Thank you for giving up the time to speak to us Wayne. For those who may not know much about you and your work can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got into horror writing.
Thanks, Mark. The pleasure’s all mine – very kind of you to invite me over to Snakebite.
I always say that my writing is an extension of being a fan of horror, and I think many of the people reading this interview – those who are writers or aspiring writers, at the very least – know what I mean by that; there comes a time when you get so immersed in something, so very obsessed by it, that you can do nothing but get involved.
I started out doing interviews and reviews and through that got talking to folks like David Moody, Bowie Ibarra, the late great Z Recht and Andre Duza. Reading these guys’ work got me more and more interested in writing myself. Especially Dave’s stuff: being set closer to home made the AUTUMN series particularly palatable.
My first dabble into horror writing came around 2005 or 2006, when I penned the short story, THE GIRL WITH THE FLAPPING EYES. It was an apoc-horror story about a guy who lived in a small village waking up one day to find everyone dead around him. He sets off to the local chip shop, where he finds the oddly well preserved corpse of a local girl he fancies. Those who’ve read DDG can guess the rest!
I sent the story off to Dave Moody to take a look at, and he was very generous with his time and said some very nice things about it. That gave me the confidence to try something else, hence DROP DEAD GORGEOUS.
Once written, I sent DDG off to Permuted Press. They suggested a few changes, which I made, and in November 2008 (after a year or so in post-production) DDG was released. The book has since been reworked rereleased in the UK via Snowbooks, with a special edition – including the first ever release of THE GIRL WITH FLAPPING EYES – to see release in the summer.
How did the idea for FLU and FEVER come about?
I started writing FLU halfway through the first draft of DOLL PARTS (DDG part 2). It was inspired by the so-called pandemic of Swine Flu: there was loads of footage on TV from South America, as I recall, showing masked cops herding people around as panic set in. It looked like the start of a zombie movie and so I jumped on the idea and started writing immediately. I had always wanted to write a post-Romero zombie novel, so this was the catalyst.
Had you always planned on writing FEVER or was it due to the popularity of FLU that you penned it?
Yeah, I had always envisaged FLU to be the first book in a series, probably a trilogy to start with. What happens after that will depend on the popularity of the first 3 books. I’ve been very fortunate to sell FLU’s translation rights to Spain, Germany and Turkey so far, and would like to broaden the story out to include those countries at some point, as a nod to the fans there. Who knows what the future may hold? It’s been a hell of a ride to date, that’s all I know!
Your novel FLU was a huge hit with zombie fans and horror readers alike. Is it hard to find fresh ideas within the zombie sub-genre with so many zombie titles coming out?
Thank you for saying so! I’ve been very humbled by the response to FLU – I never expected it at all.
I think, for me, the setting and characters maintain the freshness with FLU. The story itself is unapologetically post Romero, the zombies very familiar. But the characters are perhaps different to what you might normally find in a zombie novel; they’re gritty, damaged, not always likeable. In general, I try to write Noir-style characters with all my books; heroes that are fucked-up and heavily flawed; villans who don’t know they’re villans, that kind of thing.
Have you always been a fan of the zombie genre?
Hell yeah! But I’ll admit that the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD drew me further into the sub-genre. I joined a very cool forum called ALL THINGS ZOMBIE around then, and, through that became exposed to lots of zombie books and films that I might not otherwise have heard about. It was as important a community to me then as MOODY’S SURVIVORS facebook group is to contemporary zombie and apoc-horror fans.
A question around the zombie genre subject: It is the end of the world, and the dead are coming back around you what five people (real or fictional) would you like in your team and why?
Ohhh, that’s a tricky one! It would have to be George A. Romero to start with: he may be a little on the senior side, but the dude knows zombies. David Moody: he’s a big lad and I’d say he’d do some serious damage with a baseball bat. Andre Duza’s another hack I’d like onside: dude has a collection of mele weapons that would make grown men weep. Rick from THE WALKING DEAD, of course. Flyboy from DAWN OF THE DEAD 78 would be useful too (or more accurately, his helicopter and anyone who could fly the damn thing).
As with all our interviews, and the fact that i know you like both, which is best FILM or FICTION?
I’m going to say fiction. It’s a very difficult question for me: I love films almost as much as books and go through a lot of them. My writing’s very visual and draws as much inspiration from the films I watch as the books I read.
If you could pick one BOOK and one FILM to recommend to our readers what would you choose and why?
AUTUMN by David Moody is the book. It’s simply the best zombie story, by the best zombie writer, out there.
MUTANTS is the film I’m going to go for. It’s a recent flick - French release by a UK director/ writer - that really blew me away. Definitely one of my top 5 zombie horrors.
What are your thoughts on the rising trend of E-Book self publishing and the rise of small publishing presses popping up over the internet?
I think it’s great to see the get-up-and-go attitude of successful writers like David Moody, Z Recht, JL Bourne and David Wellington inspiring new writers and publishers to spring up and put stuff out there. I’ve always enjoyed reading books by indie publishers, Deadite being one of my favourites these days. I do worry about the quality of material going out there, of course, but the proof is always in the pudding and consumers catch on very quickly to what’s good and what’s... not so good. If you’re a writer, whether self-published or trad-published, you owe it to yourself to put your absolute all into what you put out. Anything less is going to show and, ultimately, lose you readers.
Who are your idols within the business?
Fellow zombie horror hacks - David Moody, Andre Duza, Bowie Ibarra, Joe McKinney etc.
And then there are the masters of the horror genre in general: Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Richard Laymon, Skipp & Spector, Richard Matheson etc.
In comics, it’s Warren Ellis and Robert Kirkman.
Movies: George A. Romero, Danny Boyle, David Cronenberg, Johannes Roberts (F) and Ti West (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL).
You have the DOLL PARTS hitting the shelves soon but what else is next for Wayne Simmons.
I’ve the special limited edition hardbacks of FLU and DDG seeing release in the Summer. There’s a tech noir sci-fi doing the rounds with my agent and I’m just about to start work on a vamp novel (think Skipp & Spector’s THE LIGHT AT THE END as opposed to TWILIGHT). I’ve also just kicked off a very special collaboration project with someone I’ve named in this interview. There’s also a hard boiled thriller half-written and a fantasy novel started. In short, I’m pretty busy.