“It’s Sense & Sensibility & Sleestacks Now” The Max Brooks Interview, Part Two

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Author Max Brooks recently sold his one millionth copy of The Zombie Survival Guide ($10, Amazon). Since the book’s release in 2003, Brooks has risen to become an authority of zombie horror, and we got to sit down with last month for a marathon geek fest. Read on for the second installment of our chat featuring Brooks’ thoughts on his second book, novel World War Z being optioned as a film, being Mel Brooks’ kid and why Jane Austen should just be left alone.

(Read Part One: “I’m Just A Zombie Nerd” The Max Brooks Interview, Part One)

Allie Townsend: Your second book, World War Z is being prepped for a film. That’s got to feel good.

Max Brooks: Yeah, we’ll see what happens with that. They’ve got a writer, Matt Carnahan. I can’t imagine the amount of pressure he must be under right now. He’s working on his new draft right now. It’s almost done, but the movie is still the development process. We’re waiting to see. It’s got to be approved by Plan B. It’s got to be approved by Paramount.

AT: Would you want to take an active role in the planning?

MB: No, I think I’m staying as far away as I can. I’m just the guy that wrote the book. It’s time to move on. The only strike against it is that it’s a big movie.

AT: Yeah, it’s going to be really tough to do it really well.

MB: You can’t do it cheap. It’s an epic zombie book. Therefore if you have to do an epic zombie movie, well that kind of money scares executives.

AT: Well it’s certainly not the type of zombie movie they’re used to. Just the landscape of the book is so huge.

MB: And that’s why I wrote the book. I wanted to see the rest of the world. I didn’t want to do just a small story because everybody’s doing that. I wanted to see big. I’m always sowing the seeds of my own destruction like that. I’m the world’s worst businessman.

AT: I’m always curious to see what dreams are like for horror writers. I’d go to sleep terrified.

MB: Oh yeah, but since I’ve had a kid the dreams are infinitely scarier. The dreams are, “We have to talk to you about your son. Could you please come to the principal’s office?” Things like that. It would be infinitely scarier for him to come back when he’s 22 saying, “I want to find myself for a few years. Can I have $12,000 to go to Nepaul?” That’s scarier. I’d rather him deal with zombies.

AT: I was reading Justin Cronin’s new book, The Passage (vampire apocalypse!) and I was so wired with Armageddon, I couldn’t sleep.

MB: Oh yeah. I haven’t read it yet, but I liked it the first time when it was I Am Legend.

AT: Or The Stand?

MB: Or The Stand.

AT: But this one focuses on a kid, instead of a grown man.

MB: That’s funny because Romero has said he got the idea for Night Of The Living Dead from I Am Legend when he saw Last Man On Earth, the Vincent Price version.

AT: What other works have really inspired you?

MB: Everything comes from something. If there weren’t a Studs Terkel and The Good War, there wouldn’t be a World War Z. That inspired me to write World War Z much more than any zombie fiction – an oral history of World War ll. It was a book I read when I was a teenager and it never left me. I always thought, “Man, I want to write a book like that.” For me, a lot of inspiration comes from real life as opposed to other people’s fiction.

I wrote The Zombie Survival Guide as a real guidebook. Take out the zombies and it’s How To Survive A Disaster. The inspiration for The Zombie Survival Guide was growing up in Southern California in the 80s with threats of earthquake and nuclear war. Then in the 90s, we had riots, we had fires, we had floods. In LA we’re always living on the edge of disaster and the government never seems to show up.

A lot of The Zombie Survival Guide is just fact. I have a lot of fans who go crazy with the gun stuff, and they ask why I don’t like the M16, I tell them truthfully. ROTC. I trained on it. It’s a POS. I’ve had that weapon jam on me enough to know that I want something else.

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