S.G. Browne

The Next Big Thing: BIG EGOS

Welcome to The Next Big Thing, a meme or so-called blog-hop, where authors answer questions about their latest or upcoming work and then tag up to five more authors to do the same thing a week later. It’s kind of like a chain letter, only you don’t die if you forget to send it on.

So last week, Christopher Golden tagged me in desperation because he’d forgotten all about his Next Big Thing blog post that was due. Naturally, I’m a sucker for a desperate author. Plus, Chris had included my short story “Reality Bites” in his latest and greatest zombie anthology 21st Century Dead, so I didn’t want to leave him hanging.

Anyway, here are the questions along with my answers. Afterwards, you’ll get to hear what Chris had to say about the other lovely authors tagged along with me, followed by the authors I suckered into this.

The Next Big Thing: BIG EGOS

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Back in 1997 I wrote a short story about a designer drug that allowed you to become a dead celebrity or fictional character. I have no idea where the idea for the short story came from.

What genre does your book fall under?
Dark comedy and social satire. It’s not technically a genre. It’s really just commercial fiction. My novels don’t really fall into any single genre.

Which actors would play your characters in a movie version?
I think Ryan Gosling could probably nail the role of my unnamed narrator. Others actors who would be a good fit for characters in BIG EGOS include Aaron Paul, Emily Blunt, and Jennifer Lawrence.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An unnamed, unreliable narrator discovers that Big Egos, the latest thing in role-playing, is affecting his concept of reality, causing him to question his own identity and the role he is meant to play.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
BIG EGOS will be published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and is represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management.

How long did it take you to write the first draft ?
I started writing BIG EGOS in November 2009 but stopped to write Lucky Bastard. I picked it back up in January 2011 and finished a rough first draft four months later. But certain things weren’t working the way I wanted them to, so it took me more than a year to get it right.

What other books would you compare this story to?
The story was originally told completely out of order and bounced around the memories of an unreliable narrator, so while I wouldn’t compare it to them, I always imagined it as a mutant child of Slaughterhouse-Five and American Psycho.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The original inspiration came from the short story I wrote in 1997, but I wanted to expand on that and explore the idea of what happens to your identity when you’re constantly pretending to be someone you’re not.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
You can read the short story the novel is based upon, “My Ego is Bigger Than Yours,” in my collection  Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. Oh, and BIG EGOS is scheduled for publication August 2013.


There you go. Or, as Porky Pig would say, that’s all folks. As I mentioned, the incomparable Christopher  Golden tagged me, along with the following three fantastic writers whom you should have on your radar. Here’s what Chris had to say about them:

Cherie Priest is the author of the hugely successful Clockwork Century novels, including Boneshaker and the latest, The Inexplicables. She’s also written creepy-as-all-get-out Southern Gothic supernatural tales and urban fantasy, has dynamite fashion sense, and different hair every time I see her.

Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the ass-kicking urban fantasy Black London novels and the YA series The Iron Codex, which has the best titles. I mean, book two is The Nightmare Garden, that’s pretty damn cool. She once told me that she’s not ready for the zombie apocalypse but she is prepared for the kitten apocalypse. Make of that what you will.

Yes, Amber Benson is the author of the Death’s Daughter series of urban fantasy novels, among other things, and yes, she’s an actress-writer-director who has been elevated to the status of cult icon in recent years. She’s also my little sister, gave me the best nickname ever, and commandeers my daughter’s “princess bed” at every opportunity.


And in keeping with the spirit of The Next Big Thing meme, behold the authors I suckered into doing this, who are all terrific in their own right. Check out their posts next Tuesday, December 18th.

Mario Acevedo is the author of Werewolf Smackdown, Jailbait Zombie, and The Undead Kama Sutra, among others. He is a man of much funny. Read him, but only if you want to laugh.

Steve Hockensmith wrote the New York Times bestselling Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Dreadfully Ever After (the prequel and sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), as well as the mystery/western series, Holmes on the Range. He is also a man of much funny.

Scott Kenemore followed up his humorous Zen of Zombie humor/satire series with the novels Zombie, Ohio and Zombie, Illinois. Hey, what happened to Indiana? Scott is also a man. Also funny.

John Hornor Jacobs is the author of the novels Southern Gods and This Dark Earth. While not likely to hit your funny bone, they should be on your TBR list. I’m not joking. (NOTE: John has already posted his entry on his blog.)

Filed under: Big Egos,Fiction,The Writing Life — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 6:55 am

The Writing Life: Who’s Afraid of Good Dialogue?

In August of last year, I wrote a blog post about dialogue and suggested that any writer or aspiring writer should watch films and read screenplays for a lesson in writing good, believable dialogue. After all, most films are action and dialogue. Except for The Graduate. There’s a lot of comedy there in silent pauses.

But in the same way that movies are great teachers in writing snappy conversations, plays are just as helpful. After all, they’re pretty much all dialogue, so if the dialogue doesn’t work, neither does the play.

