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.