My Bookish Ways

Interview: David Moody, author of the Autumn series

Continuing on with the October Scare-a-Thon, I’m thrilled to welcome author David Moody! David is the author of the popular Autumn series and also the Hater series, both guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween. David was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please give him a warm welcome, and be sure to check out his books!

David, you have two popular series out with Autumn and Hater, and your newest novel, Trust, just came out! Will you tell us a bit about how you became a writer?
I’d never really intended to write for a living. When I left school my ambition was (and still is) to make films, but that was in the late eighties/early nineties, and getting into a creative vocation like filmmaking was tough back then. Film school courses were hard to find where I am and even harder to get onto, and we’re talking about the very early days of the digital revolution, so the physical act of making a film was in many ways more involved and restricted than it is now – I think things might have been very different if I’d had access to a HD camera and a copy of Final Cut back then!

I ended up working in a bank – I just fell into the job really – and it actually wasn’t as bad as I first thought. Sure, it was all about sales and profit, but I got to meet a lot of interesting people and I learned a huge amount about business which has stood me in good stead since. But I had all these stories – my un-filmed films – rattling around in my head and I had to try and tell them. So I started writing. I finished my debut novel (Straight to You) in 1995 and it was released through a very small UK publisher the following year. Unfortunately, it didn’t set the book world alight!

Undeterred, I kept writing, and in 2001 I had another book – Autumn – ready to release. Rather than jump straight back onto the submission>rejection merry-go-round, I decided to try something different. I was resigned to not making a huge amount of cash out of my writing, so I thought I’d cut my losses and give Autumn away free online, because what good’s a book if no one’s reading it? Back then it was a pretty radical thing to do (hard to believe now, when just about everyone’s giving their work away online). It was a real success and was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I went on to write a series of sequels, as well as a few other novels which I published through my own publishing house: Infected Books. In 2006 I sold the film rights to Autumn to a small Canadian filmmaker (who went on to make the movie which starred Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine), and then I sold rights to another novel – Hater – to Mark Johnson (who produced the Chronicles of Narnia films) and Guillermo del Toro. On the back of that deal, my Autumn and Hater books were acquired by Thomas Dunne Books of New York.

It’s interesting that you mention Trust. For that release I’ve gone back to my independent roots and published it through Infected Books. The market has changed so dramatically over the years, and I wanted to see how the book would do without the backing of a major publisher. Folks can find out more about it at www.trustdavidmoody.com.

Your books deal with post-apocalyptic scenarios and in Autumn in particular, 99% of the world’s population is gone in a period of 24 hours. Why do you think post-apocalyptic stories are so popular recently, especially those involving zombies, contagion, or some form of “living dead?”
From a personal point of view, I find the end of the world incredibly interesting to write about. I’m an avid people-watcher (I know that sounds dodgy, but it’s not!). I’m fascinated by the way we react and interact together, by the way human behavior can be altered by the extreme situations people find themselves in. Post-apocalyptic scenarios are ideal for examining those kinds of behaviors because, at the end of the world, everything is on the line, and people will, I think, behave in a far more honest and direct way than they do at present in the regulated, ‘civilized’ world. When people are facing the ultimate decisions in life – to fight to survive or to give up and roll over, for example – things become less clouded by all the restrictions and niceties of the world we know today.

As a reader, I think post-apocalyptic tales have a nightmare appeal. They’re the worst case scenario. I think they’re particularly in favor right now because there seems to be such a fine line between fact and fiction today. Turn on the TV news and you’re hard pushed to hear anything other than reports about wars, uprisings, famines, epidemics, natural disaster and all manner of other grim headlines. People tend to drift through the day-to-day as if they’re immune from all of this, and that’s frightening. Anything could happen in the next few hours to completely turn your world upside down…

Zombies are particularly fashionable right now, and I’m not complaining about that having been writing about them for so long! I think they’re a wonderful creature to write about, not least because you can superimpose so much on a zombie story. When you think how one-dimensional the living dead often are, it’s amazing how adaptable they are in literary terms. I guess there are all manner of reasons why they have this appeal (if appeal is the right word!). For my money, I think we remain frightened of them because they’re so close to us in so many ways. There’s a desperately thin line – be it a solitary germ, a dose of radiation, a voodoo spell or something similar – preventing us from becoming them, and that’s terrifying!

