Author of Warm Bodies and the new sequel The New Hunger—available only at Zola—Isaac Marion shares what it was like to see his novel become the #1 movie in America and explains why he doesn’t consider himself a “genre writer.”
Zola: How did it feel to have the #1 movie in America? Did you go see it at your local theater?
Isaac Marion: It felt like about a hundred texts and Facebook messages from people I haven’t talked to in years saying, “Congratulations, man! Can I have some money?” No, I’m kidding, it was great. I saw it opening night with a big gang of friends and then my brother threw a party. The party was a benefit for the nonprofit we’re starting so that took some of the spotlight off me, which was good, but it was still pretty overwhelming.
Zola: What’s the nonprofit?
IM: There’s plenty of science and evidence showing how various kinds of art can stimulate growth in the brain, intellectually and even physically, generating whole new neural pathways. Being exposed to art and also having opportunities to participate in it is hugely important for kids’ development, but a lot of kids have no access to any of that due to low finances or just living in a culture that doesn’t value creativity.
My last job was working with kids in the foster care system, and I was really struck by the bleakness of their experience, being hauled from home to home, sometimes having a different family every year, not to even mention the presumably dysfunctional homes they originally grew up in. A lot of them become very bitter and emotionally closed off, and spend so much energy trying to adjust to their constantly changing circumstances that they never get a chance to pursue anything so lofty as creative expression.
Warmbodies.org has programs to get these kids connected to a world they might not ever discover on their own–free concerts, classes, stuff like that. There are a lot of disadvantaged youth in the world and all of them could benefit from being exposed to more creative experiences, but warmbodies.org is targeting foster kids because they are a specific group with specific challenges that go beyond just the income level of their families—which doesn’t necessarily indicate anything meaningful—so we thought it was a good place to start.
Zola: Back to the Warm Bodies film. You cool with the changes the filmmakers made? How about the casting?
IM: I’m cool with it. I think any author would love to see a verbatim transcription of their book on screen, but the adaptations that try to nail every moment and detail from the book are usually the ones that fail. They’re very different mediums and adaptations require some flexibility. They could have stuck closer to the book if they’d wanted to make a dark, edgy, R-rated art-house drama with zombies, but that was never their goal, and I’m not even sure that wouldn’t be an awful movie.
The cast is wonderful. Very happy with the cast. Particularly Nicholas. My biggest fear with this movie was that no actor would be able to find the right balance to deliver this awkward, stunted zombie dialogue without sounding like a joke. I really can’t imagine anyone doing a better job than he did.
Zola: Almost every review of the film compliments its new approach to the zombie genre. But they also say this is perhaps the end of original zombie ideas for a while. Do you think zombie movies and books have had their run?
IM: I don’t really know or care, to be honest. I’m not particularly invested in the zombie genre, or any other genre, really. Warm Bodies is just a story I wanted to write and it happened to require zombies. The sequel I’m working on does involve zombies but it’s even less of a “zombie book” than Warm Bodies, and after that I doubt I’ll ever mention the undead again. So what other writers do with the mythology from here on isn’t really an interest of mine. But I guess if Warm Bodies plays any role in discouraging more cookie-cutter zombie stories that follow the exact same plot templates and dramatic beats with no twist or variations whatsoever… I’d be happy about that.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.