Book Chat 31 Jesse Petersen/Married with Zombies
Jesse Petersen said...I'm here! Hi everyone!
Evil Editor said...Hi Jesse. Thanks for coming. Don't say anything important, as some people aren't here yet.
Jesse Petersen said...LOL, I may not say anything important at all. ;)
Evil Editor said...So, Jesse, I understand you were (are?) a historical romance writer. Was it hard convincing your agent to try to sell your zombie apocalypse novel?
Jesse Petersen said...Absoutely not! My agent LOVES fantasy and I think she about came out of her chair when I said I was writing a zombie comedy to amuse myself. She was very encouraging. She's a great agent, though. She says her biggest benefit is that she gets to read all my stuff first since she's a fan, too. So she rocks.
Evil Editor said...
Jesse: I wanna try something new. Branch out.
Agent: Whattaya got in mind?
Agent: No, seriously, whattaya got in mind?
Dave F. said...Zombies, what fun. I'm warning you guys, I'm from the area where George Romero filmed the original Night of the Living Dead.
stacy said...Yeah, this was a fun novel.
Jesse Petersen said...Dave F, lucky you! I'm hoping to meet him during ZomBcon next week! And Stacy, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
ril said...So, uh, why Zombies...?
Jesse Petersen said...ril, I honestly did just write the book to entertain myself. I had a really strong scene in my head where Dave and Sarah go to their therapist's office only to discover she's been zombie-fied and have to kill her. It made me laugh and so I kept writing it. And writing it. And about 2/3 of the way through I started to believe my agent when she said she thought she could sell it. LOL
sylvia said...Your agent sounds great. So encouraging !
Phoenix said...Now I have to know: Who is your amazing agent, Jesse?
Jesse Petersen said...Phoenix, my kick-ass agent is Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. I adore her. I'm very lucky to have her, for sure.
stacy said...I understand there's going to be a sequel?
Jesse Petersen said...Stacy -- at this point there are three books in the series! FLIP THIS ZOMBIE comes out January 1. And EAT SLAY LOVE is out June 1, 2011! In FLIP, Sarah and Dave start their zombie extermination business. And in ESL, they have to, you know, maybe save the world with the help of a coked up rocker and a former TMZ type tabloid reporter...
Dave F. said...I've seen a few minutes of TMZ and that show is like a puddle in a parking lot - miles wide and 1/4 inch deep. It's so ripe for mockery.
stacy said...Hah! Love the title EAT SLAY LOVE. I'd get the book just based on the title alone.
Jesse Petersen said...Stacy, I mentioned EAT SLAY LOVE on my twitter (you can follow me @jessepet, BTW) and my editor loved it! It was kind of a joke, really! LOL But I like it.
Evil Editor said...It was funnier than I expected. I mean, zombies are intrinsically funny except when they're eating you, but the subtle humor of lines like:
"Amanda, I'm going to open the door, but if you try to eat us I'll kill you."
Sarah: "Our marriage counselor tried to eat us, so we bashed her head in."
Amanda: "Marriage counseling? Are you guys okay?"
Sarah: "He wanted to bite me so I had no choice but to kill him. I'm really sorry Mandy."
Amanda: "It's okay Sarah. I was going to break up with him anyway."
...was a bonus.
Jesse Petersen said...EE , thanks! I'm just glad other people have found it funny. I was sort of scared people wouldn't (I think humor is harder to write than something serious in some ways).
Robin S. said...Hi Jesse, I was in my neighborhood Borders a few days ago and there was a table with zombie stuff - of course with Halloween coming, it got center stage, but it also looks like you caught a good wave here. Congrats on that!
ril said...Yes, there's quite a zombie renaissance going on right now...
Evil Editor said...Just when you think the zombie genre has run its course it rises again.
Jesse Petersen said...I think zombies definitely have staying power. We "get" them as bad guys. I'm hoping that gets reflected in long-term sales and in the sales of FLIP and ESL.
sylvia said...Hello Jesse! I enjoyed the novel.
Jesse Petersen said...Thanks so much, sylvia!
sylvia said...EE has already quoted all my favourite lines!
Evil Editor said...I've saved you the trouble of typing them, Sylvia. Although many of the "tips" at the beginning of the chapters were also funny:
Build mutual friendships. Just be ready to end them when your friends start trying to eat you.
