Jay Bonasinga is a Chicago-based novelist, and indie filmmaker. His novels have been translated into nine languages. His debut novel The Black Mariah was a Bram Stoker award finalist, and his short stories have appeared in such magazines as The Writer, Amazing Stories, and Outre.
His latest project is a series of novels based on the hit AMC series The Walking Dead. Written with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, there are two novels, so far, including The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury (2012) and The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor (2011). I recently caught up with Jay by phone to talk about zombies, The Walking Dead, writing in the horror genre, and other assorted oddities.
So how did you get involved in writing The Walking Dead novels?
I'm a huge zombie fan. My agent and manager Andy Collin is in L.A. One of his best friends is David Albert who is an executive producer of The Walking Dead television series. Andy called me and said, “have you ever heard of this new TV show that's in development. It's coming out this fall. It's called The Walking Dead. They're looking for novelist." I immediately thought novelization. They were going to possibly hire me to novelize a screenplay or a script for the pilot or something and it was just going to turn it into a novel.
Well, it was much more than that. The more I learned about it, the more I wanted it. What it's become is this separate medium that is almost self-contained which is almost a epic saga that is going to span at least three books, hopefully more. It has its own cast of characters. Some of them overlap the comic, some of them overlap the TV show but they're completely original. I was asked to take [Robert Kirkman's] ten-page outline, which is pretty much the story arc information. It's just been really the greatest writing experience of my career. I've done novelizations. I've done ghost writing. I've done novelizations of scripts, and this is nothing like it. This is 1,000 times more creative and intense.
The most recent Walking Dead novel has been very up there on theNew York Times' bestseller list. Is that the first time you've been so high up on that particular list, or have you had other stuff up there?
No, that's as high as I've been.