DLS with David Moody at Scardiff 2013
I am honoured to have internationally renowned post-apocalyptic author David Moody here answering a few questions on his work, his life, his passions and what we he has in the pipeline for us.
It’s no secret that I’m quite a fan of Moody’s work – having followed his writing career since the early days of the ‘Autumn’ online phenomena. As such, I am absolutely thrilled to have David Moody as the first victim for
It’s no secret that I’m quite a fan of Moody’s work – having followed his writing career since the early days of the ‘Autumn’ online phenomena. As such, I am absolutely thrilled to have David Moody as the first victim for
DLS - Hi David. Thanks for agreeing to be the first interview victim for DLS Reviews.
D Moody - Thanks for having me here. It’s an honour!
DLS - What is it that fascinates you so much about the idea of the apocalypse?
D Moody – I think there are a number of reasons why I’m fascinated by the apocalypse. I believe a lot of it is due to growing up in the 1980’s, when the Cold War tensions between the USA and USSR seemed to be at their peak. It seemed possible – perhaps even probable – that in four minutes time we might all be vaporized as the superpowers indulged in a spot of mutually assured destruction! It’s easy to laugh about now, but as a teenager, it scared me witless. In fact, given the state of the world at the moment, it’s actually not that easy to laugh about it anymore... But I think the real reason I’m interested in the end of the world is down to the effect it has on normal people and their lives. I’m an avid people watcher (which I know makes me sound like a voyeur). I like watching how people react and interact, how they get on and how they don’t... Generally we all seem to surround ourselves with a bubble of bullshit – doing what we think we should do, behaving according to expected standards and morals etc. etc. At the end of the world, though, I think all of that would be stripped away and you’d see people for what they really are.
DLS - So far, all of your novels have had an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic theme to them. Do you have any plans to leave this particular subgenre? Also, what work do you currently have in the pipeline, and could you tell us a little about it?
D Moody – I think the end of the world is something I’ll keep coming back to for the reasons I’ve already outlined. And there are so many ways it could happen, that I think I could write apocalyptic novels for another twenty years and not repeat myself (hopefully!). Right now I’m trying to spread my writing wings without alienating the readers who like my previous books, so I’m working on a number of different projects. I’m getting zombies out of my system once and for all (in print, anyway) by writing a couple of zombie novellas which are being released as ebooks (the first of which was ‘The Cost of Living’ which came out at the end of May, and another will hopefully follow mid-August). I’ll then be releasing both novellas and all my non-Autumn zombie short stories in print in a collection which is tentatively titled ‘Last of the Living’. I’m also developing a number of other ideas. ‘The Spaces Between’ is a four book horror/science-fiction series which I’m currently describing as ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘The Bridge’ meets ‘Blade Runner’ by way of ‘Quatermass’. I’ve been planning the books for years, and I’m really looking forward to getting into the actual writing process very soon after a couple of false starts. I’ve very much enjoyed releasing books through Infected Books again recently, so I’m also working on a couple of quick, dark and dirty horror novels, and I’m working on ‘Cold War Kid’: a middle-grade book (as they label them in America) about a boy and his monster and the spectre of Armageddon (wouldn’t you know!).
DLS - To help promote your next series ‘The Spaces Between’ you’re giving five of your fans the chance to appear as characters in the books. If you were offered the same opportunity, which author would you choose to write you into their next piece of fiction?
D Moody – I have to say John Wyndham. ‘The Day of the Triffids’ is my favourite book of all time, and to have been in one of Wyndham’s stories would have been a huge honour. Interestingly, I was also a fan of the late James Herbert, and his third Rats novel, ‘Domain’, had a huge influence on me. It’s the book which made me want to write horror, actually, and I had the pleasure of meeting Jim and telling him as much just before he died. Weirdly, there’s a character in the first Rats book (published, I believe, in 1976) called David Moodie who meets a gruesome death!
DLS - You’ve recently released completely rewritten versions of your stories ‘Straight To You’ and ‘The Cost Of Living’. Does completely rewriting a story sap some of the enjoyment out of the process and do you find it easier or harder to write them the second time around?
