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Zombies

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Stacey Jay is the author of YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME, out right now from Razorbill. In it, main character Megan is a zombie Settler who solves zombie issues and helps “the Unsettled” return to their graves. For Zombie Week, I decided to catch up with her and find out her plans for the Zombie Apocalypse, how to deal with zombies and what’s on their filthy little minds.

KidLit: Where will you be if the zombie apocalypse ever comes? What essentials will you need to take with you?

Stacey Jay: I imagine I’ll be at home since I’m a stay at home mom-writer to young children. But that’s not a bad place to start when it comes to zombie apocalypses. I’d load up on diapers, baby food, Cheerios, juice boxes, and gasoline. (I wouldn’t want to have to stop to get gas because everyone knows zombies like to lurk in places like gas stations and shopping malls.) And, of course, I’d pile in a few weapons of zombie destruction. Usually not a good idea with a baby and a four year old, but if we’ve got an apocalypse on our hands, I’ll at least need a good sturdy garden hoe for whacking heads and taking names.

KL: What are the top skills you have to possess to be a good zombie Settler?

SJ: Well, a Settler–different than a Slayer, much more supernatural therapist than butt kicker–needs patience, compassion, and organization. Hearing the regrets of the dead can also take an emotional toll so I imagine faith and a positive world outlook would be helpful.

KL: What is the easiest way to disarm a zombie if you’re in a hurry?

SJ: Decapitation. Take the head and the rest of it becomes much easier to handle.

KL: What kind of zombie research did you do while writing YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME?

SJ: I focused on voodoo practices and black magic, then added my own finishing touches. I wanted the zombies to be recognizable, but still unique.

KL: If one of your zombies had a stream of consciousness monologue, what would they be thinking?

SJ: Well it would depend. A normal Unsettled’s stream of consciousness might sound something like this:

Man, I wish I hadn’t blah blah blahed or blackety blacked. What a lousy thing to do before I died. And what was with the dieting? I should have had that piece of cake. Maybe the whole cake. It seems wrong to die without cake. Mmmm….cake. Maybe there will be cake on the other side…once I get this unfinished business off my chest, I’m goign to ask that Settler chick if there’s going to be cake.

A black magically raised zombie, however, would probably be more:

Unggghhh! Blergh! Arggghhhh! Yummmmm…yummm….yummm…blergh!!!! Unghhhh!! *burp*

Thanks for having me Mary!

You can visit Stacey at her website or pick up a copy of YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME. Here are links: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores.

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by Seth Grahame-Smith
Adult/Young Adult, 320 pages.
Quirk Books (2009)
ISBN: 978-1594743344

The Regency world is turned upside down when an unholy menace descends upon Netherfield and… Actually, no. I refuse to do a detailed synopsis for PRIDE PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. Because you either get it or you don’t. This is PRIDE AND PREJUDICE mixed with brain-lusting, flesh-rending, slobber-icious zombies. And ninjas, too. In a book review capacity, I can’t exactly take it seriously, other than to say that Elizabeth’s feisty sparring with Mr. Darcy takes on a whole new edge when you introduce a plague of friggin’ zombies to the mix. In my MFA program, I think we’d call that an “objective correlative.” In my real life, I’d call that “mind-blowing awesome.”

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES has its critics of course. Mostly people who left their sense of humor in the stacks while writing their third PhD dissertation on the symbolism of candlesticks in the middle-to-late-Austen canon. What I don’t understand is how you can possibly pick up a copy of this book, see the red eyes, torn flesh and blood on the cover and expect something in the spirit of Jane Austen. What part of “Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!” don’t you understand?

Some people have lashed out at Seth Grahame-Smith, also, for not matching Jane Austen’s style more closely in the parts where he edits the text. Call me crazy, but scholars have no idea how Austen would write zombies. Thus, it is safe to assume that she might handle them something like this. Either way, since Jane Austen can’t write zombies for us unless she becomes one herself, I think it’s safe to give Grahame-Smith the benefit of the doubt here.

