Isaac Marion grew up in small towns around the Pacific Northwest, pursuing careers in writing, painting, and music until one of these finally sparked with the publication of his debut novel in 2010. WARM BODIES became a New York Times Bestseller, inspired a major film, and was translated into 25 languages. He spent the next eight years writing the rest of the story over the course of four books, now concluded with THE LIVING. He lives and writes on Orcas Island and plays music in Seattle with the band, Thing Quartet.
GJ: People who don’t read the genre may still have heard of you as the author of Warm Bodies. Can you tell me about your journey to publishing Warm Bodies?
IM: It began its life as a short story that I published on my blog many years ago. It was basically the first chapter of Warm Bodies, a “day in the life” of a zombie and it ended on a note of resignation. Eventually I realised there was a lot more to explore in this premise and started writing the first novel. When it was finished, the freelance editor I worked with showed it to some of her industry contacts and suddenly I had literary agents AND film producers knocking on my door. It was crazy.
GJ: Can you tell me how the movie came about and how involved you were in the process?
IM: The movie happened at basically the same time as the book. Everyone was coming for it at the same time. I was involved only loosely, from a distance. No direct creative control, but I was consulted throughout the process. For the most part I felt like they respected my opinion and I was welcomed into the production to observe and comment, which was a pleasant surprise considering how authors are usually treated by Hollywood. But ultimately it was their project and I didn’t really have any say over their decisions.
GJ: Can you briefly describe the Warm Bodies series to those who may not have heard about it?
IM: It’s about an existentially tormented undead amnesiac learning what it means to be alive and then trying to bring hope to a post-apocalyptic world while struggling to understand human relationships and his own monstrous past.
GJ: After the initial novel you went on to write the Warm Bodies Series which recently concluded with The Living. Was the intension for Warm Bodies to always be a series?
IM: Yes and no. It was planned, but not expected. I had a larger story I wanted to write but didn’t think I would be able to get something that ambitious published. The success of book 1 encouraged me to go ahead with the rest.
GJ: You’ve blogged about the trials and tribulations of getting your books published, in particular the problems and delays you encountered releasing The Living. Are you still in love with writing and can we expect more from you in the future?
IM: Oh of course. The frustrations of publishing don’t affect my love of writing. I will always be writing something. Whether or not I can continue doing it full time really depends on my audience and whether they’re willing to support me. If not, I’ll have to get some other job to stay alive and push writing to the side. But I will always be writing.
GJ: Can you explain how the way you published your Warm Bodies series changed throughout the course of the series and why?
IM: The first three books were published by Atria Books, a major New York house. Due to a perfect storm of mistakes and problems that I’ve described elsewhere, the third book, The Burning World, sold really poorly. You would think it would take more than one disappointing entry to cancel a series that sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but the publishing industry only looks one step ahead, so if book 3 doesn’t sell, book 4 is dead to them. Atria backed out of releasing The Living, and rather than shuffle around the industry looking for some minor house to pick it up, I decided to go the indie route and release it myself through a company called Zola Books.
GJ: Was Warm Bodies your debut? Are you ultimately pleased with where you are now compared to where you thought you would be after the craziness and hype around the first book?
IM: Warm Bodies was my first published book, yes. If you’re asking about where I thought I’d be at the very beginning, then yes, I’m pleased, because I had some great success and I’m still managing to live off writing money, which is all I ever hoped for. If you’re asking if I’m where I expected to be AFTER the hype of Warm Bodies then, haha…no. After Warm Bodies I really believed I was set for life. I thought I’d be free to take my time and explore whatever I was interested in and people would be waiting eagerly to publish it.
I never imagined all that goodwill could evaporate the moment a single book failed to meet commercial expectations. Where I am now is essentially square one, trying to build a new career from scratch. I still have some fans and I might be able to get some publishers’ attention for my next book using Warm Bodies as a calling card, but that’s a long way off, and I’m essentially unemployed right now. So no, I’m not pleased, haha. But I do still have hope for the comeback, because I have some ideas I’m really excited about and I think I still have just enough support to get them out there. Fingers crossed.
GJ: Do you know what you’ll be writing next, or at least a genre, or some snippet? Or are you taking a big deep breath after finishing The Living?
IM: I’ve been tossing around a few different ideas, trying to see which one catches the wind. The only one that might belong to a genre is the one I’m tinkering with right now which is an actual horror story, but very surreal and kind of funny. Not ready to say more than that just yet.
GJ: Thank you Isaac for taking the time to speak with me today. I think your situation is a wake up call for all authors out there, both those who are established and those who are just at the starting point of their journey. I wish you well with the future and I look forward to starting the series.
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