Isaac Marion took the world by storm when he published Warm Bodies, a Romeo & Juliet retelling featuring a zombie with a heart (albeit an unbeating one). Over the course of the novel, zombie R falls for the very-alive and very-human Julie. Slowly but surely, R becomes more and more human as he fights his zombie instincts. But the story doesn’t end there.
The sequel, The Burning World, shows how hard it can be to return from the undead. Now alive, R needs to relearn how to be human: how to read, how to speak, how to start a future with the girl he loves. There’s a whole new world to explore, and while we’ll have to wait until February 7 to see what adventures Marion has in store for our favorite characters, we can infer and speculate based on the cover.
Are you ready?
Here we go:
Already, it’s clear that The Burning World is unlike the two other covers in the series. There are the colors, both hopeful and ominous, that lie beyond the door. We had the chance to ask Marion about his thoughts on the new cover, and he shared some exciting news for readers who want to preorder the book.
Bookish: There’s a sense of isolation in the other two covers in this series, but here we see two shadows—R and Julie, I assume—holding hands as they walk into a new world together. What do you hope the cover conveys about the journey they’re about to take?
Isaac Marion: R and Julie aren’t alone anymore; they have each other, they have their friends, but they’re all living in a tiny corner of a mostly unknown world, and they’re realizing how much is going on around them that they don’t understand. A lot of this story is about them stepping out from safety—the safety of home, the safety of a blank past—and facing the reality of who they are and what they have to do.
Bookish: There is a lot more color on this cover than the other books in this series: blues, greens, oranges, yellows. Was that a conscious choice now that R is human once more?
IM: Exactly. He’s reentering the Living world, and it’s a bright and noisy place, beautiful but terrifying. He has Julie for a guide, but she has struggles of her own.
Bookish: Unlike many other zombie books, readers won’t find anything truly gory on these covers. Was that the designer’s choice or did you want to steer clear of having a zombie on the cover?
IM: People ask me what these books are about, and the moment I say the word “zombie,” they think they know the whole story. There are a lot of expectations and assumptions about zombie fiction, from specific narrative beats to an overall aesthetic, but Warm Bodies doesn’t really fit most of them. I’ve always seen it as a broader human story, more interested in beauty than horror, so I’ve tried to keep the covers clear of the usual genre signifiers. I’d like people to look a little closer before they classify it, because the most common comment I get is “It wasn’t what I expected!”
Bookish: On your site, you talk about how challenging it can be for authors to show publishers that they do have a strong and active following of readers eager for more books. What are some things that readers can do to support the authors they love?
IM: The best way a reader can support a book is to talk about it—word of mouth is pretty much the only advertising books get these days—but another way is to preorder it rather than wait for release day. This shows the publisher that the readers are there, that the book has momentum and is worth pushing harder. It shows the media that it’s an event worth paying attention to, and it can even help bounce the book onto the bestseller list, which goes a long way toward getting it noticed.
Bookish: You’re also doing something exciting with preorders on your site. Can you tell us how you came up with the referrals idea and the rewards readers can win?
IM: I keep in close contact with my readers and I’ve been really amazed by the enthusiasm I’ve seen. They’re out there sharing their love for these books, and I wanted a way to reward those efforts. So I’ve put together some unique Warm Bodies materials that will only be available to those dedicated fans, as a thank-you for the help.
The details are on my website, but it starts with a copy of a newspaper written by a character from the books that will be included with every preorder. Then if you’re willing to spread the word, you can earn rewards like my personal photos from the movie set, a thank-you letter from R, a signed copy of an exclusive Warm Bodies story, and even rarer stuff. If you reach the top level with 50 referrals, I’ll give up my most precious one-of-a-kind artifacts, name a character after you, and maybe also marry you?
Bookish: What happens if more than one person manages to secure 50 referrals? Hunger Games-style showdown to be your spouse?
IM: I don’t discriminate by age, gender, or number. Love is love.
Preorder on Isaac Marion’s website for the chance to win the rewards mentioned above.
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 #5 New York Times bestseller and inspired a major Hollywood film adaptation. It has been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Isaac lives in Seattle with his cat and a beloved cactus, writing fiction and music, and taking pictures of everything.