It's better to be wrong and alive than right and eating brains.
sylvia said...I thought the icons and tips were fun and also a great structural device.
Jesse Petersen said...EE, the marriage tips at the beginning of each chapter were SO fun! They carry on in the series, too. In FLIP it's all business advice and in ESL it's general self-help.
ril said...In this first book, David and Sarah aren't exactly the luckiest couple to be around. Do they manage to keep a few friends in the later books?
Jesse Petersen said...ril, Dave and Sarah are definitely hard on friends in the first book! LOL They do make some new ones in the second book (and the third) but you'll have to read them to see if their bad luck continues. I really like the secondary characters. They tend to surprise me!
Robin S. said...I LOVE the movies from back in the day - can't even remember the names of most - but the ones from the 50's and early 60's about swamp things and pod people and aliens and zombies and haunted houses. They're great to watch.
Jesse Petersen said...Robin, definitely! It's interesting to watch the older movies and through the newer ones and see the zombie film genre develop. There are so many good zombie films!
sylvia said...EAT SLAY LOVE sounds awesome. I'm intrigued as to how you knew you had a novel rather than just a scene or even short story?
Jesse Petersen said...sylvia, I really didn't know at first. But the more I wrote, the more I sort of realized that Dave and Sarah would have to follow your typical "zombie set up". Once I had that in my head, it was easy to see how the story would unfold naturally and could be a full novel. I am generally a plotter, but with MWZ I didn't plot much more than a scene or two ahead of myself. FLIP and ESL were far more plotted.
stacy said...I liked the underlying story of a couple that heals through the teamwork of trying to stay alive.
Jesse Petersen said...Stacy, the underlying question of "can Sarah and Dave work it out" was definitely the thing that kept me going, too. I think that's why I kill all their friends, actually. In the end, they have to make it together or not. And I loved watching their relationship get stronger through the next two books, too. Although that isn't to say there aren't challenges (mad scientist who looks like Luke Wilson, HELLO???).
fairyhedgehog said...I loved the premise that David and Sarah needed to slay zombies to save their marriage. And I loved the humour, and the pop references like Mythbusters testing the sheets-as-escape-rope theory. I couldn't remember what they'd found either. I normally avoid zombie books but the humour and the lightness of touch made this a very enjoyable read.
Jesse Petersen said...FHH, I loved being able to write pop culture references like that and let my inner geek out! In my other life as a historical writer, you can really do that. LOL My sister-in-law's bookclub read it this month and she said that she and her friend both thought that "I" came through more in this book and I think that's true. Which made it more fun than ever! And I'm so glad you liked the book despite the zombie thing. I hope it can appeal to people who are big zombie-philes and people who are only zombie-curious.
fairyhedgehog said...Oh, I love that! I'll tell everyone I'm zombie-curious!
Evil Editor said...I liked that the zombies were a major danger, partly through numbers, but also they seemed faster and harder to kill than the usual plodding zombies. It's a pleasant combination of comedy and death, sort of like the TV show Bones.
Jesse Petersen said...EE, I think that's the challenge of the zombie book/movie. Since they aren't a thinking danger, it's sometimes hard to make them feel continually scary. So I had my rules to the zombieverse and stuck to those. You see even scarier zombies in FLIP, too!
ril said...The story definitely had a movie feel to it. Has there been any interest in movie rights yet? Shaun of the Dead was pretty good and in a similar vein...
Jesse Petersen said...ril, we're working on movie rights, but no bites yet. It's a pretty long shot, but I'd certainly love to see it translated to screen in some way!
Dave F. said...I think I enjoyed it more because it didn't dig into science and deep, philosophical societal failures. I liked the lightness and fun. Of course, they did lose all their relatives, neighbors and friends. In the last chapters I was taking side bets on how many pages the next character would last. I won my bets with myself (which goes without saying).
Dave F. I think that zombies definitely have a place to deal with those deeper issues of science and social problems, but I just wanted to have FUN! LOL
fairyhedgehog said...Jesse, it sounds like you had a lot of fun writing the books, but were there times when you wanted to give up?
