What's your background with writing?
Sounds crazy, but I can remember the exact day I started writing seriously: it was the 1st January, 1994. I’d been messing around for a while, trying to write a book but failing miserably, so I set myself a New Year’s resolution – the only resolution I think I’ve ever kept! I gave myself a few basic rules (write at least a page a day, don’t stop and edit until each draft is finished etc. etc.). Within 6 months my first novel – “Straight to You” – was finished. I signed with a small UK publisher and, very unrealistically, expected to be a huge success. The book didn’t sell and so, when it came to getting my next book (“Autumn”) published, I decided to try a different approach. I knew that the most important thing was to get the book out to as many people as possible, and so I started giving the book away for free via my website www.djmoody.co.uk. It was a great success (very few people were giving full books away like that back then). A series of sequels followed, as did a few other novels. I started a small press (Infected Books) to get the books into print and was on the verge of making a decent living for myself when I sold the film rights to a couple of my novels. Following that I signed with Thomas Dunne Books in the UK.
Who are your inspirations/influences?
I always wanted to be a film-maker, not an author (I still do if I’m honest), so most of my influences are from the film world. That said, my favourite book is “The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham. I read it when I was very young (probably too young) and was blown away by the way Wyndham destroyed the world and had mankind under threat from walking plants and yet he still made it feel believable. Another story which had a similar impact was H G Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”. Film-wise, watching Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” was a turning point for me. I grew up loving old Universal monster movies, 1950’s B movies (“Brain from Planet Aros”, “The Day the World Ended” etc.), and Hammer films, but the directors who’ve had the biggest influence on me have to be John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment as a writer?
I think I’d have to say “Hater”, for a number of reasons. It was actually the last book I self-published through Infected Books before being signed to a ‘proper’ publisher. But what I’m most proud of is the fact that my original version of the novel was strong enough to result in an approach for the film rights from major film producers. Not only that, but the book hardly needed any work to prepare it for mainstream publication. There were no major edits and, in several countries, the publishers even used / adapted my original cover art!
If you had to pick a favorite character out of everything that you have written, who and why?
Easy – it would have to be Danny McCoyne, the central character from the “Hater” series. Danny is easily the most believably character I’ve written – he begins the series as an ordinary, struggling, poor, brow-beaten guy who could have been any one of us (I’ll say more about that in a moment!), but he goes on an incredible journey throughout the books and his life changes on almost every conceivable level. He’s become quite controversial – some people hate him because he’s initially a useless, moaning idiot, but others find him easy to identify with for precisely that reason! He’s actually a very autobiographical character, and that’s another reason I love him. Danny was based in part on me, many years back when I found myself in a job I detested, with hardly any cash, living in a house that was too small with my wife and a lot of kids. His frustrations and problems at the beginning of the first book are very reminiscent of the grief I was going through!
The Horror genre has changed a bit through the years, how do you feel the Horror genre is impacting readers in today's world?
It’s funny – Horror is the genre which often gets frowned upon, and yet I think it’s generally the most relevant genre too. People look down their noses at it but horror writers and filmmakers often have a lot to say about the world. I think that horror reflects what’s happening in the world, and that’s never been more the case than today. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, horror played on our fears of Armageddon, stirred up by the Cold War and the perceived threat from the ‘evil Soviet empire’. After that, directors like Romero and Cronenberg made movies which were almost commentaries on the political and sociological issues of the day. I think that horror in the 1980’s and 1990’s had a lot to say about the excesses of those times, and also the rapid changes in the media and its sudden growth were reflected in many stories. These days, though, I think horror is more relevant than ever. I think that’s because, in some ways, we’re living in very frightening times. Terrorism has given us all a faceless enemy – our attackers could be anyone, at any time, in any place. When you combine that with the huge effect that the Internet has had on our lives in making us all more interconnected (instant direct communication, an incredible pool of information on tap, Wikileaks etc.), it makes the world a much more unpredictable and potentially frightening place. The genre seems to reflect that.
