Friday, June 5, 2009

Fried Green Zombies, Part Three

So it was a race now. Which was going to kill him first? The cops or the truck-driving zombies from hell? – From Fried Green Zombies

We’re back with John Allen, author of Fried Green Zombies. If you missed part of the interview, you can catch up by clicking on Part One and Part Two.

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?

Yes and no. The first “novel” I wrote, I wrote when I was in seventh grade. It was a short little thirty-thousand word thing, completely atrocious, but I really enjoyed the story-telling side of it. I took creative writing in High School, but my teacher was more inclined to set up coffee pots in the classroom and make us write about the meaning of song lyrics than to actually compel us to tell stories. But I did win a little award in high school for a little story I wrote – and looking back on it, it had all the elements of FGZ, minus the zombies and monster trucks, of course. The dark humor was there, as were the “mixed” elements of FGZ. Meaning while FGZ had zombies and aliens and dirty cops, the short story I wrote in high school – “The Chronicles of Charming,” had the mash-up of fairy tales and nineteen-thirties’ era gangsters told in a film noir style.

With a full time job, are you able to write everyday? Do you have a routine you follow before you begin to write?

My full time job gets in the way of writing. I jest, but writing every day can be difficult. My oldest girl is three, and my youngest is one. I’m at work every day by eight, and I leave by five. Then there’s dinner, chores, playing with the girls, putting them to bed – so that by the time my day stops, it’s nine o’clock at night. I try every night to write for at least one hour. If I’m on a good roll and have spent a little time during the day plotting where I want the story to go, I can get down a thousand words or so. Then, on the weekend, if I can steal the time, I’ll go to a coffee shop from noon until three, while the girls are having their naps, and get another three or four thousand words down.

My last job was much less demanding than my current one, and I was able to actually write quite a bit while I was at work.

Are there special items in your work area that inspire you or help you concentrate?

There are no special items that either inspire me or help me concentrate. All I need is my laptop and relative silence. My wife likes to spend nap time on the weekends watching television, so I escape to the coffee shop or to my office where I can work in silence. I find it very important to get up a head of steam and maintain it. Constantly starting and stopping makes for sloppy sentences and thoughts.

Why did you decide to self-publish and are you satisfied with that decision?

I decided to self-publish simply because I haven’t heard from any publishers. I was actually approached by a small publisher last week, an approach that was actually unsolicited – meaning it was a publisher to whom I had not sent a manuscript. Being approached felt nice. It felt like maybe someone had noticed.

But again, I didn’t write FGZ to make a lot of money. I’d be lying if I said that making money wouldn’t be nice, but I wrote it to have fun. The decision to self-publish is a tricky one.

I actually took part in a conversation between two authors the other week. One is completely self-published, and making a good living. The other has a traditional publishing contract, is better known, and sells a lot more copies (with a six-figure publishing deal on his last book).

But guess who makes more money (at least right now)? The self-published author. He makes roughly three to eight times as much money per book as the published author does, and gets to call all the shots. He can sell books online, and doesn’t have to sell nearly as many as the published author. He can market however he chooses. It took him longer to build up a dedicated audience, but he loves it.

Well, that’s all good and well, because they’re both making a good living. But for me, being self published has its pros and cons. I’ve had to market creatively. I promised my wife that I wouldn’t spend a dime on this endeavor, and with the exception of purchasing the ISBN numbers, I’ve stuck to that plan. Any books that I sell go into ordering more books or advertising. I use a print-on-demand service that handles all my printing and fulfillment, and does it pretty cheaply.

But being self-published also means that it’s tough as nails to get into the brick-and-mortar stores like Books-a-Million and Barnes and Noble. I really would love to be in stores, but haven’t been able to make that happen yet.

How did you decide on the company you selected for self-publication?

I have two companies that I use for printing, chosen more or less by what they cost. Right now, one company handles my paperbacks, and another my hard covers.

What is your most helpful book on writing? Why?

This is a good question. My most helpful book on writing… (ready for it?) was probably “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore. Probably didn’t expect that one, did you?

I wrote a story like I like to read stories, if that makes any sense. I know what I like, and what I don’t like, and when I wrote Fried Green Zombies, I didn’t exactly want to emulate a certain story or style, but I knew how I wanted the elements and the arc of the story to flow. I knew how I wanted the humor to originate.

And when I read “The Lust Lizard”, I thought, “Wow, here’s a guy who can take a blues musician, a slightly-crazy former B-movie actress, and a giant Godzilla-like monster and make a fun story.” Then when I saw that he had a large audience, I thought “Wow, there are actually people out there who might like my type of storytelling,” because he had that mash-up mentality of juxtaposing several wildly different ideas and letting the fun go from there.

