We first met Jen Naumann when we read and reviewed her book What I’ve Done. We fell in love with her book immediatly . We also fell in love with the characters and even made Eli one of our boyfriends of the week. When we learned her second book was coming out we knew we had to read it and we are so happy we did. We’ve already made the trailer for The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life our book trailer of the week, and we are 100% sure Finn will soon be one of our boyfriends of the week. Now we are excited to bring you our interview with Jen Naumann. Make sure to leave a comment at the end of the interview for your chance to win an autographed copy of The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life. We will be picking two winners, which will be announced August 23rd.
Please tell us what The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life is all about?
This is the tale of Emma Ferdig, a witty and sarcastic 17-year-old girl who is a few weeks into her senior year. She lives in this painfully small rural town where her only entertainment is playing video games and watching horror movie marathons with her best friend, Finn. After Emma returns home from a night of senior pranks, she finds a decaying woman in her backyard. Emma obviously doesn’t know at first she is dealing with a real zombie, and actually offers to help the tragically un-kept woman. Once she realizes what is really going on, she flees the area with Finn and his annoying jerk of a brother, Cash. They even pick up some other misfits along their journey. While just trying to survive, the group of teens uncovers a string of secrets and a major conspiracy involving the US Army and these “zombies.” There is even a bit of a romance story involved when Emma tries to decide if her feelings for Finn go deeper.
Your book is amazing, please tell us your inspiration?
Thank you so much! I have an obsession with The Walking Dead, Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I have not found a zombie book I am particularly fond of, however. It seems all of the young adult zombie books involve teenagers who know how to expertly shoot a gun and kick some serious butt. I got to thinking—what would I do if I suddenly found myself in a zombie attack? Emma is basically the teenage version of me, although I don’t know that I was quite that sharp-tongued in high school. But I did grow up in a small town where there was nothing to do, and I liked to make people laugh. I actually channeled Emma Stone at times for the character, thus it only seemed right to name her that. Most of my books have some sort of paranormal aspect to them, but I had never tried the horror genre. It actually ended up being a lot of fun, especially when I was able to inject my humor into the story.
Are any of your characters or zombies based on real people?
There may have been a childhood friend/neighbor I struggled to decide if I had feelings for late in our relationship, but decided in the end it was way too much like kissing a brother. And I really did try to avoid conflict with a “Darcy” in high school who wanted to beat me up for kissing her ex-boyfriend. Other than that, the people all came from my imagination. I do, however, use random names of friends and family, although the characters never resemble their actual namesakes. But I love having people call me and say how thrilled they were to see their name appear in my book.
What song or songs were constantly playing while you were writing The Day Zombies Ruined my Perfectly Boring Life?
I have a general writing playlist that mostly consists of the Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson and the Beastie Boys, but there were times when I was writing this book that I would listen to “No One Believes Me” by Kid Cudi on repeat. The tune is just so eerie and the lyrics seemed fitting for Emma’s adventure. Whenever I felt the story was becoming dry and lacking humor, I would play songs by either The Lonely Island or Adam Sandler.
How is this book different from What I’ve Done, which by the way we also loved?
These two books probably couldn’t be any different. What I’ve Done is so serious and dramatic with a major love story being the center of the plot, while The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life is actually just a fun adventure, although a smaller love story somehow snuck its way into it, too. No matter how hard I try to write a non-romantic plot, somehow it always steers back to a girl being in love with a guy. Sometimes I want to shake myself, because I’m really not that romantic in real life—I’m not exactly sure where it even comes from!
If your book was going to be made into a movie who would you want to play your characters?
This is by far the hardest question you asked me! Since I tried on occasion to channel Emma Stone’s character Olive from Easy A (and I totally adore her as an actress), she is a shoe-in for the main character, but the rest are difficult to choose. When you pull someone from the dark places of your imagination, I think it is almost impossible to find a real-life version of them. I created Finn as being handsome in Emma’s eyes, although nerdy, so he would be an especially hard one to cast. If it were to ever really happen, maybe the studio would ask me to sit through the process of auditioning a bunch of good looking eighteen-year-old actors to find just the right one, as painful as the process would surely be…
When did you become interested in writing?
