1. Bring John McCuaig into focus for my readers. What gives you personal inspiration and what hobbies do you indulge in that doesn't involve writing and the dead?
First of all, thanks for inviting me along, Jamal. My inspiration comes from a deep rooted fear of zombies, it’s so bad I struggle to sleep after watching some movies or reading particular scenes in books. Several times I’ve woke the house up with my screaming nightmares as I’m eaten alive inside some derelict old house. My missus thinks I’m mad for writing about them as well, I guess she may well have a point.Well, I love to walk my unbelievably daft dogs, Tyler and Molly, brother and sister Dalmatians. We do about an hours walk every night, come rain or shine, and I also find it’s good that my partner Pam and I can have a bit of time together to just chat away without too many distractions.
2. John what genres have you penned stories in? What is your preferred topic? Have your anthology submissions crossed genres or have you stuck with zombies as your go to?
With my short stories I’ve dabbled in most genres of horror from vampires, werewolves and sea monsters to ghosts and evil spirits. I’ve even done a little bit of sci-fi and a so far unpublished supernatural crime thriller, but zombies have always been, and will probably stay, my first love.
3. How do you take your zombies traditional Night of The Living Dead or something more non conventional? What are your feelings on the recent explosion in zombie stories from authors in U.K.? Living in London what do you see in the zombie culture on your side of the pond?
I much prefer the slow, shambling type of zombies but have no real problem with the faster type, I just don’t see how they can move that fast while rotting away. If they are to be fast then I prefer them to be infected, like in 28 Days Later, rather than re-animated.
The rise in UK based zombie stories has been a pleasant surprise. Whether that is a bit of social commentary with regards to the recession, or just us UK authors wanting to put our own take on proceedings I’m not too sure, but either way, bring them on. Although Escape from Dead City is not a great example of this point I think there is also the obvious lack of weapons over here. You can’t pop over to your cupboard and grab a few machine guns and set about them. Taking on the hordes with just a chunk of wood is certainly a little bit more scary.
4. When I first read you work "Escape from Dead City" it was titled "The Last Train to Dover." Obviously there was a change in title was this something you wanted to do or was this an idea from your publisher? How do you maintain "artistic" control over your work and not compromise the vision you had for your work?
The idea came from the publisher but it was only a recommendation, they said I could keep it but felt that it needed something more “generic” to make it stand out. I asked a few friends for advice and went through dozens of options until I decided on this one. I’m sure there would have been no real issue if I wanted to keep Last Train. I must however admit that it was a pretty tough decision, but the right one I believe.
I think keeping your vision is paramount but you must also be able to take some advice, or at the very least listen to it before deciding.
5. I have seen your stories appear in stand alone novels and in novel/novella format with your name in the marquee spot. What is your preference if you have one? I know we all love to see our names take top billing but what are the difficulties versus the rewards of writing a quick short and a full novel length novel?
I prefer novels to be honest but it’s time to take a break for a while. I want to do another short story collection. I’ve done one already, “Children of the Plague” that’s out on Amazon, and feel ready to have a go at another. Novels can be pretty draining, if you are stuck you have to break your way through, get stuck on a short- just work on another until you are ready. The freedom of shorts seems more than appealing for the next few months. It will be horror but my thinking at this time is a max of one or two from each sub genre. That may be a bit too varied for some peoples tastes but that’s the plan for now. Or I could just revert to type and do all zombie!
6. I had the privilege of previewing Escape From Dead City and thoroughly enjoyed it. One can see you knowledge of the railway system at play through out the story. Take us through Escape From Dead City John from concept to publication. How does one pen a story that take us from the streets of the U.K. to the coast of France and beyond?
For my sins I do work on the railways, for the last 23 years actually, and to think I only joined them until I found another job! Living in a large city like London I often wondered how I would try and escape when the undead come. A few hundred tonnes of metal flying along at 100mph seemed as good a way as any, and something that others would think of as well. From that start it was getting some characters together with the need, and the knowledge, to try and get aboard.
