Posted on October 29, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy
David Wellington is the author of several successful horror novels, short stories and web serials. The Monster Island zombie series and 13 Bullets vampire fiction are very popular with horror fans, who can’t wait to see what happens next.
Vampire Zero, the third book featuring Laura Caxton and Jameson Arkeley was recently released. I had the chance to talk to David a bit about the story and some of his other projects.
So, zombies vs. vampires…who wins? Why?
Jeez, that’s an interesting question. The vampires definitely have all the edges–strength, intelligence… coordination. And since they’re immortal they’re in no rush. They could probably just sit out a zombie outbreak in their coffins. But the scariest thing about zombies has always been that they’ve got the numbers. If we’re talking about a worldwide zombie apocalypse, the vampires are toast, if only because there wouldn’t be enough human blood left to keep them going.
What are the different challenges when it comes to writing zombie and vampire fiction?
Zombie stories are a lot like disaster stories–the scenery, the setting is huge and sometimes poses the biggest threat to the characters. There’s a lot of world-building to do in a zombie story. How are the characters able to travel, how do they find food, what kind of weapons can they get access to? What happens when the power goes out, or when civil authority completely breaks down?
Vampire stories, on the other hand, are very personal. The world as we know it is all still there–of course this is a generalization, there are a lot of great apocalyptic vampire stories, but the ones that leap to mind immediately are about a hidden threat, about a predator that stealthily invades your life so that you often don’t know he’s there until it’s too late. I think zombie stories are more like science
fiction, honestly, whereas vampire stories are pure horror.
Which is more fun to write? Zombies or vampires?
Zombies are fun because the entire world is your canvas–you get to describe everything, and how it would collapse when the dead rose. With vampires you need to stick pretty close to the world as it is, but you can also develop really cool vampire hunter characters. I don’t know–I have fun with everything I write.
Vampire Zero picks up where 99 Coffins ended, what can you tell us about it?
At the end of 99 Coffins it was clear to Laura Caxton that her old mentor Jameson Arkeley, who had become a vampire for all the best reasons, wasn’t going to just turn himself in. That she would have to hunt him down. That’s the story of Vampire Zero. Arkeley taught her everything she knows about hunting vampires, but maybe not everything he knew. 99 Coffins was a big sweeping battle story with a cast of hundreds. This one boils down to just Caxton vs. Arkeley and neither of them is playing nice. It’s about what Arkeley decides to do with his new immortality, and about just how far Caxton is willing to go to stop him–a lot farther than she’s gone before. I don’t want to give anything away, but she does something this time that really crosses the line, and she ends up paying for it.
What sort of research went into the Laura Caxton character?
I had to do a lot of research on the Pennsylvania State Police and the US Marshals Service, about police procedure in general. For her character though it was a really simple process. She’s based on several people I know in real life, including my sister Melissa–I dedicated the first book, 13 Bullets, to her. Really, Caxton started out as just an ordinary, average person, a woman working highway patrol.
Everything that she has become has been a result of her experiences fighting vampires, and what she’s learned from Arkeley, her mentor.
Let’s say that someone is making a movie based on this trilogy. Who would you cast in the roles of your main characters? Who would you want to direct the movie?
Well, when I was creating the characters I imagined Laura Linney (especially in her role in the Mothman Prophecies) as Caxton, and Robert Mitchum as Arkeley. I think Tommy Lee Jones would do an amazing job with that character as well–did you see him in No Country for Old Men? The guy reinvents the classic tough guy every time they turn the camera on.
Rumor has it that you’ve got a small collection of short stories set in the world of the Monster zombie trilogy. Are we ever going to see them in print or on the web?
Some have already been released–most of them, in fact, though they’re all over the place, online, in various anthologies, or I gave them away free as promotions when I was actively selling those books. There’s nothing my core group of fans hasn’t seen before. I’d love to gather them all together in one volume, but I think that’s a long way off. I’d like to do a fourth novel in that universe but that’s going to have to wait a while, too. Sorry! But I’ve got tons of great projects coming up.
You have stories in two of the Undead anthologies from Permuted Press, care to tell us about them?
One of them is called “Chuy and the Fish” and it’s about a zombified giant squid. It’s set in the same universe as Monster Island, at a point of time between the events of Monster Island and the beginning of Monster Planet. The other story is in a universe of its own. It’s called “Cyclopean” and it’s a cross between the Cthulhu Mythos and zombies. And evil mushrooms. I’m pretty proud of that one!
What other projects have you got lined up?
There will be a fourth Laura Caxton book. And two books about werewolves–one of them, Frostbite, is available on my website but the print version will be greatly expanded and revised. And then I’m working on some very cool stuff that I need to keep under wraps for now.
Zombies, vampires and werewolves…what other monsters would you be interested in writing about someday?
I’d love to do Frankenstein’s Monster. Of all of them, he’s the monster I most personally identify with. Of course, there are all kinds of copyright issues there, but there are ways around them…
Do you have any plans for Halloween?
I’m doing a reading at McNally Jackson bookstore in New York City–one of the last independent bookstores around. Then a friend of mine is having a party. I’m also going to try to check out some haunted houses, one of my favorite things to do!
Interview by Matt M McElroy