What is your favorite and least favorite marketing technique?

Favorite marketing technique: Having an open dialogue with people who enjoyed the story, asking them what they did and didn’t enjoy. I use facebook and twitter, and I openly encourage people to seek me out and talk to me. I also released a free podcast version of the book, available at the website ( and at That worked really well in getting the word out.

My least favorite marketing technique has been trying to get in stores. I lose a bit of the element of impulse buy when people don’t just see my book in front of them.

What bit of advice do you have for writers who have yet to be published?

This is another good question. I don’t know what advice I would have to give, except keep trying. I’ve read a lot of the hundreds of rejection letters that people receive, and I’ve certainly been turned down by plenty of agents. But the talk on the street is that the publishing industry is changing. There are all sorts of articles on and other credible sites where more and more, the success stories are coming from the unpublished authors.

Maybe one day, I’ll be one of them. Maybe not. Either way, it’s not going to stop me from writing. I love to write. It’s a form of relaxation for me.

I’m looking forward to a sequel. When can we expect to read more of the adventures of Bob, Chett and Harry? What other projects are in the works?

Thanks! I’m currently working on two (yes, two) novels at once. One is called “Demoness – a Story of Amputees, Treasure Hunting, and Hard Luck Love” – it’s the story of a down-on-his luck guy and his run-in with the demon Lillith. It’s based on early Christian and Judaic mythology, so I’m having fun researching and telling the story. The novel is roughly one-third complete.

The other story, “Dead Man’s Blues,” fits into the FGZ universe, though it isn’t a sequel. I’m still very early in the writing phase on it, standing at one-ninth complete, so I’ll tell you more when I get closer to the middle. However, unlike, FGZ, this story is a much more serious story, though it is still action-packed, and while still being fast-paced, it is a deeper book than FGZ.

And then, of course, already in the very nascent stages, is FGZ2.

But beyond that, I have a page full of one-line story ideas that I want to explore in the future. I seriously doubt I’ll ever run out of ideas.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Other than a huge thanks? I’d just like to say that I’m glad you enjoyed the story! When someone like you, who has a bit more experience in the industry, has something nice to say, well, it’s a really good pat on the back. The world needs more of those.

Thank you, John. I’ve really enjoyed this. Good luck with this book and your others. I have a very good feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot about you and your work in the future.

You can follow John on Twitter, or visit his website. You can buy Fried Green Zombies now in a variety of formats from his site or on Amazon.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Fried Green Zombies, leave a comment or question for John.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: John Allen, Fried Green Zombies, contest,


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting interview! You're good to work your writing into such a demanding schedule. Best of luck with your sales.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm going to try self-publishing as an experiment to see how I like it. These days it sounds like a more viable option than before.

I know how it is finding time to write, but once you're hooked on writing, somehow it works out.

Morgan Mandel

Alexis Grant said...

Interesting take on self-publishing and fitting writing into a daily schedule.

And love that I got to this site through your tweet, Jane!

Galen Kindley said...

Hi, John…and Jane, Your discussion on self-publishing was most interesting. I think Morgan’s correct, it’s a much more viable and mainstream option that it was say, 10, or even 5 years ago. Can you share the companies you selected, and why?

Best Regards, Galen.

Helen Ginger said...

Very interesting. I admire him for being able to juggle projects. I juggle a lot of different things, but not two writing projects at once. That would be tough.

Straight From Hel

Marvin D. Wilson said...

I've really enjoyed these posts on John. I share a lot of the same attitudes towards writing and marketing. Appreciate it, John and Jane. :)

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

John said...

Galen, I chose because of its price and its affiliation with Amazon (it's owned by Amazon, so as a POD service, it handles all my printing and shipping). The good thing about it is that my work showed up INSTANTLY on Amazon and Target (online). The bad thing is that Createspace deals only with Amazon and NOT Ingram or Bowker - meaning, I can't get in a bookstore by using them as a printer. I've had to go the long route and approach the individual distributors independently.

And so far, I've not had any luck.

So, I also use Their per-unit price is higher, meaning that they show up $5 more expensive (for paperback) on Amazon. However, DOES submit to Ingram and Bowker, meaning that in a few weeks my books should show up on Theoretically, when that happens, people should be able to order it in the store. But did I mention how expensive it is? Who's going to want to pay $20 for a paperback and $40 for a Hardcover?

So, in a way, I'm still figuring it out. But to answer your question, I LOVE createspace and just wish they acted as a distributor to other channels.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Okay, john, great answers. Thank you so much...and Jane, thanks for dropping me an email for a heads-up...Not that I don't check your blog hourly...Grin.


Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world