Posted: 08/26/2015 05:15:27 PM PDT0 Comments
ALAMEDA — Alameda author Eric Johnson’s first book, “Summer School Zombocalypse,” doesn’t waste any time living up to its cataclysmic promise with a strange plane crash on the schoolyard, rescuers transformed into zombies and kids dodging dangers on every corner as they scramble to find their parents.
“Lizardmen, Anidea, call them lizardmen,” says the book’s plucky — but unlikely — protagonist, 14-year-old Tom, who leads the motley crew of school kids who have to save the world from invading aliens. “People they are not. You do not have to be politically correct when talking about invading aliens from outer space.”
Johnson, 48, said he’s always been a follower of science fiction.
“I love Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles’ — and the ‘Star Trek’ series,” said Johnson, who grew up on 1950s sci-fi movies. ” ‘Zombocalypse’ is geared for readers 12 years and up. Tom is the hero of the story. I wanted an adventure that focused on a boy as the hero, as there is a rash of strong female leads in books and movies at the moment. Tom is logical and pragmatic — he tucks his fears aside and rolls with the punches.”
Johnson, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, couldn’t wait to leave the cold Midwestern weather behind and strike out for California.
“As soon as I graduated from high school, I bought a one-way ticket with $500 in my pocket,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Goodbye cold weather’ — the last winter I spent in Michigan it was 20 degrees below zero, so I said, ‘That’s enough.’ ”
He subsequently studied accounting and general education at Columbia Junior College in Sonora before moving to San Francisco to work as a sous chef. In a career switch, he landed a job in technical support with Pacific Bell but eventually got tired of the long daily commute and graveyard shifts that left him little time to see his kids.
“I got tired of city life, so I decided to move to Alameda, where my mom lived during World War II,” said Johnson, who has been a stay-at-home dad for the past eight years to children Christopher, 9, and Caitlin, 8.Johnson said he writes every second he gets a chance.
“As a stay-at-home parent, you have to do something for yourself to stay sane,” joked Johnson, who also loves to walk the Alameda shoreline and Crab Cove with his wife and children or hike Lake Chabot or trails in the Oakland hills.
Johnson, who said he and his son suffer from dyslexia, has also published “Zombocalypse” in OpenDyslexic, a new font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The OpenDyslexic version is available through Amazon.com.
“There is not enough literature published in this heavier, thicker format which enforces the lines of the text and makes it easier for dyslexic people to read,” Johnson said. “Dyslexic people can read to themselves, but when they try to read aloud, things get jumbled. With OpenDyslexic text, the ability to read aloud improves.”