8Books Q&A: Romeo and Juliet vs. Zombies, with Koji Steven Sakai

Romeo_and_Juliet_vs_Zombies_coverOur very own Koji Steven Sakai has just released his very first novel (massive applause!) throwing a fantastical twist on that famous Shakespearean play. In Romeo and Juliet vs. Zombies, “Romeo and Juliet must fight to overcome hoards of zombies that include Tybalt, Mercutio, and even Juliet’s nurse. Sakai’s version of the beloved tale forces Romeo to fight for Juliet’s respect…even if that means picking up a sword that (gulp) could actually hurt someone.” The eBook came out just last week with a print version arriving this week.

AND, because he’s one of us, we get to ask him all kinds of questions. So, your exclusive (ish) author interview with 8Asians’ most awesome screenwriter —

How did you decide what to write about? What was your inspiration?

I admit I have a terrible infatuation with Romeo and Juliet. Not only because it’s truly the only Shakespeare I could actually get through, but because it has spoken to me in different ways at different times in my life. When I was a teenager and believed in silly notions such as “true love” (please don’t judge me), I thought it was romantic. But as I got older, I see it for what it is—silly infatuations of hormonal teenagers. And that’s why I’ve written multiple screenplays about it. Four to be exact.

And then there’s my love for post-apocalyptic zombie stories. There’s something about the end of the world and a horde of reanimated corpses trying to feed on people’s brains that just makes me smile and feel good about myself and my life.

So for me, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies was the first time that I was able to marry my two passions into one project.

Why zombies in particular? Why not other fantastical creatures?

I love all fantastical creatures—especially vampires, aliens, ghosts, and demons. But there’s something about zombies that gets my heart racing. The easy answer is that zombies are a metaphor for the masses of unthinking people, but I don’t think that’s quite it for me. I see zombies as representing something even more primal. To me, I’m fascinated with the question of whether I could survive an apocalypse—zombie or otherwise. Do I have what it takes to live?

If readers take one thing away from this book, what do you hope it will be?

I’ve never been asked this question before. I hope the reader is entertained and that they can get away from their “regular” lives for a little while. I know as I’ve gotten older, I’m looking for stories where I don’t have to worry about my troubles and get lost in the character, stories, and world.

Is there any advice you would give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Too many writers, talk about writing, but don’t actually do a lot of it. My wife could attest to this, but when I’m not writing, I’m in a bad mood and can be rather unpleasant. It should be that way for all writers.

Can you share an interesting, funny, or surprising story about the experience of writing, editing, promoting, etc. this book?

Here’s a funny story that speaks to my hubris in writing this book. Typically, I’m a pretty fast writer. I could write a feature length screenplay (if I killed myself) in a week. So I thought I could write this book in a week or two (the two being only if I REALLY needed it). So I took a week off from my work and set the goal of writing ten thousand words a day. The first day of writing, I wrote three thousand words and realized that my ten thousand word goal was completely insane. It ended up taking me more than a month to get a rough first draft.

What are some of your favorite books? (This is an awful question, I know).

I love this question because I love books. And I do think books speak to who you are…And frankly, I judge people based on their favorite books. So my favorites in no particular order. Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig, The Winter of My Discontent by John Steinbeck, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.

But since my book was a zombie book, I should mention my favorite zombie books of all time as well. World War Z, The Passage, My Life as White Trash Zombie, Patient Zero, The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, Feed, amongst many others.

Who is your author hero?

My author hero is Sherman Alexie. I heart Sherman Alexie. I love every word he has ever written. If I could be anyone in the whole entire world, I would be him. His writing makes me cry, smile, and laugh all at the same time. One of the (many) things that my wife and I can agree on is our mutual love and admiration for him.

Check out more from 8Books — 8Asians’ almost book club.

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About Lily

East Coast Chinese American. I like thick-skinned dumplings and hard-covered books.
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