DigiYumi: Interview with Working Daze Author John Zakour

Working Daze is a comic distributed by United Media. Working Daze is currently written by John Zakour and illustrated by Scott Roberts. John Zakour is also a writer for Bongo's Simpson's Comics, and has written a series of humorous sci-fi novels for Daw books that he calls "bubblegum for the brain." Zakour has a master's degree in human behavior and undergrad degrees in computer science, eco, and bio.

Working Daze character Roy (@WorkingDaze_Roy), who twitters in character, is trying to get 1K (1000) followers. If he gets 1K twitter followers by June 10, John Zakour will be giving away free copies of his books to five random people. Working Daze follows the daily happenings of an office filled with a ruthless manager, plenty of geeks, and others who are not so geeky. Technology, office humor, and geek talk abound in Working Daze, which you can follow at the comics.com site.

John Zakour's Working Daze Blog lists four reasons why people should follow Roy:

1) He doesn't exist, yet he is still more like you than Ashton Kutcher.

2) You want geeks to be on your side.

3) He's witty but modest.

4) All the cool geeks are doing it.

Interview with John Zakour

Aurora Dizon: Tell us a little bit about Roy and why he wants 1k followers on Twitter:

John Zakour: Roy came about as a nod to my friend Ron, who did the programming for the Web version of my cartoons and my books. Ron isn't as geeky as Roy. Roy wants at least 1000 Twitter followers because he figures if Ashton K can get close to 2 million, then Roy is surely worthy of 1K. After all, Roy is sure his knowledge of really important things like Star Trek, Unix, and Perl are far superior to Ashton's. Roy would also argue he really isn't THAT much more fictional than the persona of Ashton the public sees.

Aurora Dizon: What are the inspirations for Roy's character?

John Zakour: My friend Ron that I mentioned, Aaron (RON) Pool, who introduced me to the Web in '94 and did a lot of the programming on my first Web site.

Aurora Dizon: What are some of Roy's geeky quirks?

John Zakour: Roy believes computers would make fine overlords, speaks Klingon, and knows the Vulcan nerve pinch but also is a Jedi Master (sort of), believes there is no problem machines can't fix; he also has near-lethal foot odor, which ironically is actually based on my real-life niece who is part of the inspiration for Dana. The girl is an ex-Costa Rican model (she's related to my wife, not me) who now works for a major multinational corporation; but her feet can drop a herd of rhinos at 20 feet.

Aurora Dizon: Which books will be given away if Roy reaches 1k followers?

John Zakour: The winners chosen at random will have their choice of any of my sci-fi books.

Aurora Dizon: Why does Roy like Twitter?

John Zakour: Roy likes Twitter because it lets him communicate with people without actually being with people.

Aurora Dizon: Who are your favorite Working Daze characters?

John Zakour: Well, the fans love Roy and Carolina, who is based on my other niece (who was an exotic dancer). Jay has a lot of my personality (well, he kind of is me) so I am partial to him. I also like Dana since she is under so much pressure but she keeps the office together even though she is the lowest-paid member of the group. (I've noticed this happens a lot in real life, that often it's the lowest-paid member who bears a lot of the workload and acts as the glue that holds an office together.) Dana, of course, also seems to have supernatural powers but hardly ever abuses them. She's just cool with who she is. Rita is based on my last boss from the days I had a boss. I have actually used quotes from that boss for Rita. "Tell me why I think this is important." But in real life my last boss wasn't nearly as nasty or dense as Rita.

Aurora Dizon: How did Working Daze come about?

John Zakour: Well, I started as a database programmer who went to being writer / Web guru. They say, "write what you know."

Aurora Dizon: Can you tell me a little bit about the artist you work with on Working Daze?

John Zakour: His name is Scott Roberts. Scott is the third artist I've worked with on Working Daze. Scott's a great guy and has a lot of input into the direction of Working Daze. I met Scott while working on the Rugrats comic strip. Scott can draw in numerous styles. We have a graphic Web novel called Sam 3.14 PI (about a robot PI with a human brain) coming to iPods and iPhones soon from iVerse.

Aurora Dizon: What inspires you to write?

John Zakour: I like entertaining people (and myself) but I am a bit of an introvert, so writing is the perfect outlet. Plus, I like getting paid money for making things up. That's hard to do outside of advertising and of course politics. (My dad worked for an advertising company, so I had been writing slogans for a LONG time. I kind of wanted to do that for a living when I was younger, but my dad wanted me to have a "real" job.)

Aurora Dizon: You refer to your humorous sci-fi novels as "bubble gum for the brain." What does that mean exactly?

John Zakour: It means my writing is mostly meant for entertainment purposes but hopefully gets you thinking a little bit. :)

Aurora Dizon: How did you get into writing?

John Zakour: I was working as a database programmer for a major university when my position got cut as part of state budget cuts. So I basically spent my unemployment on beaches, on the softball field, and in bookstores. While in a bookstore I found a book on gag writing. I decided to try it. I wrote a bunch of gags and sent them to magazine cartoonists, figuring nothing would come of it. Turns out every cartoonist I wrote to responded and bought a LOT of my gags. I then branched off into writing for comedians you see on TV shows and syndicated comics. After selling literally thousands of gags I branched off to my own comic.

The sci-fi writing was a natural extension of that. I wanted to write more than three-panel comics. After all, I was always a bit of geek and sf fanboy. I just didn't think anybody would publish my novels as well, I had no formal training. So I had a an idea for book about a PI with a computer attached to his brain but I didn't really do anything about it. Then in 1994 I discovered this thing called The World Wide Web. I started publishing my own cartoons over it (called Computoons) and then in '98 (I think) started publishing an interactive Web adventure called The Doomsday Brunette. It was programmed by a guy named Ron Pool who would become part of the inspiration for Roy in Working Daze. The Doomsday Brunette was pretty well received. So that encouraged me to try to do more Web writing.

One day I saw that the Sci-Fi Channel Web site was looking for content, so I e-mailed them and asked, "hey, how about if I write an original Web serial for you?" They surprisingly said, "Sure." So I wrote The Plutonium Blonde one week at a time usually just hours before deadline. The Plutonium Blonde ran its course and I thought that would be that. But then my cousin Larry Ganem (who works for DC comics) told me about an e-book publisher called Peanut Press that was starting up. I e-mailed them and asked if they'd like TPB as an e-book. Turns out they had read it online and really liked it. They bought it; it was a top-selling e-book in 2000 until some guy named Steven King wrote Riding the Bullet. So I thought then, that was it, I have had my run. Then out of the blue I get an e-mail from some lady named Betsy Wohlheim at Daw books saying she read the e-book and really liked it. Would I be interested in turning it into a paper novel? I said, "Sure." Then I got my cousin Larry to help me, as he was a communications major at SU and knew about things like verbs and semicolons. The rest is history.

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To view the DigiYumi DigiDaze comic, click here.

Don't forget to follow Roy on Twitter ! You can also follow author John Zakour @JohnZakour. As always you can stay up to date with DigiYumi on Twitter @DigiYumi.

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