Carrie Ryan, author of "The Dark and Hollow Places," is an emerging young adult writer whose books are quickly gaining popularity.

Born and raised in South Carolina, Ryan tried to break into the writing market by writing chick lit. Not finding success, Ryan decided she needed to have a fallback plan and attended Duke Law School. It was there that she met her husband, who introduced her to the movie "Dawn of the Dead."

"I wasn't really into scary movies," Ryan said in an interview. "But after watching 'Dawn of the Dead' I was fascinated. I was amazed at the lengths people would go to survive."

Thus her newest project was born — the zombie apocalypse books. The follow-up to "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" and "The Dead-Tossed Waves," "The Dark and Hollow Places" was released March 22. But Ryan is quick to emphasize that her novels are not your typical zombie books.

"I tend to think of my books not as zombie books but books that happen to have zombies in them," she said. "It just so happens that in my books it isn't war or economic collapse that's causing the world to change … it's zombies."

In the book, she emphasizes the need to survive and the importance of love and friendship. She emphasizes the fact that zombies are a flexible metaphor used to show how people should work together.

"Beyond that I tend to think that other people bring such richness to our lives. For many people it's in sharing a community that creates meaning," she said.

"The Dark and Hollow Places" is appealing to a vast array of people. In the bigger picture, teenagers can relate to escaping certain monsters in their lives. Parents can relate to the pain of having to watch children experience heartache. But, overall, readers of both sexes will enjoy the entertainment factor of a paranormal book that is open-minded, horrifying, voracious and fast-paced. The love story is also certainly appealing.

"I love writing romance stories. The end result always turns out better in the book," Ryan said.

Ryan writes from pure imagination. "Anything can fuel my imagination: a song, a random phrase I overhear standing in line, wondering about the lives of the people around me in the airport, reading a news article, dreams or taking walks," she said.

She says that she also tries to put herself in her characters' shoes and tries to determine what she would do in their situations.

Ryan hopes that her characters will help her teenage audience deal with everyday fears — such as what college they should attend, or with whom they should go to prom.

More importantly, Ryan hopes that her books inspire people to define themselves and figure out what they want in life.

"People have always stated to write what you love," Ryan said. "That's exactly what I have done."

If you go...

What: Carrie Ryan book signing

When: March 29, 7 p.m.

Where: Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City


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When: March 30, 7 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble, 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan

Shelby Scoffield is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a graduate student at California State University, Stanislaus.

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