I think Michael Logan deserves an award for Best Title of 2013 for Apocalypse Cow, and speaking of awards, he actually did win the Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now prize for debut novelists for the novel. Luckily, I convinced him to stop by and tell us about what makes Apocalypse Cow so damn cool (and it’s not just the name.) Please welcome Michael to the blog!
Michael, you have an extensive background in journalism. Did you always want to write a novel? Will you tell us a bit about how you decided to take the plunge into fiction?
I actually moved into journalism because I loved to write fiction, rather than the other way round. I started writing short stories very early, and always read like a manic, so a career based around the written word would have made sense. Somehow, however, I ended up becoming an electronics engineer. I worked in that field until I met my future wife and we moved to Bosnia together. At that point, I took the opportunity to merrily skip into journalism, as I hated engineering.
While Apocalypse Cow is my debut novel, it is only in the sense of publication. I actually wrote a very serious kitchen sink novel about the impacts of sectarianism, football obsession and crime on a working-class Glasgow family around 15 years ago. I made no effort to get it published. Nor did I try to push on and develop a real writing work ethic. It took the spur of writing every day as a journalist, and maturing as a human and a writer, to actually think seriously about trying to make it as a novelist.
Will you tell us a bit about Apocalypse Cow and how you decided to give the zombie novel a bit of a twist?
Apocalypse Cow, a book in which zombie cows play a prominent role, started out as part joke, part writing exercise: a way of learning the discipline to work regularly and actually get something done rather than leaving half-finished works lying around everywhere. I am, and have always been a big zombie fan, so I wanted to write something in that field, but I needed it to be different enough to make it enjoyable for me. Nobody appeared to have done zombie animals, for reasons I couldn’t figure out. If humans can get such a virus, it stands to reason that animals can, and they certainly have more savagery to begin with.
What did you enjoy most about writing Apocalypse Cow?
Like most zombie tales, the zombies themselves are a backdrop to the conflicts and struggles of a group of people, with different beliefs and responses to danger, thrown together in a crisis. What I enjoyed the most was taking extreme characters with stereotypical traits—the militant vegan versus the staunch meat-eater—and creating ridiculous situations in which they could butt heads and develop as people. I love writing dialogue, and so took a lot of pleasure in writing the scenes with a lot of verbal sparring.
Who, or what, influences your writing the most?
I was asked this question at a literary festival late last year, and my answer prompted the moderator to tell me off. Quite simply, I can’t tell you. I read books, watch films and observe life voraciously. Everything influences me, which means that I hold little respect for the narrow definitions of genre and will tell a story the way I think it needs to be told. People’s lives aren’t confined to one genre. Why should a book be so constricted?
So, I can tell you which authors I admire, and which authors I would love to be, but I can’t tell you specifically my biggest influence. I believe that many authors, when confronted with this question, list some authors they love when in actual fact their influences are more nebulous and harder to pin down. Anyway, I gave this answer at the festival and the moderator told me I would have to work on that answer. So I told her I was greatly influence by Salman Rushdie’s work in the field of zombie livestock. She wasn’t impressed.
Any favorite authors or novels that have made a big impression on you?
Do you have 50 pages to spare? I really could go on and on, since there are so many astonishing works of fiction. Some of my favourite books—in no particular order, off the top of my head and missing dozens of works—follow:
Ghostwritten, David Mitchell
Geek Love, Katherine Dunne
The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, Robert Hough
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
A Star Called Henry, Roddy Doyle
Birds Without Wings, Louis de Bernieres
Weaveworld, Clive Barker.
If pushed, I would point to de Bernieres, Mitchell and Gaiman as three of my favourite authors—mainly because I get excited every time they bring out something new.
How about zombie novels, stories, or even movies? Any faves there?
Okay, so here’s my confession. I have read only one zombie book, and that was World War Z. I liked it a lot, but my zombie education comes from the movies.
Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was the first zombie film I ever saw, and it still sticks in my head as the best. The shopping mall scenes, where zombies ride escalators and bump into shop fronts along to dinky muzak, are just fantastic. Brain Dead, Shaun of the Dead, The Serpent and The Rainbow, Evil Dead and 28 Days Later were all fantastic. Lesser known, but equally good, is Dead and Buried—which is a very warped take on zombies and not at all what you would expect.
How did you celebrate when you found out APOCALYPSE COW had sold?
We were in Waterstones Piccadilly for the awards ceremony of the Pratchett Prize. After I was announced as the joint winner along with my namesake David Logan, my wife and some of our good friends took off for a rooftop bar and drank a lot of cocktails.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
As in my previous answer, I’m not sure I could pick out one book. What I would like is a genetic modification that allows me selectively wipe my memories. Rather like the Romans and their feathers, once I had gorged on a wonderful book I could delete all traces of it and start again.
When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I have two small children, so don’t have a great deal of free time. However, I read, fence, play football, listen to music, go to concerts and the theater and attend Bikram yoga when I can.
What’s next for you?
Working through my large list of novels to write, and hoping the publisher wants them. I’m deep into Cruel Britannia, the Apocalypse Cow follow-up, right now. After that, it’s back to fiddling with the novel I wrote in between. It needs some further work, but I put it aside for the sequel. Then I have to decide which of the three books topping my to-do list to start on next.
As I mentioned before, my writing philosophy is based on writing the story as it needs to be told. This means that everything I write is hard to pin down into a specific genre. I know that this may well hamper my career, and I’ve already had experience of the publishing industry’s desire to keep authors working in the same area. However, I don’t see how I can write any other way.
About APOCALYPSE COW:
If you think you’ve seen it all — WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD— you haven’t seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS!
Forget the cud. They want blood.
It began with a cow that just wouldn’t die. It would become an epidemic that transformed Britain’s livestock into sneezing, slavering, flesh-craving four-legged zombies.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fate of the nation seems to rest on the shoulders of three unlikely heroes: an abattoir worker whose love life is non-existent thanks to the stench of death that clings to him, a teenage vegan with eczema and a weird crush on his maths teacher, and an inept journalist who wouldn’t recognize a scoop if she tripped over one.
As the nation descends into chaos, can they pool their resources, unlock a cure, and save the world?
One outcome . . .
Yup, we’re screwed.