Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Guest Blog! S.G. Browne talks about the influences behind his new novel 'Fated'.

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I would like to be part of the blog tour to mark S.G. Browne's new book 'Fated', of course I accepted! The plan was to read/review 'Fated' but I wasn't able to get hold of the book in time. If you read my review of 'Breathers' though, you'll know that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on 'Fated'; look out for a review later in the month...

In the meantime, Scott also kindly agreed to provide a guest post about the inspirations and influences that started him writing and ended up with 'Fated'. Here goes...

I’m often asked about my influences.  The authors and books that have inspired me or inspire me still.  And while the answer is an easy one, the thing is that I’ve grown up on movies and television as much as on books.  Maybe even more so, as I didn’t read much for pleasure until the summer before my sophomore year in college.

That’s when I discovered Stephen King.

Although I’d read Carrie years before, I didn’t become a fan of King until the summer of 1985, when I picked up The Stand.  That was the first time I ever had to stop reading a book to mourn the death of a character.  From that point on, I was hooked on King, and horror in general, and started consuming a steady diet that consisted of King, Koontz, Straub, McCammon, and F. Paul Wilson.  Then I read The Talisman.  While not my favorite novel by either King or Straub, I found myself so caught up in the story unfolding within the pages that the world outside of the book ceased to exist.  And I thought: “I want to make other people feel this way.”

That was the first time I realized I wanted to be a writer.

After graduation, I moved to Hollywood and got a day job and wrote for a couple of hours in the morning before work and at night and whenever I got the chance.  With a few exceptions of stories that were more darkly comedic, the majority of the short stories and novels I wrote over the next twelve years tended to be straight supernatural fare.  Ghosts and alternate realities and things that went bump in the night.

And then, in 2002, I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk.

Up until that point, I’d never read a novel that combined comedy and satire and the supernatural.  At least not in the way that resonated with me the way Lullaby did.  After finishing the novel, I thought about the handful of short stories I’d written that were a blend of dark comedy and the supernatural and I thought:  “He manages to pull this off.  I wonder if I can, too.”

That was what inspired me to take “A Zombie’s Lament,” my two-thousand-word short story I’d written a year earlier, and turn it into my fourth novel, Breathers, which became my first published novel.  It also provided me with the direction in which I wanted to take my writing, shifting from straight supernatural to dark paranormal comedies with a social context that pokes fun at humans and human nature.  And the writing that inspired me along this new path mirrored that.

In addition to authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore (A Dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends), over the past decade I’ve been inspired by screenwriters Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums), David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees), and the comedies of the Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski).  I also love the writing and humor of the television series Seinfeld and Arrested Development, which I often find dark, subversive, and laugh-out-loud funny.

When shifting to my inspiration for Fated, there isn’t one moment or book or author I can point to and say, “Look over there.”  It was more a combination of several events that eventually coalesced into a singe idea: a journal entry in 2003 about a character who can see the future because he’s Fate; a scene written in a shopping mall in 2004 from the point-of-view of the same conceptual character; and the splitting of the often married concepts of fate and destiny into two characters.

The separation of fate and destiny came about as I began writing the first chapter, which takes place in a shopping mall much like the scene I wrote in 2004.  For the most part, people think of the concepts as one in the same.  But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like fate and destiny should be different concepts.  After all, fate carries these negative connotations (a fatal disease; a fate worse than death), while destiny implies a much happier outcome (he was destined for greatness; it was her destiny).

Plus, you never hear about anyone being “fated for greatness” or suffering “a destiny worse than death,” so it just made sense that there should be a distinction between the two.  And that Fate would be overworked and frustrated dealing with his single-term Presidents and one-hit wonders, while Destiny tormented him with her Super Bowl MVPs and Pulitzer Prize winning authors.

That distinction was one of the most important influences for Fated, as it formed one of the central concepts upon which the story is based.  Of course, I realized that Fate and Destiny couldn’t exist without associates, friends, and co-workers.  So I created characters that included Karma, Death, Lady Luck, Honesty, Love, Secrecy, and most of the Deadly Sins, among others.

I had a lot of fun personifying abstract concepts and imbuing them with unique characteristics.  I laughed a lot.  And that’s what I enjoy doing most in my writing: making myself laugh.  If I happen to tickle someone else’s funny bone, then that’s a bonus.  And if I can make someone laugh, maybe even get them to lose themselves in the story, then I feel like I’ve done a good thing.

Thanks Scott! Like I said, keep an eye open for my review of 'Fated', probably in the next couple of weeks or so. Here's the blurb to be going on with,

Over the past few thousand years, Fabio has come to hate his job. As Fate, he's in charge of assigning the fortunes and misfortunes that befall most of the human race - the 83 per cent who keep screwing things up. And with the steady rise in population since the first Neanderthal set himself on fire, he can't exactly take a vacation. Frustrated with his endless parade of drug addicts and career politicians, it doesn't help watching Destiny guide her people to Nobel Peace Prizes. To make matters worse, he has a five-hundred-year-old feud with Death, and his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony. And worst of all? He's just fallen in love with a human. Sara Griffen might be on Destiny's path, but Fabio keeps bumping into her - by accident at first, and then on purpose. Getting involved with her breaks Rule No. 1 - and about ten others - setting off some cosmic-sized repercussions that could strip him of his immortality...or lead to a fate worse than death.

If it's anything like 'Breathers' then I'm in for a good read.


noothergods said...

This looks interest, I'm particularly interested in the idea of splitting up fate and destiny. As a writer I'm always interested in hearing where other writers get their inspiration and I'd love to hear more about Mr. Browne's through process behind this choice.

SGBrowne said...

noothergods: For the most part, the main idea for the choice came from the concept of the negative and the positive connotations associated with fate and destiny, respectively. I also discovered as I started writing that Fate would need a foil. A yin to his yang. And Destiny filled that role perfectly. I don't know if that helps to answer your question, but I'm happy to expound on it if you're looking for more.

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