David Moody Interview – Hater

Author David Moody created an online sensation when he published his horror novel, Autumn, via the Internet, racking up more than half a million downloads and spawning a series of sequels. When he published Hater, producer Mark Johnson (the Narnia films) and Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth) asked David for the rights to make it into a movie. How’s that for success right out of the chute? Hater is a modern-day zombie story, sans the zombies.

david moody

A genetic difference in one-third of the population awakens, causing them to violently attack those around them, out of the fear that if they don’t act, they’ll be the ones who get killed.

Currently, the sequel, Dog Blood–the second book in his planned trilogy–is also out at the bookstores, and I had the great pleasure of reviewing that for this site, as well. It, like Hater, is told primarily in the first person by its narrator, the former loving family man Danny McCoyne, who has himself become a Hater. It’s a great novel–I was wondering how the series could continue, with Danny becoming a Hater, but it succeeds quite well, letting us into the perspective of someone who in most novels would be considered the villain.

The Autumn series of novels, more or less traditional zombie stories, are due to be republished over the next eighteen months. The first novel in the series has been made into a movie, with David Carradine in it in a small role, in which he doesn’t want to leave his mother, who has turned into a zombie, behind on her own in her house. It was, I think, David’s final role before his death. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard it’s a good, fun flick.

And now, on to the questions!

Professor Crazy: What first drew you to the horror genre? Who are some of your favorite authors, and who were your biggest influences?

David Moody: I have to be honest, I’ve always been influenced more by films than books (that’s a really bad admission for a writer to make, isn’t it!). I grew up watching the old Universal monster movies – Frankenstein, The Wolfman, etc. It was hard getting hold of horror in the UK during the 1980s (the government at the time banned pretty much everything worth watching), and I think that made me want to watch them even more. My life changed the day I watched Night of the Living Dead, and I’ve been a huge fan of Romero ever since. My favourite director is David Cronenberg, and I also love early John Carpenter movies (pretty much everything up to They Live). There are two books which have been a major influence on me, and those are HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids. Triffids in particular has had a lasting effect on my work. I love the way he combined the ordinary with the extraordinary in the story. When you talk about man-eating plants that can walk, it sounds ridiculous, but the book is frighteningly believable.

Before I ask you about your novels Hater and Dog Blood, could you please tell our readers a little bit about your Autumn books? Also, I was wondering if you ever got the chance to meet David Carradine in person, and, if so, what did you think of him and how he did in the movie version of your book?

Although they are at heart a traditional zombie series, the Autumn books have a number of major differences to most undead stories. Most obviously, the dead aren’t hungry for flesh – I’ve never been able to understand why something which doesn’t drink, sleep, go to the toilet or do anything else like that would need to eat? A second difference is that the bodies in the Autumn books (I never call them zombies) change throughout the series. They start off as dumb, reanimated lumps of meat. But as their physical shells decay, their conscience continues to return, so there’s a great paradox – creatures that are becoming physically weaker but mentally stronger. They’re able to react to the world around them more, but their reactions become increasingly vicious and uncontrollable. Finally, in Autumn you’re either living or your dead – there’s no infection being passed from person to person. I wanted to avoid the cliché that most zombie stories fall into when a key character gets bitten and becomes one of the living dead just at the wrong moment . . .

Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet David Carradine. I visited Canada for the filming of the movie, but I missed him by a week. I think his cameo is an undoubted highlight of the film. He gives a performance which is nothing like anything he’d done previously. I’m honoured that he portrayed a character I created.

How many years ago has it been since you got the germ of the idea for Hater? How long did it take you to write it, and how long was it before you started to get quite a few hits at your website of people clicking on it, and you realized, “Hey, I might have a best-seller here”?

The idea for Hater had been brewing up for some time before I wrote the book in 2006. It seems that every time you look at the news you hear about people fighting each other because of their beliefs, race, sexuality, gender, etc., etc. I wanted to imagine a world where all those differences would suddenly cease to exist and where a new division would emerge that would change everything – and that became the Hate. The book had only been out for a couple of months when I got the call about film rights, so it hadn’t had chance to be a best-seller. It was doing okay, but nothing spectacular. It’s certainly sold a load more copies since being republished by mainstream publishers around the world!

In Hater, you set up an “Us versus Them” sort of dichotomy that carries on into Dog Blood. I could almost hear the Pink Floyd song “Us and Them” playing in my mind as I read the novel. A “fundamental genetic difference between us and them” is awakened one day, and one-third of the populace become Haters.

What are Haters, and why did you choose to call them that? What does the narrator Danny McCoyne first feel about the Haters, and what makes him alter his opinions about them?

First off, I should say that the term ‘Hater’ doesn’t exist in the UK vocabulary the same as in the US, so the label doesn’t have the same connotations. I chose to call them Haters purely because they seem, to everyone else watching, to be purely driven by hate. To me, the ‘Us and Them’ dichotomy you mention is fundamental to the series as a whole. There is no right or wrong, just different perspectives on the same thing. I think Danny’s change of allegiance is something most people would do under similar circumstances, but I don’t want to go into that in too much detail in case people who haven’t read Hater are reading this. The bottom line for me is that, unfortunately, I think we will always look for differences between ourselves and other people before we look for similarities, and that will continue to be a cause of conflict for as long as the human race is around!

