Adam M. Booth is a renovator of houses, a designer of graphics, a player of video games and, now, a writer of fiction. Born in 1979 in Burnley, Lancashire, he spent time living in Liverpool then Glasgow before settling in Shropshire.
His first published work, THE END, is a tale of the zombie apocalypse told from the perspective of the zombie, or rather the human consciousness trapped within one of the brain-craving monstrosities, and the story deals with the destructive power of love, how a family can eat itself alive, and the anatomy of loss.
He also runs a blog at www.thefirstmanscrapbook.com.
What inspired you to write THE END?
I can’t put my finger on one single thing. I’d been writing for a while, but just scenes and character sketches, nothing solid, and I’ve been a huge zombie fan forever and have watched and read pretty much every scrap of zombie-related fiction that has ever been produced (but I only have time for the shuffling, shambling type of zombies; fast zombies are an abomination) and so parts of what I was writing naturally included them here and there, in some way or another.
Somewhere in the middle of obsessing about zombies and writing these bits and pieces I found I was beginning to empathise with the zombies. I love how in zombie films the monsters have so recently been normal people like you and I, just normal people dressed in their work wear or still in their pyjamas or wearing their curlers. I had often found myself picking zombies out of the crowds on screen and wondering about their backstory, then the idea came to me that perhaps those people were still inside those awful bodies and had stories to tell.
There are a lot of zombie stories out there these days. How is THE END different from the rest?
It’s different in that the protagonist is a zombie and it’s written in the first person so we viscerally experience what it feels like to lose all control and to be a helpless witness to so much horror, and it looks at what being trapped in your own head during such relentless trauma would unearth. Also, it’s written from a female perspective and in many ways is written for women, which was important to me. It is a hopeless story and comes from a dark place. At it’s most emotional level, it is about the destruction of a family and that comes from personal experience, though I only realised that was an element after I had finished writing it.
On a psychological level, why do you think we as a society find zombie stories fascinating?
I think it has to do with the relentless and inevitable nature of death. In most zombie fiction no matter how hard they fight to survive, the protagonists eventually die. If not at the hands and teeth of a zombie then due to a lack of sustenance or sanitation. They’re all just fighting the inevitable for a little more time. Likewise, in our normal lives, death is always on the horizon. We try to eat healthy food and stay clean and avoid walking in front of buses, all to try and keep death from our door for as long as possible. I think on some deep level we’re aware of this everyday struggle and know that, just like the characters in our zombie fiction, it’s a battle we’ll eventually lose.
At least that’s what fascinates me.
Was the character of Zoe based on anyone in particular?
Zoe is a combination of people who are close to me. She has elements of several strong women I am lucky enough to know, fiercely protective women who have sacrificed their time and dreams and bodies for their families. Yes, Zoe is flawed, and so are some of her inspirations, but neither she nor they are as selfish as they think they are.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
My creative influences change all the time and I am always finding new inspiration in the nooks and crannies of life. I take a lot of photos of mundane things, which I find so much beauty in. I have a collection of really, really boring photos which I find really inspirational. I’m sure anyone else would hate them but I just love them.
This week I have been inspired by the music of Antony and the Johnsons and by the book In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut, which is the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read and the only one I am always surprised by, no matter how many times I read it. Growing up, my two favourite books were Weaveworld by Clive Barker and American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis. Take from that what you will!
How would you fare in a zombie apocalypse? Do you have a plan in mind already, just in case?
I would like to think I’d fare very well and yes, I always have a plan! When my sister and I were kids we would sit up late and make contingency plans for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, which we were well aware could occur at any time. We would plan where best to barricade the building to ensure we had access to running water and food stores for as long as possible and make plans for getaway vehicles and rescue operations and such. We would go so far as to prefer rooms with doors that opened outwards because naturally the sheer weight of the zombie horde would break through a door that opened inward more quickly.
I used to love thinking about how life would be, confined within a space like that, with all that threat on the other side of the wall. My sister still sends me pictures of places she think would make good hideouts and whenever I spend a night in a new place I still find myself mentally mapping it out.
If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?
Just writing. It’s all I care about.
What’s the best piece of advice — writing advice or just general life advice — that you’ve been given?
The best general advice I was ever given is that if you can’t afford something, you can’t have it.
The best writing advice I ever had was that you don’t have to write in sequence, just write the scene that is resonating with you at that moment. It may be a huge, pivotal scene in the lead up to the ending or an incidental moment in the middle of the book, but if it’s speaking to you, write it. The bits in between will fall into place later. It might not be the most efficient way of writing but it’s how I do my best work. Maybe it’s obvious to other writers but it was something I needed to hear when I started writing THE END.
What’s the last great video game you’ve played?
Predictably, it was The Last Of Us on the Playstation 3. It’s not quite a zombie horror but it’s pretty close. The monsters are infected with a fungus and Naughty Dog found interesting ways of differentiating them from the usual zombie horde and did a good job of having those differences affect the gameplay. Aside from it being a visually beautiful and terrifying experience, the writing was fantastic. Ellie and Joel are incredibly nuanced characters and would be even in a film or book, never mind in a game, in which narrative so often takes a back seat to action. I also loved the expansion pack, Left Behind. It told part of Ellie’s back story and added an extra layer to her character that was very brave and, in my opinion, pretty ground breaking.
Just to prove that I do sometimes do things that don’t involve zombies, I also loved Journey. I really enjoyed playing a game in which nothing died! I’m not sure if that counts as a spoiler.
What are you working on next?
My next book is a gothic horror called Alison. It’s about loneliness and isolation and birds! It is set in the same universe as THE END, but only relates very, very loosely and doesn’t contain zombies. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s better than THE END, but will be harder to market. Here’s a link to a page on my blog where I’m collecting inspiration for her.