S.G. Browne

San Diego Comic-Con 2016

comic-con_logoIt’s that time of year again when tens of thousands of worshipers converge upon the mecca of downtown San Diego for the annual pilgrimage to Comic-Con.

I’ll be joining my brethren in the Cathedral of Pop Culture, but my attendance will be limited and I will have only a single appearance where I’ll be signing books. That will take place as follows:

Thursday, July 21
Geekscape booth (#3919)
2:00pm – 3:00pm

I’ll also have a limited number of copies of Big Egos, Less Than Hero, and Lucky Bastard for sale, along with I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus. But whether you’re looking to score a copy, an autograph, or just say “hey,” stop on by if you’re on the convention floor this Thursday.


Flawed Heroes and the Quest for Purpose

CJZma5oUEAIDqQWIn my Author’s Note for Less Than Hero, I mention how the story, at its heart, is about figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing with your life.

That’s a common theme in my novels. Finding your role. Your purpose. Your reason for existence. While my stories deal with issues such as discrimination, the consumer culture, celebrity worship, and the over-medication of our society, they’re really quests by the main protagonists to find meaning in their lives.

With Breathers, Andy Warner is trying to find his purpose in a society in which he has no purpose. In Fated, Fabio is looking for meaning in his monotonous and unfulfilling immortality. In Big Egos, my identity-challenged hero is searching for the role he’s supposed to play. And in Less Than Hero, my main protagonist, Lloyd Prescott, is searching for something more than the life he’s fallen into. Call it happiness. Call it ambition. Call it passion. Whatever it is, Lloyd can’t seem to find it. He’s not exactly broken, but he’s most definitely lost.

I’m a fan of flawed heroes: protagonists who don’t have it all together or who don’t know what the hell they’re doing. As Lloyd says:

“Not everyone has their shit figured out. Sure some people do. They’re the ones who actually stick to a plan and make all the right choices and end up with the life they imagined. For others, we discover that trying to win the lottery isn’t a viable plan for living happily ever after.”

When it comes to writing fiction, I think it’s important to create characters who  struggle with their choices and their failures because we can relate to them. They’re like us: victims of inertia, lacking direction, filled with self-doubt.

Main protagonists who are perfect and who always say and do the right things are unrealistic and boring. If you want a knight in shining armor, go read a romance novel. Prince Charming isn’t wanted here.

I think part of the reason my characters are constantly looking for meaning and answers is because that’s what humans do: we search for meaning and answers in our lives. But more than that, the existential angst and motivations for my characters come from the realization that, as blossoming humans, we were sold a false bill of goods about what it would be like when we were adults.

When you’re in your teens, you look at adults and think you know more than they do about life and how to succeed at it because hey, it doesn’t look that difficult. In your early twenties you discover that you didn’t know as much as you thought you did but now that you’re an adult you’ll figure it out soon enough.

In your thirties you discover that the expectations you had of what your life would be like haven’t lived up to all of the beer commercials and romantic comedies you’ve been fed over the years.

When you get to your forties, it finally dawns on you that no one knows what the hell they’re doing. Not even your parents. Everyone’s just doing their best impersonation of Indiana Jones and making it up as they go.

So I guess in a way, my characters are trying to figure out what the hell they’re supposed to be doing because so am I. Maybe one day I’ll come up with an answer. Until then, I’ll just have to let my characters keep doing the work for me.


Filed under: Less Than Hero,The Writing Life — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 8:21 pm

Beyond the Keyboard: Big Egos

Big EgosSometimes readers want to know a little more about what went into writing a novel. The background and back story. The inspirations and process. How the author came up with the idea and executed said idea.

And by “executed,” I mean “accomplished” or “produced in accordance with a plan or design” rather than “beheaded.” Though I suppose that would be interesting, too.

Previously I’ve written posts in which I’ve shared insights into the creation of Breathers, Fated, and Lucky Bastard. What I’ve called my Beyond the Keyboard series. Up next, my dark comedy about identity: Big Egos.

If I Only Had a Brain

In 1997 I wrote a short story titled “If I Only Had a Brain” about a futuristic product called Designer Brains—a DNA-laced cocktail that allows the user to become a fictional character or dead celebrity.

The story, which clocked in at just under 3,000 words, takes place primarily at a party in the Hollywood Hills with the main character having injected the Designer Brain of James Bond. “If I Only Had A Brain” was published in the anthology Royal Aspirations III in 2001. Big Egos3
The original short story remained virtually intact when it became Chapter 20 of Big Egos.

At the time I wrote “If I Only Had a Brain,” I felt there was something more worth exploring, particularly the concept of identity and sense of self and what happens when you’re constantly pretending to be someone you’re not. This would end up being the main theme of Big Egos.

Insert Chapter HERE

Most of the time when I write a novel I don’t know how it’s going to end. However, with Big Egos, I knew exactly where I was going. I just had no idea how to get there.

In my original drafts, the novel starts at the end. Without giving any spoilers, the narrator of the story is processing his surroundings and trying to figure out how he ended up there. The problem is, his memory isn’t cooperating and he’s having trouble keeping things straight. Each memory leads to another memory to another memory. And so on and so on and so on. Kind of like a Faberge shampoo commercial, only with a lot more blood and confusion.

