'Warm Bodies' Writer Isaac Marion on Zombie Love

The Mount Vernon native gets his big break when a film adaptation of his novel hits theaters Friday.

By Matthew Halverson January 30, 2013

Image: Zola Books

Isaac Marion knows what you think about his debut novel, Warm Bodies. You see that it’s about a zombie falling in love with a living girl and you think, “It’s Twilight with zombies.” But as fans of the book will tell you, it’s actually a deceptively thoughtful examination of what it means to be alive that just happens to be set in a world overrun by the recently reanimated. Its success has given new life to the 31-year-old Mount Vernon native’s hopes for a writing career. After years of struggling to get even a short story published, the sometimes-musician and visual artist—who used to pay the bills by delivering beds to hospice patients—is already planning a sequel. Oh, and then there’s the big-screen adaptation of Warm Bodies by screenwriter-director Jonathan Levine (50/50) that opens in theaters this Friday.

I swear I’m not Facebook stalking you, but a couple months back you posted “Is the day coming when I can tell people that I wrote a zombie novel and they won’t smirk?” Were you surprised that people wrote it off as “just a zombie book”?

Well, I’m not surprised that that’s the initial reaction. I would probably have the same reaction if somebody told me that’s what they were writing. What surprises me is how hard it is to get someone to take it on its own terms. It’s like you’re pushing against this boulder that keeps rolling back. “No, if it’s zombies, it’s lowbrow. There’s no such things as a literary zombie novel, where you feel sincere emotions. It has to be either comedy or horror.” The unwillingness to accept anything in between is what surprised me. It’s like, Really? You won’t just read it?

You almost sounded apologetic in the announcement that you were writing a sequel. Why?

Partially it’s just that when you say you’re writing a sequel, the reaction is, “Of course you are. Of course you’re going to cash in on this and try to milk it as long as you can.” And that’s not at all what I want to do. There’s more story that I’d originally considered but that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to develop.

Tell me about a moment from the last couple years where you had to step back and say, “Wait, is this all really happening?”

There’s been quite a few. The first—and probably biggest—was when I woke up one day and somebody called and said, “Hey, there’s this producer who read the book and wants to come meet you and talk about it.” I was never even able to get a short story published, and then all of a sudden someone in the movie industry was interested. And they were coming to Seattle to have dinner with me. When I left that dinner, I remember just wandering around Seattle and forgetting where I was and thinking, This is all fake, right? I’m going to wake up at any moment now and go back to my awful job.  

Warm Bodies is in theaters nationwide Feb 1.

Warm Bodies opening-night party and fundraiser
In support of Fremont Abbey Arts and arts nonprofits working with children; author Isaac Marion will be in attendance
Feb 1 at 9, Fremont Abbey Arts Center, 21+, rsvp on Facebook

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