I have author Iain Rob Wright visiting today all the way from the U.K.! Horror is his beloved genre and his next gruesome novel, ANIMAL KINGDOM, will be released this Fall.
Where are you from?
Hey, Donna. First, thanks for having me. It’s a real honour. I have lived my whole life in the UK in a small town named Redditch about fifteen miles away from England’s second city Birmingham (The regional nickname for people in this area is ‘Brummies’). However, despite loving my country, I would love to relocate to the US one day.
Tell us about your newest novel, Animal Kingdom. When does it release and where can we grab it?
It’s out this December worldwide at all good online retailers and other places to be confirmed! In a nutshell it’s Cujo crossed with Dawn of the Dead. I wanted to do a zombie novel but felt that the genre was getting a bit stale and overdone. I didn’t feel that people needed to have yet another undead novel in the market, so I worked hard to come up with something fresh and unique (at least I think so).
ANIMAL KINGDOM has a lot of action and variety compared to a zombie novel because there is so much diversity in the amount of animals I could use. It takes place with a group of survivors taking refuge inside a building from an army of crazy animals that literally lay down a siege to it. There’re alligator attacks, silverback gorillas, creepy crawlies, and even killer-squirrils! But of course, it’s not just the wildlife that can be dangerous, people are still as selfish and vindictive as they’ve ever been. The official blurb for the book is as follows:
WELCOME TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN…
Aside from being freakishly tall, Joe is just an ordinary divorcee taking his son, Danny, to the zoo for his weekend of custody. It’s the first time in a long time that he’s actually started to feel like a decent father. Everything is going great!
That is, until Joe and his son witness a bizarre snake attack that sends everybody in the zoo running for cover. After taking refuge in the brand new Zoological Visitor’s Centre, it isn’t long before Joe realises that there is a lot more going on today than a simple snake attack.
Suddenly, Joe, and the entire world, has to survive a horror that no one ever imagined. The animals attack, all at once, and mankind finds itself at the bottom of the foodchain, fighting off extinction.
Over the final, dying days of civilisation, Joe will learn a lot about being a father, even more about being a man, and that sometimes the biggest danger in life is those you choose to trust.
Who designed the cool (and scary) cover of Animal Kingdom?
That would be the talented and sexy Stephen Bryant. Never worked with the guy prior to ANIMAL KINGDOM, but have to say that I am really pleased with his work and feel it captures the spirit of the book perfectly. I would be very happy to work with him again and hopefully that will happen on many future books. You can commission his work at: www.srbproductions.net
How do you create your characters? Especially horror ones!
Erm…I don’t have a specific way, I don’t think. A lot of the characters in THE FINAL WINTER were based on people that used to inhabit the local pub where I used to drink with my dad as a kid (as a kid, yeah!). There were always boring old men mixing with young thugs and I don’t think you get that dynamic anywhere other than a pub. I also find that pubs in the UK have an inherently dangerous undertone that often erupts in violence (the English aren’t very nice when they’re drunk), which makes them an ideal setting for a horror novel. The man character Harry is partly based on myself as we share a common way of dealing with grief through alcohol. I have had issues with self-medicating with booze in the past and found it quite cathartic to transfer some of my experiences onto him.
ANIMAL KINGDOM on the other hand is totally opposite. The characters are based on no one really – just a mixture of people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had. So in summary it’s a pretty random how I come to create characters. As a rule though, I like my good characters (protagonists) to be deeply flawed and my bad characters (antagonists) to be complete assholes – then I stick em in a room together and let the fun begin.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and THE FINAL WINTER wasn’t really my first book. It was just the first one that I felt was good enough to let people read (and to charge money for). The inspiration for the actual story came from three subsequent winters in which the UK fell apart under heavy snow. Businesses closed, pensioners froze to death, and cars piled up on the highways. I asked myself the question: what would happen if this snow just never stopped? Then I asked myself: what would the reason for such an event be? Putting the two answers together gave me THE FINAL WINTER.
How do fads/trends affect your writing?
Quite a lot actually. I watch a lot of movies, TV shows, theatre productions etc, and of course I read a lot of books. All of these things tend to blend together and create my mental database of ideas. Whenever I am writing I use a lot of pre-existing material as starting points for my own ideas. I’m also very affected by current events – as I have already explained, THE FINAL WINTER was inspired by bad weather conditions in the UK at time. My third novel, ASBO, is inspired by the recent gang riots we had in the UK this Summer’s end.
What about the horror genre interests you?
Real life is a bad bad place – a place where the bad guys win and the good often suffer. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. Rapists get away with their crimes and natural disasters kill millions. Horror writing allows me to put all this right. In a horror novel, the bad guy ends up getting his head chopped off while the hero gets away. I like the justice that the genre gives and the philosophy that ‘fighting your fears will pull you through’. I think fiction should be about possibilities and worlds that don’t exist (that’s what makes it fun, right) and the escapism of fighting a big monster through a narrative – and coming out on top – can make us feel more hopeful about our real lives sometimes. Plus, destroying the world in a make-believe apocalypse and imagining what happens afterwards is just downright cool! What other genre gives that amount of creative freedom? There are no rules in horror and anything goes.
Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scared yourself and it left you wondering where that idea came from?
