David Dunwoody is in the midst of a flourishing writing career, with a number of novels and short stories out in the world, including Empire: A Zombie Novel and Unbound and Other Tales. His most recent novel, Empire's End: A Zombie Novel, was published earlier this year and, in the midst of an otherwise busy schedule, he was kind enough to take some time out for an interview. So, without any further ado, here are 10 questions for David Dunwoody:
1. What would you like readers to know about Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?
Empire’s End is the sequel to the novel Empire. It was written in 2008 (shortly after the first edition of Empire saw print) and follows the Grim Reaper in a “post-post-apocalyptic” world in which the dead have been thrashing the crap out of the living for 100+ years. The Reaper finds himself tangling with classic zombies as well as zombies who’ve become more animalistic and developed a sort of pack order – plus one zombie whose driving force is tied to Death himself.
2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?
Certainly Lovecraft and Barker – Lovecraft with his masterful conveyance of indescribable, unknowable horror, and Barker with his rich characters and beautiful prose. I think both of them are also groundbreakers in terms of developing very original mythos replete with iconic monsters. Other favorites include King and Matheson. Though he’s a filmmaker, David Cronenberg’s philosophy of horror as a genre of confrontation rather than escapism rings very true to me.
3. What is it about zombies that inspired you to write your series of books, Empire and Empire’s End?
I’ve always liked zombies, but I didn’t know I loved them until I wrote a submission for Permuted Press’s first publication, The Undead. I say this a lot, but I really do think Romero has given us the last great monster archetype, and it’s one with endless potential. I enjoy thinking of new ways to use the walking dead while trying to preserve their classic roots. To think that, just 13 years before I was born, a monster was created which already stands next to old-world terrors like the vampire and werewolf and will endure down through the ages – it’s very cool to be alive at the dawn of the dead.
4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?
There’re the standard social-networking tools, as well as forums and blogs – interviews have certainly been a great help, and there are always good folks with blogs or shows looking for writers to talk with. I try not to spam and to occasionally mention something other than my books on FB and Twitter. That can be hard when I’m pretty shy and spend most of my time either writing or watching frog videos on YouTube, but most people seem to like frogs. At conventions I’ve had Empire stickers and even a 6.5-foot standee where folks could put their head in place of the Reaper’s, but in the end I think just chatting with people and sharing your mutual love of horror and reading goes a long way. Being genuine and being accessible. In this day and age we can make ourselves easily accessible to readers all over the globe, and that’s an awesome thing.
5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?
As an idea first takes off, it starts with very disjointed note-taking – muttering into a tape recorder at 4 AM, scribbling on notepads and whiteboards and receipts, then finally transferring it all to the computer and beginning to form a plot outline and character profiles. From there I’ll usually end up going back to the whiteboards to lay out the specifics of whatever chapters I’m doing that week. I like to pretend I’m a mathematician or something with these three whiteboards along the wall, solving complex equations. When I’m working on a novel I write 1 or 2 chapters every day. After the first few chapters I’ll force myself to stop second-guessing and rewriting, telling myself that’ll come later. When I’m done with the first draft I leave it alone for at least a few weeks (sometimes much longer, depending on deadlines or lack thereof) before diving into revisions. I hate going back and picking through spontaneity with a scalpel and magnifying glass, but I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.
6. Your first novel, Empire, was picked up and re-released by Simon and Schuster. How did that deal come about?
It was part of a deal in which S&S acquired J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon – as part of the arrangement they agreed to pick up several other books that had done well for Permuted. The whole thing and how it just dropped into my lap one day is still a little unreal for me. I’ll always be grateful to John Bourne and Jacob Kier at Permuted for it.
7. What drove you to write Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?
When I finished Empire I knew the story wasn’t done, though I didn’t have the entire sequel plotted out. I knew that the Reaper’s arc had really just begun with the changes he’d gone through at the end of the first book. With that and a few other things I’d alluded to, such as Eviscerato and his zombified circus troupe, I started setting the stage for what I hoped would be an epic conclusion to the story begun in Empire.
8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?
I certainly hope to have a few more novels out there, and I’d really like to be able to do more appearances per year than I’ve been able to do in the past. I don’t have a detailed set of goals, though –I’m having a great time right now and I love being a part of this community on both the professional side and the reader side. I’m not putting much pressure on myself at the moment. Of course, that may change tomorrow. I’m a flip-flopper.
9. What are you currently working on?
Permuted will be releasing a post-apocalyptic novel called The Harvest Cycle in the not-too-distant future. It’s very different from my zombie fare and I’m excited to get it out there. Right now I’m mostly working on short stories for different anthologies. I completed a non-apocalyptic novel this past spring and will be diving back into that sometime soon.
10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?
We’re lucky to have so many resources- and so many markets – at our fingertips today. I can’t imagine what it must have been like before the Web. I use Duotrope.com to look for anthology calls, as well as the Permuted Press and Twisted Library Press forums. These communities also offer peer critique groups where you can workshop your stuff. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is not only to welcome criticism but to seek it. Trust me, it never gets easier, whether awaiting a yay or nay from a publisher to whom you’ve submitted, or awaiting line edits on a work you’ve sold. Rejection and criticism are part of the game and it always causes apprehension, but it makes it so much more rewarding when you succeed and it’s the only way to get better. You just have to get used to the idea that butterflies will be living in your stomach for the rest of your life. Eat bugs so they don’t starve. I don’t even know if butterflies feed on bugs but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s by you eating bugs.
And there you have it. I'd like to thank David Dunwoody for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about him, you can visit David Dunwoody.com. You can also check out Dunwoody's Facebook and follow him on Twitter.