The Horror Club recently had a chat with S. G. Browne, who is the acclaimed author of the novels Less Than Hero (2015), Big Egos (2013), Lucky Bastard (2012), Fated (2010), and Breathers (2009), as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus (2012) and the e-book short story collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel (2012).
What was your first published story?
“Wish You Were Here,” which appeared in the Spring 1994 edition of Redcat, a small (now defunct) horror magazine. The story is about a thrill-seeker on an airplane ride from San Francisco to Philadelphia who wishes he could experience what it’s like to live through an airplane crash and gets his wish, only to have it happen repeatedly on a loop.
How did it feel to have the three year gap between writing your first novel & having it published?
The worst part was the fifteen months it took from the time I sent out the first query to when I finally landed an agent. Ninety-two rejections on the same creative project can get a bit wearing. I remember telling my writers group that if the count reached 100, I was probably going to need some therapy. But once I had an agent, it was only a couple of months until she brokered a book deal and not much more than a year after that until the book was published. At that point, it was just a matter of going through the process of edits and counting down the days. And just to be clear, Breathers was my fourth novel, but the first one to be published.
What do you think are the main elements to great dark fiction?
I like my dark fiction to have good social commentary. Like Fight Club or American Psycho. I also like my dark fiction to have good antiheroes. And by “good,” I mean characters you want to root for in spite of their flaws and questionable actions or ethics. And I think a good sense of humor is important, which leads nicely into your next question.
Some of your work seems to have that dark comedy feeling, why do you think it fits perfectly with dark fiction?
Dark fiction often has, or can have, bleak views on human nature and society. So in that sense, using dark comedy to deal with these issues seems like a natural fit. After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves and the human condition, then we’re going to have very long and difficult lives. Plus the humor helps to make the social commentary more palatable. I call it The Mary Poppins Approach, since it’s like adding a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
What was your thought process of writing Zombie Gigolo?
I actually wrote that as an entry for the Gross Out Contest at the 2008 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City. I borrowed some of the narrative elements of my novel Breathers along with the research I’d done on decomposing human corpses and ratcheted up the disgust level to eleven. The opening line of “Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?” got a pretty good laugh.
Why did you decide to write in the point of view of a zombie?
I’d wanted to write a zombie story for years, but every time I sat down to write one it didn’t seem to go anywhere. At least not anywhere new compared to other zombie films I’d seen and fiction I’d read. So I thought: What if instead of being chased by the zombie, I was the zombie? And rather than being a mindless, shuffling, flesh-obsessed zombie, what if I was just a reanimated corpse who was gradually decomposing, I had no rights, and I needed some serious therapy? What would that be like? How would my friends treat me? What would my parents think? Could I join a bowling league? These were the questions I wanted to explore. (This was in the year 2000, when no one had written a first person POV story about a zombie, at least not that I’d read. Vampires, yes. Zombies, no.) This led to my short story “A Zombie’s Lament,” which I would later expand into my novel Breathers.
If you had to choose one of your novels or short stories to be adapted into a film, which one would you choose?
I’d probably choose Breathers, though I think it would work better as a TV series on Netflix, HBO, or Amazon. With a film, you lose so much of the narrative and backstory but with a TV series, even if it’s just three to four season of ten episodes each, you can explore so much more when it comes to story and characters.
If it was/is to be, would you like to write the screenplay, or see someone put a different spin on your work?
At the very least I’d like to be a creative consultant and have some input into the screenplay or series. But I also realize that film and TV are different artistic mediums than books, so I would want to respect that and not get caught up in making the movie or series exactly like my book.
Last but not least, what is currently is the pipeline for the future?
I’m working on a number of short stories that I’d like to publish in a collection. I’m also working on a sequel to Lucky Bastard and have the seed of an idea for another story in the Breathers universe.