Interview with S.G. Browne. Yes, There are Zombies.

October 29, 2010 - 6 Responses

Tomorrow I will have the honor of meeting S.G. Browne, author of the upcoming Fated, “a dark, irreverent comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans.” Kirkus Reviews calls Browne “one of America’s best satiric novelists.” I’ve only known him for a couple weeks, but from what I’ve seen, I’d have to agree.

Browne was nice enough to answer a few questions about Fated, his writing inspirations, and how I should behave at this weekend’s zomBcon. If this interview is any indication, I think I’m going to have fun.

You’ve said one of your writing inspirations is Chuck Palahniuk. Who—or what—would you say inspired you to cross over to the mayhem of the afterlife?

My first love has always been supernatural horror, having grown up on a steady diet of Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, and Robert McCammon, among others. From 1990-2002, that’s what I primarily wrote. Supernatural horror. Three novels (none of them published) and four dozen short stories (a dozen which saw print).

In 2002 I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, a dark comedy about an African culling song. I’d never read anything like it, the blending of the dark comedy and the supernatural. Having written a darkly comedic short story about zombies the year before, I was inspired to turn that into a full-length novel, which eventually became Breathers. So really, I crossed over from supernatural horror to dark comedy.

It seems the transition has worked well for you. Your second novel, Fated, comes out November 2nd. In it Fate has grown disillusioned with assigning and reassigning people their fates—garbage collector, drug addict, career politician—then things get worse when he falls in love with a human. You swear this isn’t a contemporary romance, so I’m dying to know why you chose the name Fabio for your main character.

Well, I was looking for a name that started with F to go with Fate, preferably Fa-, and so I made a list of possible names. Fagan, Falco, Farnam, and a bunch of Arabic names, none of which really hit the mark. The only one that stood out was Fabio. It just seemed like a perfect fit. I can’t imagine him being anything but Fabio.

A very reasonable answer. And now I have every name that starts with an F running through my head.

Breathers, your first novel, is about a newly minted zombie and his adjustment to his new existence. Who was your inspiration for the MC? Was this your first encounter with this character?

I don’t think I have an answer for the first question. My inspiration for Andy, the main character of Breathers, isn’t anything I can definitively point to and say “That one.” He was just a character and a voice that developed as I got to know him. While I’m sure there’s a little bit of me in him and in all of my characters, none of my characters are me. And although he didn’t have a name at the time, Andy appeared in my short story “A Zombie’s Lament,” which was the short story upon which Breathers was based.

What made you choose to write from the perspective of the zombie?

I wanted to write a zombie story and thought: What if I were the zombie? But instead of being a stereotypical Hollywood zombie clamoring for brains, I was just a reanimated corpse who was gradually decomposing, had no rights, and needed some serious therapy. What would I do? Where would I stay? How would society treat me? I wondered if I could make the reader sympathetic to the zombie’s plight so that if he gave in to his Hollywood urges, the reader would be cheering him on rather than screaming in horror.

I love that you’ve taken a different approach from most other stories. As someone who isn’t well-versed in the whole zombie phenomenon, this definitely appeals to me.

On your website you advise aspiring writers to “Write what you want to write, not what someone else tells you to write or what you think people would want to read,” (which I think is FABULOUS advice). On that note, what would be your advice to someone aspiring to survive life—or their undead life?—as a zombie?

Good hygiene is a must. It’s tough to blend in when you smell like fresh compost. Pine-Sol soakings can help, but ultimately you’ll need to make sure you get a daily dose of formaldehyde, especially if you weren’t embalmed prior to reanimating. Even if you can’t get hold of the heavy duty stuff, formaldehyde can be found in shampoos, hair conditioners, household cleaning items, and most brands of cosmetics. It can also be found in diet sodas as Aspartame converts to formaldehyde when it’s left out in the sun. Other than that, I’d suggest staying away from hot, humid climates and avoiding roving gangs of teenagers, rednecks, fraternity pledges, and bowling leagues.

So pack plenty of diet soda. Got it.

You’re scheduled to be a panelist at zomBcon in Seattle this Halloween weekend alongside our mutual friend Stacey Graham, and the Twitter conversations leading up to the event have been a tad… um… boisterous. Are you more afraid of the zombies or meeting us?

The zombies are probably easier to reason with, but I’m apprehensive about their dietary preferences. And I’m sure there’s an inappropriate joke about getting eaten alive in there somewhere.

You may be correct.

Speaking of which, I’m worried that I’ll walk into zomBcon and be devoured. What does a newbie like me need to know before risking life and limb with a bunch of zombies?

First of all, respect their personal space. Zombies don’t like it when you get up in their face and so they’re likely to bite off yours. Back off. Second, don’t stare. Zombies are a little temperamental, not to mention self-conscious, and will take your gawking as a sign of disrespect. Wearing sunglasses is a good idea. And third, if you’re bringing any brains, make sure you bring enough to share.