Honestly? No. I guess, loving horror movies and novels so much, I’m pretty much desensitised to it. I never forget that it’s all make-believe. The only things that gets a truly disturbed reaction from me is rape. I don’t think I’ll ever write about stuff like that. I hint at it sometimes, I admit, but the full-on descriptions of it I will leave to the likes of Jack Ketchum. I also get upset if I consider hurting animals in my stories (especially dogs). ANIMAL KINGDOM is the exception because the animals are all evil.
Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
Yes, I do. THE FINAL WINTER contains a lot of Judaic Christian references. I am actually an atheist (but never assume my beliefs are the right ones) but the notion of heaven and hell has always fascinated me. The name of the character is Harry Jobson (Job’s son) and the pub’s name is the trumpet (trumpets announce the end of the world in revelations). Harry is also a carpenter. There are lots and lots of other references in that book, but I will let people spot them their selves Obviously, for ANIMAL KINGDOM I had to do a lot of swotting up on the animals so that I got their behaviours correct (thanks Wikipedia and Sand Diego Zoo online). My next novel ASBO is pretty much from my own experiences though, as I was involved in gang crime as a teenager (my biggest regret) and used my own opinions to write it.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
THE FINAL WINTER was written completely without direction – in many ways it just wrote itself and I feel that it came out with lots of unexpected twists and turns because of that. The downside to this was that it took a long time to write because I kept finding myself stuck in a corner or a plotting dead end. ANIMAL KINGDOM was different. I wrote a brief outline of how to get from A to B and also wrote some character descriptions. Having these at hand did make things easier, but I have to say that the final novel was nothing like the outline I wrote and had changed course almost immediately. I think from now on I will always write a brief outline, just to help me avoid pitfalls and give me a sense of directions, but I think that I will always be a writer that just sits at a computer and sees what happens.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My age, I think. I’m a few years younger than many of my peers and I think that I infuse my work with a youthful, pop-culture inspired voice that is unique to me. I also try to write fast-paced, action-packed scenes with a lot of witty dialogue. I think I would like to coin the term ‘Hollywood-style’ as I think I write a lot like the movies. There’s no fillers in my stories. They are designed to give you a quick and easy thrill in the same way a horror movie would.
I also try to link all my books together. Anyone that reads all my novels will find lots of little winks and nods towards each other. Characters from THE FINAL WINTER will make cameos in ASBO, and are referenced in ANIMAL KINGDOM. Ultimately I am planning on creating my own mythology, in the same way Stephen King and Brian Keene have. I think that when an author’s novels self-reference each other it adds a little bit of additional entertainment for loyal readers. It adds an additional layer to enjoy.
Finally, I also differentiate myself from other writers by including free content at the end of all my books. THE FINAL WINTER contains several free short stories after its conclusion, and ANIMAL KINDOM contains half-a-dozen short stories set in the same universe as the main narrative (including one by my good friend, author Eric S. Brown). I think in a world where we are all currently skint, author’s need to compete for your hard earned cash. I plan of providing as much value to my readers as I do quality.
What is your favorite horror book? Favorite horror movie?
So many! I love the DYING TO LIVE trilogy by Kin Paffenroth and DEAD SEA by Brian Keene. Love most of Richard Layman’s work too. My favourite book I have read recently is ANIMOSITY by another friend of mine, James Newman (a really nice guy). Movie-wise, I love DAWN OF THE DEAD (both versions), SHAUN OF THE DEAD, DEAD ALIVE (BRAIN DEAD), DEMON KNIGHT, ARACHNOPHOBIA, IDENTITY – there’s just too many.
Did you learn anything from writing your first book and what was it?
Erm…I learned that I might just make a living from this writing gig as people have been really kind with their reviews of THE FINAL WINTER and bought a lot of copies. I think what I learned most though is that people who enjoy horror are yearning for originality. That is what I hope to give them with each of my books.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I spend all of my time with my partner, Sally (who I hope to marry soon or she’ll kill me). I love a glass of white wine at the weekends with a good movie and a takeaway, but also love going to the theatre, bowling, football matches, holidays abroad (especially the US), or messing around with my cocker spaniels, Daisy and Oscar (Daisy is his mommy). I read every night in bed till about midnight and also like videogames during my downtime (SKYRIM is my current addiction) which I play on my ALIENWARE m17X (All you geeks know what I’m talking about!). I was once also an avid bodybuilder, but have let myself go a lot over the last few years.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read every day, write every day. Wait ten years and then go for it! That’s what I did.
Any new projects you can share with us?
In January, I will have two short stories featured in the zombie anthology, SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE BRAINS.
My third novel ASBO is a bit different in that it is a thriller and not a horror (although it is certain to horrify). It’s about a middle-aged man that comes under siege when the local gang of youths target his family in an ever-increasing hate campaign. It starts out nasty and only gets worse. I am planning on selling it with a warning so that I don’t offend anyone.
After that I am finally going to fulfill my urge to write a zombie novel. Don’t worry though, because it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It will be set on a cruise ship and the hero will find himself awaking over and over again on the day of the outbreak, forced to find a way to prevent it. It will be a mystery as he tries to find out which passenger is responsible. In a nutshell it will be like Brian Keen’s DEAD SEA mixed with GROUNDHOG DAY (Or the TV show DAYBREAK. Can you believe they cancelled that? It ruled).
There will also be a sequel to THE FINAL WINTER at some point as well (probably going to be a triology).
To keep up with all of my current projects, or to talk to me directly, visit my website at: www.iainrobwright.com