I hope by now that you’ve had chance to listen to the audiobook version of AUTUMN: DAWN. I think it’s my favourite audio adaptation of any of my novels, and the reason for that is my brilliant narrator, AUBREY PARSONS. He’s done an absolutely stunning job of bringing the mass of characters that inhabit my dystopian AUTUMN world to life.
I thought it would be fun to ask Aubrey a few questions about his narration, to offer a glimpse into the huge amount of work that goes into producing audiobooks. It’s definitely not just a case of sitting down in front of a microphone and reading a novel out from cover to cover! First of all, I asked Aubrey how he got into the world of audiobook narration.
AP: I was a professional singer for 20 years. I spent a lot of that time working away and travelling the globe. It meant that I didn’t get to see much of my family and I had absolutely no social life. I did get to see a lot of the world and meet a lot of wonderful people but the toll it took on my social life and family eventually got to me. So, I decided to try something different. Since I already have my own small recording studio at home, I decided that maybe voiceover work was the way forward. I searched the Internet and found a couple of different courses and trained myself up to become a voice actor. I’ve always loved listening to audiobooks so it seemed to be the natural progression to work on them myself.
Obviously one of the most prolific suppliers of audio books in the world is AUDIBLE so I looked at their website and found out how I could become a producer for them. it took around three years for me to get myself trained and build a database of authors that I could work with to make things worthwhile. Then COVID came along which in a weird kind of way gave me the perfect opportunity to concentrate fully on my voiceover work. Everything happens for a reason I guess!
I asked Aubrey how he approaches narration. Does he read the book first, or just dive straight in?
So, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the AUTUMN series a lot recently. AUTUMN was the first of my books which really took off. As you may recall, I gave it away free online between 2001 and 2008 (when, strange as it now seems, eBooks were rare and very few people were giving them away), and it was downloaded many hundreds of thousands of times. I wrote a series of sequels which were well received, and the first book was even adapted as an online full cast audio drama which you can still listen to.
But then HATER came along and my focus shifted. I then moved onto other books and projects, and it’s now a sobering five years since the last book – AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION – was released. Yet even now people still get in touch regularly to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the series.
When I wrote the very first draft of the very first book, way back in 1997, no one was writing about zombies. Very few people were watching zombie movies, either. In fact, no one was paying zombies any attention in any way, shape or form. But in the years which followed, a totally unexpected thing happened and, for the first time, the living dead became mainstream. In films, Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER was a huge hit (which sparked endless pointless debate about whether zombies should run or not, and whether or not his infected were zombies at all), and Zack Synder’s remake of George Romero’s ground-breaking DAWN OF THE DEAD bucked the trend and proved that not all remakes were worthless cash-ins. THE WALKING DEAD comic was launched and a number of writers including myself, BRIAN KEENE and DAVID WELLINGTON precipitated the flood of zombie fiction.
And despite hearing rumours to the contrary every few months since then, the bubble hasn’t burst. People still love the living dead.
I’m going to write two more AUTUMN novels. There – I’ve said it out loud and in public now. I have an idea which I can’t stop thinking about and that, for me, is the acid test. If an idea for a book won’t go away, then that book needs writing. I have a couple of other projects to wrap up first, then I’ll dive straight into what I’m currently calling AUTUMN: DAWN. I don’t want to say too much at the moment, but I think the time’s right for these new books. As I’ve already said, the world has changed dramatically since I first wrote AUTUMN. To my mind, zombies have always been the ultimate story-telling device for allowing writers and film-makers to study the human condition. By turning people into something so similar yet inherently different, it enables us to look back and consider what makes us human in the first place. Socially we’re in a vastly different place now to where we were in 2001, and I think it’ll be fascinating to imagine how we’d react to the events of AUTUMN if they took place today. The new books won’t replace the original novels, nor will they undermine them. Same dead world, different people. Not a rehash or reboot. It’s funny… one of the rules of zombie fiction and movies when I first started writing was that the characters had to have an unspoken innocence and couldn’t know what a zombie was. Given the pop culture explosion I’ve just been talking about, there’s no way I could get away with that in the new AUTUMN books!
So what about the movie?
It was released in 2008 to a torrent of abuse and ill-feeling. It creaks and it groans. It was made on a shoestring budget and it shows. People either loved it or hated it (mostly they hated it). I stopped trying to defend it and used the backlash to try and promote the books, working on the dubious premise that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Tellingly, none of the publishers of the series around the world mentioned the film in their marketing, though an editor who worked on the books did once tell me that ‘it’s always better to have a bad film made of one of your books than no film at all’. And with hindsight, I think I agree. But how bad a film is it? Was all the negativity justified? This week I took a deep breath and watched AUTUMN from start to finish for the first time in a decade. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. I’m under no illusions, it’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think it’s the absolute car crash that most people assume.
Here’s a trailer, and my thoughts follow. And yes, that is me on the DVD cover above.