D Moody – That’s a really interesting question, and the short answer is no, not really. I think I’m driven by a desire to get a story right as best I can, and until I reach that point, I feel inclined to keep writing. In the case of ‘Straight to You’ (and also ‘Trust’) I re-read the originals after many years and felt hugely disappointed by them. The stories were strong, I thought, but the writing and characterisation definitely wasn’t. By that stage I’d had the benefit of writing many more novels and having worked with some respected editors, so I had more of an idea what I was doing. With ‘Straight to You’, I desperately wanted to give the original tale some emotional weight, so I was itching to get going on it. And I was thrilled with the way it turned out (the 10/10 review from DLSReviews.com vindicated all the effort it had taken to start the book again from scratch some twenty years later!). ‘The Cost of Living’ was slightly different. As I explained in the introduction to the novella, it was a story I’d made two attempts at telling, but which I was never entirely satisfied with. I realised it was because I was being restricted by length (the first version was a 5,000 word short story, the second a 750 word piece of flash fiction). I didn’t think the story would carry a full novel, so I just decided to start writing and see how it turned out. It ended up just short of 40,000 words, and the reaction to the novella version has been humbling. People really seemed to have enjoyed it (if enjoy is a word you can associate with any of my grim stories!).
DLS - What made you return to the Autumn series with ‘Autumn: Disintegration’ (2011) after so many years had passed by? Do you think you’re ever likely to return to the series again?
D Moody – ‘Disintegration’ was actually written in 2008, but the release was delayed when the ‘Autumn’ books were acquired by Thomas Dunne Books in the US and Gollancz in the UK. Back in 2005, when I released the first edition of ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’, I thought I was done with the series. But the more I thought about it, though, the clearer it became that there were more stories still to tell, not least because I had a whole undead world to play in. I was fascinated by the polarizing reactions to the first ‘Autumn’ novel in particular. Some people really seemed to like the low-fi approach, while an equal number criticised the books because they wanted the traditional zombie tropes of guts and gore and brain eating. I thought it would be interesting to put groups from both camps together in the ‘Autumn’ world and see who would survive, and that was the genesis of ‘Disintegration’. ‘Aftermath’, which rounds off the series, gave me an opportunity to tie up all the loose ends and tie the events of ‘Disintegration’ into the other books. Last year’s re-release of ‘The Human Condition’ was my ‘Autumn’ swan-song. I feel like the series is fully done and dusted now and I’ve no plans to go back to it (in print).
DLS - With the market pretty much flooded with zombie fiction these days, do you think there’s still some life left in stories involving the undead?
D Moody – Absolutely! It’s just unfortunate that there’s so much formulaic stuff out there. We’re being swamped with zombies right now, and though their popularity may wane, I can’t see them ever completely disappearing. They’re so adaptable – you can drop them into literally any situation. For me, though, the stories which are really worth reading (and telling) are those which focus more on the living than the dead. I want to know what the survivors are going through to stay alive, how they’re adapting to the world they now find themselves living in. That’s far more interesting than finding a hundred and one novel ways to dispose of reanimated dead people! Many zombie books and films degenerate into over-the-top gorefests far too easily.
DLS - Is there any reason that you haven’t done that many short stories or contributions to anthologies?
D Moody – I haven’t been asked! It’s something I’m always happy to do, and I generally do try to accept invitations whenever they come my way. I enjoy writing shorts and novellas (hence the forty-or-so which make up ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’), and I have plans to write more in the near future.
DLS - Are there any titles, post-apocalyptic or otherwise, which you think are vastly underrated and never seem to receive the recognition that they deserve?
D Moody – Another very good question... which I’ll avoid answering directly if you don’t mind! My issue is not with particular books being overlooked (though there are undoubtedly many), my concern is that books labelled ‘horror’ are often ignored by the mainstream. To my mind, ‘horror’ is a misleading label, because it’s not so much a genre, more a feeling (apologies if that sounds pretentious). I don’t know if I’m making much sense, but to illustrate my point, a couple of the most horrific books I’ve read in the last few years were ‘The Road’ and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. Neither used the word ‘horror’ in their marketing, I believe... There’s a huge amount of snobbery towards genre writing, and I think many great novels are dismissed before being given a fair chance simply because of their subject matter.
