Hi Jeff!! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Located in Ohio where I know you spent your high school and college years (hence, not wanting to enter the cold again), I think I’ll pop down to your sunny location for a few questions about your newest release, I Have a Bad Feeling About This! I expect you to be wearing your Bram Stoker Award emcee tuxedo and be prepared with drinks. Though I do know that you recently have been busy signing books for the launch of your new book….how is it all going for you?
Jeff: Oh, my hand, my poor, poor hand! Signing the first thousand copies was fine–my fingers are heavily muscled at this point in my career–but the fans just kept coming! Two thousand! Three thousand! Twelve thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven! It’s not like I’m a cyborg! I kept asking the bookstore staff to turn fire hoses on the crowd to at least thin them out a bit, but they were all like “But we’d get the books wet!” Finally, I turned on the hose myself, blasting away thousands of people. A lot of books did get wet. I should have listened to the staff. So, anyway, to answer your question about how it’s going, my hand is kind of sore.
Erin: Can we make mock cocktails? What will we be drinking as we hang out, relax, and discuss your entry into the world of young adult readers–how did you ever talk them in to this, by the way!? You must have put on your best innocent face?
Jeff: If we’re discussing young adult fiction, I feel that I should set a good example with my choice of beverage. I shall have a glass of delicious, antioxidant-filled pomegranate juice. Mmmm-mmm. The healthy choice is the best choice, that’s what I always say! Maybe I’ll just add a splash or two of Mountain Dew in there. Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.
Erin: I have my drink in hand and I’m prepped for anything you have to say…I think. I know that you have been a successful adult horror author for many years, what made you decide to take the plunge into writing YA novels, first with A Bad Day for Voodoo, and now with I Have a Bad Feeling About This?
Jeff: About fifteen years ago I wrote a middle-grade book called Elrod McBugle on the Loose, which gave me my first experience writing for a younger audience, and also my first experience having a book published that nobody read. I’ve written elsewhere about the lengthy, twisty web of events that led to A Bad Day For Voodoo, but the short answer is: an editor at Sourcebooks asked I’d thought about writing YA. I said, sure! She said, send me some sample chapters. I said, sure! She said, send me some different sample chapters. I said, sure! She said, yep, we want to offer you a contract for this. And thus my goofy voodoo book was born.
Erin: What has been the best aspect of writing novels for young adults (though I know adults are reading them too!)? What have been any challenges you’ve found to crossing over (and I only mean in the book writing sense!)?
Jeff: For me, the best part is getting wide distribution on books with such an extreme level of silliness. A Bad Day For Voodoo is exactly the kind of book I was told NOT to write early in my career if I wanted to ever sell to a major publisher. A bit of time has elapsed since I personally was a young adult, but I haven’t found any overwhelming challenges; at least, nothing more brutal than writing a non-YA book. I’ve got a self-imposed restriction on harsh curse words and sex, so there’s the occasional moment where I think, “Y’know, a nice f-bomb would go great right here,” but my publisher would let me drop the f-bomb if I wanted, so that’s my own problem!
Erin: How awesome does it feel to have this book be compared by Kirkus Reviews to Saturday Night Live skits? Though a little more scary (with bad guys taking over the survival camp and all), these books fit your personality well as you are always so very funny and that can be a draw to a sect of the YA crowd. Do you consider your comedian qualities to be an asset to your novel writing or just something you can control and is an integral part of almost everything you do or want to do?
Jeff: I think the humor definitely an asset. It’s something I could turn off if I needed to (and in fact, my novella Kutter was a personal challenge to take a silly premise and then write the book without any actual jokes). But I like writing humor and it’s what I’m known for, so I might as well keep doing it. Books like Pressure, Dweller, Mandibles, and Stalking You Now aren’t non-stop knee-slapping hilarity, but I think the humor that’s there makes them better books.
Erin: I know you write like a fiend and have 100 ideas for every book you publish, but are you thinking about continuing with more YA novels? Will they remain mostly non-horror and more humor, or will you ever take them in another direction?
Jeff: Oh, there will definitely be more YA novels. I’m toying with the idea of doing a science fiction one, but I might have abandoned that by the time I finish writing this sentence…no, wait, I’m still on it. We’ll see what happens. Most of the ideas I pitched for my next book after A Bad Day For Voodoo were horror/comedies, and it’s pretty much unthinkable that I won’t return to that sub-genre soon.
Erin: Do you feel you’ve set any trends as far as sub-genres?
