David Wellington is the author of seven novels. His zombie novels MONSTER ISLAND, MONSTER NATION and MONSTER PLANET form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including (so far) THIRTEEN BULLETS, NINETY-NINE COFFINS, VAMPIRE ZERO and TWENTY THREE HOURS, and in October of 2009 began his new Werewolf series, starting with FROSTBITE. His web page is www.davidwellington.net.
MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Welcome David! You’ve gathered quite an impressive array of degrees from prominent universities having to do with creative writing. How has your education influenced your writing?
DAVID WELLINGTON: Only indirectly, really. The main reason to pursue a graduate degree in Creative Writing is to be surrounded by other writers–you learn a lot more from your fellow students than from the instructors. The focus is on workshops, and I’ve found you can get that from an informal writing group. I suppose there may have been occasions when someone took me more seriously because I had an MFA, but really, the work needs to stand for itself.
VENTRELLA: Do you believe good writers are “born” or is education and training essential?
WELLINGTON: It’s all about hard work, unfortunately. It took me thirty years to get to the point where my work was worth being published. Exceptional talent might cut down on how long it takes–but the only way to improve as a writer is through trial and error. You need to write, a lot, and learn from your mistakes.
VENTRELLA: How did you get your “big break”? Aspiring writers want to know!
WELLINGTON: I tried everything, of course. I tried selling short stories to magazines. I tried submitting manuscripts to publishers, completely unsolicited. Nothing worked. I was actually ready to give up — when a friend of mine suggested that I publish a book on his website. The book happened to be MONSTER ISLAND. He set up a blog for me and I posted a short chapter three times a week. At first it was just for fun — I had no reason to believe it would lead to anything. Then people started reading it. A lot of people. By the time I had a couple of thousand people reading each new post, a publisher came to me with an offer. I used to say I got into publishing through the back door — but I’ve since come to realize there really isn’t a front door. If you want to be published today, you have to get creative. Luckily, if you’re a writer, you’ve already got a well-developed imagination!
VENTRELLA: How did you get involved in the Marvel Zombies series?
WELLINGTON: Marvel actively sought out the authors of zombie novels to come up with some new ideas for the franchise. They approached three of us to each write one issue of Marvel Zombies Return. I absolutely jumped at the chance — I’d been a fan of comics my whole life, and had always dreamed of writing one some day.
VENTRELLA: How does writing for comics differ from writing novels?
WELLINGTON: It’s much more like writing a screenplay. You’re writing something that will never be seen. Your script is going to be interpreted by an artist, so you give up a certain measure of control. You have to trust your artist to interpret your vision. Luckily for me I was matched with Andrea Mutti, whose art really brought my story to life. The guy’s a pro.
VENTRELLA: You have already tackled several classic horror monsters: werewolves, vampires and zombies. All of these takes were fairly unusual in their descrpition of the monsters’ qualites/appearances, yet retaining a lot of the classic elements at the same time. How did you come by that decision?
WELLINGTON: Whenever I start a project, I want to do it my own way. Otherwise where’s the fun? I start with the traditional version, and think about how I can play with it. That way I can add something new, and hopefully something fresh. My zombies don’t just eat brains — they eat anything organic. They peel gum off the street and eat it if there’s nothing else. They’re the ultimate consumers. My vampires were a direct reaction to the romantic vampires you see so often these days. I wanted my vampires to be scary — predators in a world where we would have a very hard time fighting back. And so on.
VENTRELLA: What’s next? Any plans to give us a fresh take on another horror creature?
WELLINGTON: There will be two books in my new werewolf series–FROSTBITE, out now, and OVERWINTER, which will come out next year. I’d like to do a fifth vampire book, to finish the series.
VENTRELLA: The protagonist of your vampire series, Laura Caxton, is lesbian which is quite unusual for mainstream horror. Anything specific that prompted you to that decision?
WELLINGTON: There wasn’t a lot of decision-making involved. When I created Laura, I knew I had a scene where she comes home after a very nasty day at work and gets into bed. I knew there would be someone in the bed waiting for her — when I got to that scene, the other person just happened to be another woman. The character was partly based on my sister, who is gay. Beyond that I gave it very little thought–and nobody ever gave me a hard time about it. My editors never blinked. My readers have accepted it without making a big deal out of it. I was pleasantly surprised by that.
VENTRELLA: What are your favorite books in the horror genre? Favorite horror movies?
WELLINGTON: My favorite books in horror are the classics — Lovecraft, Poe, Arthur Machen. As far as movies go, I like any horror movie that plays with the genre or expands a story in an interesting way. “Near Dark” is a great film, as is “Let the Right One In,” for this reason.
VENTRELLA: Have you ever considered writing in any other genre?
WELLINGTON: When I started publishing, it was with a horror novel. But I’ve never considered myself just a horror writer — I’ve actually written far more science fiction novels than horror novels, they just never got published. I write fantasy, mystery, even literary fiction — whatever idea comes along, I pounce on it.
VENTRELLA: What’s your favorite monster?
WELLINGTON: Frankenstein’s Monster, definitely. There’s something about that character — both in Mary Shelley’s book and in the Universal films — that really speaks to me, an existential loneliness that demands answers. What am I? Why was I created? What am I supposed to do now? The monster asks all these questions, and gets no answers. That’s how I feel every morning when I wake up. Then I eat my cereal and get to work and I feel a lot better.
VENTRELLA: Do you have any specific advice you would give a writer trying to make it in the publishing business that they may not have heard before?
WELLINGTON: Keep writing — it can seem pointless, but it’ll work eventually. Something will catch somebody’s eye. Or you’ll improve as a writer to the point where people can’t ignore you any more. Try to tell stories, rather than creating great art. Keep reading books — every book, good or bad, has something to teach you.
VENTRELLA: What are you most proud of? For What would you like to be remembered?
WELLINGTON: A book that hasn’t been published yet. One I haven’t written yet. Every book I write is better, in some way, than the last. I don’t want to be one of those writers who publishes one good book and then can never catch that fire again. I want to be the guy who’s best work is always his latest one, like Terry Pratchett.
VENTRELLA: What are you working on now that we can look forward to?
WELLINGTON: FROSTBITE, my werewolf book, is out right now–you can get it at Amazon or in any bookstore. There will be a sequel called OVERWINTER, out next year. I hope you’ll like them!