Guest Post: How Not to Look Crazy When Researching a Non-Fiction Zombie Book


By Jessica Robinson/Pembroke Sinclair


Zombies are awesome.  Well, not in the destroy the world and eat humans kind of way, but as metaphors.  They can represent so many different fears we have as a society.  Social, gender, religious, authority, race—you name it, they can be it.  The one that I found fascinating was how they represent our fears of science.


I’m obsessed with zombies.  Personally, I don’t think my obsession is that bad, but when I sit down with “normal” people and have a conversation about the undead, it seems like I’ve seen waaaaay too many movies and read a lot of books.  I feel like a freak because I go out of my way to find zombie media.  Then, I remind myself that there are others out there who have probably seen more movies than I have and read more books, so I’m totally regular obsessed and not super-obsessed. 


And is it really that weird that I talk about the zombie uprising like it could really happen?  I don’t think so.  I mean, c’mon!  We have to be prepared, don’t we?


Part of being prepared is knowing what I’m going to be up against.  When I started researching Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies, I wanted to look at what it is about science that is so scary.  There were several questions I needed answered, including how disease is transmitted, so I had to talk with people who had more knowledge than I did.  I had the opportunity to speak with scientists and technicians at water and waste water treatment plants to get my answers.


It was an awesome experience.  These individuals were incredibly intelligent, insightful, and helpful.  They were more than happy to answer my questions and show me how things worked.  They knew I was researching for a zombie book, but to keep it “normal,” I had to keep myself in check.  Here are some of the things I did to keep from appearing “crazy.”


When I was first introduced to the professional, I didn’t begin the conversation with “ZOMBIES!  They’re going to take over the world, and only you can help me save it!”  I assume if I had, they would have looked at me slightly askance and the conversation would have gotten awkward.  I mean, that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone, especially when you first meet them.  That’s reserved for a third or fourth conversation opener.


Despite the popularity of the zombie genre and the multitude of books, movies, and TV series, not everyone watches these.  Not everyone knows they exist.  When I asked the interviewee if they’d seen whatever book/movie/TV show I was talking about and they said they hadn’t, I didn’t look at them with wide eyes and say, “Have you been living under a rock?”  I mean, it was obvious they had been.  How could they have not heard about whatever book/movie/TV show I was talking about?  But there was no sense being rude.


I didn’t ask them if they’ve been working on bringing the dead back to life.  If they were, they wouldn’t answer the question truthfully anyway.  If they weren’t, I probably would have gotten a sideways glance and they may have asked me to leave their office.  And if that had happened, I would have been suspicious.  Their defensiveness probably meant they were experimenting with the dead.


I was tempted to ask if they’ve stocked up on supplies and were prepared for when the zombies rose, but I refrained from this also.  If nothing else, they can come to my house and my family and I will keep them safe.  I figured it was the least I could for them having to put up with me.


I didn’t keep it a secret what I was working on.  I was upfront and honest that my research was for a zombie book.  I won’t lie, some of them thought I was a little strange—I could tell by the way they laughed at some of my statements about zombies or looked at me with their head cocked to the side and eyes narrowed, as if studying me silently—but they answered all my questions in a professional manner.


It was fine for them to think I was strange, but I didn’t want to give off the crazy vibe, which is why I kept it professional and courteous.  Should you find yourself needing to research zombies and talk to people, I suggest you do the same.  In the end, I got the information I needed and feel I am now better prepared for when the dead rise from the grave.


3522214Jessica Robinson is an editor by day and a zombie-killer by night (at least in her books). Since the first time she watched Night of the Living Dead, she has been obsessed with zombies and often thinks of ways to survive the uprising. In addition to her nonfiction book, under the pen name Pembroke Sinclair, she has written YA novels about zombies and the tough teens who survive the apocalyptic world. She has also written nonfiction stories for Serial Killer Magazine and published a book about slasher films called Life Lessons from Slasher Films. You can learn more about Jessica by visiting her at