DLS - How difficult was it to make the decision to take the plunge and become a full time writer; giving up what I presume was a very safe job as a bank manager?
D Moody – Well the job gave up on me first, actually! It wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed, and when the bank moved the processing centre where I was employed to Sri Lanka, I respectfully turned down the invitation to emigrate and took the money and ran! For a few years it was a case of writing for a while then working again, and I was only able to go full-time when the movie deal with Guillermo del Toro and the subsequent book deals for ‘Hater’ and ‘Autumn’ happened. I miss working, though, and I’m actually looking to go back to it in some form (be that part-time or temporarily full-time). It’s good inspiration, and it suits my family’s circumstances right now to have some regular cash coming in. The beauty of writing is that the books are still earning in the background and I think it’ll do me good to actually start mixing with people again rather than sitting on my own in my office all day every day! Also, working from home can be particularly frustrating (particularly during the school summer holidays...).
DLS - When writing, do you form particularly strong emotional bonds with your characters and do you have any favourites from over the years?
D Moody – I can’t help connecting with characters, and I guess that’s because there’s usually a lot of me in them. I really like Steven Johnson from the new version of ‘Straight to You’. Like all my main characters (I hesitate to call them heroes) he wears his heart on his sleeve and frequently screws up. I find it really hard to connect with characters who don’t make mistakes and are too good to be true. I guess my favourite of my characters has to be Danny McCoyne from ‘Hater’. I loved the guy’s story arc – from useless waster to... well I won’t say how his story ends. I’d rather people read the books!
DLS - How involved were you with the production of the ‘Hater’ trilogy audiobooks? Do you have any plans to see the ‘Autumn’ novels adapted into audiobooks?
D Moody – I wasn’t involved with the ‘Hater’ audiobooks. Blackstone Audio did a great job, I thought, and Gerard Doyle was an excellent narrator. Audiobooks is an area I’m keen to expand into, and I’m currently looking for audio producers for ‘Trust’ and ‘Straight to You’. I think there’s a big market for ‘Autumn’ audiobooks, and there have been some enquiries, but as yet, nothing’s been agreed. I don’t actually hold the rights. If there are any interested parties reading this, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with the relevant rights holders.
DLS - Have you been approached, or have you had any thoughts about adapting any of your books into graphic novels?
D Moody – It’s definitely something I’d be interested in, but I’ve received no approaches as yet. I’m open to any kind of adaptation, actually. I had someone propose an ‘Autumn’ stage play once, and I think that could work magnificently!
DLS - In 2009 the film adaptation of your first ‘Autumn’ novel was released. Do you think the story worked in film format, and what was your opinion of the movie?
D Moody – This is something I’ve thought long and hard about... The critical reaction to the ‘Autumn’ movie was pretty terrible, and a lot of the complaints levelled against the film were justified. The team behind the movie tried to do something special with very limited resources, and I don’t think they pulled it off. The cast were great (particularly Dexter Fletcher, David Carradine and Dickon Tolson), but technically the film left a lot to be desired. I’ve often wondered, though, if I’m unfairly hard on the film. I’ve always wanted to direct, and when I’m writing I think very visually. So the film-makers were always going to struggle to compete with the version of the film I saw in my head. After all, I had an unlimited (imaginary) budget, the perfect cast, incredible locations, thousands of extras... I think it’s more than likely that any author will be disappointed to an extent with a film adaptation of their work. I do think, however, that there’s huge potential for the ‘Autumn’ series on screen. I think the books would work brilliantly as a UK-based alternative to ‘The Walking Dead’.
DLS - It’s understood that Guillermo Del Toro (Director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim etc) and Mark Johnson (Producer of Breaking Bad etc) had bought the rights for ‘Hater’ (2006) around the same time. Is there any news on the progress of this or has it been officially shelved?
