FBDC Interview: New Author, CNN’s Lisa Desjardins

Meet Lisa Desjardins, CNN Radio Capitol Hill correspondent and author of new book “Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance – How to Slay Your Bills, Decapitate Debt and Fight the Apocalypse of Financial Doom.” Born in Hawaii but raised in Annandale, VA, Lisa claims to be an American citizen.

“I do have a copy of my long-form birth certificate that I can show you.  Really. I may choose not to, however,” Lisa proclaimed when we tracked her down for the skinny on her life as an author.

It was in Virginia that Desjardins pranced into politics.  At the age of seven she started going to campaign phone banks with her mother.  By nine she was making phone calls for candidates (unbeknownst to some campaign mgrs).  She credits her journalistic aspirations to her mom’s political prowess and the behind-the-scenes perspectives she gained as a child.

Before landing her current gig with CNN Radio, Lisa worked as a reporter for the Associated Press and spent five years  in South Carolina where she covered the statehouse for CNN and NBC affiliate WIS-TV.  Lisa, her hubby and two cats – Rocky and Ivan, currently reside in Del Ray, Alexandria.

Read on to learn more about our zany new friend, her book and to find out why she once worked as a waitress/Civil War reenactor at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede while taking a brief hiatus from journalism.

What do you mean by “zombie economics?” Definition: The theory that every skill needed to survive a financial disaster mirrors a skill needed to survive a zombie apocalypse.  Especially the knowledge that no one is coming to save you.  Save yourself.

It’s also a reference to the way the global economy works today.  Lurching. Moving by outside forces that make individuals (and sometimes members of the Senate Finance Committee) feel helpless.  Mostly, it’s a personal finance book for anyone who needs help, but who thinks personal finance books are as about as fun as a daylong seminar on the various FOIA laws in all 50 states.

What was the inspiration for your book? My co-author and friend Rick Emerson created the concept. He’s also in radio and has a cult-like following in Oregon. We’d both seen many talented friends laid off this recession and he started to think of a metaphor for fighting financial doom.  He lives in Portland and that city is particularly obsessed with zombies (though their darling Decembrists seem more monster-oriented).  I believe his wife Lara, part of the Zombie creative team, actually is the one who said “Zombies!”

As we wrote the publishing pitch, a new company bought the radio station where Rick worked and he himself was laid off.  Making the book extra authentic.

We know your co-author has faced and fought the “Apocalypse of Financial Doom.”  Have you? I’ve also been unemployed, losing my first reporting job (at a local Myrtle Beach station) after too many speeding tickets and a fender bender in the TV truck.  This resulted in a surreal stint as a waitress/civil war reenactor at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.  In a civil war soldier uniform, I served large chickens from a tray to politicians I had previously interviewed as tough reporter-girl. It was humbling and hilarious.

You’re a Capitol Hill correspondent for CNN.  Shouldn’t you be writing about politics? Ah yes. The Capitol.  I am in committed relationship with politics. But as with most of us in DC, it is dysfunctional.  Writing this book helped restore my sanity after a year of combing through CBO reports (and misreports of CBO reports), reading health care bills and watching lawmakers blame one another.  I was a personal finance reporter long ago. I’m still a national debt wonk.  On that topic, the book is a rough metaphor to Congress.   (Ryan, Reid: See chapter one “The Zombie On The Back Porch”)

How many zombies did you bring back from the dead to prove the advice offered in your book? None, sadly.  If I had to reincarnate a president of the past as a zombie, I would chose “gentleman boss” Chester Arthur. Aside from the many substantive reasons for his resurrection, I’d like to see what mutton-chop whiskers look like on a zombie.

Hypothetical question: My finances are more frightening than a scene from “Thriller” and Neverland Ranch is in foreclosure.  What should my first be? If it must be in music, invest in Bieber. That kid will be a cash machine for at least another five months. Possibly for years. Fly to Asia and hook into his entourage at the end of his tour. Try to convince him to do a zombie video AND buy Neverland. That will also fulfill our need to be slightly creeped out by celebrities.

*Read Lisa’s top finance tip, favorite horror flick  and who she thinks should read her book, after the jump.


What’s your number one tip to avoid a horrific financial future? Obvious, publisher-endorsed answer: buy our book!  That would, honestly, help you a lot.  Otherwise, stop putting off the tough stuff and get to it already.  Take control and make decisions. In other words, be more decisive than Congress.

Since we’re on the subject of zombies, do you have a favorite horror flick? I do love a good horror movie. Esp. on rainy night. Favorites?:  For zombies, “Shaun of the Dead” wins.  I am a big fan of Scream series. It’s underrated (she says, hoping this next one isn’t a bust.)  I like the self-aware ones, yes.  Others: “The Shining” is one of the best, of course..  But I know those are a bit boring and every hipster might name them.

So as far as old fashioned nerdy scary horror, I’ll say my favorite is “The Fog” with Jamie Lee Curtis. The lighthouse, the late-night radio. It’s great.

Here’s your opportunity for a shameless plug:  So, who should read “Zombie Economics?” Anyone who needs financial help but who understands that almost nothing, not even a reauthorization bill, is more boring and tortuous than a personal finance guide. This is for real people. Who watch movies on cable TV.  Who like a little twist on things. Maybe they daydream that they will save a metro-car full of people (“and then they’ll see!”).

It’s for people who would never buy a boring financial guide.  But who need help. And a good plot.  (So, college students up to retirees.)

Check out the hilarious website for “Zombie Economics” here and pick up your copy at a bookstore today!