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Saturday, May 23, 2009

S.G. Browne, An Interview With The Author Of Breathers

S.G. Browne is the author of several books but is most recognized right now (and especially to Zombies & Toys' readers) for his recent accomplishment, Breathers: A Zombie's Lament. Not only was Mr. Browne kind enough to send us an autographed copy for this month's contest, he also took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Browne started writing screenplays and short stories in the early 1990’s while working in Hollywood doing post-production work for the Disney Studios. After three years in the business, he abandoned Hollywood and fled to Santa Cruz, where he proceeded to write the bulk of his four dozen short stories and first three novels.

After more than 10 years of writing horror, Browne took a break. A little more than a year later, he was inspired to turn his 2000 word short story, “A Zombie’s Lament”, into what would eventually become his fourth novel — an 82,000 word dark comedy titled Breathers.

You can read more about Browne at and read about and order Breathers at Undead

What was the first zombie movie you saw and what about it still sticks with you?

Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, which I saw for the first time in 1977. The stark, terrifying reality of it and the death of the hero at the end are what stick with me the most. It’s still the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. And I have the line “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” on my iTunes.

If you had to pick a single, favorite zombie film what would it be and why? I’ll even cheat and allow you to name your other favorites too. So what are they?

Night of the Living Dead, because it’s the benchmark of zombie horror and the archetype for the modern conception of zombies. Other favorites? Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, Dawn of the Dead (the remake by Zack Snyder), and Shaun of the Dead.

What zombie books are you most fond of?

To be honest, I haven’t read a lot of zombie fiction, though I have World War Z by Max Brooks and The Living Dead (a collection edited by John Joseph Adams) on my To Be Read list. Oh, and Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum was a kick in the pants.

Most readers don’t know that Breathers actually began as a short story. How much time lapsed between the completion of the short story and the beginning of Breathers as we know it?

I completed “A Zombie’s Lament” in 2001. I wrote the first scene for Breathers two years later in a hotel room in Ventura, CA, but I didn’t really start writing the novel until early 2004. So three years. Or maybe technically two. Is that a vague enough answer?

What was it about this particular story that brought you back to it?

The dark comedy. I’d written three novels that were straight supernatural horror a la Stephen King, but I’d never attempted a full-length novel in this style. And at the time, I’d never seen or read anything from the zombie’s POV. I thought that would be fun to explore.

How long did it take you to write Breathers?

Two years, though I didn’t work at it every day. I sort of binge wrote it. And I went through a divorce halfway through, which sort of puts the kibosh on having much of a sense of humor.

I have read that over 80 agents actually passed on Breathers before it was finally published. What types of rejections did you get and how did you stay motivated in the face of so much rejection?

Most of the rejections I received were positive. My favorite rejection showed up two months after I’d signed the publishing contract. I framed that one. As for staying motivated, it’s called masochism.

Breathers takes a bold and entertaining stance by giving “life” to zombies. What defining moment is behind this vision of yours to explain their consciousness through their eyes?

I don’t know if I’d call it a vision. Thomas Edison had vision. I just wanted to tell the story of an ordinary zombie and create enough sympathy for him so that when he started eating human flesh, the reader would be right there with him, cheering him on.

Any plans for more zombie novella? If so, do you intend on using the same formula that made Breathers such a success or will you visit a different angle to the zombie persona?

If I can come up with something fresh, then I’d definitely revisit the zombie mythology. But at the moment, I’ve already written my next book (also a dark comedy, this one about fate) and am working on another, as well as a screenplay with a sci-fi edge.

I’m sorry, Scott, you’ve just been bitten by a zombie. As your friend do you ask me to cap you in the brain or leave you to wander with the rest of your ilk?

I never liked the word “ilk.” It feels incomplete. Like it’s missing its soul. Like zombies. Plus I don’t eat a lot of read meat. So cap me in the brain.

You’ve mentioned looking for the humanity in zombies and question their life prior to becoming undead. What zombies in film have you particularly wondered about or drawn to and were any of them the inspiration behind Andy?

While I can’t say I consciously drew on any zombies for inspiration for Andy, the first one who comes to mind is Bub, from Romero’s Day of the Dead. I think he was probably the first heroic or sympathetic zombie.

What information are you able to share about the upcoming Breathers movie (timeline, cast, etc)? Many of us are dying to know more information (pun intended).

Timeline? Sometime between now and the zombie apocalypse. Cast? So long as Christopher Walken and Bruce Campbell want in, I’m happy. I should know more once the script is finished, hopefully sometime this summer.

Did plans for the movie begin prior to the official release of the book? It seems news of the movie hit immediately after the book was released.

Although the deal for the film rights was announced the week before the book release, the wheels had been in motion for nearly a year. I’ve learned to be patient. Sort of.

What’s your plan when the zombie apocalypse inevitably happens?

I plan on screaming a lot. And maybe filling up a bunch of water balloons with guacamole and dropping them on the zombies from the roof of my apartment. I’m not much of a survivalist.

Being a long-time zombie fan yourself, what are your thoughts regarding the increase in popularity of zombies lately?

You could make the argument that zombies are an allegory for the end of the world as we know it. That the popularity of zombies is a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism, much the same way aliens were popular in the 1950s during the Cold War. I don’t know if I believe that, but zombies are a great vehicle for making commentary on society. After all, they used to be us, which is ultimately why I think we find them so compelling.

Do you feel that being saturated with too many new zombie books and movies will reduce the quality or prohibit studios and publishers from moving forward with new projects?

I think as long as zombies remain popular, studios and publishers will pursue any zombie project that has something to offer. But I think eventually it’s going to get harder to sell something that doesn’t offer a fresh or original take on the mythology.

Are there any zombie toys or memorabilia that you collect? Tell us about your inner geek.

I used to have a collection of gargoyles, skulls, monster action figures, and wind up robots. But after I got divorced, I realized having them out on display might have an adverse impact on my ability to date a woman more than once. So I ended up giving most of my collection away to my nephews. But I still have some of my favorite pieces, along with movie posters from the original Frankenstein, The Mummy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, and Night of the Living Dead.

Scott, thank you so much for making yourself available. If any readers want to thank you in person, where can you be found over the coming months?

You can find me at a number of events and book signings, which I keep updated on my web site:
Just look for the Next Scheduled Resurrection…

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. Good variety of questions. I just finished and loved it. I am not too big of a fan of the ending, it felt too dramatic and rushed. What is the alternate ending, that you mentioned in another article, going to be? You can email me if you dont want to give away spoilers.


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