I read a lot of plays in college for a scriptwriting class and fell in love with a number of works by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, though I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re looking for some heavy themes and a lot of disillusionment and despair. So they won’t exactly take you to your happy place. But the dialogue is excellent, especially A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

But my favorite plays, naturally, fell more along the lines of the comedic and the absurd—like Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. (Which I’m currently re-reading.) If you’ve never had a chance to read either of these and would like to see comic and insightful dialogue at it’s best, I suggest both of them.

For more contemporary plays, I’d recommend August:Osage County and Killer Joe (the film version of which I recently reviewed) by Tracy Letts. You might also want to check out The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, who also wrote the screenplays for In Bruges and the upcoming Seven Psychopaths, which tops my list of fall films to see.

Obviously there are fiction writers who know how to spin a good conversation, but as writers our job is to learn how to improve on what we do and it would be to our detriment to ignore two mediums where dialogue rules and exposition drools.

Filed under: Fiction,The Writing Life — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:02 am

21st Century Dead

There’s a new zombie anthology in town, and I’ve got a short story appearing in it. Okay, it’s not in town yet. 21st Century Dead, edited by Christopher Golden, officially pubs on Tuesday, July 17. And my short story, “Reality Bites,” is the fourth entry in the collection, right after a story by Orson Scott Card.

Just to clarify, “Reality Bites” has nothing to do with Winona Ryder, Janeane Garafolo, Ethan Hawke, or Ben Stiller. Instead, it tells the story of a couple of Hollywood producers who are looking for the next big thing in zombie reality television.

As I mentioned, the anthology officially hits the shelves on July 17 and it just so happens that I’ll be in southern California doing a group signing on that day at Dark Delicacies in Burbank with Amber Benson, Cody Goodfellow, and John Skipp, who all have stories in the collection.

July 17 – Burbank, CA
Dark Delicacies
3512 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA

In addition, Amber, Cody, Skipp and I will be doing another group signing at Comic-Con the weekend before, along with Thomas E. Sniegoski and Daniel H. Wilson, on Saturday, July 14:

July 14 – San Diego, CA
3:00-4:00PM (Autograph Area, Table 09)
San Diego Convention Center
111 W. Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA

I’ll also be doing a couple of other signings and appearing on a panel for Lucky Bastard during the Comic-Con weekend. If you’re attending, you can find my complete schedule of events HERE.

If not, then I hope to see you in Burbank on July 17.

Filed under: Fiction,Zombies — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 10:06 pm

Fiction Friday: Books Anonymous

Over most of the past two weeks, as I’ve been working on my new Breathers Christmas novella and not doing much of anything else, I’ve sort of forgotten to do certain things. Like clean my apartment, post to my blog, and remember to floss.

Another casualty of my writing has been my stack of books to-be-read, waiting for me to give it some attention. Them some attention? Whatever. The problem isn’t so much that the stack of books isn’t getting any smaller, but that it’s growing taller. This is due to the fact that I keep doing book signings in book stores and am either offered an author’s discount or given my choice of a book for free as a gratitude by the book store.

Don’t they know I have a problem?

Some of the books in my stack have been there for nearly two years, like The Passage and Spook and L.A. Confidential. Others, like Monster and Divine Misfortune, both by A. Lee Martinez, were impulse buys at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. And Sacre Bleu and Pest Control came courtesy of one of the bookstores where I had a recent signing.

And this doesn’t include two new books I picked up or the other dozen books I have waiting on one of my bookshelves.

I’m wondering if there’s some sort of Twelve-Step Program for buying books:

  1. First I have to admit I have a problem, which I’ve done.
  2. Then I need to recognize a higher power who can give me strength. I’m thinking Stephen King fits the bill. Or maybe Neil Gaiman.
  3. Next there’s admitting past errors, like Twilight, and then making amends for those errors, like re-reading Bloodsucking Fiends.
  4. After that, I’d need to live a new life with a new code of behavior. I’m still working on that.
  5. Finally, there’s helping others who have the same addiction or compulsion. I’m here for you.

Obviously I’ve missed a few steps, but then I never was good at math.

Filed under: Fiction,Fiction Fridays,Movies and Books,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 7:36 am

Fiction Friday: The Little Sleep

Welcome back to Fiction Friday, where I’m spotlighting the novels that influenced and inspired the writing of Lucky Bastard.

Last week I brought you Raymond Chandler’s classic mystery/noir novel The Big Sleep. This week, in Paul Tremblay’s The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, Mark Genevich is a South Boston private detective who suffers from narcolepsy and hallucinations. If that’s not bad enough, he has an overbearing mother for a landlord.

I stumbled across The Little Sleep at my local Books Inc. in early 2010. After finishing it in just a couple of sittings, I immediately picked up the sequel to find out what else was in store for Mark Genevich. I recently asked the author a few questions about his novels and his unique protagonist.

