Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Writing: With Jack Strange

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse is the story of the dead celebrity chef Floyd Rampant, who rises from his grave aiming to create a zombie army of chefs who will rule the world, using the human species as the main ingredient in their cordon bleu meals.

It is dark, original, and so funny it should carry a government health warning.

It is a gourmet feast, an unmissable read, and a black and poignant joke. Part horror story, part political and social satire, it gives the reader a fast-paced entrée of dread, a main course of panic and a dessert of distress.

CCZA, as it's known for short, has a cast of unforgettable characters, most of whom meet with gruesome ends. The action begins in Croydon, moves to London, and reaches its explosive climax in the author’s home town of Huddersfield.

This smart, witty and profound modern day classic works on many levels.


1. Trust your subconscious mind.

Before I wrote ‘Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse’ – which is my first published novel – I’d tried a number of different approaches to writing, from planning everything in advance, to planning very little in advance.

When I wrote ‘Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse’ (let’s shorten that to CCZA) I didn’t do any planning at all.  I thought of the overall concept and then just more-or-less sat down and wrote the book. 

The experience was very liberating for me. I found I was able to head off in any direction I wanted whenever I felt like it.

Somehow I never got into any difficulties with the plotting – even though the plot is fiendishly complicated. It seems that by removing the shackles of pre-planning, I’d released some sort of sub-conscious engine that planned everything for me far better than I could have planned it by working at it at a conscious level.

The take-home is this: if you’re prepared to trust your subconscious mind, go ahead and wing it when you write. You might find that it works better for you than trying to plan everything before you begin. I did.

2. Don’t write if you’re boring yourself.

I’m told that my novel reads as if I had a lot of fun writing it. I can confirm that the people who’ve made this comment are correct - I did have a lot of fun writing it.

One of the things I allowed myself to do when writing CCZA was to abandon work on any scene if it got boring for me. Even if I felt there ought to be more information in a scene, I’d stop work on it and jump to another one. 

Later, when I finished the first draft of the book and read it, I found that the scenes I’d abandoned didn’t need anything adding to them. They were brief and punchy, with the result that the novel is fast-paced.

My feelings of boredom seem to have been the result of my subconscious mind telling me I’d written enough about an issue and it was time to move on.

So I’ve made it a rule to write a scene only for so long as I’m entertaining myself writing it. If it ceases to entertain me, I’ll stop and work on a different scene which I’ll enjoy.

3. You don’t have to write your scenes in the order in which they’ll appear in your finished book.

Sometimes I’d get an idea for an event which I’d know could only occur much later in my novel than the point I was up to. If it was an idea which excited me, I’d get to work on it right away, and I’d write the infill material leading up to that event later.

Working that way helped me to maintain a sense of excitement about the project.

4. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where you’re going with your story.

There was a time that I might have been concerned about not knowing how my novel was going to develop and how it was going to end.

When I wrote CCZA, I put those fears to one side and just allowed myself to enjoy the writing and the characters, and I let the characters take the novel where it would naturally go.

It was a voyage of discovery for me, as much as it will be to anyone who reads it.

I suspect that the surprise I felt when certain twists of plot occurred will be felt by anyone who cares to read the book.

5. Don’t be too ready to dismiss your craziest ideas.

In the past when I’ve had outrageous ideas, I’ve strangled them at birth because I thought they weren’t worth the enormous effort of developing them into novels.

When I had the idea for CCZA, I put my doubts to one side, and worked on what was one of my craziest ideas ever. The result is the best novel I’ve ever written.

I reckon that in future when I have a crazy idea, I’m going to give it a chance. If you’re a writer, I’d suggest that you try it sometime. The result may surprise you. Pleasantly.

One reader has very kindly said of CCZA that ‘it has a kind of pent-up energy’.

If he’s right, it’s surely because I gave myself the freedom to enjoy writing every word of it.


About the Author

I’ve got the classic background for an author in that I’ve had lots of different jobs. These have included working as a hospital porter, a labourer, a painter and decorator, a lawyer, a general dogsbody for a millionaire and a copywriter.

That doesn’t come close to being a comprehensive list of all the jobs I’ve done, but I don’t want to bore you with a long list. Suffice it to say that when I write about something, I have a lot of varied background to call on to help me bring it to life.

There have been times were times that I wished I’d had a conventional career  like everyone else and stuck with just one thing, but now that I’m a writer I’m grateful for everything I’ve done. All my life experiences, good and bad, have enriched my writing.

In my twenties I came close to becoming an alcoholic. Even this has provided me with material I refer to for certain characters and scenes. I straightened myself out when I met the wonderful woman who is now my wife.

I’m married with two adult daughters who I adore.

That’s enough bio!


Author Links

Twitter: @jackstrange11
Page on publisher’s website:


Book Links



 "...a pretty brisk read..helped by what I'd like to call the 'Dan Brown' style of chapters... giving the reader moments to recover from some of the shocking, and at times twistedly hilarious, events of the story..."
- Fred Casden's Basement 12 June 2016

"You quickly empathise with characters that are in my opinion ingeniously named. For example a zombie named Floyd Rampant... Throw in some dubious unsavoury characters, a policewoman who does well not to vomit, a reverend, the P.M. and a plethora of other characters who may or may not survive and you have a book that is easy to fall into and a narrative that will make you hoot."
- The Parenting Jungle 3 June 2016

"Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse has some amazingly strong characters,  even if some don't last as long as you'd like!...A Very enjoyable book.... 5 out of 5 gold stars. Thank you for reinvigorating a tired genre and giving me such a good read Jack!"
- The Horror Nation Blogspot 18 May 2016