – it’s gonna be great!' Like a lot of artistic ventures it’s a lot more work than people realize. That being said – it’s totally worth it but you’re going to have exhausting weeks just like anyone else. I firmly believe that if a writer’s stories are good enough they can get noticed and get published – but it depends on where they’re trying to submit to and how hard they’re trying. I submit mass amounts of things to different places at a time and keep track of it all in a file. If something gets rejected I look it over to make sure there’s no formatting errors that I’ve missed and send it right back out to somewhere else. It’s a lot like dating: you have the questionable places and the places that just aren’t the right fit for you right now, but if you really want it and keep trying you’re going to find at least one place that clicks with you."
About the Author: Zillah Anderson is a Midwest girl who’s a sucker for an unusual idea. Since a tender age she’s been fascinated by the strange and unusual and loves to incorporate even the oddest plot twists into her stories. Her story ‘Monster’ appeared in the 2011 Wicked East Press anthology Halloween Frights vol. III. Her e-books include The Inheritance and the upcoming Knocking Down Heaven’s Door, both with No Boundaries Press, and Power Chord with Rebel Ink Press. On her blog she likes to focus life irritation into alter egos and sometimes writes under the guise of Mary Sue and The Overlady. Never one to settle for the mundane road in life, she spends her time writing and plotting ways to achieve her true life purpose: total world domination.
Find Zillah online at
Kaylee has one night to re-connect with her ailing father, but they don’t have much to talk about. Inspired, she decides to read him a story that eerily mirrors their relationship. She wants to bury the hatchet so badly, but all she can remember are the pranks Zachary pulled and in an attempt to make parenthood interesting. But long ago Kaylee learned his Achilles heel, the one silly object that could undo him and change the balance in their relationship. Should she use it? Will she? Find out what happens when love and forgiveness become twisted by anger, retaliation, and disconnect.