Thursday, April 23, 2009

Horror Blog Fest - David Moody stops by for a chat

Mark and I are hugely proud to present David Moody as part of the MFB mini horor blog fest. If you're not sure who he is, read on, if you do and horror is your thing, read on! Find David's blog here. Hater's been published in the UK by Gollancz.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

I’m David Moody and I’ve been writing for fifteen years with varying degrees of success. My first novel ‘Straight to You’ was published in 1996. When overnight success, fame and piles of money were not forthcoming I decided to take a different approach with the publication of my second book. I self-published ‘Autumn’ in 2001 and made it available as a free download on my website with the idea being that I would a). generate a little publicity, b). expand my readership and c). develop a captive audience for the planned sequels to the book (which I’d charge for!). Half a million downloads and four sequels later, and with a movie adaptation of ‘Autumn’ (starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine) due for release later this year, I’m pretty happy with how my experiment turned out!

I set up my own small publishing house – Infected Books – in 2005 to produce print editions of my books (until that point I’d been exclusively releasing ebooks), and in summer 2006 I released ‘Hater’. Somehow (I’m not sure how it happened – I’m not even sure if I want to know, the odds against it happening are too frightening to think about!) a copy of the book ended up on the desk of some pretty powerful people in Los Angeles, with the end result being that the book was optioned by Mark Johnson (producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films) and Guillermo del Toro (director of the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth).

The book (and two planned sequels, and my five book ‘Autumn’ series) were sold to Thomas Dunne Books in the US so I’ve now become a ‘proper’ author. ‘Hater’ was re-released in February this year and will appear in numerous other countries later in 2009. The movie is in pre-production with J A Bayona (The Orphanage) directing.

I live just outside Birmingham with my wife, our two daughters and two of my three step-daughters (and you wonder why I keep writing about Armageddon!). The last few years have been incredibly surreal and I feel like I lead a double-life... fitting books, films and publicity around still having to get the kids to school, walk the dog and cook the dinner!

What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

I’m currently working on ‘Dog Blood’ which is the first sequel to ‘Hater’. It’s a very bizarre and twisted story, which is unavoidable given how the first book ended! Book one followed Danny McCoyne, an unremarkable, ordinary man, as he struggled to come to terms with a world which was rapidly falling apart around him. In ‘Dog Blood’, the entire world has become incredibly vicious and unpredictable and is virtually unrecognisable from what it was only weeks earlier. Danny has to make a journey back to the place he used to call home before the wave of unstoppable violence which has swept the globe finally destroys everyone and everything.

What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

I think horror allows you to ask ‘what if?’ It lets you look at the worst case scenario, lets you get a glimpse of what will happen when it all hits the fan! You know the feeling when you have a really intense nightmare which wakes you up? You sit up and, when the disorientation fades and your heart stops thumping, you realise it was just a dream. That feeling of relief – that glimpse into the abyss before you’re pulled back to reality – is, I think, why so many people continue to be fascinated by the genre. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself...
It’s escapism at its most extreme.

As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

I’m a sucker for virtually any kind of horror story, told in any medium. But what really sells a story for me is how much it makes me think. If I forget a pitch or a plot moments after I’ve heard it, then it probably wasn’t worth hearing in the first place. But if it won’t go away... if it keeps creeping back into my head, freaking me out and making me think about how, why and what if... then I’m sold. I like originality and individuality and am turned off very quickly by remakes and clich├ęs.

I also get switched off by gratuitousness (such as ‘torture porn’ films like Hostel and Saw). I can stomach any amount of violence and gore, but only if it matters to the story.

What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

The writers and filmmakers I’d cite as major influences are those of whom I’m also a fan!

As far as books go, I grew up reading John Wyndham (the Day of the Triffids was a major influence on me), H G Wells (War of the Worlds in particular), James Herbert and Stephen King. To be fair, I used read anything that looked vaguely horrific! In the days before video (and during the early 1980’s when the UK government banned virtually every horror film on the shelves) I’d scour bookshops for film novelizations. I remember sneaking novels as diverse as ‘Alien’ and ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ into the house because, as a pre-teen, they were the only way I could get a decent horror fix!

I love B movies, and I’ve been addicted to them for years. It’s not the far-fetched plots or the bad effects though, it’s the passion that went into these low budget films that always won me over. I’d always choose to watch something like ‘Brain from Planet Aros’, ‘Invasion of the Saucer Men’ or ‘The Day the World Ended’ over a modern high-budget, low-imagination remake.

Having written about zombies for years, I have to mention George Romero. My first viewing of Night of the Living Dead (on an imported laser disc, in the middle of a massive thunderstorm when I was far too young to watch it) pretty much changed everything for me!

In terms of other directors, David Cronenberg is my undoubted number one, closely followed by John Carpenter (in his ‘golden period’ – from Dark Star through to They Live).

Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

I guess I’ve already answered this! I don’t know how I’d react if I met Cronenberg, Carpenter or Romero. No doubt I’d try to maintain my cool but would inevitably start blathering like a fan-boy and end up looking an ass. But seriously, I know that copies of ‘Hater’ were sent to Cronenberg and Romero prior to publication, and to know that they’ve even just held copies of my book is cool enough for me!

If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

Good question! I’m not sure. I’d love to meet any of the people I’ve already mentioned but, rather than just sit and chat to them, I think I’d like to watch them at work. To sit on set or in the editing booth with these masters of horror would be an absolute privilege.

Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Lights off (but light switch close).

Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?

Really tough question! If he hadn’t made ‘Land of the Dead’ or ‘Diary of the Dead’ then I would have gone for originals. But, he did make those two movies, and I have to say that I preferred the ‘Dawn’ and ‘Night’ remakes to either of his recent films.

I don’t think you can beat his original trilogy. That said, I’ll be first in the queue when the new ‘... of the Dead’ movie comes out!

What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?
It’s all about keeping the brain fed! I think Steven King said ‘a good author writes for four hours a day and reads for four hours’ or something like that. One other quote springs to mind (although I can’t remember the exact wording or even who said it!). A frustrated writer’s wife walked into his office one day and saw him sitting at his desk, staring out of the window. She asked what he was doing and he replied, ‘writing’. This is the only job I know which you can do when you’re running, shopping or in the bath!

I’ve learnt that it is absolutely vital to keep watching, reading and firing-up your imagination if you want to produce any kind of fiction that matters.

The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

I’m not sure. I think the genre often thrives and produces its best work when the ‘real’ world is struggling. If that’s the case then we should be in for a horror boon in the very near future! But at the same time, in movies and TV right now we seem to be drowning in badly made, completely unnecessary remakes, sequels and prequels which are clearly designed to generate maximum profit with minimum effort and risk. It’s really disconcerting, because there are plenty of good, original ideas which remain undeveloped and forgotten at the expense of these ‘products’.

Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

Yes I do! If I’m honest, though, I don’t know whether or not I’d be able to go through with it. My fear is that when it all kicks off and the dead begin to rise, I’ll go into automatic ‘Englishman’ mode and deny there’s a problem until it’s too big to avoid! We have this bizarre mentality here sometimes when, if it’s not happening directly outside my house, it doesn’t matter!

All joking apart, I think that 99.9% of all well-intentioned survival plans will fall apart in the first hours of any kind of end-of-the-world scenario. If the dead began to walk the streets, would you really be able to kill your neighbour with a snooker cue? Or behead a recently deceased member of your own family with a shovel...? It works in the movies, but I’m not so sure...

My plan, for what it’s worth, is simple. Get the family in the car and get out to the most isolated place I can find (I know a few). Get in some supplies (enough for six months if it’s possible) and sit and wait. The six month mark is vital – by then the bulk of the immediately effected (i.e. undead) population should have decayed away to the point when they’re no longer such a threat.
I’ve been thinking about this too much, haven’t I? In all seriousness, things are pretty grim right now, and if they don’t improve then Armageddon might be closer than we think. I was in the supermarket the other day. When I got to the till I realised that I’d actually started stocking up with bottles of water and tins of food! Now that’s not healthy!

Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

No, I don’t have any books like that and I’m not even sure that such a book exists. There are many different techniques and approaches – there’s no right way or wrong way to write. I think that writing fiction is actually within many people’s grasp, they just don’t believe it. When I started out I set myself a few simple ground rules which have stood me in good stead and which I continue to follow today:

* Plan your writing before you start – develop the structure of your story and have a 2chapter by chapter breakdown written before you try and write a word.

* Don’t force yourself to write – if the words aren’t flowing, staring at a blank screen and cursing yourself won’t help.

* Feed your brain regularly (see earlier comments!)

* Keep a notepad handy all the time – you never know when inspiration will strike.

* Set daily targets (i.e. a page a day or 1000 words a day etc. etc.) and stick to them.

* Resist the temptation to go back and start editing before you’ve finished your current draft. Get to the end, read it through and then start again.

* There’s no such thing as negative feedback. Even when criticism hurts, take it on the chin, think about it and learn from it!


Phantom of Pulp said...

Terrific interview.

Moody is a very good writer, and his career trajectory is well deserved.

Great to see James Herbert get a mention.

Harry Markov said...

Hi, I am a bit embarrassed by the spamming and such, but I am organizing a new event for review bloggers to get to know other review bloggers [mainly because I want to interact with the community]. It’s called “Reviewer Time” and will post each Sunday a review of a review blog and an interview of its owner and contributors, if any are game.

I really like your blog and such, so I hope you would be game. Here is the link for the original post, where you can sign up for the interview part at least, if you want to: