Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Authors Speak: David Wellington
I remember when "Monster Island" came out. It was a notorious round of bookstore roulette and I took my chances on a zombie book by an author I'd never heard of. Needless to say, I loved "Monster Island". It was my kind of zombie tale: kick-ass school girl militants and zombies aplenty. So, Wellington was on my radar. What was next?
I began seeing rumblings about this "13 Bullets" thing that he was doing. He'd had a fanbase on his website doing this free fiction thing. What the hell, I remember thinking. That's no way to make money. Don't writers want to earn a few clams for their work?
Perhaps it didn't yield money, but it certainly yielded David a ton of fans. And, writers, I think we can all agree a ton of fans is easily worth more than a royalty check.
So, yeah, David Wellington is...well, he's kind of a big deal. Besides authoring the trilogy - Monster Island, Monster Nation, Monster Planet - he's the author of a series of vampires books - continuing the story presented in 13 Bullets - and the author of a werewolf series. Phew! And if that's not enough, he's got "Plague Zone" upcoming. AND, he made his comic book debut with Marvel Zombies: Iron Man.
I had the chance to ask this virtuoso a few questions. We kick the tires and light the fires and aim straight for the head as we tackle zombies and other things that go bump in the night.
Eric Mays: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, David! You’ve dabbled in a little of this, a little of that. We’ve got zombies, werewolves, vampires and vampire hunters – what’s your favorite? And why are you neglecting such creatures as kappas, jackalopes, and brownies. Are you a monster racist?
David Wellington: Cute. No, I love all kinds of monsters. I’ve mostly explored those which are most popular with modern audiences, because I think those are the myths that speak most profoundly to us. The most universal archetypes, if I want to get pretentious (and sometimes I do). Kappas are very significant in Japanese culture. Here in the States they’re mutant turtles with water on the brain. Jackalopes are very much an American myth… but honestly, outside of the western states very few people would know what I was really talking about. Brownies with guns sounds interesting, but really, would you rather read about little elves with guns—or pre-teen girl scouts getting in firefights with the webelos across the lake from their summer camp? Yeah, I think I have my next book there.
DW: It was the other way around, really. Zombies came first. All three zombie books were purchased at the same time, but then I had an eighteen month wait before the first one was published. In the meantime I wrote 13 Bullets. The confusion may come because 13 Bullets came out before Monster Planet, the last of my zombie books. But it was written long before. Why the transition? I’d said what I wanted to about zombies and wanted to move on to a new project. That’s all.
EM: Why are we so fascinated with the undead? And what gives? Zombies are undead, but are shamblers. Vampires are undead but emo (mostly in pop culture). What’s the deal?
DW: First off—my vampires are NOT emo. They kick ass. Seriously, read the first three chapters of 13 Bullets and tell me what that vampire would do to Edward. And all of Team Edward, too. But you asked, why the undead. It’s an old, old fascination. Death is scary. I write scary books. That’s enough right there. But the idea of things that won’t stay dead is interesting. We all want to live forever, right? Maybe not if we think it all the way through, but, yeah. The really scary part is what happens if somebody else gets to live forever—but they have to kill you to do it? That’s when it gets creepy.
EM: You set 99 Coffins in Gettysburg, PA, and nailed the landscape perfectly. Gettysburg is a pretty perfect setting for a horror novel (actually Pennsylvania in general). What are some of the settings, in your opinion, that would make perfect horror tales?
DW: I think horror works anywhere, if you look for it. You could definitely set a horror novel in Disneyworld, right? Just set it after the park is closed for the night. Or after a similar park has been shut down, because some kid got killed on one of the rides, and now he haunts the park… atmosphere is about taking the familiar and twisting it until you don’t want to be there anymore. The more outlandish the setting, the more horrifying it’ll be when you make it dark.
DW: Sure. Knock yourself out! I don’t know—I don’t think anybody ever does anything truly new. But I like to take old ideas and tinker with them, add something to them or distill them down to what made them scary in the first place. I definitely didn’t invent zombies—and vampires have been around for a thousand years at least.
EM: I think I remember reading something indicating that you, like me, liked Laurell K. Hamilton at one point. What the hell happened? Any plans to follow the mold and “sex up” your series?
DW: Um, no. My vampires are specifically not sexy. It was Hamilton’s work that made me want to write my vampire series in the first place. It started out great, with Anita Blake kicking ass left and right. Then the monsters seemed to decide that if they couldn’t beat her, they would date her. I stopped reading that series about the time I realized it was just going to be hardcore pornography from then on.
EM: Marvel Zombies is a pretty cool gig (only one of the coolest things to come out of Marvel). There are purists who loathe the zombie line, but I think zombies and superheroes go together great…and zombie superheroes are even better. Why should people like Marvel Zombies?
DW: If they’re going to like it, they don’t need me to convince them! Some people feel we desecrated their superheroes, which is a shame. Most people got that it was meant to be taken tongue in cheek. I don’t try to convince people to like my books. I just try to write entertaining books and people can choose whether they like them or not.
EM: How’d you get tied in with Marvel? Sounds like a dream come true!
DW: It was pretty awesome. Definitely one of my childhood dreams was to write a Marvel comic. Basically what happened was that they decided that for Marvel Zombies Return they would recruit a bunch of talented zombie authors and just let them play around in the Marvel Zombies universe. There was a central story that Fred Van Lente—the main writer on the project at that time—came up with. But then he let us do whatever we wanted. It was very much like being six years old and locked inside a candy factory with no adults around. Immense fun.
DW: Well, it’s headed toward eBooks. I think a lot of publishers have got the wrong ideas about eBooks—they’re still acting as if they’re just a new kind of book, that they can charge high prices for them and sell them the old-fashioned way. That did work for audiobooks, after all. But eBooks are different, and they have the potential to be so much more. Handled correctly I think eBooks have the potential to totally revitalize the book market—to increase sales a thousand per cent. It’s just a question of time until somebody takes them seriously and realizes what a gold mine they have on their hands.
EM: You’ve got to tell us a little about Plague Zone! We’ve got a lot of zombie fans amongst us.
DW: Plague Zone is a zombie novel. It is not related in any way to my previous zombie stuff—all new characters, all new setting, and a totally different kind of zombies (they’re called droolers in the text, but don’t worry, they’re still slow, mindless, and they eat people). It’s only available on my website at http://www.davidwellington.net/. You can’t but it in bookstores, but you can read it online for free.
EM: The obligatory: What’s next for you?
DW: I have a second werewolf book coming out this fall, called Overwinter. It completes that series. Next year I have a bunch of books coming—starting with 32 Fangs, the culmination of my vampire series. And from there—well, wait and see! Lots of good stuff coming, including some secret projects.
David Wellington is worth the look if you've not acquainted yourself with his writing. In fact, if you're looking for a new series, here's the first book of the ones he has out there. Try them out.
THE DAVID WELLINGTON STARTER KIT:
Next week we'll take a peek at "The Place In Between" by the Rev. Steven Rage. Steven Rage, I should also note, will be the first guest on the live Authors Speak Power Hour. If you've not marked your calendars, do so now: 9/25 at 12pm (EST).
We'll also have a chat with another werewolf maestro: Gina Farago! Gina's not only a damn fine writer, but she also blurbed my book, so this is payback. We'll chat Mountain MeMaws and why we never see a werewolf suffer from hip dysplasia, ticks, worms, or fleas.
Until then, keep reading.