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What gave you the idea to write a novel about a narcoleptic detective?

I don’t remember where or when, exactly, but I got this image stuck in my head of a stereotypical PI scene where a beautiful woman walks into a detective’s big city office. Only her case is a truly bizarre one: her fingers on one hand were stolen and then replaced with someone else’s fingers. I quickly wrote that scene as the first chapter for some unknown, unformed book. Originally, I was going to play the missing fingers straight and try to write a PK Dick/horror/noir mash-up, but I didn’t have any story ideas to go along with it. So I put that chapter away for about a year.

Then one night I was researching medical afflictions (not a pastime; I was doing research for another story), and I stumbled across narcolepsy. When I read about the symptoms, particularly hypnagogic hallucinations, I remembered that missing-fingers chapter and knew instantly that her fingers were no longer really missing, and that my detective was dreaming. The title, THE LITTLE SLEEP, occurred to me immediately thereafter, and I went to work on research and building a plot for poor Mark Genevich.

Tell us about your hero, Mark Genevich. What’s he like?

Mark is really kind of an anti-detective. Because of his narcolepsy, he’s not really cut out for the surveillance, cloak and dagger lifestyle. He’s more than a little surly and sarcastic. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of guy to be sure, but can you blame him? His lives and works in a building owned by his well meaning but overbearing mother who constantly checks up on him. A terrible van accident left him scarred physically and mentally, as well as emotionally.

Mark isn’t going to outwit every suspect he stumbles upon, but he isn’t stupid. He’s not going to win very many brawls, but he isn’t weak. Single-minded will and determination is what sets Mark apart from most. Despite everything going against him (including himself, more often than not), he won’t ever give up.

Do you have narcolepsy? What kind of research did you do to bring your main character to life?

I do not have narcolepsy. However, in the mid-to-late 90s, I did suffer from a sleep disorder: sleep apnea. So, I do have some personal experience with crushing daytime fatigue. That said, based on my research and collected first-hand accounts from those who suffer with narcolepsy, my sleep apnea was nothing compared to what narcoleptics have to deal with. Most of my research was online, though I did read a self-published first hand account of a woman who lives with narcolepsy, and found it to be quite informative.

Mark Genevich, lives in Boston. You live in Massachusetts. No one ever sees the two of you at the same party. Coincidence? Is Mark your alter ego? Or are you just good friends?

Shh. Don’t tell…

I lived in South Boston for three years with my wife before moving out of the city. Lisa’s mother’s side of the family were born and raised in South Boston, so I had a wealth of homegrown experience and information at my disposal.

I’m as grumpy and surly as Mark when I go too long between meals. Or when I’m low on sleep. Otherwise, Mark is his own guy.

The title of your debut is a play on The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and your opening paragraph is a wonderful nod to his novel. It’s obvious Chandler had an influence on you. Who and what are some of your other literary influences?

As a reader, I first fell in love with horror and speculative fiction. While I’d read some crime/noir fiction, I certainly wasn’t an expert. For The Little Sleep, I did as much research on crime and noir fiction as I did for narcolepsy. I read and re-read Chandler (including his personal letters), Hammet, Ross McDonald. I also re-read noir mash-ups from PK Dick, Jonathan Lethem, and Will Christopher Baer. Baer’s Phineas Poe informed Mark Genevich as much as Chandler’s Marlowe. Though as you noticed, The Little Sleep’s first paragraph is a big nod to The Big Sleep.

My other literary influences include Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, and many more. I try to steal from everyone!

Your novel No Sleep Till Wonderland is a terrific follow-up to The Little Sleep. Did you always plan to write a sequel? And will Mark Genevich come out to play a third time?

I didn’t actually plan to write a sequel. In fact, when I finished The Little Sleep, I told my agent that this book was it and that there’d be no sequels. As a reader, I’m not all that interested in series, to be honest. I much prefer stand-alones. And besides, I’d written Mark Genevich’s story and that was it. Well, Henry Holt came in with an enthusiastic offer for two books, and it was hard to say no. There are worse problems in life to have than writing a sequel, right?

That said, I had a hard time coming up with a plot line for the second book. I know part of the issue was me subconsciously (or consciously) rebelling against the idea of writing a sequel. But when I thought about the first book and how it was a novel about memory, the past, and how it shapes our identity, I found my way into the second novel. If The Little Sleep was about Mark’s past and who he was, then the second novel would build on that, and be more concerned with Mark’s present. Who he was would still be a mystery, but so would who he is now.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I hate coffee and pickles. Pickle flavored coffee would be the worst thing in the world, and a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Also, keep an eye out for my dystopian novel (doesn’t everyone have one?) SWALLOWING A DONKEY’S EYE, coming in August!

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Get your copy of The Little Sleep:

You can read more about Paul Tremblay on his Website and follow him on The Little Sleep’s Blog