Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zombified Interview with J. Powell

J. Powell is the creatively creepy guy behind a clever new zombie novel. Vermont Voodoo turns the zombie craze on its rotting head.

Jake took time out of horrifying readers to let us dig around in his cranium...

Ang: When were you first bitten by the zombie affliction? Can you take us back to how the infection began? What’s the most difficult part about sharing this ghoulish love as an indie?
Jake: When I was a very small child, I imagined that Frankenstein was lurking in our family's spare bedroom, the Wicked Witch of the West was hiding in the maple tree over the driveway, and my younger brother's evil twin was living in our closet. I have always, always loved monsters in every shape and size. Pinpointing ground zero for the horde of zombies in my head is tricky - but it probably started when I picked up a set of 50 DVDs from Costco titled "Classic Movie Monsters." It had such amazing creatures! The Brain that Wouldn't Die, the Beast of Yucca Flats, the Killer Shrews... as well as the original Night of the Living Dead, White Zombie, King of the Zombies, and Revolt of the Zombies.
Bringing my beloved monsters to life and unleashing them on unsuspecting friends and family members has always been fun for me. I used to send my brother packages on Halloween with themed wrapping paper for monster movie nights. But as I enter the world as a novelist, I'm torn between the hokey-pokey, Halloween-y perspective I have on my monsters and my desire to be a "serious" horror writer. While Vermont Voodoo has plenty of gore and zombie kills, I still prefer "Things that go bump in the night" to an outright apocalypse. Which, I think, is why I wanted to go with the classic trope of Voodoo over a virus or plague.
Ang: If you had to dumb down the plot of your book so a zombie could understand, how would you explain it?
Jake: Mhrrrr. Sad Zombies. Sad zombie wants brains. BRAAAAAINS! New girl. Girl has secrets. Makes friends. Tasty friends. Oh no, friends kill zombies! What? Mind control? But zombie just wants to eat brains in peace. Voodoo sorcerer makes lots of zombies. Zombies chase girl and friends! In snowstorms! Flashback to New Orleans voodoo. Wait, zombie not in flashback? Zombie just eat more brains. Nom nom nom. Scientist lady very scary. Study zombie. Will girl and friends defeat voodoo sorcerer and zombie army? Zombie not know. Have to read to find out.
Ang: Describe the lucky survivors who engage with the festering horde of the dead.
Jake: AJ - Our main character. A girl from New Orleans with a troubled past and no clear direction of her future, fate sends her to the unfamiliar industrial city of Frostbite to figure out what's up with their zombie problem. She's plucky but has a lot to learn about believing in herself, especially since she carries a dark secret.
Derek - A totally introverted loner, he doesn't make many friends. Especially because his hobby of building coffins is a bit off color. He's got a few hidden talents that he's only just discovered, and they scare him. Really, he'd just like to be left in peace, but these pesky zombies keep popping up around him.
Leila - The bitter scientist, she's sarcastic, mean, and totally brilliant. She's devoted her whole life to studying paranormal creatures in the hopes of discovering the secrets of the human soul, but her research has led her to some less than savory decisions. Even though she has to keep her experiments secret, she hopes to someday receive some major hard earned dues.
Ang: What was the most important aspect when writing your non-zombie characters? Realism (losers, assholes, and cowards) or fantasy (Rambo or the guy/gal who has a Rambo hiding inside them)?
Jake: Oh, fantasy, always. Who likes the conventional characters? You always have to start out with a fun idea, and eventually the character starts to develop its own life, become layered and subtle. Besides, pretty much all my friends in real life are a little absurd, so I can't imagine writing any other way. My favorite characters are always crazy. Think Buffy, or Dr. Who, or Sherlock Holmes. Somehow I think that the larger-than-life characters always end up feeling more real than any other.
Ang: Does your book begin just as the zombies start building their paradise or have zombies already gotten things rocking and rotting?
Jake: Good question. That's one of the mysteries our Scoobies have to solve. The zombies have been around for a while, for sure, but something's happening to make them a little more active than before. In the beginning, though, the zombie sightings are rare and the creatures are little more than rumors.
Ang: Zombies are people too. They come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and smarts. What types of the walking dead inhabit your novel?
Jake: My poor zombies. They were inspired by growing up in a dying industrial city, the kind you see all over the Midwest and New England. Without industry the whole city goes into decline, and the people who live there are stuck without much room to grow or the resources to live out their dreams. Adventure and discovery are such an important part of life that just going through the motions is a kind of walking death. So my zombies start off as these empty people who eventually become possessed by an embittered spirit, and later influenced and controlled through voodoo magic. Not your typical zombies... but they still crave some tasty brains.
Ang: Will your infection spread to more books and series? How many blood and guts offerings do you predict in your future? How soon can our zombie and human readers expect to see your next festering contribution?
Jake: My favorite character in the book was Leila, the scientist, and I hope to eventually return with an anthology of short stories about her work studying the paranormal. There will be plenty of ghosts, zombies, vampires, poltergeists, demons, and demi-gods for her to experiment with, all while wearing her signature white heels and puffing a cigarette. Although I really hope she switches to nicotine patches or an e-cig soon because, you know, smoking kills.
But that won't come for a few more years. My next novel is a coming-of-age sci-fi thriller about a genetically engineered boy and his brothers titled The Geneticist's Son.
Ang: What is your favorite way to kill a zombie? Shoot ‘em, hack ‘em, poke ‘em, burn ‘em, or something even more fiendish? ***Zombie readers please turn away to avoid having your putrefied feelings eviscerated.
Jake: I prefer melee weapons, especially a baseball bat. Solid hardwood, none of that aluminum stuff. If you get a really ripe zombie you can smash its head like a melon. Of course, you have to keep a machete handy as well for the freshly undead. I leave the shotguns and sniper rifles for someone else on my team... I like to get a little dirty.
Ang: Do you have a favorite cinematic zombie? Example: My co-blogger Zombie Earl is quite fond of Zombie Roger from the original Dawn of the Dead.
Jake: Roger! Totally classic. For cinematic zombies I really like Zombie Cheryl from the original Evil Dead. The chilling image of her head popping up from the cellar is seared in my brain. And that movie was made for like, zero budget! Goes to show what a little love and a good fog machine can do.
Alternately, and it's not from cinema, but I love the first zombie in Plants vs. Zombies that appears with a traffic cone on his head. Seriously, the first time I saw that I balled up laughing. What a clever little monster.
Ang: Who is your favorite character from The Walking Dead (comics or TV show)?
Jake: Would you believe that I've never seen the show or read the comics? My boyfriend has the first comic compendium sitting on the bookshelf, and the show has been on my Netflix queue since it started. And I haven't touched them. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that I've been busy, you know, writing a novel. I allow myself one TV show per season, and the past couple years all my television time has been taken up by Game of Thrones, True Blood, and American Horror Story. I'll get to The Walking Dead... eventually.

Ang: Finally, how prepared are you for the zombie apocalypse that we all know is just around the corner?

Jake: I used to be so scared of monsters as a little kid. And then I learned that the best way to stop being afraid is to pretend that you're one of the monsters. So in the event of the zombie apocalypse my plan is... join them. I mean, we all know who wins in the end, right? I'll happily ooze and shamble and dance the Thriller. So next time you hear something go bump in the night... it might be me.
Dig into Jake's book at Amazon.
Chase after Jake at Amazon, Twitter, his website, and Goodreads

No comments:

Post a Comment