If you’ve heard me talk about the AUTUMN movie, you might be surprised to hear this, but I think I’ve a lot to thank Steven for. I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about my feelings for the film – it was a valiant attempt to adapt the film for the screen, but it fell well short of its potential. The main cast was great (in particular Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson and David Carradine) and some scenes really caught the look and feel of the novel beautifully. Technical shortcomings hampered production, and ultimately the level of the budget didn’t allow the film-makers to fully realise their ambition.
Some people loved the film, though. The UK’s well respected Empire Magazine called AUTUMN “surprisingly downbeat and intelligent“. 365Horror.co.uk said “It’s slow and thoughtful and mesmerising to watch, allowing the viewer to think and reflect. Rumbelow has created something worthy of the Romero tip of the hat here.” Reviewer Nicholas Bergquist wrote “If you’re a bit tired of the same-old same-old zombie films, you need to see Autumn. If you’re just keen for a good horror movie that eschews standard formulae and obligatory kill counts, you need to see Autumn. If you want to watch a really damned fine end of the world tale that tries for a more measured pace… Autumn’s your movie.”
But it’s fair to say, the criticism massively outweighed the praise. Also, the project never really stood a chance after David Carradine’s death and the subsequent leaking of an unfinished cut of the movie online which was seen (and slated) by hundreds of thousands of people.
I said I’ve a lot to thank Steven for, and I meant that. Watching the production of AUTUMN progress, both from a distance and when I was on set, and seeing how the film fared after release taught me a huge amount about the highs and lows of the movie business. I got to go to Canada and play zombie. I ended up on the DVD cover (yes, that’s me). I got to meet a number of very cool people along the way and was able to attend a number of film festivals and other events. Most importantly, in one way or another the movie had a huge effect on my demographic and made substantial numbers of people aware of my books who might not have heard of me otherwise. Someone once said to me it’s better to have a bad movie made of your book than no movie at all, and I’m inclined to agree. I think AUTUMN is a seriously flawed movie more than an out and out bad film, but I’m pleased it happened. I’ll never forget the thrill of sitting in the first UK cinema showing and seeing the words ‘based on the novel by David Moody’ appear on screen.
Visiting the set of AUTUMN in December 2007 (pictured with Steven Rumbelow)
My sincere condolences go out to Rachel, Dickon, and the rest of the Rumbelow and Renegade Motion Pictures families.
There’s a nice mention of the AUTUMN movie in Kim Newman‘s column in the July 2010 issue of Empire. “…surprisingly downbeat and intelligent, with a strong performance by Dexter Fletcher as a bewildered survivor and a showy ham cameo from David Carradine…”
Less than a week to enter the competition to win my copy of the AUTUMN movie on DVD. Here’s the question again (now removed as the competition has closed). Entries close on 31st May when a winner will be selected at random.
Things I’ve found out this week #1: the UK DVD release is region free so anyone can watch it.
Things I’ve found out this week #2: if you’re in the UK and you want to see the film today, it’s being shown on the Horror Channel again tonight at 9:00pm.
Three weeks since I last posted . . . that’s not good!
I’ve been trying to get the bulk of the third HATER book written before DOG BLOODhits the shelves next month. I’m a third of the way in to what I hope will be the final(ish) draft, and there are another few weeks work ahead of me yet. If I can get it done and delivered then that gives me much more opportunity to get out and about to promote DOG BLOOD (which, I’m pleased to report, seems to be going down well so far).
Anyway, to celebrate the release of the DVD, I’m giving away the copy I’m holding in the picture. Just answer this stupidly easy question before 31st May to be in with a chance of winning (form removed as the competition has now closed).
Finally, I know I promised more information about the ‘Projekt’ in my last post, but some unexpected (and very interesting) complications have arisen and I can’t say anything yet. Hopefully there will be some news about this in the next couple of weeks.
Here’s the information I promised in my last post about the screening of AUTUMN in Northern Ireland next month.
I’ll be introducing a 10pm screening of the film at the Queens Film Theatre in Belfast on Saturday 1st May. Prior to the film (from around 6pm) I’ll be doing a joint book signing with Wayne Simmons. You can find more information and book your tickets here.
It promises to be a great event. It’ll be my first time in Northern Ireland, and it would be fantastic to meet any of you who are able to attend.
“There’s a nasty flu going round. An epidemic, they call it. The posters say to cover your mouth when you sneeze, and throw away the tissue. But such simple measures won’t stop this flu. Because when you catch the flu, armed police come and lock you in your house to die alone. When you catch this flu, it kills you in days. And when you catch this flu, two hours after it’s killed you, your eyelids snap open again…”Flu” is a pacey, terrifying, frighteningly real zombie horror story.”
FLU is available now from Amazon.co.uk. For those of you who are in Northern Ireland, Wayne and I will be doing a book signing together on 1st May at the Queens Film Theatre in Belfast, prior to a 10pm screening of AUTUMN. More details about the event will follow shortly.