An Interview With Mur Lafferty on THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY
When did you first start writing?
I think I was around twelve, after reading Fred Saberhagen’s Swords series and getting my first itch for fanfic. Then I began an epic story about all my best friends, featuring different-colored unicorns. This book is, thankfully, lost to the ages.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
As a child, I was most influenced by Anne McCaffrey and Robin McKinley. As an adult, it’s been Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Connie Willis.
Where did the idea for THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY come from?
I used to write for role-playinggames, and in 2005 (post–Hurricane Katrina), I got together with some friends to do a print‑on‑demand RPG book about New Orleans to benefit the Red Cross. New Orleans has such a history with myth and magic, I had the idea to see the city from a zombie tour guide’s POV, so I wrote a short story called “The Shambling Guide to New Orleans.” After I wrote that short piece for the book, I began thinking of other cities that would have an underground monster population that might be in need of guidebooks.
What was your inspiration for Zoë? Why publishing?
Embarrassingly enough, only after I finished the book did I realize how much Douglas Adams influenced my writing. One of my favorite parts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the actual travel book within the book. As for Zoë, she is a woman who thinks she can handle things bigger than herself; she has a reckless streak that I’ve always wanted to have.
How much of you is in your characters?
I think there’s a little bit of me in all of them, else I wouldn’t be able to write them. My protagonists are often braver than I am, though.
Why New York City?
I am from a small town, and currently live in Durham, North Carolina. While we have the cities of Raleigh and Durham, they suffer from sprawl, and so they never feel like proper cities to me. Cars are ubiquitous instead of subways and buses. And forget walking anywhere. Cities that pack their residents in create their own mythology with the layers from the ultra-rich penthouses to the squalor in the abandoned tunnels. I’ve always loved visiting cities, even though the small-town girl inside me fears getting hopelessly lost!
How much research did you have to do for this novel?
I did a lot of reading on different monster mythologies, especially those tied to different locations. For the city, I drew on media about New York, maps, and my experiences visiting the city. A lot of reading and a lot of Internet research.