“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!