So, recap: The Bennet family + dagger skills + zombies + ninjas = the best ever gift for your English teacher. And also, if you really want to wow the AP English committee, base your entire essay on this adapted version of the classic.

Here are links if you want to buy it for your grandmother, pastor, therapist, everyone else you know: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores.

For Readers: This book turned me into a less-than-careful reader. While the Jane Austen parts were good, they sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher compared to the awesome zombie violence. Complete with line drawings that help you imagine the gore, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES is the ultimate treat for the literate horror movie fan. While the jury’s still out on whether this Jane Austen chick will make it as a writer, there’s no doubt Seth Grahame-Smith is the King of English Literature!

For Writers: I think we can all admit in our secret heart of hearts that we let out a low keen of extreme mourning when we heard about this book. All because some screenwriter in LA (of course) thought of it first. You can’t get more public domain than Jane Austen, so his start up capital was exactly zero dollars. Now the grapevine tells me that this author has gotten a mid-six-figure advance for his second tale about Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I still can’t forgive myself for not smoking what Seth Grahame-Smith was smoking when he thought of this because it’s bloody brilliant. Literally.

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Carrie Ryan has taken some time to school us on zombies and how she wrote THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (Delacorte, 2009), one of the most exciting and talked-about young adult books so far this year! If you haven’t read it, the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the dead have Returned Unconsecrated. Main character Mary’s village appears to be the only surviving outpost of humanity. They must beat off attacks from the zombies, lest they themselves die and Return.

KidLit: You manage to make a pretty good case for turning Unconsecrated. Why did you add this emotional layer to the story of Mary and her mother? Would you ever make the decision to sacrifice yourself and Return?

Carrie Ryan: Thanks! I think when it came down to it I just really loved the idea of Mary’s parents having this incredible love for each other in a world where love isn’t something that’s necessarily important. I liked this vision of someone willing to do anything for that love (and I also liked setting up the question of exactly what are the Unconsecrated and do they retain anything of who they are?). I have no idea what decision I’d make if faced with it!

KL: In your book there’s a super fast Unconsecrated. How did that present a unique challenge to your characters?

CR: There’s actually a whole background reason to why that happens and I go into more detail about it in the second book (and hopefully laid clues for it in the first book). I came up with the idea because of the world building – the book is set generations after the Return and I needed a reason that people hadn’t re-conquered the world and killed off all the Unconsecrated.

For the characters, I liked throwing something new at them to make them realize that the didn’t have all the answer to what was going on. As a community they felt really safe and in control and I wanted to shake that up.

KL: The Unconsecrated clamoring at the fencelines were a near-constant presence throughout the book, almost like another character. What was your process for creating this rich environment?

CR: I think for me it became part of the process of writing. I’d come home after work every day and turn on the fire – it was usually dark out and so it was just me and my laptop and the fire and I’d try to put myself in Mary’s position. I was actually really surprised when people said they could visualize a lot of the book because I felt like I hadn’t described anything enough!

KL: What does a person need to have (physically, emotionally, anything) before they journey into THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH?

CR: Good question!! Mostly I think they just have to have something driving them – a reason that will keep them going. And a really sharp/pointy weapon is always helpful =)

KL: What happens after an Unconsecrated bites you?

CR: That’s it – you’re going to become Unconsecrated unless someone lops off or bashes in your head. Basically, once bitten a person is infected and the infected always turn Unconsecrated. Either the bite is severe enough to cause the death or the infection kills them. Which seems a rather depressing thought to end the interview on!

Not depressing at all, Carrie. Anyone who knows zombies knows they’re sneaky… and everywhere. It’s always best to be on high alert and, whatever you do, stay inside the fences! Visit Carrie’s website to learn more about her and watch out for my woefully belated review of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH tomorrow!

