Saturday, July 30, 2011

PENNING THE PAGES WITH ZOMBIES: AN INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT KENEMORE

Let's get the fact that I'm a total Scott Kenemore fangirl out of the way.  Scott Kenemore is the author of the Zen of Zombie-series of humor/satire books, and the novel Zombie, Ohio.  He is a graduate of Kenyon College and Columbia University.  A member of the Zombie Research Society and the Horror Writers Association, Scott is a Chicago Drummer and is the drummer for the musical band The Blissters.  Scott has discussed zombies on the Fox News Channel, National Public Radio, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The Alan Colmes Show and other esteemed news outlets.  His books have been written about in the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Hartford Courant, Indianapolis Star, Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA TODAY, Rue Morgue Magazine, Fangoria, Gawker.com, BoingBoing.netAOL News, and the New York Times “City Room” blog.  He's even such the zombie expert that he's been been asked to discuss zombies and horror-writing at conventions like Comic-Con International, Spooky Empire, and ZomBcon. For lack of a better word, he's perfection incarnate.  Now that the formalities are over, LET'S DIVE INTO THE INTERVIEW!

BJ-C: Your most recent book "Zombies vs. Nazis" comes out next month, I gotta ask...are you actually interested in the concept or is this just schtick?

SK: I'm actually interested in the concept. I get approached about doing many zombie-related writing projects that I eventually turn down because they just don't feel right. But when my publisher came to me with a very open ended request ("Could you do something for us with Nazis and zombies?") I instantly knew that, yes, this was a book that I could and should write. Also, I grew excited by the challenge of doing a book where there are NO GOOD GUYS. It's something you don't see a lot. The narrative structure of my book is taken in large part from "The Pardoner's Tale" by Chaucer because that's my favorite story that has no redeemable characters. (I've had a negative reaction from agents who sell film-rights for this very reason. They're all like: "I can't sell THIS to a movie studio. There's no good guy for the audience to cheer for. This is just a bunch of racists Nazis encountering horror and depravity and zombies." And I'm like: "Yeah, exactly.")


BJ-C: Okay, let's make the obvious comparison. What's your opinion of the film Dead Snow?

SK: I thought the Nazi zombies in Dead Snow were wonderful, but I wished they could have been used to tell a more coherent, nuanced story. I hope Dead Snow inspires future horror directors to make new, even better zombie Nazi movies. (I wrote a review of Dead Snow on my blog last year, if you want a more in-depth version of my thoughts.)


BJ-C: Of course the author would want a coherent, nuanced story.  You are a very gifted writer, but out of all of your books, which one was your favorite to write?

SK: Zombie, Ohio was my favorite. Satire and humor are fun, but I like novel writing the best. It's more difficult, but more satisfying in the end. I'd written four novels prior to Zombie, Ohio. Some of them had come very close (I think) to being published, but, in the end, never were. I remember once going smoking in a hookah bar in Manhattan with an editor from Random House who was interested in a novel I wrote back in 2002. I was thinking: "Random House can't take EVERY writer out hookah-barring. They totally must be interested in me!" But then, for one of a million reasons, it fell through. Getting a novel published is about tenacity. You've got to keep trying. I'm proud, also, that I stuck to my guns in terms of content. I never tried to write a novel that would fit a current trend-- I just wrote the kind of horror/mystery novels that I liked and would want to read myself.

BJ-C: The book itself is vastly different from your satire books.  How did you transition from writing your zomcom books into your more serious book Zombie, Ohio?

SK: I had always been writing novels all the time-- alongside the satire-- I just hadn't yet convinced a publisher to print one of them.


BJ-C: You recently had a kickstarter campaign for your next book, what can we expect from Zombie, Illinois?

SK: I don't want to give too much away. The novel has three narrators-- a twenty-something female rock drummer, a thirty-something male news reporter, and a sixty-something African American pastor. Zombie, Illinois follows these three characters as they interact with one another, fight zombies, and negotiate the difficulties of a zombie outbreak in Chicago, Chicagoland, and larger Illinois. Many of the themes and locales are drawn from my own experiences-- being a drummer in Chicago bands, working in the media, and working for six years with community-improvement organizations in African American neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side.

BJ-C: That's going to be incredible.  Speaking of incredible, how was it speaking at comic-con?


SK: Great fun! Our panel was a marvelous exchange of ideas (about zombies), and I got to catch up with many of my friends from the "horror/zombie circuit."

BJ-C: I can only imagine the amount of nerdgasms.  While I'm on the subject, what is your nerdiest obsession other than zombies?


SK: Hmm. Things my friends make fun of me for liking include Rush, Phil Collins/Genesis, and Sherlock Holmes.


BJ-C: Phil Collins?! Oh no. We can't be friends. We'd be perpetual enemies.  I hate Phil Collins with a fiery passion.  Rush, that we can share but not Phil Collins.  Sorry, I digress.  What do you want to see come from the modern zombie film?

SK: I would like to see zombies used for great storytelling!


BJ-C: I think we're still too new into the zombie psyche to figure out a way to do that just yet.  Do you think that zombies will ever get the disgusting facelift that the vampires have (aka-will there be a twilight style zombie)?

SK: Honestly, yes--I think at some point, unfortunately, some out-of-touch Hollywood producer will greenlight something like that. And it will fail utterly, and lose a bunch of people a bunch of money.


BJ-C: That's depressing, yet inevitable.  I agree with you on that one.  Maybe it's the Chicagoan side of us.  We're lucky that way.  So, I gotta know.  How has Chicago shaped your zombie obsession?

Chicago is a great, dynamic, exciting town. It's unique. It has guilds and trusts and racial-clusters like Ankh-Morpork. It also has a tradition of beloved writers who don't always get the national attention they deserve (Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Roger Ebert, Timuel Black, just to name a few). What I want to do with Zombie, Illinois is to write a horror novel about Chicago and Illinois that people FROM Chicago and Illinois will actually like. Too many "important Chicago books" get named as being so by book critics in New York City, and not because actual readers in Chicago are like: "Yes, this guy/gal got it right!" I will have succeeded with Zombie, Illinois if local readers feel like I captured something real.

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