“DAVID MOODY first self-published HATER in 2006, and without an agent, succeeded in selling the film rights for the novel to Mark Johnson (producer, Breaking Bad) and Guillermo Del Toro (director, The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth). His seminal zombie novel AUTUMN was made into an (admittedly terrible) movie starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine. Moody has a unhealthy fascination with the end of the world and likes to write books about ordinary folks going through absolute hell. With the publication of a new series of Hater stories, Moody is poised to further his reputation as a writer of suspense-laced SF/horror, and “farther out” genre books of all description. Find out more about his work at www.davidmoody.net and www.infectedbooks.co.uk."
-Taken from his site.
A favorite theme of yours is the end of the world. How do you think you would fare in an apocalypse scenario?
I’d like to think pretty well, but then I guess we all naively think the same, don’t we? The reality of the apocalypse will inevitably be very different to the romanticised, filtered and toned-down version we spend so long watching, reading, writing and dreaming about. Tell you the truth, my apocalypse survival plan is very dull, but I think it’ll do the trick. Step one – watch what everyone else is doing, then do the opposite. If there’s one thing being an end-of-the-world obsessive has taught me, it’s that it’s usually other survivors who’ll kill you. Step two – hunker down for about six months. I reckon if you can a). find yourself a bunker or safe space somewhere, b). stockpile enough supplies to see you through a couple of hundred days, and c). manage not to go insane because of the worry and isolation etc., then you should be okay. What kind of world you find yourself returning to though is anyone’s guess.
How did you feel when you decided to put Autumn out yourself for free?
I really had no idea if anyone was going to find it. I need to say at the outset that this was 2001, and both the internet and publishing were very different places back then. For example, eBooks were only just beginning to be thought about... there was a huge number of different formats beginning to emerge, and each had its own supporters. I think at one point I made Autumn available in 20+ different formats (pre-Kindle, most downloads were Word, pdf and Microsoft Reader, for any nerds who are interested). The story behind offering the free download was that I’d released my first novel (Straight to You), and it had sunk without trace. When it came to releasing my next book, my key goal was to get it into the hands of as many readers as possible, so giving it away for free seemed to be a logical way of doing that. Bear in mind that back then, giving a novel away was a pretty unique idea. These days most people’s Kindles seem full of freebies that no one ever reads. I think I was lucky – I hit the market at the right time with a decent book, and it took off. I had around half a million downloads in a relatively short period of time, which led to a series of sequels, an audio adaptation and the movie. It was still a real leap of faith, though. I justified it to myself by thinking I could either start sending the book to editors, one at a time, or I could just give it to everyone at once!
How does it feel having an "admittedly terrible" film adaptation out there?
Someone said to me right at the beginning of the process that having a terrible film made of your book is better than having no film made at all. And they were right, I guess. The people behind the Autumn movie approached the project with a huge amount of passion, and they pulled together a good cast (Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine starred). Unfortunately, budgetary and technical limitations really compromised the end result, and the director was a little overambitious – he wanted to make a deep, thoughtful and moving horror film, whilst the audience and marketing people were just looking for another zombie flick. If you know the book, you’ll probably enjoy the film. If you’ve not read the book, you might be scratching your head in places. Ultimately, I’m glad it was made. I got to spend a week in Canada on set and star as a zombie. I re-watched it a while ago and my thoughts are here: http://bit.ly/32Er7q4 My greatest ambition remains to make a bug-budget TV adaptation of the entire Autumn series. That would be phenomenal.
What was it like to then have names like Mark Johnson and Guillermo Del Toro associated with your work?
Incredibly exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time! Having del Toro attached in particular immediately kick-started my professional writing career and gave me the kind of exposure and sales I’d only been able to dream about before. All these years later I still have to pinch myself – I have no idea how these people found my work, but I’m so glad they did. It’s a shame that the del Toro movie stalled, because it would have been fascinating to see what he did with the Hater premise. I’m now working with another team on the movie, and I’m very excited. The script is excellent and now it’s a question of trying to get the project off the drawing board and in front of the cameras.
Do you find it more challenging to write the first in a series or a sequel?
