Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: S. G. Browne

Posted by Randolph Carter on July 22, 2009

breathersAuthor website:

Also of particular interest:

Undead Anonymous

Could you take a minute and explain what Breathers: a Zombie’s Lament is about?

It’s a dark comedy about undeath through the eyes of an ordinary zombie. An irreverent social satire with a decomposing protagonist, a zombie support group, and a little necrophilia. Think Fight Club meets Shaun of the Dead, only with the zombies as the good guys.

So where did you come up with the idea for the plot?

It actually came from a 2000-word short story I’d written back in 2001 called “A Zombie’s Lament.” I’d always loved zombies, but I hadn’t written about them. Instead of taking the POV of most zombie stories, I wondered what it would be like to be one of the living dead. So I wrote a short story about a sentient zombie who just wants his life back but in the end gives into his Hollywood urge for human flesh. Breathers evolved from that idea.

What kind of “research” did you do for the book?

Other than visiting some local cemeteries in Santa Cruz, most of the research I did from my desk. The Internet is a wonderful thing. Though the majority of what I learned about what happens to the human body after it dies came from STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. That book was great in helping to add a disgusting sense of reality to Breathers.

In addition to sloughage and cadaver impact testing, I also did research on wine, reality television programs, the Constitution, and how to apply foundation and concealer.

Would you mind describing what the process was like in getting the book published?

From the time I finished Breathers in 2006, it took 15 months and 82 rejections from agents before I found representation in November 2007. Two months later, I had a deal with Random House. If I would have known it was that easy to get a book deal, I would have found an agent years ago. (That’s supposed to be sarcasm, by the way).

Would you consider yourself zombie obsessed?

I love zombies, but I pick and choose my zombie entertainment and most of those are films. Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Planet Terror. I still haven’t seen Zombie Strippers. But I really should. For the zombies, naturally.

What scares you?

Children. And spiders creep me out. So do paraplegic mannequins and the woman who wears the cosmetic tool belt at Macy’s.

Speaking of scared and zombie obsessed, have you been creeped-out by any fan reaction to your book?

Yes. (Sound of crickets chirping). Next question?

Would you care to share an amusing and/or interesting anecdote related to the book?

There’s a point in the book where Andy, the main character, wonders: “Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?” People who’ve read the book ask me for the answer, as if I’m an expert on necrophilia. Which I’m not. But I think the answer would be “no.”

Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.

Looking for an agent. The constant research of literary agency lists and writing query letters and sending out submissions is a definite grind. In the creative process itself? I can’t think of an analogy. If writing is repetitive or unpleasant, then you should be doing something else.

By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?

Having someone tell me that my book got them interested in reading again. Or that when they read Breathers, no world existed for them outside of the book. That’s tough to beat.

When do you find time to write?

I’m supposed to be writing?

What projects are you currently working on?

I just sold my next novel to Penguin NAL, so I’ll be working with my editor to polish the manuscript and get it print ready. It’s a dark comedy like Breathers, but instead of zombies it’s populated by Death, Destiny, Fate, and a lot of humans who can’t get their shit together. The title of the novel is Fated.

How do you tend to escape these days?

I bike across the Golden Gate Bridge or play a round of golf or sit down with a good book. I know, I sound like Grandma. But extreme sports and strip clubs was never exactly my thing. Occasionally, I do plug in my Playstation 2 and play a season of Madden 2003 on General Manager mode.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Don’t write what you think anyone wants to read or what someone tells you will sell. Write something that appeals to you. That affects you. That resonates with you on some level. Because if it doesn’t resonate with you, it won’t resonate with anyone else.

You wake up to a world where Breathers has been made into a massively multiplayer online game. Would you play a zombie? Why or why not?

I’d definitely play as a zombie. How could I write a novel about sentient, sympathetic zombies and then turn around and blow them away? I can’t even play House of the Dead anymore because it makes me fell like a hypocrite.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

Zombies are people, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: