Coldbrook’s Tim Lebbon Talks Fast Zombies and Disease Vectors

When I was in my twenties I was trying to write like Stephen King, now I try to write like me. Only better.

I recently had the opportunity to review Tim Lebbon’s Coldbrook, a unique take on the traditional zombie story with the added spice of Sci-Fi. There are a number of factors at play that make the story a refreshing take on what’s now a much-frequented genre, from how the infection originates, to how it spreads, to how the novel’s characters deal with it. For the discerning horror reader, it certainly raises lots of questions. Thankfully, Paper Droids was given the honour of interviewing Mr. Lebbon himself to discuss the novel and the choices that led to its finished product!

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1. Since we’re talking about zombies, I have to ask: are you influenced by Max Brooks at all?

I really loved World War Z; it’s one of my favourite horror books—it was so well done, and feels very real. As for whether I’m influenced, not consciously. But I think anything we read or see has the power to influence us to some extent.  I also think that as you get a bit older the influences aren’t so obvious, at least to yourself.  When I was in my twenties I was trying to write like Stephen King, now I try to write like me. Only better.

tim-lebbon2. There are a lot of references to Stephen King in the book. So I’m guessing you’re a big fan?

Yep. I was when I was a teen and still am now, though his earlier books still have a greater impact on me. The Stand might well be my favourite novel.  Not only is he a consistently superb and passionate writer, he’s a great ambassador for the genre. He’s one writer I’ve still never met who I’d like to.

3. What do you think about Brooks’ assertion that slow zombies are basically better than fast zombies, and why did you choose to make yours runners?

Yeah, until I wrote a zombie novel I didn’t realise just what a ‘thing’ this whole slow/fast zombie thing is. With Coldbrook, they’re not really traditional zombies, but more disease vectors whose only aim is to spread infection. So infection spread by sprinters rather than shamblers is bound to be more effective. And I think it’s much scarier having monsters wanting to bite you running instead of hobbling after you. But what works for Coldbrook might not work for another novel or movie.

4. Are there any zombie characteristics that you feel similarly strongly about? Not just their speed, but how the infection spreads, how intelligent they are, etc.?

I don’t really have strong feelings either way, to be honest. A zombie is a made-up monster for us to write and read about, and the greater the variety of zombie types the better, surely?

5. In the novel, not only are the zombies fast, the spread of the infection is as well. Some have pointed out that the speed at which it travels across seas—hitting most major countries within a few days—borders on unbelievable. How did you envision the infection spreading at this pace? 

We do live in a very, very small world, where communication through roads, rail and air are extremely quick. One infected passenger on a flight to London and that’s it.  One infection in Europe and the spread is rapid. I did research disease spread when I was writing the book.

Maybe there’s a bit of artistic licence at work here, but I think it works OK.  And let’s face it, we all hope there’s never a chance to test the theory.

6. Was there a particular novel that inspired Coldbrook in any way? 

Not really. I’ve always liked destroying the world (a guy needs a hobby), and when I came to write this new novel I decided it was time to do it again. This is my big-scale, wide-ranging apocalypse.

7. What drew you to the horror genre, and zombies in particular

I’ve always loved horror and darker fiction in general. I’m not sure why, and I try not to analyse why I write what I do. No need! As for zombies, they suited the idea I had for Coldbrook, and I’d never written a zombie novel before. I thought it was about time.

8. Where did you get the idea to bring forth infection through a breach into the multiverse? 

It’s just the way the idea grew, and to be honest I can’t remember the seed idea that started it all. It sometimes goes like that … the germ of a novel is lost in the flood of ideas that come after.

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9. Were you always interested in incorporating Sci-Fi elements into your horror?

In this novel, yes, I thought it would be a good way to go.  I’ve always been interested in multiverse theory and with the big scope of this novel it really seemed to suit.

10. Through these elements, you managed to create a really unique spin on the zombie story. What do you think about the current zombie “craze?” 

I think it’s inspiring some really fantastic work, such as World War Z and The Walking Dead (I’ve not read the comic but I love the series).

11. If Coldbrook were turned into a movie, who would you have play the main characters?

Wow … I haven’t really thought about that at all.  In a perfect world, Anthony Hopkins would be Jonah Jones.  Vic would be played by Jeremy Renner, Holly by Zoe Saldana, and Jayne by Carey Mulligan.  How’s that for a line-up?

12. Would you have any reservations about a movie taking creative liberties with your source material, such as what happened with World War Z and how the movie was essentially an entirely different story?

That’s just what happens in Hollywood, and the thing is, the book is always on the shelf. Whatever a movie company did with it (and I live in hope), doesn’t take away the fact that the book will always been there. Very few books translate well directly onto the screen without things being changed. In fact I think big, sprawling stories are best suited to TV, such as Game of Thrones. Coldbrook could make a great series!

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Agreed! One of the things that struck me about Coldbrook was the potential it had for a movie (or a series). It certainly has the engaging plot and cuts from character to character to keep audiences engaged. A big thanks to Mr. Lebbon for speaking with us!

You can visit Tim’s author site at www.timlebbon.net, or follow him on Twitter @timlebbon. Coldbrook is available now in softcover from Titan Books, or click here for the Kobo edition.

Cristina R. Guarino is a New York City born-and-raised freelance writer and lover of all things fantasy. She's written for a number of online and print publications and is a co-founder of the word sprinting-themed blog, The Sprint Shack. You can follow her writing and publishing pursuits, or maybe geek out with her over Pokemon and other such awesome things, on her blog at http://crgwrites.wordpress.com