The inspiration behind the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy came from Jason Rekulak, editor at Quirk Books. For that reason, I emailed a request to him rather than either of the authors. To my surprise, he agreed to an email interview and even accepted follow-up questions. I appreciated his time and hope you enjoy our conversation.
Allison: Why did you decide to depart from the mash-up concept and do a prequel and sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
Jason: Primarily because I thought they could be fun stories. With the prequel, we wanted to explain where the zombie plague came from and how the Bennet sisters became such hardened warriors. Once we had a prequel, we had to do a sequel. I guess it was just an excuse for me to spend more time in this world. As you can imagine, these books are an awful lot of fun to develop.
Allison: Will you expand your other mash-up novels the way you did with Pride and Prejudice? Do you plan to do more mash-up novels?
Jason: I don’t think so. As soon as we had our success with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, other publishers began to do their own multiple mash-ups. I’m pretty sure all the other Austen titles have been picked over by other writers.
Allison: I read on the Quirk Classics website about a sixth grader who wrote a poem inspired by Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Are the mash-ups reaching a broader audience than the originals?
Jason: No, I doubt it. If there is a more popular novel in the world than Pride and Prejudice, I don’t know what it is. Millions and millions of people love that book. No way do we come close!
Allison: Have the mash-ups inspired people to read the classics that otherwise might not have?
Jason: This was never our intention when we published these books, but I’ve heard that teachers and librarians have been using them to get fifteen-year-old boys to read Jane Austen. These guys would never pick up Jane Austen in a million years. It’s the exact opposite of what they want to read. And yet 85% of PPZ is word-for-word the same as the original. If you used “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” to write a book report on the original novel, you’d ace the test, as long as you don’t mention any of the corpses. The ideas, the themes, the plot, and the characters are all the same. Everyone’s relationships within that story are still the same. It’s just a zombified version of the story.
Allison: How has the popularity of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy changed you/Quirk Books?
Jason: I don’t know that we’re approaching anything differently than we did two years ago. It’s certainly made our cash flow a lot more comfortable and that’s a big issue when you’re a small press and don’t have a corporate backer. It makes you sleep easy at night, especially with all of the big changes in the publishing industry these days.
Allison: Is it unique that a publishing phenomenon was brought about by an editor rather than a writer?
Jason: I’m a little worried this question undermines Seth’s contributions to this book. All I gave him was a title and a concept. I gave him the pitch and he knocked it out of the park – a home run! And this is a fairly common practice throughout publishing. Editors (and especially agents) conceive book projects all the time. Harper’s Magazine has a very funny article this month about the origins of “Truly Tasteless Jokes” – a huge publishing phenomenon back in the 1980s. Conceived by an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s Press. So there’s just one example, but there are hundreds.
Allison: Will there be a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie?
Jason: I hope so! Lionsgate has the rights to the movie. Natalie Portman is one of the producers. The director is Craig Gillespie. The script was written by David Russell who wrote The Fighter last year. So there is a script, there is a director, but who they haven’t announced yet is the cast. We’re waiting to hear about that. I can’t wait for it to come out. It should be a great movie.
Allison: You have written one book. You have also said of the origins of PPZ: “It was in large part inspired by trying to do something creative, and a desire to not get sued.” Why did you choose to become an editor rather than continue to pursue a career in writing?
Jason: I needed a paycheck. I finished college and I didn’t have a dime to my name, so it’s not like I was going to embark on writing the Great American Novel. I took a job in publishing at St. Martin’s Press as an editorial assistant, which is a typical entry-level publishing job. I have now been in publishing for… I started in ’94… and so sixteen years.
Allison: Sixteen years! You must like it?
Jason: I do. I love books. It’s a great way to learn about the industry. It’s full of great people and creative people.
Allison: What does a typical day look like for you as an editor?
Jason:Well, it’s sorta unique because I work at a small press. When trucks come to deliver the catalogs, everyone in the building will literally go out to the street and carry in the catalogs. If a pedestrian trips on the sidewalk in front of our building, I go out and give them Band-Aids. And I kinda love all that stuff; I like being part of a mom-and-pop operation.
But when I’m not doing all that stuff, I’m immersed in the books. One of the biggest challenges is that I’m always balancing current projects against future projects. You need to bring in projects that are going to be out in eighteen months from now, even though you have deadlines for books that are coming out in the fall and you’ve got to get them off to the printer in time. It’s like balancing eighteen to twenty-four months of books; along with all the authors you’ve ever published who will call about royalty statements, new address changes, and all that other stuff.
I spend a lot of time talking on the phone and emailing to people. I love it when I have a couple of days to spend with a manuscript; to focus on it exclusively is a lot of fun, but it’s just one part of the job
Allison: What is the best part?
Jason: I once heard someone compare a job in book publishing to a good liberal arts education, and that’s a wonderful way of describing it. You’re constantly immersing yourself in new subjects. One day you’re working on a book about Regency England, the next day it’s a sports book, the next day it’s a volume of Civil War History. If you like learning about things, if you’re a little bit interested in a lot of different things, then this can be a very rewarding career.
Allison: What is the worst part?
Jason: Spreadsheets! I never thought I’d have to look at them. But I have hundreds on my desk.
Allison: You mentioned that Quirk Books has twenty-five books coming out. Besides Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, what is your favorite new idea?
Jason: The book we have coming out that I am excited about is a book called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s kind of interesting how it came about. This guy came to me with some photos. He collects found photography. The author is a screenwriter in Los Angeles and he collects these vintage photographs. He wanted to do a book about them and I said, well, you know that’s more of an art book and is not something we would do. Then he showed me this really interesting subset of his collection that was just photos of kids from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. These kids looked really weird. You know how kids looked back then. They kind of dressed like miniature adults and carry all these weird toys and dolls. They’re just really creepy. I suggested to him, because he’s a screenwriter, why don’t you write a novel about these kids. It could be about the orphanage where they live and we could include these photos in the book and have the book studded with these photographs. So he went away for 18 months and came back with this really wonderful, creepy, and totally entertaining YA novel.
The book comes out next week. Amazon just named it one of their best books of the month. We just sold the film rights to twentieth century fox. He has a bunch of publicity coming up. It’s just a really neat interesting book. There’s a book trailer that he did. He filmed this really wonderful video. He went to Belgium actually to film it to find just the right kind of creepy old house to film it in.
There’s lots of excitement here about it. It’s not a mash-up, but it’s a different kind of reading experience because it has these really cool old photos in it and they are part of the story. I’ve never seen a book like this one before. I love when I can say that about one of my projects.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.