Frank Sits Down With Chris Conduit: Author of Zombies Ate My Homework: A Jasper Trout Adventure

Frank from sits down with Chris Conduit to talk about what this author is up to these days. It is great to see both of these guys on here.

Zombies Ate My Homework: A Jasper Trout sat down with Chris Conduit of The Conduit Speaks horror podcast to talk about his new horror themed children’s book Zombies Ate My Homework: A Jasper Trout Adventure.

FS: So tell WickedChannel fans about your new book Zombies Ate My Homework.

CC: ZAMH is the first book in THE JASPER TROUT ADVENTURES series. It introduces the reader to 10 year old Jasper Trout, his strange (and mysterious) town of Beedlebop, as well as a cast of quirky and sometimes dangerous characters who will play heavily in future entries. We’ve also thrown in a zombie uprising to spice things up.

FS: What age group would you say this fits into?

CC: JASPER is written and structured to be accessible and enjoyed by children of all ages. Whether being read to by an adult or the child on their own, it’s constructed to work. Ideally, I envision 5-10 year olds throwing it in their backpacks before school to read on the bus in the morning. It’s an easy read, exciting, funny, has amazing pictures (by artist K Brandon Wilt) to pour over, and introduces kids to new words (in context) to help expand their vocabulary.

FS: I think it is a great idea to publish a book for the 5-10 age group to introduce them to horror. With the incredible popularity of the Young Adult genre though were you tempted to put a hard edge on it and make it a YA short story or novel?

CC: There was a brief, and in brief I mean very fleeting moment where it was considered. I naturally gravitate towards darker horror themes, not mild and “safe.” However, I quickly realized that the desire to go an edgier route was more about me than the true intent of JASPER. The point was and is to introduce and expose younger kids to the genre; so the grittier, YA thoughts ended pretty quickly. That being said: life is not all sunshine and lollipops no matter what your age. As the series progresses, Jasper (and the reader) will be experiencing some appropriately handled sadness. People will be hurt, there will be more scares, some characters will die. Dealing with and understanding loss and pain is something that even younger kids need to learn how to do. It’s often difficult for parents to handle these types of topics with their kids. Maybe in some small way we can help ease that process.

Zombies Ate My Homework: A Jasper Trout Adventure by Chris ConduitFS: Where did you get the idea to write a children’s book about a horror themed topic like zombies?

CC: This question has so many equally important answers.

My mom was a huge horror fan. Anne Rice, Stephen King, but especially movies. She definitely censored me early on, but once I showed the ability to really separate fiction from reality: it was on. FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I remember her taking me to see Cronenberg’s THE FLY and the second ALIEN film, I was floored and it was an incredible bonding experience:  our own little club.

Being married with a young son, a fan of the genre, and having that background: I began to think of ways to start exposing my own child to “horror” in a non-threatening way. That’s where JASPER came from. I know other parents out there facing the same dilemma:  when, how, and how much.

The plan was this: let’s take picture books, chapter books, and comics; combine the best elements of each, and design it that way. The zombies came later, after building the town’s backstory and the characters’ histories and personalities.

Initially I thought of using the “Universal-type” creatures as the antagonists in the first book. The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, maybe Dracula. Then zombies dawned on me. Even though it’s far from my favorite sub-genre (it’s been beaten to death in film) it was an excellent way to get the whole town “involved.” That way we could play on the idea of kids VS adults and not quite knowing which zombie was a mom, dad, etc. In that way, the adult as “hero or savior” was out of the question. It fell in the kids’ laps to find the courage and work together to defeat the shambling hoard.

FS: What were the challenges of self-publishing?

CC: The biggest one was and is marketing, plain and simple. Technology has given us a great ability to create. In our world anyone can publish a book, make a movie, record a song. The quality of said product varies greatly. The challenge comes after you’ve finished your product. How are we gonna expose people to it, get them excited, make them want to HAVE it.

With the tremendous growth of e-readers and the gradual extinction of book stores, the book market is a scary place. I’ve always loved turning pages, so although there is a digital version of ZAMH, the focus has been (and always will be) on keeping books in kids’ hands. But how do we get it there?  That’s the biggest hurdle we have to overcome.

Unless you’re rolling in dough it’s very much an uphill battle. But self-publishing is also freeing. You decide how to present the material, when things get released, how much to charge, and the overall journey you’ll take.

Sure, there’s FB and TWITTER, the website, friends, and family. However, JASPER’s ultimate path will be grassroots. We’ll be taking it on the road to horror conventions, comic and toy shows, schools, and local comic book shops. It’s not easy or very cost effective, but ultimately the goal (right now) is not to make money. The first and foremost goal again, is to get books (this one in particular) into homes across the country. Through that effort, word of mouth from those that have bought it, and the fact that it is a VERY good book and story: the rest will take care of itself. Book Two: THE BEAST OF BEEDLEBOP BAY is already close to finished, so as long as we never make the kiddos wait too long for each subsequent book in the series, I think we’ll be just fine.

FS: So it sounds like the readers will be introduced to other horror monsters besides zombies as the books progress.

CC: Definitely. As I said: THE BEAST OF BEEDLEBOP BAY is already close to being finished. That book’s creature is teased on the last page of ZAMH. Without giving too much away: there are people and forces at work around Jasper who are quite nasty. He’s really going to have his hands full, which is why we’ll be introducing a unique partner for him in Book 2. Her name’s Katie, she’s a couple years older and wiser than Jasper, and she has some really special “abilities” that will be coming in quite handy.

And as far as the monsters: yes, lots of different creatures. There are antagonists that remain consistently throughout Jasper’s adventures; but kids should really enjoy and look forward to the fact that they’ll be treated to a different “monster” each book as well.  Keep your eyes peeled for aliens, werewolves, mad scientists, ghosts, trolls, witches, giant bugs, mutants, time travel, who knows. The possibilities are endless in this universe we’re creating, and we already know exactly how it all ends. It’s getting there that’s going to be the fun part.

FS: Tell the WickedChannel readers where you will be appearing.

CC: Hopefully we’ll get to meet and talk to some of WickedChannel’s readers at one of our upcoming appearances:

Phoenix Comicon:  May 25-27 (Phoenix, AZ)

Monster Bash:  June 21-24

(Butler, PA)

Monster Mania:  August 17-19 (Cherry Hill, NJ)

HorrorFind:  Aug 31-Sep 2

(Gettysburg, PA)

HorrorRealm:  September 21-23 (Pittsburgh, PA)

We’re also looking to do some (as yet unconfirmed) book signings at local comic shops and get out to LA in July. Once the dates are nailed down, people will be able to view all of those details at… So keep checking in there!