In a break from our usual content, our very own P.G. Bell takes part in ‘The Next Big Thing’, a short interview that’s bouncing from writer to writer on a weekly basis. Next week, he passes the torch to our Editor in Chief, Caleb Woodbridge, as well as writer and film maker Aurélien Lainé.
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
I’ve always been a zombie fan but it’s easy to forget they weren’t invented by George A. Romero in the 60s as so many of the stories out there follow his model – society crumbles, leaving a small cast of characters under siege from the flesh-eating hordes. That can be great fun, but the zombie has very different origins. They weren’t usually dangerous in themselves, but were more often tools of some more calculating, malignant force, operating in secret. (“White Zombie” or Hammer’s “Plague of the Zombies” are great examples). That’s something I wanted to revisit, whilst grounding the story in a thoroughly modern setting.
3. What genre does the book fall under?
Horror/crime/thriller. I figure at least one of those has to sell!
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Olivia Colman can do no wrong, and she’d be perfect in the role of Shona, the principal female character. Chiwetel Ejiofor will have to be in there somewhere and there’s a small but key role – the part of a disgraced charismatic preacher – that I can see being played very well by Lenny Henry. Although he’s principally known as a comedian, he’s been stretching his acting muscles lately. And I think that if you can do comedy well, you can do anything!
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When his wife’s body disappears, a grieving father enters a web of deception, betrayal and murder that threatens his family, his faith and his life.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Good question. This is my first novel (not counting the four others I’ve got locked away in a drawer somewhere) and I’m exploring both options. There are arguments in favour of both.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About a year, give or take.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“Let the Right One In”. I hesitate to mention myself in the same sentence as greatness, but John Ajvide Lindqvist does a brilliant job of placing the supernatural in the midst of the mundane and making it feel utterly real. He also doesn’t fight shy of the truly horrific – it’s a brutal read but utterly compelling and that’s the tone I’m aiming for. If I produce a book even half as good as his, I’ll consider it a success.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The real spark of inspiration was a story recounted to me by a friend. He swears blind it’s true, but judge for yourself: a newlywed Christian couple of his acquaintance moved to London, to work as evangelists for a local church. They rented a flat from a member of the congregation – a kindly old African woman, who one day arrived on the doorstep with a brown paper parcel containing old love letters from her late husband, which she asked them to store in the attic. Her own attic had developed a leak and she wanted to keep the parcel dry for the few months it would take to get it fixed. They agreed, of course, stashed the parcel away and thought nothing more of it.
But in the days and weeks that followed, they found the tide of life turning against them. They both fell ill. Sleep eluded them and they both began to suffer minor but inexplicable accidents. The flat seemed to be against them too – the plumbing and electricity acted up and, on one occasion, they awoke to find a small fire in the kitchen.
Things got steadily worse until, one night, the wife shook her husband awake. ‘It’s the parcel,’ she exclaimed. ‘I saw it in a dream. We have to get rid of it.’ They confronted the landlady who finally confessed that the parcel had been given to her by her neighbour – a man notorious in the local African community as a sorcerer and witchdoctor. It seems the local churches had been warning people against him and he had decided to strike back.
The parcel was carried into the back garden and burned. They chose not to open it, but I’m told that, as it went up in smoke, it stank of rotting meat…
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
You’ll finally discover what happens when a necrophiliac meets a zombie. I’m joking, of course.