Pan’s Labyrinth

If, when my time is up, I’m ever asked to look back and recall pivotal moments in my life, the key writing-related moment I’d cite involves PAN’S LABYRINTH. It was 2006, and I’d just published HATER independently through Infected Books. The release had gone pretty well, and I was happy with how the book had been received. Then, out of the blue, I received an email from a production company in Los Angeles, enquiring about the availability of the film rights. Within a couple of weeks I was speaking to Mark Johnson (who went on to produce BREAKING BAD) about his vision for a film version of HATER. He asked me if I’d seen PAN’S LABYRINTH. I told him I had, and that I thought it was incredible. He said that was a relief, because he was hoping to get Guillermo del Toro to direct HATER.

Of course, as is often the way, things didn’t work out as planned. Del Toro became involved in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of THE HOBBIT and switched roles to produce HATER, only for the project to stall at a later stage. Even now, more than a decade later, I still get goosebumps thinking about how close we came to a del Toro adaptation of one of my books. And I know this post will inevitably result in folks asking questions about the current position of the HATER movie, so I’ll give you my stock answer: I had a meeting with the producer a week or so ago and the project is still very much alive and kicking. The script is in great shape and we’re just waiting for the stars to align. I’ll share more news the very second I’m able to.

Back to PAN’S LABYRINTH. It’s an astonishing film which rightly deserved the critical acclaim it received on release. Now, many years later, del Toro and author Cornelia Funke have adapted the story into a novel and, thanks to the publisher, I was recently able to read a copy. When I heard about the book I was concerned, and I struggled to understand why the story needed to be retold. Having read it, though, I totally get it. Remind yourself of the beauty of the film then read on below for my thoughts.

It’s 1944 and the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. In Spain, a troop of soldiers are sent to a remote forest to flush out the rebels. They are led by Capitan Vidal, a murdering sadist, and with him are his new wife Carmen and her daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Ofelia. Ofelia witnesses her stepfather’s sadistic brutality and is drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings.

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The longer, the better (sometimes)

All my recent talk of book launches and anniversaries has left me thinking about what I’ve achieved as a writer and what I still want to achieve. If I think of my career in terms of how a farmer manages their fields, then I’d say I’m currently in a fallow period after a couple of pretty decent harvests. I caught the crest of two waves originally when I a) started publishing independently before most others, and b) wrote about zombies just as the living dead became massively popular. And then, a few years later, I enjoyed another prolonged purple patch when Guillermo del Toro somehow stumbled on a copy of HATER and, for a time, everyone wanted a bit of me.

But writing is a fickle, unpredictable business. Just ask my friend Joseph D’Lacey who recently posted this brutally honest piece about his career.

For those of us who just happen to love writing and who hate self-publicising with a passion, being an author is not the easiest of career choices. You keep doing it because you can’t stop, and with every page you write you convince yourself that this could be the next big thing, even though you know that competition to actually be the next big thing is impossibly fierce. And then when you’ve finished writing and you hand your work to someone else to read, all the confidence you’ve built up evaporates and turns to crippling self-doubt. Well it does for me, anyway.

A frustrating amount of this is completely out of the writer’s control. You don’t control the market, you have no influence on current trends, you can do little to make sure yours is the right book seen in the right place at the right time… and yet, we keep at it. Sometimes even the very thing you’re trying to write can conspire against you.

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The Shape of Water

A fairly predictable film recommendation from me today. I make no secret of the fact that I owe GUILLERMO DEL TORO big time. I’ve never met the man, never even spoken to him directly, but it’s no exaggeration to say that he changed my life. His endorsement of HATER and the movie he almost produced helped propel my gruesome little book from its modest indie roots to a worldwide release which exceeded my wildest expectations. I was trawling through some old clippings the other day and I came across an old interview with him where he talked about it: “…what I love about the premise is that there is a righteousness. It’s not a viral situation, not a contagion, it’s a situation of a social disease. That we can road rage into murdering someone at any second. That it’s a social epidemic is what attracted me. It’s not a zombie movie. The people that kill the people can rationalise why they did it. That’s what is scary about it.