Jesse Petersen said...I think all writers face that issue at some point. With this book it was different because I wrote it for my own entertainment and then it went to auction within a couple of days of it going out. So it wasn't as much of a "Dark Time of the Soul" that I maybe went through before I was published. But the industry is hard. The sales of this book haven't been as good as I think everyone has hoped and I'll just say I was glad I was done with the first draft of the last book before this one came out because it does make you question yourself and your talent and ability to be successful. In the end, I think it's just figuring out if you love writing enough to put up with all the pain and the things you can't control. I'll just say I was glad I was done with the first draft of the last book before this one came out because it does make you question yourself and your talent and ability to be successful.
fairyhedgehog said...I'm surprised it's not a runaway success. We need to get the word out there with excellent reviews!
Jesse Petersen said...FHH, I totally would not turn down some buzz! I always appreciate people talking about the book on their blogs or posting reviews online to Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Recommend to friends, it makes a great Christmas gift... basically, pimp me and I'll love you forever.
fairyhedgehog said...I love pimping books I've enjoyed!
sylvia said...I think not reading your reviews until you've written the next thing makes a whole lot of sense.
ril said...They're a bit tardy releasing it internationally, too. I had to fly to the US for my copy.
fairyhedgehog said...ril, Wow, you really did put yourself out for this book chat!
ril said...Not only that, I read the whole book.
Jesse Petersen said...ril, Simon and Schuster is releasing the UK version but it is in February. I don't know why the releases are spaced the way they are, it seems odd to me. But I'm so glad you got it. You'll notice there is a slight color difference on the UK version cover, too. IT's red rather than pink (which was the original US cover before they switched to that awesomely vibrant pink). Oh and it looks like the UK FLIP will be in July 2011.
Evil Editor said...Christmas season will lead to massive sales as gifts for zombie lovers.
ril said...The trouble with zombie lovers is their bits fall off too easily...
fairyhedgehog said...@ril, as long as their bits fall off after they've bought the book.
sylvia said...I was impressed that Sarah works even though she's somewhat unsympathetic at the start. She comes across as much bitchier than Dave which surprised me but works in terms of blame. We don't see her as falling back in love with an asshole but instead trying to work out a good relationship with problems.
Robin S. said...Hey, I'm a lot bitchier than my husband is (just ask him!!) - and it works really well. I get to be the designated bad guy on stuff and he gets to be 'the nice one'. That's realism, baby!
Dave F. said...It's the old maxim you hear from all the marriage counselors -- better the imperfect husband you know than mister perfect eating your brains...
Jesse Petersen said...sylvia, Sarah as a bitch is something that I struggle with as a writer. I think she's real, which is cool. But I also want her to be sympathetic (I mean, if you want her to get eaten then it sort of defeats the purpose). It's a real balance between her being funny and snarky and being evil. LOL Hopefully I've hit it, but someone did call her a sociopath. So not everyone gets her.
ril said...They probably meant sociologist. I make that mistake all the time, too.
stacy said...I'd hardly call Sarah a sociopath. She's bitchy, maybe, but that's pretty harsh.
sylvia said...Sociopath? Good lord! I just thought it was interesting that Sarah was *clearly* the cause of some of the problems with the marriage. We feel that Dave is a good guy deep down, rather than some jerk who isn't pulling his weight when she's trying to do everything she can to save them. For me, that made it easier to cheer for them to work together.
Phoenix said...So true. We normally see the guy being the sociopath in relationship books written by women. Go figure. This was a refreshing take.
Evil Editor said...Killing off Mandy did kill off a major source of laughs. That took guts.
ril said...I think killing off the best friend is in the apocalyptic road trip code, isn't it?
stacy said...I was a little surprised at the killing of Mandy, since she was turning out to be a better ally than Sarah and Dave expected. I was expecting them to find out she was a member of MENSA or something, albeit a lazy one.
Evil Editor said...It would have been interesting to keep zombie Mandy alive. They could have put her in one of those Hannibal Lecter masks and pushed her around on a hand truck. And when she got hungry they could feed her evil religious zealots.
fairyhedgehog said...I thought that the cult was seriously creepy and well done. I like the way Sarah gradually realises that the dangers aren't just from the zombies. Oh, and I liked all the asides about "We didn't realise that then but we do now."
Robin S. said...Maybe YOU need to write a zombie novel, EE. The mask thing and the feeder.
