Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life by Jen Naumann: Interview, Excerpt

Seventeen-year-old Emma Ferdig has spent her entire life stuck in an itty-bitty town that is basically smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. She’s not bored because there are always the same mundane things to do with her best friend Finn every single weekend, but bored as in there is literally nothing for a teenage girl to do that doesn't involve farm animals and the threat of law enforcement.

But now she would do pretty much anything to go back to that boring life.

Emma's life is turned upside down after a night of senior pranks by the discovery of a real, live (better make that dead) zombie in her own backyard. In a breakneck journey across the rural Midwest, Emma will recruit a minivan full of teenage misfits while trying to survive, and uncover the secrets behind this zombie invasion. She’ll discover the true identity of Finn’s mother, the dark conspiracy that has infiltrated the U.S. Army, and maybe even realize the person she has been waiting to save her was right by her side the whole time.

As it turns out, life in a boring little town hadn’t been such a bad thing, after all.

I stop to clutch my sides when the runner’s death cramps kick into high gear. My chest tightens to the point where I wonder if it is possible to have a heart attack when I haven’t even been asked to the senior prom yet. Back in junior high, there was a time when I wanted to get a guy’s attention and went out for cross country. The coach had to call an ambulance when I declared myself unable to walk at the very first practice, but it turned out I was only having charley horse cramps in my legs. That was when I first realized I have a natural aversion to anything fitness related.
“Emma?” Upon hearing my name I look up and find Finn leaning out a second story window of his house. He gives me his best WTF look. “What are you doing?”
“Crazy…woman…at…my…house!” I yell up at him between bouts of pain shooting through my lungs. My voice is high and squeaky, like a dog’s chew toy. I clear my throat and try again. “There is a freaking zombie at my house!”
Finn shakes his head and sighs. “What? Hold on a sec—I’m coming down.”
Before I can protest, he disappears from the window. In the few seconds it takes before he joins me, I debate whether or not to continue running until I reach the Mexican border. But who am I kidding? I probably can’t make it another block as much as my sides are killing me. Quite possibly I will die from the pain alone at this point.
In general, I am not exactly what you would call an athletic person. My idea of exercise is going down to the mailbox by our short driveway. Frankly, I don’t see the point in it—every time you eat something you take another step backward anyway.
When Finn appears in the doorway, I dart into his mediocre-sized arms for an embrace. While holding him, I decide his arms maybe aren’t so much mediocre, but they are definitely un-muscular. Regardless, I squeeze him with all of my strength and savor the smell I know to be Finn mixed with trendy cologne. I let my face rest against his super soft Darth Vader t-shirt for a minute before pulling back.
I take the opportunity to really assess my old friend up close. His nose and cheekbones are both smooth and his silky skin is always the most gorgeous shade of tanned brown no matter the time of year, making his dark brown eyes suck you in even more than they already do on their own. His shaggy brown hair is tousled messily around his face to make him appear disheveled, but I know for a fact it takes a ton of hair products to achieve this look. He spends more money on that stuff than I do on my own mop of curls. My hair has a mind of its own and more often than not I just throw it into some kind of sloppy bun. Other girls spend all morning straightening their hair, curling it, or whatever, but that just seems like too much work.
As I study Finns’ face, I can’t believe I haven’t spent all this time actively pursuing him. He’s actually pretty hot, aside from his occasional dorky demeanor.
A dramatic sigh shoots out of me, making my friend appear baffled by my extreme behavior. “I’m so glad you’re home, Finn. You don’t even know.”
By the look he gives me I know he is somewhat amused by whatever explanation I may have. “What is going on? What were you saying before about a zombie?” All it takes is his adorably crooked smile for me to instantly question myself. I never really used to care what he thought of me when we were younger, but in the past couple of months I have started to develop a pathetic crush on my old buddy. Now pretty much everything I say is focused on whether or not he will think I sound like an idiot. About eighty-six percent of the time, he probably does.
I let out a nervous bubble of laughter. “Not exactly a zombie, zombie. I’m not really sure. You know I totally flunked biology last semester.” This is not one of my prouder moments as I fumble in front of him. Maybe the woman’s lack of communication skills rubbed off on me a little.
My friend grips me by my arms in more of a mocking gesture than anything. “Emma, why is your face so red? Wait—have you been running?”
I purposely scrunch my face, knowing he hates it when I do that. He recently told me to knock it off and said the senior guys rated me second most attractive female in our class, but mentioned they could never take me seriously. I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that I would rather spend my nights hanging out with the guys playing video games than going to slumber parties to make out with pillows—or whatever they do at those things. I haven’t been invited to an overnight girl party since the seventh grade when I drew a Hitler mustache on the hostess. Apparently some markers are a bit more permanent than others and people can get pretty uptight about their dance recitals.
“Finn, you say it like I am not capable of running.” Okay, so maybe I’m not totally capable. Not really, anyway. Athleticism doesn’t run in my family—my parents are also more the type that tire just by listening to others talk about their exercise regimen.
“The only time I’ve ever seen you run is for gym class. You wouldn’t be running unless something was actually chasing you.” He chuckles at his own joke, making me even more furious with him.
I glance back in the direction of my house to find the road still remains clear of disfigured corpses. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t know what it was, exactly, but there was this thing wearing women’s clothes…albeit really tacky women’s clothes…but that’s not the point. Its skin was all funky and it didn’t have very many teeth—or fingers. And it had this ginormous hole in its head. But it was still walking—not necessarily talking though. But it came after me so I hit it with the ax handle. When it came back again I just ran.”
He rolls his eyes to the top of his head while thrusting his head back and forth like he is trying to shake out what I have just told him. “Em, you get crazy like this every time we have a movie marathon. I’m beginning to think they’re a bad idea.”
“I’m not kidding, Finn. This is totally serious. We have to call like the police or the Red Cross or something. Whatever it was, it was not right.”
My friend looks closely at me for a moment to decide if I am totally pulling his leg or not. When his insidious little smile drops, I know he is finally coming to his senses. “You’re being totally serious right now?”
We have been best friends since like the third grade and he is supposed to believe everything I tell him. Well maybe not everything. I had told him Harry Potter turned evil in the last movie and killed all his friends, but only because he bailed on our plans to see the premiere together. If he had read the books like I told him to, he wouldn’t have fallen for it. I considered it a schooling in good literature.
I swear I try to resist the urge to smack him on the forehead, but sometimes I just can’t help myself—my hands can have a mind of their own.
Ouch!” he yells, grabbing my arm and holding it away from him. “Okay! I get it. You don’t have to get all violent on me. We’ll call the police.”
“Thank you.”
I have almost completely stopped quivering from my encounter with the backwoods woman. Finn always has this way of calming me, probably because he knows me better than anyone else on the planet. With heavy relief, I follow him down the path back to his house. But we stop short when a low shriek comes from not too far off in the distance. The sound makes the fuzzy hairs on the back of my neck stand erect.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Laurie! I love learning more about my favorite authors and their personal lives, so hope people enjoy this interview!

