The evil mastermind behind literary mash-ups Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (available September 15th), Jason Rekulak is an alumnus of St. Martin’s Press and Quality Paperback Book Club, and is now the Editorial Director at Quirk Books in Philadelphia.
I caught up with Jason by text-message at Comic Con in San Diego, and although he was apparently “too busy” to talk to me then (taking photos of zombie cheerleaders from what I gather), I did persuade him (“Jason. I have your bike.”) to answer my questions about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the Quirk Classics series the minute he got back in the office.
So here we go go: Jason Rekulak. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My questions. His answers…
What was inspiration for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
I was intrigued by all of the creative copyright violations that you find on the Internet – all of the people remixing songs, editing new cuts of film trailers, splicing themselves into existing TV shows, and so forth. I began to wonder how we might do something similar at Quirk Books. Obviously there are strict copyright restrictions for publishers, so I began by making a list of classic works in the public domain – Moby Dick, Great Expectations, and so forth. Then I made a second list of elements we might use to enhance those classic works – ninjas, pirates, etc. Then I started to draw lines between the two columns. Once I drew a line between “Pride and Prejudice” and “Zombies,” I knew I had a title, and I could easily imagine how the book would work.
What was the initial reaction from the rest of the Quirk team when you told them your idea?
Some people were concerned about sales potential. There were worries that zombie fans wouldn’t like the Austen stuff, and Austen fans wouldn’t like the zombie stuff. But almost everyone liked the idea of the book, and here at Quirk we are quick to respond to that kind of universal enthusiasm. You just don’t see it very often. So I called the funniest writer I knew – Seth Grahame-Smith – and we were off and running. Later, when Quirk brought the book to retailers, there was a mixed response; some buyers loved it, others didn’t get it at all. But none of that mattered. Sometime in February 2009 the book exploded onto the blogosphere, and within days there were hundreds of blogs and websites talking about the book. They did the marketing for us. It was phenomenal and I wish we knew how to replicate it.
Were you ever worried about how fans of Jane Austen might react?
No. I ran the idea past 2 or 3 Jane Austen fans early on, and they all loved it. The response from the Austen fan base has been 95% positive.
How many times have you had to reprint the book now?
21 as of today.
What are your favourite zombie movies?
The release of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters has just been announced. What can we look forward to in the new book?
I’m so excited about this book. It’s more of an adventure/mystery than PPZ, but there is plenty of horror and monster mayhem along the way. Our version recasts the beloved hero of Colonel Brandon as a hideously deformed man-monster – with squishy tentacles growing out of his face – so immature Marianne finds him all the more repulsive. He’s my favourite Jane Austen character—so noble and pure of heart–and I find him all the more appealing in this new version.
Will we get some giant squid action?
Giant squids, rampaging lobsters, two-headed sea serpents, this book has everything!
Can we expect more literary mash-ups in the ‘Quirk Classics’ series?
Absolutely. I just returned from the San Diego Comic Con, where the response to these books was overwhelming. I met with literally hundreds of fans who are anxious for more books in this series. The challenge will be to push the formula in new and even more original directions because obviously we cannot trademark this concept or genre, and there are already several knockoffs slated to arrive this Fall. There are at least three “Pride and Prejudice with Vampires” books that I’ve heard about.
So, no vampires yet for Quirk. Can the zombies count on your vote?
Enough with the vampires already! Go Zombies!
(I will now return your bicycle to Philadelphia. Promise.)
And — added bonus — here is a video of Jason talking about the launch of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at the NY Comic Convention earlier this year: