It is my pleasure to bring this interview to you. JT Clay (Jo) is a fellow Canberran, who has written A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. I’m so envious. She published a zombie apocalypse novel and got away with it and its good too.
Here she is!
How would you describe A Single Girl’s Guide?
A zombie survivalist romp with love, humour and hippies.
Jo tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Canberra and work as a technical writer and spec-fic writer, which have more in common than you’d think. I recently signed on for the mad science experiment of creating new life. The baby is due in February, which I’m sure won’t affect my schedule at all…
I’ve been writing novels for years, but the first one published is A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. I won a couple of manuscript prizes prior to that (Hachette and Olvar Wood) and had short stories, poems and articles published. I also wrote a regular column for Canberra Cyclist until recently.
What was your path to publication?
A Single Girl’s Guide won an Olvar Wood Fellowship Award in 2010. As part of that award program, I worked with my mentor, Inga Simpson, to bring it up to scratch. I found an agent, Alex Adsett, in 2012 and a publisher, Momentum (Pan MacMillan) last year. The book came out on 1 November 2013.
How did that story evolve for you? Or was it a progression? Would you say the characters remained the same and that the story changed around them or vice versa?
Q and Hannah came together the first time I sat down to write. The others were created. One excellent suggestion from Inga was to cut down my cast. I moved from a dozen poorly drawn bit parts to a few distinct characters.
The book has a very complex set up. How did you keep track of that? (mechanics of that, spreadsheet, your head etc)
I thought the book was a simple A-B narrative!
I used Max Brooks’ zombie books, SAS survival guides and zombie chat rooms to get my outbreak and survival stuff together. The rest I made up as I went along, then went back to spreadsheet the details. My fabulous editor, Kylie Mason, was picking up continuity and logic problems a month before the text was settled, which goes to show how important good editing is.
Can you tell us a bit more about Q. I noticed she calls herself different names. Is it possible to explain that?
Q’s real name is Quentin, but no self-respecting zombie survivalist can live with a name like that. Her online handle is Quaranteen because she keeps evil at bay. Her online address is www.ninjaofnineb.com, because while she’s a terrible kindergarten teacher, she’s the best combat warrior in the Nine B classroom. Her enemies call her ‘Qwinston’ or ‘Agh! Stop beating me with my own innards!’, depending on where the conflict’s up to.
What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).
I like to write in big chunks of time. For a few years I was working 4 days a week and writing on the fifth. This last year I’ve been fifty / fifty, but I tend to work a day or a week on one project, then switch. I don’t multitask.
I’m better at plotting than I used to be, but my planning is no more than a two-page list of key events. If I map out too much, I get tied up (and not in a sexy way).
What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?
I’m in love with first drafts. It’s all those others I resent, because someone hacks my computer, steals the magic and leaves me with a steaming pile of inarticulate ramble to fix up. Bastards!
What part of writing do you find hardest?
The final drafts, when you’ve been staring at the same words for too long and your characters no longer delight you. Like being snowed in at an airport for days, watching friendships devolve into homicidal fantasies.
What do you plan to work on next? (ie do you have another book coming out).
I recently received an ACT Government Arts Grant for a time travel novel, which I hope to finish this year. I’m also working on the final drafts of a thriller, but Project Baby may delay that one until 2015.
Thank you very much Jo.
Here is a pic of the cover of A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and the blurb.
It’s the old story. Girl meets boy. Girl loses boy. Zombies attack.
Q, a trainee kindergarten teacher and martial arts expert, wants to woo beautiful vegan, Rabbit, but doesn’t know how. Her luck turns during the zombie outbreak. She teaches Rabbit and his hippie friends how to make war, not love, and does her best to save him from the living dead.
But can she defeat evil ex-girlfriend, Pious Kate? And can love survive the end of the world?