Vol. 112 (2021)

Five Questions for Author K. E. Flann





Normally, the Stay Thirsty Magazine staff writes the introduction to feature articles. However, in this particular instance, everyone felt the background provided by K.E. Flann was unique and should be consumed whole, in order to digest the essence of her experiences. Consequently, we present her bio as presented by her to us for your edification.


"Renowned preternaturalist, K.E. Flann, holds Ph.D.’s in disciplines that include Covert Forestry, Urban Disorganization, Robust Outdoor Pursuits, Human Husbandry & Management and Inter-dimensional Cooperation.


"At the Ministry of Preternatural Resources, Flann serves as Cranial Impact Assessment Officer, drawing upon years of experience with paved areas, including Food Lion and the gas station, to ensure safe passage for visitors to the human world. During a distinguished career, Flann designed activities now accepted as best practice for introducing preternatural beings to their surroundings – these include human petting zoos, chasing demonstrations and audio tours with rentable headsets.


"The beautiful Preternature Center is where Flann declines to answer questions from school children, the general population or workers servicing the snack machines. With the exception of occasional guided public hikes to botanical landfills, during which visitors can collect parking fees, Flann maintains a general disconnect from human society. This lack of commitment provides the trustworthy voice on which supernatural, mutant and AI beings have come to rely for objective guidance.


"Inspired by Roman thinker, Juvenal, who famously said, 'It is difficult not to write satire,' Flann eschews difficulty by penning work for McSweeney’s Internet TendencyThe Weekly HumoristPoints in CaseFrazzledGreener PasturesMonkeybicycle ..."


Stay Thirsty Magazine was inspired by the above and anxious to walk into the unknown by asking K. E. Flann these Five Questions from her ... home.


STAY THIRSTY: Your new book, How to Survive a Human Attack - A Guide for Werewolves, Mummies, Cyborgs, Ghosts, Nuclear Mutants, and Other Movie Monsters, gives voice to otherworldly creatures in their struggle to survive against humans. Where on earth, or somewhere else, did this idea to flip the script come to you?

K. E. FLANN: Thank you for inviting me to the Stay Thirsty interview series. It’s an honor!


The idea for the book came, as so often happens, when I was supposed to be working on something else. I sat in a quiet room trying to compose an essay I’d been commissioned to write for a literary magazine. Mainly, I stared at the wall. In the other room, my husband watched The Walking Dead. We normally like the same shows, but I never got into that one, so he watched it when I wasn’t around. As I sat there not writing, it occurred to me how loud that show was. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it. There was so much screaming! Those zombies were getting slaughtered! Then, I thought, Someone should really help them. They’re terrible at this. Suddenly, I found myself scribbling advice for the zombies – "Frequently Asked Questions" about surviving human attacks. I had to think about all kinds of weird stuff – like what success means to them and what they value. I revised it for a few weeks, consulting self-help books for stylistic inspiration, and it got published relatively quickly as "How to Survive a Human Attack: A Zombie’s Guide to Filling the Emptiness and Moving Forward."


I found myself thinking about other monsters and writing more pieces – one for swamp monsters and one for mummies. Then, I wrote "How to Survive a Human Attack: Appendix 1 -- A Compendium of Human Repellants." I just thought it was funny to publish an appendix for a book that didn’t exist. It took a while before I started to see that the whole endeavor actually was a book. At first, I didn’t see any of it as my "real" work.



STAY THIRSTY: Your book has two parts, three appendices and is filled with illustrations, instructions, forms and other graphic images. What was the process you used to communicate these ideas to Joseph McDermott, your illustrator? Was he on the same page with you in terms of perspective or did he require schooling from your imagination?


K. E. FLANN: This is actually a strange story. My agent and I made an early attempt to pitch this book to publishers – it was a prose guide we hoped could have a few illustrations. There was interest, but ultimately no one made an offer. I stepped away to work on other things ("real" things) for a while – several years.


In a later conversation, my agent suggested the book might work as a graphic novel, an idea I liked. I knew nothing about writing a graphic novel, so I researched and studied how it’s done. It’s like writing a movie script – with carefully formatted dialogue, captions, and descriptions of the images. If a publisher acquires a graphic novel script, the writer can then be matched with an illustrator. I spent a few months converting the prose guide to a script, and we sent it out again.


