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A Movie-Zombie Shares Her Experience

If you watch Walking Dead or Zombie Nation, it’s likely you fantasize about being one of the zombies on screen. I know I do. Recently, I met someone who was a zombie cast member in George A. Romero’s iconic film Dawn of the Dead.
I asked her about her experience in this short interview.

1. Could you share a picture of yourself as a zombie?
I don’t have a picture of myself as a zombie, although friends have claimed to see me in the parking lot seen.  I am occasionally wearing red mittens, as it was really, really cold.  While the film was set in summer we were filming in early November before the Monroeville Mall opened for business.

2. What did you have to do as a zombie? What were your scene directions?
I attacked a truck, other parts were left on the cutting room floor.  Our directions were, “Okay people…Zombie around!”

3. To look like one of the un-dead must have taken a while. How long were you in makeup? What did they do to give you that just-died charm?
Make up took about an hour for the extras.  They painted blood on us, put on a lot of scar tissue, makeup under the eyes, that brought out the hollows, and then made us watch Night of the Living Dead to get into character.  They fed us well, and we were able to take food back to school with us.  It was a long drive, so we appreciated it.

4. What was your favorite part of being a zombie?
It never got on screen.  If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice there is a road at the back.  It was about 9 degrees out here, and we had the whole scene set up, when a woman in pink curlers, a pink coat walking a pink poodle came toddling down the road and stood there.  She was right in the shot, and even though the assistant director asked her to leave, she obviously didn’t hear her.  Almost as one, we turned, zombie makeup in full view, and ran towards her and the poodle, screaming “get out of the shot, get out of the shot.”  The poor dog jumped in her arms and she ran off, terrified of 30 irate zombies chasing her.

5. Did you meet anyone famous while you were working on the movie?
Tom Savini, the great makeup artist for the film.

6. If readers watched Dawn of the Dead, would they see you? Please describe in detail exactly where we could look for you?
I am apparently quite visible in the parking lot scene, where I have red mittens either on my hands or in my back pocket.

Paola sent me this picture of the zombies in the Monroeville Mall parking lot. If you want to find her, look for the red mittens.

7. Can you describe your experience? How long was it? How many days or weeks?
We went there for about 3 weekends, got to set at about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, and Sunday, while the mall was closed.

8.  What was a typical day on set?
We got to the mall very early. They put the make up on us, and fed us copious amounts of food.  Blood and guts were all over us, but we didn’t care, and usually had donuts and coffee, since we were well, zombies from driving at night to get there.  It was a blast.  Many of my scenes were cut, because they had a lot of them.  My hands are occasionally in shots, but I am the only one who knows those digits, and, of course, the parking lot.  Between set-ups, we all ran inside because it was really cold, and we hung out.  I do remember doing some shopping, still in make-up and getting some odd looks.

9. Tell us about your most vivid memory of your zombie experience?
I have to say the poodle lady I described above.  It stayed with me forever.

What an amazing experience, but Paola K. Amaras has done a lot of incredible things since. She writes for Thrive Global, Huffington Post, and her own writing research company while she looks for an agent for her book series The Hidden Rims Saga. If you want to find out more about her, you can find her at these links. 

Also, if you have a question for Paola, you can leave it in the comments and I’ll see she gets it. Thanks.

An Interview with Deb Werksman

It’s my pleasure to introduce my guest, Deb Werksman, the Editorial Director for Sourcebooks Casablanca.

MJC: What books have you read when you were younger that made an impact on you?
DZ:Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf were my favorites in high school and college. For about 10 years I re-read Pride and Prejudice every year, and A Room of One’s Own still resonates as a powerful feminist manifesto (manifesta?).

MJC: What are you currently reading?
DW: I’ve just finished The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, which is absolutely thrilling—it’s non-fiction, but reads like a thriller, and tells the story of the amazing women who painted the illuminated watch dials during WWI and got radium poisoning as a result. They had to fight very hard to get worker’s compensation for their suffering, and were the pioneers of OSHA. I’m also re-reading The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, and I’ve pre-ordered Donna Leon’s new book—I love her mysteries set in Venice, Italy, with the redoubtable Commissario Guido Brunetti.

MJC: What do you like best about being an editor?
DW: I love to take an author from an unknown debut to a bestseller with hundreds of thousands of copies sold.

MJC: What percentage of new clients you sign in are debut authors?
DW: A healthy percentage—difficult to give you an exact number because of course after their first book, they’re not a debut any more. I have numerous authors who debuted with us sometime during the past 10 years and are still writing for us.

MJC: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
DW: My ideal client is deadline and data driven, and is a great team player.

MJC: How many submissions do you typically receive in a week?
DW: About 50-100 per month.

MJC: What questions do you wish authors would ask before considering a match with a publishing house or editor?
DW: I think an author needs to assess how much support she wants vs. how much control. If an author is a team player and understands that publishing is a team sport, she will be much happier.

MJC: What is most common plotting error you see in submissions?
DW: Most common is using tropes instead of original thinking, and the lack of a strong hook—it’s such a competitive marketplace that the hook is absolutely essential. Plotting errors can be fixed—lack of a hook is much more difficult.

MJC: What is on your manuscript wish list?
DW: I’m looking for a really original paranormal, a contemporary that’s emotional and heart-gripping and reminds me of Fern Michaels or Robyn Carr, and romantic suspense that’s believable and compelling.

