Interview – Kickstarting Horror With Zen Davis

Zen sent me an email a few days ago to let me know about his new Kickstarter which can be found here – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zendavis/asylum-33d. I love supporting up and comers in the horror genre so I thought I’d ask him a few questions.

1) Tell us a little bit about your background as a writer,

The majority of my writing has been private. The writing that hasn’t has been submitted been submitted on a regular basis to Francis Ford Coppola’s screenwriting website Zoetrope. I wrote and submitted many screenplays for peer review including Chloroform Kids, Pele, Ringtone, and Biohazard. I met a lot of interesting and creative writers there that helped me develop into the writer I am today. I suggest if anyone is looking for a site where people actually read your work and get back to you with great feedback, go to Zoetrope. Some members are bitterer than others due to a lack of success, but that can be said of any creative community really.

When college rolled around, my writing became more academic in nature. It was a whole new way of drafting content, and it took some time to grasp. I was particularly proud of my final paper for college when I graduated. Although I was docked a full letter grade for being a night late, my professor proclaimed that I had turned in the best final paper of any student that semester. I was ecstatic with the comment because the professor graded like a son of a bitch, and I’d worked my ass off to make him happy.

With school out of the way, I finally got back into creative writing. I wrote monster and item descriptions for a small Kickstarter game called EvoCreo and earned my first $100 in the game industry doing so. The project creator just rehired me to do more work since he liked what I did the first time around.

I also purchased an amazing program called Articy;Draft that I suggest any writer purchase. It’s available on Steam and it makes the process of outlining and developing your story a breeze. Now I’m working every waking hour try to get the word out about the Asylum 33D.

2) Why did you choose to crowdsource your project and what made you choose KS specifically?

I’m currently paying every cent to my name back towards my college loans. Once I get into law school, I will incur at least an additional $35,000 worth of debt per year. Over three years, that’s $105,000. With interest, I have no clue how I’d be able to afford printing the novel. Crowdsourcing my project is the only way to get it out inside of the next four years. Still if I have to wait four years to get this out, I have to wait four years. Eventually I intended to release Asylum 33D. Crowdsourcing lets me get to it a lot sooner however.

Kickstarter itself was an easy choice. It’s the most visible of all crowdsourcing sites.

3) You’ve set a very attainable goal at $3000. You’ve got some amazing stretch goals. Provided you make them what are the challenges you face in overcoming them and how do you plan to overcome them?

A building is only as strong as its foundation, and for Asylum 33D that foundation is the novel. It sets up our ghosts, our characters, our locations, and our story. Once we have that, everything else will line up quite nicely.

One of the ways I’ve mitigated issues with the stretch goals is that I’ve made everything digital. The art book, graphic novel, visual novel, and game will all be distributed digitally. No box copies. This will take out a lot of production guesswork that other projects face. When something is completed, it gets added to a server and mailed to the backer. Easy, easy-peasy, japanesey.

The art book will be the easiest of the stretch goals. It will be mostly in-bulk black and white art drawn quickly on a daily basis. Artists will be assigned portions of the books to read and once they finish, they will draw out story boards and concepts from the sections they covered. These images will be put together in a PDF and mailed to backers. No hassle, no haggle.

The graphic novel will be compiled in a similar way. The art direction will need to be dealt with in a more disciplined way so that everything remains consistent. The page count will need to be looked after since our budget can only cover so many pages of colored art. Luckily, the art book will have acted as rough draft for us. We will know exactly how many pages we need to tell our story and exactly what we need to cut to keep to our page count.

Now things get tricky with visual novel. The deal-breaking issue that needs to be dealt with here is the voice acting. It can’t suck. If it does, the entire thing is a wash. A misstep could ruin the entire tone of the visual novel. I intend to fully cooperate with the community in choosing our cast and show restraint and caution when deciding parts. Together we will make the best informed choice we can.

The game will be the hardest thing to get right. The gameplay is something that needs to feel right. Once again we’ll be cooperating with the Asylum 33D community to see what works, what doesn’t. Every backer will be involved from the pre-alpha stage. Their feedback will take seriously and be implemented at every opportunity. However, the limitations of the budget will also need to be made clear to them. Although $375,000 is a significant amount of money, there will have to be an understanding that we probably won’t be able to implement every request they have.

4) The art that you have on the KS page is amazing. What’s your relationship with the artists? Have you worked with them before?

Our relationship is pretty much a business relationship. We met when I decided to place an ad on Deviant Art. I usually use references to show the artists what I’m looking for and let them do their thing on a first draft. When they get back to me, I use MS Paint to make changes, if necessary, to let the artists know what aspects I’d like done differently.

The clown, for example, isn’t how Nicolas originally intended him to be. I was involved and drew out rough examples of the changes I wanted. He took care of the rest. I work similarly with the rest of the crew.

5) You and I share a love of horror. What are your influences?

“It” pretty much scarred me. I was 7 when I saw the film on TV and Tim Curry kind of violated my soul. That’s not hyperbole either. For the entire week after I saw the film, I was terrified of a clown popping out of the drain, ready to eat me whole. It was phobia bad. Just a constant everlasting sense of dread going to school, walking around sewer drains, and going to the toilet.

The book wasn’t much better. There was a small part where Mike Hanlon goes over various cases of children being killed. One I remember in particular was of a small child, about five or six, who was getting ready to potty train himself. Pennywise came up the toilet drain, hit the kid like a locomotive, and smashed the poor kid’s skull open. It’s been about ten years since I read the book, though I’m pretty certain that was in there. The first time I read the novel though was when I was ten… I needed better guardians.

6) What books are you reading now?

Barack Obama – The Audacity of Hope – I read a chapter a day while I study for law school.

The Walking Dead – Humanity sucks. The graphic novel. (guest starring: Zombies.)

One Piece – No currently running graphic novel series has made me weep more consistently.

7) What are your top 3 favorite horror movies?

01. Jaws – Changed the way people look at the ocean forever.

02. The Thing – The creature effects are amongst the best ever.

03. It – The second half isn’t as good. But the first half is breathtakingly horrifying.

8) What do you drink when you’re creating?

I’m usually dehydrated.

9) What’s your favorite swear word?

The same as Samuel L. Jackson.

10) If you could wield any weapon in combat what would it be and who would it be against?

A) Aerosol golden poison frog spray can. Dead before you know it hit you.

B) The Shark. I wanted Quint to live so bad. Right in those doll eyes… I miss Robert Shaw.

You can contact Zen through his website @ZenDavis.com or follow him on Twitter @ZenDavis

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