S.G. Browne

Favorite Films From A to Z

While I’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking about my favorite books and authors who have inspired me, I’m also a big fan of movies and they’ve had as much of an influence on my writing as literature.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve developed an appreciation for a number of writers and directors, including the Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski), Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees), Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited), and David Fincher (Fight Club, Alien 3, Seven).

There’s more, but I figured that was enough.

As for my favorite films of all time, I did it purely my letter association, picking the first two films that popped into my head for each letter of the alphabet – though I could only come up with one film for Y and no titles for Q. Of course, limiting the list to two per letter caused me to leave out a number of films I really enjoyed, like Adaptation, CQ, Ghostbusters, and Scotland, PA. But I think this is a pretty good representation of the movies that have influenced and inspired me in one way or another:

A – Alien / Almost Famous
B – Being John Malkovich / The Big Lebowski
C – Caddyshack / Close Encounters of the Third Kind
D – Donnie Darko / Diner
E – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / The Empire Strikes Back
F – Fight Club / Flirting With Disaster
G – The Graduate / Groundhog Day
H – High Anxiety / Halloween
I – I Heart Huckabees / It’s a Wonderful Life
J – Jaws / Jacob’s Ladder
K – Kingpen / Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
L – L.A. Confidential / Lost in Translation
M – The Matrix / Mystery Men
N – Night of the Living Dead / Napoleon Dynamite
O – Ocean’s Eleven / Office Space
P – Pulp Fiction / The Princess Bride
R – Royal Tenenbaums / Raiders of the Lost Ark
S – Star Wars / South Park
T – There’s Something About Mary / Tremors
U – Unbreakable / The Usual Suspects
V – Very Bad Things / V is for Vendetta
W – What Planet Are You From? / When Harry Met Sally
X – The X-Files / X-Men
Y – Young Frankenstein
Z – Zoolander / The Zero Effect

What are some of your favorite films of all time?

Filed under: Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 1:02 pm

N is for No and 1984

Well, the second half of the alphabet starts off with a lot of empty seats in the audience. Not that it’s a reflection on the quality of titles for this entry, just the quantity. Two titles, no wild cards, and only four total books I’ve read that start with the letter N. I even searched on the Internet for books I might have read and forgotten about and couldn’t find anything remotely familiar.

Other than the two titles that I’d recommend, the only other books I’ve read for this entry are both by Stephen King: Needful Things and Nightmares and Dreamscapes. And while I love King, I can’t bump either of these two titles into the third spot on the list.

So on to the best two books I’ve read that begin with the letter N:

Top Dog:
1984, George Orwell
Give me a better and more influential dystopian novel than this one and I’ll put it on my list of books to read. Orwell’s novel about a totalitarian regime and a manipulated society is a cautionary satire about nationalism, sexual repression, and censorship, condemning intellectualism and emotional intimacy. It also spawned several terms and concepts that have become common in contemporary usage, including the term Orwellian. And while the Thought Police might not be a reality, Big Brother is watching you.

Second Fiddle:
No Sleep Till Wonderland, Paul Tremblay
This is the sequel to Tremblay’s The Little Sleep, an homage to the benchmark of detective noir novels, The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. The play on words with the titles alludes to the main character, a down-and-out private detective who suffers from narcolepsy, which causes him to nod off and hallucinate at inopportune moments. The writing is crisp and engaging, the plot intriguing, and the humor sharp and often laugh-out-loud funny. While both books are fun reads, I liked No Sleep Till Wonderland a little bit more.

Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:18 pm

I Forgot To Eat Again

The last month or so I’ve been doing rewrites on my third book, the follow-up to Fated (coming to a bookstore near you November 2). These are rewrites based on feedback from my writers group (writers’ group? writer’s group? where the hell does the apostrophe go?) that I want to finish before sending the manuscript off to my agent. And although my first self-imposed deadline has passed, my next deadline is this Wednesday.

Problem is, some of the rewrites have been like chasing a prescription drug cure – one problem solved leads to a side-effect that needs another fix that leads to another problem that calls for another fix. And so on. And so on. And so on.

(Quick non sequitur to a Faberge commercial. And yes, that’s Heather Locklear.)

Back to our regularly scheduled programming…

So this past week, I finally figured out how to fix an issue that had been troubling me, which opened a valve and let this flood of ideas and writing flood on to the page. (I know, it doesn’t work with the prescription drug analogy, but let it go. We’ve moved on.) And when I get in a writing rhythm, or as some people call it, The Zone, I tend to forget about everything else.

