Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of THE DUNWOODY Compels You!!!--An Interview With David Dunwoody, Author of Empire

I am so excited about today's interview with David Dunwoody, author of Empire and Dark Entities. He is truly one of the nicest people I have met so far in the business of writing and a remarkable person all around.
Despite being legally blind and living with a form of autism, David has written one of the most popular zombie books released by Permuted Press. His collection of short stories, Dark Entities was recently on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards and Empire will soon be reissued by an imprint of Simon & Schuster.His success and ability to overcome what many would see as insurmountable obstacles is inspiring.

I am a completely fangirl when it comes to THE DUNWOODY (our affectionate nickname for him) and I hope you enjoy his story and advice.

Rhiannon: I had the pleasure of meeting you at Horror Realm in 2009 and like a lot of other attendees, I was very impressed with you. For those readers who don't know this, you are legally blind and suffer a form of autism. You handled yourself so well and were so kind, you ended up with a bit of a fan club. We christened you "The Dunwoody." Was this your first convention?

David: I did a panel at a Salt Lake con in 2008, but this was my first full-blown convention experience as a guest - sitting at a table in the dealer room and talking one-on-one with readers.

Rhiannon: Is attending an event like this difficult for you? (You handled yourself so well!)

David: Thanks! Had it been any other type of gathering, I think I would have had a lot more trouble - but I eat, sleep & breathe horror so it was easy chatting with people on that subject, even if my mind started to cloud up. And, of course, so many friends from Library of the Living Dead Press and Permuted Press were there, including yourself! Not to mention Greg Hall of, who made me "The Dunwoody" and has been a great friend.
I know sometimes the description of AS (Asperger's) in social situations sounds like the common experience of simply feeling awkward, but it's more like some part of my brain disengaging and leaving me behind. Remember that Simpsons where Flanders was yammering about cider town and Homer's brain just checked out? It's sorta like that, only I'm not bored or uncomfortable, it just happens. Suddenly I feel like a shade and then I'm uncomfortable.
Sometimes I feel like I have one foot in the "normal" world and the other in...I don't know where the other one is.

Rhiannon: How does your blindness affect your writing process? Do you have any sort of special computer equipment or programs?

David: My left eye is almost completely shot, and my right has a large blind spot in its center, but, using the peripheral vision in that eye, I'm able to read and write with magnification software. I also make notes on three big whiteboards on the wall behind my desk so I can scribble ideas in big black marker (which makes it no more legible to anyone else, but helps me a bit).

Rhiannon: Has your blindness altered how you write scenes or characters?

David: I became legally blind in mid-2008, so I have a good 27 years of being sighted, and generally write from that perspective. I have written a few characters with limited or no eyesight, though.

I only recently have begun to experience blindness in my dreams. For a long time my mind's eye remained clear. I guess I'm starting to forget what it was like before. I'll have to wait and see how that might change things.

Rhiannon: You have been very open about your diagnosis of Aspergers, which is a form of autism. I have quite a few people in my life with Aspergers and autism. Recent studies indicate that having a mild form of autism is sometimes helpful in certain types of jobs. How does it affect your writing?

David: I don't know how much of might be AS, and how much isn't, but I think my "hyperfocus" and the search for pattern and structure has been to my benefit in terms of writing. When it comes to that, though, it's really hard to put a finger on how AS shapes a story. It's all me, one way or the other.

Rhiannon: You weren't diagnosed until you were an adult after a tragic event in your life where you lost your eyesight. Every time I have ever heard you speak of what occurred, you are just filled with so much optimism, it is inspiring. Do you have any advice to parents or people who are facing the same or similar diagnosis in themselves or someone they love?

David: There's no doubt that AS can be responsible for certain limitations, particularly when it comes to relating to others. But having gone nearly three decades undiagnosed, and now understanding so much about myself, I can tell you that the diagnosis saved my life, as well as my relationships with friends and family. The diagnosis was sobering, sure, and parts were even troubling, but ultimately it was empowering.

Rhiannon: At what age did you start writing?

David: I didn't get serious about it until 2004, when I was 23. But I've been writing since I was in the single digits. I used to tear the paper from a spiral notebook, fold them over, staple the "spine" and then write wildly gory "books"with cover art and the whole thing. I remember that the centerpiece of my first-ever tale was something about a monster jumping out of a guy's chest like ALIEN. His girlfriend "was scared, but she understood."

Rhiannon's Note: Hehehee...that is some girlfriend!

Rhiannon: What is the first genre you wrote in?

David: Everything has always had a strong horror element. My work is certainly growing to explore ideas other than fear (as with the powerful emotional bond between the aforementioned chestburster guy and his gal), but the horror is always there...sometimes only watching, and waiting, but there.

