FIND THIS ZOMBIE AUTHOR ON:
Today’s guest is a bonafide zombie expert, so much so that “Zombie” is his middle name. Joseph “Zombie” Zuko is the author of The Infected Series, as well as the owner of Zombie Camp 17, a zombie themed T-shirt comedy.
To round it all off, he brings his wit and wisdom to the masses with his podcast, Shotgun and Scotch. In his spare time, he studies Krav Maga and works on his fitness to remain in peak zombie fighting condition so as to be prepared to take on the undead hordes at a moment’s notice.
Joe, thanks for taking my call.
Q. I hate to admit it, but I’m out of shape. I’m trapped in a zombie infested mall and just had to drag my friend across a store. Now I’m out of breath and I’m wishing I’d hit the gym more. I noticed on your blog, you talk about Krava Maga and getting “Apocalypse Fit.” It’s too late for me, but do you have any words that could inspire my 3.5 readers to get off their butts, head to the gym, and prepare themselves should a zombie outbreak occur?
A. “Zombieland” said it best. Cardio! Cardio! Cardio! If you can bench 350 pounds that’s cool, but how long can you run for? Can you run a mile in under ten minutes? Can you run with a backpack on and for how long before you have to sit down, rest and get eaten by a quick moving dead head? Can you do one pull up? If you’re hanging from a ledge over a zombie horde can you pull yourself up to safety?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions then that’s got to be your motivator. Do you want to live or die? I enjoy feeling strong and healthy. I love knowing I can do twenty pull ups at a time, run a mile in under seven minutes and kick the shit out of most zombies you would come across on the street.
Start simple. Run a mile. Then do it a little faster the next time. Do as many pull ups as you can. If it’s only one then do one and then shoot for more. I also recommend signing up for mud runs, like the Spartan race. That will let you know just how fit you are and what you need to work on. I’ve done two and plan to do one next year and the goal is to get faster and faster. I like to train with a weighted vest on. It adds forty pounds to my body and shows you how long you could run with a backpack on.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: I made my own personal forty pound weighted vest out of Doritos and cheesecake!
Q. How did you end up with “Zombie” as a middle name? I feel like there’s a story there. Did your parents really want you to become a zombie fighter?
A. My folks rolled their eyes when I said that I was going to put that on my books. People love to ask me about zombies all the time. In my group of friends, family and coworkers I am the zombie aficionado. I haven’t seen or read everything out there, but I know more than most and have loved them my whole adult life.
The true story about the name “Zombie” is a little silly. I was driving to work thinking about my first book and worried people wouldn’t know that it was a zombie book without the word zombie on the cover and then it hit me. Give yourself a made up nick name. “Throw the name zombie on there,” I told myself.
What a creepy, weirdo, silly thing to do, right? I had looked over a ton of other author’s book covers and no one had done anything like that as far as I could tell. So I thought it might stick out when a zombie reader is scanning the cover art of what’s out there on the market. I could also be alienating a ton of people with my crazy, made up nickname, but what are you going to do? Screw them if they can’t take a joke.
Q. The Infected series begins with Jim Blackmore, an average, regular guy, who finds himself at ground zero of a zombie apocalypse and has to fight his way home to his family. Jim isn’t some totally buff bodybuilder or a superhero with special powers or anything. For readers, he’s pretty relatable isn’t he?
A. When I got started I read a handful of other authors’ works and noticed that there was a trend to focus the story around an ex-military bad ass with tons of guns and fighting experience. Well, I don’t know a ton about guns and I was never in the military so I didn’t want to talk out of my ass when I wrote Jim’s First Day.
I decided to keep it simple and did another weirdo thing and made Jim based on myself. His whole family, job and life experiences are all based on mine. I’d like to think that I’m a relatable husband and father. People have really seemed to respond to that aspect of the books. I really tried to write it from my heart. I love zombies because they scare me so badly and I wanted to share this fear of mine with as many people as I possibly can.
Q. In Book Two, the story continues from the perspective of Jim’s wife, Karen, who’s at home and has to protect her children from becoming zombie chow. That’s a unique idea, to tell a story from two different perspectives. What motivated you to do that?
A. Karen’s character is based on my wonderful loving wife and she told me that I better give Karen as good of a book as I did for Jim. At first it was only going to be a few chapters about Karen and the children having to deal with the start of a zombie apocalypse. Then the story would kick back up again with Jim and his crew. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of watching this nightmare unfold through her eyes. She doesn’t have fighting skills or military training and she has to take care of two small children. That’s a terrifying idea and I tried to imagine what would my wife do. It was a very fun book to write and so far the feedback has been amazing. I actually think that the second book is a better story with better characters than the first one. I had worked out what my style was and just let it rip.
