One of the side-effects of being a writer of post-apocalyptic zombie fiction is that you can end up so immersed in the world you’ve created that it starts to spill over into the rest of your life. Once you’re deep into that zombie frame of mind, you start seeing them everywhere: A drunk staggers down the street towards you, head lolling from side to side, and your mind instantly thinks it’s started; the footsteps behind you as you walk home late at night become those of an undead flesh-muncher trying to creep up on you; the sudden noise downstairs in the night become the dead trying to break in.
Wherever you go, you find yourself eyeing up escape routes and assessing the defensive strengths and weaknesses of buildings you pass. You no longer judge vehicles by the sleekness of their body work but instead for their ability to carry you safely through a zombie horde. You even find yourself starting to look at your friends and relatives in a different light: judging them by the skills they have which could help you survive or whether they would simply be a burden if the dead really did suddenly come back to life.
The zombies start invading your dreams too, and you wake up in a cold sweat, not quite sure if the residual fear coursing through your body is real or imagined. When the dreams are particularly vivid, it can take several hours before you finally shake the last of it off meaning you start the day jumping at the slightest sound. Or if it’s the middle of the night, you end up lying there in the darkness too scared to move in case the dream was real, wondering if that sound you can hear is just your partner breathing next to you in bed – or whether there’s something more sinister out there in the darkness.The way the imaginary world of your writing can infect reality is brought home to me at the moment when I visit Buchanan Street, the main shopping area in my native Glasgow. This is the setting of the opening scenes for the sequel to For Those In Peril On The Sea, and it’s the part of this second book into which I’ve put the most work on so far.
As a result, when I sit on the steps at the top end and gaze down across the crowds of shoppers, I no longer see them as humans; instead, I see them as the rampaging infected which, in the book, stampede up the street towards where I’m sitting, sweeping all before them. It’s slightly disturbing to know my eyes are seeing the same view as everyone else around me, but my brian is interpreting it in a completely different way simply because of what I’ve been so fervently working away on in my writing.
It’s the same when I drive across the Erskine Bridge where, in my fictional world, the army makes a final, and ill-fated, attempt to contain the outbreak within the city of Glasgow. Because I’ve painted them in my mind, and on the pages of my manuscript, I can see the streams of bullets streaking through the night as the soldiers try to shoot infected clinging to debris from the recently-fallen city as they float down the river 100 feet below. I also see the infected, driven from the smouldering city, surging over the defences to attack the soldiers, who, as the realise they are trapped, start to panic and fire indiscriminately, and ineffectively, into the advancing swarm.
With For Those In Peril On The Sea, I was writing about places I once knew, but with the sequel I’m writing about a city I still live in, and it’s changing how I see it. I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, just that it’s something which has been a bit unexpected. I guess once I’ve finished the book, this cross-over between fiction and reality will subside, but for the moment, even though they are fictional, the infected haunt the city around me like ghosts from another world.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.