S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Breathers (2009), Fated (2010), and Lucky Bastard (2012), as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus (2012) and the e-book short story collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel (2012)
His brand new book, Big Egos, just came out and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
Kristin Centorcelli: You have a producing background in Hollywood and your bio says you wrote your first short story while in college. What was it about? What made you decide to take the plunge and write your first novel?
S.G. Browne: My first short story was titled “The Night Before” and was about a student writing a story for his Creative Writing class the night before it was due. He’s typing away on his keyboard when there’s a small popping sound, followed by a loud pop and a puff of smoke, the computer monitor flashes brightly and then goes blank. This part was autobiographical, except the story I was writing was not called “The Night Before.” I don’t remember what it was called but it was gone in a literal puff of literal. This was 1988, so there were no flash drives or online drop boxes to be found. Eventually I borrowed someone’s electric typewriter and started writing a new story from scratch, which has our frustrated hero make a comment about giving anything to get his computer back up and running, so he ends up calling a computer repairman named William Zebub, or Bill, for short. By the end of the story, our hero unknowingly sells his soul to get his computer fixed. Real original stuff.
KC: Four novels, a novella, and a short story collection in, you’ve now got a new book out, BIG EGOS! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?
SGB: Big Egos is a dark comedy about a designer drug that allows you to become a fictional character or a dead celebrity / historical figure for 6-8 hours. It takes role-playing to the next level and wraps it up in some social commentary about the celebrity culture. Ultimately, it’s about discovering the role you’re supposed to play and what happens to your identity when you’re constantly pretending to be someone you’re not.
Big Egos started out as a short story, one I penned back in 1997 called “Designer Brains.” What inspired me to write that short story, I can’t remember. I’m sure it was something. But what inspired Big Egos, other than the short story, were books like Slaughterhouse-Five and American Psycho and my wanting to write a non-linear story with an unreliable narrator who gradually loses his grip on reality. I thought that would be kind of fun to experience.
SGB: One thing I’ve learned is that writing, like any art, is subjective and that my interpretation and the audience’s interpretation of what I’ve written are likely to vary. So rather than taking away any one specific thing, I hope readers take away something that affects them on some personal level, hopefully in a positive way, whatever that may be.
KC: You’re known for the satirical edge to your novels. What are some of your favorite satires (books or movies)?
SGB: That list would include the aforementioned American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and Slaughterhouse-Five, as well as Cat’s Cradle, both, of course, by Kurt Vonnegut. Survivor and Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk also make the list. As for films, the definition of what is satire, socially or otherwise, seems to be a bit of a gray area. But of the films I consider social satire, my list would include Being John Malkovich, The Graduate, The Big Lebowski, M*A*S*H (I also loved the television series), and Fight Club, which was also a novel.
KC: If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
SGB: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk. I’d never read Palahniuk before and picked up Lullaby at my local bookstore in the fall of 2002 before going on vacation. At the time I’d reached a point where I didn’t enjoy what I was writing and had actually stopped writing for several months. Over the previous ten years I’d written three novels (unpublished) and about forty short stories that were predominantly supernatural horror, with a smattering of darkly comedic shorts. But I remember opening Lullaby on the plane and reading the Prologue, then immediately re-reading it and feeling as if a light switch had been turned on and for the first time in months, I could see where I wanted to go with my writing.
Lullaby inspired me to take my darkly comedic short story, “A Zombie’s Lament,” and turn it into Breathers, which became my first published novel. But more than that, Lullaby allowed me to discover what type of writer I was supposed to be. In a way, you could say it helped me to find my role. And that’s not something you usually get to experience a second time.
KC: What do you enjoy most about being a published author?
SGB: I would have to say meeting someone or hearing from someone who has read and enjoyed one of my novels. Connecting with another person via something you’ve created is a unique experience that can’t be duplicated in a laboratory.
KC: I have to ask…what’s your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s?
SGB: Picking a favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s is like picking a favorite Coen Brothers’ film, but I’ll have to go with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. No wait. Chubby Hubby. Or maybe Half Baked. Now I’m hungry.
KC: What’s next for you?
SGB: I’m working on my fifth novel, my own take on superheroes, titled Super Duper. It’s about professional guinea pigs who test pharmaceutical drugs in Phase I clinical trials. After that, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I keep meaning to finish, along with a novella-length fairy tale I’ve that could end up being the first in a trilogy. Then I have ideas for sequels to my novels Fated and Lucky Bastard, as well as a couple of ideas for new stand-alones rattling around inside my head.