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Panel Profile: The Undying Appeal of the Undead

Joan Vos MacDonald / February 19, 2015

What is it about the undead? No matter how many books have been written about ghosts, vampires, and zombies, readers keep coming back for more. The vivid undead characters created by authors Gail Carriger, Deborah Harkness, Jonathan Maberry, and Yvonne Navarro have taken on a life of their own in the imagination of readers.

Readers may wonder what prompted these writers to take up such paranormal subjects.

Find out when best-selling authors discuss their fascination with the undead during the Tucson Festival of Book's "Undying Appeal of the Undead" panel on Saturday at 1 PM in Koffler Room 204.

Gail Carriger’s very first book, Soulless, won an award and her second novel Changeless earned her a place on the New York Times bestseller list. Her third novel, Heartless, also made the list. She also wrote a four-book Finishing School series for young adults and has launched a second. She has described her lighthearted books as not so much about the paranormal as they are about Victorian scientists struggling to understand vampires, werewolves, and ghosts using the scientific standards of the day.

Deborah Harkness also spent time thinking about the practical aspects of vampires in historical society. As a science historian, she has studied the occult for decades. Despite her long fascination with the continuing allure of such creatures, she began her career in fiction with a more practical question: If there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?

“It’s pretty hard not to notice the popular preoccupation with witches, vampires, and things that go bump in the night,” said Harkness. “But we aren’t the first to be fascinated with these creatures. Today, we often imagine them into fantastic otherworlds, but the people I study believed that such magical beings were living alongside them in this world. So I started thinking, if there are vampires and witches, what do they do for a living—and what strange stories do humans tell to explain away the evidence of their presence? A Discovery of Witches began with the answers to those questions as I essentially reimagined our modern world through the eyes of medieval and Renaissance people."

To answer her questions, she wrote A Discovery of Witches. The book relates the unexpected romance between an Oxford scholar, whose heritage includes witchcraft, and a 1,500-year-old vampire, who works as a geneticist. Rich in historical detail, the novel became the first installment in the All Souls Trilogy, which now also contains Shadow of Night and the most recently published The Book of Life.

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling author, four-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and comic book writer. He writes horror, thrillers, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense for adults and teens. His young adult fiction includes Rot and Run, which is now being developed into a film, Dust and Decay, Flesh and Bone, and Fire and Ash. His mystery novels include the Dylan Quinn mystery-thriller series for teens and his horror novels include The Pine Deep Trilogy. He’s also the editor and co-author of the comic V-Wars, a shared world vampire anthology from IDW. He’s the editor of all-original X-Files anthologies, the YA anthology Scary Out There, and the dark fantasy anthology Out of Tune. He’s also an expert on the History Channel for shows such as “Zombies: A Living History.”

Maberry once credited his interest in the supernatural to his grandmother, who he said taught him about monsters and who “believed in everything.”

Yvonne Navarro has published over 20 books, including AfterAge, deadrush, Final Impact, red Shadows, DeadTimes, That’s Not My Name and Mirrror me. She’s also the author of the Dark Redemption series. And the Bram Stoker award-winning novelist has written seven novels set in the fictional Buffyverse of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Navarro has always liked scary stories and grew up reading Creepy and Eerie magazines. The first movie she can remember watching was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at the drive-in. She reasons that these topics are so popular because they get your blood running and your mind working.

Due to all of this, it's clear "The Undying Appeal of the Undead" panel should be more than invigorating for Festival goers!

Joan Vos MacDonald is the author of several books, includingHigh Fit Home, a book on architecture and fitness. She has worked in public relations, at a daily newspaper and is currently president of, a website devoted to Korean pop music and drama.

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