D Moody – They do still hold the rights. Whenever I ask I’m told the folks behind the ‘Hater’ movie are still very excited about the project, but I take that all with a large pinch of salt these days. Right now there’s no movement, but that could theoretically change at any moment. The rights expire in a couple of months’ time, and I regularly get approached by other production companies, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I think it’s a real shame, because this is a great time for a ‘Hater’ movie. Look at the summer blockbusters we’re seeing right now: ‘World War Z’ last year, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ this year... neither story is a million miles removed from ‘Hater’ in certain respects.
DLS - Your novels, particularly those involving the undead, often include some very visceral descriptions of decomposing bodies and the after effects of violence. Is this something that you have purposefully and consciously ramped-up in your novels, or something you have felt just comes with the turf?
D Moody – I think it comes with the turf. As I said at the beginning of this interview, I enjoy writing about the end of the world, and there’s inevitably going to be a fair amount of bloodshed and carnage at the end of days. But with my two main series so far, there was always going to be increasing levels of gore and violence. In the ‘Hater’ books, violence is integral to the plot, and with more than six billion people dying by the end of the first page of the first ‘Autumn’ novel, it would have seemed ridiculous not to have copious numbers of decaying bodies!
DLS - Has being a father affected or infiltrated into your writing at all?
D Moody – it’s affected me without any shadow of a doubt. I think since becoming a husband and a dad, my characters have become far more real and believable. The character of Carl in ‘Autumn’ for example, was only added in the second or third draft of the book, written shortly after the birth of my first daughter (for those who don’t know, Carl is tormented by the loss of his wife and daughter and, therefore, constantly questions why he’s trying to survive). I could never have written Danny McCoyne without having been a father. Despite everything that’s happening to the world around him, pretty much everything he does in ‘Dog Blood’, the second ‘Hater’ book, is done through his love for his children. That sounds very corny and lovely, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know it definitely is not.
DLS - You have stated on a number of occasions that you generally write in 45 minute bursts. Is there any particular reason or benefit to structuring your writing in this way and do you ever find yourself struggling with writer’s block?
D Moody – I don’t struggle with writer’s block. Quite the opposite, in fact – too many ideas, not enough time. 45 minutes is the optimum length of time for me, I’ve found. I can generally write between 1000 and 1500 words in that time, and having some kind of structure means I can almost project manage the writing of a book (I’m making it sound more clinical and precise than it is, but you get the idea).
DLS - Outside of writing, what other things do you get up to?
D Moody – I love watching and collecting films and going to concerts (all kinds of music and comedy). Music is a massive part of my life which both inspires ideas and helps me to write. Other than that, I run. Though I don’t have the right body shape for it, I’m a keen distance runner and I try to run somewhere in the region of 100 miles a month. I also compete in road races regularly. I find it therapeutic. Working from home, when I’m out running is pretty much the only time I don’t get interrupted. And there’s something about being out there alone and being so isolated that really benefits the creative process. I’ve had some of my very best plot ideas while I’ve been pounding the streets!
DLS - You’ve said on a few occasions that you’d always wanted to become a filmmaker. Do you still hold this aspiration?
D Moody – yes. See my answer to your final question.
DLS - I see that you’re appearing at Scardiff again this year. What is your involvement with it and what were your impressions from last year’s event?
D Moody – I’ve got a very close connection with the event, in that it’s the brainchild of Wayne Simmons, a very good friend of mine and a damn fine writer (I’ve just released his new novella – ‘The Girl in the Basement’ – through Infected Books). Wayne and I do a lot of events together, and we both know what we like and what we don’t like. Last year’s Scardiff, unsurprisingly, ticked all the boxes for me and I think it’s going to be bigger and better this year. As well as getting to hang out with some cool authors and film-makers, there was a constant stream of fans through the (exceptionally well organised) trading area. For me, the whole point of going to events like Scardiff is to meet with the people who read my books. From that point of view, it was a huge success.
DLS - The apocalypse is upon us…which five books would you take with you into your end-of-the-world hideout?