Jeff: Every once in a while I’ll read a review of somebody else’s book that says “This reminded me of a Jeff Strand novel,” but, no, I haven’t set any trends. There hasn’t been an explosion of horror/comedy novels since I came on the scene, and if there had been, it would’ve been because of somebody like Christopher Moore, not me!
Erin: Um, maybe a precedent then, or maybe you’ve stolen the genre.
Erin: After reading through your *ahem* extensive bio on your site, I was surprised to learn that you haven’t tried to be an actor. I know you have a desire for screenwriting, but do you aspire to bring your humor to the big screen? Would any of your YA books make a good movie? It worked for Diary of a Wimpy Kid….
Jeff: I’m in Herschell Gordon Lewis’ movie The Uh-Oh Show for about 15 seconds (I get killed by the Big Bad Wolf) but that’s the extent of my acting career. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Both of my YA books would, of course, make spectacular movies, and I encourage Hollywood to throw briefcases full of cash at my head. And this weekend I’m…actually, I know I’m supposed to maintain the illusion that we’re sitting across from each other, having an intimate conversation, but I’m really writing this answer in Microsoft Word, and I can see your next question, so I’m going to continue my answer there…
Erin: Besides emceeing the World Horror Convention Bram Stoker Awards for a record setting sixth year, what other big plans do you have for this year?
Jeff: I wrote the script for a short film called “Gave Up The Ghost,” which will be directed by Gregory Lamberson and is (for people reading this interview right when it’s posted) shooting this very weekend. I’ll be traveling to Buffalo to be on the set for that, so I can watch my creative vision come to life and also mop the floors and get coffee for the crew. This will be one-fourth of the anthology film Creepers, which also includes adaptations of stories by Joe Lansdale, Edgar Allan Poe, and Lafcadio Hearn.
Erin: Where can readers connect with you best? Or in other words, where can they go without being completely scared out of their pants?
Jeff: I’m on Facebook as JeffStrandAuthor. Twitter as JeffStrand. GoodReads as JeffStrand. I created a Google+ account but I never did anything with it. And, of course, readers can visit my website at http://www.jeffstrand.com.
Erin: Where should readers rush out to purchase I Have a Bad Feeling About This?
Jeff: Anywhere they like to buy books! If they like to buy books from Amazon, they can click on http://tinyurl.com/l5hoqxv.
Erin: I know you’ve done some appearances in Florida, but have you ever thought about coming back to Ohio? We’d be honored to have you!
Jeff: Every time I announce some appearances, people say, “When are you coming to _______?” and I always think, “Oh, yeah, I should jump in my car and drive around the country doing book signings!” Someday I’ll return to Ohio. Not in the winter.
Erin: I am so thrilled that you stopped by the site today to talk about your new YA novel! It’s been a lot of fun to read and it was not only my pleasure to have you here this week, but a laugh a minute. Best of luck with this novel and everything else to come! Keep laughing, but close that mouth once in awhile, you’re eating too many bugs down south!
Jeff: Bugs are nutritious and delicious. I mean, not tarantulas, obviously, and the Human Centipede movies kind of ruined the taste of centipedes for everyone, but overall, bug consumption is a healthy and fun way to live your life. There, I’ve included an educational component to this interview. You’re welcome.
Jeff Strand, Biography~
JEFF STRAND is a three-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award, and both of his YA books, A Bad Day for VooDoo and I Have a Bad Feeling About This are both Junior Library Guild Picks. Jeff lives in Tampa, Florida, and would last approximately three seconds in a true survival situation. But he’s okay with that, because he mostly just types stuff in a safe bear-free environment.
See more at http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com
I Have A Bad Feeling About This, Synopsis~
Henry Lambert would rather play video games than spend time in the great outdoors—but that doesn’t make him a wuss. Skinny nerd? Fine. But wuss is a little harsh. Sadly, his dad doesn’t agree. Which is why Henry is being shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp.
Strongwoods isn’t exactly as advertised. It looks like the victim of a zombie apocalypse, the “camp director” is a psycho drill sergeant, and Henry’s sure he saw a sign written in blood…
Wilderness Survival Tip #1
Drinking your own sweat will not save your life. Somebody might have told you that, but they were trying to find out if you’d really do it.
Wilderness Survival Tip #2
In case of an avalanche, don’t despair. You’re doomed, but that’s a wicked cool death.
Wilderness Survival Tip #3
If you’re relying on this book for actual survival tips, you’re dead already.