David Wellington kindly answered a few of my questions about his new book, Positive. Please give him a warm welcome!
Will you tell us a bit about Positive and what inspired you to write it? What makes this a unique take on zombies?
Like all good zombie stories, this one’s really more about the humans, the survivors. Positive is, at its heart, a really hopeful book. It’s about the moment when the apocalypse ends, when we start rebuilding. Of course, it’s also about savage road pirates and death cults and yes, zombies. When I write a zombie book I always want to try to do something different, something no-one’s done before. This time I got to thinking about how in zombie movies people can be bitten and within seconds they turn into zombies. But what if it took longer? There are some diseases that can incubate in your body for twenty years, and you never know it. So it made me wonder, what if you could be slowly turning into a zombie your whole life, and at any moment you might transform into a murderous, mindless thing? What would that do to our society?
Why do you think readers will root for Finn? What did you enjoy most about writing his character?
One of my editors said that Finn’s super-power was decency. I think that’s a really strong thing about him. He’s not perfect by any means but be believes. He believes in people, and our ability to pick up the pieces. He’s a very strange kind of character to find in a post-apocalypse story, but I think that’s why he was so much fun to write.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Oh, lots—I read about prion diseases and epidemiology, about public health initiatives, about what the government plans to do in the case of a worldwide emergency… lots of stuff that just didn’t make it into the final book, which is always the case. Luckily for me I’m nerdy enough to love that part of writing.
Why do you think people are so intrigued by all things zombie?
There are so many theories. Lately I think it’s because they’re such a blank slate. You can put whatever anxieties you have on them, and it works. Are you afraid of crowds, or afraid of being alone? Zombies. Are you afraid of what our society is becoming, or afraid of what would happen if it fell apart? Zombies. They’re such an enduring monster because you can always write more stories about them.
You’re no stranger to writing the scaries, but what is something that truly terrifies you?
This is going to get specific. I’m terrified of something happening to my hands. I wouldn’t be able to type, which would be very bad, but you can work around that. But I just have nightmares about them getting chopped off… long-time readers of my work may find me working out some issues there, I have a lot of characters suffer hand trauma.
Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
I’ve wanted to write since I learned how to read. My first novel was called Santa Claus Vs. The Smurfs. It wasn’t very good, but then, I wrote it when I was six. I’ve been writing ever since, typically two to three novels a year. There were always books in my house, I think that was the thing. My mother would bring home six or eight books from the library every week. She would just put them on the coffee table and I could read whatever I wanted. She would warn me that I shouldn’t read some books—Stephen King and Peter Straub, of course—because they would give me nightmares. That, of course, made me want to read those books even more.
What books or authors have influenced you the most?
Influence is such a weird thing. I mean, every book I’ve ever read influenced me in some way. Even if it just taught me what not to do. I grew up reading really heavy-duty realistic, naturalistic stuff and I turned away from that, moved more towards what the pulp authors of the 20s and 30s were trying to do. Then again, I have no desire to write like H.P. Lovecraft. Maybe Clark Ashton Smith. Or going back even further, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to reading this year?
I’ve got piles of good books sitting around. I’ve been reading a lot of China Miéville lately for some reason. I just re-read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, marathon style. Off-hand I don’t really know what’s coming out this year, because I always want to be surprised when I find out one of my favorite authors has a new book. Which is now making me very sad, actually, because I just realized there won’t be any Terry Pratchett or Iain M. Banks books.
Those were always the highlights of my year. Damn.
What’s next for you?
Sleep! Honestly, I’ve been super busy. I just ran a writing contest, davidwellingtonsfearproject.com, which I hope will be an annual thing. I need to work on the sequel to Positive—I have the whole outline done, now I need to actually start living in that world again. I’ve got an idea for a science fiction novel, and a dark fantasy story set in New York circa 1900. As soon as I can just take a little nap, I’ll get on all of those projects, definitely.
In the bestselling vein of Guillermo Del Toro and Justin Cronin, the acclaimed author of Chimera and The Hydra Protocol delivers his spectacular breakout novel—an entertaining page-turning zombie epic that is sure to become a classic.
Anyone can be positive . . .
The tattooed plus sign on Finnegan’s hand marks him as a Positive. At any time, the zombie virus could explode in his body, turning him from a rational human into a ravenous monster. His only chance of a normal life is to survive the last two years of the potential incubation period. If he reaches his twenty-first birthday without an incident, he’ll be cleared.
Until then, Finn must go to a special facility for positives, segregated from society to keep the healthy population safe. But when the military caravan transporting him is attacked, Finn becomes separated. To make it to safety, he must embark on a perilous cross-country journey across an America transformed—a dark and dangerous land populated with heroes, villains, madmen, and hordes of zombies. And though the zombies are everywhere, Finn discovers that the real danger may be his fellow humans.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome meets World War Z and I Am Legend in this thrilling tale that has it all: a compelling story, great characters, and explosive action, making Positive the ultimate zombie novel of our time.