Somehow, it's appropriate that the man behind the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which won our inaugural Best Book Cover of the Year vote in a thrilling come-from-behind victory just before Christmas) would be both a graphic designer and a standup comedian. As I mentioned last month when we announced the winner, when I did a Google search on "Doogie Horner," I got the results you only dream about: podcasts, hilarious photo montages, action ping-pong shots (see below, stolen from the Quirk Books site), and standup comedy entrepreneurism. I tracked down Doogie and sent him a few questions about the book and his work, and he was gracious enough to reply:
Amazon.com: It's been a heady year for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: from semi-obscure literary mashup to national bestseller to Natalie Portman-attached film deal in less than a year. How did the book come about?
Horner: Jason Rekulak, the Creative Director at Quirk, came up with the book idea. He's a genius. He had complete faith in the idea, he was so excited about it, even though everybody else was like "wha?" I don't know what inspired him to come up with it.
Amazon.com: How did you approach the project as a designer? On first glance, it doesn't look like it belongs on the same shelf with other Quirk books like the Worst-Case Scenario guides or Your Big Fat Boyfriend.
Horner: Yeah, it looks different than other Quirk books. Quirk has a very eclectic list, so we don't really have a "house style," we do whatever is right for that particular book. With this one, I wanted the cover to look like a regular classic book, a real copy of Pride and Prejudice, but with a zombie on the cover. That's what the text is like, it's a mash-up. So I wanted the cover to be a mashed up old portrait, a portrait you'd find on a real version of Pride and Prejudice.
Wendy Zeiger at the Bridgeman Art Gallery helped us find the right portrait, and then I painted on the zombie parts--the skull, the exposed spinal column, the blood--and merged the two. I liked actually painting, that was nice. I also messed with her in Photoshop, made her pale and such. Oh, and I designed the Quirk Classics logo in the upper right, which we thought would be fun, envisioning this as an imprint within Quirk Books. Although, at the time, I don't think we expected Quirk Classics to become a legitimate imprint, like it has.
Amazon.com: How did you come to publishing? Does Quirk work like other publishers? You're located in Philadelphia, for one thing, which is just a short Amtrak hop from Manhattan, but somehow that distance seems significant.
Horner: I always wanted to get into publishing, because I love books. I'm a bibliophile. I read a lot, I write a lot. So I always wanted to do book design, but I didn't want to move to NY, because, in case you haven't noticed, it's crowded and expensive (no offense, NY--you're beautiful!) There are only two publishers in Philadelphia: Running Press and Quirk. I started at Running Press, and then moved to Quirk a couple years ago. So I've worked at 100% of the trade publishers in the City of Brotherly Love.
I guess being in Philadelphia effects what we publish, how we publish; I'm not sure how other publishers work, actually. I think because we're a small publisher we have to generate a lot more book ideas in-house. I think larger houses utilize submissions from authors and agents more than we do. Quirk is very democratic; David Borgenicht, the Publisher, is open to ideas from anybody in the company. Anybody can pitch a book idea, and if we like it, the book will come together very quickly without too much red tape. Everybody in the company can fit around one table.
Amazon.com: How many graphic designer/standups are out there? Haven't all the font jokes been used up?
Horner: Sure, there have been a lot of font jokes written, but I think the great American font joke is still out there somewhere. I have a limerick I've been working on about Frankfurter, which has a lot of potential, but it's still under development.
I bet there are other graphic designer comedians. I don't have the exact numbers. Dave Eggers is a graphic designer--he's not a standup, but he's funny. Phil Hartman did design before comedy.
Amazon.com: I understand that "Dr. Eric Ryland Horner, D.V.M.," the author of First Timer's Kit: The Safe, Effective Way to Lose Your Virginity, is none other than you. Is that so? When I looked that item up on Amazon, these were among the first products listed in the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought section: the Logitech MX 1100 Cordless Laser Mouse, the Rubbermaid 7J98 Easy Find Lid 24-Piece Food Storage Containers, and the Kitchens of India Paste for Butter Chicken Curry, 3.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6). And, yes, a year's subscription to Maxim. Can you explain?
Horner: Yes, that's me. I wrote that book-in-a-tin that says LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY real big on the front. Designed it too! I'm a one man band of inappropriateness. I couldn't use the name Doogie Horner because I didn't want people to think I was making a doctor joke, so I used a pseudonym. I don't know why that other weird stuff comes up under stuff other customers bought. The Tupperware makes sense, but the others seem random.
Right now I'm writing, designing, and illustrating a book called Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (HarperCollins, 2010), which is exciting because it combines all my interests; it's also exciting because it's bound to be the most thrilling book of the new millennium.