Day Five: 5 Questions with David Moody
In my former professional life, I was the guy responsible with stocking the all of the Borders, Borders Express, and Walden stores with horror novels. I’m a huge fan of the genre and it was a dream come true to be an advocate for my favorite genre to read. One of the authors I was really behind was British author David Moody. He’s responsible for the Autumn series of zombie novels (which I’m reading again throughout the month), and the Hater trilogy (which finishes up in November). Moody didn’t really find his way to publishing the traditional way. At first, his Autumn books were self-published on the Internet and as POD books. The success of his series got the attention of the traditional publishing houses and the rest is history.
I am happy to have David on my blog during my 31 Days of Halloween Hijinks because he’s one of my favorite authors and one I want to make sure the entire world knows about! I recently asked David to answer the following questions. Enjoy!
1) In my experience with horror fans and folks who work within the genre, there’s always a story about what first hooked them on the horror genre, what’s yours?
I have a couple of experiences, actually, and I apologise to anyone who has heard me banging on about these before! When I was 10, I found a book in my junior school library which stood out from the rest and I knew I had to read it. Looking back, I don’t know how it got there but I’m glad that it did. It was John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, and it totally blew me away. It was the first piece of post-apocalyptic fiction I’d read, and I was completely hooked by Wyndham’s description of a helpless society being torn apart. The power of the book is undiminished (I actually read it again a couple of months back) and it’s influenced everything I’ve written. I love the way Wyndham anchored everything in normality and made a story about eight foot tall carnivorous walking plants(!) seem believable. A few years later came my second life-defining horror moment. I grew up in the UK in the 1980s, when a piece of draconian legislation resulted in pretty much every horror movie being labelled as a ‘video nasty’ and banned.
Consequently, it was damn hard to watch horror. Fortunately for me I had a friend whose dad owned a comic shop. He came back from one of his regular shopping trips to the US with a laserdisc player and a host of discs. One afternoon, during the biggest thunderstorm I can remember, a group of us sat down and watched Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. It’s no exaggeration to say everything changed for me that day!
2) What is it about your Autumn series that separates it from other zombie tales?
Going back to my previous answer and Day of the Triffids, it was the believable approach Wyndham managed to capture which really had an impact on me. When I started writing Autumn, I wanted to try and emulate that and to write the impossible – a zombie novel which felt believable. As a result, I made the focus of the books the living, rather than the dead, and I did away with some of the weirder aspects of many zombie stories. First and foremost, there’s no flesh eating. I’ve never been able to understand why a dead creature would need to feed? Following on from that, to avoid a lot of cliches (such as survivors being bitten and hiding their wound until ‘turning’ and eating their fellow survivors at the worst possible moment), in Autumn you’re either immune or dead. There’s no infection being passed around and by the end of the first page of the first book, more than six billion people are dead. Finally, and I think most importantly, I was always frustrated by the zombies in other books and films, because they were flat and two dimensional. That seemed to make them less of a threat because the zombies on day one are just the same as the zombies on day one hundred and one. In the Autumn books, their condition steadily changes. Initially they’re dumb, lumbering hunks of meat, but over time they regain a degree of self-control and memory. But that doesn’t mean I end up with zombies talking or driving cars and the like, because at the same time as their brains regaining strength, their physical bodies are deteriorating. That means their ability to communicate and respond to the living is severely restricted, and ultimately all they can do is fight.
3) Do you have any special traditions in October to celebrate the Halloween time of year?
Halloween’s never been as big a deal here in the UK as in the US. We have hardly any trick or treating, for example. So apart from carving out the occasional pumpkin, I don’t have any traditions as such. But what I have noticed over the last couple of years, is that people’s appetites for horror increases as we head towards the end of October. So my Halloweens now usually involve a lot of travel to horror-themed events up and down the UK. After spending so much time sat in front of my computer all year, it’s great to get out and about and actually speak to people instead of just emailing them!
4) If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only bring one book with you, what would it be?
If I had to take a book someone had written, I think it would be a compendium of John Wyndham books (no surprise there). Either that or something similar from HG Wells or Nigel Kneale (the creator of Quatermass). But my preference would be to take a blank writing pad and a pen, because I’ve still got a host of unwritten novels rattling around in my head and I need to write them!
5) What’s next up for you?
I’ve just finished (all bar the edits) the final Autumn book – Autumn: Aftermath. And now that the Hater series is finished too, I’m really looking forward to working on something else after 5 years of zombies/Haters. I have a couple of new novels in development, and two older books which I’d like to polish and rewrite and publish. I’m also branching out into filmmaking. I have a zombie short going into production early next year, and if that works out we’re hoping to expand it into a full feature.