Friday, November 12, 2010

Interview Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Yesterday, I had the exciting opportunity to meet Linda Watanabe McFerrin, an author published through Stone Bridge Press. Meeting on Facebook, I loved the opportunity to talk in the flesh.

Her book, Dead Love, played wonderfully to the crowd at the reading and she had an amazing presence. We all got to hear some wonderful scenes. If you haven't had the chance to read it, and you like zombies, this book is for you. I've heard it compared to a Twilight for zombies. I haven't (shame on me) read Twilight, so I don't know for sure.

I can tell you a few things I do know. For example: The book has zombies, ghouls, Japanese mafia, falling elevators, dead bodies and ballet dancing. The story goes all around the world, from Japan to Malaysia, so it really tests your imagination while only giving us places Linda has been to and seen with her own eyes.

Often times, she will go outside of the normal realm of zombies, forcing you to adjust your thinking. There are real cases of zombification mixed in the story, bringing realism and the careful use of Google. We don't know if there will be a sequel, but stay tuned.

I normally read horror, but there was something about a skin changing ghoul that drew me in. Clement reminds me of a great Tim Burton bad guy.

But maybe that is just me. Here is our interview. I hope you enjoy.


Q. Hello Linda, thank you for coming. I would like to start off the interview by asking what you did before you wrote?

A. I’ve written since I was six. The first book I ever wrote was created in my first grade class when I lived in England. It was a story called “Tom and the Weed” and I used paper and pencil to create it. I put it on the book table to see if the other kids would grab it. They did. I kept writing.

Q. What inspired you to write Dead Love?

A. I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural. I’ve been reading E. A. Poe since I was seven. I was a huge fan of speculative fiction in high school and I studied the mythical and magical in literature as an undergraduate in Comp. Lit. At first I thought I’d write a vampire novel, but then I was swept away by zombies.

Q. Did you ever think, "This just won't happen?"

A. Absolutely. It’s taken so long. But a few years back, in Shanghai, a Chinese fortuneteller—Mr. Zhou—told me the book would be published and it would be a big success. He also predicted my sister’s marriage. She did marry that very year, so I knew the book would get published one day. You see, he was right.

Q. What difficulties did you have, writing a zombie girl.

A. It was hard making a zombie without will interesting. That’s why Clément is not totally successful in zombifying Erin. She needed to have a soul worth saving.

Q. The last half zoomed. Did you find yourself catching your stride as a writer, toward the end?

A. Once everything was set up and the character created there was no stopping them. The next book will move swiftly.

***This question along with one she answered at the reading, pointed to there being a sequel to this book. Very interesting, indeed! I wonder if that makes this an exclusive? Well, she didn't out and out say it. She only said something like she was "strongly considering making a sequel based on _____"

Q. Did you use anyone as a template for Clément?

A. Absolutely, someone near and dear to me, but I think what makes Clément fascinating is that he could be anyone who is a major screw-up. He’s brilliant, but he keeps looking for love and happiness in all the wrong places … like the morgue. Then again, what’s a ghoul to do?

Q. Do you ever find it hard to think because the characters continue to bother you?

A. Well, no, they actually provoke thought. I do find it hard to work because they insist on dark matters. I was supposed to do a lovely nature essay for the anniversary issue of a magazine that focuses on environmental issues and it turned into a meditation on death. It is an interesting meditation, but it is about the darker side of our dance with the natural world. Not what the magazine editor was expecting, but he says he likes it.

Q. Have you been everywhere in your book?

A. Just about. I have never been to Haiti, though I’ve had a couple of foster children there through an organization that provides assistance for children. I’d love to go. The other settings in the book are all based on places I’ve been. Many of the hotels and restaurants are versions of my favorite places—like Christian Orison’s apartment, Uguisi Ryokan, Hiroshi Nakamura’s penthouse, Alain’s houseboat in Amsterdam, and the canal house where the rave takes place. Even Saint Ali, is based on a real place, though it isn’t actually in Malaysia. Often the setting comes first for me, like the background in a painting. Then I set the characters up in it and let them go to town.

Q. What languages do you speak?

A. I’m pretty good with English. I guess I also speak a little French and Spanish, minimal Japanese and Italian. That’s it. My mother was a translator. She spoke six languages. Her first language was English, then Japanese, French, Chinese, Italian and a little Russian.

***At the reading, she did very good with the foreign languages used in her book. I thought she might be fluent in Japanese.

Q. How did your past influence the story and where you sent the main character?

A. I spent several years in Japan as a child; my first novel, Namako, is set in Japan. Of course I had to set Dead Love in Tokyo and other parts of Asia. I tried to place it in Switzerland, originally, which is where Erin’s mom is from, but that was just too buttoned down for my zombie girl. Erin, like me, has been all over the world, but I had my family with me. Erin was always alone.

Q. Why did Clément let her go to begin with, then get mad about who she got with while gone, only to want to take her again?

A. Clément is a mercurial character, very undisciplined and subject to moods. But he has a lot of power. He tries to be caring, responsible, but it simply isn’t in his ghoulish nature, so he doesn’t quite know how to go about it. Not a creature to rely on. He always fails. He survives, but the objects of his affection are definitely at risk.

I am looking forward to seeing another sequel to this book.

Thanks, is this a question?

****Why yes, yes it was. Good dodge!

Q. What did you like about the comic book process?

A. Everything. I have a background in graphic arts and design and used to merchandise and direct art for a boy’s T-shirt line for Levi Strauss & Co. This brought back a lot of memories because comics have to be really dynamic and understandable, just like the art for T-shirts. I also loved watching Peter, my publisher, storyboard, and I enjoyed creating thumbnails of the characters to send to Botan Yamada, our artist in Japan.

