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Tom Tangney

Seattle author relates to zombie hero in his book, 'Warm Bodies'

The number one movie in America last week was the clever zombie romance, "Warm Bodies." Now the novel it's based on, by a local author, has climbed to number eight on the New York Times bestseller list.

"Warm Bodies" is a very witty take on the zombie tradition. It's about a young man, an outsider, (a zombie) who feels an urgent and inexplicable need to connect to others.

Seattle writer Isaac Marion says his zombie hero is not unlike him in a lot of ways, thanks to a very strict and nomadic homelife growing up.

"I had a fairly unusual upbringing. I moved a lot - I moved 27 times but all within Washington. [It was] very strict, religious up-bringing that kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things. I went to very small schools. I didn't have the typical youth experience, so coming out the other side of that I had a skewed perspective on a lot of things. In some ways it's annoying to have that skewed perspective. And in other ways it allows me to think outside the box."

That unusual upbringing was a kind of springboard for "Warm Bodies."

"Just stylistically, and thematically that worked into it because a lot of this book is about the process of reinventing myself after leaving that upbringing behind and moving to Seattle and figuring out who I was outside of that cult-like environment."

I took the zombie aspect of "Warm Bodies" to be a metaphor for the social difficulties of adolescence but Marion said it's less age-specific than that.

"That's true - except I don't think it's particularly adolescent. I think that's something everyone deals with at any age. I was going through a similar process in my mid 20's when I wrote the book I certainly don't think a difficulty to connect and remember how to be passionate about things is more of an older issue in my experience. The older I get the harder it is to feel things. So I don't really see it as an age specific thing, but it is definitely that theme."

How does he feel about having a zombie book be his calling card for the foreseeable future?

"It's funny. It's definitely not what I ever expected. When I was writing this novel I would stop every once in a while and think, 'I'm writing a zombie novel, this is kind of unexpected.' And then that became the first bit to get published which was kind of surprising. By far, the only thing that I'm known for it's I certainly wouldn't say I'm unhappy or resentful it's surreal and odd to think this - it's really an anomaly in my catalog. Nothing else that I plan to write is anything as pop-culture-y as this. It's funny that I'm the zombie guy now."

Marion almost gleefully calls the premise of his novel "dumb" - that a zombie can fall in love with the girlfriend of a guy whose brains he's just eaten.

"Maybe dumb isn't the right word. It's definitely a goofy idea when you hear that the premise is, you can probably assume it will be a screwball comedy or something. You wouldn't think that's going to be a philosophical drama of existential crisis, which is kind of what it is.

Marion credits Seattle for being a kind of artistic breeding ground for him.

"I think Seattle helped me. It was my first exposure to the outside world. I was in a very small Christian bubble and it was the big city. I left the farm town and kind of came to make my own way. It opened me up to a lot of different perspectives and allowed me to create my own world view.

What about his strict family that he left behind? Do they revel in or disapprove of his success?

"We're all very close still. They all live in Mt. Vernon, except for my brother who lives in Seattle. They've changed a lot since those days. When I was younger it was a pretty harsh household in the sense of the rules. It was never like a mean, unloving place, but it was just the system of beliefs we had. Since then everyone's mellowed out. My parents aren't nearly as conservative as they were and we get along very well. They came to LA to the film premiere with me and we had a big Beverly Hillbillies kind of moment, coming into town. They've been really supportive and they're really excited about it."

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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