Today I’d like to introduce you to PETER MCKEIRNON – author of DEATH IN A NORTHERN TOWN and its recently released sequel. I got chatting to Peter a while back and was really interested in his take on the zombie apocalypse (which feels similarly low-fi to AUTUMN, but far funnier). In this guest post he talks about his influences.
I have never seriously thought about my influences. Usually I am asked who my favourite author is or what my favourite zombie movie is, but when Dave asked me to write a guest article about what inspires my writing I began to consider, for the first time, what my real influences are. The answers take me back to my childhood and the horror movies, comedy shows and ultimately the town in which I grew up.
I grew up on a council estate in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK. One of the great things about the area I lived was that once a week a man driving an old Ford Escort would pull up at the top of our road, open the boot and rent out the shittiest collection of pirated movies you had ever seen. But within this mishmash of badly copied 1980s straight to video movies were classic horrors such as Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Munchies (camp Critters rip off), The Evil Dead, The Fly… the list goes on. What was so brilliant was you could rent up to 15 movies a week for £5 and the nice illegal video rental man really didn’t care that a kid who should be at home watching The Never Ending Story was instead renting copies of The Stuff, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Troll, Garbage Pail Kids The Movie (not really for children, adults or anyone for that matter!) and Vamp.
Watching horror from a young age changed me greatly and where other kids on my estate played football and argued over who was going to be Kenny Dalgleish, Ian Rush or Peter Beardsley, I was busy scaring the shit out of family members by hiding behind doors and appearing at windows dressed up as a vampire or a werewolf! This was where my love affair with horror began.
I remember in my early teens my mother bought me a TV-video combo. With no TV guide and only 4 channels to choose from, I used to pick a station at random and record through the night. The next day I would examine my findings, hoping to uncover some horror gold I had never seen before. Admittedly, it was largely fruitless venture but it did introduce me to classic Godzilla movies that Channel 4 used to screen as part of their late night Creature Feature series, though they were televised so late that my video would only catch the first 30 minutes or so before the tape would run out.
It was also around this time my Dad had satellite TV installed and my long standing relationship with comedy began. My evenings were filled with British classics such as The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents, Kevin Turvey, Alexei Sayle, Monty Python, Ben Elton, Filthy Rich and Catflap, The Goodies, Red Dwarf and Black Adder. They all became part of my regular TV diet.
Rik Mayall, his characters and his writing, was a massive influence on me and I would re watch episodes of The Young Ones and Bottom over and over again until I could recite every word (something I can still do, much to my wife’s annoyance!). I bought a book of the scripts for Bottom and on reading them I began to imagine the writing dynamic between both Rik and Adrian Edmondson, how they would formulate their jokes and tie them into anarchic plot lines. From that point on comedy became more than just something I enjoyed watching, it was now something I wanted to do.
It wasn’t ’til years later, after several failed attempts at writing sitcoms and sketch shows, that my love of horror and comedy came together and I began developing Death in a Northern Town.
I was in a creative lull. I had an idea for a new sitcom but lacked the will to see it through. I had spent my 20s telling everyone I was a writer but in reality produced very little and what I did was rejected by every production company I submitted to. I was dejected and ready to throw in the towel and give up writing all together. Then I downloaded a Kindle app for my phone and everything changed. I discovered a whole new world of literature by authors I had never heard of before. Self-published authors that had gone it alone. I felt inspired to write again and in January 2013 and I began working on a zombie apocalypse dark comedy set in my home town.
Choosing to write about zombies was a no brainer (pun intended). I love zombie movies and I love zombie literature but I often found it difficult to relate to the characters. Everybody had guns, the military would always feature or one of the main characters would be ex-Special Forces, something to give them an advantage against the ever increasing undead population. I asked myself what would happen if there was a zombie outbreak in Runcorn. There are no guns here and the military wouldn’t bother with a small industrial town in the North West of England. We’d be left to rot!
I then began thinking about the people here. We’re strange bunch us Runcornians and we often find humour in the bleakest of situations. Here’s an example: My friend’s father passed away. It was expected as he’d been living with terminal cancer for several years. On the morning of his passing, about an hour or so after his death, my friend’s family had gathered together in the living room. Nobody was talking. Instead they sat in silence, quietly coming to terms with their loss. Nobody noticed that my friend and his brother had disappeared until they re-emerged, walking into the living room with a wardrobe on their shoulders like they were carrying a coffin.
“What the hell are you doing?” my friend’s mother asked.
“Practising,” he replied.
So, to conclude: pirate videos, Godzilla, alternative comedy and the glorious array of people I share my town are what have influenced my writing and I can honestly say that before I started writing this article I had never considered this before.
I would like to thank David Moody for asking me to contribute to this site. Not only is it a great honour for me, writing this article has given me the opportunity revisit memories and events I hadn’t thought about for a long time and for the first time, really examine what influences my writing.
Now I think it’s about time I finally got round to watching the classic Godzilla movies I started all those years a go!
Thanks Pete! You can download the first Death in a Northern Town book free (Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Smashwords), and the second book in the series is now available. Follow Peter on Twitter and Facebook.