An Interview with Resident Evil Novelization Author, S.D. Perry




In 1996, Capcom’s Shinji Mikami released his genre defining survival horror game Resident Evil to the world. It quickly became a best seller and its success laid the groundwork for sequels, remakes, spinoffs, live-action films, animated films, Netflix series, comics, and novelizations.

These days, gamers are used to their favorite games crossing over into other media, with cross media roadmaps being conceived, in some cases, before a franchise has even been announced. In the ’90s, however, it was far less common, making Capcom’s 1998 foray into Resident Evil novelizations with The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D Perry much more noteworthy. Perry would go on to publish six more Resident Evil novels.


I couldn’t help but be curious about what it was like working with Capcom on these novels and reached out to S.D. Perry to see if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about their creation. I’m unbelievably thrilled and grateful that she agreed and I learned some amazing things during our correspondence. I sincerely want to thank S.D. Perry for taking the time to do this with me. It was truly a great experience working with her on this.

With that, I hope you enjoy this interview with S.D. Perry, author of The Umbrella Conspiracy, Caliban Cove, City of the Dead, Underworld, Nemesis, Code: Veronica, and Zero Hour.

Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published on October 31, 2023

Exposition Break: How did you end up working on the first Resident Evil novel, The Umbrella Conspiracy? Were you approached or did you pitch/apply?

S.D. Perry: My father wrote for hire, and he was approached, initially. He was busy, though, so pointed the editor (Marco Palmieri, who had the idea to novelize the games in the first place) in my direction. I’d already written two or three novelizations on my own, and it so happened that I was playing the first RE when I got the call. The second game was soon to be released, and Marco was looking for someone to write four books, two based on the first two games, two original. I leapt at the chance.

Do you personally play video games?

Yes, though not like I used to. In my 20s, I had a lot more free time. I know you can relate!

The Umbrella Conspiracy was published in October of 1998. When did you start writing it? How long did it take you to write the novel? 

Jeez, lessee… I wrote all of those books pretty quickly, and turned each in about eight months before publication, if I remember correctly… the first one took maybe five weeks? So, I was probably working on it late ’97.

Were you aware of Resident Evil before taking the job? Had you played the game? 

I literally paused my game of Resident Evil to answer the phone when I got the “interview” call. Pretty sure I was stuck in the attic, trying to kill the big snake.

What kind of resources and guidance did Capcom provide to help you write the first novel? Did they share any design documents? Scripts?

I don’t think Capcom was all that interested in the publishing side of things, at least not when I was hired. I wrote an outline with my editor, we did a backstory for the mansion and everything, and their only comment was that they had their own backstory, which they sent me in a two page write-up. I never got edits or comments on any of the books after that… They did send some character design stuff for the second game, but no story notes. I got the impression that Capcom was unhappy with the books, honestly, but that may just be me being weird. I never heard anything directly.

How many times did you play through Resident Evil in preparation for writing the novel? 

OMG, so many times. Like, fifty. I didn’t have a game guide, so if I needed to know which way a door opened or what color the wallpaper was in a scene, I would go play again. It finally occurred to me to use the VCR to record a run through, so I could just fast forward or rewind to what I needed to see. My first play of the game took me, like, 26 hours. By the time I was done with the book, I could run it in under two hours, easily. For an easy-mode type game player like me, that was a big deal.

What was your process for writing the adaptations? Did it change as you got further into the series? Did they get easier or harder to write? 

I mean, I played the games and took notes. I used the main characters as my protagonists and just ran through the gameplay, splitting it up between POVs. After the first game, I started getting game guides, which helped a ton in terms of time management. I still played the games, but I didn’t have to get stuck for hours trying to progress. I guess I’d say the books got easier, just because I’d already done it before.

What was the hardest thing about adapting the game into a novel? Was it difficult combining Jill and Chris’ playthroughs into a single cohesive story? Did Capcom provide any guidance? 

Looking back, I’d say the hardest thing was not knowing any canon besides the games themselves. I was just winging it, trying to write from the characters’ perspectives, trying to create an entertaining read. Then a new game would come out, and stuff that was in the book would suddenly become moot or wrong. These days, IP owners are a lot more careful about making sure that various media adaptations are in line with what they want, but that wasn’t my experience on RE.