That’s a great question! I think it varies project by project. In many ways, every book can be a challenge to write. With a series, if you’ve planned the whole series arc out, then there’s a lot of pressure to get it right with book one and make it a success, otherwise you’re struggling to move forward on uneven foundations, as well as potentially struggling to find a decent-sized audience for what’s to follow. I have a couple of series I’m working on now which I’ve planned right through, and it’s proving hard to juggle all the details – I want to sow the seeds of what’s going to happen in the first book, but without giving too much information away. Conversely, with a series like Autumn where the story grew organically over the course of a decade, the further you get into the story, the more the pressure can increase. It’s vital that if you’ve written a series that a large readership has enjoyed and invested their time and emotion into, you have to give them the satisfying conclusion they deserve.
How do you think the literary landscape has changed since you released Straight to You?
Without question it’s barely recognisable. I think the internet is what we have to both thank and blame for that! It’s changed almost every aspect of our life immeasurably in the time since I wrote and released the first version of Straight to You in 1996 (I rewrote it 20 years later... loved the story still, but I hated my youthful and inexperienced writing). Looking back at my earlier stories, it’s quite startling how insular we used to be back in the days before the internet. If the world started falling apart, all we could do would be to look outside and see what was happening in our immediate neighbourhood – there was no question of checking social media to see what was happening anywhere else in the world. That shift of focus has inevitably shaped a lot of fiction. It’s also thrown up a new dichotomy – now we’re so used to being connected to everyone and everything else, what happens when that connection is severed? I think that’s a fascinating premise. Another internet-led shift has been the availability of entertainment on demand. You can now download pretty much anything at any time. That’s led to niche topics of interest finding their way into the mainstream (zombies being a case in point). It’s made it easier to get your work out there, but infinitely harder to get noticed.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading a number of different books, both new releases and classics. I recently finished Guillermo del Toro and Claudia Funke’s adaptation of Pan’s Labyrinth, which was a book I loved, even though I wasn’t sure when I picked it up – a novelisation of a classic film from a decade ago? It turned out to be an excellent novel. The film’s about how an innocent child deals with the horrors of war, and the impact of the story is somehow even more powerful in written form. I’m currently reading my friend Craig DiLouie’s forthcoming novel, Our War, and it’s proving to be an uncomfortable read – very prophetic. I also mentioned the classics. I re-read my favourite novel earlier this year, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, and I’ve been working my way through some of his other novels such as The Kraken Wakes. I recently compiled a list of well-regarded post-apocalyptic novels I’ve not yet read, and I’ll be taking a pile of them on holiday with me later this year. My wife and I are going on a cruise around Norway, and no romantic holiday for two is complete without a heap of dystopian novels, is it? That’s what I tell her, anyway!
If you could recommend one of your books to someone who was unfamiliar with your work, which would you choose?
I’d have to say Hater, because it’s my most famous title and I think it’s also the most accessible. It’s quite a high concept book, actually, but I tried to write it in a very grounded way and because of that it appeals to quite a broad audience. Ultimately, it’s a zombie story told from a new perspective, but the zombies aren’t zombies, and although you think you know who’s who, all that changes when . . . wait. I’m not going to say anymore. I don’t want to give the game away. If you’ve not read any of my books, please pick up a copy.
In your list of recommended movies, you included Paddington 2. What are the chances of a David Moody release geared towards younger audiences?
I have a YA novel in the vaults about a young lad and his pet Kaiju. I wrote it a few years back and though I was happy with it at the time, both my agent and I agreed there was something missing. I think I know what that is now, so it’s just a question of finding the time to go back and work on the manuscript again. It’ll happen, I just don’t know when. I’m very keen for the book to see the light of day though. Imagine Paddington meets Godzilla meets Kes and you’ll be somewhere near. It’s definitely an odd one. I would love to write more for younger audiences, though, and it’s certainly in my long-term plan to do so.
How important do you think a well-designed website is for an author today?
I think it’s vital, and I’m surprised how few authors have a comprehensive site these days. Social media is all well and good, but I think you need a single online space where readers can find out everything they need to know about you – full details about (and links to buy) all of your books, a biography, recommendations, recent news, FAQs etc. I invest a lot of time in my site, and over the years it’s paid dividends. I do use social media a lot, but I tend to use it to direct people over to www.davidmoody.net!
If you could boil your bibliography down to one moral principle that defines the ethics of your books, what would it be?
I’m a realist, and I believe the human race is hardwired to destroy itself. Society is tragically flawed because, no matter what we might say to the contrary, we’re all pre-programmed to protect ourselves and our loved ones at the expense of everyone else. Sorry – I know how grim and depressing that might sound, but I believe it’s true! My books are typically about that conflict – do we save society, or do we save ourselves? If you think I’m just a miserable bugger, stop and ask yourself what you’d do.
