Released earlier this year, Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies has garnered all sorts of praise — both from critics, and fellow authors. And Summit Entertainment is producing an upcoming movie adaptation of the book, starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.
Marion stopped by San Diego Comic Con last week to talk about Warm Bodies, and the upcoming movie adaptation. He took some time out during the busy con to chat with us about zombie romance, the movie and more:
It was good, I think. As far as I know. It was scary definitely, but I didn’t really know what to expect when I saw “press conference” on my schedule … but it was the actual table and a huge crowd of journalists and me in front of a microphone.
It was a little bit terrifying … my voice was quavering like a little girl!
What’s the latest status on the movie?
Trying to find the rest of the cast, and they are in pre-production, just scouting locations and getting everything set up. They’re planning to start shooting it in the early fall.
They’re about to send me the latest one [screenplay] … I’m excited to see where it’s at at this point.
How do you feel about the cast so far? The script? The crew? (Jonathan Levine, Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, etc.)
I don’t know a ton about either of them. I know the director, I was sort of a fan of his [Jonathan Levine's] before he was attached … I loved “The Wackness.” I think it’s really well written, and that’s so important for someone who understands character to be involved in the Warm Bodies movie. I was really excited about him being chosen as writer/director. And the two actors who were picked, I didn’t know at the time, but I’ve looked up their movies since then, and I’m really excited.
I’m definitely very excited for the movie to start. I don’t know when it will actually hit the press, but when it’s filming and when people are aware of it, and I’m curious to see what effect that has on the book.
Being an author, especially a debut author, it’s kind of a quiet lonely business at this era, because nobody really cares at this point. So I’m excited to see how this changes when the movie hits the public sphere.
There are a number of zombie projects getting hype these days, incl. at SDCC … “The Walking Dead” … “P&P&Z” … tell us how “Warm Bodies” differs.
I can’t claim to have seen or read all the zombie stories out there, but the main thing is … most of them play it either as horror, the thrill of scares and jumping out at you, or they play it as laughs, and spoofs of horror.
Warm Bodies pretty much takes itself seriously. It’s meant to be a sincere, emotional drama … there’s comedy in it, but it’s meant to be taken at face value. It’s not a joke, even if it sounds like one when you describe it to people … It’s actually a real story and so I think that’s probably the main difference.
Also, a lot of people told me they didn’t expect it to be as emotional or as moving as it is. It was hard realizing how inherently wacky it does sound, but to take it seriously … a lot of people have found it does work for them.
What are some of the more unique challenges of writing a book from the perspective of a zombie?
One of the biggest challenges was just trying to create a relatable, sympathetic character from a creature that doesn’t have an identity. He has no past, no memories, doesn’t know what his history is. So there’s no back story for that. So starting from a blank state and building a personality, without him having any life to reference. And then to get people to sympathize with him, because within the first two pages you see him killing and eating someone.
The writing didn’t seem that much of a stretch for me, because he has a rich inner life and lots of thoughts going on –he just doesn’t have a frame of reference for those thoughts. He’s sort of a tortured amnesiac, walking around in a world he doesn’t understand. And I found that was relatable and sympathetic.
And really quickly … I know you’re from Washington, and I also live in the Pacific Northwest. So I always like to ask about living in this region and writing here. Do find it inspirational at all?
The Pacific Northwest has such a lively literary scene, and some of the theories seem to be trite, but there’s something to be said for the atmosphere, and the weather. It’s notoriously cloudy and rainy and not really a beach party town. It cultivates a sense of thoughtfulness and contemplativeness. You know, you spend a lot of time inside and looking at the rain, and it puts you in a mood for writing, especially moods that are especially intense.
It’s just kind of a moody place, and that works well with writing.
Thanks to Isaac for chatting with us, and to Summit for arranging this interview. Isaac will also be appearing at Portland’s Wordstock Festival in October!