Zombie May: Interview with Isaac Marion

Isaac Marion


(Author of Warm Bodies)



1.FF(Me):”Ever since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, it was only natural for a book to be eventually written from what seems to be psychologically impossible perspective :the perspective of a zombie. Did you have trouble, before writing, trying to conceptualize a novel from a zombie’s perspective?”

IM (Author:)”Surprisingly, no. From that basic premise–a zombie that’s aware of its situation–it flowed pretty naturally. I found it easy to put myself in that position and imagine what thoughts I would have. I just took the classic profile of a zombie and explored all its internal implications, taking everything to its logical conclusion. The actual plot of the novel grew out of those conflicts.”

2. FF:”I know so many zombie fans that scoff at the mention of any novel that couples “romance” and “zombies” in the same sentence. It charges some people with a lot of anger in the form of “How dare someone make zombies pussies?” I think the romance label is a misnomer for a book I thought explored some very dark philosophical ideas. Do you feel that the description of your novel as a zombie romance is completely accurate? “

IM “I don’t think that description is accurate and I don’t like it at all. I’ve been fighting it, but I think no one marketing the book or movie is quite sure how else to explain it to people. When you’re mixing not only genres but tones, demographics, and brow levels, it becomes very hard to sum it up in one punchy pitch line. In my mind, it’s not a romance. To me, a romance is a story whose entire conflict revolves around a relationship. Will they or won’t they work out? That’s the arc of a romance. The relationship between R and Julie is central to Warm Bodies’ story, but there’s a lot more than that going on. There’s a post-apocalyptic world that needs saving. There’s a clash of ideals between dreamers and cynics, and between humans and insane skeletons who want the world to stay dead forever. If Warm Bodies was a romance, it would be over when they finally kiss, not when they start a revolution and transform their world”

3.FF:” I don’t know if you’ve read any of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles books, but the vampire perspective of her books allowed her to explore tough existential issues. The same questions remarkably emerge in your novel: What is the purpose of our life, if death means paradoxical nothingness. What makes zombie or vampire  stories the perfect type of story to effectively explore these issues? “

IM:”Zombies and vampires have some similar issues to deal with. They’re both outsiders, cut off from humanity emotionally, physically, and morally. They’re so far removed from all the things humans tell themselves make life worthwhile–love, family, work and reward, participation in society–that they’re forced to confront the fundamental questions of existence, stripped of all traditional comforts and platitudes. Zombies have a particularly hard time, as they get no consolation prizes in exchange for their isolation. No super powers, no sexy mystique or glamorous gloom to indulge in. They’re not just stripped of comforts, they’re stripped of everything, including their  memories and identity. It’s fascinating to explore the absurdities of life through the eyes of suck a bleak blank slate.”

4. FF:”Throughout the novel, there are so many interesting explorations into the mind/body problem. This has been a philosophical idea that I’ve always thought had great potential to be examined in a zombie story. Until your novel, I’m not aware of many writers who have explored this philosophical concept. What about the mind/body problem fascinates you? Do you think that there is hidden potential to our minds that science currently has not completely uncovered? “

IM:”What fascinates me about the mind is how completely mysterious it still is, despite all advancements in neuroscience. We know a lot more about how the brain works, but we can still make all kinds of wild speculations about what’s really going on in there, and no scientist can disprove them. For instance, what constitutes an identity? When I berate myself for doing something stupid, am I actually just talking to myself, or is there another distinct identity sharing my brain? Where do we draw those lines? R eats Perry’s brain and experiences his memories, and is then surprised to find that Perry is hanging out in his thoughts, having conversations with him long after his death. Is this really “Perry” he’s talking to? Or is it just a residual echo of his personality, absorbed through the brain energies that R consumed? Is there a difference? Does it even matter? Even if Perry is just a figment of R’s own imagination, does that make him any less real? Where are the borders between our identities and other people’s? How much of “you” is really you, and how much is material picked up from people around you and incorporated into “you”? This stuff fascinates me endlessly.”

5.FF:” I am aware that there is a movie coming out, and I feel that many readers are probably concerned that these darker underpinnings of this novel will be lost on screen. Are you worried that the movie adaptation might focus too much on the romance of the novel in order to appeal to a broader audience?”

IM:”I think everyone knows that movie adaptations have to simplify the source material, especially in fantasy. Movies rarely get enough free time to explore the deeper ideas embedded in genre stories. They have to distill it down to its essence, get in and get out in under 2 hours, and hope people caught a few snippets of meaning in between all the loud noises and bright colors. I’m prepared for that to happen here, but I’m also hopeful. Most of the people involved in this film seem to genuinely want it to be smart, and within the confines of this medium and its audience, they’re making a valiant effort to set it apart from the teen fast food franchises. From the little I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be an incredibly weird, unique film. It could be to zombie movies what Cabin the Woods was to slasher flicks.”
Thanks again Isaac M. for participating in this interview and for offering such thoughtful answers to these questions!!

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