Tales Q&A with Isaac Marion
I am SO excited to have had the chance to put some questions to the wonderful Isaac Marion author of the Warm Bodies Series which started with the first book, Warm Bodies, it’s prequel, The New Hunger and the exciting new sequel The Burning World!
The Burning World was released on the 9th February published by Vintage and Isaac Marion expands the scope of a powerfully simple story: a dead man’s search for life in all its bloody rawness. If you like Zombie books with a twist this series is for you!
The Guardian called Warm Bodies ‘the zombie novel with a heart’; Audrey Niffenegger said ‘Warm Bodies is an unexpected treat’, and Stephenie Meyer eagerly looked forward to the next book.
Following the books release in 2010, Warm Bodies was made into a movie in 2013 starring Nicholas Hoult as it’s main character R. A funny twist on a classic love story, Warm Bodies is a tale about the power of human connection. The sequel has been high up on my anticipated list ever since!
So join us to find out more and what’s next…..
‘R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.
Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.
This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…
Here it is: the prequel to Warm Bodies, released to coincide with the major film adaptation from the producers of Twilight, starring Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult.
Julie Grigio drives with her parents through the crumbling wastelands of America – a nightmarish family road trip in search of a new home.
A few hundred miles away, Nora Greene finds herself the reluctant, terrified guardian of her younger brother when her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.
In the darkness of a forest, a dead man in a red tie opens his eyes. With no memory of who or what he is, he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence – right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly…
Two warped families and a lonely monster. Unknown to any of them, their paths are set to cross in a startling encounter that will change the course of their lives – or deaths – forever.
R is recovering from death. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love. He can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart – building a new world from the ashes of the old one.
And then helicopters appear on the horizon. A mysterious army is coming to restore order, to bring back the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. These grinning strangers are more than they seem. The plague has many hosts, and some are far more terrifying than the Dead.
With their home in the grip of madmen, R and Julie plunge into the wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.
In this long-anticipated new chapter of the Warm Bodies series, Isaac Marion expands the scope of a powerfully simple story: a dead man’s search for life in all its bloody rawness.
Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday. I’m so so happy to have you here! Let’s kick off with the first question shall we?
Can you tell us a little about The Burning World?
Warm Bodies ends at the beginning of R’s new life. He’s taken the first step toward humanity, but he still has a long way to go. It’s one thing to be alive, but how do you navigate human relationships? How do you find your place in a society that doesn’t have a place for you? And can you really be a person without a past, or do you have to find some way to reconcile the person you were with the person you want to become? So R is dealing with all those problems, but there’s an even bigger question on the horizon which is how does the rest of the world react to a sudden shift in the status quo? What forces will try to fill the power vacuum? R’s personal problems quickly get sucked into a much bigger conflict.
It’s been 7 years since Warm Bodies was first released – What made you go back to the character of R and The Warm Bodies Series?
Well, at the time I that actually made that decision, it had only been about TWO years, so it was still pretty fresh. I’ve been working on The Burning World and the final book The Living, for nearly five years! I was always interested in where R’s story would go from the point where I ended Warm Bodies; I had a broad outline in my head, but it took some time for the vision to really take shape. There were a few epiphany moments when I realized where the story would go and what it would ultimately be about and once that spark was ignited, I couldn’t get it out of my head. From a career perspective, the timing and strategy of it all was terrible, but I had to do what I had to do and give it as much time as it needed.
Did you find it easy to jump back into the world you created in Warm Bodies?
I never really left it. The two years between were mostly filled with movie buzz and writing the prequel novella, The New Hunger. I dabbled in a few minor side projects, short stories and movie scripts, but Warm Bodies continued to be my central focus even during that lull.
For those who don’t know who R is – can you tell us a little bit more about him?
“R” is the first letter of his name; that’s all he remembers. He’s a former zombie who managed to will himself out of that dark state of being and bring himself “back to life,” which became a catalyst for the rest of the undead population. He’s an awkward guy in life or death. He thinks too much and has trouble expressing himself. He’s pretty relatable.
Can you tell us a little about some of the other characters in The Burning World?
Well, there’s Julie of course, the girl who helped pull R out of his fog. She’s kind of his opposite in many ways: enthusiastic, outspoken, quick-tempered, and passionate about everything. But she’s not all quirky fun. She has a very traumatic past—as do most people growing up in the apocalypse—and it brings out a dark side in her sometimes. She holds herself together with hope optimism and when anyone threatens that, she can become very dangerous.
Julie’s friend Nora also plays a big role in The Burning World and the final book, The Living, as her history with M and lost family members—as described in The New Hunger—comes back to haunt her. Her little brother Addis becomes a unique figure in the story, a kind of ambassador between humanity and a mysterious intelligence that is observing the events of the story and pushing humanity forward…um…yeah, it’s complicated.
What was your favourite scene to write in The Burning Word?
