(from left to right: John Olson, Mark Stegbauer, Bud Hanzel)
Bud Hanzel and John Olson are the authors of the 5 Undead Heads rated book, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. These fine gentleman are trying to make their mark in the undead community and they have succeeded. Expect more from these wonderful author as their skills grow and they become more well known. This interview is a bit different then what i have done before but i hope you enjoy this new format.
Lyle: Why did you decide to write a survival guide? Better yet, why did you decide to write a zombie survival guide?
John: I had been a fan of zombie movies for years, particularly the movies of George Romero. However, I had never taken the interest much beyond watching the movies. Well, that is until Bud got me to read “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson. That was years back, and it started an ongoing dialogue between us.
Bud: Yeah, we had discussed this off and on for years. As co-creators we always get in to deep discussions about, well, about everything. So, naturally we have discussed “what if” scenarios every time we’ve watched a zombie movie together. But, our discussions about zombies really began with movies like “The Omega Man” and the transition from Matheson’s book, which was about what he called “Vampires” into the creatures we now call zombies.
John: Well, the point is we didn’t just come to writing this book overnight, we had years of development time.
Bud: That is not entirely true. We had been talking a lot about zombies for a while, particularly our idea for an actual sequel to “Night of the Living Dead.” Then one October morning I woke up with the idea to write a zombie survival guide.
John: Yes. I remember. That was right before Fallcon in 2009. (An annual comic book convention in Minneapolis, MN.) We were kicking around the idea that weekend and of course we knew already that we had to talk to Mark.
Bud: Mark Stegbauer, the illustrator.
John: Yes, and Zombies love Pie! (Laughter) Sorry, that is sort of an inside joke. Mark has done a series of illustrations of monsters, and their preferred desserts. Zombies, love pie, Vampires prefer cake, Mummys love scones, etc. My favorite is “Chupacobra loves Flan.”
Bud: Mark Stegbauer is a long time friend who worked with us before on our comic projects, and over the years he had taken to drawing zombies and other monsters. We know Mark well, and knew that if we wrote this book we had to have Mark illustrate it. His sense of humor and art style are perfect for what we wanted to do and the tongue-in-cheek approach we wanted to take.
Lyle: Whose idea what is to write The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse?
John: It was Bud’s idea, blame him.
Bud: (Chuckle) Yeah, but I would never have considered tackling the project without you, so you’re responsible too.
John: Yeah, that’s fare.
Lyle: Do you have any other published work?
Bud: Yes, yes I do. My first published comic was a time travel story written for “Twilight Zone Annual #1” for the now defunct Now Comics. Then I created and wrote a character called the Beacon for “Big Bang” comics. Then John and I met in 1997, when he was Editor-in-chief of Sundragon Comics and he hired me to write a character called Vendetta, starting a partnership that persists to this day.
John: I don’t actually have any published work. Unless you count my Master’s Thesis. I have written lots of unpublished comic scripts, but I always ended up pushing everyone elses’ work and letting my own take a back seat.
Bud: What about your Harry Potter fanfic, that is published on-line.
John: That doesn’t count, does it?
Bud: I don’t see why not. And you can count Vendetta as our first collaboration.
John: Well, the point is, I am technically an unpublished author.
Bud: Only because you were in a position to push others, and did that selflessly.
John: Okay… Next question.
Lyle: Have you guys thought about writing an apocalyptic zombie novel?
John: Uh… Yeah.
Bud: We have begun to plot it even as we speak.
John: We already mentioned an idea for a sequel to “Night of the Living Dead” but that would require getting the rights, so, probably not. We may retro-fit that concept though.
Bud: We want to write a book called “ZTA” after the “Zombie Transforming Agent” in the guide. It will be a fairly simple survival story based on the guide.
John: We want to follow up the guide with a story that captures the elements of suspense and horror that would inevitably be part of the zombie apocalypse. The challenge is to translate the humor of the guide into a prose story.
Bud: Yeah, Just because it’s the end of the world, doesn’t mean it has to be a downer.
Lyle: How did the two of you write The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse? Who was in charge of what?
Bud: We started out by doing the outline together on the phone. That really just consisted of defining the chapters. I wrote that up and e-mailed that to John, and within like thirty minutes he sent me back a two paragraph draft of the introduction.
John: Once we got started this whole project actually came quite easily.
Bud: Well, we had our stall points.
John: True, but nothing that stalled us for very long.
Bud: We sort of divided chapter duties by expertise, John tackled Zombology 101, while I worked on Planning, Supplies, Weapons, and Transportation.
John: Some of it we actually wrote together, The Companions chapter and the Do’s and Don’ts.
Bud: And then John wrote the timeline, and the cookbook.
