Translating a popular graphic novel into an audiobook is not for the faint of heart! But ZOMBIES: A RECORD OF THE YEAR OF INFECTION author Don Roff and AudioGO were undaunted, and their collaborative effort has resulted in a truly unique – and truly thrilling – audio production.
Sound engineer Will Sibilia’s special sound design cleverly replicates a “found footage” style, complete with the effects of rustling pages, and hisses, skips and cracks, as if from an old .45 album, while narrator Steven R. Thorne’s performance evokes the desperation of a man of science observing the end of the world.
Author Don Roff shared with us some of his thoughts on making this unique audio listening experience and on writing the original graphic novel.
How would you describe ZOMBIES: A RECORD OF THE YEAR OF INFECTION to someone who had never heard of it?
Simply: a found journal from a lost man, a doctor, who documented a portion of a yearlong zombie apocalypse.
What drew you to the idea of an audio adaptation for your graphic novel?
Alexandra Arlango at AudioGO is the true hero of the project. She suggested the audio adaptation in early 2012. Though I liked her idea, I really didn’t know if it was going to work. The book is driven by Chris Lane’s illustrated images as much, or even more so, than my text. Glad my initial feelings were wrong—it works perfectly as an audiobook.
Are you a fan of audio? If so, why?
Yes, I’m a big fan of audiobooks. The first one I listened to was Frank Herbert’s Dune back in 2007. Then, I was commuting back and forth to my job as a children’s book editor. It’s been one of my favorite books. The audio really brought the story out—and entertained me during a long, boring drive. I’ve been hooked on audiobook ever since. Long drives, exercising, sitting quiet, I listen to them all the time.
What do you think of the audiobook? Do you have a favorite part?
One advantage I have as a listener is that I wrote the book over three years ago. I’ve written over a half million words since. So, the book, when I first listened to it, was almost a fresh experience. I went right along with the story the way a new listener might. Some portions of the book I could remember writing, others were completely alien. My girlfriend and I drove out to a dark, lonely, country road and listened to the entire thing. By the end, we were so freaked out, we locked the car doors and sped away into the night. The story felt like it had just happened to us, that there was no more humanity, only the empty road ahead, and whatever terror waited for us beyond.
I know some fans of graphic novels would be concerned about losing the illustrations. As the author, do you think that the audio adaptation feels whole and complete?
Yes, I do. In fact, I encourage fans of the book to download the audiobook and re-experience the story in a whole new way. Like wise, I hope that the audiobook fans will seek out the book.
Do you have fun or interesting stories from writing the graphic novel that you can share with us?
Of course. When I was outlining the book in November 2008, we had some friends living with us. With our child and their child, both young, enthusiastic girls, the tiny house was full of noise and people. So, I kind of holed up in my daughter’s bedroom at this little white vanity desk and began working out the story. It was getting cold outside, too. I felt, in a way, like Twombly, hiding out from the world. I think it was effective in creating a mood when it came time to write the manuscript.
During this time, I took a quick, refreshing nap on my daughter’s small bed. I had this strange dream of a zombie fisherman pulling off his arm and eating it. The dream disturbed me so much I woke up. I knew I must add it to the story, not knowing where or why. Later it became an important clue to the story’s mystery. Many critics, in their reviews, have commented on that scene. So, when in doubt, always go with the subconscious. Lesson learned.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
One early book critic described Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection as “The Road with zombies.” Though I didn’t read Cormac McCarthy’s controversial, Pulitzer-Prize book until after I wrote my story, I love the comparison just the same.
For more Q&A with Don, please visit Jenn’s Bookshelves.