Recently, we accepted questions for Zomebiekins author Kevin Bolger. He took time out of his very busy teaching and writing schedule (even during report card time!) to answer some questions for us about teaching, writing, and the future of Zombiekins.
In what ways does being a teacher make your job as a writer easier?
I get to spend all day every day studying books with kids, and kids with books. I can’t imagine any better training for a wannabe children’s book writer.
How does it make it harder? Ever try to write a novel in your “spare” time?
Do you read instructions?
Usually not until it’s too late—just like Stanley.
Can you give us any hints about Zombiekins’s next adventure?
The stuffed animals that Zombiekins attacks in chapter 5 of the first book come back to life as zombie stuffies themselves at the three-year-old birthday party of Stanley’s little sister Rosalie. Zombie toddlers—’nuff said.
Do you find it harder to write a funny scene or a scary scene?
If I had to write one at gunpoint, I guess I would pick something scary. A lot of the funniest bits just come to you, but it can be pure agony to have to come up with something funny to fill the gaping holes between your glorious inspirations. Whereas suspense writing is just nuts-and-bolts. In Zombiekins, most of the suspenseful bits actually build up to a gag or punchline. But I am pleased whenever I hear about eight-year-olds who won’t read certain chapters unless someone else is in the room with them.
Do you ever make yourself laugh while writing?
No, mostly cry. Sure, I admit it, sometimes I’m amused by my own witticisms. But then there is just so much work, work, work involved in transforming them into a book.
From the books, it seems as if you’ve been to a few tag sales. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve bought?
Actually, I loathe garage sales (shopping of any kind, really). I live in a neighborhood that holds an annual garage sale which might be one of the world’s biggest—it covers a whole electoral district, and the ten-block-radius around its epicenter, my house, is as crowded as a mosh pit. I spend the whole weekend hiding under my bed.
Where did the idea for Zombiekins come from?
My stock answer is that as an elementary teacher for 15 years, naturally I always wanted to write a book where all the kids got turned into zombies.
Really, though, I noticed how kids were drawn to purportedly “scary” books, but most of those books were actually structured more like mysteries – kid hears a wolf howl outside his window, finds a paw print on his lawn, and spends most of the novel slowly uncovering the existence of a “monster” that only makes a cameo appearance at the book’s climax.
I wanted to write a book that was structured instead like a movie thriller, with an ever-present sense of danger and a lot of “scares” throughout. Only it had to be a spoof because that is what I write. I thought it would be funny if all the kids in a school turned into zombies but the teachers didn’t notice. Then the name “Zombiekins” occurred to me and I thought, cha-ching.
Have you always been a “fan” of zombies?
Nope. I am not really that big on horror movies at all. Call me a ’fraidy cat. I rented a couple zombie flicks as research for the book, but they were not my cup of tea and I don’t think I watched any of them right through. I am not really that big on research, either.
Do you test out material on your students? What do they think of having an author for a teacher?
Stupid me, I wrote Sir Fartsalot in secret and never shared it with my students until after I had a publication deal. Then I took some time away from the classroom to write Zombiekins. But now I am back teaching and we are “studying” Zombiekins in my grade 4/5 class. It is pretty cool for me to be able to spy over their shoulders as they read and prod them for reactions.
They were pretty interested to read my books and I suppose they think it is cool that I wrote them. But they still give me a hard time like they would any teacher.
Kevin, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with us! We hope everyone who hasn’t yet checked out Zombiekins will give it a listen and read!