Evenements Interviews — 06 février 2012
Interview of Isaac Marion about Warm Bodies !

isaac marion

 Thanks to our partnership with Bragelonne, I could have an exclusive interview with Isaac Marion. I could ask him all question about Warm Bodies book but also Warm Bodies movie which cross my mind. It was really the most interesting interview I realized !

All in this article… Enjoy !

 

 

 

 

I am a Zombie Filled with Love is the seed which give us Warm Bodies. Three Kids, Living is some kind of Warm Bodies prequel. When did you write them? Can you tell me the history of these three projects (Warm Bodies, I am a Zombie Fill with Love, Three Kids, Living)? How did it all begin?

I Am a Zombie Filled With Love” is a very short story I wrote…well, several years ago. I can’t find any record of when I actually wrote it, my computer is not what you might call “organized,” but I know it was long ago. You could say it all began with a sudden realization that zombies were the one popular monster that I’d never seen given a voice, which seemed strange since they’re actually former humans and you would think whatever thoughts remain in their warped brains would be fairly interesting. So I wrote the short based on that premise, never intending to go much farther with it. To my great surprise, it became by far the most popular story I’d ever posted on my blog, and as people kept saying it would make a great novel, I started to consider where I could go with the premise. I was surprised by how ripe it turned out to be; a big, very personal story came out of that silly concept. It took me in directions I’d never expected.”

Three Kids Living” is now called “Grass Through the Concrete“. It’s a novella I wrote as a loose prequel to Warm Bodies. I say loose because although it involves three of the major characters from Warm Bodies (Julie, Nora, and M) it takes place 9 years earlier and is a stand-alone story with its own arc that doesn’t depend on having read Warm Bodies. (Although anyone who has read it will have a richer experience with this story.) It’s going to be included in my upcoming short story collection, THE HUNGRY MOUTH, which I’m self-publishing in very limited quantities for the time being.

 

In I am a Zombie Filled with Love, the zombie is already some kind of metaphor for society lambda people, or did that come later, during Warm Bodies writing process? 

I think the metaphor was there in the short story, I just took it in a different direction for the novel. The narrator in the short is a typical zombie, completely apathetic and resigned to his fate as a zombie in a ruined world. R begins Warm Bodies in the same state, but gradually grows dissatisfied with his condition and struggles to change.

 

I learned that you don’t want to write an entire book on the world of Warm Bodies again because you are afraid of being classified as a zombie novel author, and I understand that completely. No doubt about that, is it really the end of R world or can we hope new novels in the future like Three Kids, living?

I definitely don’t want to get pigeon-holed as a “zombie author”, whatever that even means, so I’ve been wary of writing a sequel, even though I really, really want to. I think there is a lot more to explore in the world of this book, but I admit I’m tired of writing about zombies. I’ve recently had some intriguing ideas of how I could continue to follow these characters without being stuck in the grimy world of zombie fiction for another few years of my life. I’d like to write something that vastly expands R and Julie’s world. There would still be a few zombies, but it wouldn’t be ABOUT zombies anymore. There would be other, stranger issues to deal with. One of the ideas implied in Warm Bodies and “Grass Through the Concrete” is that the reason something as irrational as zombies and animated skeletons can exist is that the fabric of their reality has grown a bit thin. As the population reduces to pre-historic levels, the world is returning to  less rational, more mystical state, where stranger things than zombies are possible.

 

You often publish your novels on your Facebook group or on internet.  Will you continue to do that even if you became a famous author?

Good question. Probably not, unfortunately. I’ve always done that in the past because I knew there was no outlet for my stories and I couldn’t stand the thought of waiting years for anyone to be able to read them, so I’d post them online for free as soon as I was done writing them. Now, I’m hoping to continue releasing story collections, so I probably won’t want to spoil them by leaking everything pre-publication. Ideally, I will get set up with some kind of online publishing outlet where I can post short stories as legitimate literary items with their own covers and copyright info and everything, because I love writing shorts but getting people interested in collection books is not easy in today’s market.