I forget to clean my apartment, go grocery shopping, exercise, do the dishes, run errands, answer e-mail, return phone calls, get to bed at a reasonable time, pick up dry cleaning, get my mail, and eat. I missed at least one meal a day for five days straight. Which makes it easier when I forget to do my dishes. And kind of negates the need to go grocery shopping. So at least it knocks a couple of items off my list of Things to Do.

I also forget to blog.

But with any luck, I’ll actually get the rewrites done by Wednesday and fire off the book to my agent and hope she likes it. Then maybe I can see about going to Trader Joe’s.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 9:01 am

Breathers in Germany

Today is the official publication date of the German edition of Breathers, which in Germany is titled Anonyme Untote: Eine Zombie – Liebesgeschichte. You can click on the title to view the page from the publisher (Heyne).

This is the first foreign version of Breathers to hit the shelves, so it’s kind of an exciting day here for Andy and Rita and the rest of the group at Undead Anonymous. Not to mention me. If I knew how to say “Woo hoo!” in German, I would do so right now.

The Italian edition is scheduled for release in October, with the UK version set for publication in March 2011. The Russian translation should hit the shelves sometime next spring.

Filed under: Breathers,Foreign Editions — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 8:45 am

FAQs: To Write Or Not To Write

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
— George Orwell

I came across this quote, and some of the concepts that follow, in Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife. Covering topics from managing goals to networking to maintaining peace of mind, Booklife is a fabulous resource on how to survive as a writer in today’s world. Even if you haven’t had a book published, it’s got a lot of great content for all stages of the writing career and just the challenge of being a writer.

One of the sections from Booklife that inspired me to write this is a short segment on “Reasons to Write.”  Why writers do what they do. What drives them. Why they spend hours alone in front of a computer making up imaginary stories about imaginary people.

There are a number of answers that you often hear, all of which, as a writer, I understand:

Because I can’t not write.
Because I love bringing something to life.
Because I want to share my enthusiasm with others.

I write for all of the reasons above. But mostly I write because it keeps me sane. When I’m not writing, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing and so I’m not as content. I don’t sleep as well. I get more easily frustrated. I get grumpy. And nobody likes a grumpy writer.

But I also write because I want to recapture the pleasure of reading. I want to experience what I feel when I read a good book. I want to to get caught up in the story so that the world outside of the pages ceases to exist. And I want to share that experience with others.

In addition to his quote above, Orwell said he wrote for several reasons:

1. Sheer egotism
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm
3. Historical impulse
4. Political purpose

Orwell freely admits that egotism is a factor in his writing and he believes it’s inherent in all writers. I tend to agree. I don’t believe you can be a writer, particularly one who hopes to be published, without a certain amount of conceit. After all, when you’ve written something and you have the opinion that others would enjoy reading it, how can ego not play a part?

Of course, that’s just my perspective. So I thought I’d get a few others.

Below are quotes from a handful (including the thumb) of other writers who were kind enough to share their thoughts on why they write.  (To learn more about the authors or their books, just click on the photos or their names):

Amelia Beamer (Author of The Loving Dead):
Every sentence is an attempt to tell a story. Every story is a way to make sense of the randomness in the world.

Jonathan Maberry (NY Times bestselling author of The Dragon Factory and Patient Zero):
I write because there have always been stories in my head. When I was little, before I could spell, I’d tell stories with toys. I think in stories. Characters speak in my head all the time. For non-writers this is a serious concern and medical attention might be required; for writers it’s all those stories aching to be told.

James Melzer (Author of Escape: A Zombie Chronicles Novel):
I write because when I was a kid, Stephen King used to come into my bedroom every night to tell me tales about vampires and haunted hotels, scaring the crap out of me. I want to be able to do that through my own stories, and make a living out of it at the same time. So far, so good. It really is the best job in the world.

Jeff VanderMeer (Author of Booklife and Finch):
I don’t actually know why I write now, except that if I don’t write for awhile I get restless and antsy and feel like I am at loose ends. In a sense, I wind up not knowing who I am after awhile. When I started writing it was in part an escape from a family situation that was unhappy, but I think even then there was something else. Writing makes me happy. I was “borned” into it, maybe.

F. Paul Wilson (NY Times bestselling author of the Repairman Jack series):
I’ve been asked this many times and I can’t think of a better answer than: What makes you think I have a choice? For me it’s not art, it’s not examining or defining the human condition, it’s not self expression, it’s love. I love fanciful stories–love conceiving them, love constructing them, and can’t imagine life without telling them.

Filed under: The Writing Life — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:32 am