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by Max Brooks
Adult/Young Adult, 352 pages.
Three Rivers Press (2007)
ISBN: 978-0307346612

Ever since I read this book a month or so ago, I’ve had at least one zombie related nightmare per week.

And it was totally worth it.

At the store I work in, we shelve this book in the adult section for obvious reasons (crazy graphic zombie related violence for a start) but really this book is no worse than the average R rated horror flick that most thirteen year olds watch when their parents aren’t home anyway. And it’s probably a lot smarter, with a lot of really interesting questions about our current dependence on technology.

Written in the tradition of Studs Terkel’s THE GOOD WAR, Max Brooks uses the conceit of oral history to its most entertaining potential. Though completely fictional, the accounts are so vivid, and the spread of zombies so logical that despite its crazy premise it starts to sound downright inevitable.

So stock up your house with non-perishable goods, invest in a crowbar, shave your head and get ready for the zombie apocalypse. It’s coming.

This guest review was written and originally posted by Maggie, over at her blog, Gob Wrote A Book. I haven’t gotten around to WORLD WAR Z just yet but I completely trust her judgment in all matters related to zombies. Here are links if you want to buy: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores.

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I have no zombie apocalypse survival plan.

There are many reasons for this. Largely it’s because I am one of those least likely to survive. I am not exceptionally strong or fit. I don’t run very fast. My knowledge of firearms is limited to what I’ve seen on tellie. I don’t know how to drive. And though I assume I could figure it out in an emergency on account of having watched other people drive, I’d be a crap driver, wouldn’t I?

Basically, without civilization I’m a goner. My idea of roughing it includes not having a Vivienne Westwood ballgown*. I have no idea how to fix anything except broken first drafts.

But I’ve also decided not to bother with a plan because I have learned from my copious consumption of zombie books and movies that there is no surviving the zombie apocalypse. All you can do is stave off the inevitable. Eventually the shopping centre is invaded by a biker gang, the fences fall, or the experimental zombie subjects in your underground bunker get loose.

So my crap plan is to keep the fridge stocked with really good champers, have lots of water and other essentials as well as emergency tins of foie gras** in the cupboard, ice cream in the freezer, and hope that all my fave people are with me so we can watch the world go down together.

* That’s correct, I’m roughing it right now!
** Sorry, Scott, my darling vegetarian husband.

This post originally appeared on Justine’s blog, thanks so much to Justine for letting me use it for Kidlit’s Zombie Week!

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All right, this alert is for all you Beating Hearts out there to feast on. Despite the zombie-ness of this week, I had to step off the Zombie Train for a second to e-squee about this news that came in today from Publisher’s Marketplace:

FILM RIGHTS
Jake Wizner’s SPANKING SHAKESPEARE, optioned to Paramount Pictures for feature film with Mark Canton producing, by The Gotham Group, on behalf of Marcia Wernick at Sheldon Fogelman Agency.

Oh. My. God. I love SPANKING SHAKESPEARE. I love Jake Wizner. I laugh so hard every time I read this book and — yes — with everything else I have to read, I still find myself compulsively reaching for this book.

If I’d been reading Variety, I would’ve figured this out last year but news travels slowly through my thick skull. And I am so psyched. If they get Michael Cera on this project… I could watch Michael Cera butter toast for two hours and then pay to see it again. And then buy it on BluRay the day it comes out. Just put Michael Cera in it. Please. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Now on a completely serious and zombie note, first… give me your delicious braaaaaaaains. Now that we’ve got that out of the way: I just did a rad interview with FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH author Carrie Ryan that I’ll be posting on Thursday. Hold on to your braaaaaaains, ladies and gents, this one will be awesome.

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by Daniel Waters
Young Adult, 416 pages.
Hyperion (2009)
ISBN: 978-1423109235

Phoebe and the gang are back and tensions at Oakvale High School run higher than ever. Since there are no human rights for zombies, Peter gets away with Adam’s murder. And Adam, completely different from the handsome, agile football player he used to be, must navigate his new afterlife. As more and more people try to eliminate the zombie menace, the differently biotic and Phoebe, their biggest supporter, must decide how to live and whether or not to go, ahem, underground.

