And now on to the interview:
It’s the funny, sometimes awkward, true story of a twelve-year-old boy called Adam Meltzer who has early-onset OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) who dies and comes back as a zombie. It’s a coming of age story about learning how to be comfortable in your own skin…even if it’s decomposing.
What was the original inspiration behind the story?
The original inspiration was literally feeling like a (sleepless) zombie when my first son was born. It made me wonder what it’d be like to actually be a zombie. I explored the idea in a short film I made about a grown-up zombie trying to get his old life back (you can see it here: https://vimeo.com/32102311) and then I kept thinking about the unfair life of a zombie, and then started to imagine how bad it’d be if you were undead in middle school. Life’s hard at twelve with friends, parents, puberty, and teachers…imagine being among the walking dead too!
I loved your main characters in Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie. Can you tell us a little more about Adam, Ernesto and Corina?
Thank you! What I love about them is that they are all better people/monsters with their friendship. Adam is a neurotic worrywart, fearful of germs and obsessed with safety and hygiene. But he’s got an inner confidence, and over the course of the book, he learns how to accept what he’s become.
Corina is a vegan vampire who’s not got a very supportive home life. She’s cold and prickly on the outside, but that’s mostly because nobody has taught her how to be kind….until she meets Adam and Ernesto.
Ernesto, who goes by Nesto, is a very messy Chupacabra who’d rather be a werewolf. He lives with a big family in the house behind Adam’s house and since he’s always the runt of every group he’s in, had never really had a group of friends.
Exactly what is a Chupacabra?
No one really knows, but it’s a new legend that began in Puerto Rico in the mid nineties. People began reporting sightings of a lizard-like creature, the size of a large dog, destroying goats and the myth spread to Mexico where the creature is blamed for eating cattle. In the book, Ernesto’s family (who are Mexican) moved from the countryside because the farmers were arming themselves against Ernesto’s midnight feasts.
How did you find the writing process compared with when you were writing the MetaWars books?
Mostly it was a relief. MetaWars, as you know, is utterly relentless in its intensity so I needed to so something funny. I wrote most of this book in various coffee shops (including in my childhood hometown) and would often break into unstoppable laughter while writing it. I’m pretty sure people around me thought I was crazy…which I suppose you have to be to write about an OCD zombie. So maybe they’re right?
What do you like most about writing for young people?
It’s a real honour and a total privilege to write for people who are still discovering the world. I was such a reluctant reader as a boy that I love creating stories that I hope will turn young people into life long readers.
Do you have a favourite zombie movie?
That’s a hard one! While not technically zombies, I think Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later is a master class in reinventing the genre. I also have a real soft spot for Zombieland because of its deadpan comedy.
Do you have a survival plan for when the zombie apocalypse arrives?
I don’t reckon my chances are very good, but I do have a stash of zombie makeup so I think I’ll first make up myself and my family and zombies and try to blend in. The key will be not to leave the house in case zombie hunters mistake us for the real thing. That’d be awkward.
When said zombie apocalypse arrives you can have one person, real or fictional, as your survival partner. Who would you choose?
Doc Brown, obvs. I’d get into the DeLorean with him and zip back to before the outbreak and stop it.
If you could pose one question to any writer, living or deceased, who would the writer be and what question would you ask?
You mean beyond asking JK Rowling to reveal that she’s the actual author of Memoirs Of A Neurotic Zombie using Jeff Norton as a pen name, I’d love to sit down with F. Scott Fitzgerald and ask about his opinion on the world today and how much it’s the same or different as the 1920s.
If you were to host a dinner party for any three people (alive or from the past), who would those three people be?
These people from the past, would they be in decrepit corpse mode or ghost mode? If the former, I’d only go with alive folks because I think I’d lose my appetite with living corpses around the dinner table. I think they’d leak all over the floor too, and I have a really nice hardwood floor that I’d like to keep bile free.
Anyway, assuming ghost mode: FDR, Benjamin Franklin, and my granny.
Assuming corpse mode, and thus going for living dinner guests: J.J.Abrams, Joss Whedon, and my wife, Sidonie.
And if you were allowed to invite a few fictional characters as well?
Gatsby, Yoda, Katniss (but she’d have to leave her weapons at the door). Brian Flanagan on bar (Tom Cruise’s character in Cocktail). I’d ask Robocop to do security.
Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of The Book Zone?
I hope you’re losing yourself in a good book this summer! Happy reading!
Oh, and there’s a brand new Adam Meltzer website launching called www.adammeltzer.com. Check it out.
Huge thanks to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.
Jeff Norton’s Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie publishes 7th of August from Faber. Jeff is on the web at www.jeffnorton.com and tweeting as @thejeffnorton.