Did Capcom ask you to remove or change very much during the writing process? Did they insist on anything being included? 

Nope. I really didn’t interact with them much at all, except for the backstory correction on the first outline. I don’t blame them or anything, I just think they were more focused on the games than any other media. They had leased the publishing rights to Pocket, and didn’t really interact with us (my editor and me) afterwards.

The Umbrella Conspiracy had some characters that I believe were only revealed or mentioned in Resident Evil 2 like Chief Irons and Claire. Had you played RE2 in preparation for the first book? Were these details provided in any of the background material or communication you had with Capcom? 

I don’t remember them sending much of anything, but they must have sent me a list of names, at least. Somebody else pointed out a character name that I had to have gotten from Capcom. The second game came out as I was writing the first book, though (I think!), so I may have gotten it then.


You went on to write six more Resident Evil novels, four based on games and two originals. Did Capcom ever share their plans for new games with you or give you access to early builds of games ahead of release?

I got character sketches for the second game just before it came out, but nothing else that I remember.

Did you pitch them the idea of doing original books, or was that something they came up with and brought to you? Was your communication about the series primarily with Titan Books, the publisher, or someone at Capcom itself?

My editor approached me about doing four books from the outset, two game, two original. This was at Pocket, through Simon & Schuster. Titan got the license after them, and reprinted the books. My only contact through all of it was my editor, Marco Palmieri.  

Caliban Cove, your first original Resident Evil novel, came out alongside The Umbrella Conspiracy in October of 1998. What was it like getting both novels written and published for a simultaneous release?  

I don’t remember! Did I mention I used to procrastinate horribly? The first deadlines were all tight and I think I missed every one by at least a couple of weeks. I would stay up all night, high on grape soda and nicotine, desperately cranking out pages and trying to reassure my poor editor that I was a professional. Lol.  

Did Capcom pick the lead character and setting for Caliban Cove? Or was it your choice to focus your story around Rebecca Chambers?

My editor suggested I pick a minor character so as not to mess with game continuity, and I liked Rebecca. I pitched the stories/characters on all of the originals.

Was it hard staying in step with Capcom’s continuity as the new games came out? Contradictions seem like they were bound to happen, especially as you needed to expand on the characters in the novels. 

Yes! I remember working myself in knots over discrepancies that were impossible to explain. Marco and I finally decided to add a disclaimer to the books, asking readers to understand that the various companies working with the material were not necessarily working together. I don’t know if the disclaimer was in the Titan reprints, though.

As with any fandom, Resident Evil has toxic fans that significantly drag the whole community down. I’m sure you’re no stranger to it. Do you find it hard to work on franchises with such big followings like Resident Evil, Deep Space Nine, and Alien? I’d also like to personally apologize for any negative experiences you’ve had with the Resident Evil community. 


Ha! You don’t need to apologize for the behavior of others, ever! I’ve been lucky, mostly, but I’m also a giant introvert and don’t interact with people in general. I don’t read reviews (they make me anxious!) and block the rude with impunity, which limits my negative experiences. Besides which, most fandoms are majority good-hearted, I believe. I occasionally get someone telling me that my books aren’t canon, but… meh? I know? I’ve heard that the RE books are sloppy, and that’s fair, I was a newbie writer working quickly with few guidelines. I did my best, but no artist/professional hack is going to make everyone happy. My editor, the person *paying* me was happy, and that was all the validation I needed.

How did you feel when you were tasked with writing a prequel novel based on Resident Evil Zero that followed Rebecca on a new adventure?  

I was surprised she was getting a starring role and immediately thought of a dozen timeline problems, because I had no idea she was ever going to be used again! But after the panic wore off, I was glad to see her. She’s plucky and smart.

Did you prefer adapting the games or writing your own original stories in the universe? 

Funny, no one has ever asked me that! I don’t know. I think the original were a little easier, because I didn’t have to cross-reference settings and monsters. But adapting the actual games felt pretty epic. Sorry, that’s not really an answer.

Which is your favorite game/novel you worked on? 

Every one I work on is my favorite, while I’m working on it. That probably sounds dumb, but it’s the truth. Caliban Cove was written in a sweet spot for me; I’d already done one book and was given a lot of freedom for the original, so I remember it fondly. I haven’t read it in years, though, so I don’t know how it holds up.

