Tumblr king: An interview with the co-author of 'All My Friends Are Dead'

Book of the Dead.

Perhaps it's indicative of our societal aversion to life's end that Jory John just finished an email interview with the Guardian. How else would one explain the meteoric success of his tiny book, lightly filled with illustrations of dinos, Yetis, and ponies bemoaning their dead friends in deadpan one-liners? Seriously, they he and co-author Avery Monsen hold Tumblr records, and Ellen DeGeneres once tweeted about them, and their book is now available in Catalan. Surely, in All My Friends Are Dead they have crafted the most Internet-ready nugget known to humankind. 

Small surprise then, that All My Friends Are Still Dead (Chronicle Books, 108 pages, $9.95) is now tromping about, introducing us to the rolling 'bot of eternal isolation, a Godzilla with daddy issues, and a real bitchy toothbrush-toothpaste duo. We hollered at John to find out how life has changed since he became a ruler of the Internet.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: How has your life changed since All my friends are dead was published?

Jory John: It's been really fun watching the book take off. Chronicle Books started with 15,000 copies and it's since been reprinted eight or nine times. There's something like 175,000 copies on bookshelves across the world, which is amazing. All my friends are dead came out in June, 2010 and by July an animated gif of 10 pages of the book had become the most reblogged item in Tumblr's history, at least at that point. For a little while, we had a world record! Good going, us. 

We've done a series of all-day events, where we sit at booths and sign books and talk to passersby, usually in front of the bookstores. We started out as guys who would work street fairs selling shirts and stuff we made, so we're really comfortable just sitting around chatting with people. In a way, it seems like we kind of put our own spin on what a book-reading is supposed to look like and how long they're supposed to last. Maybe we just have a lot of free time. Though these events, we've gotten to meet tons of people who have read the book and it started to feel like a cool community of like-minded folks. 

Since AMFAD was published, plenty of exciting things have happened. People have gotten tattoos of our characters on their bodies. Ellen DeGeneres tweeted about our book to millions of her followers. Thousands of people have joined our Facebook page. It's been translated into Spanish, German and Catalan, with possibly more foreign editions on the way. We've heard from tons of people, including a bunch who have made YouTube videos of themselves reading the book, or people who have made cakes with the AMFAD dinosaur on it, or classrooms who have sent us drawings inspired by the book. And who knows what else? Jammies? 

It's been a long and winding road, San Francisco Bay Guardian. Yes it has. But we're still the same guys we always were. We start each morning with eight to 10 hours of yoga, just as we always have, and end that day with a thorough, deep, heaving cry. Some things should never change. 

See, a long time ago, back in 2010, we said to ourselves, "Don't ever change, us." It was our mantra, repeated so often that it beat incessantly with our hearts. At that time, we were a couple of guys who spent way too much time clicking "refresh" on Facebook and who secretly stood in bookstores, watching people read our stuff and snapping iPhone photos of them. And we're still those same guys, just two years closer to the side-by-side grave sites that we purchased. 

Avery Monsen, dinosaur, Jory John. 

SFBG: Creepy. How did you deal with all the people who come to you for grief counseling?

JJ: We turn a sympathetic ear and open our hearts and minds. We look to the universe for guidance. We listen more than we talk. And, just like your standard for-hire grief-counselors, we try to flirt with as many grief-stricken babes as possible. Is that so wrong? 

SFBG: Are all your friends dead?

JJ: Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? 

SFBG: Whose friends are you glad are dead?

JJ: Stalin. 

SFBG: Whose friends do you wish were dead?

JJ: Joseph Stalin's offspring, if they exist. If they don't, let's just go with Kirk Cameron's. Who's writing these questions? 

SFBG: Byline's up there. Your new book is called All My Friends Are Still Dead. Why did you write this book?

SOMEBODY had to write it. We wanted to be those writers. It's like, "What? Are we NOT gonna write this book?" You know? Like, "Are we not going to write this sequel?" Right? Like, "There's gonna be a sequel and SOMEBODY'S gonna write it, so why not us?" OK? Like, "What on earth are we doing that's so much better and more productive than writing this book?" You know? 

Good one, us. But honestly, we felt like we had lots more funny directions we could take the theme and we're really proud with how it all turned out. Some of the characters from the first book make appearances, but there are plenty of new favorites, too, including a little robot who just can't win. We're hearing from some folks who have reported liking the sequel even more than the first one, which we take as a compliment, while simultaneously being insulted. People who compliment us just can't win, either. 

SFBG: What will the next book be called?

JJ: This is a big scoop! But we'll answer because you asked. You ready? It's an alphabetical and terrible advice book for kids called K is for Knifeball, which will come out in the fall, also with Chronicle. After that, it's anybody's guess. We may move into the self-help market. 

Watch for an All My Friends Are Still Dead event at Stanford University in April 

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