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  • Random-Ass Interview: David Moody

    If you want to read more about David Moody, visit his personal website.

    You are a fairly intimidating looking man, at least in your press photos. Likewise, you’re constantly writing about the downfall of society, often in a terrifyingly realistic manner. Has anyone just come up to you, and admitted that you scare the shit out of them, or do you ever get the sense that people might be unnecessarily freaked out by you, due to the themes of your work and your scary photos?

    Although I’ve never had anyone make that admission face-to-face, I’ve had plenty of emails through the years which finish with something along the lines of ‘are you sure you’re okay…?’ And you’re right; I look intimidating, even though I’m not. It can be a pain sometimes, but I’ve got used to it and I have to admit, given my chosen career, it’s not a bad look (or a bad surname!). What really makes me laugh though, is the opposite. The people who know me best of all – my wife and kids – aren’t fazed by any of it. My wife regularly finds me researching all kinds of stuff – Nazi death camps, how bodies decompose, flesh-eating diseases – and she’s so used to it now she doesn’t bat an eyelid!

    What’s your favorite Guillermo Del Toro movie?

    That’s a tough question. I love Cronos, his first movie, but I think my absolute favorite has to be Pan’s Labyrinth.

    As a British man, do you think that there are any aspects to your books that an American audience or an audience from another country might have trouble understanding?

    I think there will always be subtle cultural differences and nuances which people don’t pick up on. I’m fortunate to work closely with editors from both the US and UK so generally most things get thrashed out and discussed before the books hit the shelves. You write about what you know though, so I always write from the perspective of someone in a country broadly similar to my own. But you’re right to raise the issue, because sometimes I get caught off-guard. When the Chinese language edition of Hater was being translated, I had a conversation with the translator about Lizzie’s (the main character’s partner) sister. She’s barely mentioned in the book, but for the translation I had to develop her further because there were different social implications if she was a younger or older sister.

    Do you think you’ll ever cave and write a happy children’s story about a fluffy puppy and his adventures finding a saucy turtle?

    No. But I do have a children’s series in mind. It probably won’t be set at the end of the world, but it will have more than its fair share of genetic mutations, diseases, bizarre atmospheric conditions and Twilight Zone-like scenarios though!

    Do you set your alarm clock to air raid sirens?

    Now that’s a cool idea! Unfortunately not, but I wouldn’t have any trouble getting out of bed in the morning if I did. That sound is one of the most chilling… growing up in the 1980’s at the height of the Cold War, the air attack sirens used to be tested fairly regularly. I can still remember what it used to be like – everyone would stop, your legs would turn to jelly, and you’d just stand there and wait for everyone else to react. More often than not, they’d be turned off after a couple of wails, but you always thought for a second ‘is this it?’. I remember a news report on local TV back then – a siren malfunctioned early one morning and kept going for several minutes. Some people panicked and thought their time was up, but most people just rolled over and put their heads under the pillow.


    Nuclear weapons have been dropped across the globe simultaneously, and while you survive the blast, and manage to avoid fall out and radiation, everyone else on Earth is dead. Do you think you’d just kill yourself, or would you try to live on?

    Live on. At least that’s what I’d like to believe. Thing is, no one really knows how they’d react. I think I’d be able to survive on a practical level, but it’s the emotional damage that’s the unknown. If my family hadn’t survived, would I even want to go on? If they had survived, I guess they’d be the main reason for me trying to go on.


    A Hater type scenario occurs, and you’re left with your family, but you have to leave the house and go somewhere safe. You only have space in your bag to bring three books, which will most likely be your only reading material for at least a year. What books do you bring?

    I don’t think I would. I’d rather take three writing pads. But if I had to grab books off the shelf, I’d make them thick, heavy ones so they’d a). Take a long time to read and b). Burn longest if push came to shove and we needed fuel for the fire. My honest answer – probably War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids and an encyclopedia. But if it really was a Hater-type scenario, I’d probably try and pack a survival skills book of some sort, and because we’d be surrounded by death and devastation, I’d probably also pack a book about a fluffy puppy and his adventures finding a saucy turtle.


    If most of the population was killed off for whatever reason, do you think that the remaining population would start wearing leather pants, and jean vests, and do you think they would style mohawks into their hair?

    I think that’s a hilarious post-apocalyptic cliché, and it’s one I’ve tried to steer away from in my books. Come the end of the world, we’re all going to look like shit! People will stop cutting their hair, personal hygiene will be forgotten, we’ll just wear whatever we can get our hands on…


    How do you feel about torture porn, both the phrase itself, and the type of work that is called as such?

    Like most phrases coined to describe genres or specific types of films, the definition becomes overused. Unless I’m mistaken, I think torture porn was first spoken about when ‘Hostel’ and the early ‘Saw’ films were released. Since then, however, it’s been used to cover a vast range of movies like ‘The Human Centipede’ etc. When you look at all the films included in this bracket, the common theme is obviously the torture aspect – very brutal, very realistic gore shown in intense detail. To my mind, though, the key is how this gore is used. Is it integral to the overall story, or is it in place of the story? I have no interest in watching any of the Saw movies as they just seem to be increasingly violent, sub-par variations on Freddy / Jason / Michael Meyers type-characters (although obviously less fantasy-based). But a film like Martyrs or Anti-Christ, they’re different altogether. Bad things happen, and the world is filled with fucked-up injustices each and every day. I think it’s important that films and books reflect this.

    A virus spreads across your hometown or city. Again, nearly everyone is dead, except for you and your family. However, you happen to be in a safe walking distance from a police station, and you know for a fact that for whatever reason there are a great many drugs in the holding area. Do you think you’d get bored enough to risk it, and travel across the road to have a little party?

    In the second Autumn book, there’s a couple of characters who end up doing exactly that. And you could argue they made the right decision. Why not? One of the fundamental questions my books ask is ‘is surviving always the best option?’. If the chips really were down and my family and I were facing inevitable and unpleasant deaths, being off our faces on drugs might be a good option… It would make things a lot easier and less painful.

    If you could be any kind of monster, what kind would you be?

    Good question! I’ve always thought werewolves were pretty cool. They’d probably be the best option. At least they could lead relatively normal lives some of the time. Zombies – no thanks. Vampires – well, they’ve lost all credibility recently.


    What do you think of the current atmosphere of the film industry?

    I think it’s exciting and frustrating in equal measure. It’s exciting because the technology to produce movies is now available to everyone. A decent HD camera, the right software and you’re away (providing, of course, you have the technical and creative nous). But at the other end of the scale, the major studio side of the industry is depressing. Like all other sections of the media, it’s all about profit. We’re drowning in franchises, reboots, remakes and unnecessary sequels and whilst they all make money and sell toys and Happy Meals, they’re not doing a lot to move movies forward. I think it’s really depressing when you look at the effort and money which gets poured into things like the Twilight franchise – you could get many original movies made for each and every Twilight.

    Anyone ever given you shit about your last name? Like, schoolyard mockery?

    Constantly – thanks for bringing that up! It used to really get to me when I was at school but now, as I mentioned in a previous answer, it suits what I do for a living!

    If you could go back in time, and hang out with one author in particular, who would it be?

    I’d have to say HG Wells. I’d have loved to have been around when ‘War of the Worlds’ was first released to see the panic he unleashed. I know a similar thing happened with Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast in the 1930s, but it would really have been something to see how the stuffy Victorians reacted to Wells’ tale of Martians invading and killing untold thousands of people. Such stories are fairly commonplace today, but back then it would have been terrifying…

    As an author with a book nearly finished (yeah, I’m that asshole that throws himself into an interview for someone else…) I remember having a hard time staying motivated, and adding to my manuscript every day. Do you have any tricks you use to get yourself in the writing headspace? Do you have any kind of ritual, for instance, do you light candles next to a human skull, and put on a cloak and chant in Latin?

    Firstly, congratulations on the book. Getting to the stage you’re at takes more effort than most people probably realize. I’ve been writing seriously for seventeen years now (Jesus, that’s scary), and I still struggle to get going sometimes. I think you can only write when you’re ready to – you can’t force the words out if you’re in the wrong frame of mind. That said, you can’t use that as an excuse. I need to know what I’m writing, and to spend some time thinking about it before I start (that might just be a few minutes making a drink or walking the dog). Once I’m ready, I turn my music on, switch the Internet off, and go for it. I try and write for a block of time – three-quarters of an hour usually – then take a break. I keep writing and don’t allow myself to go back and edit until my draft is finished. That seems to work for me, but it’s different for every writer. A key thing for me is actually making a start. It’s so easy to get distracted and to find reasons to spend just another five minutes on-line…


    Cats or Dogs?

    I have both. My dog’s a cool companion and a great reason to go for long walks and think. My cats are equally awesome, and I like their independence. They use me. I am their bitch. The dog is, quite literally, my bitch.


    Fast zombies or slow zombies?

    Slow. They’re dead. They can’t run. They shouldn’t even be walking!

    What’s your favorite swear?

    The ‘c’ word. Now that everyone says ‘fuck’ all the time, cunt is the only word left that has any real impact. And I think it’s important to have a good arsenal of swears in your vocabulary. (I agree whole-heartedly Dave.)

    Are there some American phrases that confuse you? For instance, if I say I’m pissed, I mean I’m angry, not that I’m drunk. Can you think of any Americanisms that you may have been, or are confused as hell about?