Jesse Petersen said...re: Killing off Amanda. I struggled with that, but it is sort of the code of the zombie film/book. The hero and heroine have to face a more personal loss. Once they start to like Mandy, they lose her and it's back to just depending on each other to make it through. I thought that was important to their growth. But I do like the idea that secretly Amanda is a member of MENSA!
Evil Editor said...I assume the loss of Mandy is compensated for in the next book when they hire a ditzy receptionist for the zombie extermination company.
Jesse Petersen said...EE no receptionist in FLIP (though it's a good idea) but they do have a Steve Buschemi-esque contact, an 11-year-old Bart Simpson wannabe, some friends at the library and a mad scientist. It's like the screwed up version of Friends or something.
fairyhedgehog said...One thing that bugged me was with all the body fluids spraying around, could Sarah and David get infected in a cut they didn't know they had or something. I wasn't sure if that could happen and if so how they could prevent it.
Evil Editor said...Obviously, FH, it's the zombie venom from the bite that causes zombieficationism.
fairyhedgehog said...Thanks for clearing that up, EE.
Jesse Petersen said...FHH - I think at some point they do mention the idea that the fluids could kill them or zombie-fy them. I think that's pretty much realism, too, though. In this kind of infection you wouldn't have much control over it. You just try to avoid it.
Dave F. said...There are only two things that work in a zombie novel -- a) the zombies are relentless in seeking your death and b) the interpersonal relationship of the survivors. And that's true whether the living survive or not. The science is irrelevant. It can be anything. I just finished Justin Long's The Passage and although it is a vampire apocalypse, it shares the same themes. However, it is not light reading and as a result, the story is complex and detailed. Married with Zombies is a bright, funny romp through something that should be horrific but makes us laugh. The characters don't need to know why the disaster happened. They only need to survive it. Once civil authority returns, the fun ends because they go back to their mundane life. At least that's my take on zombies rules.
Jesse Petersen said...I think that's true, Dave. With the zombies you don't necessarily need to know the "why" just how to get out. OR figure out how along the way.
sylvia said...I did think that as a survival story, the "science" behind the zombie-fication didn't need clarifying but continuing on with further volumes, I'd normally expect to see the main characters finding out more (and thus the explanations coming through). Without offering spoilers, was this an issue coming from a historical/romance background rather than SF&F?
Jesse Petersen said...Sorry cat is trying to make love to my screen so I'm having cat technical difficulties. Okay, so sylvia you mentioned deepening the science as the series goes on. I think some questions you'll see answered but lots are not. Sarah and Dave end up in a pretty good wasteland in the next two books thanks to governmental bombings and rapid spread of the infection. There are rumors and they do bump into people with more info, but some things you just don't know. That has been an issue with some people who weren't fans of the first book, but I thought it was realistic in some ways. With something so big and so instantly devastating, you wouldn't have the answers right away, you know? And you might never get them. Someone mentioned that zombie stories are in some ways more about the survivors and I totally think that's true. It's how you react, not necessarily how you got there.
Robin S. said...Agree with that last part, Jesse. With any devastation - it matters what you're made of, how you handle things. knowing all about what happened is secondary unless it's important to help you survive.
fairyhedgehog said...I felt you'd given us enough hints to suspect that the zombie outbreak was probably due to scientists working on something biological (a cure? a weapon? who knows?) and it had escaped and was virulent. That actually seemed reasonable to me.
Robin S. said...Anyone know the genesis of the zombie in our human fear factor subconscious? It would be interesting to know.
Dave F. said...elements of Frankenstein might be an origin of zombies. The Mummy movies -- a dead guardian of the pharaoh's tomb. But in the late 40's and 50's science was frightening and people were afraid that science would end the world. Plus, what is the morality of a weapon? Would nuclear weapons and science destroy the human race?
Robin S. said...Dave, that makes sense - the fear and paranoia post WW2 - in the movies and the bad guys - a new breed, built on the back of the Victorian era of creepy bad guys.
Dave F. said...Robin, Romero's Night of the Living Dead was just another one of those stories until he did all those brand new cuts and fades, cast the hero as a black man and told the story over the end of the credits. It's the amount of social commentary he shoved into the movie and the way he told the story on the screen that prevented it from being just another 60's sci-fi.
fairyhedgehog said...I felt sympathy for Sarah having to earn a living while David plays video games all day. And once you get into a snarky mindset it's not always easy to get out of it again. Ahem. Or so I've been told.
stacy said...I did feel sympathy for Sarah in the beginning even though it took a while for me to actually like her.
Duane from Houston said...jesse, I notice in the book that everyone sarah and dave meets dies. Was that symbolism that they only have each other in the end or was it more that they are so self absorbed that they can't seem to sustain relationships with others long enough to keep them alive?
Jesse Petersen said...LOL, I hadn't thought about the second option. I think I was thinking more along the lines of the first. In the end, they only have each other, so can they work it out or not. But they are pretty self-absorbed. Not exactly good friend material, either of them.
Phoenix said...I think because zombies are such a niche audience, it's hard to convince other folk that they'll like it if they try it. How are you marketing to those "other" audiences.
fairyhedgehog said...sylvia, I agree. It felt far more balanced than most books about a relationship gone wrong.
stacy said...Yes, they could have definitely used Mandy during the cult scenes, but they handled that all right.
stacy said.... . . not exactly good friend material, either of them. Does that change at all in the next two books?
Jesse Petersen said...Stacy, as far as Dave and Sarah changing and becoming better friends, yes. I think they are better in FLIP (I kill far less people who they're close to in that book, some of them even GASP survive!!). The whole "Living With the Dead" series shows them changing as a couple and as people. Like Dave gets more proactive, Sarah gets more understanding. All while still snarking it up, of course.
Evil Editor said...Is your depiction of zombies based on your husband in the morning?
Jesse Petersen said...LOL, he is a little grumpy in the morning. People keep asking if he's Dave. I think I'M Dave. Hanging out, doing what I want to do (though in my case writing) and he's off slogging through some job. Although he's never gone all Sarah snarky on me (I guess that's my Sarah part, I'm snarky). He's very supportive.stacy said...This really put me in mind of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, a film I really enjoyed.
Jesse Petersen said...Oh I wanted to remind people, Orbit has the first chapter of FLIP up on the http://www.jessepetersen.net site. And I'm going to be putting another sneak peek in my blog on the site Monday.
Dave F. said...This will be one of my easier Christmas gifts for that "hard to get" relative.
sylvia said...I liked the fact that it was a fast and humorous read - not many apocalypse stories manage that.
Duane said...I read the first chapter of Flip and I am confused just a bit. Has the outbreak been contained and they are being hired to clean it up..or is it that people wanna get into the supermarket but there are zombies and they dont want to fight them..so they hire Sarah and Dave?
Jesse Petersen said...Duane, the outbreak has definitely not been contained! They are out in the wastelands (in this case, they got as far as Phoenix). When people spot zombies they hire Sarah and Dave to clear them out (lots of people just haven't figured out how to do it or don't want to do it anymore). In trade for goods. No more supermarkets and that sort of thing. Survivor camps.
Jesse Petersen said...You're all very quiet now... LOL
Evil Editor said...We're quietly basking in the afterglow of the chat. Happens every month.
Robin S. said...That's true. We bask at the end. It's fun to get together!
sylvia said...The discussions are a lot more vocal when people disliked the book. >:D
fairyhedgehog said...I'm glad that we all liked it! That doesn't often happen.
stacy said...Jesse, did you find it necessary to finish the second book in order to know what to hint at in the first (as a continuation of the story, that is)?
Jesse Petersen said...Actually Orbit had already bought the first book and they asked what the second book was going to be about and I said, "Second book?" So I'd already mentioned the zombie extermination in the first so that's what we went with. I did go back and add a couple hints in the first that they really meant it.
Jesse Petersen said...Thanks everyone for coming and for allowing me to invade your chat! I'm so glad so many of you liked the book! And thanks for offering this as an auction item, EE!! My website is http://www.jessepeteren.net, I'm on Facebook (fan page) and also @jessepet on Twitter! I always love to hear from readers, so feel free to hit me up on any or all of those places.
sylvia said...Thanks for coming, Jesse. It's always interesting to hear about the making of a book!
Evil Editor said...Perhaps we should call it a chat. It was a pleasure having you, Jesse. This was the most favorably received book we've read via the auction.
Jesse Petersen said...Woohoo! Thanks EE! And thanks again everyone! Hope you enjoy FLIP THIS ZOMBIE and EAT SLAY LOVE just as much!