Author David J. Moody Talks the Autumn Series, Hater, and More!
Back in 2005 a little-known British horror writer published a series of books under his own publishing banner, Infected Books. These books, collectively called the Autumn Series, had already created quite a sensation when the author, David J. Moody, made them available for download and nearly half a million people did so. Now some big publishing houses have taken note, and on October 26th St. Martin’s will be publishing the first book in the series, Autumn (in the UK Gollancz will be bringing the book out October 28th).
Moody is also the author of Hater, which has been optioned by Guillermo del Toro, and its sequel, Dog Blood. THIS is a guy all horror readers should take note of.
Dread Central recently had the opportunity to interview the prolific writer and find out a bit more what he has in store for us Autumn fans. We have been warned...
Dread Central: Thank you so much for taking time to do this interview with Dread Central. Now, how about a little background information about David J. Moody? Just the facts and any entertaining tidbits you might want readers to know.
David Moody: It’s a pleasure! I’ve been a massive fan of horror and science fiction for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always had a morbid fascination with books and films dealing with the end of the world. I think my earliest post-apocalyptic memory was being scared shitless at a very early age by seeing When Worlds Collide on TV. I remember looking at that planet in the sky which was about to crash into Earth and wondering what was happening to everyone else – not those lucky people being saved from Armageddon in their retro silver spaceship that the movie focused on, but the billions of other people left behind. I became addicted to horror movies – initially old Universal and Hammer classics (which were all we could get in the UK at the time thanks to the over-reactionary government of the day which labeled most of the films I wanted to see as "video nasties" and banned them), but then I discovered George Romero, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, and I decided that I wanted to make movies myself. Unfortunately, when I left school, I didn’t have any relevant experience or qualifications and ended up working in a bank to pay the bills. While I was there, I started writing, figuring that if I couldn’t film the stories I was coming up with, I’d try to put them into novel form to at least get them out to some kind of audience. My first book – Straight to You – didn’t sell in huge numbers so when I’d finished my next book (Autumn), I decided to give it away via my website. Everything else really snowballed from that.
DC: Autumn, the first book in a five-part series, is coming out here in the States on October 26th, but this isn’t a truly “brand new” novel. It got its start as a downloadable tale on your website and then was published by a small press. How did the actual story that became Autumn come about? There are definitely tips of the hat to George Romero and Night of the Living Dead as well as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later.
DM: As I’ve already mentioned, I did originally make Autumn available as a free download through my site. After one less than successful brush with the publishing industry, I didn’t want to get straight onto the submission/rejection merry-go-round again. All I wanted was to get the book to as many people as possible to build up an audience and start developing a name for myself. The free download was a huge success with around half a million people picking up the book during the seven years or so it was available online. In 2005 I was made redundant (the bank moved my job to Sri Lanka, but I decided not to go with it), and I used the time and some of my redundancy cheque to found Infected Books – a very small publishing house – to get my books into print. There’s always been a stigma attached to self-publishing (rightly so, in lots of cases) so using the Infected Books brand as a cover gave me a little more credibility. I’d written a series of sequels to Autumn, along with several other novels, which I then published myself and managed to generate some decent sales figures.
The story which eventually became Autumn started as an "empty Earth" tale where a handful of people wake up one day to find everyone else dead. I was interested in looking at the loneliness and isolation such a situation would inevitably result in, but the story was definitely missing something. It didn’t take long to work out that it was zombies! I’d watched Romero’s Night of the Living Dead countless times, and I loved the coldness and bleakness of it. But there were aspects of NOTLD and other zombie stories that I personally didn’t find so satisfying. Autumn gave me the opportunity to put a slightly new spin on the living dead which would hopefully a) make them even more frightening, and b) not upset the zombie purists too much!
DC: I absolutely loved how Autumn set up the characters of Carl, Michael and Emma and then had them trying to stay safe from the risen dead in an old English farmhouse. And the absolute desolation of the Penn Farm and the growing population of the walking dead, along with the sojourns out to find provisions, made for some very unsettling, creepy reading. And again, there is little to no gore for gore’s sake, but it just works. What did you set out to do when you created the Autumn series? What was your initial “plan”?
DM: As I mentioned, there were some aspects of the traditional zombie mythos that didn’t work for me. I could never understand flesh eating, for example. Why would something that’s dead need to eat? Zombies don’t stop for toilet breaks, do they? They don’t sleep, they don’t drink ... so why would they eat? I know it’s all academic and you could come up with a hundred and one viable reasons why they might, but it’s just something I’ve never understood, and it’s something I steered away from in the Autumn books. I also get frustrated by the over-reliance on spreading infection in lots of zombie tales. How many times have you seen a film or read a book where one character gets bitten and then hides the bite from the other survivors until he/she "turns" (usually at the least opportune moment) and kills most of the others? I know it’s a staple of the genre, but it’s become something of a cliché.
In Autumn you’ve either got it or you haven’t by the end of the first chapter – you’re dead or you’re alive. I think it gives the stories a different dynamic to most others. Finally, I wanted my zombies to evolve. Again, in your typical zombie story, the first creatures you meet are the same as the last, and the living dead generally remain a constant and unchanging threat. In the Autumn series, however, they develop, and the danger they present steadily increases. They start as dumb, reanimated hunks of flesh which can barely function, but then, over time, their senses start to return and they regain a degree of control. But as this is happening and they’re regaining mental strength, their physical bodies are decaying. So there’s this great paradox – the dead can understand more, but they’re able to do less about it.
Inevitably, therefore, over time the dead bodies in the Autumn books become more and more aggressive and are an ever-increasing threat to the few survivors who remain alive.