Infections and diseases go hand-in-hand with the living dead. By their very nature, zombies are horrible, dirty, germ-filled creatures which disgust us. And the more of them there are, the more our fear increases. So I guess, taking that one step further, you could say our fear of contagion might stem from the sheer number of other people we’re surrounded by every day, and how interconnected we’ve all become.

What are some of your biggest influences, literary or otherwise?
From a literary perspective, I always cite John Wyndham and HG Wells as perhaps my biggest influences. The War of the Worlds and The Day of the Triffids are undisputed classics of post-apocalyptic fiction. Another name I’d add to that list is James Herbert. I’m not sure how well known he is elsewhere, but here in the UK he’s ranked alongside Stephen King. He’s sold more than fifty six million books and has kept horror in the mainstream here for more than thirty years. Last month I had the pleasure of hosting the only two events he held for the release of ASH, his first novel in six years. To be able to talk to him candidly about the business, and to watch him at work with the public who’d come to see him, was truly inspiring. Both of the events had audiences in excess of two hundred people. James took time to talk to every single one of them, and was as warm and generous with his time with the very last person in the queue as he’d been with the first. I read a lot of his books when I was younger. Domain, in particular, was a huge influence on me, and it was a real thrill when he signed my old, tattered, yellow-paged paperback copy.

I talked about my love of film, so I should mention a few directors who’ve also influenced me. It goes without saying that George Romero is on that list – would there even be a zombie genre without George’s films? I’d also add John Carpenter and David Cronenberg who, in the early part of their respective careers, produced a stream of groundbreaking horror movies.

How about favorite films?
I guess I almost just answered that! I think I’d have to select Romero’s original Dead trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead), along with Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly. Another favorite – which deserves a place on the list for its sheer atmosphere – is The Old Dark House, a Universal horror movie from 1932. The most terrifying film I’ve ever seen, however, is a BBC TV movie called Threads which is a dramatization of a nuclear strike on Sheffield. That’s one I think every scholar of horror should watch at least once. Absolute, total, unrelenting horror.

What are you reading now?
I’m way behind with my reading. I’ve just finished re-reading a number of James Herbert novels in preparation for interviewing him at the events I mentioned earlier, and I’m about to dive into Night of the Triffids – an authorized sequel to the original by Simon Clark. It’s out of print at the moment, but I managed to track down a copy. I’m going to be talking to Simon in the near future and putting together a feature on the Triffids for my website.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
To be honest, I don’t get much free time right now! As I’ve already mentioned, I’m an avid film watcher, so there’s nothing I like more than to sit and watch a good movie. Unfortunately my family doesn’t share my taste in horror, so I often have to wait until the rest of them have gone to bed! Apart from that, I’m a (very slow) long distance runner, so I’m out training several times a week. Bizarrely, I do a lot of good work when I’m running. It’s just about the only time I don’t get interrupted, so when I’m out pounding the streets is a great time to think about ideas and work through plot points.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m at quite a strange point in my career right now. The Autumn and Hater series have both come to an end and I’m in the process of putting together several new projects. First up is a novel called 17 Days which is very different to everything else I’ve written, not least because it’s not about the end of the world! I’m also working on a straight-forward horror novel called Strangers (which is the closest I’ll ever get to a vampire novel), and I’m in the early stages of writing a five (or six) book horror/science-fiction series called The Spaces Between. Think Children of Men meets Quatermass, and you’ll be getting close to the tone I’m going for. I’m also going to continue re-releasing some of my old works (and possibly serializing them like Trust) and, finally, I’ve written a short film called Isolation which we’re hoping to produce in mid-2013.

Oh, and I’m on tour! I’m working my way around the UK with fellow zombie author Wayne Simmons. It’s the ‘Never Trust a Man With Hair’ tour! Current dates are available on www.djmoody.co.uk, and I hope we’ll be announcing plenty more events in 2013.
Keep up with David: Website | Twitter | David’s Amazon Page | Facebook | Goodreads

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