Being a parent to a preschooler is never easy, but it’s even harder if your job and creative outlet terrifies your poor offspring, as local cartoonist Stan Yan discovered when his son was three. “I have all this zombie art hanging from the walls [in the basement] and our laundry room is down there as well,” Yan recalls. “He was coming downstairs with my wife to do the laundry, then all of a sudden he wouldn’t come down. She was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ and he said, “I’m scared” and started pointing at all of my artwork. My wife is giving me that look that’s like, ‘See, I told you!’”
Rather than give up his bloodstained zombie art, Yan took his child’s fear as a challenge. If his art could frighten, maybe it could just as easily put those fears to rest.
“From that point in the evening, and for the next hour, I was completely, utterly inspired,” Yan says. “Before that, I didn’t have any desire to write children’s books, but all of a sudden I just had a need to write a book to convince my son that things he’s afraid of are just in his imagination and that he doesn’t need to be afraid of that stuff.”
It wasn’t long before that inspiration and a lot of hard work was turned into There’s a Zombie in the Basement, a rhyming children’s book aimed at helping kids understand, and overcome, their fears. As with much of Yan’s work, there’s a whimsical element to the scary stuff — Yan describes it as a “Tim Burton aesthetic” — and in this context it works beautifully. Though he was unable to sell the book to any traditional publishers he submitted it to, Yan says fan reactions have been almost universally positive.
“That book has definitely gotten the most love from various horror conventions and film festivals I’ve shown it around at,” Yan says. “I’ve had a lot of people signing up on my mailing list specifically because they really love the book.”
It doesn’t hurt that, as a parent himself, Yan understands that part of what separates a good kid’s book from a terrible one is its ability to appeal to the people who are actually reading the damn thing — parents, grandparents and other adults.
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“I wanted something that even people without kids would have fun reading and wouldn’t mind reading over and over,” he explains. “I stuck a lot of fun details into my art, and stuff like that, to give them things to appreciate.” Those who are tired of zombies need not worry, either — Yan promises that the book is full of all sorts of ghoulies, not just the walking dead.
Now, in order to make the book a reality beyond the single mock-up he put together to show at conventions, Yan is launching a Kickstarter to fund publishing the book himself. In light of the love the book has gotten at conventions where he’s shown it, he’s opting to launch it at the inaugural Colorado Horror Convention this weekend. Of course, the holiday itself doesn’t hurt.
“What better time to launch it than Halloween weekend?” he asks.
Fans of Yan’s work, or anyone who has kids with irrational fears (i.e., all parents), can contribute starting this weekend. Rewards will include the book itself (signed or unsigned), plush zombie dolls, original art and even the opportunity to have your family pet featured in the final book. The Kickstarter itself isn’t live yet, but you can find more info on the book, and a link once it does go live, via the dedicated There’s a Zombie in the Basement page on Yan’s website.