The Bookie Monster Interviews Robert Kent, author of All Together Now: A Zombie Story.
Robert Kent is the author of the young adult novel All Together Now: A Zombie Story. He runs the popular blog for writers, MIDDLE GRADE NINJA, and lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he’s hard at work on his next book.
Tell us a little about yourself, your work and how you got into writing.
I grew up in a small Indiana town where we had a movie theater and a bowling alley. The movie theater burned down, so I spent a lot of time at the library, which gave me a great love of books. I’ve been writing stories since before I could write. When I was young, my mother gave me a cassette recorder so I could get them on tape. Stories are my great passion and I have a great many more of them to tell in the coming years.
How do you come up with the character names in your books?
The main characters have names that are significant to me, but I kept a phone book from the town I grew up in and when I need a name for a secondary character I flip through it until I find one that sounds good. In ALL TOGETHER NOW, Ricky writes a memorial for the students in Harrington High School who died during the initial zombie outbreak and lists as many of them as he can remember by name, so just for fun, I killed off my entire writer’s group in chapter 25. The first infected student is named Mike Mullin, after my friend, the author of ASHFALL.
Have you ever written yourself or people you know as a character in one of your books?
All the characters are me. It’s a one man show:) Every character is my interpretation of how I would act under a particular set of circumstances. So if I were a rich black teenage girl whose mother died of cancer living in the zombie apocalypse rather than a white adult of meager means whose parents are alive and who has never seen a zombie, I’d be Michelle Kirkman:) The character I identify with most in ALL TOGETHER NOW is Levi Davis, but I love all of them, especially the zombies.
Do you laugh at your own jokes as you write them?
Absolutely. I crack myself up. I also tear up at the sad parts and get nervous during the scary scenes. I’m a firm believer that if my story doesn’t move me, I can’t expect it to move Esteemed Reader.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I’m always thrilled to hear from my readers. They’ve been extremely supportive of my book and very kind in recommending it to others. Most of them have seemed a bit preoccupied with the book’s ending, which I like to hear. I think a book’s ending should send a reader out on a high note and when they write me to talk about it, I know I’ve done my job. I haven’t heard from any readers upset with my treatment of the church and the nature of religion in ALL TOGETHER NOW, but I’m sure that day is coming.
What was your favorite moment when writing your book?
Chapter 68 was a definite high point, but the truth is I really enjoyed writing this entire story, which isn’t something I can say about everything I’ve written. But writing about zombies allowed me to get as violent and mean-spirited as I’ve ever been and I liked it. I’ll be sorry when I write my next middle grade book and I’m no longer allowed to kill someone every other chapter.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Collect as much advice from as many different writers as you can. Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard was from terrible writers because when I let them talk, they eventually told me what they were doing wrong. Go to a conference, join a critique group, seek out online resources like The Bookie Monster, or check out some of the many writer, literary agent, and editor interviews at my site, www.middlegradeninja.com. And always remember: if there were any one way to do this, every book ever published would be a bestseller and every writer would be as acclaimed and beloved as many of them seem to think they are.
OK, so, what’s next, do you already have a new project in the works?
I’m currently writing a companion novella called ALL RIGHT NOW: A SHORT ZOMBIE STORY, which I was planning to release in October, but I may put it out earlier depending on what my editors have to say.
What kind of research did you do when you were working on your novel?
The great thing about writing what you love is you’ve typically already done a fair amount of research. I’ve been “researching” zombies since I was a teenager myself and my time as a substitute teacher gave me access to today’s teenagers so I could witness them in their natural habitat. I did have to actually research the Bible, which is how I learned there are references to zombies in the Old and New Testament. Be afraid.
In ten words or less:
· Are you a morning person or a night owl?
o Morning writer, nighttime reader
· Biggest fear?
· Favorite TV Show?
o The Walking Dead, naturally
· First item on your bucket list?
o See a flying saucer and possibly meet its occupant
· Happiest moment in your life to date?
o Corny, but true: meeting my wife.
· If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?
o Whiskey (if it's my last, I'm going out feeling good)
· If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
· The zombie apocalypse has begun. What zombie fighting badass would you want on your team?
o Michonne, unless I can pick Batman. Or be Batman…
· What is one thing that you can’t live without?
o Esteemed Reader
Where can readers stalk you?