The character Preston plays an important part in getting the Haters to realize they need to band together. Who is Preston, and did you model him after any actual, living politician in England?

Preston wasn’t actually based on a politician. Instead, I based him on a British TV reporter (who’s name I won’t mention because I don’t want to get sued!). The reporter in question was one of the people who broke the story in the UK when the banking bubble burst and the financial world was dragged to the brink of the apocalypse. It was the way he reported the news which made me think of him for the character of Preston. He almost seemed to relish the devastation which was unfolding all around him, taking pleasure in reporting how bank after bank was on the edge of collapse. And he did it in a slick, smarmy way which reminded me of a politician. That mix of morbid fascination and a strange superiority made him perfect for the part!

Now, I’d like to ask you a few questions about Dog Blood. I kept wondering as I read it, when is there going to be a mention of “dog,” “blood,” or “dog blood,” and in what context. I had a hard time trying to figure out what the title could refer to, until I read about one of your characters using it to describe the opinions of most of the Unchanged about Haters and their lack of worth.  How did you decide upon such a unique title? And, would you say that by the end of Dog Blood that Danny’s attitude and viewpoint towards the Unchanged has become different, and if so, why?

It’s interesting that you mentioned Pink Floyd in an earlier question because, bizarrely enough, the title came to me while I was at a David Gilmour concert in 2006! I’d just finished writing the first book and was struggling for a title for the sequel. We parked the car at a college near the Royal Albert Hall in London and, on our way into the venue, we passed the various famous museums around that part of the city. It was there I saw a reference to dog blood, and it immediately struck me as a great title. And then, while I was writing the book, the importance of the title became apparent. It’s the first time I’ve ever come up with the title for a book before I’ve started writing it!

Who are the “Brutes,” and why does one of them attack Danny? What is Danny’s daughter’s reaction to him when he finally meets her again, and why?

The Brutes are simply normal people who’ve been completely consumed by the Hate to the point where they can’t function normally, they can only fight. They no longer think about anything but killing, even to the point when they willingly sacrifice themselves for that one last kill. Again, trying not to give too much away, the reason Danny is attacked is perhaps because the Brute, with its finely attuned sense of Hater/Unchanged, senses that something’s different about him.

One of the aspects of Dog Blood I’m most proud about and which I’ve already had a lot of correspondence about, is his relationship with his daughter. In the same way that Brutes have a simplistic, black and white view of the war and the new world order, kids have a very similar approach. They’re not shackled with years of conditioning and memories, and so it’s easier for them to forget who they used to be and become these pure, aggressive Haters.

In my review of Dog Blood, I mention about the attempts of a group of the Unchanged to reform Haters and get them to become like their old selves. I was reminded to an extent of the novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, and the attempts by misguided members of society to rehabilitate the anti-hero Alex, who enjoys a “bit of the ol’ ultra-violence.”  Were you at all influenced by this novel, or are any minor similarities just coincidence?

I’d love to say I was influenced by A Clockwork Orange, but it’s coincidental. It’s also a great compliment to have Dog Blood compared in part to such a landmark novel. I do understand the comparison, and it’s a fair one. In Dog Blood, the behaviour of the characters is largely driven by their distrust of everyone else. Danny McCoyne manages to come through his interrogation and maintain a degree of control, and there are various layers of deception and disinformation which mean that neither McCoyne or his captors fully appreciate the importance and implications of what’s happening.

I recently read a short story of yours about zombies, “Who We Used to Be,” in the The Living Dead 2 (pub. date this coming September). I won’t get into it to a great extent, because I don’t want to reveal many details about it until it’s at least been published, but could you please give our readers a bit of an idea of what it’s about?

I’m really fond of “Who We Used to Be”. I wanted to look at the zombie apocalypse from a totally different perspective, and it’s one I’d like to return to and expand in the future. The basic premise is simple – everyone dies (and I mean everyone – no survivors). Then they immediately get up again. But they’re dead, and they’re rotting, and it’s bizarre! If everyone became a zombie at the exact same time, the implications would be really interesting. Just think about it for a second – the longer you do, the more fascinating an idea it becomes! (I’m well aware that I sound really weird saying all this!). “Who We Used to Be” is about a family – mum, dad and one son – who try to keep living their lives as normally as possible after their sudden deaths and subsequent reanimation.

One last question. Are you currently working on the third novel in the Hater trilogy, and if so, do you have a title for it, and when can we expect to see it in print?

I have a few potential titles for book three (Them or Us and Hollow Man are my current favourites), but the longer I work on it, the more unsure about it I seem to get. I’m really excited by the final book – the world it’s set in is so far removed from the normality of the beginning of Hater, and I can’t wait for people to read it. All being good, it should be released around this time next year.

Thanks once again, David, for agreeing to do this interview with me! I and the entire staff at BSC wish you much luck and continued success in the years to come, and thanks for providing your readers many chilling and sleepless nights with your writing!

It’s been an absolute pleasure! Thanks. I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed the books.