You started out with allowing people to see your work on websites and then formed a publishing company of your own to promote your work, how do you feel that helped you as an author?
It was hugely beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a writer, publishing my books in this way gave me an invaluable connection with the people who were finding my stories and reading them. There was a lot of direct feedback which really helped: people often wrote and told me what they liked or didn’t like about my books, and I could speak to them and find out more about why they felt that way. Over time I built up a close group of readers who I’d ask to read all my books before they were released. As well as helping me proof-read, they were as close to an editor as I had. The decision to open Infected Books was an important one. Back then, self-publishing was really not the done thing, and many people wouldn’t give a self-published book the time of day, irrespective of how good it might have been. When I moved into producing print versions of my books, I wanted them to be of the same quality as any other book you might find on the shelves. Using Infected Books as a ‘shield’ to hide behind really helped in that regard. And as the company grew, I learnt a heck of a lot I wasn’t expecting about book production, design, marketing and the industry in general. That knowledge really helped me when I began working with ‘real’ publishers.
What advice would you give to other authors about marketing their work based on your experience?
I guess I’d just repeat what I said above: when you’re publishing your own work, you have to make it appear to be of the same standard as ‘professionally produced’ books. You need to edit and carefully proof read, spend time working on the layout and design etc. Nothing will stop people reading quicker than if your work is riddled with silly mistakes. So having a marketable product is the vital first step. Once you’ve got that, you can start promoting. But don’t expect overnight results (it was almost 15 years between me finishing my first novel and having my first mass-market release). It takes time to build up a readership, and I’d recommend taking every opportunity you can to self-promote. Start a website (that’s absolutely vital) and regularly update it. Link to other similar sites. Join relevant forums (and become an active part of the community, don’t just paste your adverts there!). Start your own message board. Build a mailing list. Add an email signature about your book to every message you send. Produce flyers. Leave post cards in book stores. Attend conventions... the list goes on and on. The final, and perhaps the most important thing I’d say is you should actively seek feedback and act upon it. In my old job I worked as a trainer for a while and we were told there was no such thing as negative feedback – you can often learn much more from bad reviews than from those people who tell you you’re fantastic!
The movie experience with "Autumn" how did you feel about that and "Hater" has been commissioned for a film as well, can you give us more details on that?
I had a mad few weeks a couple of years back when I received enquiries about the availability of film rights to “Hater” and “Autumn” within days of each other. The approaches were very different: a large LA-based production company were interested in “Hater” and, at the other end of the scale, a small, independent Canadian company wanted to obtain the rights to “Autumn”. I decided to go with both, figuring that it would be interesting to get experience of working with people at the extremes of the industry.
The “Autumn” movie was made on a very limited budget and is now available on DVD. There’s a lot to admire about the movie: they achieved a lot with limited resources and managed to pull together a great cast which included Dexter Fletcher (from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and the late David Carradine (in his last film role). The thing about “Autumn” (both the film and the book) is that it divides people – they either love it or hate it. When Carradine died, an unfinished version of the film was leaked online and it generated a lot of bad press which it struggled to recover from. At the end of the day, I’m very proud that the film was made, and it was exceptionally cool to appear in it as a featured zombie!
The “Hater” movie is being produced by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) and Mark Johnson (The Narnia films) and will be directed by J A Bayona (The Orphanage). There hasn’t been a lot of news about the project recently, but I understand that might be about to change...
Can you tell us a little bit about "Hater and Dog Blood?"
The basic premise of “Hater” is simple: as a species, we find so many ways to divide ourselves up – race, age, sex, beliefs etc. etc. What if something happened which would split the human race in two, irrespective of all previous divisions, and what would happen if the people on either side of this new divide knew they had no option but to kill those people who were no longer ‘like them’. Without giving too much away, the first book deals with how individuals deal with the introduction of the divide (parents turn against their kids, lovers try to kill each other, etc. etc.). In book two, “Dog Blood”, the population is well and truly split and a bloody war has broken out which will only end when one side has completely wiped out the other. The final book in the series “Them or Us” will be released in late 2011.