Q. Surely you realize Mrs. Zombie Zuko is a saint. I’m doing a mental inventory of all my ex-girlfriends (it’s not that long a list) and I’m pretty sure all of them would have commanded me to “drop the zombie crap” by now.
A. She is a saint and an angel. I met Mrs. Zombie Zuko when I was eighteen. She has been there from the very beginning. We fell in love and bonded over the movie Scream. We were just out of high school when Scream came out on video and we were both obsessed with it. So our relationship started out with us loving horror. We love zombie movies, TV shows and video games and are both looking forward this season of The Walking Dead.
Writing the books was really her idea. We found out about self publishing on Amazon and she told me she thought I could do it, even though I had never written anything with the kind of length a novel would require. She believed in me and cheered me on like I was her local sports team.
I still bounce all of my ideas off of her before I get them down in the computer. She is my zombie muse and it would have been impossible to finish the first book without her pushing me to get it done.
I am very lucky and blessed man to have her in my life. There would be no Joseph “Zombie” Zuko without Katie Zuko.
Q. You go above and beyond when it comes to entertaining your fans. Your site has a photo of you posing with a nasty looking zombie killing weapon and you’ve put out fun videos promoting your books. Do your readers get a kick out of it?
ZUKO’S DAUGHTER: I see a zombie!
ZUKO: No, that’s just a picture of dad in the morning.
A. I think they get that I’m only trying to entertain them and I’m not taking myself too seriously. I enjoy making the videos and want to get across what kind of guy I am. We are here to have fun, right? I would love to make more videos and get to interact with the fans more, but I’m neck deep in the third installment of The Infected: Nightfall. It comes out on Amazon October, 11th 2015. Same night as The Walking Dead premiere of season six.
That saw I’m holding was built for me by my cousin and it is a brutal as it looks. It’s on the cover art for Book 3.
Q. In your first book, you provide a note that your zombie obsession began as a teenager when you first played Resident Evil 2. Admittedly, I lost a lot of my youth to that franchise as well. What is it about that game that inspired a generation of zombie enthusiasts?
A. I had never seen anything like it before. It blew my freaking mind. It was like playing with an interactive movie. The sound design. The graphics. The great zombie scares. Every aspect of it had me hooked. I had never played a game that told that level of story before. You’re a cop that just got to town and you’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on and oh yeah try and survive the night from hell. It was amazing and thrilling. I was the perfect age for it and the movies that followed. I have since become addicted to Left for Dead One and Two and most recently the State of Decay game on Xbox. Plus Sony’s Last of Us was not a typical zombie story but has the same level of WOW that Resident Evil 2 had.
Q. You’re trained in Krav Maga. If one of these zombie jerkfaces makes a move on me, what’s the best move you recommend to take him down?
A. Krav Maga teaches you how to escape a human’s grip, so it focuses a lot on groin strikes and hits to the nose. These moves will have no effect on the dead jerkface so if you are unarmed and zack is coming right for you…kick at its knee. Cripple its zombie ass. One well placed knee strike could send the creep to its belly and then you stomp its brains in or better yet RUN! I always recommend for you to run first and fight second. You don’t want to end up in a zombie’s digestive track.
Q. Joe, thanks for being my Day 8 Zombie Apocalypse advisor. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that could help my friends and I survive the East Randomtown Zombie Outbreak?
A. That’s a great question. Read as many zombie books as you possible can. Especially mine. That’s rule number one. They are excellent field guides in how shit can go wrong fast. Each one will give you advice on how to survive and show you the pitfalls that can happen in a zombie outbreak.
Keep your head and keep moving. You stay in a building for too long and you might find yourself surrounded by blood thirsty, meat hungry biters. Learn a martial art. Something that focuses on escaping holds. Run Spartan style races to see how well you can get over an eight-foot wall. Carry knives on you at all time. I always have my Swiss Army knife in one pocket and Gerber lock-blade in the other. You might need to make something, fix something or kill something at a moment’s notice. You don’t want to be armed with a butter knife.
I also recommend keeping a handful of weapons and tools in the trunk of your car. A crowbar, axe, hammer, a few machetes and if you can swing it, a crossbow with a grip of spare bolts to fire. It would cost less then two hundred dollars and increase your chances of survival a hundred fold.
Thank you for the call, Bookshelf Q. Battler. This was awesome and I appreciate being selected for this month of horror. Fall is my favorite time of the year. It gets cold and creepy out and Halloween is the absolute best holiday in my opinion.
Would you agree that it’s an amazing time in the history of zombie entertainment? Books, movies, TV shows and video games all seem to be peaking and it’s only going to get better. Zombies are a simple concept, guy comes back from the dead, feeds on his neighbor and so on and so on, but in that simplicity lies the brilliance of it all.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s a real, zombie renaissance, ZZ. Thanks for stopping by.
3.5 readers, don’t forget, Zombie Zuko’s third book comes out this Sunday!