The man who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies started out writing bathroom books.
I’m sorry, I should have warned you before opening with that shocker… I was more surprised, when he listed off some titles, at how many I think I’ve read over the years.
After hearing him speak, it seemed fitting- not because he belongs in the bathroom, but because he seemed like a great guy to kick around guilty -pleasure-pleasure discussions, regarding important topics like How to Survive a Horror Movie, the finer points of Spider-Man, etc.
Seth Grahame-Smith feared he might have “monologued,” but his narrative took the audience through his origins to his current success, with just-the-right amount of details, maintaining his position as a regular, relatable guy throughout. In the abridged version of his life, he started out as a kid who dreamed of being in movies, doing chores around the neighborhood and saving his money for a camera to make movies in his backyard, and ended up with a New York Times bestselling novel and working with an idols like Stephen King and Tim Burton. Cinderella story aside, he gave the impression of someone who takes his work very seriously (perhaps ironically, given what he is famous for) and is never very far from his-version-of-the-office.
It makes sense that he went on to rule the mashups: his parents edited and sold books, respectively, so he was constantly surrounded by books of all kinds- so, from a very young age, he felt comfortable picking anything off the shelves- from “classics” to “B movie” material. In a move that endlessly endeared him to me, though, he gave credit for the initial idea of a mashup to his editor. (Although he was the one who settled on the combination of Pride and Prejudice and zombies… Although, if you’ve read it, you’ll know that he couldn’t resist bringing ninjas into it as well.)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which he wrote in six weeks, expecting it to be a lark, went on to sell millions and “changed [his] life forever.” (At this point, my daughter, who’s fourteen months, squealed with delight (just because she doesn’t understand English doesn’t mean she can’t tell when the scene has taken a positive turn), and without missing a beat, he turned in our direction and said, “I know, right?” before continuing with his story.
In a further bid to increase my writer-crush on him, he said he does not want to do another mash-up, per se: that he would eventually like to cross-cross genres the way some of the “greats” can get away with, but feels that he’s still in the process of earning that. As a reader/consumer/busy-person, any author that acknowledges their responsibility in the writer-reader relationship gets a big, metaphysical bear-hug from me.
If you’ve followed his career you know that he’s been writing for movies and television as well as novels, and one audience member asked which he preferred. Instead of answering directly, he broke it down this way: the novel is the purest distillation of your own voice, notwithstanding your editor’s contribution; in the movies, screenwriters are really just collaborators with the directors, actors, and large personalities associated with the film (although he acknowledged that the story could sometimes be improved by these collaborations); the experience writing for television is somewhere in between those two.
Ideal Date: Midnight screening of BeetleJuice, of course