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Monday, June 28, 2010

INTERVIEW: Adam Selzer

Adam (left) with Hulk Hogan. They were guests on the same radio show in October, 2009

Aurora is pleased to welcome Adam Selzer, whose latest work I Kissed a Zombie and Liked It has recently been optioned for a Disney Channel Original Movie. Adam explained that the option doesn't mean a movie will definitely be made, however Disney has bought the rights to make one if they want. Either way, it's an exciting bit of news.

I asked him to tell us a little bit about I Kissed a Zombie and Liked It.

"It was my attempt to satirize paranormal romance, a genre that was certainly ripe for it," he told me. "All of my books are really satire at heart. In the world of this book, vampires had to admit to the world that they existed when they found out that Megamart was raising the dead to work as zombie slave labor. That was about three years before the book, so by now the 'omigod vampires and zombies are real' scandal is over and life is back to normal, for the most part, except that douchebag vampires who mope around acting all emo are the most popular guys in high school and the goth look has taken over as the style of the day.

"All the girls love them, except for Alley, a snarky girl who thinks dead guys have no reason to live. But then she finds out the goth guy she's crushing on isn't just pale and sickly as part of his goth look, he's just been dead for three years. After that, she has a whole bunch of new issues to deal with, like how much of herself and her plans she should sacrifice for a first love. I think a lot of YA (well, really a lot of romance, going back hundreds of years) ignores those sort of issues.

"As a satirist, my job is to jump on the bandwagon and stick a Garfield doll in the window, but I still have to be able to drive the wagon. So it's a satire, but it's also my attempt to write the most realistic paranormal romance that I possibly could."

He has another book set in the same world as I Kissed a Zombie and Liked It that will be coming out next year. The tentative title is Fairy Godmother and the heroine of the book tells us a little bit about it:

You probably all know me from the book Emily's Fairy Godmother by Eileen Codlin. But Eileen Codlin can go sit n a closet and suck moldy toenails. She didn't get ONE THING right. I'm no ditz who was desperate to go to the prom with a vampire, and my fairy godmother wasn't the least bit beautiful, and I'm not a princess (and I can't make you one, so kindly get off my lawn). Then, I talked to Alley Rhodes, this girl from my school who had a book, I KISSED A ZOMBIE AND I LIKED IT, written about her. She said that when she told her story to Adam Selzer, he made the Smart Aleck Staff wait on her hand and foot for a whole week and didn't change a thing (except for leaving out some scene in Doug the Zombie's car). So, well, long story short, the Smart Aleck Staff ROCKS (even the interns!), and Adam's new book will be out next year! Take that, Codlin!

I asked him how much of his books is based on his own life and he told me, "As little as humanly possible."

He tries to write book that he would have liked as a teenager, and he usually has a few things in common with his characters. He thinks it's more fun to write characters who aren't much like him.

He also thinks it's fun to make playlists of songs he thinks the main character would like, songs that have the right vibe for the book and songs that he's just into. As a matter of fact, he literally wrote a bunch of songs to go along with it, got them recorded, and put an album up for download here.

"What challenges do you think the youth of today face that you didn’t?" I wondered.

"Honestly, nothing. The big issues facing teenagers are disillusion, alienation, loneliness, and all that stuff. That hasn't changed in decades. They can't game the system all the ways that I did ten years ago, but there are always new ways to do it. The internet changes way the social structures work, but it doesn't really change the basic rules of the game.

"Most of the differences are in economics, I guess. Teenagers today pay a lot more for gas than I did, but I don't think they're paying $18 for a CD very often, and I can't imagine they need to spend as much on blank tapes as I did.

"Anyway, bottom line is that being a teenager was a pain in the ass in the 90s, and it's a pain in the ass now."

Not only has the internet changed the way social structures work, Adam thinks it's also changed reading.

"There were tons of books that I wanted to read but couldn't find anywhere when I was a kid, and now I can find a place selling them used with no trouble at all," he explained. "And when I was getting started, I never once sent a paper query anywhere. I did it all online. One of these days something will come along that will do to ebooks what Pickwick Papers did to serials. You'll know it when you see it. I don't think ebooks will take over books the way digital downloads took over music, but the publishing industry is always changing, anyway."

Some of the best pieces of advice when it comes to writing are "All writing is mystery writing" and "It's easier to fix bad writing than a blank page." His favorite advice, though, is to ignore "how to write" books.

"You can learn everything you could possibly want to know about writing by reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews," he said. "Seriously. One book no writer should be without is I Hated, Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie by Roger Ebert."

Adam Selzer is the author of I KISSED A ZOMBIE AND I LIKED IT, THE SMART ALECK'S GUIDE TO AMERICAN HISTORY, and seven other books. He lives in Chicago, where he spent several years making a living in the ghost hunting industry. He enjoys eavesdropping on people on the train, picking arguments with libertarians, and cooking.

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