Welcome back to my series of posts introducing you to the characters in my forthcoming zombie apocalypse novel, Sam’s Town! Today I’d like you to meet Joe and Anna Larson, the parents of my main character, Sam. In genre fiction (as opposed to literary fiction), it’s fairly rare to see a relationship between an adult character and his or her parents, and it’s rare in all types of narratives these days to see a positive portrayal of such a relationship. And I’d argue that it’s even less rare, especially in genre fiction, to see a portrayal of a romantic relationship (especially a healthy one) between people over 40–dare I say, even over 30? Well, get ready for this: Joe and Anna are over 50–approaching 60!–and they’re unmistakably in love. Part of the reason their passion is so evident at present is that Anna has recently emerged from a decades-long period of debilitating depression that kept her housebound and unable to fully participate in the relationships that meant so much to her, primarily those with her husband, Joe, and her only child, Sam. If it doesn’t sound too sappy to say it, it’s almost as if she’s falling in love all over again. And even during the bleakest times, Joe has never stopped feeling awe that a woman like Anna would want to be with a guy like him.
Sam is a lot like both of his parents, including in ways that he might not want to admit. His relationships with each of his parents were some of my favorites to explore. They’re not perfect relationships, but they’re kind and well-intentioned and, most of all, loving–and this is something else we don’t see enough of in fiction. I think some writers are called to write about the ugliness of the world around us, including in the way humans treat one another, but I wanted to write an aspirational story. Set in the zombie apocalypse. How’s that for irony? Anyway, I think all my characters have qualities worth emulating, but as the oldest of the bunch, Joe and Anna are perhaps the greatest mentor figures in the story, flawed as they are.
Fun facts about Joe and Anna:
- Joe is a dentist who ends up as the de facto leader of the apocalypse survivors in Hibbing, Minnesota. I learned of an interesting coincidence after I had already created this storyline: A real-life dentist from Hibbing named Rudy Perpich also took an important leadership role, serving two terms as the governor of Minnesota.
- It’s said several times in my novel that Sam looks a lot like Joe but has Anna’s eyes. Does this remind you of anyone? It should remind you of Harry Potter. 🙂
- Frankie, whom you met last week, says Joe Larson is Clemenza’s best customer of all time. Before the zombie apocalypse, he ate there at least once a week.
And here’s a romantic encounter between Joe and Anna:
He turned his head to look her in the face, his eyes searching for hers in the dim light from the bathroom. “Be careful,” he said. “I can’t lose you.”
She reached over and touched his face. “You won’t.”
“I mean it,” he said, and his voice cracked.
“I mean it too,” she said with her eyes locked on his. “You won’t.”
They just looked at each other for what felt like a long time. “I love you so much,” Joe finally broke the silence, “but my neck hurts.” He turned his head back to face the ceiling.
Anna giggled quietly and whispered, “Good night.
Let me know what you think of Hibbing’s “it” couple (okay, maybe not, but they’re my “it” couple) in the comments!
Next week, I’m going to introduce you to the character who is most closely based on me. If you’ve read any of my novel, any guesses who I mean?