Those of you who keep up with the online parenting community have probably come across the work of James Breakwell (aka Exploding Unicorn). James is a comedy writer and father of four girls. His social media accounts, where he recounts funny conversations with his kids and shares other entertaining insights from his home life, have been featured in numerous publications including Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, USA Today, and US Weekly. A profile on Buzzfeed deemed him the funniest dad on Twitter, and, you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I'm not jealous at all. But seriously, his Twitter and Facebook are both hilarious and infinitely relatable. If you haven’t already, you should check them out!
James’s first book, Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, is out this fall and is available for pre-order now. As the title indicates, it is about a topic that all of us as parents have lost a lot of sleep over: Zombies. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with James to discuss his book and the upcoming zombie apocalypse. And obviously, what really happened is we emailed each other from our couches after our kids were in bed.
I hope you enjoy our conversation and then head over to his website to pre-order his book.
To my knowledge (and I Googled for several minutes to prepare for this interview so I am confident that I am right) you are the leading expert on zombie apocalypse parenting. So, let me start with the question that I’m sure is on every parent’s mind: How close are we to a zombie apocalypse and, really, when it arrives, will parents notice much of a difference?
JAMES: For all we know, it’s already started. It doesn’t begin everywhere at once. There are no zombies at my house right now. Are they at your house? I don’t know. If you stop replying to my emails, I’ll have my answer.
That is very chilling. Your book is called Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. Can you pinpoint the precise moment after you had kids that you realized you were dead inside or was it more of a gradual realization? I remember my dead inside moment well. It was when my first kid was about 18 months and he discovered he could reach the kitchen countertops. One day he just started pulled every item off the counter, one by one, until I eventually just gave up and left it all on the floor until we moved about a year later.
JAMES: I cheated a little by being dead on the inside before I ever had kids. The presence of children in my life simply confirmed what I already knew. Probably the moment I was the deadest inside, though, was while potty training my second child when I had to scrub poop out of her hair. I thought my instructions had been very clear. Apparently, they were not.
Wow. Dead on the inside before kids. That is a brilliant life hack. You are known on the internet as Exploding Unicorn. How did that name come about? And what I mean by that is what made you so broken that you fantasized about blowing up cute little unicorns to the point that you decided to make it your alter ego?
JAMES: In high school, I had a few minutes of free time at the end of my computer literacy class every day. Like most healthy, well-adjusted boys my age, I started writing a fake book of the Bible. One of the earliest passages in it centered on unicorns that were tragically filled with hydrogen. And that’s where we get the saying, “It exploded like a unicorn.”
I tuned out a little when you started talking about high school, but that’s fascinating. I read that you are the father of four children ages six and under. What were you thinking?
JAMES: Well, they’re seven and under now. They keep getting older. Kids are tricky like that. As for what I was thinking, I like kids and I like having sex with my wife. Seemed like a win-win at the time.
Ah, a tale as old as time. And yes, I have watched the new Beauty and the Beast movie with my kids too many times this summer. They can certainly be annoying, can’t they? Especially with their sneaky aging. Follow up question. I have three kids under age six and I consistently amaze people in my community by taking them grocery shopping by myself or going to the playground. When you take all four of your kids out, do people just start throwing confetti and assembling marching bands?
JAMES: People never congratulate me when I take all four kids out by myself because between one and four of them will be throwing a temper tantrum at all times. People usually cross the street to avoid us. That’s fine with me.
You are my hero. Your Facebook tag line is “Ruining my children’s lives for your amusement one day at a time.” If you take such a cavalier attitude toward parenting in relatively peaceful times such as these, why should readers trust you as possibly their only source of life-saving advice as they prepare for the zombie invasion?
JAMES: Not a single person who has read my book has died in a zombie attack. Granted, that’s a relatively small sample size, but 100 percent is 100 percent. I’m willing to extend that as a guarantee. If you read my book, I promise you won’t die in a zombie attack or your money back. Although if you do die, I’m not sure how you’ll collect on that promise. Hopefully it won’t come to that. I don’t want to spend the entire zombie apocalypse tied up in court.
That’s outstanding. I love a man who is willing to stand behind his work. And a follow-up about your parenting style. As a father of four, are you concerned that the several minutes you spend on social media every day (I’m guessing on the amount) will result in your kids turning into zombies? There are lots of studies. Also, that would be ironic, but I guess you’d be better prepared than most to deal with it?
JAMES: The zombies will knock out electricity and with it the internet and social media. I will be forced to be a better dad by default. I might let the zombies eat me just to cope.
Too real. You clearly spend a lot of time with your kids. Did you decide to write about zombies because it was a grass is always greener type of situation? In other words, did you view it as a bit of an escape from your real-life hellscape?
JAMES: I wrote about zombies because publishers and agents wanted me to write something autobiographical, but I didn’t want the pressure of telling the truth. Comedy leads to exaggerations, and exaggerations lead to lies, and that’s how wars get started. I decided to go the safe route and stick with all lies right from the start.
Although I should note this book is classified as non-fiction. My publisher and agent both agreed on that unequivocally, and no one in the book industry has ever questioned its status. Apparently, zombies are more real than I originally thought. Ignore this book at your own peril.
Inspirational and terrifying. You’ve been counting down a list of 99 parenting tips for the zombie apocalypse on your social media accounts. This is a very important public service and I thank you on behalf of the entire parenting community. However, as you know well, parents are very busy people. So, could you give us like one tip that is the most important one? Sure, we want to survive, but we also have Instagram accounts to update.
JAMES: The beautiful thing about my list is it’s not in any sort of order. I’m a parent. I can’t plan anything 99 days in advance. The advice of the day depends entirely on what I can convince my kids to pose for in the pictures. Some days it’s them armed and ready for battle. Other days it’s them ignoring me or crying on the floor. It’s entirely possible parenting tip number one will be the worst tip of them all. But it could also be the best. I guess I’ll find out when that day comes.
But if I were to give one zombie survival tip outside of that, it would be to drive a minivan. Read my book to find out why.
Teaser alert! And just to clarify. Does your book recommend that we do a lot of fitness and/or diet stuff to prepare for the zombies? Because, if so, I’ll probably just take my chances.
JAMES: My book recommends no fitness level whatsoever. In fact, it assumes that as a parent, you’re out of shape. Every other survival book is written to young, fit survivalists who have ample skills and no obligations. My book is for people with none of the skills and all of the obligations. You have a family to keep alive in a world full of undead monsters trying to kill them. Good luck.
Perfect. Sounds like just what I’m looking for. On the other hand, do you offer up any shortcuts? If so, can you talk about a couple of those because all parents love shortcuts.
JAMES: I have a pretty detailed chapter on who in your family to trust if you need someone to amputate one of your limbs following a zombie bite. If that bite is on your legs, you’ll definitely be cut shorter.
I see what you did there. And finally, instead of asking the cliché concluding question about why people should buy your book—I mean, the answer is obvious, survival—let me flip it around and ask it another way. What do you think of people who don’t buy your book and what do you hope happens to them?
JAMES: People who don’t read my book will lead happy, productive lives. Until the zombies kill them. Then they’ll become zombies themselves, and those of us who read the book will have to fight them off. You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the undead horde. There’s no in-between.
And there you have it. Thank you to James for stopping by Explorations. Only Dead on the Inside is out October 10 and is available for pre-order now. I guess we all better buy it…or else.