Is it possible to experience a midlife/ existential crisis if you have no idea how old you are? In the world of Issac Marion’s debut novel, Warm Bodies, it certainly is.
Set in post-apocalyptic Washington, the newly deemed New York Times bestseller follows the story of R, an unusually brilliant, intuitive young zombie who shuffles aimlessly about life while longing for meaning and connection, until the curious turn of events that occurs when he decides to save one of his potential victims after devouring the brain — thus briefly reliving the memories — of her boyfriend, Perry. And not as in, save her later for a midnight morsel. As in save her, save her.
R drags a terrified Julie Grigio back to his pad — an abandoned airport swarming with zombies, and the ghoulish skeletal creatures bent on keeping everything in order, as it was and always will be, known as Boneys. There, the duo develops an unlikely friendship as he keeps her captive in his 747 airplane home, promising to keep her safe.
It isn’t soon before R notices that his affection for Julie is evoking human feelings and emotions in him thought to be long ago stored away and blanketed in layers of dust back when the “plague” hit. It seems to spark the same reaction on the other zombies living at the airport. Such upheaval, of course, is simply unheard of, and their blossoming relationship causes an uproar in the worlds of those undead and alive who are set in their ways of “hunt or be hunted.” With the help of R’s best zombie friend, M, and Julie’s human friend, Nora, the two set out to prove to General Grigio (aka, papa Grigio) and the Boneys that there must be more to the horribly routine life they live — and hopefully cure man-and-zombiekind alike, on the way.
Warm Bodies is something we’ve never really seen before; I mean just with the fact that this is a zombie story being told from the zombie’s perspective. How cool is that? The novel is skillfully interwoven with various themes: Life, death, revival, second chances, and wisely considering what to do with your existence in the meantime. Overall, Marion’s story is simply genius, maintaining a slightly dark tone with tasteful notes of tongue-in-cheek hilarity and romance. Quite unique on it’s own terms, it is delightfully quirky and funny, thought-provoking, and beautifully grotesque, thanks to Isaac Marion’s vivid writing style.
With all the positive appraisal swarming Warm Bodies and its upcoming film adaptation set to pillage theaters everywhere in less than two weeks, we at Sarah Scoop magazine thought it was the perfect time to pick the brains of the mastermind behind it all! Author Isaac Marion took a few moments to discuss inspiration for the Warm Bodies, his thoughts on the film, and his future endeavors. Such a nice guy! And dauntingly creative. More on him and his bestselling brain-child below.
Interview with Isaac Marion, 1/15/13
By Brianna Guerrero
How did you come up with the unique concept for Warm Bodies? I picked up on some Romeo and Juliet references (and please correct me if I am wrong), but the main themes of the novel are certainly very different from a story merely focusing on budding romance. There are more important aspects — life, death, hope for the future and building on one’s past, among many. How did you come up with what is today, Warm Bodies?
I’ve always found that writing stories from very unusual perspectives can create interesting and unpredictable results. Warm Bodies started as just a thought experiment — what would it be like to be undead? What does a zombie think about besides “Chase, kill, and eat those humans”? But as I started to develop it it ended up becoming much a much more personal and poignant story for me. As a twenty-something recently split from my religious upbringing and living alone in a new city, I was searching for an identity and a way to understand my role in the world. It was a very dark, confusing time, and writing about R’s transformation and reconnection with life helped guide my own.
The subtle allusions to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are intentional, yes?
Yes, they’re intentional, although it’s more of a subtle wink to acknowledge the influence of a classic story arc than it is a major theme of the story. I definitely wasn’t trying to do “Romeo and Juliet and Zombies.”
Though your book was popular even before the movie adaptation was announced, the film probably made everyone, if anyone missed it the first time around, aware that it is based off of a novel. After seeing trailers on t.v. and in theaters, I know lots of people who picked the book up. It’s going to be a hit; you are gaining international success as I we speak. How are you dealing with fame?
By fleeing to Iceland and walking around by myself, hiking glaciers, soaking in hot springs and lurking in the corners of cozy cafes, answering interview questions over strong coffee and weird food and trying my best to stay sane.
One of my favorite things about your zombie apocalypse world is that, the reason why zombies like to eat brains so much is because they then get to relive the person’s life through memories for a few seconds. If a zombie were to burst out of the snow right now in Iceland and take a bite of your brains, what would they get?
Well, the memories tend to come out in order of intensity, so he might not experience any Iceland at all. It might just be a few bad breakups, the feeling of laughing at the bloopers reel at the Warm Bodies wrap party with a packed house of crew and cast, (wouldn’t that be meta?) an incredible alpine camping trip, and a certain sexual experience I had once. Or maybe a completely different set. There are a lot of intense moments in a life.
Have you seen the movie? How do you like it?
I love it. It’s certainly its own interpretation of the book and has a lighter tone, focusing a little more on the book’s comedy than its existential angst, but it’s a really fun, charming movie that totally works on its own terms.
Have you met the cast? What do you think about the casting decisions?
I spent two weeks on the set in Montreal and became really good friends with some of the cast. It’s a great group of people; the whole production had a really warm and familial atmosphere. I think all of the actors did wonderful jobs capturing the personalities of my characters, particularly Nick and Teresa — and especially particularly Nick, who created a better portrayal of a smart, introspective zombie than I ever thought possible.
There’s been talk about a sequel. True?
True. It’s my current project and I’m too deep in to even describe it yet. But before that, there’s going to be a prequel novella, which will be out as an e-book later this month and hopefully a print edition soon after. It involves a few days in the lives of a 16-year-old Nora and her kid brother, a 12-year-old Julie and her parents, and a freshly undead R and M as they wander across post-apocalyptic Washington in search of other people–all with very different motives.
Anything you’d like to say to the many Warm Bodies fans?
Thank you. Your enthusiasm and involvement with this world I’m creating brings it to life for me and I’m so grateful I’m not alone in here.
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment, Warm Bodies comes out in theaters everywhere on Friday, February 1st. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), the much-anticipated film stars model/ UK Skins and About A Boy actor, Nicholas Hoult as R, and I Am Number Four‘s Australian beauty Teresa Palmer as Julie Grigio. The others that make up the talented cast are Rob Corddry (Children’s Hospital) as M, Analeigh Tipton (America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 11) as Nora, John Malkovich (Tranformers: Dark of the Moon) as General Grigio, and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street) as Perry Kelvin.
If you’ve read the novel or were lucky enough to score tickets to a pre-screening event, you probably know why I and the rest of the Warm Bodies fans are so excited about the film and that this is becoming a series. Being a zom-rom-com (zombified romantic comedy), it’s definitely one of those concepts that shouldn’t work this well, but does, amazingly at the hands of Marion. A brave tale of what makes us human, and a first look at just what the heck goes on in the minds of those despised, supposedly unfeeling, uncaring zombies, Warm Bodies is surely a story you don’t want to miss out on.