When my editor at Running Press first reached out about How to Survive a Human Attack, she was like, "I really do like this, but can it not be a graphic novel?" She wanted to publish it as a prose guide with illustrations. She was asking for exactly what we’d tried to pitch years earlier! We were like, "Uh, yeah, we can make that work."  But the cool thing was that there was now a visual road map for a lot of the illustrations.


I was not in communication with Joseph McDermott, the illustrator, or Celeste Joyce, the designer, during the process. The drafts with the images were sent to me a few times along the way, and they were exactly what I hoped – in fact, even better. I felt incredibly lucky to have a team who shared the aesthetic and the humor. It seemed magical.

Swamp Monster (credit: Celeste Joyce)

Swamp Monster (credit: Joseph McDermott)


During the long process of bringing this book to publication, there were times when I was disappointed or discouraged. But I don’t think the book would have turned out the same way if it hadn’t been converted to a graphic novel and back again. That script served as a mechanism of sorts for communicating what I saw in my head.  



STAY THIRSTY: How did you familiarize yourself with so many spooky and grotesque characters? Do these "people" reside in your head on a daily basis or just visit from time-to-time?


K. E. FLANN: I’ve always enjoyed classic horror and scifi movies – werewolves, mummies, robots, etc. I’ve always found myself wondering how the "monsters" feel about these situations. The process of writing the book involved extensive research in the form of reviewing the "canon" of each type of monster. What were the key films? What happened in them? How did the monster die? I read plot synopses, re-watched films, read articles, etc. This (quasi) academic research dovetailed with a lifetime of movie-watching deep in my subconscious.


One of the earliest monster movie encounters was when my mom took me to a special 3-D showing of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Even though the movie was a few decades old at the time, the 3-D effects were new to me, and I also loved the story. I found the loneliness of the monster to be harrowing. Until the boat arrived, he’d never before seen anyone who remotely resembled himself. It made sense to me that he wanted to get a closer look, possibly kidnap a person or two.


Years later, my first published short story was entitled "Black Lagoon." It was definitely not a humor piece. It was about two teens who’ve recently lost someone in a drowning accident, and they go to see the movie just like I did, and the echoes of their tragedy are too unbearable, and they sort of unravel.

Zombie (credit: Celeste Joyce)


When I started working on the humor pieces, the swamp monster was one of the first I wanted to help – his plight is so sad. He’s not trying to kill or eat anyone. He wants friends. Since he’s vaguely humanoid, it seemed his best bet was to blend in. That’s why his chapter is called "Swamp Monster Makeovers: How to Win Friends and Confuse People." The outfits that Joseph McDermott gave him are so on point that he’ll probably be okay now.


To answer your question about what happens in my head, I think I personify or give agency to all sorts of things. I wrote an obituary for Real Pants this year (McSweeney’s), and I find myself conceptualizing my son’s school bus as a monster that swallows a perky child in the morning and spits out his spent husk in the afternoon. I have probably watched too many movies!



STAY THIRSTY: You are credited with being a "renowned preternaturalist." For the uninitiated, please explain your profession and its importance in the continuation of the human race?


K. E. FLANN: As a preternaturalist, I serve as a guide and educator for preternatural beings. My focus is not on the continuation of the human race (there are over 7 billion humans, after all), but on the preternatural species that humans tend to attack or provoke. These beings are quite often minding their own business when the attacks occur – sleeping, walking, molting, etc. From their perspectives, humans show up and poke them or shoot flamethrowers at them for no reason. My job is to help make sense of these baffling events and to offer tips for prevention and preparedness.

K. E. Flann

STAY THIRSTY: If you are ever confronted by a werewolf or a zombie, what would be your first lines of defense? And if those didn't work?


K. E. FLANN: The options for a strong defense depend on what type of creature you are. For example, if you are a werewolf and you find yourself in a dark alley with another werewolf, consider this a networking opportunity. Keep your assumptions in check. A new contact’s "territorial marking" of a fire hydrant could actually be an invitation for you to mark it, too. With the right attitude, avoid a skirmish and possibly find camaraderie in a new pack. Forming alliances can be a great way to shore up your security – as is taking up residence in an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of town.


The far bigger issue than fellow werewolves is humans – they are everywhere, and they are hostile, a dangerous combination. If you are confronted by humans, do not to respond to their aggression with aggression of your own, as tempting as it may be. Instead, sit down and cock your fuzzy head to the side in a really cute way. Gaze at them with large, moist eyes. This will cause them to fumble with their phones in order to make a quick TikTok video, and you’ll make your escape.


Stay safe out there, friends! Never forget that you are an incredible monster.



K. E. Flann



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.