Exclusive Interview with the Writer and Editor of “How to Draw Zombies”
I got the opportunity to have an Exclusive E-Mail Interview with Merrie Destefano, the Writer and Editor of the incredible art book “How to Draw Zombies.” More about Merrie can be found here on her blog.
Here is the Interview with Merrie:
1. For the sake of my readers tell us a bit about yourselves, your background, and how you two got together on this project.
Last year I got laid off from my job: the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine, and the contributing editor for Romantic Homes magazine. So, I decided to spend between a year or so working on books—something I’ve always wanted to do. Within a few months, I got my wish. A friend of mine works at Walter Foster Publishing and she recommended me for the Fantasy Underground series. At almost the same exact time, my literary agent got me a two-book contract with HarperCollins. My first urban fantasy novel, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles comes out in October, 2010.
2. What was the Genesis of this book? Why a “how too” book? And why zombies? (Not that we’re complaining, we prefer zombies to say… fluffy bunnies.)
Walter Foster Publishing is well-known for their How-To Draw books. They wanted to create a series of monster books, since that subject is popular right now. After we did some brainstorming on the whole series, they hired me to write and edit two of their books. Mike Butkus was an artist that the associate publisher already knew and he was chosen by her for this project. I was stunned when I got to see his artwork! It’s so incredible.
3. “How to Draw Zombies” is a great book, but what’s it like to work on such a collaborative project? Challenges? Rewards?
I was always excited to see what illustrations Mike would turn in. We often discussed the art projects before he began working on them, but then whenever I saw the final art I was astonished by how beautiful and gruesome they were. One challenge I had during this process was discovering that my computer didn’t have enough memory for the large art files. I ended up purchasing a couple of back-up hard drives and then everything worked much smoother for me.
4. Interesting historical tidbits about our smelly zombie friends are liberally placed throughout “How to Draw Zombies.” What type of research/prep work did you do for this book. (If you say Wikipedia I’m going to feel very foolish for this question… well more foolish anyway.)
I bought a stack of reference books, and I asked my zombie-loving friends for advice on where to look for more information. I realized along the way that mythical creatures change as time passes. The genesis for the zombie began thousands of years ago and has changed quite a bit since then. So I knew that the zombie myth would have changed even by the time this book came out. That’s actually one thing I like about myths: every person who retells one gets the opportunity to add their own details and change it up. I mean, who heard of sparkly vampires before Twilight?
5. How has creating this book been different from your past projects? What has been the best part? Worst part?
For me, this was actually very similar to work I did as a magazine editor. Everyone has a different task and a different deadline. At the end, the final product is much greater than what one person could have done alone. The best part for me was getting to work on a monster book (I’ve loved monsters since I was a teenager) and getting to work with such a talented team of professionals. The worst part was trying to balance multiple deadlines at once. Throughout the process of both books (How To Draw Zombies and How To Draw Vampire), I was finishing up my first two urban fantasy novels for HarperCollins. I put in some really long hours, but I’m very pleased with the result.
6. I see there’s a “How too Draw Vampires” book coming out from you two in June, and I won’t lie. I am ridiculously excited. What’s next on your plate after that? (This is the part where I cross my fingers and desperately wish for a “How to draw Werewolves” book.)
I think there’s a How To Draw Wizards book coming out sometime soon, but neither Mike nor I worked on that one. I’m hoping to do more in this series. I did propose one on werewolves, but haven’t gotten a green light on that yet.
7. What has been the response so far for your book?
Everyone I know who has seen it has been really impressed by the quality. Mike’s artwork is fabulous and the graphic designer did a fantastic job. On top of that, the publisher did a wonderful job as far as paper choices and binding and marketing.
8. Do you have any advice for any burgeoning young Artists or Writers who may (and should) pick up your books?
Actually, yes. For the first 35 years of my life, I was an artist. Then I got carpal tunnel and had to switch careers. So I know the heart of an artist. I recommend that he/she pursue that passion and never give up. Study as much as you can, read books on art, take classes, practice from how-to books like the zombie book. And somewhere along the way, it’s important to develop your own style. That’s what will set you apart from the rest of the pack. I’d also suggest starting a website where you can post your artwork and contact information. And network as much as possible. The same basic suggestions apply for writers: write every day, read voraciously, attend writer’s conferences, join a critique group, and network. You never know who might give you that first job.
9. Finally, last question because I know your busy but… Fast Zombies or Slow Zombies? (Believe it or not this is very important to my fellow nerds and I)
Definitely slow zombies. I’m a purist (grin). Besides, I know I’d never survive an attack by fast zombies, so I’m just going to pretend they don’t exist.
I’d like to thank Merrie Destefano again for taking the time to answer some of my questions and kindly letting me post her interview here on my little webcomic “The Zombie Nation.” I can’t wait to see Her and Mike’s next book and hope they get to make more of them.