A Q&A with THE SILENCE’s TIM LEBBON!

In the darkness of a underground cave system, blind creatures hunt by sound. Then there is light, there are voices, and they feed…

CBP Titan - TheSilencesales.jpg.size-230
Ahead of the launch of his latest book THE SILENCE we Q’ed TIM LEBBON about writing a book where speech or noise of any kind could mean death, tie-ins and novelisations, dystopias and comics… Here’s the A’s touching on, amongst others, the Walking Dead, Dr Who, Aliens and Predator, and destroying the world!

1) You have a few film novelisations under your belt: have people sought you out for these projects or – in a very different way to an original submission – have you pitched for them?

CA - fire-wolves-196x300 I’ve been lucky enough to be approached to write these tie-in projects, both novelisations and original novels. I think an original Hellboy novel came first, then the Cabin in the Woods novelisation. After that you tend to build a working relationship with the editors and publishers who often partly specialise in these types of projects (Titan, for instance), and more work is offered. They’re always fun, and I’ve never done a tie-in project I wasn’t extremely excited about. CA - Cabin in the Woods
CA - Dawnofthejediintothevoidcover-197x300 I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in some very popular universes. Star Wars was probably the most exciting project for me… until the Alien novels came along! I also like the challenge of writing in already-defined settings, or with recognisible characters. And writing an Alien novel, for instance, was getting to play in one of the universes that has affected me and my writing so much. I’m currently working on The Rage War for Titan, a trilogy of far-future novels that combine the Alien and Predator franchises in a whole new way. CA - Alien - Out-of-the-shadows


2) You’ve also written a comic novelisation of Hellboy and – with Christopher Golden / Greg Ruth – illustrated adventures. Would you like to do more in the world of comics and which character, if not your own, would you most like to write?

CA - Hellboy-unnatural-selection-tim-lebbon I’ve written two original Hellboy novels, Unnatural Selection and The Fire Wolves, which were my own original stories using all the Hellboy characters, not actual novelisations. And the Secret Journeys of Jack London novels with Chris were illustrated by Greg, but there were only several illustrations in each book. So neither project was a comic. I’ve never written in comics, actually, although I have skirted around a few projects, and I’d love to have a go. I have some ideas. CA - White-fangs-200x300


3) Aside from the more general horror / dark fantasy tags it looks like, from your backlist as well as The Silence, you have a line in what might be termed ‘supernatural disaster’ by setting if not plot. Would you agree and what do you find most appealing about writing in the (sub)genre?

CA - The Rats If you mean dystopian fiction, then yes, I very much enjoy destroying the world. Part of the fascination is that I grew up on it. My first truly adult read was The Rats by James Herbert when I was about 10 years old. I also love John Wyndham, who I think writes the apocalypse better than anyone (just check out The Day of The Triffids or The Chrysalids), John Christopher (The Death of Grass), and The Stand by Stephen King is one of my favourite novels.
But it’s also a subject that fascinate me … the end of humanity as we know it. Because someday it’s going to happen, either with a bang or a whimper. Whether it’s near-future in geological term (say, the next million years or so), or far-future and involving the death of the sun, it’s all going to end. I think that’s a concept that everyone dwells on at some point––anyone who thinks beyond the next X-Factor episode or celebrity divorce, at least––and my own musings find their way to the page. Like any good dystopian fiction, I concentrate on the people and their struggles to survive. The cause of the disaster itself is usually incidental (The Walking Dead is all about the survivors, not the zombies). It’s a bit gruesome I guess, but … I’m a horror writer! CBP I - Walking Dead V23
CA - Coldbrook After writing Coldbrook a while back, I decided I’d done with end of the world novels for a while. But then the idea for The Silence came along, and it grabbed me so quickly and completely that it had to be written. It’s a very different novel from Coldbrook, in that it’s very contained within the scope of one struggling family, and what’s happening beyond is seen only in news and social media snippets. I’m very proud of it, and I think it might be one of my best novels. Early reaction has been fantastic, and I’m looking forward to what readers think after it’s release in mid-April.

 

4) Having not read The Silence, though noting solid reviews from Jonathan Maberry and others, how did you approach the problem of an imbalance of narrative next to (we might imagine) a lack of dialogue?

Having my main character as profoundly deaf was a big challenge, of course. But I like a challenge. I did quite a bit of research. And I quickly reached the conclusion that she must have lost her hearing in her childhood. Writing from the POV of someone deaf since birth would have been too difficult, and I don’t think that’s anything I could ever achieve successfully. So Ally lost her hearing in a bad car crash when she was young, and she has grown to live with being profoundly deaf. There’s no actual lack of dialogue in the book, it’s just spoken in a different way, either with signing or lip reading. Both of these are fascinating subjects to read around in themselves, with families developing their own signing dialects. I was quite nervous about how right or wrong I’d got this all, but early feedback seems good. CBP Titan - TheSilencesales.jpg.size-230

 

5) The Silence seems to reside in a similar frame of horror as Steven Moffat’s Dr Who masterpiece Blink / The Weeping Angels in that the tension is established and built on the grounds that survival requires the suppression of a normal human impulse. Thinking about it, survival in any horror story tends to require hiding and keeping quiet on one or more occasions; so is The Silence this taken to a societal level and, for this reason, could it be seen as a landmark work of the horror genre?

It’s not for me to say whether it’s a landmark work. I think it’s quite original, but then you can never say that for sure. When I came up with the concept, I liked the idea of a novel that worked in the reverse way to a blockbuster movie. So it starts with violence, widespread chaos and growing destruction, and as it progresses the world becomes quieter, the survivors more isolated, almost as if society has regressed. It’ll be interesting to see how it would be treated on the screen! (There’s been some movie interest, but nothing concrete yet).
Weeping Angel Blink was terrific, such a great idea. And I think in The Silence there’s an unbearable tension in the scenes when complete quiet is necessary. In a way the tension builds as the initial destruction and chaos winds down, and the really nerve-wracking scenes involve just the family and the landscape, where danger could be hiding anywhere, waiting, ready to home in on the slightest sound. There’s one scene in particular that was very difficult to write, and which has already caused some interesting, even extreme reactions from readers.
Weeping Angel (No tears here...)
We’re used to noise. We’re not accustomed to silence.



Click here for more about THE SILENCE and others in our top picks of April 2015 or on Waterstones here!