Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Disney-Hyperion Book Blast: Kate Walden Directs: Night Of The Living Zombies (Julie Mata)

By Julie Mata
A laugh-out-loud funny debut series for tweens about film, friendship, and fowl


Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication:
May 20th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9459-0
Price: $16.99
Ages 8–12

Night of the Zombie Chickens is supposed to be Kate Walden's breakout film. But her supporting actresses-her mother's prize organic hens-are high maintenance, to say the least. Thank goodness Kate's best friend Alyssa is the star. She's great at screaming and even better at killing zombies in creative ways.
But when Alyssa turns into a real-life soulless zombie and ditches Kate for the most popular girl in seventh grade, Kate suddenly finds herself both friendless and starless. Now, thanks to Alyssa's new crowd, Kate is the butt of every joke at school and consigned to the loser table at lunch.
If movies have taught Kate anything, it's that the good guy can always win-with the right script. And her fellow social outcasts may be the key to her own happy ending. Kate hatches the perfect revenge plot against her former best friend, but even though her screenplay is foolproof, Kate soon realizes that nothing-in filmmaking or in life-ever goes exactly as planned. Especially when there are diabolical hens out to get you.

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Growing up in Barrington, Illinois, Julie always loved reading and writing. She penned her first story at age six, entitled Charlotte the Horse, and was thrilled when it received a starred review from her mother. Julie was the champion four-square player during recess at Grove Avenue Elementary School, probably because she was very short and could get all those tricky low balls. She took horseback riding lessons during her middle school years and learned how to jump fences (do NOT close your eyes). And she beat her high school ceramics teachers in several hotly contested ping-pong matches.

After graduating from Oberlin College with a B.A. in English, Julie worked at a country radio station as a reporter and part-time dee-jay. Since she had never listened to country music, she didn’t know how to pronounce those funny names. (Reba, anybody?) This didn’t endear her to the listeners. Julie went back to school at Northwestern University and earned her masters degree in broadcast journalism. Finally, her big chance arrived. She landed a job pounding out copy as a TV reporter and covered everything from murder trials to pig races at the county fair. Julie also worked as a news producer and freelance writer. Along the way, she married and raised two daughters, three dogs, and ten chickens. At various times, her family also adopted turtles, snakes, fish, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, parrots, ferrets, and a gecko.

Currently, Julie co-owns a video production company with her husband in Wisconsin. She loves going to the movies, traveling, reading, writing, gardening, and having amazing adventures. Yes, that is Julie scuba diving and rappelling!
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1.      What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

My daughters were a big inspiration. They were in their tween years at the time I wrote Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens. It’s such a fun age, yet so full of drama. I wanted to portray both the fun and the fireworks! Our chickens also provided inspiration. We were living on an acreage at the time, and we had ten hens. Without them, I probably never would have written this story. Chickens are funny creatures, so they lent a lot of humor to the story.

2.      Who is your favorite character in the book?

My favorite character would have to be Kate. She’s funny yet real, which means she’s a typical tween. She has a fight with her best friend. She gets mad at her mother and quarrels with her younger brother. She worries about the Who’s Who at school. Kate makes some big mistakes, but really she’s still learning and growing and finding her way. I also love that she wants to become a Hollywood movie director one day. I think it’s important to show girls with big dreams. Kate is pursuing her dream by making a movie with her friends, and she runs into some hilarious problems along the way!

3.      Which came first, the title or the novel?

The idea for the novel came first, and the title right afterward. It was originally called Redneck Zombie Chickens because I liked the sound of it. I quickly realized that redneck was confusing and didn’t sound like the name of a movie. I think Night of the Zombie Chickens, on the other hand, immediately conjures up the idea of a horror flick. It was my agent’s idea to make it into a series. She proposed adding Kate Walden Directs, which I think works perfectly.

4.      What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

One of my favorite scenes happens in chapter twelve. After having a big fight with her best friend, Kate has to sit down and eat dinner with her family. In this scene, Kate is sullen, her brother is obnoxious, and her parents are frazzled. When our girls were preteens, my husband and I certainly endured our share of quarrels, bad moods, and sullenness at the dinner table! I suspected we weren’t the only ones, yet I rarely found these kinds of meals described in stories. I wanted to convey a real world message—that parents aren’t always at their best, and neither are children. The scene also captures Kate’s inner turmoil, which she doesn’t handle well. Finally, I love this scene because it still manages to be funny. My editor told me it made her laugh out loud, which is high praise!

5.      Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I’ve learned the importance of turning off my inner editor, especially while writing the first draft. I write fast and I don’t worry if it’s good or bad. During revision I tinker with rhythm and word choice. A mundane sentence, properly polished, can shine. And if that doesn’t work, it can always be cut! I think this looseness helps me be more creative. Most of the time I’m having fun and hopefully that comes out in my writing.

6.      What do you like most about the cover of the book?

The chickens! I love their zombie eyes. I think Vikki Sheatsley did a wonderful job with the cover design. I also love the slate. At first, some people didn’t understand the book’s concept—they thought it was about real zombie chickens running around. As soon as they saw the slate on the cover, they got it—the story is about a girl making a movie.

7.      What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2014?

There are so many, it’s difficult to pick just one. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is one I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on. It’s such a fun idea, about a girl who thinks her scientist grandfather may have discovered the secret of immortality and become a young boy again. It’s gotten great reviews and it’s definitely on my (long) list of to-read books!

8.      What was your favorite book in 2013?

Once again, it’s tough to name a single book. One of my favorites was Ghosthawk by Susan Cooper.  It’s about the friendship between two boys, a Pilgrim, and a Wampanoag—in the 17th century. I loved the historical aspect, and reading about what life would have been like for these two very different boys. Cooper does a wonderful job detailing the gritty realities of life in that era, as well as the intolerance and narrow-minded views that existed. There are some surprising twists in the way the two boys’ lives intersect, which make for a great story!

9.      What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on revisions for the second novel in the series, which is entitled, Kate Walden Directs: Slug Man from Mars. It’s due out in May 2015. In this story, Kate’s classmates can’t wait to be in her next movie…until a know-it-all new boy shows up, who also likes to make films. Kate hopes to impress him with her vast movie-making knowledge. Instead, they become rivals. But can Kate’s slime-spewing sci-fi flick beat the new boy’s gritty crime drama? The film wars are on!

10.  Is there anything that you would like to add?

One of my hopes is that my book inspires kids to make their own movies with friends. I even created an Instagram account—KateWaldenDirects—where kids can find fun, 15-second filmmaking tips, like how to use their skateboard as a camera dolly, or how to make a jib arm from a paint roller. The nice thing about making movies is that it’s fun, it’s creative, and it doesn’t involve TV, video games or social media!

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Media Contact:
Jamie Baker, Disney Publishing Worldwide
818-544-0395 (o); 818-281-0199 (m)


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