Tell us about your current release.

I am a HUGE fan of zombie movies—Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland being my favorite. I am also hooked on The Walking Dead TV series. After I recently read a book in which a teenage girl expertly killed off undead corpses off with a gun—even doing some stunts as she did so—I got to thinking: if this were to happen to me, I would be so dead. I wouldn’t have any idea how to work a gun, and I am the complete opposite of athletic. In The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life, Emma is basically how I think the teenage me would have reacted to such an event. Emma may sometimes come off as being an idiot, but she is basically using humor to keep herself from going insane.

Tell us about your next release.

This fall I will be releasing my third novel, Shymers. A friend once asked me, “Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how long you have left on this earth?” I thought about her question for many days, and decided in the end that I would rather not know. I am more of a “live like you’re dying” type of person by nature. Shymers is a dystopian story in which the government is able to predict a person’s date of death. Because of this, people with shorter life spans are discriminated against—as in, “Why spend time/money on someone who isn’t going to be around much longer?” My main character was raised in the wild by parents who didn’t believe in that way of life, and she is appalled by the way government treats these people with short life spans, also known as “shymers.” On her journey, she falls in love with a shymer and discovers a whole string of secrets her family had been keeping from her.

Who is your favorite author?

It was Stephen King from the sixth grade up until J. K. Rowling came along. I am utterly floored by how she was able to create an entirely different world and make you experience all the emotions: from tears of joy, to complete fear and anger, and also tears of sadness. Her books take you through an emotional journey that is just so epic and unlike anything I have experienced before. Fortunately, my kids share my passion—we have been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and our dog is named Bellatrix. I am probably one of those people who could have used some therapy when the books and movies ended. I have yet to find a series of books that have the same kind of effect on me.
Does your significant other read your stuff?

