Please welcome Michael Logan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Apocalypse Cow, Michael's debut, will be published tomorrow, May 21, 2013. You may read Michael's fantastic Guest Blog - On the Feasibility of Zombie Cows - here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Michael: Thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure to be allowed to waffle about writing.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Michael: I believe I wrote my first short story when I was nine. It was called My Push-Button World and essentially revolved around me being able to call up whatever I wanted, such as a full-size football field complete with 21 robotic players to accompany me, at the push of a button. My mum still has it on a wrinkled piece of A4 paper somewhere, and says it proves I must have been a lonely child. I’m pretty sure I had real friends as well, though.
Since then then I’ve always written, at varying degrees of intensity, to provide an outlet for my over-active imagination. With an underdeveloped brain-to-mouth filter, I have a tendency to blurt out whatever odd idea pops up in my head. Without writing this would be a lot worse, and I would draw a lot more odd looks than I already do.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Michael: I’m not sure I have any quirks. I know that some writers have very set processes, such as only being able to write in their wife’s underwear, but I tend to be able to write anywhere at any time in whatever clothes I happen to be wearing. Then again, years of journalism have taught me to do most of my writing in my head, so I keep a voice recorder at hand to capture the ideas I have while in the car, the bath or in bed. Then, when I sit down at the computer, it’s usually ready to come out – at least at the early stages.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Michael: I’m a bit of both. I always draw up an initial plot outline, usually on flip-chart paper, with timelines, character arcs, key scenes, etc. However, this changes as I go and I can never summon up enough energy to go back and modify. So, I will always start out with a plan but then let the story go where it has to go. I am a compulsive editor, though, and every story goes through countless drafts. I always want to change something, and even when I’ve hit ‘send’ I have to force myself not to go back and tinker some more.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Michael: Two things: deciding which particular story to develop and finding the time. I currently have a list of 17 novels and as many short stories, all of which are clamouring for my attention. I have a dreadful habit of flip-flopping between several projects at once and it can take me a long time to settle on one. Even then, I always want to zip off to something else. I’ve had to teach myself to stick with a project once it’s started, even if I am bogged down and tempted to go to another project that is at an easier stage.
In terms of time, I have a full-time job, two young children, a wife I very much enjoy spending time with, a hectic social life, a serious reading habit, a sporadic addiction to exercise and love of playing and listening to music. When I am in a project, I will usually get up at the crack of dawn and get an hour in before work. Then I will snatch a quick lunch and do some more. When I can, I will grab an evening. The problem with this is that I often find I am have to stop writing when I want to keep going for hours, and it can be challenge to keep the flow with such fragmentation.
TQ: Describe Apocalypse Cow in 140 characters or less.
Michael: Social and political satire through the scandalously neglected medium of zombie cows.
TQ: What inspired you to write Apocalypse Cow?
Michael: Back in 2006, I was writing a lot of literary short fiction and trying to find the headspace to work on a very serious novel that had stalled. I decided I needed to do something that would be outright fun, for me at least, so I could look forward to writing after a long day at work. I had always loved zombies, and knew that I wanted to do something a little different. After a night of imbibing wine with some friends, we came up with a list of zombie angles that hadn’t been pursued. I did think of writing a book in which only pre-pubescent children were infected, forcing parents to kill their progeny, but that seemed just too horrific. Zombie animals, on the other hand, gave plenty of opportunity for silliness. I never actually expected it to be published, particularly since I started this way before the zombie craze got back into full swing.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Apocalypse Cow?
Michael: It is set in my hometown of Glasgow, so locations weren’t a problem. I did, however, watch a lot of videos of abattoirs to really understand how it all works, read up on the UK’s planned responses to terror attacks and/or viral outbreaks, and researched how viruses works. My job as a journalist meant I’d had a lot of experience of chaotic situations, such as riots and refugee camps, so that helped a lot when it came to certain scenes.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Michael: Geldof was probably the easiest, since I was also a ginger geek with a crush on my maths teacher as a teenager. I wouldn’t say any of them were particularly hard, but perhaps Terry was the most difficult as I gave him rather an odd hang-up, which I had to present without making it too obvious where it came from.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Apocalypse Cow?
Michael: I am very fond of Geldof being stuck in the middle of the first interaction between Fanny, his vegan mother, and David, his meat-obsessed neighbour, in chapter two. There is also a scene that satirizes UK minister John Selwyn Gummer’s disgusting PR stunt in which he fed his daughter a burger on TV during the height of the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) crisis. Quite a few readers found this scene disturbing, as they should. I suspect the reference may pass many people by, as it happened in the UK over 20 years ago.
TQ: What's next?
Michael: My second novel, Wannabes, is now complete. It’s darker and more ambitious, and revolves around Heaven and Hell tussling for humanity’s soul through music. I am now writing the follow-up to Apocalypse Cow, entitled Cruel Britannia. I don’t want to say too much about it at the moment, but Geldof will definitely be making a return, as will another character from the first book that may surprise the reader.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Michael: You’re very welcome.
About Apocalypse Cow
St. Martin's Griffin, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
If you think you've seen it all -- WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD-- you haven't seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS!
Forget the cud. They want blood.
It began with a cow that just wouldn't die. It would become an epidemic that transformed Britain's livestock into sneezing, slavering, flesh-craving four-legged zombies.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the fate of the nation seems to rest on the shoulders of three unlikely heroes: an abattoir worker whose love life is non-existent thanks to the stench of death that clings to him, a teenage vegan with eczema and a weird crush on his maths teacher, and an inept journalist who wouldn't recognize a scoop if she tripped over one.
As the nation descends into chaos, can they pool their resources, unlock a cure, and save the world?
One outcome . . .
Yup, we're screwed.
Apocalypse Cow is his first novel. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals and newspapers such as Chapman and The Telegraph, and his piece We Will Go On Ahead and Wait for You won Fish Publishing’s 2008 international One-Page Fiction Prize.
He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya and is married with a young daughter and son.
Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter @MichaelLogan