1 – David, what is your all-time favourite horror book or movie, you know the one that always makes you jump 5 feet in the air or fill your pants?
That’s such a tough question! How can I narrow it down to one?! Okay... I’ll pad things out by telling you about a few other favourites first. Book-wise, the two books which really switched me on to horror and made me want to write are The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, and Domain by James Herbert. Triffids is an extraordinary book, not least because even though it’s the story of walking plants that eat people,
it’s uncomfortably believable. Domain, on the other hand, is just horrific from the
first through to the last pages. Both are incredible reads I’d highly recommend. In
terms of movies, I’ll cheat again and list four classics: Alien, Cronenberg’s remake
of The Fly, Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, and, of course, Night of the Living
Dead. But the real answer to your question, the one movie which still disturbs me
despite being almost 30 years old, is a film you may not have come across. It’s
called Threads and it’s a BBC drama/documentary about the effects of a nuclear
attack on England. It’s an incredibly shocking and powerful movie which truly
pulls no punches. It’ll give you nightmares for months.
2 – My favorite David Moody quote is from your bio on the back fold of Them or Us, “He lives in Britain with his wife and a houseful of daughters, which may explain his preoccupation with Armageddon.” Have your daughters read your books? Do they like them?
I have three step-daughters and two daughters, so you can imagine they’re not all into the same things. That said, most of them have at least made an attempt to read some of my books! I think it must be really strange for them, because books are incredibly personal to the author. When I look back, I often find I’ve been writing about myself or my life, so there will inevitably be things in the books that the girls can relate to or which will, at least, make them stop and think. One of the girls in particular has read a lot of my work. She worked her way through the entire Hater trilogy last summer, and was really enthusiastic about the series. Like I said, though, it must be strange for them. The Cost of Living was inspired by us moving house a couple of years back. The setting for the story is actually our family home!
3 – Danny, Stuart and Keith are not your typical PA heroes. They are not elite military personnel, they are your “average Joe” not “G.I. Joe”. Why do you go in that atypical direction?
That’s a good question. I think there are two main reasons. Firstly, it stems from my fascination for people watching. I know that makes me sound strange, but there’s nothing sinister about it! I just love to observe the way people react and interact... how their behaviours are shaped by circumstance. I write about ordinary people because I know ordinary people. I am one! I like to take these folks and put them into extraordinary situations to see how they’ll react, and that’s why so many of my stories have apocalyptic overtones. We adapt our behaviours constantly to what society expects from us, and I think it’s only when our backs are truly against the wall that we show our true colours and behave how we want to behave – how we need to behave, not how society tells us we should. The other reason I like to write about ordinary people is that I think it allows the reader to fully identify with the characters, and if they do that it’s easier for them to buy into the story and become engrossed in the books.
4 – How many years did you spend in a dead end cubical job? You know it so well.
Too many! In fact, as I’m answering this, it’s twenty-five years to the day since I started working for a high street bank here in the UK. The last ten years, though, have been spent dipping in and out of paid work to supplement my writing income. In fact, I’m about to start a new job. I’m actually looking forward to it! I think I’ve spent too long sitting alone in my office, and I’m looking forward to getting out and mixing with folks in a new environment again.
5 – David, I “discovered” the Hater series only last year, I ate it up. It is not quite a zombie book, and it is told from the “zombie” perspective. What inspired you to take that point of view?
I’m going to be deliberately vague with my answer here, because I want people to go in fresh if they haven’t yet read the books. The honest answer is I didn’t realise I was writing another zombie-esque book until late on in the writing process. I got to a particular scene (which you’ll know if you’ve read it), and I thought wait... what if...? I made a single change which altered the direction of the rest of the book and the series as a whole. Interestingly, I think one of the major themes of the series is that there are two sides to every story, and no matter how right you might feel about your actions, and how wrong you think someone else is, you can bet that they’re thinking the exact same about you. It’s all about perspective. If zombies could feel, they’d feel as justified trying to eat you as you would trying to decapitate them!
6 – In the Cost of Living I really enjoyed reading about the earlier versions of the story that were just not right. As an author, have you put something out there that you were not 100% satisfied with?
Never knowingly. I always look back at my writing once I’ve finished and, if I’m not completely satisfied, it doesn’t get released. The short story version of The Cost of Living, for example, remained unpublished until I bundled it with the recent novella purely to show how the story had developed. All that said, things change over time. Over the last few years I’ve re-released my earliest novels – Straight to You and Trust – but completely re-written versions. Though I was originally happy with the original versions, I found myself distancing from them over time. I’m not as bad as George Lucas (releasing special editions and extra-special editions and extra-extra-special editions), but looking back at those original books I could see areas which needed substantial improvement. It was twenty years between me starting the first version of Straight to You and releasing the original (back in February this year). In the two decades between I learned an enormous amount about writing and characterisation which I was able to apply to the new version of the book.
7 – I am a huge fan of English history. I also know that I rarely visit the great landmarks in my own backyard. What is the most significant landmark in your “backyard” that you take forgranted?
You’re right – it’s so easy to take the area where you live for granted. Our house is built on the grounds of a mental hospital, which is exceptionally cool for me as a horror author! Opposite our front door is a remarkable abandoned chapel – soon to be turned into houses – and I remember being blown away when I saw it for the first time. Now we’re used to it, and hardly give it a second glance! I think one of the coolest things about this area, is that JRR Tolkien grew up not far from where I live. There’s a mill at the end of a street where I used to play, which was the inspiration for Bag End. There are also two towers nearby which inspired the towers in the Lord of the Rings.
8 – If only one of your books was to survive the apocalypse and still be read in a thousand years time, which one would you want it to be?
A tough question! Can I cheat again? I think I’d like either the whole Autumn or whole Hater series to survive, because they both have an over-reaching story arc which, I think, says a lot about people as a whole. If I had to narrow it down to one book, I’d say the final Hater novel, Them or Us. It’s about the futility of fighting, and how little we have to gain from it. It’s not as moralistic as it sounds, but I think it packs a decent punch.
9 – Reading the introduction to Isolation, I had a sickening feeling in my stomach when I read, “this is going to be my last word on zombies for the foreseeable future.” What is in the future for David Moody? You aren’t going to start writing books with a happily ever after, are you?
I don’t think so! Although all this doom and gloom does take its toll! I just feel like I need a change of direction, so I’m exploring a few new avenues. In development at the moment I have a middle-grade book (which I can’t say anything about), and a four book horror/science-fiction series called The Spaces Between. I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Nordic Noir’ TV (such as the original versions of The Killing and The Bridge) and I also recently binge-watched all of Breaking Bad. The Spaces Between takes inspiration from some of those programmes I’ve mentioned, and gives them a definite dystopian/ apocalyptic spin.
10 – Do you have a plan for the apocalypse, or will you just wing it?
I reckon I’ll end up just winging it. I’ve always thought that no matter how well you prepare, when the shit actually does hit the fan, most people will fall apart. Either that or they’ll stick their heads in the sand and act like nothing’s happened. Emma Mitchell – one of the main characters from the Autumn series – just goes back to bed when the rest of the world is struck down by a deadly disease! I do have something of a plan, actually... or maybe it’s just a rule I’d try to follow. Stay away from other people. Whatever all the other survivors are doing, I think I’ll try and do the opposite. Think about it... when you watch apocalyptic movies or read books set at the end of the world, it’s usually folks bickering and fighting with each other that causes all the damage. I’ll keep myself to myself and wait for it all to blow over!
October Month of Horror - Interview
2 Book Lovers Reviews
(photo credit: Deb Cosgrove photography).