You can understand why this was such a big deal, but what made it an even bigger deal was the fact I was a huge Guillermo del Toro fan even before this happened. I happened upon a copy of his first movie, CRONOS, shortly after it was released in 1993, and I’d followed his career with interest since then. Or was that his careers? He seems to occupy a unique position whereby he alternates big budget crowd pleasing movies like HELLBOY and PACIFIC RIM with more personal films such as THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and PAN’S LABYRINTH. His most recent movie, for which he picked up the best director and best picture Oscars at this year’s Academy awards, seems to have brought both of these strands of film-making together.

The premise is simple, the film is outstanding: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

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What Works For Me

It’s been several months since I last posted anything in my What Works For Me series of writing tips/ thoughts. There are several very good reasons for that. Most importantly, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to work out what exactly does work for me.

You’ll probably have seen endless debate online over the last few months about the merits of independent versus traditional publishing, and also about the position/ value of indie authors as highlighted by the ongoing Hachette vs. Amazon debacle.

I started out Indie. I was Indie before most. I’m so old school that I genuinely used to email pdf and Word versions of AUTUMN to interested folks back in the day. I did well from it, and if I hadn’t done what I’d done, I’d probably have never written HATER and it might not have found its way onto the desk of the folks who passed it on to Guillermo del Toro all those years ago… When Thomas Dunne Books of New York made an offer for the publishing rights back in 2007, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

CostofLivingSo now we’re another seven years or so down the line, and the marketplace has changed beyond all recognition. Indie authors are in a better place now: more accepted, and with better tools and technologies at their disposal.

THE COST OF LIVING proved to be a turning point for me. I’ve been stunned by the success of my little ebook – it’s sold remarkably well and has opened my eyes to the full potential of independent publishing again. With the recent relaunch/ rebranding of INFECTED BOOKS, I feel like I’ve regained the control you inevitably lose when you publish traditionally, and I’m ready to take full advantage of that.

So, to stop a long story getting any longer, I’ll just say this: for now, although I’m technically what you’d call a Hybrid author, I feel 100% Indie again. So what does this mean? Well, for a start you should watch for another surprise release later this week (you can pre-order it now – I’ll tell you more tomorrow), and then look out for STRANGERS – my brand new, full-length novel, coming from Infected Books in November this year.

The future of Infected Books

So, a while back I promised to explain what was happening with Infected Books.

You might recall that, sometime around the middle of IBlast month, after clearing a lot of my shelves and stocks of books, I shuttered the website (which had become known as the Infected Bookstore, because that was pretty much all it was). People asked if I was disappearing or giving up… if I’d had my fill of independent publishing… if I was through with writing altogether…

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how things used to be back in 2001 when I started giving away the original AUTUMN novel for free via my website. The eBook market was small back then, and self-publishing was a dirty word (I know it still is to some people). These were the days before Kindle, Nook and iBooks… when I was literally emailing pdfs, Word docs, and all manner of obscure early eBook formats directly to interested folks.

Infected Books was created in early 2005 as a clear and very definite brand – a way of publishing my books independently which a). didn’t make me look like a one man band operating out of the spare bedroom at home (which I was) and b). gave me a professional-looking brand with which I could compete with other publishers around the world. In that respect, IB worked brilliantly. It was, as one senior editor working for a UK publisher told me a few years back, a masterstroke.

But then everything that happened with Guillermo del Toro and HATER and Thomas Dunne Books happened, and I pulled down the virtual shutters.

Fast-forward a few years, and I re-launched the business back in 2012 to republish my remaining novels – books which had been released previously, but which I knew would benefit from an upgrade. It worked really well. TRUST, AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION and, most recently, STRAIGHT TO YOU have been very successful.

But things really changed again at the end of May, when THE COST OF LIVING was released. I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again anyway – the success of my little zombie novella has far exceeded my expectations. In some ways, THE COST OF LIVING has been a catalyst for the changes I’m going to tell you about now.

