Mark Henry’s Happy Hour of the Damned

The Mindbridge book group took a look at Mark Henry’s Happy Hour of the Damned. We figured Halloween and zombies were a great match.

The group was divided on Amanda’s likeability, but most of us were pretty sure that we weren’t supposed to find her a sympathetic protagonist. She sings on the level of parody, and we had a great deal of fun reading Mark’s rendition of satirical undead chick lit. Some of the science geeks wanted more zombie biology and gore. Michele thought Amanda would worry more about her undead nail issues. All of us enjoyed the footnotes, play lists, and drink recipes.

While Mark didn’t fly in from Seattle, and we’re not sure he’d trust a book group that met in a coffee shop, he took some time out to answer some of our questions.

As I read the book I noticed that it was very visual and driven by what is observed. I wonder if there has been any talk of picking this up for TV?

Actually, funny you should ask. About a month after my agent sold the series to Kensington, I get this call from Jim about some interest from Showtime and another network (that’ll go unnamed). I was shocked, really. Within a week they’d hammered out an option deal and Showtime has attached a writer. The pilot and series arc are in the works. I’m crossing my fingers that things go well with that. But you know how these things go. Still. I’d love to see Amanda, Wendy and Gil chowing down scenery.

What drove you to write a zombie centric book?

I’ve always loved zombies, since I was a kid. My mother checked out reels of Night of the Living Dead for my 5th or 6th grade birthday party and showed it on our living room wall. What an awesome present. Of course, we didn’t make any friends in the neighborhood with that one. After that my enthusiasm snowballed and I’ve seen pretty much every zombie movie you can think of. When it came to writing, though, I drew more from Douglas E. Winter’s takes on the 80s “me” authors Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerny. His shorts, Less than Zombie and Bright Lights Big Zombie, stuck with me all these years. Brilliant parodies. It seemed like chick lit was ripe for a similar take and since zombies were my thing it was a perfect fit. So I spent some time with Candace Bushnell (her books, not her–though I have an interesting story about that) and some others and found that their style was not unlike my regular voice. Just as sarcastic and snarky. So I gave it a shot.

What are your influences for the book?

I guess I answered that in the last question. I always think this is an interesting question though, because so many urban fantasy writers come at it from the fantasy side and I was never very interested in the fantasy genre. I read primarily literary fiction, memoirs and mystery. Oh…and horror. I love horror. So that’s really where a lot of this comes from. Plus. I’m so desensitized to the stuff that it doesn’t scare me, I guess that’s why my characters are like they are. Even when they do horrific things, I just shrug it off. Thank God for an agent and editor with similar sensibilities.

Where did you come up with Amanda’s personality?

Amanda’s way more like me than I’d like to admit. I write a lot and so spend a great deal of time alone. When I’m in public, I go one of two directions. Either I’ll be completely social and laugh a lot, or I’ll be irritated and isolate. Can you tell I’m a Gemini? The other parts of Amanda are really grounded in my social group who are beyond snarky and completely averse to political correctness. Thank God.

How much of you is in the characters of the book?

Damn. It’s like I’m psychic with these questions, I seem to be answering each one in the previous response. Weird. I think all writers put a little of themselves into their characters. We draw on what we know. Our internal reactions to things need to be there. The other thing is, I was a psychotherapist for 12 years. So I’ve got hundreds of clients’ experiences to draw on. I’d never choose a single one to turn into a character, but there are elements, definitely.

What are you trying to say about Starbucks, really?

Yeah. Come on. There was really no other choice as a means for a zombie outbreak. Particularly in the Northwest where, I’m not kidding when I say, there is a Starbucks or indie espresso place on every single corner. They’re everywhere. I couldn’t not incorporate that into the book. It’s quintessential Seattle. And, honestly, if I were planning to launch a plague. That’s how I’d do it.

Will we find out more about the characters’ backgrounds in future books?

Absolutely. Things definitely get amped up in the relationship between Amanda and Wendy. They’re not nearly as alike as it seemed in Happy Hour. Nor is Gil quite as pulled together. All it took was to get the three of them on a Road Trip of the Living Dead and watch the dysfunction emerge.

What role will Persephone have in future books?

It’s only Persephone in their heads. No one calls her that in public. She’s still Elizabeth Karkaroff and she’s Amanda’s new business partner, so she’ll be around, though in a limited capacity until book three, Battle of the Network Zombies.

Why did you decide to use the inserts and footnotes?
That’s an interesting question, because I can’t pinpoint the moment when the decision was made, though I expect they were made separately. The footnotes showed up on a whim, I’ve no doubt of that and they’re definitely tricky to keep up with. Lots of people have a problem with them, saying that they take them out of the story. Not much I can do about that, at this point. And I have way more people say that they like them than don’t so they’re staying. The inserts diminish a bit in the second book as it’s not so influenced by music, but there are things like signs and keychains and stuff that I loved from childhood books.

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to spend with Amanda and her ghouly gang. I hope it was fun for y’all. Make sure to swing by if I end up at a signing near you.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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