Alright, my lovelies; help me give a warm Ratty welcome to the author of Breathers: a Zombie's Lament, and the upcoming Fated (both of which you can win): S.G. Browne!
Book Rat: Thanks for stopping by, S.G.! In Breathers, zombies are the good guys, essentially, fighting for zombie rights. How did this take on zombies come about for you?
S.G.Browne: Well, having grown up on a diet of Creature Features and Saturday Afternoon Monster Matinees, not to mention the writings of Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, and Robert McCammon, my first love has always been horror. Or at least the supernatural. Things that went bump in the night. But after writing several novels and about four dozen short stories from 1990-2001, I realized I hadn’t written anything with zombies. And that needed to be remedied. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it turns out), I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for a regular zombie tale. Nothing felt inspired. So instead I thought:
What would happen if I was a zombie? But rather than your stereotypical Hollywood zombie, I was just a reanimated corpse with no rights who was gradually decomposing and needed some serious therapy? How would I deal with that? How would society treat me? Would there be a support group I could join? What kind of personal hygiene products would be available to me?
So with that, I wrote a 2000-word short story titled “A Zombie’s Lament” (which, by the way, appeared in the 2009 zombie anthology Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead). A year later I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, which inspired me to take my darkly comedic short story and turn it into a full-length novel. A few years later, I finished Breathers.
BR: You have a sick little sense of humor that is clearly the product of a demented brain (yay!) -- does this affect the flavor at all? What makes for the tastiest brain?
SGB: I think a sick sense of humor is important for all sorts of reasons, none of which I can think of right now, but I’m sure they’re out there. As for how a demented brain affects the flavor, I would imagine it’s a little like the difference between grocery store brand ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s. Let’s say it’s like Chunky Monkey.
What makes for the tastiest brain? Probably one that’s marinated in a white wine sauce, seared on both sides, and served with melted garlic butter and a 2005 Merlot.
BR: On the Breathers website Undead Anonymous it says that the film rights to Breathers were picked up before the book even hit shelves. How surreal was that experience? If you had any say in the matter, who would you cast?
SGB: I think surreal is an appropriate adjective, especially when you consider that I’d been writing for eighteen years with the dream of having a novel published and having it made into a movie. And then less than eighteen months after getting an agent my dreams were suddenly coming true. So let’s just say I laughed a lot. I’d be walking down the street and just start laughing out loud. Almost hysterically loud. People gave me a lot of extra room on the sidewalk.
As for who I would cast, I’m going to plead the fifth a bit, since there are some rumors floating around of loose attachments by certain actors, both of whom I would be delighted to see play the roles. However, I would love to see Bruce Campbell in the role of Andy’s father.
BR: Your next novel, Fated, takes on huge mythic characters like Death, Destiny, the 7 Deadly Sins and ... Fabio? ;) Can you tell us anything about Fated?
SGB: It’s told from the POV of Fate (aka Fabio), who’s in charge of assigning the futures of humans who live ordinary lives and who typically don’t live up to their full potential, which comprises about 83% of the world’s population. Destiny, on the other hand, gets the rest who are destined for greatness. Which makes for a frustrated and overwhelmed Fabio, especially since the population of the world has increased from one billion to more than six billion in the last two hundred years. Throw in the fact that he has a five-hundred-year-old grudge with Death and that his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony and you get an immortal who’s become a disgruntled employee of the cosmos. But then he falls in love with a mortal woman on the Path of Destiny (which is against the rules) and he starts to get involved in the lives of his humans (another big-no-no), leading them to change their fates and causing some serious cosmic repercussions.
In a nutshell, it’s a dark comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans. I had a lot of fun taking abstract concepts like Fate, Death, and Destiny and making them characters in my book, which also includes cameos by Lady Luck, Honesty, Failure, Karma, and most of the Deadly Sins, among others.
BR: Though Fated moves on from zombies, are we ever going to see more of the Breathers crew or any other zombies from you? What's next after Fated?
