My first novel, Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten, was written in response to a pair of frustrations I had when watching the first season of The Walking Dead.
My first frustration was the treatment of children. When I was a kid, I did things. Carl and Sofia didn’t do anything but get lost. Carl would go missing whenever there was a crisis, giving Lori and Rick an excuse to scream “Where’s Carl?” Not surprisingly, “Where’s Carl?” became a popular drinking game among the college set. The Walking Dead eventually went on to devote an entire season to Sofia becoming successfully lost.
My second frustration was how amazingly pale Georgia was. Georgia was, at last look, roughly 30% black. You would be hard put to assemble a group of apocalypse survivors where the only black survivor was a Mack truck of a man named “T-Dog”, unless, of course, you were feeding the blacks to the zombies in order to let the whites get away. I don’t think even Merle would have stooped that low.
Hence, my creation of Letitia Johnson. Unapologetically small, unapologetically black, not stupid at all, and she doesn’t get lost for an entire book. Letitia’s problem is, that like all children, she’s ignorant. A smart nine-year-old girl, she’s capable of reasoning as well as most adults, but you can only learn so much in nine years. It’s that ignorance that drives the story: she’s rapidly improvising, figuring things out on the fly, trying to find a way to keep her and twelve little kids she’s been stuck with alive, with no room for mistakes.