Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview with Ross Payton, author of Zombies of the World

Ross Payton is a podcaster and writer whose most recent book is Zombies of the World: A Field Guide to the Undead. The book looks at zombies from a scholarly perspective, classifying 20 species (like the "Revenant" and the "Dancing Zombie") in a humorous guide with fantastic art.

It also includes a history of zombies, and tips for surviving a zombie invasion ("Lesson 1: Humans are the Greatest Danger"). I've read it and can definitively say that if you love zombies, you'll enjoy this book.

LB: On your web site, you noted that you decided to write the book after you started the web series. What made you decide to start a web series about zombies?

RP: "I'm a lifelong horror fan so I think about the minutia quite a bit. One thing that struck me in zombie stories was how they never got tired, even the ones that never ate a human. It made me start thinking about how the undead are powered so I pictured a world in which zombies were studied not slain. From there, I came up with the idea for Omega Anima and multiple species. After some world building, I thought I would tell this story as a mockumentary web series - something I could actually make and show to others."

Your web series videos are hilarious, and I especially liked "Episode 3: Extinction." Not many authors are making videos to promote their work. Can you talk about how you went about writing/filming them?

Zombies of the World Episode 3 - Extinction

"I have a background in media production - I did a video podcast, and I made a low budget horror-comedy called Motor Home from Hell. Because of this background, I knew a lot of actors and crew that would volunteer for a short production and I knew what I could make and what was my beyond my means. With that in mind, I wrote a script that I could actually produce. It's 12 pages long. I broke it up into episodes, each of which is 2-4 pages long.

I enlisted the help of a friend, Jason Brasier, with the production. He was essential in getting it done. We broke the script down into several days of shooting at 3 main locations.

I wouldn't recommend doing a web series like this for a book unless you already have the skill sets, connections and equipment. It's just as hard as writing, if not harder, and the payoff can be variable."

The layout of Zombies of the World looks incredibly professional--better than most other books I see. How did you go about learning layout design, and what program did you use?

"I'm a self taught graphic designer. I started with Microsoft Publisher and worked my way up. Learning took practice and studying with a lot of design books and program manuals. I used Adobe Indesign to lay out Zombies of the World. I took the look of ZOTW from nature guidebooks like bird guides and textbooks. I wanted it to look like a real zombie field guide would look like if the undead were real.

Again, I wouldn't recommend trying a fancy design for your book unless you already know how to do so. In fact, the layout's been a disadvantage in some ways - namely trying to convert the book into an ebook format was a difficult and tedious process. There's little information on converting complex layouts into a form acceptable for Kindle and epub."

What have been people's reactions to the book?

"I've been very fortunate that Zombis of the World has received many highly positive reviews. People love the quality of the art and writing and the novelty of the idea. My favorite review has been from Kenneth Hite. He's an established writer that has his own Wikipedia entry.

I had asked Kenneth for a review of my book and he said he would look at it but he wouldn't commit to a review. I was quite happy to find out he did!"

What other projects are you working on?

"I'm the co-host for a tabletop role playing game podcast called Role Playing Public Radio and RPPR Actual Play.

I'm currently writing a follow up novel to Zombies of the World. It's called "Dead Power" and follows a group of humans and intelligent zombies working together to stop a crisis before the military bombs them all. It will feature many different species from Zombies of the World. It will be action focused and it's been pretty fun to write. I hope to have it out in the next few months."

Thanks Ross! For more info or to buy the book, go to

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