I remember announcing in the third grade that I wanted to grow up to be a writer, but I think my interest really peaked when I started reading Stephen King books in the sixth grade. Through my teen years I would blow off outdoor activities with my friends to sit inside and write novels for hours on end. I started college as an English major for this very purpose, but became too anxious to start a family and chose a shorter career path, going to legal assistant school instead. This is how I came up with the prologue for The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life—although I would love to go back and tell myself to stick with the English major since it was always my dream, I know I wouldn’t listen to myself anyway. In the end I followed my dream, but it just took a few extra years to get there.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Every morning I fire up my laptop in an armchair that sits in the corner our large bedroom (which is the most tranquil room in the house). I play my iPod while I write, and drink a sugar-free Red Bull. Sometimes my chair is too comfortable and I require a second Red Bull later in the day to stay conscious, but if I feel a writer’s block coming on, I will steal a handful of the M&M’s that are always beside me. I’ve decided I’m going to have to find a less-fattening way to get my creative juices flowing before I start packing on extra pounds!
What word or words do you always have trouble spelling correctly?
I pride myself on being a good speller for the most part, but I despise the words theatre and restaurant. Every time I Google one of these on my phone, it takes forever between me and auto-correct to get the search done! I try not to use them much in my books.
What book or author inspired you to write YA?
I can’t say anyone actually influenced me to write in the YA genre. As a teen, I wrote stories focused on the lives of young adults, and I just continued doing so. I did try writing a “grown-up” book a few years ago, but didn’t get too far with it. One of the reasons I like this genre is because I want to write stories with decent morals and unique storylines that maybe allow teens with difficult lives to escape into a different world. Another reason is because of that exciting rush you experience as a teen—there is just something carefree and innocent about that stage of life as you’re trying to find your way in this world. I think that’s a big reason why you find a lot of older adults reading YA, too (myself included). You forever want to re-create that feeling, even when you’re married with kids and have to pay the bills.
Which authors inspire you today?
J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Lauren Oliver and Jodi Picoult are all brilliant authors, and their work alone inspires me to become a better author. However, on a more personal level, Maria Monteiro, Melissa Foster and Joanna Penn inspire me on a daily basis to keep up my writing—even on the really bad days when I think I should just hang it up. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement!
What advice do you have for up and coming authors?
You have to write every single day, and you really have to believe in yourself. When you decide to put yourself out there and publish your stories, you’re going to get a lot of feedback. Some of it may be negative and really difficult to swallow. Just remember how many people in this world have access to the internet, and how different opinions and tastes are going to be. My mother recently told me to visualize the people in those crazy Wal-Mart pictures that circulate the internet and imagine them at the keyboard, putting their two cents in. I have to say that visual really helped, even if it isn’t true!
What are you working on now?
I think with this amazing summer weather, my attention span has become a little out of control. I am in the rewriting stage of a book called Just a Dream—the story of a girl who is bullied at school and discovers she can control her dreams to escape her life. I am also a few chapters into the second zombie book, which is currently untitled, but so far is proving to be a great ride. My editor is working on a finished story, Shymers, which is a dystopian tale of a society in which people are discriminated against because of their predicted life expectancy. I am not even sure which one will be released next, but I’m thinking one of them will probably come out sometime in late fall 2012.
And our final question: What would you make sure you would have if Zombie really began to take over?
That’s easy—an endless supply of chocolate. I figure I don’t have much of a chance of surviving anything like that with my lack of coordination and bravery, so I may as well go out happy!
We would like to thank Jen for an amazing interview. Now remember to leave a comment for chance to win a paperback or ebook (your choice)
Check out The Day Zombies Ruined my Perfectly Boring Life now available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com