Rhiannon: How was Empire inspired?

David: I love books and films wherein the storyteller takes on the challenge of presenting a realistic, present-day zombie scenario, but what I love to write is post-post-apocalyptic fiction - set in a world transformed, with elements of dark fantasy. So Empire is set in a world that has been besieged by zombies for over 100 years. It was set in the same world as a story that I'd serialized in The Hacker's Source magazine - which was, in fact, set in the present, but had a lot of strange supernatural elements.

Still, Empire was missing something. At the time I was kicking around ideas, I had just written a story called "Brownlee's Blue Flame" (which appears in the third volume of The Undead) in which Death himself deals with the emergence of zombies. That was the "Eureka!" moment, and Empire took off in my imagination.

Rhiannon: Is Empire your first novel length work?

David: It is. I first ran it online as a serial novel in 2006, then submitted the manuscript to Permuted Press, who had been very supportive of Empire along with other "new media" content by aspiring writers.

Rhiannon: Did you try to get an agent or did you just submit to publishing houses?

David: Though I've started thinking about it recently, I didn't think at all about an agent at the time. Back when I was serializing Empire, I was thinking less about seeing that particular story make the leap to print than I was about connecting with other readers and writers.

Rhiannon: How many publishing houses did you submit to before Empire was picked up by Permuted Press?

David: I was lucky in that Permuted took interest during that online serial period. They were the first and only publisher I submitted it to.

Rhiannon: Empire is being released on March 16, 2010 by Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). This is a reissue of the novel originally published by Permuted Press. How did your novel end up getting picked up by Gallery Books?

David: Simon & Schuster were interested in acquiring J.L. Bourne's Day by Day Armageddon; Permuted got them to look at some of its other zombie titles and was able to work out a six-book deal.

Rhiannon's Note: Which is an amazing deal and so great for the author's involved!

Rhiannon: Do you have an agent now? If so, how has having an agent affected your career?

David: No agent yet.
Rhiannon: When do we get Empire 2?

David: Not sure on that just yet - the reissue of Empire has pushed back the sequel's release, but that's a good move. Right now I'm working on short stories. I took a long break from zombies last year and am getting back into it with some fresh (but no less decomposed) ideas.

Rhiannon: Tell us about your newest work, Dark Entities.

David : Dark Entities is my first collection. It's from Dark Regions Press and consists of 1/2 new stories and 1/2 reprints (many of which you can no longer find due to defunct webzines or out-of-print mags). There are a few zombie tales but it deals more with monsters of my own making. Demonic cannibals, giant graveyard ogres and living scarecrows. That sort of thing.

Rhiannon: Dr. Pus (of the Library of the Living Dead Podcast & Press) loves Grinning Samuel. Any chance that character will get a novel of his own?

David: I don't know if there's a novel in his future, but he's one of my favorite characters too. Samuel (who is part of the Empire universe) appears in three stories so far: the novella "Lost Souls" (The Undead: Headshot Quartet), "Grinning Samuel" (The Undead), and "Clockwork" (Zombology).

Rhiannon's Note: I was very excited to have my short story "Stop Requested" included in Zombology along side David Dunwoody's tale.

Rhiannon: When can we expect Harvest Cycle to come out?

David: It's being edited as we speak. Can't say when it will be added to the publication schedule, but I'm very excited about this one.

Rhiannon: Can you explain to us what it is about?

David: The Harvest Cycle is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic novel. It's set in a world where humans have been driven underground by the yearly attacks of alien beings called Harvesters, which serve a godlike entity and move at superhuman speed to catch their prey. When not under threat of "harvest," humans live in fear of their own android creations - once servants to Man, the androids have twisted Asimovian logic to conclude that it is better to exterminate humans before the Harvesters get to them - because what the Harvesters do is perhaps worse than death.
(Harvester illustration by Tom Moran from Dark Entities)

Rhiannon: In closing, what is the best advice you can give a fledgling writer?

David: Whenever I'm asked this, I always mention the websites and, which list markets for works of every genre and length and allow you to narrow your search to just what you're looking for. Whether you're trying to find a home for something you've written, or are looking for a theme to inspire you, they're an enormous help. Forums like those at Permuted Press and Library of the Living Dead have allowed me to connect with other writers, editors and publishers, and many such communities have areas where you can workshop your stories.

It's a remarkable time. If you're serious about your writing, you have the chance to get yourself out there and to grow as a storyteller. Which brings me to the most important advice - read. Read as often as you can. Read different genres. It's a writer's best apprenticeship. I stole that line from John Green. There's no better way to say it.

Thanks, Rhia!

Rhiannon: Thanks, David!!

For more information on David and his writing, check out his website at

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