I envisioned the novel as sort of a trip through the narrator’s memories, piecing together how he ended up in his current situation. To do this, each chapter ended with a phrase or a sound or a thought that would trigger another memory, with the next chapter leading off with the same or similar line that ended the previous chapter.

Big Egos2In order to keep track of the memories, I color-coded the chapters based on the narrator’s memories as they related to certain periods of his life. Rose for the present. Orange for childhood memories. Blue for high school/college memories. Light yellow for more recent memories. Light turquoise for surreal memories. And bright green for the chapters when he was someone else.

It looked something like that on the left.

The fun part was when I had to move a chapter around, as this entailed rewriting the beginning and ending for not only the chapter I moved, but for the chapters on either side of where the chapter used to reside in addition to the chapters on either side of its new location.

All counted, I have over twenty files of revised chapter orders. And although I eventually abandoned my initial premise for the narrative structure, I was still moving chapters around right up until the final copy edits.

Let’s Change Everything!

When my agent read what was approximately the fifth or sixth draft of Big Egos, she indicated that she liked the concept but was having difficulty with the clarity of the narrative. Initially I wanted to crawl into a dark place and hibernate for a few years. Eventually, however, I decided that what I needed to do was create a more linear narrative to hold the story together, while keeping the memories peppered in throughout.

In other words, I took it all apart and put it back together again. Naturally, this meant moving the chapters around and rewriting the beginning and ending of just about each chapter. While it was more of a grind than any of my other novels, it was also singularly gratifying once I managed to get all of the pieces into place. Though, as I mentioned, I was still tinkering and reconfiguring almost right up to the end.

Thanks for the Inspiration

It’s rare that I sit down to write a novel or a short story and have any idea where it’s going or what kind of novel it’s going to be, but I knew from the start that Big Egos would focus on the loss of identity and the culture of celebrity worship.

As I began writing the novel and finding the voice and discovering the characters who would populate the story (as I don’t tend to plot or do character sketches but rather meet the characters when they show up on the page), it also became clear to me that Big Egos was inspired and influenced by two novels: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

Big Egos4

While Big Egos doesn’t claim to be either of these novels, the narrator is quite unreliable and grows more so as the story progresses. And he most definitely, in his own way, becomes unstuck in time.

Fun Facts

  • I started writing Big Egos in September 2010 and finished in February 2012.
  • The last line from the short story “If I Only Had a Brain” is the last line of Big Egos.
  • Big Egos went through thirteen revisions before it went to my editor, then another three revisions after that before it was published.
  • There are seven chapters in Big Egos written from the perspective of a real or fictional person: Elvis Presley, Philip Marlowe, James Bond, Captain Kirk, Holden Caulfield, Jim Morrison, and Philip K. Dick.
  • In addition to doing research for the seven chapters listed above, during the writing of Big Egos I read up on Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Buddhism, 1970s pop culture, DNA replication, Shakespeare, Santa Claus, Greek mythology, silverback gorillas, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Starbucks, the Formosa Cafe, Indiana Jones, Oscar Wilde, blood donation, and countries that don’t have extradition treaties with the United States. Among other things.
  • Chapter 59 was originally written as Stephen King, but when my editor suggested that might create some legal issues, I changed it to Phillip K. Dick, which actually tied into the whole concept of identity and reality. Bonus.
  • While Fated remains my favorite of my novels published to date, Big Egos is a close second. Call them 1A and 1B.
Filed under: Beyond the Keyboard,Big Egos,The Writing Life — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 10:51 pm

Signed Copies of Big Egos

Big EgosWhile my signing schedule for Big Egos is somewhat limited this time around, I have signed stock copy at a handful of stores. So for those who are interested, you can purchase signed copies of Big Egos for a limited time from the following UPDATED locations:

Bay Book Company
Strawflower Village Shopping Center
80 Cabrillo Highway North, Suite F
Half Moon Bay, CA
(650) 726-3488

Books Inc. – Alameda
1344 Park Street
Alameda, CA

The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA

Mysterious Galaxy – San Diego
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302
San Diego, CA

In addition, you can call Borderlands Books in San Francisco and order a signed and inscribed copy of Big Egos or one of my other novels and they will call me to come down to sign and personalize your book, then ship it to you.

Filed under: Big Egos,Signings — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 5:42 pm

Updated BIG EGOS Signings

Tuesday, August 6 – San Francisco, CA
7:30pm – 8:30pm
The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA

Friday, August 9 – Alameda, CA
7:00pm – 8:00pm
Books Inc.
1344 Park St.
Alameda, CA

Thursday, August 15 – Pleasanton, CA
7:00pm – 8:00pm
Towne Center Books
555 Main Street
Pleasanton, CA

Saturday, August 24 – Roseville, CA
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Barnes & Noble
Creekside Town Center
1256 Galleria Boulevard
Roseville, CA

Thursday, September 12 – Petaluma, CA
7:00pm – 8:00pm
Copperfield’s Books
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA

Filed under: Big Egos,Summer of Bastards and Egos — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 6:32 pm