Funny story—my husband has never been much of a reader. He likes his farm magazines, but I don’t think he even reads those from front to back. After my first book, he made the comment that he would read my books if they were about tractors. So in The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life, I added a scene with combine harvesters just for his benefit. But he still hasn’t read it, and I’m okay with that. He may be scared to go to bed with me at night if he ever actually does.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, other kids would be outside playing while I was inside writing books (all of which I still have and are pretty painful to read). It took me many years to actually have the courage to let others read my work. I still have a hard time accepting compliments on my books and think people are just being polite when they say they love it.

What are you passionate about these days?

Music, although I have always been really into it. When I turned 16, I went to my first concert and have probably attended 30 more since then. But I think the older I get, the more music influences me. Each of my books has a theme song that I listen to (sometimes even on repeat) while writing. I am playing some kind of music—usually Jack Johnson, Beastie Boys or Foo Fighters—nearly every minute of the day. Listening to music just makes me really happy.

How do you react to a bad review of your book?

Bad reviews are really hard to swallow—it feels like someone is telling you that your child is ugly or dumb. When you write a story, you become completely immersed in this other world, and the characters become like family to you. If I see a bad review, I get depressed for long periods of time and want to quit. I am trying to learn how to push the bad ones aside and remind myself that not everyone has the same taste—whether in music, movies or books. To cheer myself up, I usually look at the bad reviews of Harry Potter. Not only do I get a good laugh, but I am reminded of just how different people are. If we all liked the very same things, life would be super boring, right?

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

I learned that I have this romantic bone in me that I just can’t seem to bury, no matter how hard I try. I am generally not a big fan of romantic movies and books. I am much more into comedy and action. But every single time I sit down to write a story, a romantic sub-plot always manages to sneak its way in. Even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Emma finds time to act on her long-time crush in The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life. If it were to happen to someone else, Emma would probably turn to them and say, “You’re an idiot.”

Jen Naumann has lived in southern Minnesota all her life. She currently lives on a farm with her husband Brian, daughter Sammy, and son Owen. She has two grown step-daughters (Lindsey and Jamie) who have made her a grandmother of three gorgeous little girls at a freakishly young age, and mother-in-law to two handsome men close to her own age, but she loves every minute of it. Her favorite free time is spent at the family lake cabin, catching the newest movie release or rocking out at concerts to her favorite bands.

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Enter to win your choice of a Print or Digital copy of
The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life.
Print option is valid for US shipping addresses only.
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
Follow the author on Twitter for another bonus entry.
Giveaway ends August 25th 11:59 PM CDT.


PuttPutt1198Eve said...

Love those zombies! The book sounds like it's right up my alley!

Lizzy said...

Okay, is it wrong that I'm in love with the idea for the author's second book?

I love the concept of knowing when death will arrive...and that the government would use that against people.

Wendy said...

I'm totally intrigued after reading the excerpt!!

Daniel M said...

love the zombie genre, great title! - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

M. Thayer-Berlyn said...

I'm not a zombie fan, but this story actually sounds like something I'd like to read, so that is saying a lot for me. I very much liked the interview.

All the best!


ronnkelly3 said...

I love Zombie movies and stories..

Lori said...

May learn how to handle Zombies in case they ever show up around here! Have noticed myself how appreciation of a good Zombie story can creep up on you. Sounds like a fun read!

Autumn said...

Oh I love to read zombie books, you learn a little bit more on how to survive by not doing what others do lol.

My husband doesn't read much either I think the last book he picked up was The Hunger games, before that nothing.
The interview was a great read. Thank you for the giveaway.

Merry said...

This looks like an amazing read!! I would love to win a copy!!
Thanks so much for the chance!
Lisa Hackney

Andrew said...

This sounds like such a fun story! (weird I know!). Anyway, the concept is brilliant and I love the title. It's been on my TBR list for some time.

Kristin@BloodSweatandBooks said...

I've actually had this book on my Zombie Wishlist for awhile so I am super excited about the giveaway!

I really wonder about that combine scene sounds like it will be bloody disgusting which=awesome.

M.A.D. said...

LOL That title alone makes the book worth reading, but I love zombie stories and this one sounds terrific!! :)

Thank you for the giveaway <3
Mary DeBorde M.A.D.

Goldenmane said...

Sounds like an entertaining read.

LesleyfromWI said...

Love zombie books...thanks for the chance to win!

thescreamingmeme said...

this book sounds awesome XD

Amanda Engelkes said...

This books sounds epically awesome! Just from the small section we got to read I want more. :)

Karen Arrowood said...

You can't have too many zombie books. I think this one would be a fun read.

daveshir2005 said...

Awesome contest! Thanks


/\Heather/\ said...

Love the cover photo. Hilarious!

Victor said...

any1 wanna help me find a good zombie book based on games like on this website?