>Interview with Remy Porter

>Here is an interview I conducted with Remy Porter first time author of the zombie novel Dead Beat

Remy : Well where to start?! :) I’m 35 years old and grew up in Cumbria and Lancashire. I’m married, with a 4 year old daughter. I was a policeman in the UK, and a few months ago moved to Australia to do the same job. We’re slowly settling in the Oz way of life, but still haven’t decided if it’s going to be a permanent move or not.

In relation to writing, Dead Beat is my first novel and the only piece of fiction I’ve so far published. I did used to write short stories when I was in my early 20’s, but never seriously attempted to get them published. There was then a large gap of 8 or 9 years where I didn’t write anything, although I did have some some non-fiction boxing articles and interviews published in boxing publications. Career and family life kind of took over, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a novel one day.

Around the Summer of 2009 I finally bought a cheap laptop and 6 months later Dead Beat was finished.

What made you decide to write a zombie novel?

I’ll start slowly… I’ve just finished 3 and half hours overtime on the mean streets of Adelaide. It’s 3am and I’m a bit blooming knackered! :)

Getting back to the question, I’ve always been a massive film fan. I’ll try not to repeat what I’ve said before in other interviews, but I think at the back of my mind I always really enjoyed horror movies growing up, in particular George Romero’s stunning Dawn of the Dead.

After a youth of ploughing through just about every James Herbert and Stephen King novel it was actually only 3 or 4 years ago I stumbled onto the zombie novel genre. I read quite a few and really enjoyed them, despite the fact they often share similar story lines …the outbreak, the hiding and the fighting, etc.

I really wanted to write a novel, but had put it off for years. I felt a zombie story would be manageable for me, and the constant drama stopped me getting stuck or giving up. I’m really glad I did it!

Can you give us any background on Dead Beat?

Dead Beat is a classic piece of ‘what if’ writing …what if there was suddenly a zombie outbreak? I was working in a rural police station, in a place not unlike the villages in the novel, and it was a great starting point for the novel. Obviously I was careful to use fictional characters, but the geography in the book echoed where I grew up and worked. I sat down in the summer of 2009 and 6 months later Dead Beat was finished.

What have been your biggest influences on writing?

At a guess I would say James Herbert. He isn’t necessarily a critically acclaimed author, but I loved his novels growing up and I have a lot of respect for his work. My good pal Iain McKinnon is another. I loved his novel, Domain of the Dead, and he helped spur me on the write a novel myself. ‘Readers read, and writers write,’ was one drop of wisdom I remember him saying when I was procrastinating.

Are you a fan of the horror genre, and who are your favourites?

I’ve mentioned a few horror authors already, so I’ll switch to films. John Carpenter is a genius, and in particular I loved the cold-blooded thrills of ‘The Thing.’ It was an excellent template that horror writers can learn a lot from, not least the killer ending.

How hard did you have to solicit Dead Beat before publication?

I think I had 3 sample chapters, a letter and synopsis sent off to 5 or 6 publishing houses before I’d even finished the novel. Wild Wolf Publishing showed the most interest, and accepted me quickly once the manuscript was complete. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and encouraging publisher, and I think they’ll go from strength to strength. I don’t think I’ll hesitate in handing my next novel to them next year – Outback Dogs.

What do you think of the current state of the genre? Do you think there are too many people in the business who view themselves as something of the saviour and bastions of the genre?

I think the state of the genre is generally good. I wouldn’t describe myself as having read every zombie book there is out there, but I’ve chomped my way through quite a few. The genre also does attract a lot of self-published work, although that’s no bad thing in my opinion. I found Iain’s ‘Domain’ when it was self-published prior to his Permuted Press deal, and that was a real gem.

As with any genre there are the big names and best sellers, but as far as I can see nobody seems too big headed. I’ve met David Moody and he’s a thoroughly nice and decent chap! I’m just happy to see Dead Beat doing well. My next novel will be an Aussie werewolf/serial killer/crime novel mash up, so other than a Wild Wolf zombie short story anthology in 2011, Dead Beat may be it for me and zombies. I aim to start Outback Dogs in August.

As a new author what advice would you give to up coming writers?

Do your research and find the publisher that suits your work. I would recommend Wild Wolf if it’s suitably dark!

Zombies run or shamble?

Some people seem to have very set ideas in relation to this. Personally I think 28 Days Later was a zombie film in spirit, and the fast ‘infected’ were brilliant. Although alternatively the slow, choking crush of thousands of shamblers is equally effective. I’ll sit on the fence on that one! Dead Beat has a mixture of both.

If you could pick one book to re-write what would it be and how would you change it?

These questions are getting progressively more challenging to answer. I protest! :) I recently scripted a (hopefully) up coming film adaptation of Iain’s, Domain of the Dead. I had no end of fun messing with his original ideas, and doing that to his actual novel would be interesting. He would kill me though!

Can you tell us of any up coming projects?

Next up will be an anthology of zombie stories. My publisher Wild Wolf have agreed to publish it in early 2011, and it will include contributions by the likes of David Dunwoody, Derek Gunn, Gregory Solis, Rob Fox, Iain McKinnon, Calvin Miller and myself. The theme is zombie holiday!

As I said my next novel will be Outback Dogs, and should be out around the same time. It’s got a killer opening that’ll blow you away, but my lips are sealed!

What would be your three desert island books?

Well funny you should say that, three books have just arrived for me from England. Wayne Simmon’s Flu, Adam Nevill’s Apartment 16and Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping. I’m not big on re-reading books, so those three would be just the job!

How does your personal life manifest itself in your work?

I think characters inevitably get invested with a certain amount of the author’s personality and interests. Dead Beat obviously has a central character doing my old job at a country police station. And that certainly saved time on needing any research! :) I suspect with my next novel and future works I’ll drift further away from these autobiographical tendancies. Outback Dog’s leading character, Len Reever will be nothing like me for sure.

Can you tell us about how you set out to write a story? How much planning do you do? Do you set yourself a target for each day? And how do you manage to fit it in with being a full time police officer?

Well I can only really talk about Dead Beat, because there was 8-9 years before that I didn’t do any writing. With the novel I certainly laid down a frame work of where I wanted the story to go. Basically a page of dot points, and ideas for chapters that got added to and developed as I went along. Then before I wrote each chapter I would scribble a small plan for that too.

From a research point of view, I didn’t feel the need to do a massive amount, although I did Wikipedia windfarms. I felt I had a lot of my own experiences I could feed off.

A target for each day I sat down to write was 1000 words. Sometimes I was under, sometimes over, but it seemed like a nice round figure. Dead Beat’s rough draft was 70,000, and I ended up hacking off 5000 words in the redrafting process.

Being a policeman isn’t ideal, although it does toss up some interesting experiences that no doubt add depth and colour to my writing I think. With shift work it wasn’t easy to write everyday. I probably averaged 5 days a week over the 6 months it took to write Dead Beat last year.

Do you have any taboos that you won’t write about?

I do like horror stories and writing them, although I’m probably conservative enough that I won’t be going out of my way to make future novels increasingly violent or gory just for the sake of it. Although I suppose it could end up like the actress wavering her nudity clause …if a taboo serves the story then maybe it’s okay?! :)


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