MJC: If you could keep company with one magical creature for the rest of your life what would you choose and why?
DW: I’d like my own personal fairy to wave her magic wand and make every day a good hair day, or feed the cats instantly, or transform the laundry into a neatly folded wardrobe. Also if she could pack suitcases, that would be a plus.

MJC: What has been the highlight of your career?
DW: The highlight of my career was starting Sourcebooks Casablanca and growing it over 10 years to where we are now. We’ve launched and built many careers, have been a top 10 romance publisher since our 3rd year in business, and the future is bright.

MJC: What’s your advice to an aspiring author?
DW: 1. Hone your craft. When you figure out what category (romance? Mystery?) and subgenre (romantic suspense? Paranormal romance? Cozy mystery?) you want to write forever, then you know you’re ready to begin talking to agents and authors. Before that, just enjoy the process.
2. Publishing is a team sport. It’s important to realize that the people you’re working with are professionals and are in this for their careers. They want to help you build a career too. You’re going to have to think about your writing as a job at some point.
3. Learn your category. The time you spend in a bookstore is very valuable, because that’s where readers discover new authors.

Martial arts move: breaking a board with my bare foot (not that I’ve ever done it…)
Weapon: knitting needle
Superhero power: getting shit done
Beverage: venti iced green tea, unsweetened
Book boyfriend: Mr. Darcy
Animal: feline, any size, also the snow monkeys of Japan who spend their time in the hot springs looking blissed out
Comedy: SNL, especially lately
Comeback line: Tomorrow is another day…
Ice cream: lavender and fig or chocolate of course
Movie:  Ever After
TV show: Grace and Frankie
Drink: mimosa
Shoes: Arche
Artist: Jiri Anderle
Sports team: CT Huskies
Guilty pleasure: Vanity Fair magazine

Interview with Laura Zats

Thanks to Unsplash Maria-38582

For many authors querying is hard. If you’re shy like me, talking to an agent or an editor seems almost impossible. Your palms get sweaty. Your brain turns to mush and your tongue forgets how to form words. To make pitching or simple conversation easier, it’s good to remember agents and editors are people. One way to do that is to learn a little about them and what they’re looking for before trying to sell our stories.

Laura Zats and Jennifer Rupp

At a recent Wisconsin Romance Writer meeting, I had the good fortune to meet Laura Zats from Red Sofa Literary. I threw a lot of questions at her, which she graciously answered in hopes of helping me and other writers.

MJC: What has been the highlight of your career?
​LZ: Every time I sign an author or sell a book, it’s just as awesome as the first time. I can’t choose! It’s great having someone agree to put their career in your hands, or having an editor confirm you do actually have good taste in books.

MJC: What’s your advice to an aspiring author?
LZ: Wait until you’re ready. Use your resources to learn as much as you can about writing and the business, and don’t go into it unprepared!​

MJC: What is on your manuscript wish list?
​ LZ: Specific requests are tagged on twitter as #MSWL, but my biggest requests are feminist and diverse books.​

MJC: What do you like best about being an agent?
​ LZ: Honestly, I like everything except for saying no to people–the reading, the editing, the contracts!​

MJC: What percentage of new clients you sign in are debut authors?
LZ: Probably 80-90%​

MJC: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
LZ: That they’re a team player–they thrive on feedback (both good and bad) and want to be as helpful and as knowledgeable as possible​.

MJC: What are your top three favorite books?
LZ: Oh, I definitely can’t answer that! I have no idea!​

MJC: What are you currently reading?
​ LZ: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas​

MJC: If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
​ LZ: When I was a kid, I would have said flight, but I’d like to stop time so I can get all my work done and perhaps a few naps as well. ​

MJC: How many submissions do you typically receive in a week?
​ LZ: Anywhere between 100-200 queries.​

MJC: What questions do you wish authors would ask before considering a match with an agent?
​ LZ: There’s no one specific question, but I’d love it if authors asked agents about their long-term career traject​ories. It’s important that authors sign with someone they think will take them where they want to go!

MJC: What is most common plotting error you see in submissions?
​ LZ: Most of the errors I see don’t quite make it to the plot, but for fulls I stop reading, the most common reason is that it lags in the middle–the pressure of the climax needs to feed the book all the way through!​

 MJC: What trends are you seeing over and over again in your slush pile?
​ LZ: Angels, demons, shifters, vampires, superheroes, empaths, bucket lists.​

MJC: Do you evaluate submissions with the Mako Mori test? Why or Why not?
​ LZ: I actually have the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests as requirements on my submissions list!​

MJC: Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
 LZ: Definitely! I love getting in there and discovering plot holes and brainstorming with my authors.​

Laura Zats

Favorites Flash Round:
Martial arts move:
​Roundhouse kick​
​ Beer​
Book boyfriend:
​ ​I plead the fifth. Don’t want to make the other boyfriends sad.
​ pit bull​
Comeback line:
​That’s what she said​
Ice cream:
​balsamic strawberry​
​The Princess Bride​
MJC: Mine, too.
Video Game:
​Old school Sonic​
TV show:
​also beer​
​Fluevog knee-high boots​

MJC: They look awesome.
Sports team:
​ ​Twins
Guilty pleasure:
​Mac n cheese​