SGB: While I know a lot of fans of Breathers would like to see a sequel, and I’m flattered by the requests, I didn’t plan to continue the story any further. That’s not to say it won’t happen, just that unless I can come up with something that doesn’t feel derivative or a rehashing of the same concepts, then it’s not likely.
As for other zombies? I did write a disgusting little story called “Zombie Gigolo” which is included in the recently released anthology The Living Dead 2. It’s a little more, let’s say, gross than what I’m comfortable writing, and I wrote it as a performance piece for the annual Gross Out Contest at the World Horror Convention, so don’t expect a lot of sentimentality in it. And yes, I might have one more zombie short story in the works that I promised to a friend, so we’ll see what happens with that.
After Fated, I’ve finished my next novel, which is titled Lucky Bastard, and I’m waiting for my agent to get back to me with edits. I’ll have to be coy about the content, but like Breathers and Fated, it’s a dark comedy with a supernatural edge. I will say that it has some mystery noir elements, is set in San Francisco, and takes place all in one day.
BR: Quickfire Random Fun!
SGB: My zombie name? I didn’t know zombie’s had names. Well, sure, in Breathers they do, but I mean your stereotypical zombie. The only proper zombie name I know of is Bub from Day of the Dead and I don’t think he had any say in the matter. I’m thinking most zombie names wouldn’t have a lot of vowels, so I guess my name would be something like Nnnnnnnnngg.
Best Halloween costume?
SGB: A pumpkin scarecrow. I dressed up like a scarecrow, then cut out the bottom of a pumpkin, carved it, wore a black mask that covered my face, then put the carved pumpkin over my head and sat slumped in the corner like a Halloween decoration. When people weren’t looking, I’d get up and move and get closer until I was sitting right next to them.
Worst Halloween costume?
SGB: Ant Man. I wore black tights and a black leotard with an ironed-on white capital A, a black pullover thermal head warmer that exposed my face, glitter antennas, a cape, and a black mask over my eyes. It was hot and itchy and the antennas gave me a headache. And let’s face it, no one is impressed with a super hero insect.
If you were one of the 7 Deadlies, which would you want to be and why?
SGB: I think I’d have to go with Sloth. Sitting around all day playing video games and watching movies and taking naps sounds pretty good to me. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes my two cats. Minus the video games.
Would you rather...
-- be locked in a room with a hungry zombie or a Deadly Sin?SGB: Deadly Sin. They’re really not that bad, though Gluttony is lactose intolerant, so you need to make sure to keep him away from dairy products.
-- fight for your zombie rights or kick back and enjoy some brains? After all, life's short. Especially for the people you're eating...
SGB: Well, staying consistent with the Sloth answer for favorite Deadly Sin, I’d have to go with kicking back and eating some brains. You have to enjoy the little things in life. Or undeath. Whatever.
-- know what goes bump in the night, or pretend it's the house settling?
SGB: I tend to lean toward pretending the house is settling. Investigating noises is what stupid movie people do. That’s why they get killed. (Side note: When I was fourteen, I watched John Carpenter’s Halloween all alone at home and sat up in my bed, pressed into the corner of my room holding my Louisville Slugger, listening to the house creak and groan, waiting for the sun to rise.)
Reader Q: Giada wants to know: What is the first book you remember reading, and has there ever been a book that changed your life?
SGB: The Squirrel Twins Ride, which was part of a collection of children’s books from Rand McNally I had when I was four years old. I still have the books stashed away somewhere. Timmy Train was another one in the collection. And Tillie the Turtle.
If you’re talking something more grown-up, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach when I was seven, which contained some pretty heavy concepts for a seven-year-old.
And yes, you could say The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub changed my life. I read it during my sophomore year in college. Although not my favorite King or Straub novel, the adventure and the story were so engaging that while I was reading the book, the world outside the pages ceased to exist. And I thought to myself: “I want to make someone feel this way.” That was the first time I thought about becoming a writer.
Great stuff! Thanks for stopping by, S.G.!
Don't forget to enter to win signed copies of Breaters and Fated here, and make sure to check out my review of Breathers, coming soon. Until then, content yourself with this zombie teaser: