Your most recent novel, Coldbrook, is a refreshing take on Zombie Apocalypse: grounded in science, with the apocalypse – while suitably gory – a backdrop for the stories of some compelling, and very human, characters. What drew you to a sub-genre that could easily be seen as played out by now?
Partly because I’d never written a zombie novel, and partly because I wanted to try to write one that was suitably different. Oh, and also because I wanted to destroy the world again. I’ve done that so many times in novellas and short stories, but only once or twice in novels. So I wanted to write my own great big apocalyptic novel, and Coldbrook is it (so far … there will be more). I’d written a couple of short stories featuring zombies, and my novel Berserk is, I’m told, a zombie novel (though the Z word never once crossed my mind when I was writing it). I’ve also become fascinated with multiverse theory (who can’t be fascinated with it?) and wanted to wrap that into a novel at some point. This seemed the ideal one.
What’s the reaction been to Coldbrook?
It’s had excellent reaction from readers and reviewers so far. The novel took a long time coming – it was actually with another publisher for a while, and they publicised it pretty widely – so to actually see it out from Hammer at last was great. I think by then there were quite a few people itching to read it.
Your Toxic City trilogy has just been snapped up by ABC for development as a TV series. Tell us more about what will be happening.
Yes, that’s really exciting. I’m not heavily involved in the writing process (although I’m here as a consultant). ABC Studios optioned the trilogy, and it was immediately sold to ABC Network. What this means is that the pilot script has been commissioned, and writer Jaime Paglia is working on that right now (I’ve seen the proposal and it’s amazing). Early in 2013 we should hear more. It’s a much quicker process than any movie option, some of which I’ve had hanging for literally years.
I’m very positive about Toxic City because of the great team attached. Jaime wrote A Town Called Eureka (SyFy’s longest running series). And the director Alex Proyas is known for The Crow, I, Robot, and Dark City, amongst others. Watch this space!
Will this TV attention change your writing in any way? For instance, are you drawn to writing more televisual and cinematic work, either as scripts or with a view to adaptation?
I am writing scripts occasionally, and I’d love to do more. I’m working on a TV proposal myself right now for the UK, writing the pilot on spec (because I’m not known as a screenwriter), and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also writing a spooky animated kids’ movie called My Haunted House for a UK producer and director. I’ve written a script with Steve Volk that’s doing the rounds, and Chris Golden and I adapted our first Secret Journeys of Jack London novel for 20th Century Fox. I love screenwriting and hope to do more of it in the future.
But writing novels and novellas, no, I never really think about the screen side of things. If you do that you might as well write a screenplay … and a novel should be what it needs to be. After I’ve written something I think about it, of course, because that’s the business. I think Coldbrook would make an amazing movie or TV series – imagine each episode taking place in a different Earth! – but the budget would be immense.
What are you working on now?
The script I mentioned above, My Haunted House. The pilot script for my TV proposal, tentatively titled Breaking Rocks. A short story with Mike Marshall Smith for an anthology. A YA novel with Mark Morris, The Trials of Toby Stone. A new novella for Spectral Publications. And just yesterday I heard that I’ve sold a new novel from a proposal, called The Silence, so I’ll be amping up to start that after Christmas. Lots of other stuff too … a new script, another novella, another TV proposal in the USA… all at varying stages, of course.
What will we see from you in the near future?
The second and third books in the Toxic City trilogy are due out next year, as well as my Star Wars novel Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void. Coldbrook will have a US release next year, too, which is great news. And at World Fantasy 2013, my new novella from Spectral will be launched.
Describe your typical writing day.
It usually fits around the kids going to school and my wife working. So I’ll start writing around 10am and usually finish around 3 or 4 when the kids come home. I do other stuff early morning and evenings, like emails, interviews, all the business side of things. And I also do a lot of exercising now – cycling, running, swimming – in preparation for an Ironman race next year, so that all fits in between everything else.
But some days, there’s a lot of window staring. Just part of the process.
What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
For horror lovers, my novella collection White and Other Tales of Ruin. For fantasy lovers, my first fantasy novel Dusk (although I’d say that Fallen is better). And for something a bit different, my novella The Thief of Broken Toys.
Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I’m a big fan of Paul Meloy, a UK writer who only writes a few stories per year. His collection Islington Crocodiles is fabulous. Also, Adam Nevill is a fantastic writer, and he’s continuing his success writing horror novels. Perhaps my favourite of his up to now is The Ritual. Helen Marshall is a Canadian writer everyone needs to watch out for, her first collection of short fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, is out now and it’s staggeringly good.
If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Never give up.
So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I wish I knew. Easy question first … I think readers will be reading the same stuff they are now, but with much easier access to different work, I’d hope that horizons expand. We certainly live in interesting times, and publishing is very volatile right now. I’m discovering that myself. I think everyone has to embrace the change rather than being afraid of it, because it can’t be stopped. Some people I know predict the end of publishing houses and agents entirely, but I don’t for a moment think things will go that far. There’s still business to be done, and most writers I’m sure would rather just write. Things will change, and then settle. I have a decent sized backlist that I’m keen to get out there as ebooks … but I’m not rushing things.
Tim Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. Recent releases include Coldbrook, London Eye, Nothing as it Seems and The Heretic Land. Future novels include Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi (Star Wars). He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards.
A TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development with ABC Network in the USA. He is working on new screenplays and TV proposals.
Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net