Elliott Serrano, for Redeye
February 11, 2013
Last night’s mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead had fans re-visiting the town of Woodbury and finally re-uniting the Dixon Brothers, Daryl and Merle. By the end of the episode the poop really hit the fan and left viewers with a lot of questions. What’s going to happen to Daryl and Merle? Has Rick finally lost all his marbles? When will Andrea stop being such a chump? And what’s the deal with that Governor fella?
Well, for the answers to most of those questions, fans will just have to wait and see how the season pans out. But if you’ve ever wondered about the origins of the nefarious “Governor” and his creation of the “utopia” that is the town of Woodbury, that story has been explored in a couple of prose novels by series creator Robert Kirkman and Evanston-based author Jay Bonansinga.
I first got to know Jay Bonansinga a while back, right after his second novel set in The Walking Dead universe – “Road to Woodbury” - was published. We talked about the life of a writer, how you need to keep a schedule for yourself and how even things like doing an interview can throw your whole schedule off. For someone who works on such a high-profile property, Jay is a very unassuming person, who shows as much enthusiasm for “The Walking Dead” as any of the series’ fans.
Right before Sunday’s mid-series premiere, Jay took some time to answer questions about his two TWD novels, the comic book series, and the television show. He talks about what made him want to become a writer, how he landed TWD gig, working with Robert Kirkman and who his favorite character is from the series. (SPOILER ALERT: Jay also drops a nugget about the next TWD novel!):
Geek To Me: Tell us a bit about yourself, Jay. How long have you lived in the Chicago area?
Jay Bonansinga: I've lived in Illinois practically all my life, born in Urbana, grew up in Peoria, went away to school for 4 years at Michigan State but that's it. I've lived in metro Chicago for over 30 years.
Geek To Me: How long have you been a writer?
Jay Bonansinga : I guess I've been a writer all my life since I was lying as soon as I could talk. I always wanted to be Rod Serling, though -- wanted to be a professional and wear that cool dark suit.
Geek To Me: How did you get involved with The Walking Dead franchise?
Jay Bonansinga : Honestly I got involved because I knew somebody who knew somebody. But I really had to go to bat for the gig, and I played the George Romero card. I worked with George in the 1990s.
Geek To Me: How closely do you work with Robert Kirkman?
Jay Bonansinga: Robert gives me an 8-10 page outline, which basically just lays out the story arc. I go off and turn it into prose. He checks chunks every once in a while but he pretty much leaves me alone. He seems to like my stuff, and my style jibes with “The Walking Dead” tone. To be honest, I am really lucky that we do the books this way. I can't imagine writing these things like we were Rose Marie and Morrie Amsterdam, pacing Rob Petrie's office, coming up with jokes simultaneously. It would be a nightmare. I said to Robert one time, "Jeez, I heard all kinds of rumors that you were tough and a badass... but you're a pussycat to work with." He replied, "Hey, if I didn't like what you were doing I would be a total p***k."
Geek To Me: You've written 2 books so far that take place in TWD universe, “Rise of the Governor” & “The Road to Woodbury”. Are the books closer to the continuity of thecomics or the television series, or equally down the middle?
Jay Bonansinga: The truth is, the books and the TV show and the comic are all on somewhat parallel paths but are also converging -- very slowly and deliberately and subtly -- and it's really something to see. Nobody knows what's going to happen at any given time, and believe me, anything can and does happen.
Geek To Me: Outside of the subject matter, how does your non-TWD writing differ from the books?
Jay Bonansinga: Well... I guess all my books -- including my work on TWD -- are about disasters of one sort or another. Shipwrecks, serial killers, Mafia, plagues, assassinations, porn... and zombie apocalypses… (apocalypsai?) I gravitate toward dark stuff anyway, even if it’s historical in nature. My Ulysses Grove novels (FROZEN, TWISTED, SHATTERED, PERFECT VICTIM) are FBI procedurals mashed up with mummies. I love the archetypes like I love three-chord power pop rock songs.
Geek To Me: The first two books have been well-received, so when can we expect a third?
Jay Bonansinga : Later this year is the plan. The third one is going to be the equivalent of THE RETURN OF THE KING, man, it's going to rock!!
Geek To Me: Okay, speaking as a fan, what do you think about The Walking Dead television series? How do you think it holds up next to the comics?
Jay Bonansinga: I think the show is BRILLIANT and I'm not just being a weenie and brown-nosing when I say that, I think it is one of the great American TV shows of all time. But the comic is the true Rosetta Stone… all that great family drama and character stuff from the show was already in the panels of the comic.
Geek To Me: The show seems to have a problem holding onto their showrunners, first Frank Darabont and then Glen Mazarra. Would YOU take the job if you were offered it?
Jay Bonansinga: HA! Hell yes! Did you hear something? Actually, the revolving door of show runners is not as worrisome as it might be on other shows. Kirkman is the glue, the continuity, the alpha and omega.
Geek To Me: Which is your favorite character on the show?
Jay Bonansinga: Other than Michonne? Actually Michonne was my fave from the comic, and she's my fave from the show... and I will let you in on a scoop... she may very well appear in Book 3.
Geek To Me: Robert Kirkman is famous for killing off popular characters. (Joss Whedon is too.) Let's say they kill the Daryl Dixon character on the show. will you boycott it like many in America say they will?
Jay Bonansinga : No, I will not boycott it, no matter what, because I have two kids and a fiance and I need the money and I am a weenie.
Geek To Me: So, tell us what's next?
Jay Bonansinga: TWD Book 3, naturally, and a new solo work, which I am putting the finishing touches on, and I'll see the release of all my back list -- as well as all-new books -- in digital format through Crossroad Press (store.crossroadpress.com).
Learn more about Jay Bonansinga by visiting his website!
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