Infected Books is a publisher first and foremost. In the future, it’ll be much more than that (starting with, I hope, Infected Films in a couple of years time – more about that later). The website, though, didn’t represent that. In fact, it had become a glorified bookstore which took more time and money to maintain than I had available.

I’d like to invite you to visit the new www.infectedbooks.co.uk which has just been launched. It looks much the same visually, but there’s been a definite shift in content and focus (although you can still buy signed books from the site – now with free UK shipping). You’ll find much more about the titles IB publishes, and there will be plenty more new releases to come in the next few months. A mix of eBooks, limited editions, and new paperback releases are coming… there are things planned every month from hereon in. Please also follow IB on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to hear about these releases.

THE COST OF LIVING has reinvigorated me, and I can’t wait to let you see what’s coming next.

Infected Books is very much alive and kicking. As I first said back in 2001 (a line which plenty of others have pinched since then…) stick with me and let’s SPREAD THE INFECTION!

Happy Birthday HATER!

Hater (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009)It’s hard to believe, but it’s five years today since HATER was re-released by Thomas Dunne Books in the US and Gollancz here in the UK. It’s no exaggeration to say that little book changed my life. Before its release I’d been doing fairly well for myself publishing the first three AUTUMN books through Infected Books and I’d been planning to expand. I launched HATER with the intention of kick-starting a new series, but I had no idea what would happen next.

Within a couple of months, with less than a thousand copies having been sold, I was approached about the film rights. That deal went on to see Guillermo del Toro, J A Bayona (director of The Impossible and the forthcoming World War Z 2) and Mark Johnson (producer of Breaking Bad, amongst other things) involved with my book, and led to the HATER series being picked up for publication in many countries around the world.

So please join me in saying Happy Birthday HATER! If you haven’t read the book, visit wwwhttp://davidmoody.net/books/hater/ to find out more. And here, for old time’s sake, is a viral video released by Thomas Dunne to support the original release.

And no – I don’t have any news about the movie (I’ll update here if I do). But yes – one way or another I’m determined there WILL be a HATER film eventually!

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HATER Competition time!

Yes I know… I’ve gone quiet on you again. That’s largely because I’m trying to get three novels finished before the end of October (see my recent update here).

I realised that I hadn’t mentioned the campaign recently started by a few of Moody’s Survivors to give Hollywood a hint and see if we can’t get the HATER movie moving forward (there are positive signs, but a little push wouldn’t hurt…). There’s a Facebook page here which I’d love for you to like and share if you feel so inclined. HBackSmall So the position is this: the movie rights were recently re-optioned by Mark Johnson and Guillermo del Toro et al, and J A Bayona (who was previously attached to direct) has mentioned the project a couple of times in recent interviews in connection with his excellent movie, THE IMPOSSIBLE. With THE WALKING DEAD continuing to do great business and with the WORLD WAR Z movie taking everybody by surprise and being a huge hit this summer, a lot of you seem to think – and, of course, I completely agree – that the time is right for the HATER film.

Hopefully I’ll have some more concrete news for you in the very near future. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to run a competition to keep the project in the public eye. All you have to do is design a HATER-themed T-shirt to promote either the books, the film, or the campaign to get the movie made.

Either post your design on Facebook or email it to davidmoody@djmoody.co.uk by the end of October. By that time I’ll have employed a top-notch judging panel (I’m looking at you, Survivors!) who I’ll ask to pick a winner. As well as receiving a few signed books and other odds and ends, the winner will also have their design printed up and made available for sale via the Infected Bookstore.

Let’s join together and spread The Hate!

World War Z and the Hater movie

I wanted to talk about WORLD WAR Z for a couple of reasons. A discussion of the film follows (stick around for a half hour video review from Mr Simmons and I) but, before that, I have a more personal reason to be interested.

world-war-z-movie-posterFor a long time I’ve thought that the immediate future of the zombie sub-genre would, to a large extent, hinge on the success or failure of the WWZ movie. It’s fair to say that after all the well-documented issues with budgets and scripts and reshoots etc., I don’t think anyone expected the success the film has had, nor for a sequel to have been greenlit so rapidly. That has to be a good thing, I think, and I’m hopeful that, as a result, Hollywood will have a renewed interest in large budget, zombie-style movies. I would say that… the HATER movie rights have just been re-optioned.