What was the hardest creative choice for you to make as an author?
That’s another interesting question, and I’ve got a couple of answers to this. First, a story might not always work out the way you’d hoped. Sometimes you can steer a project down the wrong route, other times you might not yet be ready to write it. I know that’s been the case with me before: I’ve started writing something then abandoned it for many years, before picking it up again much further down the line. Straight to You was a perfect case in point – the version I wrote in 2014 was far superior than the 1996 original, because in the 18 or so years between versions I’d got married, had kids, bought a house etc. All those experiences added so much weight to the characters in the novel. You need to be able to accept when you’ve taken a piece of writing in the wrong direction. Interestingly, and this the truth, I’ve been planning a 5 book horror/science-fiction series called The Spaces Between for years, but I know I can’t write it until I know what’s going on with Brexit...! The second point I’d make here is that your gut feeling is usually the right option. If you’re writing something and your instinct tells you to take the story in a certain direction, follow that instinct. It might make it harder to write, but chances are it’ll benefit your story in the long run. I think I might just have contradicted myself with this answer, but I think that shows how deceptively difficult writing can be
(Brace yourself, obvious question incoming...) What can we expect for you in the future?
Right now I’m working on a novel called Was She Ever There? which is a bit of a departure from what I’ve written previously. My books are quite niche, and this is my attempt to take my brand of weirdness into the mainstream! After that I’m going to be working on a collaboration with two authors from the US, before starting work on a new series of Autumn novels (two or three – not sure yet). After that, assuming Brexit is resolved one way or another, I’ll finally start work on The Spaces Between!
Robert Walicki’s work has appeared in over 50 journals, including Pittsburgh City Paper, Fourth River,Chiron Review, and Red River Review. A Pushcart and a Best of The Net nominee, Robert has published two chapbooks: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press), which was nominated to the 2016 List of Books for New York City’s Poets House. His first full-length collection, Black Angels, is now available from Pittsburgh’s Six Gallery Press.
What was the moment that made you realize that writing was more than just a hobby for you?
I think when the level of my writing grew to the point where I felt it was good enough to submit to publications.Also, when the desire to write shifted from needing to write made me realize that this was a vocation.
How great of a challenge is it for you to put together a monthly reading series with Versify?
Since Versify as a series concluded, I can say that it's been one of my most proudest achievements, that said, it's much less challenging putting together a series in a city that's bursting with literary talent as Pittsburgh is. I had two goals in this series. One, was to provide a forum for everyone. I never wanted anyone to feel marginalized in the literary community. Second, I wanted to put together readers who organically generated a synergy, whether they complimented or contrasted each other, and I like to think to that end,I was successful.
How would you say your work as a plumber has influenced your writing?
It was difficult for me to write about these experiences at first, because I couldn't wrap my head around the concept of creating a poetic language for these "common" experiences. That said, I eventually realized that this was something that I needed to be writing about. My working life has shaped who I am in more ways than even I realized at the time. It's been a challenge too, in striking the balance between the musicality of language vs the authentic working class language that needs to be present, for these poems to ring true, be earned and yet still feel like a poem.
How would you describe your performance style to someone who has never seen you read?
I've worked at this, because I'm an introvert by nature, but I'd have to say that my performances tend to be emotional. I like there to be somewhat of narrative arc to my reading I want to be fulfilling and hopefully have a little something for everybody.
What movie can you throw on any day of the week?
Oh man, it would probably be Star Wars. I'm still an overgrown kid at heart. And I still love Sci-Fi/fantasy. I love escaping into a movie adventuring into a different world.
Has healthy competition like entering in Concrete Wolf Chapbook Contest affected your approach to writing in any way?
Competitions can affect one in positive and negative ways. I approach it with a grain of salt. What I know is, that we can't look to competitions to validate our worth, as so many factors that have nothing to do with our talent, go into whether a piece is accepted or rejected. That said, I've found that preparing a piece for a competition really pushes me to polish my writing and pay attention to editing.
Of any living writers, who would your dream line-up to perform with consist of?
Wow, I would love to read with someone like Dorianne Laux , Ellen Bass,Natalie Diaz, Jan Beatty, Heather McNaugher. There are so many more, although these poets have been quiet mentors throughout much of my writing life, in so many inspiring ways.