D Moody – ‘The Day of the Triffids’ by John Wyndham, ‘The War of the Worlds’ by HG Wells, ‘Domain’ by James Herbert, ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, and something very long and non-apocalyptic that I haven’t read before to distract me from Armageddon.
DLS - You have a TV, a DVD player and power (whilst it lasts) in said hideout. What five films would accompany you?
D Moody – As with the previous question, I’m making the assumption you want me to list my favourite films here... though I have to say that if I was stuck in a hideout after the unthinkable had happened, these movies are probably the very last thing I’d want to watch! My number one movie is ‘Threads’ – the BBC TV movie from 1985 which depicted a nuclear attack on Sheffield. Utterly terrifying, and required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in all things apocalyptic. In no particular order, here are my other top films: ‘Children of Men’, ‘The Fly’ (1985 Cronenberg remake), ‘The Old Dark House’ (a classic 1932 Universal horror), and finally it’s a close-run thing between any of Romero’s original ‘Dead’ trilogy (definitely NOT his later zombie movies), and ‘Alien’.
DLS – You recently announced that your Infected Books brand has gone through a complete overhaul in its principal focus. Can you tell us a little more about what has changed, your reasons behind the shift in its purpose, and what your hopes are for the future of Infected Books?
D Moody – Infected Books has had a long history (for a very small, independent press). Back in 2005, when I started writing and publishing under the Infected Books brand, it was intended to be a smoke-screen of sorts – something I could hide behind. Back then, self-publishing was frowned upon (in certain quarters it still is), and my aim was to independently publish my books but make them look as professional as possible. My bench-mark was to make them indistinguishable from any other traditionally published book. When my back catalogue was acquired by Thomas Dunne Books of New York in 2008, I shuttered the business, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d go back to it at some stage. In 2012 I rewrote ‘Trust’, and it seemed logical to re-launch Infected. The book was a success, and I followed it up with the subsequent re-releases of ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ and ‘Straight to You’. Each new release was more successful than the last, and it became clear to me just how much the publishing industry had changed in the years between my first forays into publishing and today. I then experimented with the eBook only release of ‘The Cost of Living’, and the reception it received really blew me away. With every sale it became clearer and clearer that I could make a decent living from Infected Books, and be my own lord and master again. That’s something which really appeals. But the company had become little more than a glorified bookstore, and I’d taken to using the site to sell signed copies of my ‘Autumn’ and ‘Hater’ books from the US and UK publishers. So I decided to shut the whole thing down and start again, re-launching Infected as a publisher, first and foremost. I’ve also branched out into publishing the work of other authors I admire, starting with Wayne Simmons. As I’ve already mentioned, I released his novella ‘The Girl in the Basement’ a short while ago and it’s doing really well.
DLS – In the same announcement you also hinted at launching a sister arm to your publishing vehicle under the name Infected Films. Can you elaborate a little more on your plans and hopes for this new venture?
D Moody – this is really an extension of the work I detailed in my previous answer. In answer to an earlier question, film-making is still something I’d love to be involved with, but it’s taken until now for me to be in a position where it’s a viable option (in fact, if I’m honest I’d say I’m still a good 12 – 24 months away from actually making a start). When I left school all those years ago, the technology and knowledge just wasn’t available to allow people to make films independently. Now things are very different. Professional kit is well within the reach of pretty much anyone, and I think we’re getting very close to the stage where folks will be able to self-publish a movie in the way you can presently self-publish a book. So that, in effect, is where Infected Films will come in. Obviously the economies of film production are very different, so a modified approach will be required. I’ve a plan in place to generate an initial budget from the proceeds of Infected Books, use those funds to create some high-quality shorts, then use the buzz from those shorts to either drive a crowd-funding initiative or to gain investment from financiers to produce a full feature. This is very much a work in progress, but I’m hopeful of getting somewhere before the end of 2016.
David, thank you so much for taking the time out to answer all of those questions. And thank you again for agreeing to be the first interviewee on DLS Reviews. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Check out David Moody’s impressive back catalogue here…