Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fried Green Zombies, Part Two

He had learned that human women didn‘t make any sense. Why would alien women be any different? - From Fried Green Zombies

Here we are, back with John Allen and Fried Green Zombies. If you missed yesterday’s post you can catch up here. Don’t forget about the contest. Simply leave a comment and/or become a follower for an opportunity to win John’s fun and exciting book.

I love the title, how did you come up with the name?

Thanks! Originally, Fried Green Zombies started out as another story all together, called (tentatively, mind you), “Space Cowboys” or something like that. But as I started writing the story, it became apparent that I needed to tell more of the back-story, as it were. So, FGZ was born. The name came to me as I was writing the story. People who are inclined to think about zombies always think of them as these disgusting creatures with gray and green skin. Towards the end, there was a scene involving not only a firefight, but a fireball as well. Some of the zombies catch on fire, and I thought “Wow, those are some fried green zombies”, and the name stuck. Add to that the fact that when people think of fried green tomatoes, it has a very southern connotation. Voila!

Aliens, zombies, a couple of rednecks and the Dodge of Death make for an unusual combination. Where do your ideas come from?

My own twisted mind. I’ve always loved Edgar Allen Poe and his sense of the macabre. I’ve always loved Vonnegut and his humanism and his sense of an altered reality. And I’ve always loved Christopher Moore and his sense of the inane and weird. I grew up with a lot of the characters in FGZ – Chett, Harry, Clayton, Uncle Crank, Sheriff Barrack, Detective Moses – every single character is based off of a composite of characters with whom I interacted on a daily basis. These people were my friends and associates growing up in the rural south. I really grew up in Bovina, the location of the story. I really knew people whose sole hobby was mud-riding. And I loved those people, and they’re still dear friends of mine. I chuckled with an idea one day after watching some zombie movie. I thought, “Wow, if zombies invaded Bovina, they’d be in for something else,” because everyone I grew up with was well-armed, to say the least. So the idea was born.

Your cast of characters is wonderful. Bob is my favorite but they all came to life and I could visualize them easily. Are they based on your imagination or people you know? Do you write detailed character sketches before starting a project or do they develop as you go?
I wouldn’t have thought it possible to tie aliens, zombies, humans and vehicles together in such an entertaining and believable way, yet you did it beautifully. Do you write from an outline, storyboard or let the story or characters lead you?

I want to answer these two questions simultaneously, because I feel that they lead directly into each other.

The characters are definitely based on people I know. I do start with a character sketch, but it’s not very detailed. Basically, I think, “Okay, these are my lead characters, these are my supporting characters, and these are my background characters.” Then, with Chett, Harry, and Clay, I instantly knew who they were, their motivations, their friendship, and just generally who they were. Again, they were based off of composite caricatures from my life. I wanted Bob to be a true heroine, unabashed and unashamed of the person that she was. She obviously hails from a different culture with different norms and customs and acts accordingly. I wanted her to be like the heroines of the stories I read as a child, only more adult. Innocent, cute, charming, but brave and strong as an ox, outshining the guys.

So, in a way, the growth of the characters is an organic process, starting from an idea, and allowing them to grow through the story.

The characters help the story grow as well. I started FGZ with a very, very rough mental outline of what I wanted to happen. As I wrote it, I began an actual note-based outline and would fill it in from both the beginning and the end as the story progressed. I would introduce a new element and make sure that I included it in the wrap-up, or I would have to make changes down the line. But a lot of FGZ really, really surprised me. Characters would wind up in situations that I hadn’t imagined, and it was extremely fun writing them out of it. A lot of times I would chuckle at their responses.

In a nutshell: I write like I’m watching a movie. I have the characters in my head; I introduce them to different stimuli and situations and merely record how they react. That’s how FGZ came to be.

Were you surprised to learn that your book is enjoyed by a diverse demographic of readers and not simply your targeted audience of males between 18 and 34?

That’s an understatement. To be honest, I consider myself fortunate to have found anyone who enjoyed it – it’s not exactly a mass-market book. Like I said, I wrote it for me, and anyone else who enjoys it, male or female, young or old, is just really cool by me.

But to answer your question: Yes. I have been lucky enough to get emails from all over the world from listeners (to the audiobook) and readers who loved it. One of the first emails I received was from Austria, and I thought to myself, “Do you even have four-wheel-drives and mud-riding in Austria?” Of course, I don’t see why not – we as humans are a lot more alike than we like to believe sometimes.

Join us on Friday when John talks about writing and discusses self-publishing versus traditional.

In the meantime, 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. Remember books make great gifts, particularly when they are signed. If you are the lucky winner and you’ve purchased the book earlier, you will have a thoughtful gift on hand.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: John Allen, Fried Green Zombies, Bovina , Christopher Moore, contest,


Marvin D. Wilson said...

Very interesting sounding book and author. And I'm definitely interested in Friday's discussion. Also loved this-

"Where do your ideas come from?"

"My own twisted mind."

LOL. Perfect. :)

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

Helen Ginger said...

It's interesting that he sees the story as a movie in his head. More and more, books are pacing like movies.

Straight From Hel

John said...

Helen - you're very right, and that's a point I've thought long and hard about. My first novel was, in almost its entirety, a conversation. All the action happens through dialogue between two characters going out to dinner. I'm currently reading "Bonfire of the Vanities," a novel certainly not falling into the "movie" category. But FGZ was purely a fun endeavor for me - a way to lighten up after "Dinner with the Devil."

Could it be that more and more, novels are pacing like movies because of shorter attention spans?

I find that at least when reading, I have to mix up the content as I go through my list. Generally, I rotate around a trilogy: One classic, followed by one "modern" fast-paced novel, followed by a non-fiction tome of some sort. So, for me, right now it's "Bonfire of the Vanities," "Fool" by Christopher Moore, and Asimov's Guide to the Bible.

But maybe more than that, I happen to work in television. I'm used to writing everything like it's a movie - making television commercials is how I make my living (currently, at least), so it's not surprising to me, at least, that the scenes played out the way they did.

Plus, I am one of the most attention-deficient people I know. Ask my wife, who discovered the other night that I had somehow managed to load the dishwasher, leave it overnight, unload it, and put away the dishes... without ever having run the blasted machine.

John said...

Before anyone asks, we pre-rinse the dishes, so it was an easy mistake. And it was a lone "Trick," (singular of Trix, as my three-year-old calls only one of the fruity little balls when it is separated from the herd), which was stuck in a cup in the cupboard.

Karen Walker said...

What a great interview. Just love hearing how other writers come to their ideas and execution of those ideas.

LeleliaSky said...

I found the book intriguing and will be adding it to my TBR list!
Great interview and thanks for blogging with us.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

John, thanks for stopping back by -I'm thinking you might need to dig that first book out and dust it off, it sounds very interesting. I'm also in awe of people that read/write more than one book at a time. By the way - I've done the dishwasher trick more times than I like to admit, I've learned to skip the rinsing process.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good interview. Authors with twisted minds are the most interesting kind.


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