 

 Ok before really enter into Warm bodies Story, let’s talk a little about your book classification and the “Twilight effect”. In the US, your book  has been classified into the Young Adult Section and associated with Twilight. What do you think about that?  For you, is it more an obstacle or a catalyst for sales? If you absolutely don’t want Warm Bodies to be identified as a Stephenie Meyer book, why put a S.M. quotation on your book’s cover?

There are two separate questions here, both hard to answer. First, I don’t like that the book has been classified as YA. It never crossed my mind while writing this that it would be marketed to children. I know that most of the main characters are young, but other than that, it’s a very “adult” book. There is a lot of graphic violence, drugs, sex, foul language, and adult themes. I don’t believe young people should be shielded from this stuff, and I know there are a lot of things in the story that they will relate to, so I absolutely want it to be made available and attractive to kids, but I feel like the “YA” label is reductive to any book. What does it mean to be YA fiction? To me it implies that it’s dumbed-down somehow, that it’s more simplistic than “adult” fiction. Why do we need this category? I understand children’s books–books for little kids, let’s say under 12–but YA books seemed marketed more to teenagers, and I see no reason why a 16-19 year-old kid shouldn’t be reading the same stuff I am. To me, creating a whole separate genre for teenagers seems extremely patronizing, not to mention pandering.

Warm Bodies ending up on the YA shelves I think has a lot to do with the Stephenie Meyer quote. She’s a very popular novelist who is best known in a YA context, so book stores see that quote and immediately assume Warm Bodies is YA. I honestly have no idea how they decide on these categorizations, maybe it’s more complex than that. But I wish they would just put it in “Fiction” so that adults could read it without feeling embarrassed, because kids are going to find it anyway. Kids are the kings of word of mouth advertising; no one loves to talk about their interests more than teenagers. Adults share much more rarely.

The Twilight comparison does annoy me, just because I don’t think it’s accurate at all. It’s probably inevitable, with Stephenie Meyer’s name being on the cover and Summit doing the movie, but it’s unfortunate. Both books are about a relationship between a human and an undead creature, but the similarities absolutely end there. The setting alone should tell people this–Twilight takes place in modern-day Washington and mostly involves small town high school dramas blown to epic proportions by the supernatural elements involved. Warm Bodies takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the few remaining humans are holed up in a fortified stadium, struggling for survival against a global plague of zombies and existential hopelessness. They’re very different books. I would love it of course if even a fraction of Meyer’s fan base came to Warm Bodies through that association–I don’t discriminate about who I want reading the book; all are welcome!–but it does make me nervous just because Twilight is such a polarizing franchise. Millions of people absolutely love it, but other millions think it’s a blight on culture, and I don’t like being caught in the middle there. I’m extremely grateful for her support, of course, but I’m glad they moved her quote to the back cover for the paperback edition, because now I think there’s less risk of forever alienating a whole segment of the reading population with one controversial blurb. I’m glad the blurb is there, but I’m more comfortable with it falling next to blurbs by Simon Pegg, Audrey Niffenegger, and The Guardian instead of representing the whole book on the front cover.

 

warm bodies vs twilightThat causes me to have another question concerning the movie. Since the first picture of the movie was released  on internet, (R and Julie), French people have definitively classified the movie as another Twilight (and unfortunately I am scared of that too). You took part in the movie project by helping to write the script and by watching the film shoots. Do you think the movie will really be true to the book? Is it hard for you to see your story and characters transformed into a movie and actors? Are you afraid of some aspects of the adaptation? Do you think that Summit Production want a new twilight saga with zombies? What do you think about the actors and your characters? Does it fit for you?  (Nora’s actor causes me a big electric shock!)

 

Again, lots of questions in there…. First of all, the image you’re referring to was an accident. It was not an official promo image, it was something someone snapped a photo of at an international trade show kind of thing. It was never meant to be seen by the American public, it was just for foreign studio execs. The first official images have just started to appear, and are much more representative of the style. Even the director himself has stated in interviews that it will be VERY different in tone and style from Twilight. It’s much edgier, darker but with a sly sense of humor. It’s something I can’t really convince people of until a trailer comes out, but try to trust me.

