Dear readers, today’s secrets are such a treat. Jeff Hart’s UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS, the sequel to EAT, BRAINS, LOVE, is out next week, and boy is there a lot going on in this one. You can read a sample here. I love it when an author is fearless in integrating so many common- but very different and infrequently seen togeher!- YA themes and trends into their writing. There’s a certain gleeful absurdity to what Jeff Hart is doing with this series, and the result is a unique and compelling setup that I can’t wait to read. Thanks for participating, Jeff!
YA Series Insiders: Who or what was the inspiration for the villain in your book?
Jeff Hart: I’m not sure UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS really has a villain. Everyone is just misunderstood! But I will say this: the Lord of Des Moines, the zombie despot running Iowa that creates a lot of problems for Jake, Cass, and Amanda was inspired in part by me imagining what might happen if a passionate zombie blogger was suddenly undead. Pop culture teaches us everything (right???), so wouldn’t an avid consumer of post-apocalyptic movies and books have a bigtime advantage in the actual apocalypse? I hope so!
YASI: Besides your main character/s, do you secretly have a soft spot for another character?
JH: I have a major soft spot for all of Cass’s former Necrotic Control Division team. Their interplay in EAT BRAINS LOVE, and how Cass’s perception of them slowly evolves, was a lot of fun to write. Too bad they all died! Just kidding… or am I? Maybe we’ll see one of them again in UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS.
YASI: If you were going to write a spin-off about one of your characters, who would it be and why?
JH: I love villain origin stories, so I’d write a spin-off about Alastaire, the psychic bureaucrat/sociopath that takes an interest in Cass during EAT BRAINS LOVE. Ostensibly he’s trying to prevent the zombie apocalypse, but he’s doing it in a really gross way, and he’s also secretly pushing an agenda all his own. I’d like to write about him as a young man, before all the ideals got stomped out of him. Plus, he wears bowties, so I’d like to know how he picked up that tic.
YASI: What motivates you to write even when you don’t feel up to it?
JH: Knowing that if I don’t keep writing, I might have to get a real job! I feel incredibly lucky to make a living off my writing. The freedom, the lack of a boss, the seclusion and crippling self-doubt – it’s a lifestyle that I treasure. I live in constant fear of steady paychecks and good health insurance.
YASI: What’s the best scene you’ve ever written?
JH: I don’t know about best – that’s serious. There’s a really little scene in UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS where Jake is chilling out on a roof, chatting with some… um, new friends. And it’s just guys talking about science fiction, aliens, and drone strikes. I don’t know if this is a weird thing to say about your own writing – I don’t care! – the dialogue in that scene cracks me up every time I read it. I laugh at my own jokes, okay?
YASI: Did anything happen in your series that surprised you, that you didn’t plan?
JH: I always outline my books before I start, so when things do happen that surprise me it can feel very organic, almost like I planned it the whole time. And then I look back at my notes and realize I’ve veered way off course. A lot of times this is because I’m having fun writing a particular character, so I end up expanding their role. Sometimes, though, I change course entirely, because the drama is too rich to pass up. There’s a death in UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS that I absolutely didn’t have planned going in.
YASI: Any advice for writers currently working on a series?
JH: Write a good standalone. I think it’s important that readers leave each installment of a series feeling like they’ve gotten a complete story. If the characters are intriguing and the world is vivid, there will always be more details to unpack down the road. Cliffhangers and loose ends can be great, sure, but I think a series that draws people back on its characters/world will always be more interesting than one relying on withholding plot.
About the Book
Jake and Amanda are in love, on the run—and undead. They’ve teamed up with Cass, who’s ditched her former job as shady government psychic zombie-tracker, and they’re headed across the border into Iowa, where there’s rumored to be a zombie cure.
Armed with a trunk full of guinea pigs (aka zombie snacks), they’re ready to take on the Midwest’s first undead warlord, the psycho psychic out for their blood, and their own superawkward love triangle. But the virus is spreading faster than you can say “zombie apocalypse,” and Jake, Amanda, and Cass have to find the cure—if it even exists—before the whole state of Iowa goes up in flames.
With its heartwarming blend of guts, romance, and spot-on teen humor, this road trip–ready paperback original is perfect for fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies and AMC’s The Walking Dead. Readers will devour Jeff Hart’s fresh, funny, and irreverent take on love and life (well, unlife) in an eat-or-be-eaten world.
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About the Author
Jeff Hart is originally from the icy tundra of Rochester, NY, and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of two young adult novels: EAT, BRAINS, LOVE and its upcoming sequel UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS, out August 26th from Harper Teen. His other works have appeared in The Awl, The Literary Review, The L Magazine, and Storychord.