What goes into the title of one of your books?
I struggle with titles, but when I find one, I know it when I see it. My most recent book for example, "Black Angels " came originally from a Velvet Underground song, and like the title poem, which was originally called Angel of Death. A title I believe, needs to both inform and create a sense of mystery and restraint in telling the reader what a poem is about. I like to leave that revelation up to the reader though, let them decide what it means for them.
Is Fellini's pizza a real place or an homage to the filmmaker?
It's a real place,but kind of a happy accident as well.
I've noticed a minor trend of Lego references in your work. Any particular reason for that?
Interesting. Sometimes we aren't aware of elements that tend to be fixated on or write about a lot, but I always like to include tactile, grounded elements in my poems that can act as metaphors or simple imagery that creates a strong sense of place and time.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I have another full length poetry collection called "Fountain ", which was just accepted by Main St Rag Press, so I'm excited about seeing that in print in the near future!
Thanks again to Robert Walicki for agreeing to do this interview and for his awesome answers. Please do yourself a favor and check him out at the following links:
Red Bird Chapbooks: https://www.redbirdchapbooks.com/RobertWalicki
Sarah Lynn Novak is the author of YA novels Smacked and Voices. She also has two poetry collections, This One's for you: Quotes and Poems for Different Situations and Through The Cracks: Short poems written from a dark place.
Your bio states you're working on a new project titled “Triggered.” How has that been going?
Really well! I slightly tweaked the plot and the motive behind the anonymous antagonist "The Deliverer" so all the loopholes have fallen into place. No specific deadline yet but definitely want to have a first full draft completed by the end of the year.
Which form did you begin writing first, poetry or fiction? On the first draft, do you generally know what form it will take, or do you find that it crosses over?
Fiction. I was reading a ton of R.L. Stine books when I was 11 and loved all of his fun plot twists. So one day I just thought to myself, "I want to try this" and I wrote an awful short horror story about a haunted house. On first drafts in fiction, I always know what form it will take from the beginning (usually first person narrative). In poetry, I sometimes transition between rhyming and free verse depending on the tone of the poem.
As a poet, how important is accessibility of meaning to you? How do you balance making demands on readers with taking care of them?
It's hard because I know not everyone understands poetry and that's ok! But I feel like my poems are pretty easy to follow and I try to keep them short but still powerful. As for fiction, that's an entirely different challenge to balance what I want from the readers vs. what they want from me. My stories tend to walk a tightrope of inspirational and unsettling. I want the readers to feel everything but I don't want to completely bum them out either after they finish the book.
What's your schedule like when you're writing? What keeps you on track?
I mostly write in bursts when the mood strikes or a dialogue comes to mind. I don't really believe in word count or anything like that but I have lately made an effort to keep myself in the mood for longer periods of time. I'll listen to certain songs or watch certain tv shows/movies of the same genre to keep it in my head.
To me, Smacked and Voices seem to be very character-driven works, where the perceptions and reactions of the characters carry the story. How much time do you spend on developing characters? Did any of them surprise you on how much of the heavy lifting they could do?
I started writing Smacked when I was 17 so both of the main characters were developed from parts of myself. More-so, the character Juliana because we were both starting a new school in our senior year and struggling through a first bout of depression. Locke was developed more from observing other people in my life, imagination, and some very loosely related parts of myself. In Voices, Skye and Randy were created more from imagination, empathy, and twisted fun.
The one character that surprised me was Ivy from Voices who started out as a minor antagonist to Skye. As the story progressed, I ended up finding a way to tie her to both Randy and Skye in a way that i hadn't known until the middle of writing. I also feel that she developed into somewhat of an antihero but I'll say no more.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing to keep in mind when writing YA?
Teenagers are the hardest audience to keep interest and relevancy, especially in today's rapidly changing times. I think the most important thing is to be more empathetic to their way of thinking and their behavior, rather than be critical. And of course, remember that times are much different than when I was a teenager so it's not always a fair comparison.
Many readers comment that they deeply and meaningfully connect with your work. Do you have any advice for fellow writers on connecting with their audience?