As for it being “true to the book” I think it’s true to the spirit of the book, but of course there are changes. All movie adaptations have to compress the plot to make it work in a short format, and sometimes that means changing major elements. I would say the first 2/3rds of the movie are very similar to what I wrote. The third act takes its own direction somewhat, but still arrives in the same place at the end.

I’m really excited about the cast, particularly Nicholas Hoult. Every time I watched one of his scenes, I got a little giddy about how perfectly he portrays R’s awkward sweetness and clumsy attempts to interact with humans. It’s funny but not a joke. You really root for him. Teresa Palmer is also pitch-perfect as Julie. I’m excited to see how people react to her performance because there aren’t many characters like her in movies like this. She’s not a damsel in distress, she is funny and quirky and can even kick some ass, but she’s also not a “tough girl” caricature, which is what usually happens when action movies try to make a “strong female character.” She’s tough, but also extremely vulnerable. So, I’m really excited about the two leads, and I’m happy with the rest too. Yes, Analeigh Tipton is very different from how Nora is described in the book, which took some getting used to, but I think it works on its own terms. Warm Bodies is not a canonical classic that requires absolute loyalty to every detail for adaptations. Not that many people have even heard of it, so some artistic license for the film is understandable.

 

 

Coming back to your book. I heard  a podcast with Jake Chism and  Lori Twichell and on the first appearance the thematic “zombie love story” left them cold (A zombie book… again…). Finally it is your teaser which saved your book. Can you tell me more about it? Why did you make it? What was the budget? What is its story? What experience did you gather?

Image de prévisualisation YouTube

The budget was about $7.50 to buy a dress shirt at a thrift store and $5.00 for some fake blood to smear on it. You never really see my face so I didn’t need any makeup. I originally made it because I had no idea if or when the book would get published and I was selling self-produced copies from home, so I needed a way to advertise it. I never expected that the publishers would actually use the trailer I made, I assumed they would come in and make something professional, but no, they told me they wouldn’t be able to do any better than mine. I was annoyed at first, because this was such an amateur project. I filmed it on some cheap camera and edited on a friend’s computer, using Final Cut for the first time in my life…very steep learning curve! But in the end, I’m glad I got to use that trailer because I had total control over it–I even wrote the music–and I think it reflects the odd balance of tones better than anything the publisher would’ve been able to come up with. It’s hard to make people understand what this book is about and what its spirit is.

 

You take the “eat brains urban legend” to explain why zombie are specifically keen on this body part and your idea is so amazing! Where does this idea that eating brains gives you all the memories and feelings of the brain’s owner come from? 

Honestly, I was shocked that this hadn’t been explored much before. I assumed this had always been the explanation, because it made so much sense to me. Why would a dead creature insist on eating only living creatures? To absorb their life force seemed obvious. And where is there more life force than in the brain? I imagined it must be pretty unpleasant to be a zombie. Having no identity or memory and just this vague sense of loss for your humanity. Experiencing fresh, warm memories would be the ultimate comfort food.

 

My  preferred aspect is the way you  criticize society throughout the  Warm  Bodies story.  You denounce many things and situations. Can you tell me what people or society’s characteristics you want to denounce first, and why? (Personal experiences, etc). Researching identity; fighting against the established rules;  Can’t change Versus Don’t want to change: these are three keys of your criticism, is that right or I have lost myself somewhere?

I think you have it more or less right. I don’t like to get into explanations too deeply when it comes to the themes and ideas of the book. I don’t think I’ll be able to say it better than I said it in the book, and my attempt will most likely just make it sound heavy handed. I want people to notice these themes and think about them, but I don’t like to preach.

 

I really love the moment when R discovers the human city, and the human voices which talk about the failure of their new beginning. Tell me more about that? When I read the book I never expect that and I was really surprised. It is, for me, one of the best moment in your book.

Thank you! That’s probably my favorite scene as well. It came to me late in the process; I’d already written a much simpler, more mundane scene of R entering the city, but it didn’t feel right. His descriptions of the airport were very vivid and full of deep thoughts on the society he lives in, but things became much more predictable when he got to the human city because human habitations in post-apocalyptic worlds are something we’ve all seen plenty of times before. So I wanted to give the human world the same level of introspection I gave to the zombie’s, and since it was already established that the people R’s consumed can speak to him (his conversations with Perry’s “ghost”) I thought it would be great to have a whole chorus of them start mumbling in his head when he’s wandering through their former homes. It gave me an opportunity to analyze humanity’s role in the downfall of civilization and their reaction to it, instead of just focusing on the zombies. I’m glad people have singled out this element because it’s one of my favorite bits of writing that I’ve done.

 

Do you really think that the humanity can’t make a new departure? Start from nothing and make things differently?

I don’t think anyone can know that for sure. One of the ideas that intrigued me is the idea of humanity getting a “Second Chance”. Not just starting over, but going back in time, so to speak, and starting the world fresh but retaining all the knowledge we have now. Like those movies where an adult goes back to high school and is suddenly the coolest kid because he has all the adult wisdom and knows how to handle himself.

 

You keep humor in your lines, and I love the scene in the airport with the escalator (R with a zombie female). Did you visualize all your scenes and each detail like a movie? How do you write?

I definitely write in visual way. I see things clearly in my head and then try to figure out how to articulate the image without spending 10 pages describing the shape of every chair and doorway like so many fantasy novels do.

 

R’s and Perry’s is a long and  complicated relationship. I notice that the desire  for life  in R is increasing as Perry’s decreases. Why did you make this parallel? To show that zombies and humans are not so far developed in their essence and that only choices and actions make the difference?

I think what’s happening is Perry is reliving his life with R as his audience, so R is observing Perry’s downfall and learning from it as he makes his own attempt to reverse what happened to Perry and come BACK to life.

 

Why did you use the « eat brains » legend with the story of Romeo and Juliet?

It wasn’t really meant to be Romeo and Juliet, I just noticed some parallels and decided to make that a subtext. It’s more of a little wink to the audience than a whole deep element of the book.

 

The kiss scene is one of the most expected, and I was a little afraid of its coming. There is a strong symbolism. R fights to keep the evil inside of him to not hurt Julie. Finally only her eye color changes. This kiss symbolizes a new future, a big change.  Can you tell me what you want to say through the kiss and the new eye color? Freedom? Hope? Rules can be broken and have to be broken?

The ending is definitely the most abstract event in the book, and whenever I try to explain it I get uncomfortable. I think it’s something that’s best left to you to figure out. A lot happens during that kiss. It’s not just about “the power of love” or whatever, it has to do with the choices they’re making. To resist, to fight the curse of evil human nature and change it into something new and better. The change of their eye color is symbolic of them becoming something new…but what exactly they’ve become is undefined. Possibly something I’ll explore in a sequel. (Wink)

 

 You make a big issue of survive versus live. What do you think about current people in our world? Do we live or try to survive? Has current humanity forgotten the difference?

Much of it has, for sure. It’s a hard question because of course we need to stay alive. But I think the mass majority believes that living on a deeper level, and enjoying life’s richer intricacies, is not very important. The standard model tells us to just work, work, procreate, die.

 

Since I have read your book, each time  I heard a plane, I take the time to look up to it for a few minutes, through the white clouds of a blue sky.  If a Z apocalypse or other kind of apocalypse happened, what would you miss the most? Planes in a blue sky? You will be  in Julie’s mind or  in Gorgio’s?

I think I have a little of both in me. I feel Grigio’s perspective sometimes, but mostly I strive to think more like Julie.

 

Thanks to your book’s success did you exchange your house on wheels with a big house? (Kidding)

I got my house on wheels BECAUSE of the success! RVs are expensive, man!

 

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