Your last Resident Evil novel was Zero Hour. Were you ever approached about working on a novelization for Resident Evil 4

Yeah, actually. A company opened talks with me to write more, but that was apparently just as Capcom was deciding to pull away from publishing. The deal ended up not going through.

Have you kept up with the franchise at all? 

Not really. After RE, I was hired to write DS9, and then more Aliens stuff, some superhero stuff, various other franchises… I had children and got busy doing other things. I feel like my job is to be a professional fandom-hopper, to learn characters and write about them respectfully, then move on to the next fandom. I am absolutely a real fan when I’m writing the material, but I usually don’t stick around. I mean, I still dig the franchise, but I’m not an active fandom participant.

Would you work on another Resident Evil novel if you had the opportunity? Do you have any original stories you want to tell or specific games you’d like to adapt? (I’ll go launch a petition and send it to Capcom right now!)


Sure! I’m a writer for hire, I will write pretty much anything if I’m hired to do so, within my sparse moral guidelines. Resident Evil was fun and creepy and epic, I would absolutely revisit.  

Are there any games you’d like to adapt or universes you’d like to tell your own story in? 

I always wanted to write for Silent Hill. Because, obviously. Those disturbing, knife-wielding shadow children in the school used to freak me out, big time, and I loved the dimensional shift stuff. These days… I dunno. There are a lot of great universes out there, and I’d love to be invited to work in many of them. Besides the ego boost and the money, the work itself—writing from someone else’s perspective—is hugely gratifying.

Question from my wife: Who is your favorite Deep Space Nine character? She’s torn between Kira and Quark.   

Morn, because of all his great stories. For real, though, probably Garak, with Quark a close second. I enjoy a mischievous yet lethal liar, and Andrew Robinson’s performance was top notch. If she doesn’t know, the actor wrote a book from Garak’s perspective, A Stitch in Time, which is really good. Kira definitely kicked ass, I love her, but she wasn’t as funny. Ooh, Weyoun was also amazing, but that may just be my Jeffrey Combs bias.

I know you’re a horror fan. Do you have any horror movie/book/game recommendations? 

Nothing that isn’t already getting acclaim, mostly. Like, I finally saw Nope and thought it was brilliant, but that’s not exactly news. And art is so subjective, stuff that I like may not be anyone else’s cup of tea. I mostly don’t play horror games, honestly, they make me too tense; I don’t mind the gore but the jump scares get to me. One of my sons made me play that Baldi game a few years back, and I nearly had a panic attack, lol. I read a lot of really old horror, the language is so precise, the chills so subtle … M.R. James is one of my favorites. Lately, the book Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was great, and I really like Paul Tremblay, Dot Hutchison, Lauren Beukes, Alma Katsu… a lot of police procedural horror, I guess you’d call it. For movies, recently I liked The Innocents (Dutch, I think?), Anything for Jackson, Possum, PG Psycho Goreman, Terrified, The Dark and the Wicked, La Llorona… I just saw The Menu and dug it. If you’re a found-footage fan, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum has some great imagery… Lol, I’m rambling! You might want to edit this question out, for boredom reasons. [editor’s note: nope! we love it!]

Are you currently working on anything you’d like our readers to know about? I know you recently came out with a tie-in novel for Marvel’s Midnight Suns

Alas, no. I almost got a really neat gig a few weeks ago that I had to sign an NDA to even hear about, but another writer got the contract. It’s cool, I’m trying to repaint the interior of my house and work on general life stuff, and another opportunity will come along. I mean, I hope! I’ve heard the Suns book is doing well, which is great, it was a fun story. Writing from Blade’s POV was just cool. I’ve written a couple of original novels, but they gather dust on my agent’s desk while my contract work is semi-steady. I’m not complaining, at all. I like to write, and having established characters to work with is something I’m reasonably good at. I feel good when I’m doing it, anyway, and having a deadline and a paycheck keeps me honest. Whatever I do next, I’ll do my best.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions and an extra thank you for all of the entertainment your novels have given me!

You’re so welcome! It’s humbling to even be asked my opinion on anything, tbh. I think of myself as kind of dull? In any case, I appreciate your thoughtful questions! 

Not dull at all! Thank you so much!

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