March 29, 2011

Behind the Book: Sequels and prequels, or, dreams do come true

Behind the Book by
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John Harrington wanted to be a fireman, as I recall. Jodi Amlingmeyer wanted to be a teacher. I think Jason Ault wanted to be President of the United States.

And me? I got up in front of my fifth-grade class and said this: “When I grow up, I want to write a prequel to a best-selling book about English girls who kill zombies with kung-fu.” And now, thanks to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, my childhood dream has come true at last! Sorry, Jason—it doesn’t work out for all of us. Of course, I might be misremembering things a bit. Maybe I wasn’t quite so specific about the kinds of books I wanted to write. But I wanted to be a writer, I know that. And I wanted my books to be funny. You know, like Archie’s Pal Jughead. That thing is a scream! (Or so I thought at the time.)

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure now I didn’t mention the English girls. Or the zombies. Or the kung-fu. Because you know what? Not only could I not have predicted Dawn of the Dreadfuls when I was a kid, I couldn’t have predicted it 18 months ago. No one could have. It was about 18 months ago, coincidentally, that I first heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. A publisher, I read somewhere or other, was taking Jane Austen’s classic comedy of manners and inserting zombie hordes and chop-socky ultraviolence. I remember laughing when I read the title. (This memory is a lot more reliable than my one about fifth grade, by the way.) And I’m sure I said to myself what I always say when I run across a brilliant idea: “Why didn’t you think of that, Hockensmith?” 

And it was indeed a brilliant idea—brilliant enough to turn Pride and Prejudice and Zombies into a worldwide smash. It hit the New York Times bestseller list. A film was in the works. Foreign rights were sold to every market but Atlantis and Middle-earth. And I said to myself again (albeit kicking myself now), “Why didn’t you think of that, you putz?” 

What I had thought of was the “Holmes on the Range” series—mysteries starring cowboy brothers who solve crimes using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. I loved writing these books, but they had not hit the New York Times bestseller list, a film was not in the works, and the foreign rights remained available not only in Atlantis and Middle-earth but more or less everywhere else on the planet. So imagine my surprise and delight when someone called me up and said, “Remember that great idea with the zombies and the martial arts and Jane Austen? Wanna have it?” 

Of course, the conversation was a little more complicated than that. That was the gist eventually, though. Quirk Books, the outfit behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was looking for someone to write a sequel, something 100 percent original with no recycled Austen text, and they thought I was the guy to do it.

Did you catch that, sharp-eyed readers? I said “sequel” there, not “prequel.” Originally, the idea was to do a follow-up to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. What happens after Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy become the most dynamic ghoul-dispatching duo in Regency England?  

But then we had another brilliant idea—and how fabulous that I didn’t have to kick myself for not being a part of it, this time!  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies raised so many intriguing questions. How did Jane Austen’s demure Lizzy and Jane Bennet come to be warriors so fierce they make Xena seem about as deadly as Smurfette? Why is their once-bucolic Hertfordshire overrun with reanimated corpses hungering for the flesh of the living? Why was the grand Netherfield estate abandoned, thus paving the way for a new owner, Charles Bingley (Jane’s future husband), and his brooding friend Darcy? 

The sequel could wait. We had to explore what happened before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

And so it was that I grew up to write a prequel to a best-selling book about English girls who kill zombies with kung-fu. Maybe I didn’t know way back when that it would be my dream come true, but you know what? It has been. 

Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range was a finalist for the 2007 Edgar, Shamus and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel. Three sequels have been published since then, and another is on the way. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is Steve’s first book about the living dead and the lovely young ladies who slaughter them. You can read more about Steve and his books on his website.

Trailer for Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Dawn of the Dreadfuls
By Steve Hockensmith

ISBN 9781594744549

Steve Hockensmith

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Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Dawn of the Dreadfuls

By Steve Hockensmith
ISBN 9781594744549

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