I write my stories a little bit different than most people. I start off with about 8-10 chapter headings, this acts as a very rough outline, usually without an ending, then I jump backwards and forwards trying to build the story. I might do 500 words on chapter one, then a thousand on chapter eight and back to chapter five for a while. The story changes all the time, I add some chapters and completely delete others, and in next to no time it bares little resemblance to what I started with. The jaunt over to France felt like the next natural step when trying to escape the hordes, I try to put myself in situations and ask “what would I do next?” Which is a bit strange, as I know if the dead did rise all I would do is have a heart attack. I contacted Severed Press and asked them if they would like to have a look at it, I had just signed the contract for Metahorde, they did and within a couple of weeks agreed to publish it as well. I think from the first e-mail to it actually being published was only about two months or so, far quicker than normal.
7. Now for your latest work of literary art "Meta-horde: A Ministry of Zombie Novel." Tell me how "Meta-horde" differs from your others works? Have you taken the concept of the living dead and thrown caution to the wind? What elements come together to make "Meta-horde" unique?
First of all it’s a collab novel with Sean Page. We get on very well, now that’s a must but we could also throw ideas backwards and forwards without any fear. Sean had wrote a fair bit about the Metahorde in his previous work so that was his idea but most of the rest was a combined effort. I honestly can’t remember much that wasn’t a joint decision after a bit of a brain storming session. This type of project isn’t for everyone I’m sure, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would do it again in a heartbeat.
The story is set a few years after the rising, and although this has been done before we believe we’ve taken a fresh look at what could happen if the zombie’s food ran out- all that was left was safe and sound behind strong defences. Would the undead act any differently? Would their basic instincts change to start to form together in unimaginably high numbers? All through natural history we have seen even the most basic of creatures learn to adapt, this is not through intelligence as we know it but through the greatest need of all- the will to survive.
I also believe this is a good old fashioned “ripping yarn”, the action flies along as we take a jaunt to camps in Croatia, France, Italy, the U.K and China to name just a few. Different groups have different ideas on survival and would they actually care for anyone else out there, living maybe hundreds of miles away? We’re really pleased with the end product and hope our readers are too.
"A visceral gore fest done right. The constant tension and suspense leaves you gritting your teeth. I loved it. My kind of read."
- P. A. Douglas, author of Epidemic of the Undead
"Metahorde grips you from the beginning, dragging you through the doomed trenches of the gathering undead. It's exciting and terrifying -- humanity doesn't stand a chance."
- Rebecca Besser, Author of Undead Drive-Thru and Nurse Blood
8. What is on the horizon from you John? What works and projects can we expect and give us a general idea as to how long we will have to wait?
I have two other novels off at publishers, just waiting now to hear the yah or nay-
Pyramid of the Dead- A play on the historic event of how a few hundred Spanish Conquistadors managed to bring down the strongest Empire of that time- the Incans. This has sort of zombies in it, the undead are up and on the hunt but rather than some virus they are controlled by a God from the Underworld. It’s a tale of greed and betrayal, of black magic and faith.
Fallen Angel- A first for me, this is a paranormal/crime thriller. All over London priests are being butchered and churches destroyed. A cop and a church envy work together and discover that one of Satan’s Fallen Angels is trying to return to earth.
As soon as I get word on them I’ll announce it on my blog.
9. John tell me and everyone else where your fans gather? Where can we find John McCuaig on the web and other social media outlets?
I have a blog- www.johnmccuaig.blogspot.co.uk
A website but this desperately needs updating- www.johnmccuaig.com
Face book- John McCuaig and Twitter- @johnmccuaig
10. Other than your own work about the living dead which zombie themed works, comics, media and authors entertain John in his spare time?
I'm a big fan of Sean Page, my co-author of Metahorde, this is how we first started talking. His “The Official Zombie Handbook” is an amazing read where I could lose myself for hours. Timothy W. Long’s “Among the Living” is another favourite of mine, great characters and several different takes on how to face the same rising. I read this at its original publisher before it was picked up by Permuted Press.
Still my No.1 is however “Tomes of the Dead: Words of their Roaring”. Not universally critically acclaimed and even featuring the unthinkable- thinking zombies but it somehow hit the perfect note for me, even after a half dozen readings it’s still a great way to spend a weekend.
I am also a big fan of the Resident Evil games, apart from number 5, and am looking forward to the next one. The previews and beta tests seem promising.