Chewing Braaiiinns with… Jeannette Sirois

Today I’m joined by Jeannette Sirois, an author and illustrator of graphic novels. For those of you that haven’t run across Jeannette’s work, let’s get to know her a little bit better.

Me (1)Picture a crazy lady with cowboy boots, fake fur coat, messed red hair walking two very stubborn Dachshunds in the pouring rain.  That’s me.  I’m an artist/illustrator, teacher of art and really good with Photoshop and other things art computer related.  I’m also a lover of all things zombie (as long as it’s intelligent and great fun) and watch lots of zombie films on my computer as I work.  I live in the beautiful North West coast province of BC Canada, and work on my graphic novel stuff full-time.  I’m also an illustrator for another graphic novel about time travel, set to go to publishers in the next month or so.  I’m a strong advocate of the environment, animal rights and the good things in life.  Just want to be happy, like everyone else out there, and working on graphic novels is my passion.  You can see the stuff I’m doing at my blog www.thelivingchallenged.com.

Welcome Jeanette. So tell us, why Zombies? Is there anything specific that draws you to the genre?

I’ve been fascinated by the zombie genre for years, for me it opens up many important issues.  We are talking about the death of a human and how that human comes back to life.  The idea is priceless, it means that I can think of a huge number of ideas, mix it into the genre which deals with the zombies and BLAMO a whole new and different story each time.  Even using the original voodoo zombie stories is a great idea, zombie master controlling a horde of the walking dead.  Now that’s a story waiting to be written. You can do so much with this genre and have so much fun with it.

That’s part of the reason that I enjoy it as well. Please take a moment and share with us what you’re working on at the moment.

Currently I’m involved with two graphic novel projects.  I’m writing and illustrating a zombie graphic novel called Three Days of the Living Challenged and I’m illustrating another graphic novel with a local writer.  I’ve completed the manuscript for Three Days of the Living Challenged, and currently working on the drawings.  I post 1 or 2 pages on my blog, thelivingchallenged, every other day or so, depending on how busy my other non-zombie writing life is.  It’s a politically correct save the world kind of story.  The blog is a testing ground for the images and story.  I’m looking for people to give me feedback and/or follow the story.  Creating this novel also gives me a chance to write about the graphic novel creating process.  When I started writing and drawing graphic novels 4 years ago, I read a lot, took classes, but I couldn’t find a lot online to help guide me through the process as a newbie. So I’m sharing my experiences and my knowledge with others.  Hopefully, I can help someone along the way.

It’s great that you’re willing to give back. My series with other Zombie authors is my way of doing the same thing – if the fans that fell in love with Days with the Undead (the second book is coming out soon!) fall in love with someone else’s work, it only serves to keep the genre alive. What makes your Zombies different, if anything?

I’m very conscientious of the origin of zombies, and its history.  I’m also aware that sometimes you need to break a few rules to get a good story.  In Three Days of the Living Challenged, my zombies become conscious (well to a certain degree), and although this idea may not be new, it’s what they do with their awareness which I think is unique.  I spent time researching how this might be possible, how the frontal region of the brain can be reanimated.  I came up with a somewhat plausible scientific reason and created the story around it.  There is still a plague, there is still death and destruction, and brain eating, but something unique happens to the zombies.  I don’t want to spoil it here by giving too much away; I do want to say that the zombies in this story save the world.  I believe it is totally cool, so you’ll have to check out my blog to find out what happens. I use a bit of humor, and try to delve into subjects which plague us today; global warming, greed, hate, crimes….  Ultimately, my question is, what will it take to stop us from destroying Earth, does everyone have to die?

What an interesting premise. I’ve only started reading it and I admit I need to catch up! What are your 5 favourite Zombie books that you didn’t write?

Definitely the Zombie Survival Guide, I love Brooks’ take on the genre, and he does it in such a serious manner, a must read.  The Final Infection(book one of a series), great concept and an easy read by Charles Clemons.  The Walking Dead graphic novels, by Robert Kirkman.  I love the art work in this book and Kirkman’s take on how we interact with each other, how we treat each other and how this plays out in the story are masterfully handled.  Love it.  Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry.  The idea is great as it creates a unique scenario where the zombie plague is being used by terrorists.  That concept was a new one for me.  Finally, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a very cool book which mixes old and new.  I love how Seth Grahame-Smith was able to combine a good old classic book with a contemporary twist and added zombie theme.  My next read is World War Z, by Max Brooks, and of course Days with the Undead by Julianne Snow (Love Bites was very funny).

Thank you! I do like infuse bits of humour when I can though I can’t say you’ll much of it in Days with the Undead: Book One. What are your top 3 favourite Zombie films?

I watch a lot of zombie films, and what I’m drawn too is not the gore, but how the writer and or director uses the zombie genre to say something important, different and/or profound within the context of film history and the zombie tradition.  The film is a winner if it breaks all codes of the same genre which have come before it, has good smart writing, good directing and strong acting.  I don’t want smuck, give me something to plump my brain.

White Zombie, 1932, directed by the Halperin brothers.   A classic film and important historically because it was the first film to use the word zombie, a must see.  Night of the Living Dead by George Romero, again a classic, very important film as it broke all zombie rules used in films prior to its release in 1968.  Shaun of the Dead, directed by Edgar Wright, 2004.  A good spin on the zombie genre, with a bit of humor added for fun.  Good acting, smart, silly and a well-rounded film. A definite must see.

You absolutely need to see Pontypool if you haven’t already done so – such a great take on the genre and it’s Canadian! Do you think the popularity of The Walking Dead and its appearance in mainstream media has helped to increase the popularity of the genre, or has there always been such an interest?

The zombie genre has had a very strong following for years. With The Walking Dead coming out in pop culture TV, I’ve noticed more and more people are starting to sit up and take interest in the genre.  It’s important to create work which sees the audience as intelligent, smart viewers.  When this happens, as in The Walking Dead, you get viewers who would normally stay away from the genre.  Using the premise of the genre to talk about the human condition, about the world, about our connections to each other is a big part in why The Walking Dead does so well.  It isn’t about the blood and gore, although it is there, it’s about us.  The show is smart, well scripted and has great acting and directing, it’s a show which lends itself to following the zombie genre, but also allows the viewer to have a relationship with the characters.  The Walking Dead has raised the bar on thoughtful zombie film making, and because of this it has hooked a new audience who appreciates the effort.  Frank Darabont has done a good job developing Robert Kirkman’s ideas.  I can’t wait to see what happens each time I watch.

Pop Quiz: If the Zombie Apocalypse were to occur right now, 5 things found in the room you are currently sitting will be your weapons – what are they?

1- My mini Dachshund Kendall, she’s a real ankle biter; she’ll chop those zombies down in no time flat.  GRRRR.

2- My drawing pencil with thick replaceable leads.  I can stab those monsters in the eye, and if the lead breaks, BAM got another one right behind it.

3- My pad of drawing paper, a nasty paper cut will knock anything to the ground.

4- My hand sanitizer.  That stuff will kill anything.  One squirt and that zombie will be the walking clean and march right back to its grave.  Start slamming those coffin lids folks.

5- My 50 pound power Mac desktop computer.  You drop that thing from any 2nd floor window and it will spill brain like no tomorrow.  SPLAT, zombie be gone.

Thank you to Jeannette for taking the time to answer my questions. Please make sure that you check out Three Days of the Living Challenged – it’s fantastic and fresh!

Don’t forget to come back next week when I will be featuring an interview with Morgan Barnhart from The Zombie Response Team…

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