Margaret Atwood on her new Wattpad Zombie collaboration

First aired on The Next Chapter (26/11/12)

Margaret Atwood has been collaborating on some zombie fiction that is leaving fans of story-sharing site Wattpad hungry for more.

happy-zombie-sunrise-120.jpgSince late October, Atwood has been co-writing a serialized novel entitled The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home with U.K. writer Naomi Alderman. The pair was introduced through an arts mentorship program sponsored by Rolex. Their satirical horror story is set in a dystopian future in which some kind of virus has turned many people into zombies and revolves around a no-nonsense, garden-tool-wielding grandmother trying to reconnect with her teenage granddaughter after her mother turns into one of the undead and eats her husband.

The novel, posted as individual chapters until January, is among the most read works on Wattpad, which launched in 2006. Users can write, edit, post, share, and read text for free from their computer or mobile devices. Atwood, who was also an early adopter of Twitter, thinks sites like Wattpad are a great way to encourage people to write and read, especially for those in developing countries with far less resources.

"Suppose you're a young person in a developing country," she told The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers in a recent interview. "You don't have a school, you don't have a library, you don't have a book store, you don't have paper books, you don't have a tablet computer ... But you've got a cheap cell phone. You can read on your phone, you can write on your phone."

The site allows people to create anonymous accounts, which Atwood says provides the freedom to experiment and "let rip and not fear either your friends laughing at you or your parents saying, 'Why are you writing about erotic vampires?'"

She also notes that plenty of adults are using Wattpad to try their hand and writing and self-publishing.

"A lot of people want to do this, and we are inherently narrative. We are a narrative species. It comes with the package. So if it isn't your old auntie sitting on the sofa going through the family photo album and telling you the stories of all those people, it's something. There are stories in all of our lives, and now people have an outlet for them. [It] doesn't mean they're suddenly going to get a bazillion readers, although some do."

Atwood is by far the biggest literary star using Wattpad at the moment, but some of the attention around her adoption of the site may be due to the fact that the 73-year-old queen of CanLit has really embraced and enjoyed using social media such as Twitter.

"I think that when you get to be a certain age, and you're quite well known, you solidify and turn to stone ... You're basically sort of a statue. And when you show signs of life, everybody runs around as if it's some kind of amazing phenomenon... So it's a zombie phenomenon,
Shelagh [laughs]. I'm not dead! I'm walking around."

Margaret Atwood also stopped by George Strouboulopoulos Tonight to discuss this project: 

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