Where did the idea for "Hater" series come from?
I’d been developing the basic idea for the story for a while – I thought the idea of something happening which would immediately and irrevocably change all our existing ties and allegiances would be fascinating. But the story was lacking something. As I was getting ready to write the book in Summer 2005, London was attacked by suicide bombers. It was subsequently revealed that one of the bombers worked in a primary school as a classroom assistant, and I found it incredible that the same person could go from teaching kids one week, to going onto a tube train with a bomb with the sole intention of killing as many people as possible the next. That kind of change of personality became the focus for the book – people being prepared to kill and maim because they believe they’re right and everyone else is wrong.
Who did the artwork for "Hater and Dog Blood"?
I did the original artwork for “Hater”. I knew I wanted something which was visually arresting, but not overly gruesome. I decided to use red on white because I wanted the book to stand out and pretty much every other horror novel I saw at the time seemed to have black, foreboding covers. I used my youngest daughter’s paints and mixed up a pot of ‘blood’, then sat outside on the patio scrawling the word ‘Hater’ over and over on pieces of paper! I’ve already mentioned that I’m incredibly proud of the fact several publishers around the world have used or adapted my original design – it’s a huge compliment. The “Dog Blood” covers have been a little more varied from publisher to publisher, but they’re all very bloody!
Where can we find "Hater and Dog Blood?"
Pretty much everywhere, hopefully! The books are published by Thomas Dunne Books in the US and Gollancz in the UK – both very large publishers – and they can be found at all the usual places online as well as on the shelves of the major book store chains. “Hater” has also been published as an audio book and in many other countries: Germany, France, Spain, Czech, Taiwan, Poland, Portugal, Brazil... hopefully people will be able to find a copy!
Your work has been translated into different languages, how do you feel about the world wide experience of your writing?
Working with foreign publishers has been a really interesting experience as a writer. I’ve had to answer a plethora of questions about the detail of the books, because things you wouldn’t expect have an impact on translation. For example, the Taiwanese translator needed to know a minor character’s precise age because there are different words for younger or older sister! It’s also been interesting to see how the different editions of the books have been packaged and marketed for each country. All the covers are on display at www.infectedbooks.co.uk - you can see a massive variation there.
New authors hear horror stories about working with mainstream publishers, how has the experience been for you and any advice you would give to new authors getting into the publishing area?
Working with a mainstream publisher certainly has its ups and downs, but the ups more than outweigh the downs. There’s such a contrast between mainstream publishing and self-publishing though. When I self-published, I enjoyed the control I had over every aspect of my books. Now that’s gone to an extent and whilst I can have my say and make my voice heard, I’m no longer the only one making the decisions. The different speed of the two approaches to publishing is also something that took me by surprise. When I published myself I could finish a book on one day and have it on sale a few days later. Now there’s a delay of months, sometimes even years before books hit the shelves. My advice for any author new to this side of the business would be to do some research so you know a). what to expect and b). what’s expected of you. Learn how the process works and where you fit in so you don’t get caught out when opportunities present themselves. Publishing is also about networking – get yourself out and about and meet people.
Any new projects in the future you can tell us about?
At the moment I’m busy finishing up both the “Autumn” and “Hater” series and I’m currently planning what to do next. I have lots in mind, but nothing I can talk about just yet!
Any book signings or talk show appearances lined up for future dates?
I’m hoping to get out and about a lot more in 2011. I have a few convention appearances and signings lined up already, and you can find out about them on www.djmoody.co.uk. If things work out the way I’m planning, I’d like to get over to the US next year. I’ve been there as a tourist several times, but it would be great to organize a few signings and events.
Where can people find out more about you?
The best place is online. I’m all over the place, but these are the main sites: