Originally Posted on: October 2nd, 2012
Shane! Hahn sits down with the author of 'The Brain Eater's Bible', Pat Kilbane.
H-P: Now, 'The Brain Eater's Bible' is written by you and your zombie alter ego J.D. McGhoul. How did your zombie alter ego come about?
PAT: When I was shooting Day of the Dead in Bulgaria, I was in this hideous zombie makeup all day long for weeks. I would kill time by talking in a froggy voice, like a literate and practical man eater. When I got back to the States, I had my good friend Dean Jones - the Emmy-winning FX department head on Day of the Dead- sculpt me a custom zombie makeup that would allow me to explore the idea further. Here's a video of me on the Day of the Dead set: http://youtu.be/PNtInvrXlHE
H-P: This is a pretty unique way of doing a book, from a zombie's point of view. How did this concept come about?
PAT: At first I enlisted the help of some friends in shooting a few HGTV-style videos featuring zombie lifestyle tips from McGhoul. I loved the idea that he was sharing informative upbeat advice about the macabre topic of killing and eating people. He's just so happy to help! Eventually, the advice I was writing for McGhoul blossomed into a full-fledged philosphy and I began organizing it into chapters. Here's the first thing I ever did as McGhoul: http://youtu.be/vb3fwNDLpzs
H-P: Why did you pick the topic of zombies and why did you choose this concept to write about?
PAT: I didn't choose zombies, zombies chose me! That's an exaggeration, of course, but like I mentioned earlier, the concept evolved organically from my spending so much time as a zombie. As an actor, you're always taught to empathize with your characters, no matter how flawed they may seem. It was a fun challenge to build a whole structure of rationalization for McGhoul - a personal philosophy of hatred for human beings and love of eating brains. By the time you're done reading the book, you kind of like him... it all oddly starts to makes sense.
H-P: You've done mostly TV and movies. From your MADtv background and more, I'm sure you've written skits, scripts and so on. How did this writing style of this book differ from anything you have done before?
PAT: In stand-up and sketch comedy, everything is in service of the laughs; they have to come with a certain strength and frequency for the piece to be considered successful. With a black comedy like The Brain Eater's Bible, the humor can be much more subtle, and you also have freedom to give the reader other emotional experiences as well. Writing a book is much more work than a sketch or a TV script due to the sheer weight of the word count, but it was liberating to no longer be a slave to the punch line.
H-P: I found reading this book that 'The Brain Eater's Bible' is more than a survival guide for zombies but it also educates people on the human body in a unique way (the zombie part of it obviously being fictional). Did you find it hard to research for the book and how much did you learn yourself from the research?
PAT: The research was fun and also critical to the world I was building. The biggest problem I always had with zombie stories is that they never explained how the undead work anatomically. Seeing inconsistencies in the scientific logic would spoil the fun for me and make me less invested in the story. So I set out to create a pseudo-science around zombiism... I wanted it all to make sense somehow and adhere to an internal logic. Interviewing paramedics, immunologists and bonafide brain surgeons was awesome. Pointing all of their professional knowledge and acumen at my zombie story really brought it to life. And I did learn a lot from it... my favorite tidbits were the sizes and textures of the various brain parts and the bleed-out times for people whose arteries have been ripped open by teeth.
H-P: The book takes on alot of issues zombies go through in a comedic, horrifying and some what serious way. It has a great balance between all of that. Though some people take zombies seriously and some see them in a comedic kind of view. Did you find it hard to get that balance for all those people no matter how they view zombies?
PAT: All people in a life-and-death business - doctors, morticians, soldiers - are going to develop a sense of gallows humor as a means of coping with the disturbing things they witness. McGhoul is no different. I tried to write truthfully from his point of view and let the humor come more or less naturally.
H-P: 'The Brain Eater's Bible' not only tells how to survive as a zombie and teachs you about the human body, but it also tells the story of J.D. McGhoul and how he became a zombie and how he dealt with becoming a zombie with his journal entries. Which came first in the writing process of this book? I mean, did you set out to write a story from a zombies point of view or did you set out to write a book for zombie's survival or was it a all-in-one thing you had planned?
PAT: I set out to write a survival book, but with a real character point of view. There had to be a zombie personality behind all of this advice, or it would be stale reading. Following McGhoul's journey from reanimation to self-realization makes it easier to become invested both in him and the advice that he gives.
H-P: You take alot from classic zombie movies and stories and pretty much take them into a new direction with this book. We know you had to do research to find out about the human body and how things work. Did you find it harder to translate how the zombie body works and functions?
PAT: Yeah, there's a reason most zombie stories never explain how the dead are walking... it's a pretty damned hard case to make scientifically. With the help of some brilliant experts, though, I think my book makes a meaningful contribution to the existing canon where zombie anatomy is concerned.
H-P: You refer to the living in the book as "freshies". How did that term for living humans come about?
PAT: The Crocodile Hunter used to call fresh water crocodiles "freshies" and I thought the moniker was perfect for describing "unspoiled" human prey.
H-P: Now I'm not much of a reader and found myself not being able to put this book down. In fact, at the time of this interview I'm half way through it. Do you feel even zombie and horror enthusiast would find 'The Brain Eater's Bible' interesting as well as entertaining?
PAT: Thanks, Shane! I'm glad you're enjoying it! I hope the zombie and horror enthusiasts you mention enjoy it as well. I intended for it to be a legitimate work of science-fiction/horror, as opposed to the jokey zombie books that are so pervasive. So while it is often funny, I think fans of more dramatic fare, like The Walking Dead or World War Z, will also dig it.
H-P: Why should people pick up 'The Brain Eater's Bible' and what would you want them to take away from reading it?
PAT: If for nothing else people should pick up The Brain Eater's Bible because it's one of the most visually rich zombie books they will ever experience, with hundreds of full-color photos of zombies, weapons and equipment. On top of that, the reader will get to walk in a zombie's tattered shoes - a view of the post-apocalyptic landscape they don't often see. I hope that the reader will find it a wild ride and will develop a disturbing appreciation for the lead character, who is essentially is a cannibal and cold-blooded murderer.
H-P: Well, I think that's about all I have for you about the book. Do you have any future projects that are in the works you would like us to know about?
PAT: I have a lot of things in the hopper, but for now I'm focusing on a successful release for BEB. Look for more from me, though, in the science-fiction and horror genres. I've met so many great people at conventions and other events... it's a community that I want to contribute to.
H-P: Thanks for your time Pat and we wish you much success now and in the future.
PAT: Thanks, Shane! It was fun!
Visit Pat Kilbane online: patkilbane.com