Friday, May 13, 2011

Author Interview: Jack Wallen

Actor turned author Jack Wallen recently stopped by to discuss his book, I Zombie I. With plenty of experience in the field of storytelling, Mr. Wallen's book gives readers a glimpse of what goes on behind the seemingly vacant eyes of the undead.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I have many secrets. Most of them locked up so tightly I don't even know them. Some of those secrets come out in my books. I always try to reveal a bit about myself in every book. After all, the one thing I know the most about is least I like to tell myself that.

One thing that is not a secret is my previous career. For twenty years I was a professional actor. I did Broadway, national tours, Shakespeare festivals, children's theater -- you name it. But somewhere around 2005 I realized the economy was going to put a serious hurt on theater and I decided to retire while I could still look back lovingly and not be one of "those actors" that struggled to remain a part of something important. When I retired I knew I had to have some way to feed my creative soul, else I wither away and die. That something became fiction. I had written stage plays and plenty of other pieces, and I had started writing fiction along the way, but nothing serious. It wasn't until I realized I had so many stories inside of me to tell that I knew I could do this.

When I finished my first book, I sat back, smiled, and realized what the rest of my life was going to be like.

2. How long have you been writing?

I've actually been writing professionally since about 1999. I am also a technical writer, writing about Linux and open source (and other technologies). I finished my first book, A Blade Away, at band camp after a saucy night with that one girl from Buffy.

3. What is I Zombie I about?

I like to call "I Zombie I" the thinking man's zombie book. It's sort of "I Am Legend" for zombies. The gist of the plot is a journalist becomes infected and decides to chronicle his downward spiral into the zombie abyss. Along the way he hooks up with a small group of survivors, one of which holds a very deep and deadly secret.

The book description reads a little something like this:

"The virus has spread."

In a moment of pure chaos, the majority of the Earth's population has become the walking dead. One man promises to help bring the truth to light.

"The lies have spread."

When journalist Jacob Plummer is infected, Jacob turns to the written word to not only ease the pain of change, but to bring to surface a truth far deeper and deadlier than anyone could have imagined.

"The truth must now be spread."

With the help of a rag-tag group of survivors, Jacob helps to fight off the growing undead horde in hopes of saving himself and the planet from the rot growing within.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

I knew I wanted to write a book about zombies, but I didn't just want to write they typical "survival guide to the apocalypse". I wanted to write the book from a fresh perspective. One night I asked myself the question "I wonder what it would feel like to be transformed into a zombie?" That's where the idea came from. The book made some very large changes along the way though. At first I wanted to write the entire book in first person present tense. That didn't work out so well. It's hard to write and defend yourself from zombies at the same time.

5. Tell us about Jacob Plummer.

Jacob Plummer is the main character in I Zombie I. But not just a journalist - he's the real deal. Other media types look up to him as if he can do no wrong. After the death of his first wife (it was a rather brutal death) he plunged, head first, into his work. His work was his spouse, only friend, and therapist. He really considered himself a coward, which makes his journey in "I Zombie I" all the more important. In the end, he is in love and a hero. But does he make it to the sequel "My Zombie My?" You'll have to read to find out! Muhahaha!

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

The very idea that the protagonist is documenting his change from man to zombie sets it apart. There are moments where Jacob describes what he's feeling and he finally discovers what it is that drives the undead to dining on the brains of the living.

And although the subject matter and situations are quite serious, I added humor within the text. I know so many people who react to tragedy or tragic circumstances with humor. Its a coping mechanism.

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing I Zombie I? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

Heroes can be found in the most unlikely places. That was one of my main goals. Also that survival of life-threatening circumstances can only, truly happen when you have something to live, love, truth.

8. How long did it take you to write I Zombie I? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

It took me about nine months to write the first draft. I also did the cover and the promo videos. But I do hire an outside editor. I would be lost among a sea of ..., --, ,, ', and () without my editor. And beyond punctuation, she really does call me to the carpet on my stories. She's been really instrumental in getting my books polished.

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

Maybe my black cat? He's always wanting to sit on my manuscripts as I do rewrites. I know he's trying to tell me "This is good!"

My step children have been incredibly supportive. I have a YA book I will be writing soon and my sixteen year old practically begs me to start writing it (she knows the story behind the book and can't wait to read it). I think they really like to brag to their friends that I am a published author.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

twitter: jlwallen

facebook: jlwallen

11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

Taking a reader on a journey that they will not only enjoy, but that will make them think or rethink the way they look at something. In my book A Blade Away, I really wanted the reader to re-evaluate the way they look and think at particular sections of society. Books are really gateways into our hearts and minds and have the power to open the floodgates.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Every time. The "I Zombie" trilogy has been written entirely without an outline because I wanted it to have an undertow of chaos and "what's happening next". Every scene I wrote for those books was like "Whoa! I didn't expect that to happen!" It was great fun.

13. And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

Favorite TV series at the moment is a tie between Bones and Big Bang Theory. Favorite movie of all time...that's a tough one. I want to say "The Nightmare Before Christmas", but I might also be inclined to say "The Black Swan" or "The Exorcist".

Now, had you asked me favorite band - there is only one true answer for that one. Rush!

Thank you so much for your time! Best of luck to you in the future!

I Zombie I at
I Zombie I at Barnes & Noble
I Zombie I at Smashwords
I Zombie I at the Reader Store

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