    No, but I know that ‘Hater’ is incredibly overused in the US, but not at all used here in the UK (which is why I chose it).

    Any up and coming British authors that aren’t widely known you have read you can’t shut up about? Can be in genre, or not.

    He’s a good friend of mine, but I’ll say it anyway: Wayne Simmons. Check out FLU and Drop Dead Gorgeous for some unique, well-written, Belfast-based zombie fiction.


    Was your father in law angry at you when Hater came out, and or has anyone ever become exceedingly angry with you for writing a character they thought was based off of them in one of your books?

    No, my father-in-law didn’t mind. He died just after the book came out (it wasn’t me!) which was a real shame and I’d have liked him to have seen how big it became for me. I’m very careful not to base characters too closely on people I know, primarily because I don’t want to be sued or lose friends. There are friends and family in there, but I think they’d have a hard time spotting themselves. When I used to work full-time as well as write, if people pissed me off at work then I’d write them into my books as zombies and give them the most horrific, violent deaths I could!

    Favorite sea monster?

    Jaws. Terrifying. Closely followed by any type of jellyfish. You can come up with as many fictional sea monsters as you like, but what we’ve already got is usually scary enough.


  • The Grotesque vs. The Unseen

    As a writer of fiction, particularly of scary stories, the issue arrives time and time again. What is better, seeing the monster revealed, or leaving it in sounds and shadows? Is it better to see the ax wound, with all of the blood that splatters, or to simply see the swing of the ax, and to have to imagine the wound afterward?
    Stephen King has a book, entitled Danse Macabre, which has some words on the very themes I’m talking about. If you haven’t read the book, and you are in any way a fan of things that go bump in the night, I must insist that you pick it up. At least, go to the library and see if they have it. Regahdless, I will attempt to give my own opinions on the matter.
    I guess, it all depends what emotions you are trying to evoke. If you want your reader to be appalled at all the shocking details of the grisly vehicular homicide, then by all means, you should mention every broken bone and road rashed abrasion on every bloody and bruised body. These descriptions will, if thought out and executed successfully, gross your reader out to no end. They will feel at the mercy of your power of gory description. However, this does not act upon the most powerful tool at any writers disposal, the reader’s imagination.
    If I was to talk about the same situation with vehicular homicide, but to simply say that the bodies found at the scene were mangled and torn, you, the reader, would come up with how mangled and torn they actually were, in your head. You would form a rough picture of what each victim looked like. Do they have broken bones, and which ones? You are the only one that knows that. I have my own vision, which involves broken leg and arm bones, and all sorts of scraped down skin.
    I guess it’s hard to say which is better, if indeed, you can even do such a thing. I go back and forth with each type of writing, though admittedly now I seem to be in a hyper descriptive phase, where I want to talk about the gore and the monsters for sentence after sentence. Yet, there is a certain power in hinting at horrors indescribable, in a certain Lovecraftian way. Keep in mind though, Lovecraft would usually go on to describe everything, right after his long and atmospheric build ups about how hard to describe everything was.
    I’d say it depends how you want to string the reader along. For a true crime type of horror story, I would say that everything in vivid detail is in order. Disgusting realism will ring true. However, with supernatural stories, it’s really all just personal opinion. Anyone who says otherwise, that there is one way to write supernatural horror better than the next, well, that person clearly doesn’t read enough. I happen to enjoy both. I love hearing about the entities, or creatures, and I also love being teased with only small glimpses and descriptions of the things.
    In the end, it all comes down to making it engaging. However you can draw a reader in, be it through intestines ripped from cadavers, or the mere mention of bodies being ripped apart most foully. It all comes down to what you are strong with, what you’re most comfortable with. Go with your instincts.
    The same applies to screenwriting and movies. You have movies like Jaws, and The Mist, where there is a good combination of seen and unseen horrors. Both are great films. However, then you have movies like A Serbian Film and the short film Aftermath, which revel in the gross out, and show you quite a lot. Also, good, if not incredibly disturbing, films. Then, you have movies like The Blair Witch and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which really don’t show you much of anything (it always makes me laugh when people talk about how “bloody” the original TCM is). All of these movies are equally effective. So, there is no one way to build tension, and scare your audience with film, the same as there is no set way to scare a reader. Again, it all comes down to getting your audience emotionally invested, and terrified, whichever way you can. It probably wouldn’t hurt to make sure your character’s are vivid and interesting. It’s far easier to gain emotional investment with a character people want to know about. Ultimately, this is where the audience is first drawn in. Besides, it’s far easier to make someone anxious about a strangler, when one of his or her potential victims is someone you don’t want to get choked out.
    This may not be anything you don’t already know. Just putting it out there, for those just starting out, or for those that need a reminder.