John: Well, in the end, after the editing and re-writing each other, I think we would have to just say we wrote the whole thing together.
Bud: I would call that a fair statement.
John: Then we brought in Mark and got him started on illustrations while we did re-writes.
Lyle: Do you read zombie fiction? What are some of your favorite books?
Bud: Actually, the answer is no, the closest to zombie fiction that I’ve read would be “I am Legend.”
John: Yeah, that would be true for me as well. Believe it our not, we were actually unaware of the extent of the zombie literature available. We were not even aware of Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide” when we started this project, and I think we have both steadfastly avoided reading anything zombie until after our book was in the can.
Bud: True, I didn’t want to read any zombie material while we were doing this, to avoid any influence.
John: I think similarities will probably occur, I mean how many diverging opinions can there be? But we knew going in, that we wanted our definitions of zoms, and our advice to be sound and logical, but we also wanted the book to be funny. I think our approach to this project is sort of unique. Lyle, you would know better than we, just because you have read so much more genre material.
Lyle: Yes John, I have read many zombie novels and survival guides. I would have to say the DIY Guide is very unique.
Bud: I will say though, that now that the guide is finished I am considering some of the books from your review list. Any particular recommendations?
Lyle: Well, I’ll give you some ideas. If you’re in for a straight up zombie apocalyptic novel with traditional zombies I’ll say Kings of the Dead by Tony Faville. If you’re in for something a bit different like talking and possessed zombies I’ll recommend The Rising by Brian Keene. If you’re in a sexy mood there is a zombie erotic tale entitled The Blooming by the lovely Tonia Brown. Want to read a story with a point of view from the zombies? Read Het Madden by Cal Miller or Breathers: a Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne.
John: Given our history in comics, and with superheroes, I think “EX-Heros” has piqued both our interest.
Lyle: Ex-Heroes is a fun read. I did, however, get in some trouble by the author because he states I gave away a lot of the twists in the book. I disagree; the twists could have been seen a mile away so to me it was no big deal mentioning what I did in my review. But I must say, because of my review I have gotten several e-mails from my site followers saying that they will buy the book because of my review. I believe I can add you guys to my list. I wish Peter Clines the best but my review is attracting people to his novel. There was no need to have my review removed from Amazon.com.
Will you guys be making any appearances?
John: Well, we had originally planned an earlier release date and that included some summer appearances, but owing to the navigational problems inherent in the publishing and distribution industries we had to cancel those dates.
Bud: We are now planning to attend ZomBcon in Seattle over Halloween. And, that will be our first big personal appearance. We’ll do a few things locally just before that.
Lyle: I plan to see you gentlemen there.
John: After the book is officially released we will be planning book signings and other appearances as they can be scheduled.
Lyle: What section in the book did you have the most fun writing?
John: The whole thing was great fun to write.
Bud: Yes it was. But, if I had to choose one chapter, I would have to say the most fun was the Companions chapter.
Bud: The Crosshair Candidates were so much fun.
John: Just coining the term “Crosshair Candidates” was fun.
Bud: Yes, that was one of the most fun aspects of the project, creating new terminology.
John: We intentionally wanted to create a new specific language of zombology that would help differentiate zombies from other creatures. For examples, Vampires are undead. Undead, to us means not-dead. Thus the term applies perfectly to vampires, but zombies, by definition are dead, and therefore the term “un-live” just feels more appropriate.
Bud: Exactly. And since you can’t kill what is already dead, the term “re-kill” had to be coined to deal with that problem.
John: We ended up with a short glossary to deal with such terms. We know it will probably be a hard sell, as people are used to the terms they use, but it made perfect sense to us.
Bud: We’ll let people read the book to find out exactly what a crosshair candidate is.
Lyle: What characteristics need to be present in order to be considered a zombie?
John: Well, they have to be dead! (laughter)
Bud: They also have to zomnambulate. (more laughter)
John: We actually cover all this in Zombology 101. And, I believe we may have challenged some of the typical thinking. For instance, zombies do not breathe. Most authors, based on movie zombies come up with some way for zombies to have the typical moan. But that means moving air, which they have no logical reasons to do. So, our zombies are silent.
Bud: And, if you think about it, that would make them much scarier in real life. We are dealing with reality here after all.
Lyle: Where can people buy The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse?
John: Well, if our distribution deal goes through, the book will be available at Amazon, and through any of the larger bookseller chains, as well as comic specialty shops.
Bud: We will also have copies with us at any appearances, such as conventions.
John: We will be sure to provide additional information as it is available.
Lyle: Hopefully there will be a signed copy with my name on it come ZomBcon. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today, it has been a pleasure.
John: You can count on it, and thank you.
Bud: The pleasure was ours.