Zombies have feelings? I never would have known. Okay, so no looking in their eyes. Is there anything I should avoid doing? Licking my lips? Showing off my juicy delts?

Are you talking about zombies or have we moved on to speed dating?

Well… ahem. If my attempts to avoid contact fail and I’m confronted, should I just play dumb? I would think that coming off as overly brainy is just asking for trouble.

Playing dumb is, ironically, always the smart play. Hanging out with a bunch of zombies is kind of like being a Democrat in a room full of Sarah Palin supporters. Dumbing it down is the key to survival. And if all else fails, just grunt a lot. Same goes for the zombies.

I’ve had some experience with that lately, so I think I’ll be safe.

Finally, which goes best with humans? A1 or Bull’s-Eye?

Bull’s-Eye. Nothing beats a good Breather BBQ like the big, bold taste of Bull’s-Eye.

Thank you Scott! I’m more of an A1 girl myself, so maybe I should douse myself before I arrive. Either way, I feel more prepared for zomBcon and look forward to meeting you.


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You can learn more about Scott at his website sgbrown.com. And be sure to check out his site for Breathers, Undead Anonymous. Or stalk him on Twitter like I do.

Ahh, Plotting

October 27, 2010 - 19 Responses

One of the rules of NaNo is you cannot start writing the actual story until November 1st. I wrote eight or so pages last spring, and while I plan to use them, I’m no longer going to start the story in the same place so it’ll just be filler. I figure I’m going to need an extra 1000 words to pad here or there.

What you CAN do prior to November 1st is plot, outline, research, meet your characters, and whatever else you need to do to get ready to write the story. I also did a lot of research last spring so while I’m looking over those notes, my biggest task this week is outlining my plot.

I know how the story begins, I have a kick@ss ending (which can be turned into a series, but I’m not getting ahead of myself here) but the middle is a bit of a mystery to me. I have sticky notes all over my desk that say things like “betrayal” and “love interest” — things I need to weave in to keep the reader hooked.

Only a few days left to figure it out. Because I CAN’T start without knowing where I’m going!

Writers, how do you plot? I know quite a few of you are pantsers, so you’re excused from sharing your secrets. But you can still share a story if you’d like.

After Eight Months I Still Flinch When Opening a Cupboard

October 25, 2010 - 20 Responses

Yes, I lived in fear of cockroaches for three years, but you’d think that after going EIGHT months without seeing one I’d calm down a bit. It’s not like an eight-legged creature (although really, I swear some of them had easily a dozen hairy, spiny legs) jumped out at my every time I opened a cupboard, but it happened enough that I learned to be on my guard.

Most of the time they were the smaller ones — less than an inch long — and I’d thwap them off the door with a hand towel. (Sanitary, right?) Then I’d scoot them off the back deck for the neighbors down below to deal with OR, if I was feeling adventurous, I’d smush it with my flip flop. Yum. But every now and then a behemoth would scurry across the edge of the cabinet, claiming it and everything in it as his own.

THAT’S why I still flinch.

Have you ever paid attention to the inside of a cupboard door? Most have a little metal thing near the edge that secures it when shut. Well that, my friends, is roughly the same size as the baby cockroaches, and that’s what makes me jump. Every time.

Maybe I need to start keeping everything on the counter?

Do you have an unreasonable fear of something that in actuality isn’t a threat?

Also, have you seen my new blog header?

Stop! NaNo Time*

October 22, 2010 - 23 Responses

It’s that time of year! NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month for those of you not in the know — starts November 1st and I’ve already signed up. NaNo challenges writers to write a novel in a month. Simple, right?

Yeah, yeah. Stop laughing. It’s been done before. Even by me. After the Fall, which I’m querying now, was a nano novel (affectionately titled nanonovel08 until I got to the second draft).

The thing that most concerns me is I’ve yet to write a novel while working a full time job. I know there are gazillions of people who do this every day — some even have FAMILIES — but I’m trying to be realistic. I fully expect this to be a challenge for me and I’m okay with not hitting the 1667 words a day goal. I’m mostly excited to be a part of the delirium.

For those of you who don’t write, consider this your warning that the month of November may be heavy on the writerly talk. I hope you stick around to cheer on me and my conanoers (tee hee, I just made that up) and if you’re good maybe I’ll tell you what my novel’s about before the end of November.

Now.. roll call! Who’s in?

 

 

* The post title is for Lisa.

Another Thing I Picked Up at the Paper Show

October 20, 2010 - 10 Responses

That sounds wrong. Yes I picked up lots of paper, but I’m about to tell you about a conversation I had with two gentlemen and I neither picked them up nor picked them up.

The company they represent produces paper that many book publishers use, so you know my whole body perked up like a tuning fork when they said that. We talked about how many publishers have started using a lower quality paper in their books, and how that means books won’t have the shelf-life they used to. As I understand it, some of this is a result of e-readers playing a larger role in publishing, but some of it is plain old economics.

