By David Canfield
August 12, 2019 at 02:28 PM EDT
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Laura Zimmerman; Grand Central Publishing

Humanity is going extinct and it’s up to a sassy, TV-obsessed crow in Seattle named S.T. to save the earth from total apocalypse. Just how in the world did Kira Jane Buxton come up with the premise for her wild debut novel, Hollow Kingdom?

One element that informed the author’s process: pop culture. This genre-bending novel is entirely its own creation, to be sure, but influences and homages still abound. Given Hollow Kingdom‘s wild mashup of tones, themes, and flawed anthropomorphic heroes, EW thought it appropriate to get the inside scoop from Buxton on how movies, TV, books, and music shaped her writing. Check out the fascinating connections below. Hollow Kingdom is available for purchase.

My Favorite Pop Culture Depiction of the Apocalypse

Shaun of the Dead for its unbridled hilarity and simultaneous playful poke at and homage to the zombie movie tropes. It’s scythe-sharp and clever, and the jokes don’t get old. “You’ve got red on you.” I’m pretty sure Simon Pegg is my long lost brother. And if you haven’t watched his first TV show, Spaced — you’re in for a treat.

© 2019 Disney

My Favorite Anthropomorphic Animals in Movies

My favorite Disney movie is The Jungle Book, which, in conjunction with [Rudyard] Kipling’s stories, obviously inspired me (Hollow Kingdom was once described by an editor as “Kipling, if he were really, really high!”) Bagheera, Baloo, Kaa, Shere Kahn, King Louis and the Beatles-esque vultures were characters who illuminated my childhood. The new CG-animated The Jungle Book and The Lion King are now swift favorites, both of which I joy-sobbed so hard through that I had to be wiped off the movie seat afterwards. I loved them that much. I am a massive Jon Favreau fan-girl (🎶I wanna be like you ooh ooh🎶) and I still sing along to the soundtrack from the 1967 Disney film when I’ve had a couple of drinks.

The Pop Culture That Inspires My Unique Blend of Tones

I grew up reading Roald Dahl, Tolkien, and funny books like Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole and Morris Gleitzman’s Two Weeks With The Queen. A book called Empty World by John Christopher was my first dystopian introduction, and the first time I experienced the idea of a worldwide human pandemic. I found it both shocking and exhilarating. I was born in the eighties, so I was certainly inspired by fantasy classics like The Dark Crystal (a favorite for my fellow animal-loving Kira and her cantankerous side-kick Fizzgig who resembles my dog!), The NeverEnding Story, and The Last Unicorn, which is also one of my all time favorite books. I also have always gravitated toward funny movies and loved Airplane, The Naked Gun series, and Hot Shots. As a little girl, all I wanted was to grow up to be Leslie Nielsen or Lloyd Bridges.

Gramercy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

The Characters Who Inspired My “Crowtagonist”

My favorite characters are “fish out of water” characters who bumble and blunder their way through situations they are entirely unprepared to handle. Inspector Clouseau, Mr. Bean, Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski (I don’t discriminate, I love all the Bridges), Arthur Less from Andrew Sean Greer’s brilliant novel Less, and the chicken from Moana. I think these are the characters that I most relate to as someone who is clumsy, and is usually wearing some of their food, wandering around with their pants on backwards. I have never identified with any living being as much as the chicken from Moana. S.T., the crowtagonist of Hollow Kingdom is most certainly a “fish out of water” character. He’s plucky, sweet, a jokester, raised by a human and therefore fervently wants to be one (ala King Louis), but tends to put his foot in his beak, and is delightfully clueless about certain aspects of life.

My Soundtrack to Hollow Kingdom

I made an entire playlist of songs that accompany Hollow Kingdom and inspired some of its scenes. I’m drawn to lively, upbeat music with dark or satirical lyrics. The song I think exemplifies Hollow Kingdom is Post Modern Juke Box’s “Welcome To The Black Parade” (a cover of the My Chemical Romance song). Joey Cook’s singing is eerie and beautiful, it’s catchy, and I love its call to carry on — “though you’re dead and gone, believe me, your memory will carry on.” I imagined it as a call to action and the start of a hero’s journey. I can picture S.T. the crow and [his companion] Dennis the bloodhound cavorting to the soundtrack of “Best Day Of My Life” by Katie Herzig while the apocalypse unfolds outside their little Seattle yard. I only recently discovered Tom Lehrer and love his pithy songs. A favorite is “We Will All Go Together When We Go.” Richard Cheese’s “People Equal S—” is very calming to me.

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

My Favorite Depiction of Seattle

Nirvana changed the way the world viewed Seattle, and Kurt Cobain is still such an indomitable Seattle icon. I went to a couple of different schools in Indonesia and was really into Nirvana in the ’90s. I blasted “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from my walkman and eventually discman (fancy!), pretended I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and wore flannel shirts and Doc Martens despite suffocating in the 100 degree heat and tropical humidity. The grunge look was good for me — I have naturally dirty blonde hair, no fashion sense, and a soft spot for butt-kicking boots.

My Ultimate Literary Inspiration

I have so many, but I would say Gerald Durrell is my biggest literary inspiration. I read his brilliant and hysterical My Family and Other Animals as a child, and utterly adored it. I related to young Gerald as an expat (I grew up in Asia and the Middle East), as an avid animal lover, and as someone who sees the world with their funny glasses on. It was the first time I realized that humor can be used as a way to change your perspectives on the harder things in life so that they’re more manageable. Humor is a brilliant way for us all to find common ground, and not just to cope, but to thrive.

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