Just don't be afraid to get personal. I've dealt with chronic depression off and on for a while and it often plays a big role in many of my books but the readers seem to relate to that the most, so I don't mind sharing it anymore.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
Much of my content is quite dark but I never intend to glorify any of that. We live in society that is constantly telling us "Good vibes only!" and yet treating depression and anxiety as an aesthetic rather than an actual human struggle. People aren't getting a realistic sense of emotion anymore. I think it's important that we confront all emotions, good and bad, rather than masking them in endless false happiness or even worse, glamorization. I just want my readers to be more in touch with their internal selves, whether it's negative or positive, so that they have a better grip on how to cope with the bad emotions.
Check out Sarah's website here.
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Photo Credit: Sarah Lynn Novak
Briana Morgan is a YA fantasy and horror writer, playwright, coach, and freelance editor. Her works include Blood and Water and Reflections, A Writer's Guide to Slaying Social, and Touch: A One Act Play.
As a lover of writing, what do you enjoy most about the process?
What I enjoy most about the writing process is that no two days are ever the same, and neither are two books. Each presents a unique set of challenges to overcome and rewards to reap. Each is satisfying in a new way.
As a novelist and playwright is your approach different when writing one or the other? What appeals to you about each form?
Each format has its advantages and disadvantages. Certain stories work better as novels full of internal musings and rich description. Others make more sense acted out and left to the whims of a director, producer, actors, and stage manager. I love the depth of worldbuilding that writing a novel allows. To a certain extent, you can also achieve that with a play, but it isn’t quite the same. With plays, the appeal for me mostly lies in stripping a story down to its purest elements (dialogue, characters, emotional beats, etc.).
You've written several books, articles, a play on top of being active on YouTube and Instagram—how do you keep up momentum?
I also have a day job! Trust me, it’s challenging to keep track of all that. I won’t pretend it isn’t. But luckily, I’ve always been an extensive planner obsessed with making lists. A little forethought and organization helps me fit everything into my life. I schedule content in advance so I spend less time stressing and more time engaging.
In an interview with A New Look on Books, you mention that you love writing badass heroines—what's on your checklist for creating strong female characters?
It’s hard for me to answer this one because every female character is stronger in a different way. After all, there is no “right” way to be a woman in the world. With that said, I always recommend subverting tropes as much as possible, and focus on making the character human, rather than simply focusing on their femininity.
As a plotter, what are your outlines like? Do you find yourself revising or do you stick faithfully to the initial outline?
It’s taken me a long time to develop my plotting process, and I’m constantly tweaking my outlines. My structure is loosely based on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I make sure to hit all the big beats and then fill in the gaps, focusing on cause and effect. I’m still learning about outlining and what works best for me though, so I imagine my process will keep evolving along with my knowledge and experience.
Rose Therman advises writers, “In the planning state of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” As a panster turned plotter, what are your thoughts on her advice?
There’s something to be said about knowing where a story will go while still remaining open to change. Before I write a draft, I have some idea of the ending, a point of reference to work toward. Often this ending changes as I get to know and understand my characters better, and that’s okay. I’m always in favor of a more organic, flexible outline and an ending that does your story and characters justice.
With your experience with Blood and Water, do you have any advice for fellow writers on self-publishing?
My biggest advice for self-publishing is not to publish until you’re ready. I felt a weird self-imposed pressure while working on my first book, which led to me releasing it much earlier than was probably wise. This also led me to rerelease the book a few years later. I think if I had given myself a little more time, been a little more patient, I wouldn’t have felt the need to do it. That said, I have never regretted my decision to add content and rerelease the book. The new edition is so much stronger than the original work, and closer to my initial vision for the novel.
I've heard that in the era of social media the author has to balance being a creator with being a public figure. What are your thoughts?
I agree. I’ve seen authors destroy or seriously maim their careers with poorly worded social media posts, and I advise everyone to remember that what you post on social media will be seen by more people than you can imagine, and people will take you to task for problematic opinions. I don’t say that to discourage people from using social media, but I think it’s important to keep it in mind so you don’t harm your chances of selling books, getting an agent, or anything like that.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I coach how I like to be coached. I focus on nurturing not only a writer’s current project, but also their future career. I love helping my clients brainstorm goals and strategizing ways to help them achieve their goals.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I’m also a fiction editor specializing in working with independent authors! For more information about my editing services, visit my website, and send me a message if you have any questions. I also have a YouTube channel where I post new videos about writing, editing, publishing, and social media for authors every Friday. When not writing, you can find me engaging with friends and fans on Instagram and Twitter.
Photo Credit: Briana Morgan