As an enjoyable, effects-laden, dumb old zombie flick, WWZ certainly delivered. As an adaptation of Max Brook’s novel, however, it failed on just about every level. But does that really matter? Looking at things from my perspective, with a film adaptation of Hater on the horizon, I can see two sides. Sure I’d like a fairly literal interpretation of my original story to be filmed, but I’d also like the publicity and sales that a more commercial movie would hopefully generate. I have to accept that such publicity and sales might come at the expense of the integrity of my story. As wrong as it might sound, at this stage in my career with mouths to feed and bills to pay and many projects in the pipeline but few under contract, if I’m honest I’d have to say I’d rather take the cash. With Guillermo del Toro still attached to Hater I’m happy to take that chance of course, and regardless of how any movie turned out, my original book would still be available. It’s not like it would disappear or be replaced. Despite his understandable frustrations with the filmmakers, I’m sure Max Brooks is more than happy with the thousands and thousands of people who’ve picked up his book because of the film…

Right, back to WWZ. Rather than write a long blog post, I’ll let Wayne and I do the talking.

If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. If you have and you’ve seen the film, what were your thoughts on the movie adaptation, and what are your hopes/fears for a Hater adaptation? I’d be really interested to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter etc.

The Impossible

Most of the film recommendations I share here are post-apocalyptic movies, but today I’m making an exception. Kind of.

Back in 2008, just after Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the planned Hater movie had been announced, other names soon became attached to the project. Glen Mazzara (late of AMC’s The Walking Dead) wrote a script and Juan Antonio Bayona was lined up to direct. I immediately got hold of a copy of Bayona’s debut feature – The Orphanage – and was very, very impressed by the film. If you haven’t yet seen it, I suggest you check it out. Bayona was also kind enough to blurb Hater, saying ‘Be careful with Hater; chapter by chapter it will make its way into your soul ‘til it finds the seed of evil which lurks within.

The Impossible

For one reason or another (and I still don’t know exactly why), the Hater movie didn’t happen. And just for the record, because I seem to get asked several times every day, I don’t know what the current status of the project is.

Fast-forward to now, and J A Bayona’s second feature – The Impossible – has recently been released. I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about it. The film is based on the true story of a Spanish family of five who, despite being split up and scattered by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, all managed to survive and were later reunited. The sheer improbability of their story gives rise to the title of the movie.

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Autumn: Disintegration – long delays and parallel sequels

I’ve just emailed the final corrections to my publishers, so that means AUTUMN: DISINTEGRATION is at last finally ready for publication.

It’s been a long haul. The book was originally announced in early 2006, and I intended to write it as soon as I’d finished the project I was working on at the time (that was HATER, by the way). A combination of work (I was working full time and trying to run Infected Books – a full-time job in itself back then), family issues, and various other distractions (such as the AUTUMN movie entering production, Guillermo del Toro becoming associated with the movie adaptation of HATER, and Thomas Dunne Books acquiring worldwide rights to the HATER series) prevented me from actually finishing the book until June 2008. I was poised, ready to release DISINTEGRATION through Infected Books, when I found myself in London meeting the team from Gollancz who’d just obtained the UK rights to HATER. They asked what else I was working on, and I duly handed them copies of the AUTUMN books (which I just happened to have with me!). They asked me not to do anything with DISINTEGRATION just yet, and who was I to argue? Within two months, the AUTUMN books had also been bought by Thomas Dunne.

Traditional publishing is usually much, much slower than self- or independent- publishing (I used to have books on sale within weeks of having finished writing them – now it’s years…). Even with the accelerated release schedule the AUTUMN books have enjoyed both in the UK and US, it’s taken another three and a half years to finally get close to the release of DISINTEGRATION.

I’m sorry for the delay. Thanks for sticking with me!

Last week I gave you a little background information about the book and hinted at the plot. This week I wanted to explain a little more about how DISINTEGRATION fits in with the rest of the AUTUMN series.

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