Q. How much input did you have on the cover?

A. Lots, and that was fun too, for the same reasons I liked the manga development. It was a joint process with my publisher. In most cases with the books I’ve written or edited, the publishers have let me in on the process. I guess there’s a respect for my professional experience in the arts. I also used to manage an art gallery. I do cherish and appreciate that respect and consideration.

Q. How big was the original novel?

A. Quite a bit bigger. Part of the process was editing it down to what was essential. It was a very Zen process. Anything extraneous has been taken out. It’s now a pretty fast read … and toward the end, almost a race.

Q. How has your life changed?

A. It’s become even busier. The tour has taken up a lot of time and I haven’t been able to teach as much. I miss that. I’m also focusing more on zombie matters and it’s spilling over into my other work, like the essay I mentioned earlier. But I’m not complaining by any means. This is stuff I love writing about. One extra-odd benefit is the addition of zombie walks to my favorite things to do. I love them. Erin, the Dead Love protagonist, blogs on various zombie walks, and I know she’ll continue to do so.

Q. Talk about your poetry.

A. I’ve always written poetry. My first publications were poems, and the creative project for my Masters in Creative Writing was a poetry collection, The Impossibility of Redemption is Something We Hadn’t Figured On … which was then published by Berkeley Poets Workshop and Press. But then I started making money writing travel articles, so I focused on that for years. These days I mix it up. I’ll basically write in whatever form seems appropriate, though I think the craft in each form, informs the next in new ways. That’s a lot of fun and very generative.

Q. Why zombies?

A. I was a zombie for a while. I think we all are at one time or another. For me, they have always been a very powerful symbol. They are, I think, the opposite of vampires, which are very charismatic, self-centered beings. Zombies are the mob. They are without will, or in the case of “real” zombies, possessed and controlled by another. When I read an article in the paper about a man convicted for the crime of zombification, I was intrigued. I started to dig … an oddly zombie-like activity … and I discovered that zombies could actually be made in the real world. I’ve always been fascinated by the blurry boundary between fiction and what we call truth, so I couldn’t help myself. The journey into zombieland had begun.

Q. Zombies in 2012? Really?

A. No question. Zombies have definitely gone viral. They will only grow in numbers. Do I think there is a zombie apocalypse in our future? That depends on how well governments manage the biological weapons we know they are developing. I think we’ve already seen some instances of people returning from wars as zombies, haven’t we?

Q. Will you continue writing about zombies and the undead?

A. Only if they insist.


Thank you again Linda. Have a wonderful day all. Keep tuned!

Draven Ames

Contact information for Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Thursday, November 4, 2010

MG Interview with a Teenager

Today, I did an interview with my oldest son. We covered a wide variety of subjects about books. When it comes to writing, I like to get a feel for the target audience. Giving a kid the microphone can often reveal some honest answers.

My oldest son has no school this morning, all because of parent teacher conferences. I couldn't let him be too bored, so I gave a little work. The following is an honest look inside one teenager's opinion on what books need, what he likes, and what matters on the shelf.

It gave me new insight into what I'd need to write if I wanted his money. He's not to bad at writing either. I'd like to say something rubbed off on him.

How old are you?
Almost 14.

What books are in your top 3?
Quantum Prophecies, Dahveed, Stoneheart - All are fun to read, have well written characters. They are all really
different styles.

What is your favorite series?
Dahveed. I've got the first two. I think there will be five in the series. The writer makes the characters seem real.

When looking for a book, how important is a cover?
About as important as the title. A bad cover won't be read by most kids I know, including me.

Be honest.
I was being honest >)

Do you read the back of a book? How important is it? More or less than the cover?
Yes. It is verry important to me. It tells what the book is about. It's more important than the cover, but if the cover and title are bad then I don't read the back. Sorry.

Who is your favorite bad guy? Why? How about from TV? Why?
Balak, from Dahveed. He always knows what to say. Syler, from Heroes. He is very powerfull, but its funny when people get the upper hand.

Who is your favorite good guy? Side kick?
Abner. He is a bad guy and a good guy in Dahveed.

What book do you want to see made?
I only want one book to be made. Read the next answer :D

What would your book be about?
If I were to write a book it would be called Channel Ten. It would be about 20 kids who get abducted and are given suits, giving each of them powers. I would want them to be trapped in the middle of nowhere. After about an hour, speakers would rise out of the ground, explaining that they are being filmed for a live show on
Channel Ten.

The outside world would think they were just actors. They would be provided everything they need to live, but be forced to fight each other. Their suits would prevent any harm to their body, but they'd shut down, immobilizing the person inside, if their suit gets too much damage. Much too late, they find out they can not remove the suits.

The Catch? The people who refuse to fight disappear for days, only to return unwilling to surrender ever again. The 'Steel Building' they are taken to, no one will talk about. Could that be where Channel Ten's mastermind resides?

Here are some of the kids' names, powers and suit designs.
#1=Nate, shoots cannonballs,camo. #2=Zak, super strength, yellow.
#3=Noah, nothing,light green. #4=Derek, always has a gun, silvery.
#5=Tyler, springs water up from the ground, and then freezes it,light blue.
#6=Isaac, super smart, yellow with white hands and blue stripes.

What do you plan to do with your life?
Umm. I would love to create video games. I'd love to write video games.

Last question: What are the six most important things a book needs, in your opinion.
A smart bad guy that can never dies or always finds a way back.
A comic relief character or two.
A hero who doesn't always win. He can't be the strongest, just overcomes the most.
More than three characters.
I HATE figuring out the ending.
Hidden details that affect the book. If I notice it, then I get to know a secret about the book that most people overlooked.

If we listen to kids, sometimes they have some pretty neat pearls. Other times, they are more honest than you would expect.

Draven Ames