In this sequel to GENERATION DEAD (see my review), Phoebe Kendall makes a very difficult choice between Tommy Williams, the articulate, intelligent zombie, and Adam, who loved her all through his life and who she must take care of in his living death. He isn’t nearly as mobile or developed, but Phoebe breaks this off with Tommy because Adam is where her heart belongs. Tommy, meanwhile, hits the road and leaves Phoebe and beautiful zombie Kelly in charge of his MySoCalledUndeath.com blog.

Meanwhile, a more radical group of zombies, led by the disgruntled Tak, start wreaking havoc to get back at society. The anti-zombie movement, which Peter has gotten mixed up in, of course, uses these pranks to frame the zombies in even bigger crimes, including a murder. As police and the FBI crack down on zombies and the formerly zombie-friendly Oakvale High bans them from lunch and then from classes, the community is thrown into turmoil. Even the supposedly friendly Hunter Foundation may not be what it seems. After a particularly vicious attack on the zombies, Phoebe and her friends need to find a place where they belong, and fast.

I really enjoyed GENERATION DEAD and KISS OF LIFE definitely kept my interest. However, not as much happened in this follow-up compared to the first book. It was pretty much the same formula repeated, only with danger coming from more people, not just Peter and a few anti-zombie radicals. Now it feels like the entire country is against the undead. Other than that, there is still the love triangle between Tommy, Phoebe and Adam, but it is just as uncertain by the end as it was in the first book. Phoebe loves Adam and we believe it, but their romance still has a doomed air about it.

Obviously, Waters is setting us up for a third book as he leaves many strands untied after the climactic human vs. zombie battle. We especially want to know what happens to Kelly, one of my favorite characters. Another interesting thread we get here is narration from Adam in his post-zombie state, where we can see his slow but steady progress toward movement, speech and thought. Watching his emotions develop is something I particularly enjoyed and it really settled the question of whether or not zombies can feel. Overall, a solid sequel that continues to raise interesting social issues, but nowhere near as interesting as the first.

Daniel Waters’s KISS OF LIFE comes out May 12th, 2009. Pre-order a copy today or pick it up at your favorite indie bookstore. Here are some links: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores

For Readers: KISS OF LIFE is a good sequel for GENERATION DEAD fans. The world feels familiar by now and the dangers are still the same: zombies vs. zombie-haters. I wish there were more elements introduced into this world. The Hunter Foundation reveal was interesting and definitely hinted at but I don’t think enough was done (yet) with that storyline. Still, the franchise is good enough that I will read the third book. Just a caveat, I don’t think you’ll be very impressed with KISS OF LIFE if you haven’t read GENERATION DEAD first.

For Writers: Take a look at how Waters uses Adam’s narration throughout the book. Adam starts with halting, one-word sentences that illustrate his zombiefied condition and ends with some pretty developed prose. It’s a good narrative technique to master, especially if one of your POV characters is undergoing some sort of radical change. Just remember: “Style imitates content.” More on that later.

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by Daniel Waters
Young Adult, 416 pages.
Hyperion (Hardcover, 2008, Paperback, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1423109228

All of a sudden, dead teenagers aren’t staying that way. Now these kids — call them zombies, undead, living impaired or the politically correct term, “differently biotic” — seem to be descending on Oakvale High School. Phoebe and her friends Adam and Margi are here to witness the new revolution unfold. Their friend Collette comes back after drowning. Sensitive zombie blogger Tommy Williams joins the football team. The Hunter Foundation, a research society for the differently biotic, sets up camp and offers an Undead Studies class. All the while, a different kind of unrest is boiling, led at school by Peter, the quarterback, who thinks the dead should stay dead. Ministers cry “Apocalypse!” and the living figure out that the differently biotic can be killed.

As Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, who isn’t like the other zombies, who can move and smile and speak without the trademark hitch in his voice and maybe even feel, Peter comes up with a plan to put the zombies in their place (six feet under, all over again). When the undead congregate at a Haunted House on the outskirts of town for a party, Phoebe must choose between Tommy and her very human friend Adam. Little do they know that Peter and his shotgun are about to make that choice much more difficult.

People get their yaya’s in many different ways. For me, I love trashy-yet-intelligent books like THE LUXE series and catching up on the occasional VH1 reality show (Tough Love and Tool Academy, anyone?). While I like reading the mind-blowing books, like yesterday’s THE CHOSEN ONE, which I can’t stop thinking about, I really can enjoy a fun, trashy novel every once in a while. That’s what I was thinking when I picked up GENERATION DEAD, so my expectations were pretty low. Imagine my surprise when it surpassed my wildest hopes as a really, really enjoyable book that I couldn’t put down!

Not only is this a high school love story, but it verges on creating a reality where there is a believable and dangerous battle for zombie civil rights. It gets totally political and I loved it! For a book with such a fluffy cover, it manages to explore prejudice and hate issues pretty deeply and ends with a predictable but emotionally charged scene of deadly sacrifice. I know my credibility with the intellectuals out there is about to take a nosedive, but life can’t be all serious, all the time. Neither can undeath!

Tired of inarticulate, slobbering zombies? There’s no better way to develop a reverence and passion for zombie rights than picking up GENERATION DEAD and its forthcoming sequel, KISS OF LIFE!

GENERATION DEAD is out in paperback as of April, 2009. Its sequel, KISS OF LIFE, is coming out May 12th and I’m posting my review of that tomorrow. Here are links for GENERATION DEAD in paperback: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores

For Readers: A breezy and addictive read that manages to go surprisingly deep below the surface. Follow Tommy, Kelly, Phoebe, Margi and Adam and be sure to read Tommy Williams’s blog, MySoCalledUndeath.com, which is still maintained with regularity. If you find yourself tempted to sport an “All My Friends Are Dead” shirt after reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Perfect for paranormal fans, beach reading, reluctant readers and zombie fans everywhere.

For Writers: Yes, I will make a recommendation that writers read this book. The writing is actually just fine and carries the story very well. What I love about this book (and about THE LUXE series) is that Waters uses alternating POV’s in chapters and sections to really ramp up the tension. We get to see the good guys advancing toward their goals and then the bad guys plotting, all from their own unique POV’s. If you’ve never written in alternating POV, it’s a challenging but dynamite way to raise stakes and increase tension.

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Hold on to your coffin lids, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve got some truly life-stealing, brain-munching content for you as Zombie Week descends like a drooling, rambling horde on Kidlit.com.

First, this morning, I’ve got a review of Daniel Waters’s GENERATION DEAD, hot off the grill that is my delicious brain. I’ve also got:

  • An editorial by Justine Larbalestier, author of HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY and the upcoming LIAR.
  • A guide to the zombie apocalypse and book review by my bookseller doppelganger, Maggie.
  • An interview with Stacey Jay, author of YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME.
  • Book reviews galore: KISS OF LIFE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH.

Some non-zombie posts might sneak in there (like the juicy one I’m cooking up about Lauren Myracle’s latest shenanigans) but this I promise you… this week’s undead to living ratio will rise up from the earth and stumble around your town.

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Next week, to celebrate the release of Daniel Waters’ latest Generation Dead novel, KISS OF LIFE, it will be all zombies, all the time.

Stay tuned for:

  • Zombie book reviews: KISS OF LIFE, GENERATION DEAD, FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and, my personal geek book crush, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES!
  • Zombie editorials
  • How to Write Zombies
  • And more!

Oh yes, and, please deposit your delicious brains in an envelope and send them to me. Thanks.

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