These gentlemen told me about a couple women in their company who’ve started a blog to protest this lesser-quality paper. That blog? Gutenberg Girls. How cool is that?

(Unless you’re for saving trees, etc, in which case I do understand that side of the argument. No, I couldn’t be more wishy-washy.)

They also have a website called Permanence Matters that states “Digital spreads the written word. Permanent paper preserves it.” It’s worth checking out.

Which way do you lean in the paper vs digital argument?

Shiny New Notebook

October 18, 2010 - 9 Responses

Last week my coworkers and I went to a paper show in Grand Rapids. I have received TONS of HILARIOUS comments about how exciting a paper show sounds, but trust me, it’s exciting. Yes, the theme is paper, but it’s how the paper is presented that draws the crowd. Each company tries to outdo the next with unique designs, interesting die-cuts, and gimmicks that people will want to display in their cube for the next year.

Case in point, my new notebook!

It says Via over and over and is completely blank inside. PERFECT for writing, no? Since I’m starting my next novel in a couple weeks I was thinking I needed to get a new notebook, and this is exactly what I was hoping for. I’m writing YA so the colors seem very appropriate (although, really, I’d use it for anything). My MC has a Hispanic nickname (although she’s not Hispanic) and VIA is a spanish word.

Voila! (That’s French.)

Meeeeeeme

October 15, 2010 - 11 Responses

Adam tagged me over ten days ago so I’m a bit tardy with this meme, but I’m ready to share!

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?
This answer always changes for me, but right at this moment (8:10pm on Wednesday evening) I’d like to be able to read other people’s minds. Maybe I’d walk by an agent’s office… you know…

2. Who is your style icon?
Gwenyth Paltrow was the first person to come to mind.

Since Adam also included writing, I’ll say Jodi Picoult.

3. What is your favorite quote?
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve loved that long before Hitch said it.

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
“You’re American?” After seeing me salsa dance.

(Again, that’s the first that popped into my head. I also like “Damn, girlie, you can write!”)

5. What playlist/CD is in your CD player/iPod right now?
No CD player or iPod. Stone age here I come.

Oh! I do have iTunes on my computer but I haven’t played anything in months.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
I’ll always consider myself a night owl but the fact that I get up at 5am kind of argues against that point. Lately I’ve been staying up until midnight, so does that still count?

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
Let me direct your attention here.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?
The first three letters are from my last name, Hooyenga, but I cannot take credit for coming up with it. A couple years ago a certain bunny on the writing forum would get antsy whenever I’d mention my blog and shout (well, type loudly, ‘cuz, you know, we’re on the internet) “Hoosblog!” When I left Mexico and decided to start a new blog, and Hoosblog seemed like the obvious choice.

And there you go. Hopefully you’ve learned something new about me today. I’m not going to tag anyone but if you decide to do this on your own blog please leave a comment in this post.

AND, I finally added all the social media icons so get sharing!

#amquerying

October 13, 2010 - 8 Responses

I just thought I should get that out there. I don’t plan to give updates here unless it’s something fabulous, but after all the build-up over the past few months I felt like I should let you know I’ve released my baby to the wild!

More on Memory

October 11, 2010 - 12 Responses

While driving across the state yesterday something in my peripheral vision caught my eye, and in the split second that I glanced at the sky it struck me that the swirl of clouds against the blue sky looked JUST like a marble I had when I was eight.

Huh?

The mind is such an interesting thing. I haven’t thought of those marbles in years (at least not about the specific colors and designs) yet in that brief moment, while driving 75+mph on the highway, that’s where my mind immediately jumped.

Is there something you’ve seen recently that’s taken you back to either your childhood, or another time in your past?

The Curse of a Good Memory

October 8, 2010 - 19 Responses

I have a really good memory. Ridiculous, some might say. Unfair, others (men) may complain. Usually it’s a good thing. I love being able to recall odd facts about things that happened fifteen years ago, but sometimes all that information gets a little… cumbersome.

I never really thought about it until yesterday morning, but every day when I first think of the date for that day (for example, over coffee this morning I’ll think “Oh, it’s October 8th”) I then try to remember whose birthday it is. Seems odd, right? Of course it’s someone’s birthday, but more times than not I’ve crossed paths with a person with a birthday every day of the year.

I have a weird thing about remembering dates (yesterday was the one-year anniversary since my grandmother’s surgery) and I’ve moved around A LOT, therefore I’ve met a lot of people and those details stick with me. November 24th: guy I dated for three months in 1997. March 3rd: friend from elementary school. April 16: two friends from high school and another friend’s little girl. And on and on and on.

This talent, if you want to call it that, isn’t infallible. There are a couple friends whose birthdays WILL NOT stick in my head for the life of me. I cannot explain how much this perplexes me.

So, this seems to be becoming a theme. Any more weird things about you you’d like to share?

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