I would have to say the final sequence of scenes summing up the end of R’s first life was the most affecting for me. I’m always very moved by depictions of death in fiction—not violent, sudden deaths but deaths where the character has time to understand that his life is ending, all the feelings that go with that, the regret and acceptance, or in R’s case, a refusal…that’s intense stuff. And especially in this case, where R is realizing that he owes a debt to the world for the terrible things he’s done, that little glimmer of hope, the will to keep fighting against overwhelming circumstances…that really hit me hard. I think I actually cried a little while writing that scene.
What was the hardest scene to write?
I’d like to say it was one of the big emotional scenes, but those are actually a joy for me to write, even when they’re sad. It’s the more complex, narratively technical scenes that I struggle with, so one of the hardest was probably the ending. Setting the stage for the next leg of their journey, getting all the pieces to line up so that we understand what’s been resolved and what still remains to be done…scenes like that are always hard, just the pacing and mental logistics of it all. There’s a lot going on in this story and keeping all the threads bundled tight was challenging.
If you could sum up The Burning World in 5 words what would you choose?
Epic journey outward and inward.
Can you give us 5 random facts about yourself that we should know about Isaac Marion?
I also make music and have recorded a couple albums but it’s been a long time and I don’t know how well they’ve aged. You can download them both for free on my Bandcamp.
I am sinister (left-handed) do not trust me.
The house my family lived in when I was 14 (a modified motorcycle garage) was condemned and burned down by the city. That was the year I started writing.
I have enjoyed the company of all the following animal friends: dog, cat, rat, mouse, gerbil, guinea pig, grasshopper, rabbit, turtle, frog, snake, iguana, horse, goat, fish, snail, slug, salamander, and unknown lamprey-like creature discovered in the mud of the Skagit River.
I have lived in RVs for a surprisingly large portion of my life.
Do you have a favourite ever Zombie? The zombie to beat all zombies?
I’m not sure I know what that means—like a zombie champion to beat other zombies in a fight? Hard to picture that, so I’ll assume you mean a personal favourite from fiction. It’s still a hard question because there aren’t many zombie individuals to choose from, but I might have to say Bub from Day of the Dead, because he was the first zombie in fiction to show a personality and emotions. He even likes music! Very much an ancestor of R.
Ultimate zombie movie?
I’m no good at picking favourites, so I may just have to default to the original classic, Night of the Living Dead. I appreciate the stark simplicity of it, the purity of its ideas. And the performances hold up surprisingly well.
I actually just finished writing a short story from the perspective of the dying daughter that will appear in an upcoming anthology edited by George Romero, called Nights of the Living Dead. Plug plug plug.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
One unusual tactic I’ve been testing out lately is taking my characters to a real life therapist in order to understand them more deeply. I basically do a therapy session in-character. It helps make them more real to me and sometimes produces unexpected insights into their behaviour. Even though I write fantastical stories, I want the people and emotions to be grounded in psychological realism. Sometimes I have to seek professional help!
Growing up who inspired you into writing? Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?
Honestly I don’t really remember what inspired me. I first started writing seriously at age 14 and at that time a lot of my narrative influence came from fantasy novels like Tolkien and Robert Jordan but also unexpected sources like story-driven Japanese role playing games—Final Fantasy, etc. As I grew up this shifted toward more grounded fantasy in the vein of Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut, then later the more literary stuff like Dave Eggers, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Coupland, Audrey Niffenegger, etc. Charlie Kauffman writes movies, not books, but he’s a huge influence. If I had to pick specific inspirations for Warm Bodies itself, I might say it’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets The Road.”
Could you tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next?
Well first, I’m finishing the Warm Bodies Series. The final book, The Living, is written and just needs to be edited, so that’s my current project. I’m hoping to finish it in the next few months and possibly release it later this year, so you won’t have a terribly long wait to find out how it all ends. After that? I’m still trying to figure out what my post-Warm Bodies life is going to be. I have four big novel ideas floating around in my head and I just need to decide which one is calling to me the loudest. I can tell you none of them involve zombies or any other established genre staple. Very eager to write something that doesn’t come with all that cultural baggage. Fresh start, open range, freedom.
Thanks so much for answering all my questions Isaac!
You can buy a copy of The Burning World or any of the Warm Bodies Series here or from your local bookshop!
About Isaac Marion
Isaac Marion grew up in the mossy depths of the Pacific Northwest, where he worked as a heating installer, a security guard, and a visitation supervisor for foster children before publishing his debut novel in 2010. Warm Bodies became a New York Times bestseller and inspired a major film adaptation. It has been translated into twenty-five languages. Isaac lives in Seattle with his cat, Watson, writing fiction and music and taking pictures of everything.
You can find out more about Isaac on his website – isaacmarion.com
Or why not follow Isaac on twitter – @isaacinspace
A huge thank you to Isaac for answering so many of my questions and to Helen at Penguin Random House for organising.
Have you read any of the Warm Bodies Series? What did you think? Are you excited for this sequel The Burning World?? What do you like about it? Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !