INTERVIEW: ZOMBIES WITH A SMILE

Forget the full-on horror – put the fun back into Halloween with children's author, Jeff Norton

 

The horror! The horror! Jeff Norton without his make-up

There’s something unusual about Adam Meltzer, the 12 year old hero of your new book Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie. Let’s not beat about the bush – he’s dead isn’t he?

Yep, he’s dead. But he’s also alive…ish.  And the “ish” that’s important. He’s the walking dead – talking too! He’s a….wait for it... zombie.

Not only is Adam dead – he's also completely neurotic

What was Adam like before he died?

He was pretty much the same but with flesh fully intact. Adam is utterly neurotic, and has what can delicately be described as early-onset OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Adam is the first to argue that when it comes to germs, it’s better to catch them early than late.

Is there an upside to life as a zombie, or is it all nasty flesh-eating rampages?

Whoa! Let’s not descend into stereotypes so quickly. Adam may be the walking dead, but that doesn’t make him hunger for your brain. I mean seriously, do you like to eat human brains now? No. So what makes you think that upon rising from the grave your first meal would be flesh, blood and brains. I think zombies are the last socially acceptable stereotype. And I think for Adam’s sake, and for the sake of all the zombies that might rise from the grave, we as a society really need to get comfortable about the dead walking among us!

 Do you think zombies get a bad press? The ones in Darren Shan and Charlie Higson’s books aren’t the kind you’d take home to meet the folks, are they? 

I think the whole zombie apocalypse thing has been stirred up by the media to sell books. When was the last time a zombie actually ate someone? Never! It just doesn’t happen. And yet, we’ve all accepted the myths that the likes of those fear-mongers Darren Shan, Charlie Higson, and Robert Kirkman push on us.

 Adam’s not just a zombie though – he’s a bit of a detective zombie too isn’t he? He’s out to solve his own murder, right?

The last thing he can remember was being stung by a bee on his twelfth birthday, and then he wakes up in claustrophobic coffin and climbs out to figure out what happened to him; and to stop it from happening to anyone else. Truthfully, Adam’s a hero. If it weren’t for him, we’d all be zombies now.

 Fortunately, Adam isn’t alone. He has some freaky monster friends too, doesn’t he?

There you go again with the stereotypes. Sure, Corina is a vegan, but that doesn’t make her a monster. Oh, she’s also a vampire too. And Ernesto may have less than perfect hygiene, but first and foremost he’s a human being with hopes, dreams, and dignity.Well, the dignity goes out the window when he morphs into a roadkill-chomping Chupacabra (think: were-lizard) but he still has dreams (like an all-you-can-eat squirrel taco buffet!).

Do you think there’s enough fun in horror stories these days? Are writers taking their horror too seriously?

There’s pure magic at the intersection of fear and humour.Think about rollercoasters and fun houses; they are all about making you scared and making you laugh. It’s such a visceral experience to tremble with fear and to laugh at the same time. In films, Kevin Williamson did it with ‘Scream’ and Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon nailed it with ‘The Cabin In The Woods.’  In books, Derek Landy is a master of this combination and we all owe a debt to R.L. Stine, who did it with ‘Goosebumps’ and I think there’s no coincidence that those books are coming out as a movie, and the books are having a renaissance.

What is your go-to costume of choice for Halloween?

I’m going zombie, all the day. Or, as Adam would say…zomtastic!

 

Jeff's costume of choice for Halloween (he's the one on the left, by the way)

  

JEFF'S TOP 3 HOT HALLOWEEN PICKS FOR KIDS

Funny and spooky, he'll have you in stitches

1 Stitch Head by Guy Bass. This is unabashed Frankenstein-inspired fun. A perfect combination of humour and pathos for all hallow’s eve. Stripes, age: 7+
Halloween humdinger from Walter de la Mare
2  The Ride-by-Nights, by Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Caroline Rubei. A very gentle Halloween book for the little ones, this matches Walter de la Mare's beautiful witchy poem with two different stories taking place in the pictures – a family trick or treating and some very sweet witches having fun in the sky above them! Faber, age: 4+
13 Chairs – unlucky for some?
3 Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton (DFB).  This is classic and classy camp fire style ghost stories…with a twist. David Fickling Books, age: 11+
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