I had the pleasure of interviewing Zombie whispering novelist Jack Wallen for the latest installment of the Neverending Blog Tour coordinated by Indie Writers Unite, a Facebook group for indies. Jack’s books are entertaining reads that are hard to put down, and his characters charge to life from page one, even if they’re mad you woke them up so early in the morning. He writes a fresh and comically jaded commentary on life, zombies, and men in dresses and can make you laugh and think in the same paragraph. A sensitive soul, Jack himself is a great guy, fun to work with as a fellow indie, and dedicated to producing flawless, quality fiction. I start reading many books but finish very few, and Jack’s book, “I, Zombie, I” was one of those I read from start to finish.
Tell me what readers should know about Jack Wallen, the man behind the books.
I am an artist to the core and wear my heart on both of my sleeves…and some times my pants.
What inspires you to write?
Everything. Life, love, music…I have found inspiration in the strangest of places. I have an idea, in the back of my head, for a novella that was inspired by an old cemetery I saw on a bike ride out in the country.
If you had a perfect writing outfit, what would it be?
That would depend on what I was writing. If I’m writing Shero, it might be a little black dress and three-inch heels. ;-). Pajamas are horribly comfy to write in. I do not like to be uncomfortable when I write.
How do you define success as a writer?
At least for me, success as a writer will be when I have finally managed to cut the umbilical of my day job. That, of course, is ideal. But the real success is knowing readers are enjoying my words. I get a great joy knowing someone has learned something or felt something positive from my work.
Does your family read your books?
My wife has read (and really loved) both A Blade Away and Gothica. As for the “I Zombie” trilogy – I believe she’s afraid they will give her nightmares. She won’t admit to being a chicken.
What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d like to give other indie authors?
Sometimes it hurts. It really does. Sometimes you wake up and you see how few books you’ve sold and you just want to give up. Instead, write more. Never stop writing. In face of adversity, your pen is your mightiest weapon, your therapist, and your best friend. Okay, maybe not really your therapist or your best friend…
What’s the most challenging part of writing a book, in your opinion?
Marketing it. I’m not a business person. Never have been, never will be.
I bought your three existing books, read I Zombie I and the first chapter of your upcoming novel, Shero. I noticed two themes: zombies and men in dresses. (Not in the same book, unless I missed something!) Believe it or not, I’m wondering why zombies? Any unusual sources of inspiration or fascination with the undead?
Zombies are such an interesting vehicle for social commentary. Unlike the vampire, the zombie can really be used to paint some fairly wide brush strokes about society, without actually condemning anyone. And with zombies, the rules aren’t as hard and fast. With vampires, if you go outside of the standard operating procedure, you piss people off and lose readers. With zombies, you draw outside of the lines and all of a sudden you’re an innovator. This will change the minute someone does a film with sparkly, hunky zombies. But, I think we’re pretty safe from that.
I’ve also been a huge fan of horror since a child. And zombies were always the one element of horror that can both frighten you and make you laugh at the same time.
I have to say I love your characters. Flawed, bitter or cynical, constantly tested by their unique worlds – and completely believable. I particularly enjoyed how real and bitter Jacob from I Zombie I was. His transformation was fascinating, and I loved that you wrote this book in the first person. It somehow made relating to Jacob that much easier. Do you control how your characters develop or allow them to develop on their own as you write?
I allow my characters to evolve and develop on their own. I write differently, depending upon the needs of the story. For example, with the Fringe Killer series ( A Blade Away, Gothica (Fringe Killer), and the upcoming Endgame) I write from an outline. With the I Zombie I series, I write without the net…just let things happen. I have found that latter method is fantastic for character development, while the former works much better for consistency. But the chaos required for the “I Zombie” series demanded I remove that net. I was glad for that, because it really allowed Jacob and Bethany to take on lives of their own.
I noticed you recently launched a Zombie radio podcast. What’s your plan for the “I, Zombie” trilogy?
Here’s the deal – I so thoroughly enjoyed writing the “I Zombie” series that I have decided a new zombies series will begin soon. That series will be set about thirty years after the first trilogy and will star a character that is just “given life” (hint hint) near the end of “Die Zombie Die” (The final book – due out early fall 2011.) The Zombie Radio podcast will serve to help bridge these two and give the readers something more to experience. This was actually the brain child of one of my brilliant beta readers.
I saw that “Shero” is being released on Friday, 22 July. You’re welcome to add a a pitch here, if you’d like!
Unlike the every day super hero, Shero battles more than evil villains. Shero battles broken heels, runs in his stockings, broken nails, and the scorn of the public at large. In this first installment Shero finds the perfect black dress, a possible lover, a deadly shade of fingernail polish, some nasty, nasty foes, an internal super hero political war, and a narrator full of attitude.
Shero is Sex In The City meets the X Men meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. You will laugh, you might cry, and you’ll be given to fits of yelling “You go, girl!” You’ve been warned.
What’s the story’s main message?
Everyone has a monster lurking just underneath their skin…but what does it take to bring that monster out?
Who is/are the main characters?
The main character is Jacob Plummer, a lonely journalist who is infected by the Mengele Virus and decides to document his spiral into the dark zombie abyss. Through the story, Jacob transforms, without realizing, from a victim to a hero.
Which character do you admire from this book?
Jacob is a pretty amazing man who manages to make a change many of us wouldn’t. In the face of horrific painful and change, he unselfishly places the lives of those around him first, and does so while trying to help to save the human race. I would like to think I could do the same…but you never know. Transforming into a zombie is tough business.
Which character would creep you out if you met him/her in person?
Honestly – those that put the Mengele Virus in motion. They come out in the next two books and they are not to be trusted.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?
Ultimately I learned that I have to write or that creative soul in me withers. That creative soul is probably that thing that most would call a soul or life-force and in the writing of I Zombie I I finally realized that creative soul really did deserve to be heard. I was never so proud of finishing a book as I was I Zombie I.
What’s the story’s main message?
We are all human beings and should be judged by our deeds and actions, not the clothing covering our skin.
Who is/are the main characters?
Jamie Davenport and Skip Abrahm are two partners that are as much friends and family as they are co-workers. Both are police officers on the Louisville, Kentucky police force and both are persecuted for one reason or another.
Which character surprised you when you wrote him/her?
Lakme. What began as just a hideous, twisted killer wound up a human being with a story filled with sorrow that actually helped to explain why he was so bound in his actions.
If you could be stranded on a desert island with one of your characters from this novel, which one and why?
Oh my that’s a tough one. I want to say Skip, because I’d laugh pretty much all the time. But I’m fairly certain Skip would hit on me 24/7 which would grow tiresome after a while. I would probably have to say Jamie because she’s an amazing, sexy woman.
Which one would you definitely NOT want to be stranded with and why?
The chief of police. I would kill him and then I would be alone with the fact I had no remorse in killing the bigoted SOB.
Where can we find your books?
A Blade Away: Kindle: A Blade Away
Gothica: Kindle: Gothica (Fringe Killer)
Where can we find you?